Elusive Mt Adams

In June of 2018 I stood on the summit of Mt St Helens and looked across the horizon to see Mt Adams. I’ll admit I stared at it for a few minutes before in my mind I thought “you are next”!

This past year has been a bit or a whirlwind with work, the kids, and my elderly mom. My stress level had been pretty high from a combination of all that. I spent many a night sorting through options. I needed to reprioritize some stuff in my life. Realizing I’ve kinda always put myself in the background so others were the priority, I needed to change that. So, I made a major life change and retired after 32 years in public service. Huge decision but entirely the right decision for me.

I’ve started doing more stuff for me. Still looking for more hiking friends since I’m free during the week! I’ve been pushing myself pretty hard at CrossFit and boot camp. Two things I really enjoy!

I started thinking about Mt Adams again this summer. Trying to figure out if I could make it happen or not. My hiking buddy had some scheduling conflicts so we pushed our attempt out to mid August which is a little late for Adams. Not much snow left which makes for a harder climb.

We decided to leave at 6 am on Thursday morning. It takes almost 5 hours to get to Mt Adams. You have to drive to Trout Lake to pick up your climbing permit before you can head to the trailhead. Since this is a two day trip I was carrying a 30+ pound pack. That’s not really fun. I think I need to rethink my packing!

We started the hike at 1 pm and it was hot! It took us 4 hours to get to the camping spot through the heat of the day. With a huge pack! Not a good decision! The trail winds though a forest that had a major forest fire a few years ago. Some of the trees were severely charred while others were this pure white color. Standing side by side they provided such a contrast. At the base of the trees was new growth of small pines and flowers. The weened prior was a massive thunder and lightning storm which produced torrential rains. Sections of the trail were marked with deep ruts, some two feet deep, from the rains. Nature is so amazing!

After the forest, you enter the mountain area. The trail is covered with pumice and rocks and heads steadily up the mountain. The trail is marked with large cairns to guide the way. It’s so steep you can generally only see 1-3 cairns at a time. Hoping each plateau is the final, but always disappointed to see another steep stretch lined with new cairns.

Around 8,000 feet it started to get windy and the temperature was dropping so we stopped to layer up! I noticed my boot was rubbing on my heel which never happens. I hike in these boots all the time. I took off my boot to adjust my sock and discovered a huge blister! Grrr! I’ve never had a blister hiking. So a band aid and athletic tape later I was good to go again!

We put our packs back on and continued to climb until we found the first camping area. I’m talking with some other campers we decided this would be a good place to camp instead of pushing on another 1,000 feet uphill to lunch counter. There was good cover from the wind and it was clear we would have a spectacular sunset right out in front of our tents. We set up camp and cooked some food. For as much energy as we expended I should have been pretty hungry, but I wasn’t hungry at all. That was a problem! We sat on the edge of our plateau, watching some mountain goats just below us as the sun set and the clouds blew by. There is something about being above the clouds! It’s amazing!

I went to bed right after sunset because I just wasn’t feeling very good and knew I needed good rest for the final 4,000 foot climb to the summit. It would be an early 3 am alarm for about a 5 hour climb.

Well at midnight I woke up with the shakes, clearly running a fever and my head completely clogged. It did not get better! I got up at 3 and knew there was no way I could make a summit attempt so I decided to pack up and head back down. It was a tough decision but the right one. I’ve never turned back on a trail before. It bugged me all the way down but I was feeling so crappy I just wanted to go home.

Driving out on the bumpiest road ever you get a really clear view of Mt Adams. We stopped to take a picture. I stared at it for a few minutes and thought “never again”. I was feeling crappy and I know it was just my disappointment in not achieving my goal.

So now I have about 9 months to train for Mt Adams in 2020! I’ll be back with a lighter pack!

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