Home > Trip Reports > June 6-10, 2001, North side of Mt. Adams

June 6-10, 2001, North side of Mt. Adams

WA Cascades West Slopes South (Mt Rainier)
Posted by Charles on 9/15/02 9:36pm
Time for our annual June ski trip, and Andy and I, having endured a lot of rain last year at Mt. Rainier, decided that Mt. Adams might have the better weather and, hopefully, snow. It was a good choice. We departed Seattle on Wednesday in rain and grey, but as we approached the Divide Camp trailhead from the north, the clouds were breaking up. We couldn't quite drive to the trailhead, so headed up through the woods and soon picked up the trail, which was easy to follow because of old snowmobile tracks going all the way up to and way beyond timberline (yes, this is a Wilderness area). We put the skis on about half way to treeline and, with a couple of spots of all-terrain skiing, didn't take them off again until reaching the last stands of trees and choosing a camp spot. We found a big snow hump in the lee of a band of trees and dug in a tent platform and a bench, with views out to Rainier and the Goat Rocks. A nearby melt-out snow cave with streams of water dripping off an ice layer allowed us to fill our 2.5 gallon water bag each afternoon during dinner, avoiding the need to melt snow.

We quickly settled into a pleasant routine of breakfast, a long tour-with-turns exploring different parts of the mountain, early dinner, and then turns in the evening sun on local runs above camp which consistently had the best snow - consolidated, fast, and smooth. Overall, the skiing was excellent, and the "worst" snow was 3-4 inches of soft on a very consolidated base. The snow refroze every night, at first because of clear skies, then because colder air moved in. What was brilliant white new snow when we first arrived magically transformed into snow of varying shades of brown during the first couple of warm days, as the newest snow melted and exposed the more aged, dusty snow surface below, and the best skiing was usually on this darker snow. Precipitation was well mannered, confining itself to the nighttime hours, with snow levels at or below our camp; on Friday night a strong band of thunderstorms passed by just to the north and colder air moved in, and an inch of new snow Saturday night mostly restored the snowpack to whiteness. Even with the space between Adams and Rainier filled with dark, low clouds, the upper part of Adams almost always had sunshine, and we never had to ski in whiteout. The colder temperatures on Saturday and Sunday did create an upper limit for the good snow, as we found slopes above about 8000ft to be too solidly frozen for enjoyable skiing; a little descent brought us back into the good snow. We saw mountain goat tracks everywhere we went (do they do anything besides walk across the snow?), and even saw a few of the animals themsleves, at a distance.

A note on our ski gear, since we would appear to be behind the times in this regard. We both were using 85mm Karhu no-wax skis with 3-pin bindings - skinny and old fashioned to most current skiers. But...the snow was so ideal that we never had need for skins - we could climb straight up virtually any slope we came to, and at worst head slightly off the fall-line. Get to the top of a run, shorten the poles, and be off; get to the bottom of a run, lengthen the poles, start climbing for another run. I didn't take skins; Andy used his new kicker skins for one climb, then didn't bother with them any more. We also didn't need gaiters - I didn't even take any. Our one concession to modern ski technology was the boots: T3s - warm and dry, leather can't compete with that. I just wish there were even lighter plastic tele boots available! On descents, the skis performed great, carved or skidded depending on the snow. Perhaps the latest gear would have boosted our skiing performance by 10%, but it didn't matter 'cause we just wanted to have fun on the snow, and we did!


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2002-09-16 04:36:57