Mount Adams, Elevation 12,276ft
North Face of the Northwest Ridge, 45 degrees
July 7, 2002
Ben, Jason, Josh
Author: Josh Hummel
The North Face of the Northwest Ridge. Our ski descent is in red. This photo was taken the day of our descent.
As I uncovered my head for another day, I saw out the tent door that the weather would be uncertain. Gray skies and hot muggy air surrounded the mountain raising a curtain that would partly open or close to some unknown force, but unlike Saturday would not open to that depthless blue we call a perfect day. I had a sick feeling that I was going to climb Adams again. However, the NFNWR was too good to pass up. Ben was already up as was Jason. As I climbed out of the tent I took a peek at the NFNWR and it looked as it did yesterday, steep, exposed, and a lot of fun.
First, we had to climb and that meant walking the rest of the way out of the tent. One step followed another, as did one item after another into my pack. Soon the packing was done, the skis where tied, and we were off to finish another Cascade Classic.
Like the previous day, we followed the contours of the land that offered the quickest access to the North Ridge. This meant following the tendrils of snow that snaked there way nearly to the crest of the ridge. Eventually, we had to continue the traverse on scree. A trail offered some relief, but not much. Like the mountain it was worn and susceptible to seasonal changes. Once we reached the ridge we ran into some people. Yesterday, groups had flocked in by the score. Most, it seemed, would be heading up the Adams Glacier. This group had not. As we passed they commented on our shoes and how it was the first time they had ever seen anyone climb up steep snow with plain old tennis shoes. In my opinion, the route was much easier with shoes and we were all well within our comfort limits.
Josh and Jason making their way up the North Ridge for the third time in three days.
At about 10,500ft we took a break. It was getting cold and every once and awhile a raindrop would fall. Not a good sign. We put on some coats and ski pants and took off with a boost. We had to get to the top and down before the weather got any worse. Soon after our break, what I consider the best part of the climb begins. A small skeleton of a ridge forms into a half-mile serpent of rock that leads the rest of the way to the summit plateau. What was left was a quick jaunt to the summit. Here is where we picked up the pace a bit more, which found us all at the summit within 5 minutes of each other. Just under 3.5 hours from camp for Ben. We were all surprised that our pace increased during the three-peat.
We stuck to the summit about as long as ice cream to a cone on a hot summer day. 5 minutes and we were gone. Old man winter decided to come in for a visit dropping snow with a fury as we made our way up the west summit. We were in a hurry to get on the face. A loss of visibility would be frightening. I had no wish to be skiing around blind on a 40-degree face.
Jason and Josh heading for the West Peak.
The snow on the upper mountain was wind blown and a bit icy. Afterward, the snow only got better. Ice turned to corn and we laid down turns that I daydream about at work. Head forward being sure that the computer blocks my face fully, posture good with hands on the key board as if I am thinking of what to write next, my eyes shut dreaming of the steep and deep.
Just under halfway we stopped above a cliff arguing about crossing each other's turns. To the east of us on the Adams Glacier were at least two groups of climbers. I could only wonder what they thought of us. There we were, 15 feet above an enormous cliff on a 45-degree face, arguing about crossing each otherís tracks. It had to be hilarious because I know they heard every word.
Watch where you're turning!
A little farther down Ben took a photo of first me skiing around a rock band with a huge rainbow as a backdrop and then Jason. The rainbow was spell binding, but I do not know if the pictures brought it fully to life.
Jason finding his pot of gold.
Jason getting as close he dares to the Adams Glacier.
With the crux of the ski over we hammered a volley of turns for another 1000 vertical feet where upon we stopped to gage where we would enter the Adams Glacier. Jason went to the entrance first followed by Ben and lastly me skiing along a crack. The only way to safely enter the Adams Glacier was to jump a small crevasse. Jason did this without thought as did I seeing no other option. Ben tried traversing above to get around it, but ended up jumping also. The ski down the lower part of the Adams was a blast. With the exposure gone we let the skis run.
Ben begins the final slope before exiting to the Adams Glacier.
Josh ends the final slope.
Josh skiing the lower Adams Glacier.
Josh jumping a crevasse on the Adams Glacier. The NFNWR is on the upper right.
As we made our way down we took a look back at a perfect set of turns down the NFNWR and got a picture of our first dayís ski, Stormy Monday. Eventually, we made it back to camp with a total round trip of some 5 hours give or take a few minutes. It was still early so we rested a bit and then packed up and headed out, our work was done. To date, this would be our most successful weekend. In addition to two first descents, Ben skied the NFNWR for his fourth time in four years and we were beginning to understand why it remains his favorite. There were no complaints. It was enough to get us through another workweek, these bouts of play we have come to call Cascade Classics.
A look back at the North Face of Adams from our camp.