Peak(s):  Adams A, Mt  -  13,931 feet
Date Posted:  12/30/2013
Date Climbed:   12/27/2013
Author:  mountainmicah83
Additional Members:   Bruton
 Mt. Adams with Grizzly Adams  


Stats


Peaks: Mt. Adams, 13,931' Rank 66 out of 637 in Colorado.
Date:Dec 27, 2013
Mileage: 14 Miles
Elevation Gain: 5,103 feet
Partners: Bruton (AKA Grizzly Adams, AKA Climbing Jesus, AKA Matt
Route: Horn Creek Trailhead to East Ridge and Descent Via SE Couloir


Preface


Skip this section if you just want details from this specific trip.
It has been too long since I have had a bid in the mountains. This past year has been filled with child rearing and running as my son was born last November. In the process, I gained the baby weight with my wife and was at my heaviest ever at 6' and 220 lbs., I knew something had to change so I started running again and started focusing on more of a whole foods plant based diet that I discovered in the Forks Over Knives documentary on Netflix while now eating some meat but many more veggies and almost no processed foods. Having Finished the 14ers on Huron the summer prior on Huron with my wife being 6 months pregnant, all my closest friends, and a keg of beer; I was looking for my next adventure. While I desire to complete the Centennials, I don't have the same drive as I did for the 14ers and in the same manner, I would like to climb bigger and better things but those take money and I don't have a lot of that. I decided I would finally do the Pikes Peak Ascent this year. I would combine the mountains with running and see how I could do. Starting in January with barely able to run 3 miles at a pace of 10 minutes per mile, I knew I was in trouble. I worked my way slowly to faster and faster and began running with the Incline Club hosted by Mr. Matt Carpenter himself. I figured if I was going to do this, I would learn from the best. Just prior to the race, I was able to run 10 miles at 7 minutes per mile and ended up completing the Ascent in 3 hours and 26 minutes which was 34 minutes faster than my goal and still over 20 minutes faster than any of my training attempts despite coming down with a nasty case of Strep throat the day prior. During my training, I got to bag a few centennials in one trip (French, Frasco, Casco, and Oklahoma all in 1 day) and then the rain took over my next few planned days. Nonetheless, I believe I found my niche finishing the Ascent in still over an hour slower than the winners but feeling great despite less than 8 months of training. The running didn't stop there and I have fun a couple of trail 50k's since as you can read on my blog and I am hooked on the whole ultra-running scene trying to become an ultra-runner myself with 2014 goals of a couple 50 milers including the San Juan Solstice 50 and possibly a 100 if my legs fair well. Anyhow, the major benefit is that I am now down to 175 lbs, which is what I was as a Junior in high school and lighter than I ever was even in the Marines. While I wasn't huge at 220, I did have a little Buddha belly. At a drop of roughly 45 lbs, I am at my lightest of my adult life and in my best shape at age 30.
Anyhow, back to Mt. Adams. With all the baby stuff and being partially less willing to take climbing risks, the mountains finally summoned me. With my best good partner, climbing jesus, not having a schedule the past year synching up with mine, we were both deprived and needed something to kick off this winter. A few days ago, we realized we had one matching day off and the weather couldn't have looked better. I have been eyeing Mt. Adams for a while and thought we might take a stab at it hoping that someone from Horn Creek Ranch may have cut a trail to Horn Lakes for us. Even still, we knew that the chances of a summit were highly unlikely given our short amount of time and the fact that we may have to bust 5 miles of trail through the trees. Either way, we knew we would get a good chance to get re-acquainted to all that comes along with winter camping including stuffing literally everything in your sleeping bag to keep it from freezing and remembering things like a Thermarest or some sort of pad to keep you off of the snow or some sort of silverware utensils to eat your food. We figured summit or not we would get the Freedom of the Hills that we were seeking and that we did. As we eyeballed previous winter reports, I realized that there are no Ski reports here on 14ers or on summit post on this peak and there was a beautiful couloir that others discussed as glissading in their Trip reports. We figured we would bring the snowboards and hit it if conditions warrant with virtually a possible ski from the true summit.

Day 1: Approach to around 11,000' for Camp
With Matt getting off work at 7 PM Thursday night and his climbing dream machine (1976 Westy) not running as of the day prior, I swung by his house and picked up his staged gear and a fresh warm loaf of Zucchini bread that his wife made and then I picked him up at work and we headed Southwest. We rolled into the Horn lake trailhead about 10 PM or a little later and got the truck stuck about 200 yds from the trailhead bathrooms as we sank into the hard crusted snow (Yet another time when I wish my 4 banger Toyota had lockers but apparently you had to buy the six cylinder to get those). After a quick dig out and a backup to the last corner, we cracked a beer while we discussed gear and got dressed for the climb. After readying all of our gear we stepped off at about 11 PM with plans to hopefully make it to just below Horn Lakes area at or just below treeline. After making the bathrooms and cutting right following some snowmobile tracks, we quickly lost them. Knowing the Rainbow trail was contouring above us and the Horn Creek drainage was also Southwest, we headed southwest and realized that if we were going to break trail like this all night, we might not be making it that far. After about a mile or so, we ran into the beautiful Rainbow trail which had only signs of animal tracks and not humans in the past couple of days. Within less than another mile, we reached the right turn to Horn Lakes basin and much to our chagrin, there was a few day old snowshoe track a few inches under the snow. As long as we stayed on that, there was hardly anything to break. When we stepped off, we were up to our knees even with the snowshoes that we had on since virtually the car. Carrying our winter packs with camping gear, snowboards and everything else and not being used to the weight slowed us a bit but we were still determined. A while later, a south facing trail out of the trees was virtually dry for a few hundred yards and then we were right back into the snow very appreciative of the recent track that continued on. We did wonder how far it went though. As time passed on, we crossed over a scary river crossing where it was snow and ice top but you could hear the water rushing below. Taking care to cross over logs, we pushed onward and upward on the gentle uphill slope. Somewhere at about 11,000' or slightly below and about 3.5 miles into the hike, we decided to call it a night at 2:30AM. By the time we stomped out a flat area for the tent setup camp (which unfortunately I got no pictures of), and settled into the tent, it was after 3. Right around then, Matt realized that he forgot his sleeping pad. If that were me, I would have been tempted to pack up and head home or tried to share with him. He luckily had an extra insulated blanket and laid his shell pants and jacket over that and did alright. We put on some Ramen in the vestibule which is a nice commodity that you cannot enjoy with summer camping due to attracting bears and whatnot although I second guess that after seeing the winter Chicago Basin Bears in Steve Gladbach's report a couple years back . After the noodles cooked and I shut off the stove, we both passed out while waiting for them to cool. About 30 minutes later, I awoke to find the ramen still very warm and expanded. At this point, we realized that we both forgot yet another important piece of gear... No spoon, no spork, no fork... nothing. After giving a go with the Gerber multi-tool, we realized it would be better to drink the broth and use our fingers Moroccan style. Getting settled in, I came to a quick realization of how much crap you have to pack into your bag to keep from freezing. Propane/Butane canisters, water bottles (2 Nalgenes for me), giant winter mountaineering boots, beer, clothing for tomorrow etc. This time was a little better than the past with 45 less pounds of me in there, I suddenly felt a lot less claustrophobic.

Day 2: Adams Alpine Adventure
Ok ok, the pictures are coming soon I promise. We awoke just after 7 which was later than we wanted but still plenty early enough for a summit bid. I heated some water to put back into the Nalgenes that we put in our sleeping bags with us... I wish I did that before bed next to those cold and frozen boots. After eating some various uncooked food and putting down some hot instant coffee which triggered pre-hike gut action, we stepped off around 8 following the still packed trail. Having already released the fury from our guts, the next goal was to get up into that sun out of the valley. The slog went rather quickly only passing one potential slope of concern just before the first picture. As you press up into the basin, the trees open a bit on the left side a few hundred feet below treeline and luckily it wasn't too loaded and the layers seemed pretty solid. I was just glad we had a packed trench and weren't cutting to the bottom of the layers causing potential issues. Nearing the end of the trees, we spot the ridge that we were to climb to get to the East ridge route. I think that unranked ridge gets you to point 13,250 or something like that. Anyhow, we figured we would press on from there until a passable and safe route became clear.
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Until this point, I thought we were screwed for pictures because my camera was too cold to work or something after leaving it out of the tent in my pack to freeze. I realized that I did have my trusty Samsung Rugby Pro smart phone with a camera on it so I began to use that. The next image here is looking back into the trees from the previous image.
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Soon after, we reached the first of the horn lakes to find the series of these small ponds frozen to the bottom. We snapped a couple of pics while we scouted a potential route.
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We were shooting for that finger of trees that leads toward the cliff band below the closest ascent ridge.
And Grizzly Adams himself...
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Reaching the bottom of the finger, we scurried over the frozen tundra and popped a squat while we planned out the rest of the day with conditions calls, turnaround times and if we were going to keep or drop snowshoes and/or snowboards. As we peered at what we could see of the summit ski from atop the largest rock in the basin at around 11,500', we were worried that if we carried the boards, it could (1) prevent us from making the summit and (2) we couldn't see the full line in the couloir for a full descent and (3) we had no idea of the conditions of the snow up there nor had we (4) been on our boards since last year. At this point, we made the command decision to drop our boards on this rock and remembering our return from the Little Bear to Blanca Winter Traverse two winters ago down through hip deep postholes back to our gear, we decided we would keep the snowshoes with us. Picking a path of least resistance up the treed and rocky finger to the ridge, we eventually packed our snowshoes once we hit the ever nice sun with no wind at all mind you. A few hundred yards of postholing and we made our way through the cliff bands. After the steeper portion, we both stripped our base layer due to the unexpected winter heat when we realized that we forgot another key item, sunscreen, which was still in the door of my truck. We used or bandannas to creatively protect our exposed facial skin from the all powerful sun. I pondered cutting some moleskin from the med kit to fashion over my nose but decided to wait on that one a while. From about where we dropped layers, this was the view looking back East to where we had trekked in from.
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And a more direct look of the Cliff bands that we passed through below which were a bit spicy. A fall through there while although class 3 would have dropped you over some 5th class vertical cliffs that we traversed over. There are no unimportant steps... Just one limb at a time checking every hold.
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Looking west toward the end of the basin, the impressive cliffs of point 13,5xx something towered above blocking view to Kit Carson, Challenger, the Crestones and many other beautiful summits that I have enjoyed past adventures on. At about this point, you can begin to see some of those summits peaking out over the top saying "hello."
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Moving upward through the path of least resistance, the snow became harder and more frequent than the grassy slopes and rocks so we donned our dull crampons that have seen lots of abuse and rock thrashing over the years and pressed on. This is looking up at the point that we skirted toward the ridge.
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And Grizzly Adams looking up towards me...
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Right about this point we both got pretty low on energy. This picture shows the steep corniced slope on the ridge to the North and also back to the valley from which we emerged. We sat down, gathered ourselves and ate a couple of snacks for an energy boost. We both had salmon pouches that were once frozen through the night that we thawed out in our bags in the morning and maybe a fruit leather and a gel and kept moving.
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Eventually with still perfect weather, we made the saddle. Matt was a bit behind so I signaled to him that I was going to run up the point that we skirted. I just kind of had the feeling while staring back at it like it was summoning me to climb it and not just go around so I did. This image is from the saddle of the remainder of the East ridge towards the summit.
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The next picture is the Mt. Adams summit view from the summit of the point. You can see my tiny partner around the saddle area. In the background to the upper left, you can see the un-inspiring summit of Challenger Point.
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Getting back to the saddle and a little past, I caught back up with Matt while he was waiting for me with a wood tipped stogie. We donned helmets and studied the remainder of the ridge with still perfect weather and absolutely zero wind. It seemed as if the extra food energy burst had kicked in and we were ready to push for the summit with high spirits.
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It seems like the first couple of the major obstacles we went slightly right but most we climbed straight through enjoying some 4th and low 5th class scrambling over the conglomerate. With rather obvious route finding, the route could have easily been kept at 3rd class even with the given conditions but the gorgeous rock was too inviting.
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Somewhere around here on the ridge, we spotted a big horn sheep about halfway up the mountain from the basin. He made it effortlessly to the ridge we were on about 100 yards ahead within about ten minutes and stared us down as if either showing us the way or blocking passage to the route. Unfortunately, it was just far enough that my phone wouldn't snap a good shot. He went all of the way to the summit and over as we pressed on behind his fresh tracks. Here is looking back at the climb so far with my partner there.
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In no time at all, we made it to the final ridge section before the summit and studied the choices between solid and dry rock or a 40ish degree snow climb. Which one do you think we went for?
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Just before our choice, I got another picture of the full array of peaks from Humboldt (left) to Challenger (Right). At one point, we could actually even get a view of the Blanca massif playing peek-a-boo back in the distance between these peaks.
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One last look at the ridge and valley we ascended before making our decision.
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You probably guessed it by now, we just couldn't resist the 5th class finish climbing it in true style with the crampons still on.
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I let climbing jesus do the honors and lead us to the finish through this section and followed just behind. Getting established onto the rock was a little dicey with some minimal holds but once on it, it was not so bad and was over too quickly.
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And the summit benchmark...
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We found the register as well but the paper was frozen to the inside. Here is our summit pose which my phone resting in the goggles managed to chop the top of our heads off. As you can see, not exactly winter attire we were dressed in. As you can see, I am sporting my Pikes Peak Ascent shirt which works out as a layer.
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And some beta for anyone interested in this area... I can't believe I have been on each of the high points seen and some multiple times. This area just keeps calling me back and I was so glad to be on Mt. Adams that has sparked my interest ever since I saw it while climbing the North Ridge of Kit Carson as seen right in the middle of the picture.
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Look away now if you get scared easily but this was necessary to scare off the sasquatch that was quickly approaching... While it may have been sunny, I'm sure it was still about 30 degrees up there at the top and what is under that helmet would have been proof in that pudding lol. I'm just glad that he was able to take one for the team for the both of us and scare off the sasquatch.
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After that whole ordeal and enjoying a beer and shot of whiskey in the quickly falling sun, we donned all of our layers and scouted the best route back down. It was pretty easy to see a snow route. I somehow remembered my slope angle reader and measured the steepest part of the top along my axe at 42 degrees. It sure does look a lot steeper in the pictures. After doing some block cutting snow tests of the layers before committing fully to the snow descent, we were pleasantly surprised and both happy with a couloir descent. There was about a 4" wind slab on top that would probably not do more than a sluff and the rest was pretty settled to the bottom. I don't usually like to glissade as I have read so many horror stories of folks losing control and careening down into rocks and badly injuring or even killing themselves but the snow was so perfect for it and it felt safer to not cut deeper by plunge stepping into the layers. After a few minutes, I was fully regretting leaving my gaiters in the car as my pants pushed up to almost my knees and my boots were filled with snow. The snow was actually continuous to the bottom so long as you cut to the right towards the bottom where it looks like you might cliff out. If you go to your left, you will cliff out. About of the way down to Horn Lake the snow turned bullet proof and became too hard for safe glissading. We were almost in full arrest mode rather than just sliding and braking so we decided to hop off to the side and hike down from there.
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And a view towards the lake while we kept a high line back towards our snowboards that I now wish I had on that descent of the couloir in such perfect conditions for it.
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And what a beautiful mountain... From all sides too...
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Eventually we put back on our slow shoes and continued down on top of the snow back to our boards on that humped rock down there while viewing impressive colors below.
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From our gear as the sun was setting, I grabbed one final shot of what we just descended.
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And here is a Google earth shot of our upper route. The right side was our ascent and the left was our descent.
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There was one section to the lower lakes we were able to strap on the boards and head down and then it was postholing and boot skating across back to near treeline where we put them on again. By this time it was almost completely dark and I was not looking forward to snowboarding with a pack on and with a headlamp through the woods where branches were lurking ready to poke my eyes out. It turned out to be a great deal of fun as we experienced beautiful powder while criss-crossing our trench and riding directly on it through the flatter sections. With a couple of falls and unstrapping to find ourselves up to our hips without flotation, we made it back to camp in a speedy fashion. We climbed in the tent with plans to pack up and get out before we got too settled. We decided to quickly cook another pack of ramen that we would also eat Moroccan style and another wood tipped Black and Mild Royale before strapping on the remainder of our gear and continuing on the boards with now heavier packs. While we were able to ride about 90% of the way down from here, there was a good flat to slightly up section on the way back out along with the dirt section described earlier. After making it back to the Rainbow trail, we decided to follow that back to where it would meet the spur to the Horn Creek Ranch Trailhead instead of taking our ascent track which would have required more up hills across gulleys. It was easy enough to find the trails and the proper signage that dumped us out right back at the truck at about 9 PM. What a journey and a way to kick off the winter with the gifted trench. I suppose next peak while we may remember silverware and thermarests, we may not be so lucky to have that kind of a trench. I just hope I can continue to find a balance from which I used to have a lot less fear to being a now scared parent. Having kiddos does something weird where it makes you ponder risks more.
Anyhow, I am most appreciative to both of our wives for making the sacrifice to watch our kids as we made this much needed winter excursion.
Thanks for reading and until next time...
See you at the top!






To see this on my blog instead please click here

Thanks for reading and until next time...

See you at the top!

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions
dehrlich101

Hard earned summit...
01/01/2014 14:16
It's amazing how fast you can get out of shape and how long it takes to gain it back. Good luck on the Summer Solstice 50, that climb out of carson's gap in a killer and be sure to tag the summit of Coney BM at the top. Good report.



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