Exploring Washington Glaciers

Sam and Keegan during a training climb on the Flying Dutchman on Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Climbing trips have a funny way of sneaking up on you. I decided way back in January, fresh off shoulder surgery, to try Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier this summer. This goal served as “the carrot on the stick” during my recovery, motivating me to stay positive and not skip any rehab workouts. Five months later, my departure date is only three days away. It’s hard to believe it’s actually happening.

Mt. Adams (via Adams Glacier): Adams is appealing for an obvious reason: I’ve never climbed it. Easy routes exist on the south side of the 12,280-foot volcano, but the Adams Glacier on the North Face is considered the most classic line on “Washington’s Forgotten Mountain.” Basically a giant icefall, the route weaves its way through crevasses and seracs on steep snow and ice for 5,000 feet. The technical sections allow access to the easy summit plateau, where the successful climber is rewarded with a half-mile walk to the true summit. The glacier changes from year to year, with trip reports varying wildly from moderate snow climbing with only a single ice ax to 70-degree ice pitches requiring ice screws, pickets and ice tools. We’re hoping for something in between! The descent is via the infamously loose and rocky North Ridge. My good friend Sam Sala will be my partner on Adams.

Jeff approaching Liberty Ridge on Mt. Rainier, 2013.
Jeff approaching Liberty Ridge on Mt. Rainier, 2013.

Mt. Rainier (via Kautz Glacier): In terms of difficulty, the Kautz Glacier falls somewhere between Liberty Ridge and the Disappointment Cleaver, both of which I’ve been on before. Early in the season the Kautz is a straightforward snow climb, but the difficulty increases as the powder transitions to neve and ice. The most dangerous part of the climb is traversing under the massive Kautz Ice Cliff to reach the Kautz Ice Chute, a moderate-to-steep section of ice and snow. Above the chute and its two steps of ice, a few hours of glacier-walking lead to the summit crater. Sam and American Alpine Club Director of Regions and Development Keegan Young will join me on this route.

It might not feel like we’re leaving Sunday, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t. The next few days will be full of packing, last-minute preparations (read: beer), farewells (read: more beer) and frantic purchases from outdoor retailers.

As the CMC’s digital marketing associate, I’ll check in on social media once or twice next week with updates on our progress. I’ll also write a follow-up blog post upon my return. See you on the other side.

Climb on.

P.S. Good luck to the HAMS graduation trips also embarking next week. I’m looking forward to swapping stories over some IPAs once we’re all safely back in Colorado.

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