June 7, 2023 – Mt Adams, Avalanche Glacier Headwall

After watching the forecast closely for a few days, it looked like a weather window for Adams was approaching. I called up Joe, and he was thinking the same thing, so we decided to head north for a mid-week shot, with the hope of riding the Avalanche Glacier Headwall. It had been awhile since I’d been on the line, and I was pretty stoked when I left work around 4pm and headed up the freeway to meet Joe at the cop shop. We carpooled the rest of the way up, and made it to White Salmon in good time, where we stopped to get a bite to eat from the local grocery store. A few minutes later, we hit the road and got our first good look at the hill from Trout Lake, and it was looking good.

Mt Adams from near Trout Lake

From Trout Lake, we rolled up the road and soon worked our way up the gravel roads towards Cold Springs. About a mile and a half from the trailhead, we were stopped by a large snow drift blocking access to the campground. A couple of folks were working on digging out a track, so Joe and I decided to park and give them a hand. It took a couple of hours of digging, but we were able to get it in shape for a dude with a large Dodge with chains to bust through. Once he made it through, the rest of us were good to go and it was pretty nice to be able to drive all the way to the trailhead, both from the standpoint that we would be able to have a level place to sleep and since we’d be that much closer for the climb in the morning.

First truck to the trailhead for the season

As soon as we got to camp, I got the bivy setup and we hit the sack a few minutes later. I slept pretty well that evening, and the next morning we were up by 4:45 or so. After a quick breakfast, we shouldered our packs and headed up the trail. There was some snow right off the bat, but both of us were happy to be in approach shoes since we had a mile or so of walking before we were able to put on the skins…

St Helens from the trail up
Skins on and heading up

Once we hit the snow, we donned skins and it felt nice to get the skis and boots off our backs. We worked our way up the trail and towards the ridge to the west of what’s labeled as the Crescent Glacier on the maps. There was a spicy traverse just before gaining the top of the ridge that required taking the skis off for a short section, but soon we hit the ridge and continued on up.

Joe and Mt St Helens
Booting for a short stretch

Soon we started gaining altitude quickly, and followed a bit more traditional path towards the bottom of Suksdorf Ridge rather than following the current climbers path that was quite a ways further east. As we headed up, a solo skier took off with a kite to do some kite skiing, so we had to stop to get a picture of that action…

Heading towards Pikers
Kite boarding on Adams
Joe snapping a pic of the kite skier

After a short break, we continued skinning as high as we could, eventually finishing the last thousand feet to the top of Piker’s in crampons with the skis on our backs. As usual, the climb up to the top of Piker’s was a slog. The snow on the last five hundred feet to the top was in really poor shape, and both of us were happy that we wouldn’t be skiing that on our way down…

Booting through the choss
Looking down the SW Chutes

At the top of Pikers, we took another quick rest break, and enjoyed some food along with the views. Looking down into the SW Chutes, they looked to be in good shape, and we were optimistic about the conditions of the Avy Glacier headwall.

Joe arriving at Pikers
Looking south from Pikers

After catching our breath and enjoying the views, we agreed the snow on the summit slope looked worthy of our attention, so we set off on skins and worked our way to the base of the final slope to the true summit. The last few steps above 12,000 feet were a bit of work, but we topped out around 11:30 am or so if memory serves.

Heading towards the summit
Rainier from the summit of Adams

 As usual, the views off the top of Mt Adams didn’t disappoint, and it was great to see Mt Rainier’s southside staring us in the face. Looking off to the west, there were some spicy lines of the West Pinnacle, and I made mental notes to get back for something on the White Salmon in the next few years.

West Pinnacle from the summit of Adams
Crescent Harbor Citra IPA from SeaQuest Brewing

As we hung out on top, the weather was really nice. I grabbed my beer to take a picture, but given that I was feeling a bit tired, I elected to just take a picture of it and enjoy it later when we were down at a lower altitude. I do have to say, that Crescent Harbor Citra IPA from SeaQuake Brewing was one of the tastiest IPA’s I’d put on my taste buds in quite awhile!

Matt at the summit

Around noon or so, we readied to take off and head down to check out our line. As we were getting ready to leave, a single skier approached on skins, and as they got closer I could tell it was Amar. It was good to see Amar again, and we chatted for several minutes on the summit. Turns out his party was back at Piker’s waiting while he tagged the summit, and they were going to ski the headwall as well, so we agreed we’d all ski it together. After firming up that plan, we clicked into our bindings and headed down….

Amar making turns off the top
Joe skiing at 12,000 feet

The turns off the summit were pretty nice, especially for the summit slope on Mt Adams. I headed down first, and then setup to shoot some shots of Joe and Amar as they came down. After we worked our way down a ways, Joe grabbed the camera from me and returned the favor…

Corn turns off the summit
Matt carving turns high on Mt Adams

After descending a ways, we regrouped and Amar headed down towards the entrance to the headwall to meet up with the rest of his crew. Partway down, we met up with David, who was also with Amar, and then we continued on down.

Turns on Adams with St Helens in the background
Working down towards Avy Glacier
David enjoying some good corn
Amar checking out the entrance

Above the headwall proper, we met up with the rest of Amar’s crew, which included Khanh who is a good friend of a friend of mine at work. The entrance to the headwall was looking quite a bit spicier than the last time I was up several years back, but nevertheless it still went, so one by one we dropped in. Once we got through the choke entrance, the steep long slope of the headwall was looking really inviting…

Joe skiing below the choke
Looking small on the Avy Glacier headwall

 The turns down the upper headwall are always quite exhilarating, and are made even better when the snow is smooth. The turns down on this trip didn’t disappoint, and we worked our way down, enjoying the smooth corn and steep slope angle.

David coming down the headwall
Heading down the steep headwall

I shot a bunch of photos of the skiers as we descended, and in between taking some shots of the action I enjoyed several big, sweeping turns down the steep pitch, with a few occasional jump turns mixed in. One of the things I love about this line on Adams is the views looking off to the north as well as looking down the line on the from above with the forest sprawling out below.

Some of the skiers coming down
Joe ripping through a steep section on the headwall
One of Amar’s party coming down
Enjoying the afternoon corn on the headwall

We continued working our way down the long, steep pitch, which seems to go on forever and is several thousand vertical feet in length. On a few occasions, we had to stop to rest tired legs before continuing on down…

Working down Mt Adam’s west side
Joe making more turns
Enjoying the corn on Mt Adam’s west side
Joe enjoying a quick rest on the descent

Finally, we made our way to the bottom of the headwall and waited for the rest of the skiers to complete their descent. I snapped a few pictures showing the skiers near the bottom of the line which provides a good perspective for the scale of the lower half of the slope…

A few of the skiers looking small on the headwall
Looking up at Mt Adam’s west side

Once everyone regrouped at the bottom, we discussed exit options and decided to head further down the slope in hopes of making a lower traverse option work. This was a different exit than I was used to, but I deferred to Amar’s experience given he was fairly confident in being able to link turns on snow for most of the way out.

Khanh enjoying a break on the descent
Evaluating our exit options

The turns down the lower portion of the runout were a bit bumpy but still fun, and we slowly worked our way back towards the south side of the mountain, working down as we skied. Eventually we ended up running out of snow, and needed to throw the skins on and work our way back up to the regular exit, which didn’t require that much climbing. From there, it was (what felt like) a long slog back to our uptrack on the south side route. It’s always longer on the way out when you’re tired after climbing over 6,700 feet!

Joe on the exit

A bit weary from all of the climbing and skiing, we finally linked back up with our uptrack, and after a quick break and putting the skis/boards back into ski mode, Joe and I bid the group farewell and headed down. We were able to link turns way back down towards the trailhead, which was quite a treat, and left us with just a short hike back to the pickup/

At the end of the snow

We made a quick change back into trail shoes, and a short time later were back at the car enjoying a cold beverage and changing into comfortable clothes. Both Joe and I were pretty stoked on the ski day, and definitely happy with our choice to head north from the valley to gamble on getting some corn on Mt Adams.

Back at the truck

We wasted little time loading gear into the truck, and headed down the bumpy road back towards home. After a quick pit stop back in White Salmon to refuel, it was an easy drive back down I-84 and then I-5 home. All things considered, it was the perfect way to spend a couple of days in early June!