October has been about Mt. Adams for our family. With the backpacking season appearing to wind down, our attention turned to the mountain we see everyday. We live 45 minutes from the climber's route up to the summit and have been dotting our map with GPS points taken all over the mountain. The photos in this post are from all three different trips up.
You are on your own up the next 3.8 miles and 6,276 feet. At 12,276 feet, Mt. Adams is the second highest peak in Washington.
This has been quite the month for me. I have attempted to write about it numerous times but, as always when things become emotionally vulnerable, I've been unable to get it all out in any coherent fashion. Normally the thoughts are all penned up in my head while I mull over them. Lately, this hasn't worked quite as well. Rather than feeling out of it while my brain sorts through all that troubling emotional baggage, I've been sorting through it all full frontal and messily. Perhaps it is progress, but I preferred being a bit more emotionally detached.
In short, sometimes you just have to climb a mountain. There just isn't another option. You recognize you are at a point in your life where the commitment level requires you to be all in - regardless of inclement weather, odds, previous tragedy, and difficulty. You plan ahead, pack carefully, and then throw yourself at it with all you've got.
The first two times we went up the mountain we did it in sneakers. Crampons are something we did not wish for the Barracuda to wear until he was older. They are just too darn dangerous. We wanted him to be able to read the snow, to know how to chop steps, to understand the mountain intimately before using technology as a quick fix. He's been learning French and American style climbing for the last two years, and has done much work with his ice ax, but front spikes can permanently destroy your ability to walk if misused. If you step wrong you can slice your Achilles tendon, if they catch when are self arresting you can rip your ankle/leg clean the wrong direction. I didn't want to risk that.
However, like most everything else in our lives, The Barracuda had other ideas. When you get up to 10,000 feet the first false summit (Piker's Peak) becomes coated in solid ice. If the kid wants to really climb 14'ers that means he is going to have to have crampons. So, with complete abject terror, we ordered him a pair on eBay. Three sets of 12 point, front spike, mountaineering crampons now grace our walls (yes, we hang our gear up on the walls). He did fine, but I'm going to have to upgrade the child's gaiters - at this point he needs Hypalon and Cordura.
There were also steps to practice chopping. When you don't use crampons, you have to chop steps in the ice, balance up, chop another, take a step, lean forward and chop another, etc. It is slow going, but it gives you a severe appreciation for elevation. Since we won't be taking any crampons through the Sierras this was an incredibly important part of the whole adventure.
Weeee! Even Jules and I glissade as much as possible on the way down. Glissading means that going up the mountain takes a good 8 hours, but coming down takes a little more than one.
I'm just glad to get my head on straight. Though both Jules and I dropping 20 pounds has been a nice addition. We're both back to pre-college weight and remembering what it is like to be at the bottom of the body-mass-index.
We are up at 4 am and hiking in in the dark. We come home as the sunsets and the snow is turning pink. By the time we get to our car it is dark again, much like when we came. The days are long and full, but very well worth it. We see incredible things, experience great feats, and practice valuable skills together.