First Ascent splitboarder Kyle Miller has a goal: to be the first person to ride lines on the 10 highest peaks in Washington during a single season. His summit of Mount Adams scratches the ninth mountain from his list.
By Kyle Miller
It has been a wild 10 days since getting back from South America. Most people like to rest and relax before getting back to the swing of ordinary life—not me.
Twenty-four hours after arriving at Sea-Tac International Airport, I was in a car with Jessie Rowe driving 200 miles south to Mt. Adams, Washington’s second-tallest peak and one of the last places to find steep, smooth corn. With a favorable forecast of two days of back-to-back sunshine, the parking lot was filled with climbers, hikers, and skiers as we arrived at the Cold Springs campground at the early hour of 11:00 p.m.
The silence of night was broken by the alarm going off at 6:00 a.m., which we decided was far too early to wake up, so we resorted to the snooze button for a few extra minutes of sleep. By 6:45, we were slowly moving and packing our bags for a long day climbing Adams’ highly popular southern route.
From the moment I stepped on the trail, I was blown away by how much snow still lingered in the Cascades. It was the end of July, but felt like early June as we followed a solid path of boot prints before ditching the route for a more direct path. The snow was firm as we skinned up, forcing me to taking advantage of my ski crampons on steeper slopes before transferring the splitboard onto my back for the final 3,000-foot climb.
The well-established boot pack went in all directions as I climbed, keeping a consistent pace and watching the weather slowly deteriorate. By noon, I was standing on top of Pikers Peak, a sub-summit of Adams, looking at the true summit enveloped in a lenticular cloud with occasional breaks. While it was windy, I am used to being out in the dead of winter, so I found it to be a warm breeze. I was and am very familiar with Mt. Adams, summiting it more than five times in the past few years. So I decided to do the final summit push, knowing if worse came to worst I could get myself down by following the beaten-in trail.
By 1:30, I was standing on the true summit but you could never tell: It was a full-on whiteout with visibility around 20 feet. No time could be spent to celebrate yet another summit, and being one step closer to finishing my seasonal project, we transitioned to ski/ride mode and were on our way down. A few hundred feet down visibility once again returned, and we decided to go with our original plans: the Avalanche Glacier headwall. The headwall is a tad bit sportier and spicer than the standard southwest chutes, which are a Cascadian classic when it comes to ski mountaineering.
Before long we were standing at the entrance to the headwall, a blind roller that quickly transitions from 15 degrees to a sustained pitch of 45 degrees. Our hearts pumped as we dropped onto the steep slopes, fearing icy conditions, but soon found the slopes to be in perfect rip-able conditions. The next 3,000 feet went by in minutes, as each turn sent us down 20 vertical feet with not the slightest bit of angle easing until we reached the avalanche glacier, which took us on a two-mile journey through slopes barely steep enough for me to hold my speed. Before long I was traversing through valleys on foot, heading back toward the trailhead.
We reached our car at around 6:00 p.m. It had been a long day of climbing 7,300 feet and descending around 6,000 vert. Not bad for the last few days of July. But more importantly, I was stoked because I had climbed nine out of the 10 tallest peaks in Washington and had one left: the mighty Mt. Rainier!
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