After an amazing tour on Mt St Helens, our plan was to head directly towards Mt Adams to drive as far as we could up the closed road towards Morrison Creek trailhead. The rangers at the Gifford Pinchot Ranger Station in Randle had assured Dima and I that both NF-90 and NF-88 were open and snow free to Trout Lake. This road would provide a more scenic route than going back down to the highway.
Needless to say, both routes were fraught with obstacles. After getting stuck once with our FWD rental car, we proceeded onward only to find downed trees, washed out pavement, boulders blocking lanes of traffic, and continuous snow while still gaining elevation eventually turned us around. This detour cost us multiple hours as well as any chance of getting to Morrison Creek that evening. We ended up taking the highway to White Salmon before setting up camp for the night.
The weather forecast was still favorable for both Saturday and Sunday enabling us to plan a 2-day ascent. We would set-up camp above Morrison Creek Campground on a bench at 5744 feet the first day with a summit attempt and return on day two. Camping at this location would provide safe and efficient access to Suksdorf Ridge for the ascent while also being near the exit out the Southwest Chutes.
We were able to park the car on the South Climb road at 4000 feet, load up our gear, and start off in short sleeves, trail runners, and underwear (sorry, no pictures). I’m sure the snowmobilers didn’t appreciate our fashion sense but it was a much better option than having to try and dry wet pants at camp.
We dumped our heavy overnight packs near the designated camping spot and headed a little higher to do some exploring to get a better sense of the terrain above for the following day (pants were on by this point). Just below treeline at 6400 feet we turned around and cruised back to camp. With plenty of snow still on the mountain you could ski just about anywhere, especially when compared to skiing the tight glades of the east coast. As we descended back to our camp, the weather started to move in a day earlier than expected. I knew our good luck with the weather had to come to an end, I just hoped it would hold off one last day.
Another early alarm had us out of the tent and on the skin track at 5:15 enshrouded in the fog. We worked our way up using the trees along Morrison Creek to give us some depth perception. I knew continuing would be an exorcise in futility but trudged on in the light mist and wind until 7000 ft, a few hundred feet below the Crescent Glacier. The trees were becoming sparse making further progress up the mountain difficult. We ripped our soaked skins from our skis and had some surprisingly fun turns back to camp.
After packing up a very wet tent, the ski to the spot we had stashed our shoes was a low-grade downhill requiring plenty of skating and poling. Not wanting to put my shoes on, I instead transitioned to touring mode (sans skins) and was able to climb the low angled pitch. Knowing from our previous day’s hike that there was continuous snow for a good portion of the descent, I wanted to keep my skis on as long as possible. This goal was mostly to avoid carrying them on my already heavy pack but being able to ‘ski’ the whole way down is always more enjoyable. Minus a few portages and with some skiing on rocks, grass and dirt, I was able to get back to the car with skis on my feet.
The only challenge that remained was finding a place to shower and dry our gear before jumping on a red eye back to Boston late that night.