Skiing Pahto (Mt Adams)

Route: Suksdorf Ridge

TH: Cold Springs campground. Road to trailhead is unimproved. High clearance and AWD recommended.

Map: Green Trails Maps 367S. Strava track here.

Stats: Approx. 12.5mi and 6700′ vert car to car.

Gear: Entirely non technical, but crampons and ice axe/whippet recommended.

Saturday was a long day for all of us, but we were determined to rally and ski Mt. Adams (hereafter refered to as Pahto) for the first time. Shortly following a “brutal” race at the Yakima 50k, Ethan and Richard drove three hours to meet me in Trout Lake as stars began pricking through the sky.

Pahto towers over Trout Lake as a Guardian of Serenity
The guardian of serenity towers over Trout Lake.

We rolled into Cold Springs Trailhead at 11pm and immediately set out our bedding for a few hours of sleep under the stars. Upon waking in darkness we began hiking at 5:30 and switched to skins about a half mile and 200′ vert from the car.

Dawn breaks, and the slog continues.

We ended up straying slightly to the right of the summer ascent route (“Climber’s Trail” 183), but it was clear our route had been traveled before. It provided no difficulties and seemed equally direct. After passing to the right of Crescent Glacier we eventually arrived at the “Lunch Counter,” a relatively large and flat area 2200′ below the false summit.

Richard stands atop the Lunch Counter and contemplates the long walk ahead.

Pahto is often done as a two day trip, and thus we passed several tents staked out atop the Lunch Counter. The view of the slope ahead was admittedly one of the more daunting views I could remember, but thankfully I had plenty of water and Poptarts to keep the engine running.  Climbers began emerging left and right out of the woodwork as we left the Lunch Counter, and there were already several parties on the slope above. It was going to be a crowded day on the mountain.

Ethan and I transitioned to crampons before the going got any steeper, while Richard obligately opted for ski crampons.  We French-stepped and zig-zagged our way up Suksdorf ridge for nearly two hours until topping out on Pikers Peak, the false summit.

An unusual haze shrouds what would otherwise be a stunning view of Wy’East from Pikers Peak.

The altitude and previous day’s activities began to take their toll, making progress relatively slow. After an hour or so we tagged the true summit at 11am. Turns from the top were fairly icy and remained this way until a few hundred feet below the false summit. Even here the snow was quite patchy, with icy windboard covering most of the slope’s middle. We found smoother conditions on the skier’s far left side of the slope. From here, 4000′ of skiing passed by in a blur of pure joy. There was consistent corn at ~10,500′, which gave way to slush at 6,000′. For those of you that like to get rad, we found a few wind lips that provided aerial entertainment below tree line.

Loowit (Mt St Helens) watches from afar as Ethan spreads schralp butter down Pahto’s lower flanks.
Hiking back to the car through a stand of snags burnt by the Cascade Creek Fire

I have come to realize I can’t think of anything more fun than climbing a mountain and skiing down it. Volcanoes in particular are attractive for this pursuit. Out of nowhere they arise from Earth and boldly remind us of our planet’s ancient and humbling forces. Ski mountaineering is a fairly useless hobby in the end, but it sure feels like love. I can only hope for more sunny weather and another volcano adventure before I graduate and pack up for Colorado.

No caption required.

You might have thought that ski season was over. Well, it is almost over, which means that it’s time for amazing deals on high quality gear. supports Mountain Lessons, and as a skier-owned, light-and-fast dedicated shop, we love to love them back. Click below and check out all of the great stuff that’s hundreds off of retail. Remember, next season will be here before you know it.

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 1.43.06 PM


Category: Adventures, Travel, & WritingRoutesSkiing


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: