Mt Adams Southwest Chutes Speed Lap

Earlier this season, Taylor and I walked a really long way to try to ski Mt Adams’ southwest chutes. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite spring, so we didn’t get to ski the route. April passed, and so did May, and now in early June the conditions are fully ripe for cascades corn harvesting, so I made a quick solo trip to try to nab the route before it melts away.

Mt Adams looking mighty fine.
Mt Adams looking mighty fine.

I left Portland at 7:30 pm yesterday and enjoyed the sunset through the Columbia River Gorge on the way to Trout Lake. The trailhead road is a rough one, and I swear they’re breeding deer up there, so it wasn’t until around 10:30 pm that I was settling down to a nice dinner of cold peanut noodles from New Seasons.

I left the trailhead around 7:20 am, pushing my start time up from 8:00 because I was worried about the heat. The snow line was just a few minutes’ walk up the trail, and mild overnight temperatures made for quick skinning to the base of the south route’s headwall. There I transitioned to crampons and motored past the leisurely crowd headed to the summit from the lunch counter camp.

A foreshortened view down Mt Adams' Southwest Chutes
A foreshortened view down Mt Adams’ Southwest Chutes

I made the summit in 2:57 and enjoyed the view for a couple of minutes before sliding over to the entrance to the Southwest Chutes. In beautiful contrast to my last visit, I found just-about-to-ripen corn snow at the entrance. I dove in, knowing that a 3000′ run would serve me all the different flavors of melting-in-the-sun.

3000' of corn below a happy me.
3000′ of corn below a happy me.

As is always the case with such things, the descent itself passed in a mere ten minutes of leg-burning fun before I was pushed into the endless traversing across gullies that is the hallmark of skiing anything on Mt Adams. With minimal low-snow shennanigans and brief jog back down the trail in ski boots, I made the round trip in 4:23.

Southwest Chutes from near their base.
Southwest Chutes from near their base: the route takes the obvious long line from the rightmost (false) summit. It clocks in around 3000′ with a nice 35-40 degree angle.

It really takes me back to think about my first time on this mountain, back around 2007 when I was in college. With borrowed gear, I made the round trip in about 12 hours, and I thought that I was the shit. How things change with time! Lighter gear, better fitness, and a familiarity with the mountain make all the difference.

The best FKT that I can find for Adams is 4:01 by a runner, so I’m happy to tack on 22 minutes and ski a classic steeper aspect. Though skiing isn’t a fair comparison to running, with fresh ski wax and a descent of the south side route, it would be very simple to go faster than 3:45, maybe even down to 3:15 if you went a little further into the pain cave.

Support Mountain Lessons and get yourself some light gear for the summer! 

Category: Skiing



  1. Great report! Buddy and I are planning our first one Saturday. Climbed Adams before but the GPX helps for finding downhill route. I plan to use a janky setup of snowboard/boots, hiker boots (or not) Buddy on ski/skins. And paddle your hometown rosecitysup race sunday

    Any advice appreciated.

    1. Sounds good! I hope you have a good time. I can’t quite tell what you’re talking about with gear, but the dirt trail is short, so if you’re comfortable hiking in snowboard boots you can probably leave the hiking boots behind– unless of course crampons won’t go on your snowboard boots– I don’t know much about that.

      Otherwise, the south side was pretty soft around 9-10am so I’d get an early start. Cheers!

      1. Thanks Patrick, we had planned to do a 4am. Weather could factor in though. Great site!

  2. How fast do you think you could get up and down the mountain mid-October? Any of the routes in skiing condition or are they all melted away or too suncupped?

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