Mt. Adams NFNWR Ski

Post by blogger | July 19, 2013      

I’m dragging out the backcountry skiing season this year: just one more!

The north face of the northwest rib (NFNWR) of Mt. Adams is a classic steep ski route. Rumor has it that it was first skied by Glen Plake in the late 90’s. The south side of Adams holds awesome skiing and is quite popular. However the north side is a little harder to get to, has steeper lines, and yields fewer crowds.

The drive and approach offer great views of the route. The NFNWR descends the obvious steep face on the right.

Adam, Russel, and I, psyched from our Rainier trip the previous weekend, decided to head out and ski the NFNWR. Brooks drove all the way up from California to join. The route was in prime condition two weeks ago I’d heard from numerous friends. Two weeks of strong sun could have made the snow too icy, or melted out the crevasses and bergschrund at the bottom. We hoped not.

I slept in late in Seattle, and we got a leisurely start from the trailhead. The approach hike was short and quick. The hordes of mosquitoes made for fast walking. We found a beautiful campsite near a glacial brook just below the route. The stream was typical silty glacier melt water, however just a few feet next to the main stream were little rivulets that were crystal clear. It is fascinating how glacial till is able to filter out particulates.

Being just below the north-facing route, we woke up nice and late, and got started out of camp about 7:00. We skinned and booted up the partially melted out lower glacier. I love how glaciers in the late summer and fall become awesome mazes of streams, ice canyons, and cool formations. We booted through a few beautiful melted out sections.

Leaving camp in the morning. It's nice to leave when it's light out!

Crossing a massive crevasse at the base of the route. I don't think ropes would have done much good. Adam Roberts' photo.

To get on the face we crossed several snowbridges over sizable crevasses. To our surprise, they were all filled in enough to keep the rope in the pack. Once on the face we found rough, rock-hard snow with lots of holes and runnels. The snow quality was slightly disappointing but we knew it would soften, and we also had some backcountry ski mountaineering descent alternatives. Yet another incredible summer snow climb ensued; perfect hard booting snow, with even a little optional water ice thrown in.

Not the best snow, but good enough.

The climb went quickly, especially compared to Rainier the weekend before. Even with our late start, we ended up on top well before the snow would soften. We contemplated heading over to the true summit, but instead opted for a leisurely nap on the warm rocks. After a few hours of lounging, the snow had softened sufficiently, and we decided to head down. The snow was still quite icy, and the top of the route consisted of young penitentes (basically overgrown sun cups). Russel and Brooks decided to head down the Genie glacier, a little ways down the adjacent North Ridge.

Adam and I started out, with cautious (if a little ungraceful) turns through the penitentes. When the angle steepened, the snow smoothed out. The steepest part of the route was perfectly soft, and much smoother than up above. We skied it old school: lots of cautious jump turns. We jetted across the sun warmed snow bridges at the base, and onto the smooth glacier corn below. At camp I discovered another nap was in order as we waited for Russel and Brooks to complete their descent.

Looking down the steeper portion of the route.

Adam skiing far above.

Me doing my best Scot Schmidt impression.

Walking above some cool melted out crevasses on the way out.

We hiked out, reached the car just before dark, and made it back to the little town of Randall in a few hours. I needed to get back to Seattle for work at 9, but knew I couldn’t drive. We slept in a Randall farm field, and then made an alpine start for the drive home.


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14 Responses to “Mt. Adams NFNWR Ski”

  1. stevenjo July 19th, 2013 11:48 am

    Louie it MTB season! …. you’re making the rest of us PNWer’s feel bad about having put storage wax on last month. Kidding aside, way to get after it. That’s a stout descent. Thanks for sharing.

  2. AndyC July 19th, 2013 11:52 am

    Nice trip, Louie. No reason to stop skiing now. I skied every month for 10 years in my mid-40s/early 50s; you are in such good shape, I can’t imagine you won’t get another trip or two or three in July and plenty in Aug-Oct when the snow flies.

  3. Rob Mullins July 19th, 2013 3:31 pm

    Thanks Louie. I enjoy seeing your TRs!

  4. Scott Nelson July 19th, 2013 3:53 pm

    Yeah, nice TR. Doing those magicos right. Still like ’em?

  5. ml242 July 19th, 2013 5:18 pm

    Very cool TR, let the good times roll.

  6. Paul Lietzan July 19th, 2013 8:24 pm

    I live up in Anacortes, new around this site. Currently on deployment in the desert, not much to do out here except look at skiing websites.
    I just want to say that my wife and I have been talking about getting out in the backcountry for awhile now, and your trip reports are providing a lot of impotus for us to get going, so thanks.

  7. Louie July 19th, 2013 9:04 pm

    Yea, the Magicos are awesome! They were perfect for these last two trips, nice and light, with good edgehold, on both the up and the down.

  8. Drew Tabke July 20th, 2013 12:24 pm

    Nice one, Louie. This cracked me up. “At camp I discovered another nap was in order.” I thought you were going to say “At camp I discovered mosquitos had stolen my hiking boots.” Or “ravens had eaten my burrito” or “a group of french girls needed help applying sunscreen.”

  9. Lou Dawson July 20th, 2013 12:51 pm

    He told me the nap was after they applied the sunscreen. Busted.

  10. Lou Dawson July 21st, 2013 9:58 am

    Hey Paul, when you return and want to gear up for some nice chilly backcountry skiing, drop in and ask a few questions. We’ll help you out. Lou

  11. Paul Lietzan July 21st, 2013 3:04 pm

    Will do, I can’t wait.

  12. Brian July 22nd, 2013 6:49 am

    Louie, please drag out the ski season all summer!!

  13. Bobby Parker July 24th, 2013 10:24 am

    Thanks for sharing Louie! Being way too busy with work this summer I really appreciate I could re-live that through you. Great pics also. I love the Scot Schmidt impression.
    Keep up the good work!

  14. MtnPavlas July 25th, 2013 12:36 pm

    Great TR, Louie. I did the standard South Route 3 weeks ago, which was a ton of fun as well, but was shaking my head as I read the description of the North Route to my buddies in the car on the way back. Nice to see you do it and post a few photos from there. Might go on the list of objectives for next year. Also good to see the Magicos worked out well on summer volcano terrain.

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