ClubTread Community - View Single Post - Mt. Adams burning 9/9/2012

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 09-11-2012, 01:03 PM Thread Starter
Headed for the Mountains
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Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Interest: cycling
Posts: 442
Default Mt. Adams burning 9/9/2012

We were visiting relatives in Portland so I went on the list for a Mt St. Helens permit. That didn't work out, so Mt. Adams was the backup plan. Mt. Adams is the 2nd highest point in Washington State at 12,276', and has a non-technical South Climb that can be done as a long day (6,676ft elev gain). It is in Gifford Pinchot National Forest--east of Mt. St. Helens and roughly north of Mt. Hood in Oregon.

I first saw Adams from Larch Mtn in 2007:

The staff at REI Clackamas didnt think you could do the registry/permit paperwork while the ranger station was closed, but you CAN! It is all self-serve paperwork/fee envelopes like BC Parks.

I started driving from Portland at 4:15AM. As I got closer to Mt. Adams I saw a few flashes of lightning, but skies were mostly clear.
I filled out the paperwork at the Mt. Adams Ranger Station in Trout Lake: climbing registry, parking permit, fee envelope, wilderness permit, etc. A lot of paperwork & notices and bulletins!—it was starting to get light out when I finished with the red tape & reading, and started driving up the forestry roads. I took FS roads to the Cold Springs Campground at South Climb trailhead (5,600ft elev). The FR-8040 road was gravel washboard, but then FR-8040500 was dirt with some ruts and potholes--the potholes were gradual, so it was like driving on a roller coaster—kind of fun!

There were about 10 cars in the lot/campground, as I started up the South Climb Trail #183 at 7:30AM. It was a nice dirt hiking trail that left the trees in about 1/2hr.

About half way up to the lunch counter I met a few parties. Some had camped at the Lunch Counter, a large flat area about ½ way between TH and summit at 9,200ft elev. They had seen a lightning-fire and were heading home. As I approached the lunch counter I saw the fire: it was very small and miles to the north of where the cars were. Lunch Counter was a good camping area with lots of little rock wall shelters to protect from the wind. It would be a nice place to spend the night, acclimatize to the elevation, and then summit the next AM.

I passed a few other parties, some headed up and some headed down. This hike was an exercise in crampon transitions: crampons off-crampons-on. Scree, snow slope, rock, snow slope, etc. The snow was still very hard, and I made it to the Lunch Counter in 3 hours, and the summit in another 3 hours. I was eating a lot of energy gels and drinking a lot of water.

The summit was windy and cold and I didn't stay long, and I was starting to get a headache. I was still drinking a lot. I could see a fair bit of smoke, which kind of concerned me a bit so I wanted to get down. Views were amazing, with Ranier poking above the clouds.

As I came around the false summit and headed down and to the southwest, I had the real “oh crap” moment: the west and southwest flank of the mountain was on fire. My driving approach had been mostly from the south, but I hurried down as fast as my tired legs would allow. The chute glissades were non-existent but the snow was soft enough for a bit of boot skiing. I was quick but careful, and didn't skip any transitions (crampons) or drink-breaks.

There was still a tent at the Lunch Counter as I hurried past and down to the top of the marked trail (4hrs down). (Song in my head: "I'm Burnin'" by Blue Oyster Cult.)

About 10 minutes from the cars I saw a bunch of hikers (~15) with four firefighters. The fire had crossed the forestry road at a lower elevation, but the cars were OK (for now). We were not permitted to get to the cars, and they were clearing a spot for a helicopter to land. There were too many people for a single flight out, and clouds were moving in. They offered us the option of waiting for the heli-evacuation or hiking out via a different route, where a Forest Service truck would bring us to Trout Lake. The heli offer was really tempting, but I figured that using a chopper on capable hikers is a waste of resources during a fire. We waited for the rest of the hikers (including the guys in the blue tent) and headed out. Three firefighters stayed, and were getting supplies delivered by the choppers to stay overnight. They took everyone's name/car info/phone numbers and double checked. They were very professional, but they were still young guys excited to be out overnight.

A few hikers stayed for the chopper ride, while one firefighter hiked with the rest of us. We hiked south on the “Round the Mountain” trail to Bird Lake on the Yakima reservation. This trail was absolutely beautiful, but we were too tired to enjoy it. There were lush wildflower meadows completely in bloom, waterfalls, rushing creeks galore and! We hiked for 2 hours and arrived at Bird Lake as it got dark. I got a ride in a truck to the Ranger Station with a great grizzled US Forestry Service guy--I'm pretty sure it was the 1977-era Richard Manuel (watch the Martin Scorscese rock-doc: The Band-The Last Waltz). He said the fire had grown to >800 acres, uncontained, and was feeding on dry bug-killed trees.

I crashed under a desk in the USFS fire office (Mt. Adams Ranger Station, Trout Lake) and slept a bit while my wife drove down from Portland to pick me up at ~11:30PM.

The Yakima Herald says “Natural barriers and another smaller fire have partially hemmed in the fire, according to firefighters.”
So, if they are counting on a smaller fire to hem in the big fire, I don't think it's in good shape.

As of 9/11, the fire is at 1,767acres.

Cascade Creek WA-GPF-000563. IMT2 (LaFave). 35 miles N of Hood River, OR. Start 9/9/12. Full Suppression.
Lightning caused. Timber. 1,767 (+976) acres. 0% containment. Active fire behavior, creeping, torching, and spotting
observed. Values at risk include: T & E species habitat, Historical sites, and recreational areas.

Gear that came in handy: Crampons, axe, gaiters, extra food, light, extra clothes, sunscreen
Water was available at Lunch Counter
Would have been nice: hiking poles

My wife booked a train/bus ticket home for me and the 3-yr old. The name of the train: the Mt. Adams!

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