Photos and story by Kristoffer Erickson
On July 11th my partner Jamie Laidlaw and I ascended the North facing Adams Glacier route on Mt. Adams. We had originally planned to just ski the one route but found ourselves on the summit with hours to burn before conditions softened on the northern aspect. Instead of waiting, we chose to descend the Southwest chutes furthering our skiing enjoyment for the day. Conditions were a mixed on the SW chutes with sections of fun skiing where the bumps had been beaten down by other skiers. At approx. 7000ft we stopped, re-hydrated and started back up to the summit. Upon reaching the summit, it was nearly 6 pm and by now the conditions on the northern aspects had softened to just what we had hoped. Descending the Adams Glacier we skied all but one small section (30m), which required down climbing to bypass a 70 deg ice section. The lower aspect of the face was a bit dirty but still soft and provided enjoyable turns. We walked back into our camp 13 hours after leaving having made a descent of both the SW Chutes and the Adams Glacier that day. Spectacular experience.
The next day we hiked out and jumped in the car heading north for Rainier. Inspired by a post of Sky’s from the 3rd of July on the Mowich face we drove to the northern side of the peak where we found the road to Mowich Lake still closed. The afternoon of the 13th we hiked into the Spray Park area and bivied for our first night. The next day we continued higher on the Mowich Glacier where we found a nice bivi at approx 8000ft. The morning of the 15th we woke at 4 am to start what would become our second Twofer of the tour. Conditions were perfect for cramponing up the Edmunds Headwall and everything seemed to be going as planned until the upper plateau of the Liberty Cap where our pace began to crawl due to horrendous penitienties that stood nearly three feet tall in places. Eventually the terrain gave way to smooth conditions and we ramped up to the true summit. With brisk winds blowing across the summit we quickly made the call to give the second twofer a go with a descent of the Emmons to start things off. Conditions began to soften at nearly 13,500 and by the Corridor the skiing was the best of the day. Sherman Flats has suffered in the summer sun and conditions are a bit bumpy but until that point the skiing on the Emmons was great. Around 2:30pm we started climbing back up the Emmons glacier reaching the summit of Liberty Cap at approx 6:30pm. It was blowing hard creating freezing conditions and due to our lightweight efforts we needed to keep moving in order to stay warm. Again we battled the massive Penitities on the summit plateau that leads to the top of the Edmunds Headwall. Walking down this section wasn’t what we had planned to due but skiing was out of the question. Eventually reaching the top of the shoulder we could begin the ski descent of the Edmunds Headwall. There was only one small chute still ski able on the far lookers right side. The chute was mostly soft ice by the time we descended with incredible exposure falling away to the Edmunds Headwall. Once through the small chute the terrain opened up to the large headwall but the skiing remained steep with more of a crushed ice layered over the hard glacial ice below. The majority of the main headwall was in great condition providing fun turns down to what we deemed the “quad schrund.” Four Bergschrunds provided an interesting exit to the headwall, still ski able but requiring a special avoidance to the recent rocks laying on top of the snow. They weren’t the best turns of the trip but the experience of skiing in summer isn’t about the best snow typically. Once back on the glacier we quickly descended with sweeping turns on the lightly brown surface back to our high camp arriving again approx 13 hours after leaving. Looking back at the Mowich Face we were knackered to say the least. Skiing two features in a day on Rainier had pushed us over 22,000 vertical with two days of skiing, not bad for the middle of July without having to lap the same feature.
The next morning we lounged long and hard enjoying numerous cups of strong coffee before skiing 2000ft down to the base of the Mowich Glacier and Ptarmigan Ridge. We ascended back to the volcano monitoring station on top of the ridge were the Flett Glacier provided our last turns of the tour. 2000 more feet and we were in the flowered meadows of Spray Park. Over 25,000 ft of skiing left us tired but the experience couldn’t have been better, who would have thought July skiing could have been so great!