We're a hundred percent on the teeth! Shorts were the order of the day! At Pikers Peak, with the true summit in the background. Chris Snow, Laurie Rich, Mike Mahanay, Jeff Wright, Doerte Mahanay, Michael Balise, and Christy True.

Mt Adams 12,276'
July 04 Annual Backcountry Ski Weekend!

July 02, 2006

The SW Chutes!



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The Washington Alpine Club has a long history of climbing and skiing dating back almost a hundred years, so what better than to combine the two disciplines into one event! Mount Adams has been the scene of the summer ski event for several years now. There is a very good reason for this! This year the WAC fielded no less than 5 teams with over 20 people total for an unofficial trip!

Weather on any mountain, much less a volcano can be suspect in early summer. I have witnessed zero visibility and winter conditions in past Junes. Some years it is extremely cold on the mountain, and the wind can be fierce.

This year we had near perfect weather!

As usual Michael Balise, Christy True, Doerte and I arrived at the Cold Springs Trailhead, 5,600' in the late afternoon. (After getting our permits, and stopping for treats at the Trout Lake Community Center) Our usual campsite was not quite accessible due to snow, so we parked and carried our gear to it. We relaxed, carbed up with veggie spaghetti and decided on what gear to take. 

Doerte getting started early in the morning, just above the Round the Mountain Trail Junction.

Beta from folks returning on Saturday was that the snow was very nice, and the Southwest Chutes in excellent condition. Folks also reported that it was possible to ski almost back to the Trailhead. Some parties were doing a high traverse at 7,100' to get back to the normal South Spur Route rather than use the lower Round the Mountain Trail.

At Cold Springs Camp we had a calm, clear, noisy, moonlit night, and then left for the mountain at 6 am. Most parties had already started. Many  parties were camped at the Lunch Counter. Boots or skins? Your choice! Both worked well. We had great views of Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, and Mt. Saint Helens. We rested at the Lunch Counter, and had snacks on Piker's Peak. The weather was perfect!

We hiked up the stairway, the climbers  path straight up the 2,600' up to the False Summit (Pikers Peak). It was slow and steady going and took us about 2.0 hours. A few ecstatic, descending climbers would wiz by in a three foot deep glissade chute. I ran into Chris Arnold on the way up.

We saw 3 or 4 groups of skiers descending the South Spur, a mixed bag of telemark, alpine, and snowboarders. The telemarkers looked excellent and set a high standard for us! 

The standard climbing route goes up the South Spur, and is also called the South Climb. The mountain was first climbed by the North Ridge in 1854. For a time there was a mine, and then a Fire Lookout on the summit, supplied by mules. It is hard to imagine what it must of been like to spend some time there. Now, it is just a ruin, and just barely visible on dry years.

The view from the Lunch Counter. 2,000' up to Piker's Peak.

We were relieved to have the clouds as it kept the day cooler.

Amar Andalkar calls this non-technical summit route one of the true Cascade classics. The slope below the 11,657' False Summit (Pikers Peak) holds a consistent 25-30 degree pitch for over 2500 vertical ft, often with superb corn snow in late spring and early summer.

It can be very windy on Pikers Peak but not today. We had great views of Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson to the South, and Mount Saint Helens to the West.

We regrouped, adjusted equipment, added some layers, hydrated, ate some snacks and visited with other climbers. We talked with Ira Rushwald, Megan Hilgart, and Andy Nicholls.

After relaxing a bit we got ready to ski down. The snow was in nice shape and we had high hopes for a good run! From here we had to decide to ski the SW Chutes or the South Spur Route? Both are fantastic runs!

Starting down the SW Chutes. The snow was heavy initially!

A bit of a bottleneck here with three parties in the same area.

The Southwest Chutes drop SW from the false summit at a 35-40 degree slope for over 4000 vertical feet. Woohoo! Initially the snow was quite heavy and sloppy, but after a few hundred feet it firmed up and became very nice to ski.

Doerte finding her tele  rhythm in the SW Chutes. Mostly 30-35 degrees.

Don't forget to breathe!

Mount Saint Helens on the horizon and Doerte stringing together a whole bunch of very nice tele turns!

Aside from all the fun, and the excellent turns, the views were fantastic!

Christy, Michael, and Doerte enjoying the glow of some great turns! The entire group showed great form!

Our team consisted of two telemarkers, one snowboard, and one randonee. We met up with Nate, Kirsten and team. It was a pleasure to ski with them for a while. They are all excellent telemarkers!

Michael Balise skied the chute, hmmm, make that cliff, marked in red! Woohoo! Go Michael!


 There were lots of very pretty turns!

The fun never stopped!


It was a pleasure to make some fresh tracks! 



Here is what was said about skiing the SW Chutes in 2005 -

"Best run of the year"
"Amazing, perfect snow!"
"Where is everyone else?"
"It does not get any better!"
"The best run in the Pacific Northwest"

I think everyone would agree it was the same in 2006, if not better!

Nate and Kirsten and team enjoy the spectacular views.


We skied until the notch at about 7,100' were we traversed left, or East. This section definitely had the feeling of a tour, with lots of route finding and decision making by group. We had to remove our skis several times to cross boulder fields, and once put the skins on to gradually traverse a big gully. We had lots more nice turns. Eventually we joined up with the South Spur Route.

Christy on her snowboard making turns through the trees! Mount Adams summit is in the background.

The tree skiing was an extra bonus!

We were able to make turns to within a half mile of the Trailhead!

Near the end we ran into Mike Beck, Linda Cox, and Dave Schuldt who were on their way up!

11.5 Hours. Total elevation gain, 6,676' for those that went to the true summit, 12 miles round trip, 6,000' skied from the False Summit, 6,600' for Michael. An excellent weekend with wonderful friends and lots of great turns!

There is $15 climbing fee ($10 Mon-Thurs) required above 7000 ft from June 1 to September 30.  A Northwest Forest Pass required for parking at the Trailheads. The permit can be picked up in Trout Lake at the Forest Service Office. Also, on Saturdays at the Community Center in Trout Lake the town hosts a bazaar with homemade stuff. We loaded up on Huckleberry Cinnamon roles, Rhubarb Pie, Carrot Cake, and Strawberry jam! Don't pass it up!

For more info go to:
Skiing the Cascade Volcanoes

The activities described in this web site are potentially dangerous. Canyoneering, rock climbing, and mountaineering involve unavoidable risks including the risk of serious bodily injury and death. All forms of wilderness recreation have a higher level of risk than most ordinary activities. The owner and publisher of this web site do not assume any responsibility or liability for your safety. Those who use this information, and those who venture onto mountainous terrain, do so at their own risk. Disclaimer

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