From below the SW Chutes looking back toward Pikers Peak, also known as the False Summit. The SW Chutes are mostly 35 degrees.

Mt Adams 12,276' July 04  Annual Ski Weekend!
July 03, 2005

The SW Chutes!



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The year 2005 will be remembered by most as the year when there was no snow and they did not ski at all. However, to some members of the skiing community it just means that they need to be a little more resourceful. Even in this record dry year, many skiers have gotten 20 or more days in.

We worried for many weeks if there would be enough snow to ski Mount Adams on the Fourth of July. Would we have to hike to the Lunch Counter and back? Would the jet stream drop down from the Canadian Border and plunge us into clouds, fog, and rain? Being an extremely optimistic group we decided to go no matter what!

Michael Balise, Doerte and I arrived at the Cold Springs Trailhead, 5,600' in the late afternoon. We found Beck and Linda Cox already at the regular campsite.

Our neighbors were up skiing the Southwest Chutes on Saturday and reported that the snow was very good below the False Summit. They reported windy conditions. They had started down at 3 pm from the False Summit.

The Southwest Chutes drop SW from the false summit at a 35-40 degree slope for over 4000 vertical feet. Skiers can climb either the South Rib or the chutes directly. The return to camp is via the Round the Mountain Trail.

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.

Mike Daly had been up the week before.  We heard rumors of other Washington Alpine Club teams up on Mount Adams.

At Piker's Peak everyone regrouped, adjusted equipment, added some layers, hydrated, ate some snacks and had fun.

Linda Cox, Michael Balise, Mike Mahanay, Doerte Mahanay, Mike Beck on Pikers Peak getting ready to start the run down!

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 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.

At Cold Springs Camp we had a calm, clear, moonlit night, and then left for the mountain at 7 am long after everyone else had started. There were many parties camped everywhere along the route. Boots or skins? Your choice! Both worked well. We had great views of Mount Hood, and Mt. Saint Helens. We reunited at the Lunch Counter for lunch. The weather was perfect!

Beck and Mike Mahanay skinned up, while Michael Balise, Linda, and Doerte followed the stairway, the climbers straight path up the 2,600' up to the False Summit (Pikers Peak). It was slow and steady going and took us about 2.0 hours. Happy, descending climbers would wiz by in a three foot deep glissade chute. Doerte counted 45. We saw 3 or 4 groups of skiers descending the South Spur, a mixed bag of telemark and alpine. There was one snowboarder. The telemarkers looked excellent and set a high standard for us! Everyone was very happy!

At the False Summit everyone relaxed a bit and got ready to ski down. The snow was perfect 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?

Doerte skiing down to Linda. The entire group showed great form!

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

Michael made a quick trip over to the true summit, and skied back. He was the lone randonee skier in our group. The five of us unanimously decided to ski the SW Chutes!

Mike Beck showing his excellent form heading down from the False Summit, 11,657'.

Beck is one of the few Telemarkers using Leather Boots. One would never ever know by watching him ski!


Mike Mahanay opted to go first, but the others pointed out that he still had his skins on. The team made me feel a lot better by attributing it to high altitude stupidity. For this mistake he was regulated to last! Linda took off first, doing perfect turns in the fall line. Beck, Michael, Doerte followed in similar fashion. 

The snow was excellent, just soft enough to carve graceful turns. The skiing got better and better with every turn. We skied about 4,000', each of us making fresh tracks. Beck said, " the snow was so good we could of skied it with tennis shoes duct taped to a couple of 2 X 4's!" ..... Well, maybe Beck could anyway!

Looking down the SW Chutes run!


It was fun to make some fresh tracks for a few thousand feet!.



A few of the serious accolades heard on the way down the SW Chutes:

"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"

Linda, Beck, and Doerte working their way down the run.  There was still lots of skiing left to do.


We skied until there was no more snow left to ski. On foot, we continued to follow the gully down to meet the Round the Mountain Trail which took us to the South Climb Trail and back to Camp. The Round the Mountain Trail connects with the PCT.

Michael Balise working his way down. The Chutes are now far above.

Michael skied from the true Summit, 12,276' on his randonee skis.

11 Hours. Total elevation gain, 5,900', 12 miles round trip, 4,000' skied from the False Summit, 4,800' for Michael. An excellent weekend with great 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. Beware, the Forest Service ranger lady is very grumpy! 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, cookies, honey, candles, and Strawberry jam! Don't pass it up!

For more info go to:
Skiing the Cascade Volcanoes

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