After gazing North at Mount Adams from Hood two weekends ago, the decision had already been made in my head: with our first good weather window, we'd make a break from work early on Friday to head down and charge the mountain.
Thunderstorms and questionable weather were forecast for Seattle and the North Cascades, but Adams looked quite clear, so we made the long drive out 90, down past Yakima, across toward Hood River, then up to Trout Creek before busting onto the forest roads that brought us (after a mild missed turn incident and Civic off-road excursion) to Cold Springs Campground at the trailhead. It was packed when we finally rolled in around 11pm--it seemed that every nook our headlights passed over was filled with a car or tent. We eventually found a spot on somewhat even ground and hit the hay with a wake-up planned for 6am.
We'd heard that things were a bit icy in the morning and that skinning would be tough until later in the day, so there wasn't much motivation to get a super-alpine start. We leisurely ate breakfast, packed up the ski gear, and started hiking up the trail in our running shoes at about 7:45am. This was definitely the right method--we were fast and comfy all the way up to a large bowl from which the snow cover seemed consistent to the top.
The last time I'd clicked into the AT setup was on Rock Mountain with Cam--an experience that did not instill confidence in my strength on fat skis. Nevertheless, I felt pretty stable despite sloppy snow and some steeper slopes. We quickly rose up to the main plateau below the ramp up to Piker's Peak. Skinning was still easy up to the base of the ramp, but it was clear that the established boot-pack was going to be a more efficient way to gain vertical, so we strapped the skis to our packs and started huffing our way up.
With Piker's at 11,600ft and a home at sea level, the altitude started to hurt us all a bit as we slogged up the ramp. There were some other people on skis who were switch-backing their way up at about the same speed we were on foot, so we didn't feel terrible about keeping the skis off.
A healthy snack and break at Piker's set us up well for the final summit push. The snow quality from the summit to Piker's looked pretty poor, so we left the skis there and boot-packed our way up the final 700 ft of vertical to the true summit. We were all a bit tired, but not too worse for the wear and had an awesome time up at the top, with views of Hood, St. Helens, and Rainier. Not too shabby.
From the summit down to Piker's was slippery plunge-stepping, but not terrible. We eventually made it to the skis, locked in our heels, and started the quad-screaming descent. The first pitch was relatively steep for most of us, but the snow had softened quite a bit by that point, so we were able to navigate our way down the ramp to easier ground, which was incredibly fun. Nothing was too sun-cupped or variable, so we were able to open it up a bit and really enjoy the skiing (taking copious breaks to let the quads relax a bit). The rest of the descent was really quick, with mostly consistent snow until well below where we'd switched over on the way up.
Putting the running shoes on was a religious experience. We quickly hiked the rest of the way out, packed up, and drove straight to BZ Corner where we patroned the local saloon and replenished much-needed calories. Win.