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Climbing Mt Adams


Climbing Mt. Adams

General Information |  Avalanche! |  Cascade Volcano Pass FAQ |  Climbing Report |  History
Mt. Adams Legend |  District Rec Report |  Sleeping Beauty Legend |  Summit Glaciers

General Information

May 13, 2009 : The 80 and 8040 Roads are open to Cold Springs Camp Ground.  Call Mt. Adams R.D., 509-395-3400 for information.

Mt. Adams from Timberline
Mount Adams from timberline.

Mt. ADAMS, with its summit of 12,276 feet elevation, is the second highest peak in Washington State and the third highest peak in the Cascades Range. There are several climbing routes on the mountain, ranging from the "non-technical" South Climb to highly technical routes that require advance skill, experience, and special equipment.

Because of the high elevation, all climbs have a measure of difficultly and danger. Weather on Mt.Adams can change rapidly. Sudden snowstorms can occur above 6,000 feet elevation at any month of the year. What appears to be a non-technical route can change drastically during these storms. Your safety will be the result of your preparation and good judgment. Climbers should always prepare for bad weather and an extended stay on the mountain.

Mt. Adams is Wilderness, was designated by Congress in 1964 as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. A Wilderness, in contrast to other federal land designations, is protected and managed to preserve its natural condition. It is to provide opportunities for solitude as well as primitive and unconfined types of recreation. Your actions will help us care for this unique area.

Cascades Volcano Pass

The sunset casts spectacular colors from lunch counter staging area. (Photo by Gaston Porterie)
The sunset casts spectacular colors from lunch counter staging area. (Photo by Gaston Porterie)

Purchase of a Cascades Volcano Pass is required if you are climbing above 7,000 feet elevation in Mt.Adams Wilderness, between June 1 and September 30. The Cascades Volcano Pass is a Recreational Fee Demonstration Program, see FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions).



  • $15 per person for a Weekend Pass valid for a single climbing trip involving any weekend day, Friday-Sunday.
  • $10 per person for a Weekday Pass valid for a single climbing trip on weekdays, Monday-Thursday.
  • $30 per person for an Annual Pass valid for unlimited climbs at Mt. Adams during the calendar year purchased.

Passes at Mt. Adams are free to people under 16 years of age.


Single trip and annual passes are available during regular office hours at the Mt. Adams Ranger Station in Trout Lake and the Cowlitz Valley Ranger Station in Randle, Washington. Single trip and annual passes are also available by mail. Please fill out and Cascades Volcano Pass Order Form ( PDF Format or RFT Format ) with your check. Single trip passes may also be purchased at self-issuing stations located at the Mt. Adams Ranger Station.

At fee stations, each person needs to:

  • Fill out a fee envelope.
    • Single trip visitors need to enclose the indicated amount of money (cash or check)
    • Annual pass holders fill in their annual pass number. Be sure to check the appropriate box on the envelope.
  • Separate the pass from the envelope and attach to each person's pack.
  • Separate the parking voucher from the envelope and place on the front dash of your vehicle. This is in lieu of the Northwest Forest Pass. The parking voucher needs to be visible from the outside of your vehicle.
  • Deposit the sealed envelope in the fee tube.


Each group needs to fill out one climbing register. Climbing registers are available at all fee stations. Maximum group size is 12 people. The climbing registers provide statistics on Wilderness use and facilitate search and rescue. Climbers do not need to sign-in after their climb.


Climbers are requested to pack out all solid body wastes (feces) on all climbing routes. Human waste pack-out bags are available for free at the Mt. Adams Ranger Station. Disposal cans are located at the South Climb Trailhead.


Cascades Volcano Passes are not required from October 1 to May 31. They are not required when staying below 7,000 feet elevation at any time of the year. For Wilderness travel at low elevation or during the off-season, Wilderness Permits are required. Wilderness Permits are free. They are available at all trailheads and Ranger District offices. Please note, vehicles parked at Wilderness trailheads are required to have either a Northwest Forest Pass or Cascades Volcano Pass parking stub.

Climbing Routes


The south climb trail leaves the lunch counter staging area for the summit. (Photo by Gaston Porterie)
Tracks from Pikers Peak (False Summit) leading to summit of Mount Adams. (Photo by Gaston Porterie)

The South Climb is considered a "non-technical" route, however, ice axes and crampons are recommended year-round.

South Climb Trail #183 begins at the end of Forest Road 8040500. The three-mile section of the road beyond Morrison Creek Campground is extremely rough and narrow. Please drive carefully!

Follow Trail #183 across the intersection with Round-the-Mountain Trail #9, then continue to just below Crescent Glacier. Bearing to the left of Crescent Glacier, continue your ascent around the top of the glacier, and toward a large flat area know as the "Lunch Counter"  (approximately 9000 feet elevation). From Lunch Counter, climb due north up the steep snow field or the talus ridge just west of the snowfield to the false summit also known as Pikers Peak (11,700 feet elevation).  Cross the intervening divide to the true summit, some 600 feet higher. Looking back occasionally on your way up from timberline to the summit helps minimize route confusion on your way down. Keys to the descent are re-crossing Pikers Peak and bearing southeast below the Crescent Glacier.

TIME: 6-8 hours up (ascending), 4-6 hour down (descending).

Many climbers begin their ascent one day, then spend the night at some elevation in order to adjust to the altitude, prior to beginning their ascent of the summit. Lunch Counter, the relatively flat area above Crescent Glacier is the most highly used camping area. Those seeking a more sheltered and less popular camp area may choose to camp below Crescent Glacier, in the Morrison Creek drainage.


The North Cleaver Route is rocky. Ice axes and crampons are essential.

Access the North Cleaver via Killen Creek trail #113, then High Camp trail #10 (approximately four miles). North Cleaver lies in a north-south direction between Adams and Lava Glaciers. A bearing of due south across the summit dome leads to the summit.

TIME: 12-16 hours from the road to summit; 5-8 hours down. (Allow 2 days).


For Experienced Technical Climbers Only -- Crevassed 35-40 degree slopes and prevalent heavy rockfalls. Ice axes, crampons, and ropes required.

Access the Adams Glacier route via Killen Creek trail #113, then High Camp trail #10 (approximately four miles). From High Camp bear southeast to the lower edge of Adams Glacier (approximately 7,000 feet elevation). Continue southeast for one to one-and-one half miles to icefall between North Ridge and Northwest Ridge. Ascend icefall to summit dome and then south to the True Summit.

TIME: Conditions on the Adams Glacier route are generally better in early summer. Allow two days to complete the climb.

Leave No Trace

The sunrise casts the shadow of Mt. Adams over western Washington. (Photo by Gaston Porterie)
The sunrise casts the shadow of Mt. Adams over western Washington. (Photo by Gaston Porterie)



Minimum-impact backcountry use is a hands-on, practical approach to caring about both the land and others who share its richness. Its success hinges on the willingness of the individual user to learn, to think, and then to commit knowledge to action. You can demonstrate your commitment to a Backcountry Ethic by following these simple guidelines:

  • LIMIT THE SIZE OF YOUR GROUP. Large parties disturb other visitors' solitude and cause greater impacts to trails and campsites.
  • PACK IT IN--PACK IT OUT!!! Take out all of your garbage, along with anyone else's you might find along the way. Remember--aluminum foil and plastic don't burn--take them with you.
  • USE AN ESTABLISHED CAMPSITE in high use areas, OR--
  • WHEN CAMPING IN MORE REMOTE AREAS, select a site on resilient ground, at least 100 feet from lakes, streams and trails, to reduce your impact and increase your privacy. Naturalize your campsite when you leave.
  • USE A BACKPACKING STOVE for cooking. Stoves are cleaner, more convenient and don't scar the landscape as campfires do.
  • In Mt. Adams Wilderness, fires are prohibited above 6,000 feet elevation.
  • EVEN "BIODEGRADABLE" SOAP POLLUTES cold high country water. Collect water in a pot and wash yourself and cooking gear at least 200 feet from water sources.
  • DISPOSE OF SOLID HUMAN WASTE by burying it 6-8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from lakes, streams or trails. Carry plastic ziplock bag to pack out used toilet paper. On Mt. Adams climbing routes, pack out all solid wastes.

To learn more, visit the Leave No Trace Organization web site.

Wilderness Regulations

Mt. Adams Wilderness, Indian Heaven Wilderness, and Trapper Creek

The sunset casts spectacular colors from lunch counter staging area. (Photo by Gaston Porterie)
Mt. Hood in the early morning light. (Photo by Gaston Porterie)

In order to protect and to enhance the Wilderness character the following acts, pursuant to 36 CFR 261.50 (a) and (b) are prohibited within Trapper Creek, Indian Heaven and the Mt. Adams Wildernesses located in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Mt. Adams Ranger District, until further notice.

  • Entering or being in Wilderness without a permit. 36 CFR 261.57(a)
  • Entering or being in the Wilderness with a group consisting of a combination of persons and pack or saddle stock exceeding 12 in total number without a special permit. 36 CFR 261.58(f)
  • Shortcutting trail switchback. 36 CFR 261.55(d)
  • Cutting or otherwise damaging any standing live or dead tree. 36 CFR 261.6(a) and 261.9(a)
  • Grazing, hitching, tethering or hobbling any pack and saddle livestock within 200 feet slope distance of the shoreline of any lake. 36 CFR 261.57(e)
  • Caching or storing hunting or camping equipment, personal property or supplies.ME2E 36 CFR 261.57(f)
  • Building, maintaining, or using a campfire above 6,000 feet within the Mt. Adams Wilderness as described below: 36 CFR 261.52a
    (a) Above the Round-The-Mountain Trail #9 from the Gifford Pinchot National Forest Boundary west of the Pacific Crest Trail #2000 and,
    (b) Above Pacific Crest Trail #2000 north to the intersection of Highline Trail #114 and,
    (c) Above trail #114 north and east to the Gifford Pinchot Forest Boundary.
  • Possessing or using a motorized or mechanized vehicle, or motorized equipment such as a bicycle, snowmobile, or chainsaw. 36 CFR 261.16(a) & (b)

Violation of these prohibitions is punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 or imprisonment for not more than six (6) months, or both. Title 16 USC, Section 551.


Mountain Safety


The false summit and summit spread out before the South Climb Trail.
Summit of Mount Adams from near Pikers Peak. (Photo by Gaston Porterie)

All climbers should have adequate equipment, including the following:

  1. Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope
  2. Map, Compass, Route Markers
  3. Climbing Boots
  4. First Aid Kit
  5. Waterproof matches and fire starter
  6. Pocket Knife
  7. Extra Food and Water
  8. Extra Clothing
  9. Emergency signal device
  10. Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Hat
  11. Emergency Shelter
  12. Flashlight, extra batteries, and bulb
  13. Human waste pack-out bags (to remove solid wastes)
The summit suddenly disappears into the clouds. (Photo by Gaston Porterie)
The summit suddenly disappears into the clouds. (Photo by Gaston Porterie)


  • Stay Dry. Wet clothes lose about 90% of their insulating value. Make sure your rain gear works.
  • Beware of the Wind. Wind carries heat away by driving cold air through clothing. Wear a wind breaker. Protect your skin.
  • Prevent Exhaustion. Exercise drains your energy reserves. Stop and rest frequently while you still have energy. If hypothermia develops, STOP TRAVELING. Help the victim reserve energy and heat. Send for help.
  • Eat and Drink. Drink and eat throughout the day. Dehydration and insufficient energy lead to fatigue and depression, poor circulation and lousy decisions.
  • End Exposure. Seek shelter if conditions are bad. If you can't stay warm and dry, turn back. Give up your objective, not your life!
  • Watch for Symptoms. Watch for these symptoms among your companions: uncontrollable shivering; vague, slurred speech; memory lapses; incoherence, or irrational behavior; fumbling hands; frequent stumbling; drowsiness or exhaustion; hallucinations; blueness of skin; dilation of pupils; weak or irregular pulse; unconsciousness.


  • Prevent further heat loss. Get the victim out of the wind and precipitation. Change out of wet clothes and into dry, warm clothes. NEVER give the victim alcoholic beverages.
  • Increase heat production. If the victim is conscious, give warm, sweet drinks. Keep the semi-conscious victim awake. Put the victim in a warm sleeping bag. Attempt to warm the victim by providing heat to the chest area. Do NOT attempt to warm extremities firSt.
  • Seek medical help. Heart and lung failure are significant threats to hypothermia victims.


The summit offers spectacular views of Mt. Rainer, Mt. Hood and Mount St. Helens. (Photo by Gaston Porterie)
The summit offers spectacular views of Mt. Rainer, Mt. Hood and Mount St. Helens. (Photo by Gaston Porterie)

Nearly everyone who climbs Mt. Adams will be affected to some extent by the change in altitude, and all climbers need to be aware that altitude sickness can pose a very real threat. There are four recognizable stages of altitude sickness, ranging from acute mountain sickness (rare below 6500-8000 feet) to pulmonary and cerebral edema which may cause serious damage or death.

Symptoms. Symptoms may include: headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, weakness, shortness of breath, loss of color or bluish color around the lips, chills, difficulty falling asleep, increased pulse and respiratory rates, blurred vision, confusion and disorientation. More serious symptoms associated with pulmonary and cerebral edema include a tight feeling in the chest, dry cough which becomes moist and crackling with a noisy "bubbling" sound, rapid pulse (120-160/minute), frothy or blood-tinged sputum, severe headache, confusion, disorientation, and convulsions.

Treatment. Descend to lower elevation immediately--a descent of even 2000 feet may make a considerable difference. Slow down to reduce the body's demand for oxygen. Make a conscious effort to breathe deeper and faster. In more severe cases, give oxygen, if available.

Prevention. Awareness is the only way to catch early symptoms. Go up slowly, taking time to acclimate to the higher elevation. Planning a two-day ascent, with the first night spent at a mid-point on the mountain, will help the acclimation process. Increase fluid intake and carbohydrate consumption; decrease fats in your diet. Avoid alcohol consumption (even alcohol consumed several days prior to climbing may affect the body's use of oxygen at high elevations). Smokers and anyone using depressant drugs are more apt to suffer from altitude difficulties.


  • Rolling rocks are a hazard in certain areas, particularly during the latter part of the summer.
  • Heed the first signs of weather changes, darkness, loss of route, and fatigue while you can still place yourself in a protected and secure position.
  • Always maintain visual contact with the person in front of you and the person behind you.
  • Protect your eyes from snow blindness and your body from sunburn.


Climbers decend the mountain by sliding down the snow fields. (Photo by Gaston Porterie)
Climbers descend the mountain by sliding down the snow fields. (Photo by Gaston Porterie)

A climbing register is located at the Mt. Adams Ranger Station . For your safety, please sign in at a Register before your outing. Forest Service personnel use this information to check on overdue climbers.


Avalanche Advisory----OREGON: (503) 808-2400; WASHINGTON: (206) 526-6677

Mt. Adams Ranger District: (509) 395-3400

Yakima County Sheriff: (800)572-0490 (Search & Rescue)

Trout Lake EMTs & First Responders: 911