Mt. Adams Skills and Climb


At 12,276 feet, Mount Adams is the second tallest mountain in the state of Washington. It's remarkable size and spectacular ten-glacier mantle make it one of the most beautiful mountains in the western U.S. In addition to its great aesthetics, Adams provides a training ground for alpinists and mountaineers to experience altitude as well as to push their limits on moderate or more advanced terrain.

Surrounded by scenic lakes, alpine meadows, fields of wildflowers and rushing rivers, Mount Adams is a massive volcanic peak in a wild and scenic setting. Situated in the eastern portion of the Cascade Range, Adams is located approximately 35 miles east of Mount Saint Helens. A series of overlapping volcanic cones come together to create a massive peak that supports a wide range of ecosystems.

Mount Adams above the low clouds

Mount Adams above the low clouds. Ruth Hennings

As with all of the Cascade volcanoes, there is an interesting Native American legend about the mountain's appearance. The legend indicates that three smoking giants guarded the Bridge of the Gods. The giants were Mount Hood, Mount Adams and Mount Saint Helens and the Bridge of the Gods was the Columbia River. Mount Hood and Mount Adams were brothers that competed for the love of the beautiful Mount Saint Helens. When Saint Helens chose Adams, Hood struck his brother so hard that it flattened his head. And thus, the mountain appears to have a flat summit that contrasts with Hood's lower but sharper summit across the Columbia.

Ascents and descents offered on Mount Adams include options for beginners as well as more advanced climbers and skiers. At the beginner level, we have a wonderful non-technical climb up the gentle South Spur of the mountain. For intermediate and advanced level climbers who are in search seeking a higher level of technical challenge, we offer an ascent of the impressive Adams Glacier.

Mt. Adams Skills and Climb

Route Options

South Spur

Also called the Suksdorf Ridge, this route is considered to be one of the easiest and safest routes on a Cascades volcano. This non-technical "walk-up" ascends moderate slopes on the south side of this gentle giant of a mountain. The South Spur has a gentle enough angle that a cabin was built on the summit in 1921. A trail to the top was constructed and maintained in order to service a sulfur mine near the cabin. At the height of mining activity, pack mule trains were herded up and down the route on a regular basis.

Though the route has few technical difficulties, it does require good overall physical fitness. Climbers should be prepared for two long days of movement.

The South Spur trip runs over the course of two and a half days. On the first day, you'll meet your guide, do a thorough gear check and then drive to the mountain. On the second day you'll ascend onto the Crescent Glacier, ultimately achieving the "Lunch Counter" and our camp at 9,400 feet. On the third day you'll ascend the South Spur to the summit at 12,276 feet. We offer this climb from May through July each year.

The South Spur route climbs the left-hand skyline. This is a classic beginner route

The South Spur route climbs the left-hand skyline. This is a classic beginner route. Martin Kempher

Ski Descent:
With approximately seven thousand feet of vertical relief between the parking lot and the summit, the South Spur is an excellent ski mountaineering objective. From the top of the mountain there are a number of descent options. Some skiers reverse their ascent by going back down the South Spur, whereas others will descend the steeper Southwest Chutes or Avalanche Glacier. We offer this trip from March through June.


Adams Glacier

The massive Adams Glacier spills down between two towering rock walls on the northwest aspect of this volcanic giant. In its course it drops all the way from the 12,276-foot summit to the 7,000-foot level in a series of spectacular ice falls. As the angle of the mountain decreases at lower altitude, the terminus the glacier spreads out gently into five different tongues separated by large moraines.

Practicing ice skills below the Adams Glacier. The Adams Glacier is an amazing intermediate climb

Practicing ice skills below the Adams Glacier. The Adams Glacier is an amazing intermediate climb. Dunham Gooding

The three and a half day ascent starts with a meeting with the guide and a thorough gear check followed by travel to the mountain. On the second day we approach through the forest and onto the flanks of the mountain. Once we've reached our camp we'll review glacier and climbing skills before preparing for the ascent the next day.

Early the next morning, we work our way up gentle slopes and then move onto steeper terrain. We reach the crux of the climb at approximately 10,000 feet where the route weaves through a steep icefall that requires skilled climbing through a maze of seracs. After nearly a thousand feet of steep terrain, the angle decreases. Following time on the summit, the team we descend the non-technical North Ridge and return to base camp for a night of rest before walking out.

While the South Spur route may see dozens of climbers on the same day, the Adams Glacier sees just a fraction of that number, and on most days, we have the route entirely to ourselves. Intermediate and advanced climbers who are looking for solitude and adventure will find both on this little climbed aspect of the mountain. This technical route is ideally suited for small teams early in the Northwest climbing season (May-July 10th each season.)

By either route, Mount Adams can offer you an enjoyable climbing challenge in an incredibly beautiful setting.

Mt. Adams Skills and Climb


South Spur Program Details

Location: Mount Adams, Southern Cascades
Length: 3 days
Max Ratio: 5 climbers: 1 guide (5:1)
Prerequisites: Previous backpacking experience
Cost: Please call for details.


Adams Glacier Program Details

Location: Mount Adams, Southern Cascades
Length: 4 days
Max Ratio: 2 climbers to one guide (2:1) or 4 climbers to 2 guides (4:2)
Prerequisites: Glacier travel, ice climbing
Cost: Please call for details. 

*We run this program on a private basis, please call for more details.



  • Good physical fitness
  • Ability to carry a 45 - 55 lb backpack for multiple hours
  • Stamina to hike for over 8 hours (including breaks, and with lesser pack weight)
  • Ability to cook for yourself on a backpacking stove
  • Overnight backpacking experience

Mt. Adams Skills and Climb

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