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Something really great happened this last weekend. A friend Nick and I climbed Mount Adams. I wasn’t expecting it to impact me the way it did. I’ve done my fair share of hikes but nothing like this. Climbing Mount Adams was possibly the most physically challenging thing I’ve ever done. It was also one of the most rewarding. It was an amazing experience I’ll never forget and can’t wait to relive. I think I’ve found another calling.

Two months ago we were camping at the bottom of Mount Adams in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. We’ve spent a lot of time in that area over the past couple years. After a long day, we found ourselves winding down next to a fire. We had spent the whole day with the mountain behind us and the idea just arose, “Why don’t we climb it one of these days!”. I don’t remember who’s idea it was but we both immediately latched on to it. “How haven’t we thought of this!” we both said. I guess it was only a matter of time till it happened.

Fast forward two months later and its July 24Th at 5:30am. I’m going through my gear making sure it’s all there before we start the hike.

Check List-

  • 80-liter backpack
  • Smaller day pack
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Appropriate clothes (I can’t believe I didn’t think to bring snow pants!!)
  • Change of clothes
  • Boots/crampons
  • Ice Pick
  • Tent
  • 4 gallons of water
  • Food (protein bars, nuts, granola, cooked chicken breasts, dried fruit)
  • Headlamp
  • Emergency kit
  • Sunscreen
  • Glasses

It appeared I had everything. I soon realized I should have brought snow pants. How did I not think to bring snow pants! Rookie mistake!

We started hiking at 6am. We were not sure how the day was going to pan out but we had a few scenarios that we planned for.

climbing mt.adams

View from the beginning of the hike.

Scenario 1- The best case we make the whole hike in one day (to the summit and back down to the car). We know there is a spot called ‘Lunch Counter’ that is a popular camping area about halfway up the mountain. The plan was we get to Lunch Counter and pack enough food and water to get us to the top into one bag. We leave everything else behind and take turns carrying it as we make our last pushes to the summit. After the summit we return to Lunch Counter,  pick up the remaining gear and keep pushing toward the car.

Scenario 2- We follow the same steps as scenario 1 but instead of pushing back to the car after the summit we camp out at Lunch Counter and continue hiking the next day.

So we were off. We hiked for about three hours till we hit the first snow and had to attach our crampons. From there it was about an hour and a half till we hit Lunch Counter, arriving around 11:30. We took about a thirty-minute lunch break, packed everything into one bag and started back up. Looking up from Lunch Counter there is one large slope. At the top of this slope is Piker’s Peak which appears to be the summit but it is not. It is a false summit. We knew that once we got to the top there would still be another mile/1,000 feet climb to the summit.

climbing mt.adams

Looking up at Piker’s Peak (false summit) from Lunch Counter.

From Lunch Counter to Piker’s Peak was the steepest section of the hike. For me, it was also the most difficult. My legs were weak and shaky. I was moving slower than I had been all day but my heart was pounding harder. I could feel my body responding to the altitude. I could see how Nick was responding to the altitude. We were both struggling but still making good time.

When we reached the top of the false summit we saw what we had left to hike. It was a lot bigger than we thought it was going to be. If there was a time to quit it would have been there but that was not going to happen. From Piker’s peak, there was about a third of mile hike where the elevation slightly dropped. After this was the last hill. We took a fifteen-minute break and kept on. It was at this time I caught a second wind. It took us about an hour to finish that last stretch. We made it to the summit at 3:30 pm, nine and a half hours from when we started. It couldn’t have been more worth it!

climbing mt.adams

Looking up from Piker’s Peak to the summit.

At the summit, we celebrated, took pictures and stared at the amazing view. It was a perfectly clear day. We could see Mounts Hood, Jefferson, Helen’s and Rainier. It was a moment that will stand out in my life and hopefully change its direction. That is a moment I will relive.

climbing mt.adams

The summit!

From the summit, Nick and I were both determined to make it back to the car. Four hours later we did, arriving at 7:30 pm. Climbing Mount Adams all together took thirteen and a half hours. As challenging as it was, with training I’m confident I could hike much bigger mountains. That is exactly what I’m going to do. I will keep you posted.


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climbing mt.adams

Evan Zener

Fit-InMotion Personal Training

Northeast Portland OR, 97212

(971) 285-0847 – [email protected]