Saturday, August 7, 2010

2010 Reach The Summit Mt. Adams Climb - August 1st ~ 3rd, 2010


In the early morning of August 3rd, 2010, my seven fellow Reach The Summit climbers and I summited Mt. Adams to benefit the American Lung Association.

In the climbing party were, Laura Pope, Larissa Bradford, Geoff Janke, Wendy Barnes, Wendy Forrester, Matt Kress, Matt Costigan, and myself.  We very much missed Karlene McCabe who unfortunately injured her foot the week before and was unable to join our climb. 

The three guides from Timberline Mountain Guides who provided us with their technical expertise and guide service were Joe Owens, Phil (last name?), and Tiko (last name?). 

Jennifer Baldwin (the Reach The Summit program's head honcho) and Abby Britton (Reach The Summit training hike assistant) also were climbing but they were technically not in our group as only twelve people were allowed to be in any one group in the wilderness area.

We were pleasantly surprised to see Andy Nuhring (Reach The Summit training hike assistant), who volunteered his service as an unofficial photographer, and his son on the mountain as well.

I would like to thank all my sponsors who have stepped forward to go the distance with me and graciously supported this journey.

I would like to thank all my friends and family members who have given me their tremendous encouragements to keep putting one foot in front or the other.

I would like to thank the training hike leaders and assistants, the guides from Timberline Mountain Guides, and all those who volunteered their talents and time to this year's Reach The Summit program.

I would like to thank those at the American Lung Association of Oregon who put together this program and worked tirelessly to take care of all the behind-the-scene matters. 

I would like to thank in advance all those who let me use your photos online for this blog site.

And, last but not least, I would like to thank my wife, Sharona, for riding alongside with me from the beginning to the end on this wonderful journey.

To see all my photos and the ones uploaded by my fellow climbers, please click here.


August 1st, 2010 - Mt. Adams Lodge

I drove over to Geoff's house to pick him up around noon.  He had everything packed up and ready to go and we were on the road in a matter of ten minutes to Mt. Adams Lodge where we would meet everyone between 3pm and 4pm to check in and spend the night.  Once we crossed a bridge in Hood River over the Columbia River to the Washington side, we turned onto a back road that meandered through beautiful hills and valleys that I had no idea they existed so close to where we lived. 

As we were crossing the bridge, we were struck by how many people were kite boarding on the water, so much so that we were able to spot only few wind surfers.  Strong wind was blowing down the Columbia River Gorge as usual providing what seemed to us like a great condition to do this sort of thing. 

The back road followed beautiful White Salmon River, one of the many tributaries to the Columbia River, where river rafting businesses were booming.  In about another eight miles or so, we picked up another local highway that generally pointed north.  As we went on, we noticed we were seeing less and less vehicles on the road until we were seeing nobody else at all on the road.  Mt. Adams was starting to become very visible and it was getting bigger and bigger in my windshield by the minute, which was a good sign.  Then we turned onto a road that barely fit the definition of highway which eventually led to a small town called Glenwood where the lodge stood in its outskirt.

Following the direction Jennifer had provided us, it was easy to find the lodge.  Almost at the same time, two of the three mountain guides, Phil and Tiko, rolled into the parking lot as we did.  (Joe Owens would not be able to join us until the next day as August 2nd was his wife's birthday.) We were a bit too early to check in so we decided to make a beer run after the owner showed us around the property.  (Geoff and I could not help but look at each other in amazement when the clerk at the general store told us that he had been expecting us picking up some beer..)  As we got back to the lodge with ample supply of brew, others were also starting to arrive. 

The lodge was a beautiful piece of property.  I was sure it took a lot of maintenance to keep it this way but, if I were to get to have a pick on where my ultimate house would be, this certainly would be near the top of my list.  The lodge was situated on a twenty or so acres of wooded land with a view of the south aspect of Mt. Adams in its backdrop.  And best of all, there was hardly any noise at all.

There were two buildings in which we had our rooms, the guest house and the lodge. All the rooms had the views of Mt. Adams out their windows.  The living room with a big fireplace and the kitchen in the lodge set the mountain lodge atmosphere.  There were a Frisbee golf course, hiking trails and a volley ball court for guest's pleasure.  And no mountain lodge would be complete without lodge pooches.

My next task was to put together a "Poop Tube" which I dedicated to our climb with a Timberline Mountain Guides sticker on it as a token of my appreciation for their services.  It consisted of 3" x 24" plastic tube with an end cap on one end and a screw top on the other.  We would be required to pack out all solid waste on Mt. Adams in the "Human Waste Pack-Out System" provided to us at the ranger station when we picked up our permits the next day.  The idea was to put the used HWPOS buritos in it.  Poop tubes were carried typically on rock climbing trips but this device would make the matter much less unpleasant for us than the alternative methods of packing out the waste. 

There was one more chore to be done before we could plant ourselves on the Adirondack chairs for the evening.  The lodge owner rounded us up to have us help her swap out the refrigerator in one of the rooms with a new one.  In exchange, each of us got a cool Mt. Adams Lodge hat.  Of course we were happy to help her out.  Ironically, we found out that the new fridge was an inch too wide to fit in the space so we had to take out a smaller fridge from the upstairs of The Guest House and put it in as a temporary measure.

Geoff and I could not help but gawk at and marvel jealously this old Toyota Land Cruiser that hauled in the new fridge.  What a beautiful piece of machinery!!

Now that we had earned our keeps (actually, Geoff and Matt C. did - me, not so much), it was time to do some nothing.  We sank into the Adirondack chairs in the shades of tall evergreen trees and commenced the ritual with the cold bottles clutched firmly in our hands.  (Actually, we had had few already in the kitchen before our moving duty...)  Ahhhh.  Gotta love it!  Chilling with good friends - what could be better than this?? 

There were few more things for us to do before dinner though.  First thing first, Jennifer pulled out and handed out some more release forms for us to sign.  Apparently, this served as an official change of jurisdiction from the American Lung Association to the Timberline Mountain Guides.  As our pro bono de facto legal counsel, Matt K. showed us how it's done and we all followed his lead.

Lastly, Phil and Tiko put a pile of dehydrated dinner packages on the ground for us to pick and take the next day.  Mmmmm... yum... can't wait.. Also, the tent parts were brought out and distributed among us to be carried in our packs.  Then they checked our gears one last time before our climb.

The folks at the lodge threw an amazing burger and chicken tenderloin dinner cooked on their BBQ grill for us.  We washed them down with yet more beer as we enjoyed each other's company in the twilight that blanketed the foothill of Mt. Adams until we reluctantly retired to our rooms for the night one by one.


August 2nd - Lunch Counter

After taking one last shower at 5am, I headed downstairs to the dining room in the office building for a breakfast.  I was a little early but Phil was already there as well and they offered us coffee while we waited for the breakfast to be ready.  And it was as fantastic as the dinner the night before, consisting of toasts, scrambled eggs, sausages, oat meal with raisins, walnuts and brown sugar, fresh orange juice, coffee, etc.  More than worthy of the most important meal of the day, especially on a day like this.

I was quite certain that the porcelain goddess smiled when I made my one last offering before I headed out of my room.  Then we drove to the ranger station to meet up with Joe Owens who would be leading our party, to obtain our Cascades Volcano Passes required to be in the wilderness area, and, last but not least, to pick up our HWPOSs.  There was some confusion as to how to get to the station which caused some of us to end up getting lost on our ways there but we all managed to find it eventually. 

The HWPOS consisted of the following: 1) Human Waste Pack-Out System instruction manual, 2) a bull's-eye target with a large "X" in the middle, 3) two brown bags containing some kitty litter, 4) a paper towel, and 5) a zip-lock bag.

After we finally took care of all the formalities and finished repacking our cars for car-pooling, we set off for the South Climb trail head at Cold Springs.  Phil and Joe led the convoy out of Glenwood.  The road got narrower and narrower as we drove deeper into the woods.  We were not anywhere near in short supply of pot holes as the paved road turned into a gravel surface that tested the front ends of our cars.  After about forty five minutes to an hour of stunningly beautiful but bone jarring ride, we finally arrived at the trail head.

The trail head was much better equipped and maintained than I had imagined, complete with a campground and, much to our delight, a couple of outhouses.  However, it felt to me like it was taking a lot of time for us to get ready this morning and, sure enough, by the time our packs were strapped onto our backs and we were ready to start hiking in, my watch was already pushing 10am.  We were roughly at 5,600' in elevation at this point.

As usual, the first fifteen minutes was toughest for me until my body revved up to speed.  Then it all of sudden got much easier.  The trail started out as what looked like an old roadway that snaked through the forest.  In a little over a half an hour or so, we had the first glimpse of the Mt. Adams' summit through the trees.  It was an inspiring sight that boosted our already good moral. 

Not long after that, we came across a sign that read "No fire above 6,000'".  According to Joe, this would serve as a sign on our way down the next day indicating we were one hour from our cars (pronounced "beer").  There also was another sign reassuring us we were on the right trail (#183) as well as at a cross trail (#9), which meant we were at Timberline Campground at 6,300' according to the map.

And sure enough, we were at the timberline shortly around 11:15am.  From there, the trail seemed to enter a basin and go up on top of the ridge on it's west side.  The South Butte was visible on the east side.  There was a gorgeous view of Mt. St. Helens to the west as well.  But before we marched on forward, it was time for us to rehydrate and to replenish the calories we burnt thus far.


It took another forty minutes or so to cross few strips of moraines and snow fields, and to reach the moraine just below the ridge on the west side of the basin.  Now that we would be spending a lot of time traveling on snow which was like being on a giant sun tan reflector for hours on end, we had to make sure that all our skin surfaces including underneath our noses, thighs inside our the shorts if worn, under our arms, etc. were well covered by sun screen.  We also caught up with Jennifer and Abby who had started out before us a little earlier.  The time now was around 12:15pm.

As we kick stepped up a relatively steep slope towards the top of the ridge, there was a climber coming down from it.  He informed us that the warmer rocks underneath the snow at the top of the ridge had created big hallow spaces under the snow, creating a hazardous condition, and that his party was going to take a different route for this section.  Phil who was leading the pack decided to go investigate it while we waited mid slope and he confirmed that we needed to bypass this section.  So we traversed on a small patch of moraine to the left to where we could easily go up onto the ridge with only few steps up.  It was a bit awkward so Joe and Phil lent us their hands as we did so.  We all safely made it atop the ridge at 12:44pm when we took another small break at 7,400' just past abeam the South Butte to the east.

We spent the next an hour and a half going up the western edge of the Crescent Glacier and through another glaciated snow field above it until we finally reached the Lunch Counter where we would camp for the night.  There was nothing noteworty about the slog but I would say that I was glad we didn't have to do this on scree, thanks to the unusually plentiful snow this year. 

As we approached the Lunch Counter, we were very pleasantly surprised to see Andy and his son on a moraine to our right taking photos of us.  They said they had arrived the night before.  You da man!!  Thank you, Andy, for kindly being our photographer!!

The Lunch Counter was a well established camp site just above 9,000' on a large, relatively flat area where climbers typically spent the night before their summit attempts.  This helped them acclimatize to the altitude where the air was noticeably thinner and also provided a place for them to rest and replenish their energy.  We arrived around 3:15pm and we were glad to be there.  Joe measured our blood oxygen saturation levels and noted on his iPhone.  Mine was around 90%.  Not too bad even though it didn't feel like it. 

After a short breather, Joe assigned us some chores that needed to be taken care of.  To start with, he gathered all the empty Nalgene bottles from us and handed them to Phil and Laura who volunteered to fill them up using a hand pumped filter at a small stream created by the snow melt just below where we were.  In the mean time, we gathered all our tent parts and Joe demonstrated how to pitch those big tents.  Interestingly, unlike other typical tents I was used to, the fly was pitched first by threading the poles span-wise into the sleeves and pulling the both ends of the fly lengthwise with guy ropes.  He then zipped open the entrance on its side and crawled inside to hang the inside piece from the ceiling created by the fly.  The result was a space big enough to house four people plus a cavernous vestibule.  There were two of these red tents plus a yellow dome tent that could sleep three.

Now that our living quarters were set up and Laura was back from the stream with fresh water, it was time to start boiling some water.  Joe and Phil cranked up a couple of liquid fuel stoves and put a big aluminum pot full of water on each one.  I was actually surprised to see how quickly the water boiled.  Joe hustled us to come over with our cups for tea before it got cold.  Then it was dinner time.  Our first course was tortilla soup with real tortillas (brought up strapped on my pack, I might add..).  Phil tore open a big bag of the dehydrated soup and we had our cups refilled with hot water as he scooped out few spoons full of the powder and dumped it in each cup.  It's true though that eating outdoor like this made anything taste fantastic!!  In the mean time, Joe boiled more water for the main course.  As soon as it was ready, I ripped open my packet of dehydrated chicken curry with rice and Joe poured some hot water in it.  It was important to let the food get reconstituted fully.  Eating it prematurely could hinder your effort to stay hydrated.  Not to mention it would taste horrible.

The panoramic view from the Lunch Counter was nothing short of incredible.  Directly to the south, Mt. Hood stood prominently on the horizon.  Looking to the west, it was a bit weird to realize that we now were sitting higher than the top of Mt. St. Helens where I was only a month before.  Looking up, we could see the snow field we would be climbing the next day.  (What appears to be the summit in the photo below was actually a false summit called Pikers Peak.)

Across a narrow strip of snow field, Jennifer and Abby's tent perched on a moraine near Andy and his son's.  They came over to hang out with us while we relaxed for the rest of the day until it was time for us to get some Zs.  I made some Jiffy Pop popcorns over the stove to share with everybody. 

Since there was virtually no wind and the weather was gorgeous, I elected to open bivouac under the starry sky rather than to sleep in the tent. But before I settled in for the night, I dumped out of my pack everything I wouldn't need for summiting the next morning. I crawled into my sleeping bag around 7pm-ish once everything was ready to go.

It was still pretty bright outside - the sun had not set yet - but I had no problem falling asleep after a day full of excitement. I tossed and turned from time to time as it was like a furnace in my sleeping bag but too cold outside for me to keep it zipped open. I awoke briefly around 10pm and found myself staring at the dark sky filled with a dizzying display of zillion stars. The milky way that bisected the heaven reminded me of an old Japanese tale. Occasionally, bright satellites mixed in with shooting starts would streak across the sky.


August 3rd - Summit

I woke up around 1am as Joe went around the camp with his bright head lamp.  Phil had already started boiling water for some tea and oat meal for us.  We also had bagels which Phil put some cream cheese on them.  The plan now was to be ready to leave for the summit by 2am.  Phil demonstrated to everyone how to put on their climbing harnesses as well, which was the first time for most of us.  Not that they anticipated the need for ropes this morning but just in case.

Shortly after we left the camp, we stopped at the top end of the Lunch Counter to strap on our crampons before we proceeded up onto the steeper snow field above.  From there, we would follow Suksdorf Ridge up all the way to the summit.  The half moon was out but it was nearly pitch dark so we could see only whatever our head lamps illuminated.  (They tended to be the boots belonging to the person several feet in front.)  The snow was hard and well consolidated, making the condition nearly ideal for climbing.  There were lots of already established steps on certain sections that made kick stepping feel as easy as going up stairs.  In other places, we had to make our own switchbacks as we ascended diagonally back and forth.  Joe would stop every 40 minutes or so for a little break when we rehydrated and ate our snacks. 

Around 5:10am, we reached Pikers Peak at 11,657' which was also known as a false summit to those who didn't know it wasn't the real summit.  This was what looked like the summit looking up from the Lunch Counter the day before.  (See the photo above.)  The sun was starting to come out and we had a gorgeous view of a sun rise painting the sky orange near the horizon and blue above.  We all turned off our had lamps as it was getting brighter rapidly.

From Pikers Peak, our route would go over and down the peak slightly to the last 676' of climb to the summit.  The snow had been horribly sun-cupped making it somewhat awkward but we didn't care.  We just wanted to be up there!! 

This one was for you, Joe Toscano!!!!  I hope you could see me, buddy!!!  At 6:33am, I made the summit of Mt. Adams at 12,276'.  I had dedicated this climb and everything that went into it in the preceding six month in memory of my close friend and mentor, Joe Toscano, who passed away from cancer several years ago at age of 36.  As I closed my eyes standing on the summit and lost myself in this timeless moment, my memories of Joe who shared the passion and struggles in our aviation careers all of sudden came flooding back to me.

Now, I am going to shut up for a while and let the photos do my talking.  Enjoy!!



We stayed at the summit for about thirty minutes but it was getting very cold just standing around even with our down jackets on.  As much as we would have loved to savor this moment as long as possible, it was time to start going down.  We reversed the route we just came up on and began our descent.  In a way, the sun cupped snow sort of made it easier for me - I was able to hop from one cup edge to another rapidly and to be back at Pikers Peak in no time.

There were few well used glissade chutes from Pikers Peak.  Glissading was essentially butt sledding and was a very quick way of going down the mountain.  We were very tempted but the snow had not loosened at all yet and it was still very icy and hard.  Plus given the steepness of the slope, we were afraid that it would be very difficult at best to control our speeds.  Joe was going to volunteer Phil to go first to see what it was like down there but even they thought better of it.  So we decided to continue down on foot for the time being to the lower portion of this slope where its gradient would not be as steep.

Once we got down to a place where it looked like it was reasonably safe for us to glissade, Geoff pulled out and put on his secret(?) glissading weapon - a trash bag worn like a diaper.  This not only protected his expensive pants from abrasion but also reduced the friction between his butt and the snow, making it very efficient for glissading.

But before we got on the chute, Phil gave us a quick and dirty on glissading and disappeared down the chute.  Now it was time for us to have some serious fun!!  Wendy B. went first and Laura followed.  After I waited to make sure I had enough spacing behind them, I hopped down on the chute.  Larissa soon came rocketing down.  Wendy F. was next.  I saw Joe coming down on the chute next to us.  Geoff, Matt K. and Matt C. were somewhere among us and we all were down at the Lunch Counter in no time.  It really was hard to beat glissading.

Check out this video clip of Jennifer glissading in style!

Our guides made sure that we didn't waste any time at our camp site.  We kept moving and quickly took down the tents, packed up everything and were ready to head down in just under an hour.  We continued glissading whenever possible until we reached the bottom of the basin.  I'd say we were able to glissade over half the way, saving some time and knees on our descent.  At one point, we needed to refill our water bottles so Laura volunteered to go down to a stream near by.  Once we joined the South Climb trail at the bottom of the basin, it was just a matter of pounding the dirt all the way down to the trail head.  It's funny that it always seemed to take a lot longer going down than going up.

Once back to the parking lot around 5:30pm, we were utterly exhausted to our cores.  The best part of it was taking off our boots and socks we had had on our feet since 1am this morning.  Ohhhhhh, what a relief!!  But we still had the most hazardous part of our trip ahead of us - driving back home.  We drove back to the ranger station in Glenwood to pick up the cars we left in its parking lot.  Understandably, most of us just wanted to get home now so we said our good byes.

There was a great looking small cafe just down the road from the ranger station where Geoff, Laura, Joe and I stopped to get some calories we badly needed to replace.  We each ordered a big burger and their marionberry milk shake to go with it.  Not to mention a giant pitcher of water. 


  1. Congratulations, Terry, Laura, Larissa, Geoff, Wendy B, Wendy F, Matt K and Matt C! It's been a pleasure meeting you, training with you, and sharing the joy of your accomplishment through this post. (Very, very nicely done, Terry.) So what's next, guys?

    -Daniel "mo'betahh" Garber

  2. Terry, this is a great post of your story! I echo Daniel's sentiment that it was a pleasure to work with all of you to reach this summit! It has been inspirational to watch and to participate in your individual journeys. Well done, all!
    - Staci "Flora the Explorer" MacCorkle

  3. Thanks, Daniel, Staci!!

    We couldn't have done it without you guys!!!!

    I look forward to doing more things with you guys in the coming months and years, climbing or not.

    Joe suggested I go do Middle Sister this season. I'd like to do few more as well (TBD).

    I hope you are having a great summer!!



  4. Way to go, Terry. Your story 'takes me there' and gets me thinking about my own trip to the summit of Mt. Adams. Congratulations!!! Keep me posted on future hikes - you know I'm game. Cheers, PLM

  5. I'm so proud of you, Techan! You did it!!! and I knew you would!

    You put a lot of sweat and effort into this tremendous accomplishment.

    More adventures await...

  6. Terry... Great recap. As Paula said Keep me posted on future hikes, I'm game as well. Great job and congrats to the Adams team!

  7. Thanks everybody!! I definitely let you know of future hikes, etc.

  8. Wow! What an amazing job you did with this Blog Terry! Not to mention the accomplishmentand reason for your climb. I felt like I was right there with you. Are you a writer? You should be if not. Anyway, this is Kearn Oishi. My wife Ana was actually looking at your site at Starbuck's the other day. Sorry about that, I love her, but she has almost no personal space. It's ok I guess cuz everyone loves her. Anyway, I just wanted to get on to tell you that I love your commitment and drive to commemorate your Mentor Joe. Take Care. Kearn

  9. Hi Kearn,

    It was very nice to meet you guys the other day. And I really appreciate your having taken time to read my blog. No, I'm far from being a writer but I'll take the credit anyway :D There were 42 other climbers this years who shared this amazing journey and this was an experience that was so much greater than myself.

    Please send my regards to your Ana as well.

    Enjoy the rest of the summer.


  10. Congratulations Terry! What an incredible summit and accomplishment -- I'm in awe of what you did, and that you did it for your friend, well -- awesome!!!

    Kate Ertmann

  11. Thanks Kate! It was truly an extraordinary experience!!