Here we are. Finally, mask-lessly tackling the world with our own faces, without a cover to hide our expressions. Almost naked in front of everyone, showing our bare skin to the world. After over a year of isolation, cooped up in the house, running on empty trails, it is time to break loose. What do you suggest? Party all night at the closest club, rave with your closest 500 friends, fly to Rio…Well, I ended up being home alone with the dogs for the first time since March last year. Thinking about the next mountain to climb. I guess life is not that different after a long isolation.
Glacier Peak is now a distant memory. And so is Mt Adams. Yay! The last of the five volcanoes in Washington. The one thing remaining is burnt skin on my ears and neck and a few piles of dirty clothes and gear. I might let the the piles stay out waiting for a new adventure. My legs are still sore, my mind is happy and memories are in my soul.
Mt Adams, for me the fifth and final volcano in Washington, 12,281ft (3,743m). Sandy, rocky, slushy, snowy and not interesting. A long slog to the top. Rocks and more rocks. Rainier, Baker, Helens – you kind of know what to expect. Glacier Peak turned out to be a very hard but a very pleasant surprise. My absolute favorite so far. Adams, eh.
I had a really good time; great company and the weather could not have been better. We left Thursday morning and took on the long drive to the middle of Washington, almost 300 miles from here. We drove along the Columbia River for a long time and ended up seeing new places and new roads. Passing Hood River and hundreds of kite surfers, small towns with names I have never heard before, cows, horses, small gas stations with no names…
We started our climb in the afternoon, hot and sunny, moving our way closer to the goal. After hours of walking, we thought we had come to the right spot to set up camp but checking the map closely we realize that we have another hour or so to move. We’re at 8200ft elevation and have about another 1000ft to go. We both feel good, not tired and ready to move on. We get our packs on and move. About ten minutes later I feel like I was hit by a taco truck. My body feels heavy, lungs burning and head hurting. We keep moving and I hear myself complain and whine. Every fifth step I have to stop. What the heck is going on? We reach Lunch Counter, our spot for the night and I can barely make the last 200 yards. Altitude sickness.
I am 100% sure I will throw up and I feel like I have a heavy rock on my chest. Josh is the best adventure partner, cool as a cucumber. He sets up camp, gets water, tells me to drink, to lay down, to do all those things I should do without thinking. I feel better, we eat a little, drink water, lay down, talk for a few hours, try to sleep.
After a very short night we pack up and get ready to move around 2am. The sky is full of stars, so close you can touch them. The top of the mountain is lit by the twinkling sky. It is gorgeous. We head out from camp around 2.30 and so far there are no other headlights visible. At first, I thought I could shake the altitude sickness, thought I had adjusted a little bit better. But no, it just got worse over time. It’s steep with a mix of snow, ice and rocks. I must have been the worst mountain friend. I think weird thoughts and take one step at the time. And we are up, and I get to rest. Josh looks like he took a stroll in the park and I cannot even swallow a sip of water or a Swedish Fish. I spend a lot of time behind a rock with my three jackets on and wrapped up in a safety blanket. The way down is long, I start to feel better. The crampons feel lighter and lighter, I manage to drink some water and I can see our tent from afar.
Hours later we rest up, repack our packs, and head down the mountain. I see hummingbirds and butterflies over our bright green tent greeting us after the climb. It’s time to head back. It’s a long one, we walk over snow fields, over scree fields, rocks, sand, more rocks and it’s hot. We reach the car about 12 hours after we started our day. We drive the other way back, through Yakima. Well, I did not drive, I basically slept the whole way trying to shake off that altitude sickness. And then we are home, and the memories change for the better, it could have been worse. I almost feel okay 24h later.