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A high altitude bachelor party – Mt. Adams

August 25, 2014

IMG_1960It was that time of the year again. I was about to embark on my annual Climb to Fight Breast Cancer, benefitting Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Bachelor Party. This year my team chose Mt. Adams (12,276 ft) on the southern end of beautiful Washington state. It was a reunion of last year’s Mt. Olympus summit team. The team included Marybeth Dingledy, David “Mangler” Kendall, Jeff Hazeltine, Steve Bley and soon-to-be-groom Chris Awad. Chris benefitted greatly from the team’s valuable advice on “How to Propose” in previous years’ climbs. A high altitude bachelor party was on the menu!

Chris Cleaver, Chris Dillard and Kris Rietmann also joined us. Yes, there were four people with acoustically indistinguishable names. I kept thinking, why can’t parents name their kids something unique like Satnam (that’s me)? Kris happened to be the very charming intellectual, Kristina.

The Beginning. This was to be a challenging weekend for me. First, I tore my calf muscles while bending down for a dropped glazed doughnut. This incident severely abbreviated my training routine. Then, the flight to Seattle from my home state of Colorado was marked with a 4-hour delay; two hours were spent inside the plane sitting on the tarmac. Seattle climber Steve Bley was kind enough to come pick me up and take me to his home.

The night before our ascent began, we lodged at the lovely Trout Lake Valley Inn. The drive from Seattle turns scenic as one turns on highway 84 along the gorgeous Columbia River, which divides Washington state  from Oregon. The Oregon side of the drive is lined with many waterfalls. I highly recommend stopping at Multnomah Falls. Our team got together for some pre-climb libations and carbo-loading in Hood River, Oregon.

IMAG0143The Adventure Begins. The next day, after a leisurely start to gear check at the Trout Lake Ranger station, we were told by our guides with Timberline Mountain Guides that the trailhead was under and hour away. After driving 45 minutes down a dirt road, we had to turn around and take a new road. The adventure began!

When we finally arrived at the trailhead we put on our backpacks and we were on our way. The first part of the trail passes through a dense forest, which was burned in a fire recently. We were chugging along. Due to the late start, our guides decided that the pace was a little below par and decided to take a direct short-cut by bush-whacking.

We followed and two hours later ended up in a large gulch with snow at the base. It was lined with over 20 ft of straight scree on both sides. Apparently this gulch is usually snow-filled to the brim and crossing it is easy. Not this day. After finding a part of the scree that seemed negotiable on one side, everyone crossed over and we made it to our base camp at 7 pm.

The route was remote, wild and beautiful. We were climbing the less traveled Avalanche Glacier Route.  Most climbers on Mt. Adams opt for the South Spur route, which does not require a rope or technical skills. Our route sees fewer climbers and offers a full mountaineering experience. Our team was 9 climbers and 3 professional guides.

It was a wind-wind situation. The night wind was howling and the fluttering sound of the tent fly was really loud. Our guides came around in the morning to wake us for breakfast after we’d all had a restless night.

Snow skills school was the first order of business after food and some hot drinks. Snow school was a lot more elaborate than anything I have done in the past and I personally thought it was pretty good. After snow school, rope teams were divided and we geared up with crampons. In spite of the challenging weather forecast and consistent winds we were giving the summit a shot.

A matter of degree. A somewhat gentle slope turned soon into a relentless 40-degree slope and the real climb was on. It didn’t matter how much distance we covered, every time I looked up, the destination seemed to be the same distance as before.

As we got higher the wind picked up. It brought frozen moisture, which hit us like little stones. We hunkered down with ice axes dug in a few times. We were still a good 1500 ft below the summit when we decided to call it off and return to base camp.

Turning around is always a difficult decision. Weather and conditions dictate a summit day, and on this day, the conditions were just too precarious to continue. We carefully descended the way we came, and made our way back down the mountain. Unbeknownst to us, the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer Mt. Rainier team was also turning around.

And in the end, a quote. On the last day, we all got down the mountain safely. We returned to Hood River together. WeIMAG0137 shared stories from the past and our laughter rose from the bottom of our souls. Climb to Fight Breast Cancer teams always have the cause in the forefront of our minds, and the summit is a nice bonus when it happens. We will be back to climb another peak next year and continue to provide private support for life-saving research.

Chris Awad had the best and most unusual of bachelor parties. Much of it is not printable for family reading. Next year, we’ll be back to celebrate his nuptials.

There are a few reasons why we do this. Primary reason is that we want to raise money for breast cancer research. Second reason is that we want to spend time climbing a mountain with people whose company we really enjoy. And after that, if we can reach the summit sometimes, then that is good too. – Climber Steve Bley

Editor’s note: Thank you Satnam Doad for this excellent trip summary. Congratulations to Chris Awad and his bride. The bachelor party was a first for the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer, we hope you started a trend! 

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