American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Washington—Cascades, Mount Adams, Lava Glacier Headwall

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1961

Mount Adams, Lava Glacier Headwall. On July 3 Mike Swayne and I left our camp at 6500 feet at three a.m. and an hour later reached the glacier 2000 feet higher. After crossing the two bergschrunds, we headed directly up the center of the headwall at an angle of 45° on a smooth and continuous névé slope. A few small pebbles whistled by, loosened by the action of the rising sun, but this did not prepare us for what was to come. At about 10,500 feet we heard a loud crack, like the sound of a gun, and looked up to see at least 1000 pounds of rock bearing down directly at us. We were unable to move on this steep slope, and one 500-pound rock passed within 15 feet of me over the rope between the two of us. We dodged other rocks the size of grapefruits and pineapples. Since it would have taken more time to go back down this death trap, we dispensed with belaying and in less than 30 minutes had more than 1000 feet behind us at a point where the headwall eased to 35°. A long walk across the summit icecap brought us to the top (12,307 feet) 5½ hours after starting, the first of seven parties on the mountain that day. On the descent we met the White Salmon party.

Edward Cooper

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