American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

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

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1966

Mount Adams, Lava Glacier Headwall. During mid-September Half Zantop and I decided to take another look at the Lava Glacier Headwall, which to the first ascent party (A.A.J., 1961, p. 366) was a veritable "death trap.” We reached the Lava Basin by mid-morning and began a careful examination of the two icefields on Mount Adams’ north face. The easterly icefield used on the first ascent reached higher toward the summit dome but was dirty from rockfall; the westerly icefield ended high on the northwest ridge, while its uninterrupted slope remained free from signs of debris. Our preference was for the latter. Getting over the bergschrund was more like climbing through an icefall, but once on the wall we were in for a treat rarely had in the Cascade Range: aesthetic exposure on hard ice. The headwall maintained a 45° angle, bulging somewhat in the middle. Ice screws were used throughout the next 1000 feet, with the front points of our crampons getting a continuous workout. Owing to the fact that the sun’s rays rarely reach this slope we were not bothered by any rockfall, and yet rocks were flying regularly down the slope on our left. That afternoon we bivouacked on a ledge on top of the ridge and enjoyed a magnificent mountain sunset. The following morning we reached the 12,307-foot summit, eventually descending via the conventional northwest ridge.

Alex Bertulis, unattached

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