Expedition, Summer 2012: where to climb?

I find the easiest way for me to learn new things is to set clear goals. Once I set the goal, I figure out the steps needed to get there. I think this gives me the greatest chance of success.

So, what are my climbing goals? Long-term, I have no idea. But short-term, I have one immediate goal: climb Mt. Adams in the Summer of 2012. Coming to this decision wasn’t easy. It took a lot of research, lots of reading, and an honest assessment of what I think I will be capable of in months time.

The first part of the goal was easy: I want to climb a real mountain (and by real, in this case, I mean at altitude). While the “crag-rat” side of rock climbing is something I definitely want to do more of, the more alpine mountaineering side currently peaks my interest intensely. So the next question, which mountain? Some basic criteria I set:

  1. Had to be in the continental US
  2. Higher than 10,000 ft, i.e. alpine
  3. Rated (in a general sense) as a “beginner” experience
  4. Available expeditions or guided climbs from reputable organizations

With those items as my criteria, I knew that I was going to climb somewhere on the west coast; this ended up being Washington State (for as real an alpine experience that I can get). My altitude requirement left me a number of options, but I settled on two: Mt. Adams or Mt. Baker. For the general rating, both Adams and Baker are rated as good for beginners. But Adams is resoundingly seen as easier (despite a slight increase in altitude over Baker). Both peaks had multiple organizations offering guided climbs. And with that, I decided on Mt. Adams.

At 12,281 feet (3,743 meters), Mt. Adams is the second highest peak in Washington State. It’s a (potentially active) glacerized stratovolcano. The South Spur route up the mountain is certainly considered beginner. While I will need crampons (though some debate this point), I’ll spend one night in a tent at altitude (also debated by some as not necessary), it won’t require roped travel-crevasses seems to be a non-issue on Adams.

Mt. Adams

My main goal here is to conquer two of my potential downfalls in serious climbing: cold and altitude.

I grew up in the desert, so I don’t really know cold. I’ve lived on the east coast for some time now, but it’s a relatively mild cold here compared to Adams’ peak at nearly 13,000 feet. I don’t expect to have issues with the cold as I’ll be dressed appropriately, but before I do something really daring I wanted to make sure I can take it. For the altitude, I simply want to make sure I can perform at an altitude that is significantly above sea level. Again, growing up in the desert and living on the east coast hasn’t gotten me to use living and working and altitude. My idea here is that if I can be successful on Adams, then I can cross cold and altitude off as items that will prevent future climbs (not to say that they aren’t issues that will need to be dealt with, but that knowing I am at least capable of operation in cold at altitude).

So that was that: I wanted to climb Mt Adams. But when? First off, it had to be summer. So that left either summer 2012 or summer 2013. I felt that the latter was simply to far away. Summer 2012 was close enough, but also gave me enough time to get in the best shape possible before my trip. I now find myself at the gym every morning, working hard to ensure that I have the core strength, leg strength, musculature, and endurance to reach the peak. That effort seems to be successful thus far.

And that was it, I had decided, I was going to climb Mt. Adams in the summer of 2012. In the next post….finding a guide!

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