Story by Phil Schlieder
Washington’s Mt. Adams is one of the most powerful mountains to behold in the Pacific Northwest. It boasts the second highest peak in the state only to be outdone by its rival behemoth, Mt. Rainier. Sitting at 12,540 feet, it is a destination for any avid rider looking to test his mental fortitude against its ever-changing conditions.
This climb was less about cutting thick lines in powder, but instead a memorial for two lost family members. It was a celebration of life. What better way to celebrate a life than to celebrate in one of the happiest places on earth, in the backcountry with a board strapped to your feet. Josh Smith, Joey Martin, and Phil Schlieder all set out on this expedition to remember Joey’s Grandmother Guadalupe Martin, and Josh’s brother Steven Smith. Both passed this past year and will surely be missed.
The climb started out in an ominous landscape of blackened tree trunks and scarred bark due to the forest fire that took place at the entrance of the South Spur Route in 2012. A climber who had lost his friend, and hadn’t heard from him since his last call, saying he was disoriented on the way down, greeted us. The visibility had turned in the afternoon, and they had gotten separated. We said we would keep a look out for him, but never found out if he made it out of the forest alright. It was good reminder that Mother Nature is completely in control at all times and that we are at the mercy of her fickle nature.
The first day was a mental breeze, with no issues at all. Camp was made at about 7,800 feet. After a fire was started, pasta and bread were eaten, and wine and stories passed around before we bunked in for the night. We went to sleep that night only to be awoken to white out conditions with visibility less than 20 feet. The clouds were a bit unnerving as we strapped on our splits with no ability to identify any distinct landmarks, but we continued the ascent nonetheless. After two hours of trudging through thick fog, it finally burned off to reveal the towering mountain above us.
The trek marched onward as we followed the sun. Ideal spring conditions and deep wet turns were in our minds as we pushed one step after the other. Motivation was easy to find as thoughts of the ones we missed urged us to press forward. Taking a step back, and remembering those who impacted our lives at 10,000 feet, was one of the most incredible experiences the three of us shared. As we approached the summit it was clear to us that we lucked out on such a perfect day. The snow softened. We ate some trail mix, and put our split boards together. It was time for the reward.
We dropped into the southern route’s open face and were greeted by great spring snow conditions. Couldn’t have had a day more full of stoke and good vibes.
We honored two lives that deserved thought and recognition. Rest in Peace to a grandmother and brother who will always be remembered for the impact they made on this world. We will continue to push forward for those who have passed and aren’t able, and we will never forget the smiles they brought to us today and on summits to come.