Hike to the Summit of Mount Adams via South Climb

Washington South Climb Trailhead

  • Activities:

    Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Summer, Autumn

  • RT Distance:

    12 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    6700 Feet

Easy Parking

Snow hike up 6,740' to the summit of Washington's second highest peak. Get amazing views of Mt. Hood and the Gorge.

Start by checking in at the Trout Lake Ranger station to pick up a Cascade Volcanoes pass for $10-$15. Continue the South Climb trailhead at the Cloud Cap Campground. Some hikers overnight here for an early start the next day.

Sign out a wilderness permit at the trailhead and follow the South Climb Trail to the base of the Crescent Glacier. Continue on the trail up the ridge. There are numerous campsites with wind breaks on the ridge if a low camp is desired.

Once above the Crescent Glacier continue to ascend the snow field. Crampons may be necessary depending on snow firmness. Toward the east side of the snow field is a plateau known as the Lunch Counter. The Lunch Counter at about 9,400' is a popular camp spot with lots of wind breaks, but can be crowded on weekends. Slightly higher above the Lunch Counter are a few more secluded campsites and wind breaks which offer amazing views of Mt Hood and the Gorge.

Either stay the night here or continue on. Ascend the steep snowfield. Depending on snow conditions crampons may be necessary. It is possible to scramble up the rocks on Sukdorf Ridge to the left of the snowfield. Generally the snow softens in the afternoon. In soft snow conditions it is possible to ascend the snow slope in boots.

Once to the crest of the snowfield an old telegraph wire is exposed on the left. Continue on the trail along the right side of the crest and cross the snowfield. Take the switchbacks in the dirt to the false summit known as Piker's Peak at 11,657'. Once on the summit travel up the final ascent to the NW to the abandoned mine shack at 12,276'. Across the east side there are several campsites with wind breaks.

For slightly more challenging ascent take the SW Couloirs with crampons and ice axe to the summit from the crest of Sukdorfs Ridge.

On Clear days views of Mt Rainer to the North, Mt St Helens to the East, Mt Hood and Mt Jefferson to the South.

Descend the way you came. On the snow field by Sukdorf's ridge epic glissading chutes develop in mid to late summer. Glissading in these chutes can be a fun way to descent a few thousand feet but beware of rocks and other hazards.

Pack List

  • Backpack,
  • Head Lamp
  • Water
  • Snacks and food
  • Map
  • Compass
  • GPS
  • Medical kit
  • Boots
  • Crampons
  • Ice Axe
  • Sun Screen
  • Chap stick with sun screen
  • Sun Glasses
  • Emergency Bivy
  • Layers for below freezing temps
  • Outer shell pants and Jackets
  • Cell phone
  • Camera
  • Head Lamp
If overnighting:
  • Meals
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Tent
  • Water filtration or treatment
  • Stove
  • Gas
  • Waterproof Matches or lighter
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Overall rating: 

Leave a Review

We did this hike in early July 2013 without having done other mountaineering, and lived every part of the trip. We arrived at night to the campground at the trailhead and then left mid morning the next day. The hike up on dry trail was easy. The snow hiking on fields was fun, including a step wall that gave us a good sense of the harder stuff to come. We camped at lunch counter to enjoy the views. It was clear and lovely. We had our choice of flat spots protected by man-made rock walls. Woke the next morning and hiked straight up the pitch, to the false Summit, and then all the way up. It was clear and bright and glorious. We goofed around on top while taking in the views of Rainier, Helens, Hood and others. Well worth a one-nighter. Lots of people but didn't matter. The place is so open and the trip so worth it.

3 months ago
3 months ago

Jeffrey Helbling

Part Time RN, Full Time Adventurer!
 Backcountry Skier, Snowboarder, Dirt Baggin' Mountaineer, Climber, Hiker, and Sailor.
 Instagram Profile: JeffHelbling

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