Background

Spring 2023 was pretty violently warm in the Cascades, resulting in poor ski conditions most everywhere except the volcanoes. Anything below 9,000′ got pretty ravaged by an extended heat dome in the month of May. As a result, I found myself mostly skiing the volcanoes this year, exclusively.

My friends Adam and Nick came out from Utah for a volcano romp for a few days. We had fun on St. Helens, Hood, Adams, and Rainier…it was a pretty good stretch.

With Memorial Day weekend, for once, having good weather, Nick and I wanted to have chill vibes and head to the south side of Adams. Although I was just there a week before, I was stoked for it. I had skied the SW Chutes but had my eyes on the Avalanche Headwall, a steeper line just to skier’s right of the SW Chutes that gets a lot less traffic. Plus, the ‘no BS’ on Adams really appealed to me: no bushwhacking, just slogging.

Trip Report

We drove down on Saturday afternoon, planning to stay Sunday, Monday, and maybe Tuesday to ski. On our ‘hit list’ was the SW Chutes (for funsies), Avalanche Headwall, and the Pinnacle West Ridge (which we had skied the year prior). We figured one of the days we were down there we might double up on two routes, but we didn’t really have a strong plan going into the weekend. Just kind of ‘see what’s what’.

Our buddy Brendan met up with us at Morrison Creek Campground and we had a nice camp spot to hang out at. Driving up to the trailhead was a bit of a zoo so we’d just take one car up there in the morning and maybe have to walk a bit. It was still snowed in about 1.5 miles from Cold Springs so we’d start in trail runners.

Talking over the plan, we agreed that Sunday we’d aim to do a SW Chutes + Avalanche Headwall doubleheader. It seemed sensible to ski SW Chutes first, then climb back up to the Lunch Counter and up to Pikers to drop the Avalanche Headwall. It’d come out to 9-10k’ but seemed pretty smooth. Plus, Nick’s experience on both of those lines last year made him think that they’d hold corn pretty much all day. Freezing levels were favorable around ~11k’ and there was a slight N wind; seemed it could be a good setup.

We woke up to a GOOD re-freeze; clear night with starry skies made the snow even down at 5,500′ firm in the morning. We left our car at 7:15 AM and began walking. We kept trail runners on for quite a while, actually, maybe 0.5 miles on the route past Cold Springs. It was pretty smooth travel, even though we were on snow starting at the trailhead. We dropped shoes, eventually, and skinned up the ridge towards Pikers.

With our late start, the skinning was soft enough for great travel conditions. An inch or so of ‘corny’ snow over a firm base; it was going to be GOOD skiing. Sunday was a bit of a zoo on the mountain, given the holiday weekend, but it’s a big enough slope to leave plenty of room to roam.

We skinned most of the way up to Pikers and booted just a short pitch to the top. We opted to forego the summit, since we’d tag it the next day, and just drop SW Chutes. We dropped SW Chutes right around 12PM and it was pretty dang ripper corn; it could have cooked for another 30 mins or so, but it was smooth and very fun.

Brendan skiing the SW Chutes.

Down at the bottom of the chutes, we transitioned to climbing back towards the Lunch Counter. Sadly, there was no breeze and it was a ROASTING hot climb. The snow wasn’t overbaked, thankfully, but damn were we sweating. Brendan was struggling with some ankle pain and opted to forego the climb back up to Pikers once we reached the Lunch Counter. We gave him a radio and Nick and I continued back up to Pikers for Avalanche Headwall. We topped out around 3 PM and traversed a little past Pikers towards the depression between Pikers and the summit plateau. From here, we transitioned and began to ski down towards the entrance for Avalanche Headwall around 3:30 PM. It was great corn; there was a little rime at the entrance of the line but we avoided it by going a little more skier’s right. The headwall was steeper than the SW Chutes but just as fall line…REALLY fun!

Nick skiing the Avalanche Headwall.

Traversing out of the bottom of the line towards SW Chutes was very simple, just one short carry over a dry moraine. Once we reached the exit of the SW Chutes we followed the same exit back to the car as SW Chutes.

The next day we skied the Pinnacle West Ridge, throwing in a summit on the way out to the Pinnacle. Great corn, again. Traversing back towards the exit of SW Chutes was longer on the Pinnacle West Ridge line, but pretty simple nonetheless. Just a few more ski carries.