Mt. Adams A - West ridge via Willow Creek


Difficulty:  Class 3 
Upper Elevation: 13,931 feet
Trailhead Elevation: 8,850 feet
Elevation Gain:5,300 feet
Round-trip Length: 11.5
Trailhead: Willow Creek
Author: jdorje
Route Added: 07/31/2010
Last Updated: 08/04/2010
   

Trailhead:  

Take Colorado 17 to the town of Moffat. On the south side of town, look for a sign for the turn to Crestone. Turn east on the "RD T" road. You will soon see a Forest Service sign that says 15 miles to the South Crestone trailhead. Drive 11.4 miles to a road junction. Keep left and follow the main road into Crestone. In Crestone, turn right (east) onto Galena Street and the road will turn to 2WD dirt, with approx. 2 miles to go. When the road enters National Forest, it is labeled as the "South Crestone Road 949" and becomes more difficult but good-clearance vehicles should be able to make it to the end.

Details:

Taken from near the top of Challenger Ridge, Photo #1 is a look at Adams and much of the route from the south. First, though, follow the Willow Creek Approach to Willow Lake. If you are camping, there are campsites below the lake. Note the side creek that enters Willow Creek between the campground and the lake - once in the upper basin the route will parallel this creek.

Once you are near the lake, follow the trail as it parallels the north side of the lake. Before crossing through the willows or above them across the boulder field, however, you must take a sharp left (north) and head uphill. Several trails lead straight up the hill from the western half of the lake (Photo #2), but will most likely not continue all the way to the top of the hill. You will head straight up this hill and into the upper basin below Mount Adams.

Large boulders guard the entrance to the upper basin on both the left and right. Seen from above the lake, Photo #3 shows the possible routes to the upper basin as well as the eastern portion of the lake that is to be avoided. The cliff on the right is obvious, but the boulders to the left less so; make sure to stay to the right of these boulders. This part of the climb may be the most confusing as the major trails lead east above the waterfall and trees conceal the easiest routes. Once out of the trees the route should become obvious. Above the large boulder on the left (west) of the route is a grassy ridge leading directly up to the gentler upper basin; this ridge connects to a faint trail leading down and may make for the easiest descent; Photo #4 looks back down this ridge.

From the base of the upper basin, the distinctive notch of the saddle should be in sight. This is the next destination; however first a large patch of trees and bushes must be navigated - Photo #5. A cairned trail leads through the bushes, but if you cannot find it or lose it partway, cutting straight to the left will bring you up against the creek. This creek is in a small gully and by hiking along the top of this gully an easy, dry, and mostly flat route can be found past the majority of bushes - Photo #6. When in doubt, use your route finding skills to stick to the most open areas. This portion of the route ends when the creek curves to the east; you will want to cross it and continue directly toward the saddle at this point and some bushwhacking through the bushes may be involved; Photo #7 is taken from directly before the creek crossing.

From beyond the creek crossing, the remainder of the route up to the saddle should be apparent. A large talus/scree field lies below the saddle; you may skirt this to the left or right or go straight across it - Photo #8. Scree continues up middle of the steep slope to the saddle itself, and here it is easiest to stay on the grass to the right (east). You may find a broken trail continuing at this point - Photo #9. Continue straight up the grassy slope directly to the saddle. From the saddle, Photo #10 looks back on the latter portion of the route while Photo #11 looks down on it from Pt 13546 to the west.

From the Adams-13546 saddle, side trips to Pt 13546, Pt 13153, or Pt 13580 are possible. To continue up to Adams, however, turn right and head east up the ridge toward the summit that looms in front.

You must first do an easy scramble over the rocks directly in your path (Photo #12); alternately it might be possible to bypass this block to the right (south). From here, the summit should be clearly in view and a faint trail may continue up the mountain - Photo #13. The left (north) side of the slope is steep with significant exposure as you go higher; stick to the grass well on the right for the easiest climbing (class 2) or find your own route straight up the ridge for a solid and occasionally exposed (class 2+/3) route with excellent views to the north. Photo #14 shows this portion from a spot to the south earlier in the route; Photo #15 shows a closeup of the summit and several routes possible to reach the summit cap. Photo #16 shows the ridge and approximate route from Pt 13546 to the west; this view shows how if you donít stay far enough below the ridge line you may be "funneled up" onto the rock along the ridge. Note also the cliffs below the ridge that prevent reliable escape; the safest way down is to return all the way to the saddle. From near the summit block, Photo #17 looks back down on a portion of the route.

As you approach the imposing summit cap, observe it closely. There are a number of routes up it, but the most direct from the west ridge is a gully just to the right (southeast) of the ridge line itself. The gully is visible from below (back in Photo #15), but you wonít get a good view of it until you get close. Approaching the summit block, Photo #18 shows the gully location - if climbing along the tundra, a straight approach to the location is possible; if heading up the ridge itself, you will come up against an overhanging rock (circled) and can traverse to the right to find the gully. Photo #19 shows a wide-angle (90 degree) close-up of the gully itself. Climb almost straight north up the gully; it is an easy class 3 scramble in dry weather. At the top of the gully, turn back to the right (east) and continue with an easy but exposed scramble straight up the ridge. Photo #20 looks down from right above the gully and also gives a view of most of the route up to this point. The difficulty quickly drops to class 2 again and you can walk the short remaining distance to the summit - Photo #21. Photo #22 looks south toward "the Crestone group".

Notes:   

This route describes the Adams approach along the west ridge from the Adams-13546 saddle accessed via Willow Creek and Willow Lake. In addition to the mountainís three other climbable ridges, the Adams-13546 saddle can also be accessed via the South Crestone approach.

IMPORTANT: This route enters the Sangre De Cristo Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the Sangre De Cristo Wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.

 

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