Adams: Killen Creek to Killen Glacier

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Chip Down
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Adams: Killen Creek to Killen Glacier

Post by Chip Down » November 3rd, 2020, 11:18 am

I bet you didn't know there's a Killen Glacier on Adams. Well, there isn't. More on that later.

This trip was completely extemporaneous. I woke yesterday near Divide Camp, and spontaneously decided to drive a couple miles to Killen Creek trailhead. My reasoning was that it's a horrible drive to Killen Creek, and if I'm in the neighborhood, might as well take advantage. But that meant no preparation/research. I just had to wing it.

At the top of Killen Creek trail (PCT junction) I knew if I turned left/north on PCT I'd get into a lot of ponds (close to trail, might require a little searching). I love seeing frozen lakes/ponds, so this seemed like fun. I went to the next junction, maybe about a mile, and discovered it was just a little too warm. It's been cold lower, but warmer up here. I was a few days late to see these all frozen. So I turned and headed back south on PCT, to a charming meadow with a couple ponds, where PCT crosses a cute little bridge over a creek that tumbles over exposed rock. Nice spot. Followed the creek up, and up. At every fork, I determined which went to a spring and which went higher. It went dry, but I followed the creek bed to a tiny meadow at the base of a tiny moraine, at the base of a tiny glacier (probably stagnant now). Later, I learned I had followed Killen Creek, and High Camp was just above the glacier. In fact, I bet I could have spotted the trail to high camp.

I continued left/clockwise, spiraling up the mountain. Scenery was better than expected. Routefinding was fun; I was constantly evaluating the landscape and thinking about which way to go. I abruptly reached a point where the immediate topography wasn't blocking my view of the mountain, and realized I had made good progress. The Lava Glacier headwall was straight ahead. I had been toying with the idea of ascending the left side of the north ridge, and climbing over the ridge, dropping towards Glacier Lake. I know the ridge is gentle on the lake side, so if I could gain ridgecrest on the Lava Glacier side, I'd be home free.

As I continued up, snow was taking over the rock, and route options were dwindling. As I feared, I reached a point where I was blocked in by a long snowy ridge. Based on recent experiences on Adams, I had decided to bring no snow gear.

My only hope was to ascend in the opposite direction, now CCW, towards a rocky horn (I'm calling it the horn because the way it's upturned reminds me of a rhinoceros horn). At the top of the horn, I could see it wasn't any easier, but I continued to a landing, and picked my way across random jumbled terrain. The horn was my high point; ever since then, the safe route choices took me lower. Eventually, I ended up above Killen Glacier, looking down on High Camp.

So yeah, I guess I did cross over the north ridge, but I'm calling it a failure. I never saw Lava Glacier, just its headwall, and I crossed over the ridge below Glacier Lake. I wasn't crushed. Heck, I was thrilled I completed the route without having to backtrack. In several places, there was no escape route straight down the mountain, so a dead end would have meant retreat. For an unplanned day of just seeing what I could see, it wasn't bad.

Continue to Glacier Lake on the standard route which I had just intersected? Tempting, but I'd rather do something new. I followed the base of the moraine that holds the lake, CCW, and explored a bit. From here, I could see some viable route options in the terrain where I had first looked down on High Camp, but it was really too late to turn back. Drat. My consolation was the parkland below, which I would pass through on my way to PCT.

I dropped into the parkland and played around. Even walked barefoot a bit, just because. When it was time to go, I started evaluating descent options. I imagined a mix of steep forest, ridges and ravines, nothing pleasant but no big deal. I was surprised to find that there's one big gully that pretty much swallows up any reasonable descent and funnels into a relatively flat meadow. The gully was an easy descent. From the meadow, I just wandered down towards PCT, veering right when in doubt, since I needed to go that direction to find the Killen Creek trail. The terrain naturally tended the other direction though, so by the time I hit PCT I was closer to Divide than Killen. I've never been on PCT between Divide and Killen, so I didn't mind the extra trail walking.

The last time I was on Killen Creek trail on Nov 2, it was 1998, and the snow was so deep I gave up when I reached PCT. This time, it was shorts/tee weather and almost entirely bare ground. Funny that snow turned me back again, but this time it was steep icy snow, not postholing.
Attachments
0.jpg
The TH kiosk map. In exaggerated simplicity (as a schematic) it shows Killen Creek leading right up from PCT to permasnow, right next to High Camp. Funny that after all my exploring, I discovered this map which I had blithely walked right by in the morning.
1.jpg
Source of Killen Creek.
2.jpg
This is where it started getting hard.
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The horn, my only hope of advancing. From here, it looks like one could traverse under it, but going over was safer.
4.jpg
Top of the horn.
5.jpg
The landing after the horn. Access was mostly via rubble similar to what you see to the left. Towards the end, I got to walk in sunny grass, as if the mountain was saying "over here Chip, this is the way".
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A sample of the cliffs that made it difficult to abort. Failure would mean retreat, not just an easy walk down the mountain in any direction.
7.jpg
Looking down on my playground now that the hard work is finished.
8.jpg
The gully that took me from parkland to PCT.
9.jpg
Aggressive! I didn't get any beaks, but lots of claws.

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Don Nelsen
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Re: Adams: Killen Creek to Killen Glacier

Post by Don Nelsen » November 3rd, 2020, 3:04 pm

Chip, Nice job and great pics. We were close yesterday. I explored the remnants of what I think was the original Divide Camp trail and did a few other small hikes in the area. I drove by the Killen Cr. TH on the way out but didn't think to pay attention to the cars parked there. Whatever are we going to do when we run out of things to discover on Mt. Adams? :)

You mentioned that nice bridge, too. I took a pic last Wednesday:
Image
"Everything works in the planning stage".

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retired jerry
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Re: Adams: Killen Creek to Killen Glacier

Post by retired jerry » November 3rd, 2020, 3:16 pm

a foot of snow over the next few days

might be the end of alpine trips for the year

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Chip Down
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Re: Adams: Killen Creek to Killen Glacier

Post by Chip Down » November 3rd, 2020, 4:38 pm

Don Nelsen wrote:
November 3rd, 2020, 3:04 pm
We were close yesterday...I drove by the Killen Cr. TH on the way out but didn't think to pay attention to the cars parked there.
That's so funny. Imagine if you had popped in to the parking lot: "Damn Chip, don't you ever go home?" :lol: I think, if my memory is right, our member drm has been overlapping me on Adams a lot lately.
Don Nelsen wrote:
November 3rd, 2020, 3:04 pm
I explored the remnants of what I think was the original Divide Camp trail
. On a map you posted recently, I noticed several trail alignments that are no longer valid, and I also noticed the Riley trail no longer matches old maps. Lots of changes up there.
Don Nelsen wrote:
November 3rd, 2020, 3:04 pm
Whatever are we going to do when we run out of things to discover on Mt. Adams? :)
If you're like me, you find that with every exploration, two new route possibilities get added. Specifically, with respect to Adams, I took a twenty year hiatus until 2020, and even after all my trips this year, I have more questions.
retired jerry wrote:
November 3rd, 2020, 3:16 pm
a foot of snow over the next few days

might be the end of alpine trips for the year
Oh no! :shock: That's okay, it's been a fun autumn, I'm ready to let it go. I wish I'd gotten to Adams a little earlier, but the fires/smoke and the Bird Creek (Yakama) delays kinda set me back. And honestly, with the nights getting longer than the days, serious alpine hiking is getting tougher. That's one of the reasons I went to Killen Monday, might be last chance this year.

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drm
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Re: Adams: Killen Creek to Killen Glacier

Post by drm » November 5th, 2020, 3:57 pm

The place I camped XC on Labor Day weekend was just a few minutes west of your pic at the top of that gully to parkland. I went up the ridge on the east side and then veered a little more east. That was the camp where I had a trickle of meltwater into my water bottle. And your Killen Glacier is just a snowfield. It ain't a glacier if it ain't sliding!

This storm originally was supposed to have a snowline at 7000' or higher, but looks like it has dropped a bit. So I do think this is the end of the snowfree alpine season. And next week is more wet and snow.

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