Shorthorn Trail to Shorthorn Butte (Point 6227), Plus 2 Rockslide Events! - Mt Adams, WA

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ElementalFX
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Shorthorn Trail to Shorthorn Butte (Point 6227), Plus 2 Rockslide Events! - Mt Adams, WA

Post by ElementalFX » August 27th, 2019, 3:55 pm

Mid August, we hiked the Shorthorn Trail, beginning at the Crofton Ridge Trailhead (better road conditions), and hiked up to an unnamed peak on the southwest slope of Mt Adams. The last bit is off-trail, but the views are great from the Round the Mountain junction alone, if that is all you can do.

Twice on this hike, we caught sight of two rockslide events cascading down from just below the summit. Photos of those later!

Edit: Title and references incorrectly attributed to avalanches now fixed in report, as per DRM clarifying the terms in the comments. All should be 'rockslide events,' or in some cases, 'lahars.'
The diagrams will still say avalanche, but just keep in mind that it should read 'lahar and rockslide areas.'

drm wrote:
August 30th, 2019, 9:06 am
Just as a technical matter, an avalanche is a purely snow/ice event, so these recurring slides due to the degradation of the rock on Mt Adams are either rock slides, or if enough water and debris are mixed in, maybe a lahar. Lahars are most often caused by eruptions, but that isn't required. I think a lahar is defined by it's mixed contents: water, rocks, logs if low enough, etc - everything in it's path once it gets going.

Opening Photo:
Shorthorn Butte 2019-57.jpg
Mount Adams rising above "Shorthorn Butte."
(All names in "" are unofficial names that I just went with. I prefer going with names, rather than "the meadow at 3.5 miles in.")




Map of the hike:
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Started out at the Crofton Ridge TH, walked up Road 8040 and the Morrison Creek Campground loop road, to meet up with the Shorthorn Trailhead. The campground loop road is high clearance ONLY!



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The trail makes its way through an old burn from the 2012 Cascade Creek Fire, which burned much of the western and southern flanks of Mt Adams.



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The forest floor is alive with life, though. Spent fireweed blossoms, grasses, and spent beargrass blossoms line the trail.



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A few minor blowdowns, and constant views of Mt. Adams through the bleached white tree canopy.



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Rocky in places



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First major view of Mt. Adams, as you round the bend and pass through the small, unnamed "Shorthorn Meadow."



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Shorthorn Meadow has a pretty stunning view. Clouds rolled over the mountain, revealing and hiding the summit.



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After the meadow, the trail flattens out, passes by some surviving trees, and crosses (a tributary of?) Shorthorn Creek.



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Fall is in the air, even in mid August this year. The air is crips, the grass is golden, and leaves are starting to turn color.



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A chunk of an interesting mass of colorful rock, with many smaller rocks fused together (under pressure, formed under the summit, I believe). Then probably broke off in a rockslide event, and landed here. It may not look very solid, but it is! Whatever brought it down, it is no doubt because of how geologically active and unstable this face of Mt Adams is.

This section of trail is covered in all sorts of rocks that came down from higher on the summit. Various rocks of all different colors: red, orange, yellow, purple, grey, black, and white.



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Deep channel here. Much of it carved out in the flooding events of 2006. The trail skirts the edge, then switchbacks up to the Round the Mountain Trail.



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Mt Hood from the switchbacks.



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At the junction with the RTM Trail, it was at this point that we saw the first of two rockslide events.



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If hiking off-trail is not something you want to do, the view from the junction is fantastic and a worthy destination in and of itself.



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Just as we got to the junction, it wasn't no more than a minute before the first rockfall happened.



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Close-up. It happened over a long time–almost seeming as if it were happening in slow motion. It took at least 20-30 seconds to make it all the way down and start to clear up.

Not only was the rockfall impressive, but the views of the heavily-crevassed White Salmon Glacier hanging off of a ledge on Mt Adams were equally stunning.



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To get to "Shorthorn Butte," we left the Round the Mountain Trail, and followed the top of ridgeline. At first, it was wooded, but soon opened up.



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Open meadows along the ridge, below the summit of Point 6227.



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Views of Mt Adams began to open up. It was here, on the summit, that we saw our second rockslide for the day. My camera was busy with a timelapse, though. Caught it on camera, but it looked practically the same as the earlier rockfall photos.



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Animated GIF of the 2nd rockfall, every second in the time-lapse represents 10 seconds passed in real time.



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For general reference only. (Edited into the trip report after it was submitted.)



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Mount Adams at sunset, with pink alpenglow. While the view of Mt Adams is perhaps more photogenic from just below the summit, the view of the surrounding area, including the view to the west toward Mt St Helens, is far better from the actual summit.


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Stayed at the summit until sunset, quickly retreated back down to the Shorthorn Creek crossing in twilight, then hiked back the rest of the way in the dark.



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The most bizzare thing I've seen happen on Mt Adams occured on our way down, though. This creek was dry on the way up, only wet on the surface. I figured it was still wet from a recent thunderstorm or something. But instead, by 10
PM it was rushing and full.

On the map, it appears that it is a brand new re-routed channel of Morrison Creek, yet it felt odd that in both times hiking this trail before, I've never crossed any sort of running creek here (the other time was mid June). Morrison Creek, as far as I know, is a continuously running creek that both crosses the Round the Mountain Trail (I've seen it running there), and passes by Morrison Creek Campground. So, for it to just not be running on the surface across the Shorthorn Trail in all previous times I've hiked here, felt bizarre.
Last edited by ElementalFX on August 31st, 2019, 12:38 am, edited 14 times in total.

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Re: Shorthorn Trail to Shorthorn Butte (Point 6227), Plus 2 Rockfall Avalanches! - Mt Adams, WA

Post by ElementalFX » August 27th, 2019, 10:49 pm

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For reference of the various geological features. Not everything may be 100% accurate, but should be at least 90% accurate.

Edit: Typo: 'Suksforf Ridge' on the diagram should read Suksdorf Ridge.

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Chip Down
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Re: Shorthorn Trail to Shorthorn Butte (Point 6227), Plus 2 Rockfall Avalanches! - Mt Adams, WA

Post by Chip Down » August 28th, 2019, 5:59 pm

Nice report.

Think that creek is a diurnal event, or random?

I nearly gasped with excitement when I saw that loooong coulior leading to Pikers Peak, but then realized I've done that. Didn't recognize it in summer.

Regarding rockfall, are you aware of the immense slide in that area in Aug 1997? Much of your orange "sulphur-stained rock" was from that event. I was lucky enough to be nearby when it came down. Wish I could have seen it, but of course it might have been the last thing I ever saw.

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Re: Shorthorn Trail to Shorthorn Butte (Point 6227), Plus 2 Rockfall Avalanches! - Mt Adams, WA

Post by ElementalFX » August 28th, 2019, 7:42 pm

Chip Down wrote:
August 28th, 2019, 5:59 pm
Nice report.

Think that creek is a diurnal event, or random?

I nearly gasped with excitement when I saw that loooong coulior leading to Pikers Peak, but then realized I've done that. Didn't recognize it in summer.

Regarding rockfall, are you aware of the immense slide in that area in Aug 1997? Much of your orange "sulphur-stained rock" was from that event. I was lucky enough to be nearby when it came down. Wish I could have seen it, but of course it might have been the last thing I ever saw.

Thank you. :)

Yeah, I am aware of that 1997 slide event, although just from reading about it in more recent years. I was 1 year old when that happened. I figured that some of the orange rock came from that, but I didn't realize it did so much. Darryl Lloyd's Mt Adams Ever Wild book talks a bit about the avalanche history on Mt Adams, and it was a fascinating read.

And I agree, I wish I could have seen it–but from a very safe distance away! :lol:
If the slide didn't reach and wash over Point 6227, I'd imagine the perspective from there during that event would have been terrifyingly stunning.


I used to enjoy seeing Mt Adams and other volcanoes shrouded in more snow earlier in the season, but the more I hike, the more I seem to be preferring the view in late summer, when all the rock textures underneath show. The glaciers also stand out better, like a 'sore thumb' among all the exposed rock. Even better if there is a nice fresh dusting of october snow to highlight the rocky features even more.

About the creek, I have no idea, really. It doesn't even seem like the creekbed across the Shorthorn Trail is all that old(?). (Based on the large trees growing right almost inside the path of the water, not even showing any signs of leaning or clinging to the banks–like trees usually do next to creeks.) As far as I know, Morrison Creek up higher where it crosses the RTM Trail doesn't randomly stop and start flowing throughout the day. And definitely Morrison Creek by the Campground has to be continuously running...
But even more confusing, Morrison Creek has to somehow either cross/go under the trail or the campground road to get to the west side of the campground, where it is definitely an established and major creek.

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Re: Shorthorn Trail to Shorthorn Butte (Point 6227), Plus 2 Rockfall Avalanches! - Mt Adams, WA

Post by ElementalFX » August 28th, 2019, 7:47 pm

Chip Down wrote:
August 28th, 2019, 5:59 pm
I was lucky enough to be nearby when it came down. Wish I could have seen it, but of course it might have been the last thing I ever saw.

I have to ask, did you actually hear it come down? And if so, how loud was it? Did it last a long while?


GPS Track. (Forgot to add in the main post).
Shorthorn Butte 2019-08-17 10-01pm.gpx
(71.87 KiB) Downloaded 10 times

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Re: Shorthorn Trail to Shorthorn Butte (Point 6227), Plus 2 Rockfall Avalanches! - Mt Adams, WA

Post by Chip Down » August 29th, 2019, 4:26 am

ElementalFX wrote:
August 28th, 2019, 7:47 pm
Chip Down wrote:
August 28th, 2019, 5:59 pm
I was lucky enough to be nearby when it came down. Wish I could have seen it, but of course it might have been the last thing I ever saw.

I have to ask, did you actually hear it come down? And if so, how loud was it? Did it last a long while?
I was high on the NW ridge around 2pm when I heard it. However, at least one other report states it was 6am. Maybe I heard a follow-up event, or maybe I heard routine rockfall. I was on the mountain at 6am, but possibly too far away to hear it, so I can't be sure the 6am report is incorrect. Anyway, what I heard wasn't terribly long. It was long enough for me to realize something major had happened, but I had no idea how immense it was until the next morning. After reaching the summit, I came down Suksdorf to the Lunch Counter where I spent the night, and then hiked clockwise on the RTM trail. From the trail, I saw bits of debris (heaps of yellowish rock/mud), but I had a very long hike back out, so stuck to the trail. Went back the next weekend to investigate.

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Re: Shorthorn Trail to Shorthorn Butte (Point 6227), Plus 2 Rockfall Avalanches! - Mt Adams, WA

Post by drm » August 30th, 2019, 9:06 am

Just as a technical matter, an avalanche is a purely snow/ice event, so these recurring slides due to the degradation of the rock on Mt Adams are either rock slides, or if enough water and debris are mixed in, maybe a lahar. Lahars are most often caused by eruptions, but that isn't required. I think a lahar is defined by it's mixed contents: water, rocks, logs if low enough, etc - everything in it's path once it gets going.

A couple years ago I saw a significant amount of water coming straight out of the side of the mountain in this general area. Sure, a spring, but it was not feeding into any defined water drainage, as if it was brand new. What these frequent slides have done is to cover existing creeks. Sometimes those buried creeks reliably emerge from under the debris in a known spring, and sometimes they only emerge when water flow is high during spring melt. Mt Adams has a very generous number of springs springing forth from out of nowhere because it's rock type is more prone to sulfuric degradation and thus has more of these landslides that bury existing creeks than our other nearby volcano. The water in those creeks still has to go somewhere and whether they stay underground and when they pop up is due to how much space there is for underground flow. I've discussed this with rangers in the GPNF and with Darryl L, and both agreed about the relationship of Adam's many springs with it's degraded rock and many rock slides, especially on the SW side.

In the 1800s there was a slide that buried the current location of the town of Trout Lake under many feet of debris. Note that the discolored section of Mt Adams supporters a chunk of the upper mountain (which is much younger than the lower part), so it is theoretically possible that a massive lahar could one day reach the Columbia, maybe even dam it. I've seen scientific studies discussing the possibility for billions of cubic yard lahars on Mt Adams. There are plans afoot in Trout Lake for an early warning system (estimates are that they would have 20 minutes to reach high ground from a massive SW-side lahar), but the technology is still under development and the funds are not yet available.

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