We made it to the false summit and as soon as we got there I collapsed onto the snow. My body would not cooperate with my brain’s commands. We looked down toward the Southwest Chute, and both of our hearts dropped when we realized that there was too much ice in the chute to safely ski it. We assumed that the sun would have heated the snow by now to make it soft (which it did for most of the mountain by that time), but somehow this section remained frozen. Our backup plan was to go for the summit. It took lots of effort but I finally forced a sentence, and told Ted I didn’t think I should do it. I was feeling too exhausted and sick.
“But it’s right there!!!!” Ted said, who wasn’t feeling so great either, but he was doing a hell of a lot better than me. Dammit Ted, I thought as I got up and followed him for the final summit push. We crossed a flat snowfield until we got to the last vertical push. We took another break, and then Ted said, “Let’s do this!”
I kid you not; we made it exactly three steps before Ted blew chunks. Out of nowhere he projectile vomited in the middle of the climber’s path to the summit. It was still early in our relationship, so I couldn’t decide what I should do so I settled with a little pat on the back and saying “…there there….”. When he was done, he took a sip of water and insisted that we kept going. My condition wasn’t improving much, but it stopped getting worse so I felt like I was going to make it. Ted’s condition, however, plummeted. He kept saying he was fine, but I could tell he wasn’t. I accepted that he wouldn’t budge once he decided to go for the summit (given the perfect weather) so we pushed on.
Ted had led me the whole way up the mountain at that point, so we decided I could take the lead to the top. I walked extremely slowly, probably one step every four seconds. I turned around and noticed Ted wasn’t behind me. He was about 20 feet behind. You know Ted’s really not feeling well when I am moving faster than him. I called back to him to see if he was okay and when he said he was fine, I started encouraging him. I slowed down so we could make it to the top together, but it was a very long process. When we made it to the summit, I hardly felt anything other than excitement to get the f— off that thing. We took two pictures, looked around for a minute, and then headed down the mountain and away from the altitude. When we reached the false summit, I put my snowboard back together and put it on while Ted strapped on his skis. We both got pretty nervous looking at the slope we had to ride down. Chunder city.
Section of the mountain generally consisting of small to huge chunks of ice, sluff, or just beat up snow.
If I had to rate this slope, I would have said triple black diamond. It was straight down, the snow was hard, and the wind carved a wavelike pattern, which also froze and created bumps about a foot tall. Without thinking, I took off down the slope, passing Ted who was still evaluating it. I was very cautious in my effort, and ended up riding my edge down the hill. When I found a smooth spot I would switch to my heel or toe edge, and weaved my way down the hill. After exhausting ourselves trying to get our asses down the slope, we made it to the Lunch Counter where the snow had softened into plush corn snow. That made for a much easier ride, but I was so exhausted it was as though I forgot how to snowboard and could only slide into camp on my heel edge.
Getting into camp is a story all on its own, so I’ll be brief. At that point I was so tired I began to get nervous about making it back to the car. Something was very wrong with my body. I went into the tent, pulled out my sleeping bag, fell to the ground on it, and started to cry. I had heard numerous stories about guys making their girlfriends cry by pushing them too hard, and I was at disbelief that I had become one of them. The thought of this made me laugh so I was stuck in a fit of hysteria.
Poor Ted, he had no idea what to do with me so he decided to capture photo evidence of this meltdown and then break camp. When everything was packed up except for my sleeping bag and pad, I mustered the strength to get up. I lazily rolled up my sleeping pad and shoved my sleeping bag into my backpack. I slowly donned my pack, put my board back on, and followed Ted down the mountain.
At this point, my exhaustion had turned into pure anger. We had made it down to timberline, so we now had trees to avoid. Because of the horrible snow year, there were only small lanes of snow between trees that were about a foot wide. Ted was fine on skis, but I was stuck doing full turns in sections where I risked falling into tree wells, hitting trees, or full on wiping out because of how much space I required to maneuver and how much I was actually allotted.
I complained a lot. After giving Ted an angry, teary death glare, jealous of how easy he had it on skis, I took off my board, threw it under my arm, and stomped my way down the hill. He kept giving me apologetic looks but I was so furious I stayed quiet most of the time or would throw out a really sassy comment. We finally made it to the trail where I could finally put my sneakers back on and strap my board to my backpack. From there, it was pretty easy getting back. I’m an experienced walker; I’ve been doing it for 20 years. We finally got to the car, but my anxiety did not alleviate. We still had to drive a mini-van over a horribly maintained, muddy road to get back to the main highway. I ended up just getting out of the car and walking to the end of the parking lot to let Ted just deal with it. This wasn’t the most logical thing to do, but I was so tired I can’t say that I was thinking rationally. He made it out with no problems at all, and I hopped back in and we made our way home. Then, I was relieved.
When we got home and finally got all cleaned up, I immediately fell asleep. Ted felt much better as soon as we made it back to camp, but I still felt pretty awful. The dynamic of our evening was interesting because of that: Ted wanted to hang out and talk about our day but all I could do was lay there on his bed in a halfway unconscious state, only able to grunt at his attempts at conversation. He didn’t seem too bothered by it because even when I stopped responding he somehow knew I could hear him and kept talking.
It took me a few days to recover from this trip, but I came out of it saying that I want to climb Mt. Adams again. I guess ignoring suffering makes me a true mountaineer?
Katie Oliver is a senior Bio major who works here in Outdoor Pursuits. Not to brag, but we’re pretty lucky to have her on staff. She is a rock climbing goddess, a sea kayak queen, and a mountaineering monster when she’s out in the backcountry. The rest of the time she’s one of our favorite dorks.