First skied in 1932 by Hans-Otto Giese, Hans Grage, Sandy Lyons, Walter Mosauer, and Otto Strizek, Mount Adams is the second highest peak in Washington and the third highest peak in the Cascade Range. Today Mount Adams provides some of the best and most accessible backcountry skiing in the region.
The combination of a very straightforward, non-technical skin route and over 5,000 feet of possible descent at a consistent 35- to 40- degree pitch make the Southwest Chutes one of most talked about backcountry ski routes on the mountain. On a sunny day, nearly perfect silky corn is achieved. While it gets a lot of hype, this route sees far fewer descents than the South Rib (Suksdorf Ridge), which is also the ascent route for this trip. On a blue-bird day in May there can be easily 100 people ascending and descending the South Rib route, and you may have Southwest Chutes entirely yourself. This is possibly due to the nature of the return route, which consists of over 2 miles of traverse over rolling terrain that may at times require repeated de-skiing and re-skiing.
To ascend, follow the South Climb route (Also known as Suksdorf Ridge, or the South Rib) up to the Lunch Counter, and continue from there up to the false peak known as Pikers Peak. The Southwest Chutes descent starts from the south side of Pikers Peak.
The chute descends between a large rocky spur to the south and a prominent gravely ridge to the north. At around 7,800 the chute widens out in to a large bowl, bounded to the west by a large moraine. Here the route sweeps more to the south. At around 7,000 the route sweeps around the lower end of the rocky spur to the south. At this point many choose to exit the descent, traversing around the mountain to intersect the south climb route. If it's a killer day, you may choose to take advantage of another 800 feet of descent and continue down hill past the tree line. At around 6,100 feet the descent intersects with the round-the-mountain-trail. Be alert, as it is not marked, and in deep snow it may be completely covered. Follow this trail, staying high if it's covered, for approximately 2 miles until it intersects the South Climb route.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.