Krakauer's Curse

In Search of the Wild
By Richard Bangs
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Mount Adams
Mount Adams, Washington (Photograph courtesy of USGS/Cascades Volcano Observatory)

The 50th anniversary of the first Everest ascent is sure to bring Jon Krakauer's wildly successful account of the May 1996 Everest disaster, Into Thin Air, sharply back into focus. It is also sure to feed the debate over the mountain's treatment as a trophy peak. Everyone wants to climb Mount Everest. Yet the phenomenon spreads beyond the world's highest peak to Denali, highest in North America; Aconcagua, highest in South America; and Kilimanjaro, Africa's crown.

While the light of allure has intensified on these primary peaks, turning them into mountaineering Meccas, those second in command have remained relatively unnoticed and pristine.

In the Pacific Northwest, the volcano known as Rainier gets all the attention. It rafts above Seattle's bounding clouds and was once the training ground for American Everest climbers. I did the deed several years ago and was dismayed by the sheer numbers on the slope: We had to wait in line at certain points and jockey for position at others. We shared the summit moment with a score of strangers, and dropped into place like ants on the descent, marching one by one. Its remote access notwithstanding, Rainier was not a wilderness experience.

So I set out to explore the Northwest's second-highest mountain, Mount Adams, and discovered a passage as impressive as its bigger brother, and a white wilderness clean, mean, and seldom seen.

Move on to Exploring Mt. Adams

Richard Bangs, co-founder of the adventure travel firm Mountain Travel Sobek, is the author of over a dozen books, including The Lost River, winner of the 1999 National Outdoor Book Award for Literature.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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