Brock Adams knows Kinley Adams can survive extreme weather. The father-son climbers once spent a week huddled together in a tent 14,000 feet up Mount McKinley, where they waited out a snowstorm and then summited North America’s highest peak.
Outside, furious winds hurled past their tent as half a foot of fresh snow piled on each day. At night, temperatures dropped to about -20 degrees.
Brock, 32, was joined by his brother Cameron, 28, and four of his father’s friends – most of whom Kinley, 59, knew from the National Ski Patrol at Santiam Pass.
The climb happened five years ago, and Brock remembers it well today.
A barrage of snow and high winds pounded the 20,320 foot summit, leaving the climbers with little choice but to sit still and stay safe in their tents.
“We read, we played a lot of Hearts – the card game – and we talked,” Brock said. “You get a little cabin fever. You’re just kind of waiting around, but to be honest, being with my dad and my brother was pretty fun.”
The group packed enough supplies to last 28 days on the mountain, but they would have to ration their food and fuel. The climb took them more than three weeks to finish.
“The food we ate was pretty interesting,” Brock said, recalling the monotony of living off oatmeal and rice for a week. “We put M&M’s in our oatmeal, cheese in our oatmeal. I was glad to eat something else when we got back.”
Once the storm finally lifted, the climbers set out on their journey to the summit, but only Kinley and his sons reached the destination. The rest of the group turned around at about 18,500 feet to save one of the men who had come down with high altitude cerebral edema – an acute and often fatal altitude sickness.
Kinley has climbed Mount McKinley twice, said Brock, who describes his father as an expert mountaineer. He’s also climbed El Capitan, Mount Rainier and the Half Dome at Yosemite National Park.
Since Saturday, Kinley has been missing on Mount Hood, a peak he has summited numerous times. Search and rescue crews have attempted to find him, but soft snow and near-whiteout conditions at the 9,000-foot level kept them from reaching the 11,239-foot peak.
Search coordinators believe there’s a good chance he’s alive, though.
Kinley began his climb early Saturday morning to train for an upcoming trip to Nepal, where he plans to conquer Ama Dablam, a 22,349 foot peak near Mount Everest. Though smaller and less well-known, the mountain presents a more technically difficult ascent than its neighboring giant.
But Brock wasn’t concerned about whether his father was prepared for Ama Dablam.
“He’s done quite a bit of technical stuff,” Brock said.
Kinley introduced Brock to mountaineering and rock climbing when he was just 5 years old. On top of summiting Mount McKinley, they’ve climbed Mount Hood and a number of smaller peaks around Santiam Pass together over the years.
“Our favorite climbing place is definitely Smith Rock,” Brock said. They go there just about every week during the summer, and sometimes they climb in Yosemite.
On more than one occasion, they’ve had to sit tight through inclement weather in the midst of a climb.
Brock recalls two instances when he’s had to wait out bad weather on Mount Hood with his father. On each of those trips, they descended before reaching the summit, carefully retracing their tracks back down the mountain.
“You have to be pretty careful, because in either of those times, we couldn’t see,” Brock said.
They didn’t bring sleeping bags or tents – just heavy down coats and shovel to burrow their way into the snow for shelter.
“With that and the down jacket, you usually stay warm enough,” Brock said.
The father and son usually start their climbs on Mount Hood just after midnight, when the snow is frozen solid. In good weather, they tend to reach the peak by sunrise and come back down by noon, before the snow gets too soft beneath their boots.
Brock and his family hope Kinley’s been staying safe in a makeshift shelter on the mountain. But Brock knows as well as anyone how hard that situation can be.
“Usually, it’s just pretty miserable and cold,” he said. “You’re just kind of hunkering down and waiting to get warmer.”