Mount Adams from the highway outside Trout Lake
We planned and hiked for 2 months before going. We made it to the Lunch Counter on the first day of hiking, but it took all of our energy. All 6 of us had problems just getting our tents up, cooking a meal, and melting water for the next day. Our tents were behind 6 foot rock walls, but the protection was not enough to afford a good night's sleep. All night the winds buffeted our tents, keeping us awake listening for our tent stakes being pulled out. The next morning the wind was so strong we knew a summit attempt was doomed. We gave up, but had lots of fun glissading down the mountain in an easy 2 hours. For each of 3 people there must be a stove that functions well at high altitude to melt about 2 pans of snow for each person's day of hiking to the summit. There is a stream on the mountain, but it is near Timberline. You cannot carry enough water for 2 days, due to weight. Set goals for your group, but if you are not able to reach those goals, be prepared, and use good judgment to turn around before problems become serious. You will have so much fun just reaching the bottom of Crescent Glacier, that it is worth the preparation. The four main reasons you may not reach the top are: Injury, physical exhaustion, altitude sickness and/or weather conditions. If the wind is blowing hard enough to shake your tent at Lunch Counter, at the summit you will not be able to stand up, so it's best not to make an attempt. Understand that if you have trouble getting to Lunch Counter, getting to the summit is even more steep and difficult.
Staying the night at Lunch Counter should help with the altitude sickness problems, but if you experience headaches, nausea and dizziness, slide down the mountain about 2,000 feet. It took us 9 hrs to get to Lunch Counter from Cold Springs. It took 2 hrs to come down, glissading part of the way. Deciding when to use crampons is another major issue. Most people do not use them in real slushy snow, but if you are having trouble slipping, try them and they may help a lot. They are mainly used in icy conditions, but we used them almost all the way from Timberline to Lunch Counter when we were there. To learn more about crampons and the use of the ice axe, see the book Mountaineering. Another interesting phenomenon is that with all the snow fields, and the bright star light, it never really gets too dark up at Lunch Counter.
Thursday night, before dark, you will park at Cold Springs, and hike 2-3 miles to Timberline camping area. This is a hike on a mostly dirt trail, that is easy to follow, but do not combine it with the main hike the 2nd day, to Lunch Counter, because it may make you to tired at Lunch Counter to choose & set up a good campsite.
Your second day's goal is to get from Timberline to Lunch Counter. The ranger may ask you to go around Crescent Glacier, or straight through it, but do not expect a well-trod trail to lead you all the way. The sun melts people's tracks so you must get used to landmarks to guide you. This is not too difficult, even for your first time, but continuously, you must look back, to get landmarks for your trip down, or you very well could become lost in a large forest southwest of the mountain. To avoid this, once you get below Crescent Glacier, walk east until you hit the well-trodden trail around Timberline that will take you down to Cold Springs again.