April 15, 2012 | Posted in:Uncategorized
After celebrating Easter so successfully last weekend, I decided to take a similar approach for my birthday. I had never really considered climbing Mount St. Helens. So when I saw a post on TAY for someone looking for partners to climb it, I initially blew off the post. I figured I would need more mountaineering gear (I don’t have an ice axe or crampons…yet) and I wouldn’t have enough time. However, curiosity got the best of me and I started to look in to doing it. I mean, how awesome would it be to climb a mountain and ride down it on your birthday? So, I was happily surprised when I found out that St. Helens is a mellow climb all the way to the rim and a manageable ~6000ft over 5.5 miles. So I decided to do it. This makes weekend number two of wandering in the woods with strangers I meet online.
We left Seattle at 4am, thinking we would be getting an early start. By the time we got to Cougar to pick up our permit there was easily another 30 people already there and we were informed that there were 98 people who had purchased permits to climb. It was a lot more people than I was expecting to be climbing the mountain.
Then again, mother nature gave me a nice gift for my birthday, clear skies and a perfect forecast for the day – so I can see why so many people were out climbing.
The climb up was a lot of fun. We could skin pretty much straight up the entire mountain. I think I made less than 10 switchbacks the entire day. While climbing, you can look out across the face and plot any number of lines down. Pretty much the entire south face that you can see here is ride-able and the snow was really stable. It took us about 5 hours to get to the summit and the view was worth every second.
To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time I have been on the top of an active volcano. It is a really cool feeling, you can see steam rising out of vents, which is only a little ominous. You could walk along the ridge for a ways, though there were some large cornices, so you didn’t want to get too close.
Yes, that is Mt Adams off in the distance that I am walking towards. In fact, from the top we had spectacular views of Adams, Rainier and Hood. Speaking of Rainier, we enjoyed taking in the stunning views, the best way possible – while drinking an ice cold Rainier beer, of course with Rainier in the background.
After a delicious pb&j lunch, we got ready for the fun part…a 5 mile, 6000ft alpine run straight back to the car. To put that in perspective, that is a taller, longer run than going from the top of Big Sky all the way to the base area. Here’s a couple pics just for fun.
The ride down was fantastic. The run seemed like It kept going forever and the terrain was amazing. There were ridges, spines and faces the whole way down. Nothing too technical, but it was a nice steep pitch the whole way. It made for some fun turns in the soft spring snow.
We got back to the car around 3, grinning from ear to ear. It is hard to actually describe how amazing our day up St Helens was and I don’t think the pictures even begin to do it justice. I am thinking this would make for an awesome new birthday tradition. I might even try to squeeze in another day trip this month before it gets closed off for permit season.