Mt St Helens – the Climb

Just over a week ago, a group of 7 of us climbed to the top of Mt St Helens. It was a wonderfully challenging hike full of amazing landscape diversity.  We began at the Camper’s Bivouac where we camped beneath the starlit skies the night before. We managed to get up and get on trail in a reasonable time. The first couple of miles of the hike are inside the canopy of big fir trees.  The soft pine needle padded trail wound it’s way up gently to the first transition zone.

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As we left the canopy of the trees, we begin to walk in to a boulder field. With a quickened breath and a steeper step, we began to slowly climb up one of the boulder fields. There was a lot of stopping and breath taking, and eating. We had the sun over to our right and as we made our way into the boulders, Mt Adams began to shine.

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The posts were our guidance system, as often times we couldn’t see past the next set of boulders. Boulders turned into bigger boulders, which turned into even bigger ones piled on top of each other. The climb became steeper and it felt as though we became smaller. The enormity of what we were climbing upon began to sink in as the ledge of the summit was a steep pitch directly up. We were standing on the side of a volcano that had an enormous eruption that occurred in my lifetime. Very cool!

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The end of the boulder field brought us to a dust hill. It was a steady and steep UP with a very slippery pebble, pomace and dust field.  The top of the mountain was jaw-dropping. We could actually see down into the crater to the newly formed dome, all the way to the other side where I hiked just a few weeks back from Johnston Ridge Observatory.

I took my 40 liter backpack on this hike, mostly to use as a training hike for carrying weight on my shoulders in challenging situations. I thought I did quite well, and I was comfortable.  I could have probably put more weight in it and still been fine.

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You do need a permit to climb Mt St Helens. They give out 100/day and you can get them for your day at the beginning of the season, which I highly recommend as attempting to get them on the day of your hike might be impossible.  They are issued first come, first serve. So pick your date, get your permit, and train, train, train!

Happy Hiking!

Denny

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