Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Climbing Mt St Helens

Helens in front of us, it doesn't look so beastly from this angle!

Mt Hood doesn't even look real 

Date Hiked: Saturday June 24, 2017
Miles Hiked: 12 miles out and back
Elevation Gained: 5699 ft
Highest Elevation: 8328 ft
Difficulty: Hard
Gear Used: Microspikes, gaiters, and ice axe
Amount of water brought: 3-4 Liters
People in the Group: Sarina, Hillary, Paul, Kayli, Catherine R, Cody, Sergio, and me!

I secured permits for climbing Mt St Helens back in February. Mount St Helen's Institute opens up all permits to the public and you just buy the day you want to go, no lottery for this one. But permits are limited, before mid-May they sell 500 permits/day after mid-May they only sell 100 permits/day. The permits go so fast, within a blink of an eye it goes from 100 to 3 left it seems, and they sell out. So make sure to log on the day they open up the permits! The site also kept crashing when they first released the permits! But in the end, I was able to secure 8 permits for June 24th. I thought they would put a cap on how many permits you can buy, but it didn't seem like that was the case. I had my friends PayPal me money before hand, so I could buy them all at once, and permits are $22 each.

I picked June 24th because it was a date that was convenient for me, and it happened to work out for the others too. You never know with weather up here though, so you're always going to chance it when buying ahead of time, not knowing if it's going to be a nice sunny day, or a gloomy rain filled day. Some had to cancel their Helens hike due to bad weather a few weeks prior. But weather worked in our favor last weekend, and it was the hottest weekend we've had in the PNW so far this year! I refused to check the weather till 3 days prior so I wouldn't get my hopes up lol. I check various weather sites, using this one the most often though: Mountain Forecast.

Seattle to Marble Mountain Sno-Park: 189 miles (3.5 hrs drive time with no traffic)

So the weekend of our big hike was finally upon us. We took 3 cars to the trail head Friday, each leaving at a different time due to conflicting schedules. Hillary left the earliest at 1:00 pm and still hit traffic, Sarina's car left around 4:30 pm, and we left the Seattle area around 6:30 pm. As you can imagine traffic was terrible, but we wanted to be at the trail head night before, and you're allowed to camp at trail head. The car I was in pulled in a little after 11:00 pm to the Marble Mountain Sno-Park. As of last weekend, Climber's Bivouac (summer route), was still closed, and we had to take the winter route, which starts at Marble Mountain (in which winter route adds an extra 2 miles and 1000 ft gain!). The other 2 cars got there before us, and the girls were fast asleep in their cars when we pulled up. We threw up tents real fast and went to bed within 30 min of getting there. We all had a dreaded 3 am wake up call.

Here is how my day went:
4:30 am - We hit the trail
5:15 am - Sunrise
5:45 am- We hit Chocolate Falls, which is about 2 miles in
6:30 am - The group took a break at the base of the mountain before pushing forward
8:00 am - We hit the next notable landmark, the weather station
11:45 am - I summited Helen's
12:45 pm - I started heading down from the summit
1:40 pm - I had glissaded all the way down to the weather station
4:45 pm - I got off the trail

Our group had eventually split up as the day went on, with Catherine summiting first amongst the group. We carried walkie talkies this time, and it came in really handy when trying to communicate with the others through out the day. Catherine was nicknamed the Hare, while I was nicknamed the Tortoise lol. Rightfully so.

Going up was slow going, the scree, snow, and 5000+ ft of elevation gain definitely slows you down. Coming down was a little quicker, with the long steep glissade chutes and sliding down on our butts, but once we hit the scree-filled ridge it was back to slow going with unsure footing. But eventually we all made it off the mountain safely.

The two times I got scared on the trail was, first at the summit and not getting too close to the edge due to snow cliffs that could disintegrate under one's weight (a guy died in February from sitting too close to the edge, he fell into the crater), and the second time was glissading down. Being new to the technique of glissading (sliding down snow on your butt), I held my ice axe so tight to my side that I left bruises on my ribs. I wanted to go slow and have as much control as possible. We ran into a volunteer who leads guided hikes up Helen's, and he told us that a guy had glissaded down earlier and face planted into rocks and was definitely injured (the guy also did not have an ice axe or trekking pole though to stop himself). I did NOT want to be that guy. Some of our group had actually passed the guy on the way up and they said he did not look ok.

Overall though, even though it took me 12 hrs to hike it, and I was scared at times, I would do it again, next time though I want more snow. The scree was awful! (Scree is tiny loose rocks that cover the side of a mountain)

It was definitely Type II fun as they say: "Type II fun sucks the entire time you are doing it, but you are excited to either brag about it at the bar later or look back on it and value it as a character-building episode. People in the Tetons love it for both reasons." -Teton Gravity

Until next time Cougar, WA!
Worm Flows Route
Notice we are all in tanks and t-shirts standing on snow
Mt Hood in the distance
 A picture doesn't even capture the difficulty of hiking on scree
 We glissaded down the path to the left of the rocks
Thanks for capturing this Hillary! Struggles!
 You can see Rainier from the summit!
People chilling at the top
 The crew at the summit in recovery mode
Even with the struggles, I'd do it again.

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