Thursday, June 21, 2018

I am done with you, Mt St Helens!

 Top of Mt St Helens, photo by @seattlebred 

Well, I climbed Mt St Helens again. I climbed it last year around the same time, and I probably swore then I didn’t need to climb it again. But here I am doing another write up on it, because I hiked it again. (Here’s last year’s write up) But with this being my 2nd go at it, I learned from last year’s mistakes, tweaked the itinerary a bit, planned things a little differently this time, and I would say, second time around went way better than the first time! (also last year, I hiked it with my big toenail hanging off my toe and I had just taped it down because I was told not to rip it off so this year with no bum toe, it went WAY better AND I avoided dairy for 3 days leading up to the big day, my stomach felt great! Maybe TMI lol) 

Hiking Saturday vs. Sunday
The biggest change I made from last year vs. this year was that last year we hiked Helens on a Saturday versus this year we opted for a Sunday. Hiking Helens on a Saturday was so hard on us last year because a group of us worked a full day Friday, then drove out at traffic hour, slept for 3 hours and then did a 12 hour hiking day. You can imagine how exhausted we were. It was nice having a full day Sunday to rest, but we got back at a decent hour Saturday night, that I didn’t see a full rest day was needed 2nd time around.

So this year we opted to hike it on a Sunday. We all got a full night’s sleep Friday, had a late morning start Saturday and took our time driving down to the trailhead. We even had time this year to hike the Ape Caves and hangout as a group before calling it an early night! I would highly recommend Sunday, especially if you work Fridays and only have weekends off.

Quick Trail Stats:
· 12 miles R/T
· 5699 ft gain
· Date hiked: Sunday June 17, 2018
· Route: Winter Route – Worm Flows
· Permit needed (read other Helens post about obtaining permits)

Saturday June 16, 2018
Cody and I left Lynnwood around 10:00 AM Saturday and eventually met the rest at the Marble Mountain Sno-Park Trailhead around 3:30PM. 6 of us went to go explore the Ape Caves since we had some time to kill. I thought the Ape Caves were only going to take 30 min tops, but Kaelee took us through the Upper Caves which are 1.5 miles long and took us almost 2 hours to complete. Yeah wasn’t expecting to crawl through a dark tunnel and exert so much energy the day before hiking Helens! But it was definitely awesome and worth it. We hiked in the dark for almost two hours, crawling over lava boulders, scaled an 8 foot wall, and finally exited with a crawl up a ladder….

Once we got back to Marble Mountain Sno-Park, Troy was there waiting for us. We setup camp, some slept in their cars while others pitched tents, ate some dinner, hung out, and headed to bed early.

 Going up Helens, with Mt Hood in the distance

From this angle, Helens doesn't look too big!
Sunday June 17, 2018
Here is a quick timeline of our day:
4:24 AM – we hit the trail
5:38 AM – we hit Chocolate Falls
7:47 AM – we hit the weather station
11:45 AM – we summited
2:00 PM- we glissaded back to the weather station
5:30 PM- I exited the trail

The hike from trailhead to weather station went smoothly besides the 35-40 mph winds that came and went throughout the morning. No snow until after you past the weather station. Once past the weather station, all of us opted to take the snow route over hiking the scree (aka loose rocks). About 10-15 minutes past the weather station, the group split into 2, and 2 people opted to stay behind and not push for the summit. 5 of us kept on. The wind started picking up again, but once we got to the summit the wind had died down, and we had a relaxing time at the top! We stayed up there for about 40 minutes before we started heading down.
 First time hiking with Cody's cousin, Troy! Thanks for hanging with us!
 Roomies! Notice that 1980s Jansport pack Meredith is rockin'
 Got a group shot!
Kaelee enjoying the views
 Going up... on a Sunday!
Want more solid footing on snow? Use crampons!

As of Sunday, there was still decent glissading from the summit to the weather station. We did run into a Forest Service Range/Staff member before we hit the weather station coming down, who advised us to reroute ourselves glissading since we were heading too far to the right (towards Climbers Bivouac) and we had come from the left. He checked our permits and made small talk with us before he kept going up and we went down.  (Glissading is when you slide down a steep slope on your butt with an ice axe to stop yourself) He also mentioned they were planning to open Climbers Bivouac route the following week, which is the summer route, and 2 miles shorter than the winter route we were on…

I was leading the glissading amongst our group at one point, and I came to a spot where I felt it was a little too steep for me to just slide down on my butt. So I yelled back to the group and had Troy scoot down to evaluate the situation, in which he agreed it was a bit steep. So we opted to side step down, with me following in Troy’s boot path. Troy got ahead of me at one point, and eventually found a safe spot to keep glissading. I still had a little ways to go to get to the safe spot at this point. Then I slipped, and slid feet first, then head first, then I eventually self-arrested. It all felt like I was going in slow motion and once I stopped I had snow everywhere, down my shirt, up my pants.... I never got scared, just annoyed with the snow and Troy probably had a great show watching all this. Thankful i had my ice axe though! Anyways, we all made it down to the weather station safely, and found Cody and Brooke waiting for us.

We glissaded one more chute passed the weather station and hiked out from there. The hike out always feels like it takes forever. It’s probably the adrenaline and the fresh feet that make the morning hike in feel like a short one, but after so many hours on the mountain, the hike out always feels like eternity. At this point, I just wanted off the mountain, my feet were sore and tired.

We all got off the mountain safely. Amy, Meredith, Cody, and I grabbed dinner in Cougar, WA and then headed home while everyone else had already taken off. We rehashed our day at the dinner table, shared photos, and laughed at the mishaps of the day. It was another great weekend spent in the mountains with great company.

I am very appreciative of everyone who was with me this weekend, Cody, Troy, Amy, Meredith, Kaelee, and Brooke! Great vibes all around and an extra shout out to Troy for helping coach the newbies in glissading and self-arresting!

Learned this route is called Worm Flows due to the rocks looking like worms!
 Yes, I know. I am in head to toe red. 
Snow is easier than scree
 Made it to the top!
 What the other side of the crater looks like
 Spirit Lake and Mt Rainier covered in clouds
 The look of pure joy after a solid glissade route
Top of Helens with the gang
On our way down

I usually end my posts with, until next time! But I have now hiked Helen’s twice and don’t want to hike it again. So I am ending it with….

Never again, Mt St Helens, never again. 


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