That’s right, we were lucky enough to get climbing permits for Mount St. Helens on Memorial Day! Not only would it be our first trip to the top of one of the Cascade volcanoes (luckily St. Helens is the lowest one, and the 1980 eruption knocked a good 1000 feet off our ascent, moahaha), but it would be my first time camping on snow. Except for the fact that my hiking boots are very non-waterproof, it was great. I actually do own a pair of very expensive waterproof mountaineering boots, but I haven’t been able to break them in yet. My feet are very weird, wide and wonky, much like the rest of me.
Anyway, back to camping. We hiked in a couple of miles and set up camp in the last flat area we could find, right below the tree line. Since it was already getting dark, we just had dinner, melted some snow for water for the next day, and some of us (cough) tried to dry our soggy feet and boots as the stars were coming out.
Since it was a beautiful and oh so warm weekend, we decided to get an early start before the snow turned into a slushy mess – we started hiking up at 4:45 in the morning when the snow was still nice and firm. (If you decide to start this early it might be a good idea to bring some crampons for the icier parts.)
Gawking at the beautiful sunrise colors all around us made all the *up* seem a little less horrible.
Finally the sun popped over the ridge where Mount Adams was watching over us from the east.
After four hours we made it to the top – suddenly the crater rim was just there and we realized it would probably be a good idea to stop walking. The views were amazing; the steaming lava dome in the crater, Spirit and Coldwater Lakes in front of Mount Rainier to the north, Mount Hood to the south and Mount Adams to the east.
We tried to capture the view of the crater in this less-than-stellar panorama shot (click to open it in flickr where you can see the big version), but you really have to be there to appreciate how impressive this thing really is.
I was having some stomach issues (let’s just say it was the wrong time of the month to do anything more strenuous than pigging out on the couch in front of Gilmore Girls), so I stayed by the crater viewpoint as JK and Carlos hiked up another couple of feet to the true summit.
Me with those smelly boys I keep hiking with:
By the time we decided to head down, the sun had already warmed the snow to a wet, heavy slush, which meant that even I had the cojones to try glissading.
I have no words for how enjoyable it felt to slide down past those poor bastards who were slogging up, sometimes popping through the snow and ending up knee-deep in slush. Moahahaaa! Getting up early that day proved to be a very wise decision.
After yet another attempt at drying my soggy toes, we took down our tents, donned our heavy packs and headed back to the car. 11 miles, 5700 feet of elevation gain, and yet another excellent trip with these two boys: