Ah the fun one. This had been on my short list of climbs for a while now. While Mt St Helens is known for being a popular day hike for visitors in the Summer, once it’s covered in snow and ice in the Winter, it becomes a peak worthy of busting out some technical gear for.
One of the challenges with Winter hiking in Oregon is daylight. While we get sun from 6am – 10pm in the Summer, we pay for it in the Winter with 9am – 4pm days. Add a mountain into the mix and your window to hike is fairly small. This meant playing it safe by getting an early start.
I woke up around 3am, got to the mountain around 6am, signed in, and started hiking around 6:30. The first two miles were flat through a wooded area to get to the base of the mountain. About a half mile after that I was able to turn off my headlamp and catch this shot. I was extremely lucky to catch such a clear day in the middle of Winter. It was also weird seeing Mt Hood so small.
From there it was a long, steady climb.
In this pic you can see where the lava flow carved into the mountain.
I had packed my ice axe just in case but ended up using it most of the way up. The lack of snow in the area meant the route had a lot more ice than usual.
I have to admit, when I got to the top I expected to see a crater or I guess, something smaller. But when this thing blew, you can see it took that whole side of the mountain with it. It was really extraordinary to see. Also, that’s Rainier in the background.
And looking further east you could see Adams.
I was fortunate enough to follow these guys most of the way. The slower guy in the back was about my pace. The quicker one probably could have summited and been back before lunch.
It was certainly the toughest climb I’ve done. H made fun of me for the following days as I hobbled around like an old man as my legs recovered. But I finally got to cross a mountain off my list to make 2013 a productive year.