Monday, October 27, 2014

Climbing Mount St. Helens

Our scheduled Mount Rainier climb (as usual, links to earlier posts are in blue) was only a few weeks away. The plans for Mount Rainier last month ultimately did fall apart at the last minute. But Mount St. Helens was a fun addition to the string of easier conditioning hikes and climbs intended to train for climbing Rainier in August.

A catch-up post from July:

Photo from Sam's camera

I've climbed Mount St. Helens countless times.  But this latest Mount St. Helens climb was posted by NW Wilderness months in advance, and booked to capacity.  I was part of a very long wait list.  To my surprise, a climbing permit was freed up a couple weeks before the climb. Long story short: I was in!

Suffering from a painful, off-trail hiking foot injury (see my Fear of the Unknown: Hiking Wahkeena Falls to Larch Mountain post) and adjusting to new orthotic inserts, I was ready to put my recovering foot to the test.

3:15 a.m. on July 5 was the moment when I limped that injured foot out the door to meet up with the group in Portland.  My earlier post, Lil' Buckaroos at the Buckaroo Rodeo, shares the story and photos from our Hamilton family's Fourth of July celebration the evening before.

We picked up our climbing permits in Cougar just after the register opened. Less than an hour later, prior to 7 a.m., we had geared up at Climbers' Bivouac and were already heading up the trail to timberline. It would be a glorious day, with the perfect group of friends.

Trip stats (from Craig's GPS/ altimeter)

Distance: 10.5 miles
Elapsed time: 8:03:05
Moving time: 5:17:16
Stopped time: 2:45:49
Avg overall speed: 1.3 mph
Avg moving speed: 2.0 mph
Min elevation: 3743 ft (trailhead)
Max elevation: 8330 ft (near true summit)
Ascent: 4968 ft

Craig's trip report is here.

Setting out from Climbers' Bivouac:  Janice, Tongbay, Craig, Sam, Barbara, Jurgen, and me
(Photo from Sam's camera) 

The ascent

Reaching timberline
(Photo from Craig's GPS unit)

Beginning the boulder fields (no good pictures of the fun stuff, as it was tricky for me to free up a camera hand while scrambling)

Climbing over the top of the ridge

Photo by Sam

Barbara and Janice choose a route over the ridges

Craig and I sidestep over to the snow fields for a steeper, but more direct, approach

The most HILARIOUS photo bomb that I've ever fell victim too--  Thanks, Craig!!
Craig's alternate photo bomb on this slope was randomly featured in my post, Twin Lakes Hike.

The final stretch

A quick break near the Monitor Ridge station

Think you're keeping pace with Sam, but then you stop for just a moment to snap a photo?  Be prepared for this view, up in the distance (Read: Sam is fast).

The rest of the gang reaches the rim

But where's Janice?  Oh that's right... she reportedly tagged the rim after us and then scurried back down to the car to flee the biting winds and cold.   Poor thing.

The rest of us couldn't stop laughing.  We all still love you, Janice!

The rim, the crater, and views from the top

The lava dome, Spirit Lake, and Mount Rainier

Looking back at the Monitor Ridge route

Tongbay and I wait for the group to reach the rim, while Sam gets a head start over to the true summit and back

We boys traverse over to the true summit

Photo by Sam:  He must have snapped this while running back over to join us

Photo by Sam

Mount Rainier seemed like the perfect backdrop, assuming that I would climb it a few weeks later

Photo by Sam

Only Sam (blue jacket) is visible on the rocks above, as we all climb back over the true summit to join the girls across the rim for lunch.

The descent

Glissading down from the rim

Vine video:  Slowing down, but still nearly mowing down Tongbay during my glissade

Running, jumping, and sliding:  Jurgen and I do whatever it takes to race down the mountain
(Photo from Craig's GPS unit)

Barbara leads a final charge down to timberline, beginning our woodsy hike back to Climber's Bivouac
(Photo from Craig's GPS unit)

I've climbed Mount St. Helens nearly a dozen times, and the glissading or backcountry skiing down is always the highlight. But I've NEVER glissaded quite as many snow fields or had more hilarious fun with anyone than on this descent!

I blame the people.

On our next climb a couple weeks later, though, we would have a dramatically more terrifying ride. In two weeks, we'd be using our glissading skills to negotiate our descent of the icy slopes of Mount Adams.

Very rapidly!

But before our Mount Adams climb drops on Garth's Blog...

A guest post by Kathy about our family's hiking, the wildlife safari, and visiting friends in Southern Oregon!


Susan Hamilton said...

Thanks for sharing your adventure of climbing Mount St. Helens with us, Garth. The photos are AWESOME, and I enjoyed reading your commentary with the photos.
LOVED the Vine Video! In fact, I watched it four times tonight. GLAD you enjoyed the experience--and EXTRA GLAD all of you made it back down the mountain without injuries.

Garth Hamilton said...

That video was tricky to shoot, as you can imagine. It's a shame I had to decelerate so much on the glissade, but the alternative was slamming into my friend below!

This was my favorite of all my Mount St. Helens climbs. Glad you enjoyed the post!