Last week a friend and I climbed Mount St. Helens, the famous volcano in Washington state. I have up to this point only skied it, hiking up on my skis and then doing the moderate and fun descent. I would have done it this way again, but with my ribs still healing, I didn’t want to take the chance of a re-injury. So I just hiked it while my friend hiked up carrying his AT skis. His wife came along, but she was only into a hike, so didn’t summit with us.
It was a gorgeous day, perfect really. The temperatures were not too cool and not too warm. And so we didn’t sweat gallons, nor did the snow soften up too much for great skiing. If it were any cooler though, crampons would have been required. As it was we only hit one icy patch, which was easily handled by kicking steps. I did have my ice axe, and that helped near the top.
My friend had a great run down while I glissaded. It has been awhile since I’ve done any glissading, (sliding down a snowfield to descend a mountain). It is normally done on your butt, but it can also be accomplished on your feet, on your belly (penguin style!) or use your imagination. A pair of slick rain pants will allow you to glissade shallower (and safer) slopes. I alternated between a butt and foot glissade.
Glissade safety tips: When glissading, it’s important to see where you are going and stay off the really steep stuff. You want a “runout”, where the grade flattens a bit and you can slow to a stop. If things get steep, and yet you still feel safe with a glissade, you must have an ice axe and slide on your butt, braking all the way with the axe. You also need to be comfortable doing a self-arrest in case things get out of hand. Safety first of course, but when you feel the need for speed and you have a good runout below you, let ‘er go!
After the climb I headed home to Portland the back way. In other words, instead of returning west to I5 then south (boring!), I drove east on Forest Road 90, continuing as it turns into Curly Creek Road. I slept overnight in my van along the upper Lewis River and did a couple short hikes next day in the beautiful forest here. It was good to stretch my legs, which were sore from the climb. Then I continued, turning right on the Wind River Road all the way into Carson. I did stop again to do a hike along the beautiful Falls Creek Falls (see next post for that). Then I simply traveled Hwy. 14 from Carson west to Vancouver and across the river to Portland.
Note that to climb Mount St. Helens you need to visit the MSHI website for instructions on the permitting process. During summer a limited-entry permitting system is in place. But I’ve always done it in Spring, where you can buy the $22 permit online, pick it up in Cougar on the way to the trailhead, and have at the mountain when it still has significant snow. Believe me it is easier to climb it in snow, because of the loose pumice (2 steps up – 1 step down) nature of the surface in summertime.