Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mount St. Helens

Well, I finally have some time to write about the experience of reaching the summit of Mount St. Helens. I still haven't even unpacked from the trip, though I've been back in Seattle for three days. Hopefully that will get done today.

So first I'll back up to Tuesday, which was the day my Dad and I went to the Ape Caves. We chose to go through the longer section, which ended up being closer to 1.5 miles and from the time it took to go through, felt more like 3 miles. I decided on this trip, that trails at Mt. St. Helens should both provide the actual distance and then provide the 'feels like' distance. With all the rock scrambling you do, it really adds the time on as you're trying to negotiate where the next best step will be.

The Ape Caves were definitely a worthwhile experience. You cross over 27 rock piles in the 1.5 miles and climb up two rock walls that have ropes to help you up in the very dark, cold lava tube (remains about 42 degrees year round).

Climbing up one of the rock walls

Cool lava tube formation

My Dad getting started up one of the 27 rock piles

Wednesday was our actual climb day. Back in February, my Dad booked our climbing permits. They only sell 100 a day to keep the numbers on the trail low so they can book up fairly quickly for the summer months. Since most of the trail is out in the open you usually have other groups of hikers in your view during most of the day. The other thing you have in view most of the day is the rocks that you get to climb over. I didn't read up on the hike enough to know that a majority of our time would be scrambling up rocks. I enjoy this, but after about a mile of it you'd like to able to just put one foot in front of another rather than negotiating where your every step is going to be.

One of our major breaks during the hike up of course included finding a couple geocaches. There's a traditional cache as well as an Earthcache near a GPS monitoring station. The location also provides some pretty incredible views, so it makes for a nice stop on the trail.

Because of all the rock scrambling, I decided that the hike to Camp Muir on Mt. Rainier is much easier than climbing Mt. St. Helens. On the way to Muir you're spending a lot of time on snow, which can be much easier to walk on - and allows you to glissade down so you get to save your knees from some pain! Most of the way going up on St. Helens my Dad and I were worrying about the pain going down might cause. Luckily it actually proved to be a little easier going down than we anticipated - though I know both of us were sore the next day. :)

Getting to the top of St. Helens makes it all worth it. As you come up to the top of the ash-filled skree section at the end, you instantly get an amazing view to the North that had been blocked by the mountain the entire day. It's amazing to see just how big of a chunk of the mountain was removed with the eruption in 1980. You can also see why they warn you about climbing the mountain in winter with the snow cornices - once you get to the top, you don't have much to go to be over the edge down into the crater. It's a pretty quick drop-off. My Dad and I stayed at the top for about an hour eating lunch, getting lots of pictures and talking to a Forest Service Ranger before making the journey back down.

It was a great experience and I'm glad that I got to share it with my Dad. I know he was thrilled to climb the mountain that has such an interesting history. I was already thinking on the way up that I'd like to climb it again sometime - maybe in the Springtime when there's still snow for a different climbing experience.

Dad early on in the day on the trail

Morning clouds and Mt. Hood

Some of the many rocks to climb over

Flowers toward the bottom of the trail

View toward the top with the rocks to climb over

GPS monitoring station

Last stretch up to the top

View of Rainier from the top

New dome forming

Hikers on top and view of Mt. Adams

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mount St. Helens

I'm a little tired and I'm cold since I'm sitting outside using the wifi at the Lone Fir Resort (wifi doesn't reach the cabin) so this post will be short. Basically, we made it! It was a long day, but my Dad and I made it to the top of Mount St. Helens. What a beautiful day it was too - I have the sunburns to prove it.

I'll write a more complete post on the day later with more pictures, but for now, here's us at the top!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mount St. Helens

A first glimpse of Mount St. Helens on the drive to Cougar

It's been a while since I've written here, but that's mainly because I haven't had any major adventures to write about. Of course I've had lots of little fun adventures but in my mind this blog is about the big stuff. The little day to day stuff goes on facebook.

Right now I'm sitting at the Lone Fir Resort in Cougar, Washington. There's probably not much else to do in Cougar rather than hang out at the Lone Fir Resort or maybe go down to the river. Luckily the resort has wifi so I can stay in touch with the world.

So this latest adventure I'm sharing with my Dad. He drove over from Idaho yesterday so that we could spend a couple days exploring Mt. St. Helens. Today we'll check out the Ape Cave which is a 13,000 foot long lava tube. We have our headlamps for this journey since we'll be underground for just over a mile. We'll make the loop through the Upper Cave which is the more difficult section - but it also has a 'light at the end of the tunnel' since it doesn't dead end like the Lower Cave. After our cave exploration we'll check out Climber's Bivouac to prepare ourselves for the big climb tomorrow.

So the main reason for our journey is to summit Mt. St. Helens. Since I got the big mountain out of the way last year when I climbed Rainier, I've decided I need to do the littler big mountains. Luckily the Volcano alert level for St. Helens has been lowered to "normal" so we don't expect to see any eruptions on our climb tomorrow. We mainly expect a difficult hike with incredible views. Of course we'll be finding some geocaches along the way as well. I haven't seen Mt. St. Helens up close since I was about 13 so I'm pretty excited to tackle the mountain tomorrow. I think my dad's excited too.

The hike is about 4.5 miles each way with about 4500' elevation gain, though the steepness may not be the toughest part. I hear the scrambling and hiking through ash near the top is what makes the climb difficult. My Dad and I opted to go for a summer climb to ensure we'd have nice weather but this also means we don't have the snow to make the climb a little easier.

We have the nice weather, so we should have a great day filled with spectacular views!