10 miles of hiking • 4500' elevation gain •
This Mazama climb was initially scheduled for last weekend, but with a less than ideal forecast it was rescheduled for this weekend. This proved to be an excellent decision, as we had completely clear skies and an excellent view of the crater. The climb was lead by Matthew Sundling, with Trey Schutrumpf assisting. This climb was intended for beginners, with plenty of tips and tricks thrown in. I still consider myself a beginner even though I have a few climbs under my belt - and it was nice to get advice I hadn't heard from other leaders before. (I never thought about putting hot hands on the top of my hands rather than holding them in my palm. Such simple advice and makes total sense.) My hands stayed toasty warm for most of the day. The wind whipped at our faces, at times very strong, and then at certain points on the mountain, disappearing altogether.
It seemed completely right to attempt this peak, two weeks shy of my 37th birthday and also, the very first mountain I climbed when I moved to Portland 3 years ago, via the winter route. (With no knowledge of climbing except for watching youtube videos on how to use an ice axe and how to glissade.)
This time however, would be via the summer route, from Climbers Bivouac, up Monitor Ridge. We began at 8:00 am.
Snow was sporadic and somewhat light on the boulders, but still a little icy. We actually didn't put on crampons until we were at the end of the boulder field, for the final 500 ft ascent. In typical Mazama fashion, if you are wearing crampons, then you should be wearing a helmet and using an ice axe.
The crater was very much alive, with steam flowing out of the lava dome. One cool thing to note about Mount St Helens is the Crater Glacier - it is growing at a time when most glaciers around the world are retreating.
Our time at the top was short and sweet, as the wind picked up and we decided to begin our descent. Sadly, no glissading this time. My feet ached and moaned in new places as we made our way back through the boulder field. Part way down we took off our crampons, but there were sections where I would have felt more comfortable with some traction. With my short stubby legs, I used a variety of ways to get down and in between the giant boulders, and ended up with a few rips in my tights and a ding in my camera that I forgot to remove from my pocket. Note to all, don't wear your favorite clothes for this climb. You will put holes in something.
We made it through the boulders with the last bit of our light left, and the last mile out was in darkness. We arrived back at the trailhead around 5:00 pm.
A note on the climb leaders: I'm a slow and steady climber, I go at a speed that I can sustain without breaks/stopping. Although I wasn't as fast as the rest of the team, I was never far behind. I'm thankful for the encouragement and patience of the climb leaders in letting me go at my own pace. This short, stubby girl can still make it if you let me. The huge steps up the boulders were really hard on my hips with weight in my pack, and I'm certainly feeling it today. I'm hoping to improve my fitness this winter, and work on some of these aches and pains so that I can improve my speed in the future.
Great, but painful climb!