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|Saint Helens, Mount
Not that I wish I wasn't spending the holidays with my family, but while I was in town going to dinner parties and the like, I kept thinking about how the weather in the mountains was abnormally nice. Finally, on Monday and Tuesday, I was able to take advantage of having the week off and go climbing. I drove down to St. Helens with another Boeing guy, Maurice Prather. |
We got to Marble Mtn. Sno-Park about 1 pm and headed up the Swift Creek trail towards Worm Flows. Both of us had snowshoes and crampons but no skis. (Yes, I know, St. Helens is perfect for that, but it's just one of those things I haven't found time and money to learn yet....) The snow was firm enough that we could just walk up most of the way. I didn't put on snowshoes until about when we crossed the top of Chocolate Falls.
We camped at timberline, in the bottom of an obvious climax-avalanche chute. But nothing was sliding on the mountain, so it made a nice campsite. We were both tired and wanted to go to bed, but the sky was incredible and the temperatures were warm and pleasant. Some sort of mistral-like wind was blowing down off the mountain, and it seemed warmer than it had been before the sun set.
The next morning, I pulled one of my special maneuvers and just decided to sleep in a bit. Instead of getting up at 4:00 we got up at 6:00. This did end up costing us. I used snowshoes for about half of the way up, but crampons would have done almost as well (Maurice wore his and didn't break through much). We ditched the snowshoes at 6000 feet and continued up on crampons to the summit.
The weather was perfect the whole climb, except perhaps that it was a bit too sunny and calm. It was easy to overheat, and I went through at least 4 liters of water. We were alone at the top of Monitor Ridge (we didn't traverse around to the true summit). While there were large cornices at the true summit, there were none at the top of Monitor Ridge, so we were able to stand on the edge and stare down into the crater. The lava dome must not be very active at the moment, because it hadn't snowed for a week but the dome still had a lot of unmelted snow on it.
As we descended, we met a party coming up the ridge we had climbed and saw another party going up one of the other Worm Flows ridges. We glissaded down much of the top of the mountain, but it was slow and sticky snow. Below about 5000 feet glissading was basically impossible. We were postholing in snowshoes, and the last 1000 feet back to camp was more difficult than the entire 3000 feet of descending to that point.
By the time we rested and then broke camp the sun went down. Instead of the warm wind off the mountain we had cooked by the night before, a very cold still pocket had settled in, and there was no more postholing. In fact, I actually wore my crampons again for almost all of the hike back to the car. The entire hike back was by headlamp. It was a great climb, in gorgeous weather.