May 24, 2015

Conquering Mount St. Helens

Some might say I'm crazy or stupid or pushing my luck -- but I like to think of it as living life to its fullest and making my dreams a reality. Four years ago, I developed a desire to climb to the top of Mount St. Helens-- an active volcano. I'm not really sure where this desire came from but it was one that would not go away.

I started researching climbing Mount St. Helens and I quickly learned that you had to have a permit to climb and permits were limited. Each time I would make a trip home I would look into getting a permit but couldn't manage to get my hands on any. So, each year for the last four years climbing to the top of Mount St. Helens has been on my list of goals. This year I decided I wanted to make the climb and scratch Mount St. Helens off my list once and for all.

I was able to get my hands on two permits-- one for me and one for Andy. I consider myself very lucky, there were only a handful of permits left through the end of October.

Wednesday night we drove to Climbers Bivouac near Cougar, Washington and set up camp. The next morning we woke up, made some last minute adjustments to our backpacks, and set out on the trail for the ten mile journey that awaited us.

Feeling just a little excited.

Love him!

The first two miles were beautiful! We hiked gradually uphill through a forest, the temperature was cool and crisp.

The next two miles were very different, we hiked up a ridge line of rocks, boulders, and ash. These weren't just ordinary rocks and boulders either-- they were quite abrasive and rough. We eventually put on gloves to try and prevent cutting our hands open.

The trail along the ridge line wasn't distinct. Wooden posts were placed every so often and we knew we had to make it from one post to the next and that is just what we did.

Through this stretch of the climb we experienced a wide variety of weather: wind, rain, hail, sunshine, and clouds that came from what seemed like every direction. 

The last mile or so to the summit was mostly snow--this was my first time hiking through the snow and it wasn't too bad. We took turns lead climbing all the way up the mountain and I led us through the snow. Someone who had climbed up before us left a nice set of footprints for us to follow-- it was very helpful.

6 1/2 hours after we set out, we made it to the top of Mount Saint Helens. It was surreal to stand up there, look out at the forests below and realize that I had achieved my goal at last! I still can't believe it is done, it feels like a dream.

We did it!

Me & Andy -- yes, he wore shorts. Crazy, right?

On top of the world!


Unfortunately, we weren't able to get very close to the crater rim, it is very fragile and can break off if people get to close-- signs warn that people have died from this. I had hoped to see the dome that started rebuilding itself back in 2004 but wasn't able to see it without risking my life.

While we were on the summit the clouds parted and we were able to see Spirit Lake, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood. The view was spectacular!

We glissaded about 1500 vertical feet down the side of the mountain. Glissading was so much fun! This was probably our favorite part of the hike. If you don't know what glissading is you can watch a video of it here.

The trail we took glissading.

As we were making our descent down the mountain a thunder and lightening storm rolled in-- I started to envision a repeat of climbing Mt. Timpanogos and freaked out. Andy and I hustled as fast as we could safely down the mountain. With a downpour threatening, I said many prayers and asked the Lord to hold off on the rain until we were within the safety of the trees. My prayers were answered, just as we reached the forest it started to rain. I know that the Lord hears and answers prayers and He is there waiting to help us if we just ask.