Ascent of Mount Saint Helens on 2014-07-02

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Alan Bernier
Date:Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Saint Helens
    Elevation:8333 ft / 2539 m

Ascent Trip Report

After our early morning ascent of Mount Hood we head to the Climbers Bivouac trailhead (N46.14623 W122.18363, 1130m, signboard) for an afternoon ascent of this fine former ultra now P4k. A permit is required for this peak: they can be obtained online; unwanted ones are sometimes traded.

We set off at 3.15pm by which time most folk are back or well on their way down. We have several comments that we're rather late starting ... even so we'll not be the last down!

The trail starts in lovely woodland, then alternates between blocky boulders and loose sandy ascents, all typically volcanic. Lower down it's marked with timber poles: would otherwise be tricky to follow at times.

The trail passes an EarthScope plate boundary observation station with a permanent differential GPS installation. According to the info board it's one of 875 installed in the western USA to monitor tectonic plate movements to an accuracy of a few mm.

A final loose slope leads quite abruptly to the rim of the big impressive crater, with Hood, Adams and suddenly our first and only view this trip of Mt Rainier. Reaching the summit involves a L turn, a rough descent and a steep snow ascent. We were expecting a good boot trail but are surprised to find we have to kick our own steps with our trail shoes (we have ice axes). We get the impression few if any of the permitted hikers today have been to the summit - disappointing considering how hard it is to get a permit. The snow summit is at N46.19150 W122.19562, 2543m - touchable but too close to the cornice to safely stand on.

Carefully descending the summit slope, we make a descending traverse L of the fall line on nice snow (far better than on Hood this morning) and make a series of snow descents paralleling the main trail, plunge stepping or glissading - good fun and very quick. However care is needed with a few leftward corrections to avoid ending up too far right. We get back onto the main trail and a relatively short descent gets us back into the forest, then we jog the good trail back to the trailhead: round trip time 4h09, ascent 2h38.

It's been a spectacular day, and including Hood we've covered 10,000ft and 15 miles. We head next for tomorrow's ultra South Sister, making a morning ascent of Mount Bachelor en route.

Mount Saint Helens photo album
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:4725 ft / 1440 m
    Extra Gain:66 ft / 20 m
    Distance:11 mi / 17.7 km
    Trailhead:Climbers Bivouac  3740 ft / 1139 m
    Grade/Class:YDS 2
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe
    Weather:Hot, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time Up:2 Hours 38 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time Down:1 Hours 20 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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