Ascent of Mount Saint Helens on 1981-05-18

Climber: robert rogers

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Monday, May 18, 1981
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Saint Helens
    Elevation:8333 ft / 2539 m

Ascent Trip Report

First ascent of the inside crater wall.

On the first anniversary of the main eruption, I went in from the west along the Toutle mountains. Because the government land was closed, and trespassers were being fined, I snuck in along a network of private logging roads. Under cover of overcast low clouds and drizzle, I enjoyed a rare daylight approach. Traversing around the west end of the crater rim and up onto the crater floor, crossing over a rough landslide debris apron deposited when the entire north side of the mountain slid down overfilling Spirit Lake. From the floor of the crater, I climbed the steaming lava dome up into the fog. I couldn't see 10 feet. Sometimes a good trip is more than just the view. With no sun and a rain dead wristwatch I was still up on the dome as darkness approached. Oops. Bending over to pick up a final sample of lava, my back went out. Unable to now travel back over the avalanche debris field, I went the only other direction available. Up. I climbed the inside west crater wall. And I didn't even have to bend over as it was vertical, ahhh.

The best route up I could see was a small waterfall. Because I had no equipment, and the crux move near the top of the fall was too exposed, I retreated back own the water. I don't know where my exact route was but I ended up on a steep thin snow field. Punching in with hands and feet I slowly ascended in the darkness until I bumped my head into the bottom of a cornice. Knifing up an arm, I hacked a hole and wriggled up onto the crater rim. The climb had dried me off and loosened up my back. I emerged refreshed into a magical world where everything below the bare narrow crater rim was soft billowy clouds. Stretching to the south and east, the crater rim undulated along like the Yellow Brick Road. A slender question mark shaped column of rising steam rose up from the lava dome and up through the cloud bank filling the crater. Then the collum arched over the full moon as the moon rose just above a prominent deep notch in the east rim left vacated by the recently deceased Shoestring glacier. Then the steam column continued it's slow cartwheel beneath the inky black sky as it slowly tumbled over the rim and descended to merge with the cloud carpet cocooning the world below.

I spent a snuggy wind free and frosty nite on the summit wrapped in a long john fleece with half of me inside my backpack. Descending to tree line I got lost in the blown down timber, finally found my car, and it almost didn't start. Now it's dark of nite number two as, lost again, I navigate that web of logging roads. I try to squeeze past a road wash out and drop a wheel into the chasm. Get out the jack, it breaks. Cut poles, (bless my folding pruning saw), lash a bipod, precariously using a HEAVY twenty foot pole, lever the car up back onto the road. Zooming downhill in the predawn gloam, inside of my tiny speed bump of a foreign car, I fear a sudden head long meeting with the fleet off road logging trucks whose bumpers are chest high to me. Flying through the log landing I gain the public highway and pass the incoming stream of four by four pickups. Safe at last.

Half way home, the cars electrical systems catches fire. I love solo trips.

Summary Total Data
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Open Country, Bushwhack, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Rock Climb, Snow Climb
    Weather:Drizzle, Cool, Calm, Low Clouds
Good for not being seen

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