July 30th 2004 - Evan and Erin climb the south slope of Mount St. Helens
[Which is two months before ol' St. Helens woke up from an eighteen year slumber and started rumbling and burping ash again. As of 3 October the mountain is still rumbling a little and geologists are saying something bigger than just a steam and ash release are expected soon. No worries here - the scientists are concerned for visitors within about five miles of the volcano, and Corvallis is about 125 miles away from the mountain as the crow flies.]

Fast facts:

Mount St. Helens: SW Washington State; 9677ft before its eruption in 1980, now the rim peaks at 8365ft. The crater floor is 2000ft below the rim.

For this fun adventure we woke at 4:55am despite the uncanny double failure of both our digital watches, started climbing with our group of about ten others at 7:15am, reached the crater rim at 12:00pm, finished our decent at 4:45pm. This climb was an all-day event. We climbed as part of an outing organized by NW Discoveries, which we hooked up with through Corvallis Parks and Recreation.

Our climb, like most I imagine, was up the mountain's south slope, and started at an elevation of ~3865ft, ending at the rim at 8365ft. (a swift 4500ft change) The total round-trip time was 9.5 hours, with an hour break for lunch and enjoying the view at the top. Speaking of view - we could easily enjoy inspired views of Mt. Adams nearby, Mt. Hood and we think Mt. Jefferson to the south and cloud-floating Mt. Rainer (14k foot) to the north. All of these mountains seem to keep their snowy glaciers year-round.

The hiking distance was about 4.5 miles each way. The first two miles are mild and scenic- amid the forest below the tree-line - and gain but only about 500ft in elevation. That leaves ~2.5 miles of rock climbing and talus field sludging in the sun to gain 4000ft. High-school SOH-CAH-TOA tells me that the hike above the tree-line averaged 17-degrees. It felt like 30.

(Evan wishes to acknowledge that all along Erin was completely right about the usefulness of trekking poles. Especially considering the leg pain of climbing such a continuous slope of talus at a tough-to-catch-one's-breath elevation. I think our prep work of walking around Corvallis and one trip up Mary's Peak didn't make a fitness dent.)

Live Volcano Camera provided by the US Forest Service.

Topological map of St Helens.

Hiking map of St Helens.

A great series of pages about the weeks leading up to the catastrophic eruption in 1980.


The initial path up to the tree-line

Erin just getting started

Mt Adams in the background

Evan bouldering his way up at the beginning

Erin looking cool

Fred the opportunist

Erin, geared up

Erin points the way down

Those last hundred feet to the top...

14k-foot Mt Rainer in the distance

180-degree panorama - lots of window scrolling

An afternoon view of where we just climbed