Mount St. Helens hiking, climbing, backcountry skiing, Washington Volcanos
The world famous eruption of Loowit or Mount St. Helens in 1980 capped the previous 9,677 summit to 8,366.
A large parking lot is the staging grounds and campsite for permitted climbers. Hike up the road grade before crossing the unique volcanic worm flows contours. As the tree line thins upper slopes of Mount St. Helens open snowy expanses to the crater ridge and summit. Now a popular ski (especially on Mothers day) the crater rim when carefully approached offers views into the new forming cinder cone and Washington’s youngest and growing glacier.
Battling Friday afternoon traffic from Bellevue we eventually made our way to the large parking lot at the start of the Worm Flows route. Tucked in the stylish teardrop camper for a few hours rest before waking at 4:30 to fix breakfast and prep our packs for the climb. Other parking lot campers and vehicles pulling in from near-by Portland registered their permits in the sunrise hour and we were off on the trail by daybreak. Boots and skis on pack the road grade trail eventually covered in snow and after a few miles we were able to start skinning up more open snow fields at the base of the worm flows. Skinning at the start wasn’t consistent as there were many on/off ski carry transitions over lava rock as the trees became thinner.
We made a few arduous assents up lava rock boot paths before ramping left to find a consistent skin track which switched back some steeper sections before directly climbing the last few thousand feet to the crater rim.
Views from the crater did not disappoint. There was a festive atmosphere of climbers catching their breaths and picnicking on the crater rim. Noticing a few suspicions cracks in the snow and taking great care I was able to get a few shots withing the crater of the newly forming rocky center and developing glacier. After taking a nap and refueling break our entire party assembled for the stellar spring skiing back down. The upper slopes were pristine with a thin layer of shimmering light plates (Reid, name?). The snow was even and smooth allowing for fast and free skiing all the way down to the worm flows where we were able to navigate fewer ski carries than the ascent.
With tired legs we especially enjoyed the last few miles gliding down the snow covered trail before boot packing out the final mile to lounge chairs and a few cold ones.