Mount St. Helens

In Washington there’s no shortage of peaks to explore but highest on my list was a mountain that had its peak blown off 37 years ago. The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens was arguably the most disastrous volcanic eruption in US history. The first blast removed 1,300ft off the top of the volcano making it the largest landslide ever recorded. My heart goes out to the 57 families that lost a loved one that day and to all those that were affected by the natural disaster. If you haven’t seen pictures or read up about the catastrophic events you should. Today the area is preserved as the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. A visit to the Johnston Ridge Observatory is a must to learn about the geological and cultural history. It’s actually located near the site of where David Johnston first reported the May 18th, 1980 eruption saying, “Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it!”

If you’re also looking for something adventurous to do you can climb the volcano. There’s only one summer route and one winter route both on the south side of the mountain. We were hiking July 1st but it was still considered the winter season so we took the Worm Flows route 12 miles round trip with 5,700ft of elevation gain. Note you’ll need a highly sought after permit as only 100 are offered each day. For next year (2018) permits go on sale February 1 at 9am PT.

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That Friday afternoon we drove to the Marble Mountain Sno-Park where the trail begins. Our plan was to camp at the trailhead and start hiking early the following day. There was no crowd so we secured a prime spot for the night!

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We woke up at 3:30am to start hiking before 4am! For the first hour it was dark and foggy which was really cool and eerie.

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Once out of the forest we crossed Swift Creek past Chocolate Falls. From there we simply followed the river of rocky lava to the crater rim.

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It felt like we were being chased by the clouds but we could see blue skies ahead.

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Eventually we rose above the clouds and were greeted by the sun and Mount Adams!

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From there on out we were in the clear. Behind us was always a fluffy blanket of clouds.

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Poking through the clouds were a few other members of the Cascade Volcanic Arc which runs from Mount Garibaldi in British Columbia down to Lassen Peak in California.

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60 miles south, down in Oregon, stands Mount Hood at 11,250ft. 34 miles east is Mount Adams, Washington’s 2nd highest peak standing at 12,280ft.

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The Cascade Volcanic Arc is also part of the Ring of Fire which is the horseshoe of volcanoes and mountains around the Pacific Ocean. It encompasses 452 volcanoes making up 75% of the worlds active and dormant volcanoes. Because of the continuous series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, volcanic belts and plate movements over 90% of the world’s earthquakes happen here. Even scarier is the fact that all but three of the world’s 25 largest volcanic eruptions of the last 12,000 years occurred at volcanoes within the Ring of Fire. Never heard about this until I had already moved to Seattle…

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Now back to hiking!

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Up we went eventually hitting snow where we would strap on our crampons for the summit push.

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We crested the false summit with no problem and made it up to the crater rim shortly after. It was certainly the best view I’d had in Washington!

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We were dancing with joy!

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The best thing about mountain climbing in Washington is you’ll always witness other mountains asking to be hiked. Our summit fever had us tackling Mount Adams only 2 weeks later!

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When looking north we’d see evidence of the 1980 eruption, Spirit Lake and Mount Rainier (14,411ft) 50 miles away.

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The geology of the crater walls were an incredible spectacle.

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The center crater still steams with activity.

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To the South was still good ole Mount Hood and if you look closely you can see Mount Jefferson peaking out to the right of Hood.

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We were totally okay with calling this our stopping point as the route heading west towards the true summit looked a bit sketchy. There were just too many unpredictable cornices.

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We were happy right where we were!

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This was also the start of a traditional where I use my late Grandfather’s tusk horn to give out a summit cry!

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A sense of accomplishment was upon us but we were ready to get down safely. We also wanted to get down fast so we did some glissading which is an all time kind of fun! I can see why people love skiing and snowboarding so much. Being the 3rd group to summit we had wide open shoots going down and passed hoards of people going up.

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This was probably the most efficient and peaceful hiking trips I’d ever been on and a lot of that has to do with my wonderful hiking partner who makes challenging hikes so much fun! We kept the pace up after the snow so we could go see some great friends down in Oregon.

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Before we crossed into Oregon we stopped at a gorgeous overlook of Mount St. Helens.

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There’s nothing better than seeing the route you just completed from a distance.

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Once our eyes were tired of starring we crossed over the Columbia River Gorge into Oregon via the Bridge of the Gods. Anytime we find ourselves in Cascade Locks we stop at Bringham’s Fish Market for the best fish and chowder! After our celebratory meal we continued south towards Mount Hood.

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We’d be meeting up with our awesome and goofy friends at Trillium Lake in Mount Hood National Forest.

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We plan on hiking Mount Hood in 2018! We also should ski at the Timberline Lodge Ski & Snowboard Area which you can see on the south face of Mount Hood.

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As we relaxed we made some new friends that were taking a swim in the lake.

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That night we did some dispersed camping and took it easy.

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In the morning we drove up to the Timberline Lodge for breakfast and more views! Hey Mount Jefferson (10,495)!

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Finally we’d head home with happy hearts and new found ambitions! We’ll certainly be hiking Mount St. Helens again and hopefully every other mountain we saw!

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The mountains feel like home but it’s always nice returning to a Seattle sunset!

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