Yesterday a group of us climbed Mt. St. Helens. This was my fourth time, the first being a glorious experience about a decade ago, with perfect weather. Each time, being exhausted at the finish, I assure myself that I won't do it again. But, time has a way of softening the hardship and bringing the exhiliration and accomplishment into the foreground.
Bridget and Jeremy are visiting and they wanted to do the climb, so we got a group of 13 together, including family and friends. We drove up the night before and camped at Climber's Bivouac. We sat around the campfire telling stories and keeping warm. Some were up and on the trail at 5:30AM, and others (including me) at 7:45.
The wind was blowing a bit at the camp, so that was a concern for the mountain. As usual, it was a pleasant start, with two miles of gentle climbing through a forest. Then we emerged at timberline and started climbing through and over a long stretch of boulder fields.
Towards the top of the boulder field we could see our destination, the crater rim.
It got very windy at this section of the climb, and it appeared iffy whether we could finish. But once we got up on the final stretch it subsided a bit.
The views at the top are amazing, with Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and other volcanic peaks all over the horizons.
This is looking to the north into the crater, with Spirit Lake and Mt. Rainier.
The descent is always agonizing, and goes on forever. The footing is treacherous for much of it, due to loose sand/gravel. I actually prefer the climbing part. What a welcome sight the forest trail is emerging from the final boulder section.