Jun 152015
True summit on Mt. St. Helen's

True summit on Mt. St. Helen’s

Few words can adequately describe my ascent of Mt. St. Helen’s this weekend. Grandeur? The missing north end of the mountain and growing dome in the crater convey the powerful destruction and renewal of nature. Gratefulness? The heart-pumping hours of effort it took to scale this mountain makes me grateful that I still have a body (and mind) that can do this sort of thing. Memorable? Having the privilege of climbing this mountain with my son and his friends made it an experience I will always carry.

I’ve been wanting to climb Mt. St. Helen’s again since I scaled it more than 25 years ago when I first visited the Pacific NW. Knowing that my son will be off to college in a couple of years, I thought it would be a great trip to do with him.

We did the Monitor Ridge route which is most commonly used by summer climbers. We camped the previous night at the designated campground, the Climbers Bivouac, located about an hour from the Woodland exit off of Interstate 5. There’s a nice fire pit at most of the dozen campsites and the toilets are passable. You’ll need to bring your own water.

Camping at Climbers Bivouac, Mt St Helen's

Camping at Climbers Bivouac, Mt St Helen’s

Except for the relentless winds above treeline, we had perfect sunny weather. By the time we reached the summit, the winds were howling with freezing gusts of about 20-25 mph.

Waking up with only a few hours sleep at 430am, we were on the trail at 515am. The first 2 miles are mostly shaded, walking through forests and meadows with scattered wildflowers. Further up this section of the climb, Mt. Hood will be visible to the south. With an elevation gain of about 1,000 feet, this section is a good warm-up of what’s to come.

First section of Mt St Helen's climb

First section of Mt St Helen’s climb



Treeline at Mt St Helen's

Treeline at Mt St Helen’s

At treeline, the next section of climbing gets a lot more difficult. You’ll need to scramble up some 2,500 feet up a series of boulder fields. Wearing gloves helps keep your hands from getting scraped up by these sharp and abrasive rocks. The few flat areas are a welcomed spot for taking breaks. As you ascend, views of Mt. Adams will appear and you slowly realize how high up you are.

Ascending boulder fields, Mt St Helen's

Ascending boulder fields, Mt St Helen’s

The last part of the climb, gaining about 1,000 feet to the summit, is somewhat easier than the boulder fields although the soft ground makes for for poor traction. By the time I was about 500 feet from the summit, my thighs were asking me why I decided climbing this mountain was such a good idea.

Wildflowers and Mt Hood from Mt St Helen's

Wildflowers and Mt Hood from Mt St Helen’s

Final section of Mt St Helen's climb

Final section of Mt St Helen’s climb

The summit views are spectacular. Mt. Rainer, Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood are all floating in the distance as if these peaks are keeping a brotherly eye on each other. The cornices on the summit are unstable and they were too large to see much of the crater and building dome below them. We savored the summit for only about 30 minutes because of the freezing winds.

View of Mt Adams from Mt St Helen's

View of Mt Adams from Mt St Helen’s

Spirit Lake and Mt Rainier from Mt St Helen's

Spirit Lake and Mt Rainier from Mt St Helen’s

Climber on Mt St Helen's summit

Climber on Mt St Helen’s summit

Some people glissade down part of the way from the summit. I should have known better to do it before checking to see how icy the glissade chute was. I gained speed pretty fast in my garbage bag and dug in my boots and arms into the snow in an effort to slow down. I finally stopped but felt a little sore. It was not until I later took off my jacket did I realize that the hard ice in the glissade chute had cut and made a bad abrasion on my forearm through my jacket!

The rest of the descent was fine although, for whatever reason, it seemed to be longer than our ascent. It was probably due to our exhaustion. A set of strong trekking poles is a must for the descent; they will save you from banging into rocks on the way down. It took us 4 hour to climb to the summit and 3 hours to get down.

Cardwell's penstemon on Mt St Helen's

Cardwell’s penstemon on Mt St Helen’s

Not surprisingly, my previous climb of St. Helen’s was relatively effortless but age has caught up with me; this climb challenged my body. In contrast, my son and his friends had no problems; they climbed fast and furious like mountain goats.

Beargrass on Mt St Helen's

Beargrass on Mt St Helen’s

The climb of Mt. St. Helen’s is not technical and anyone in good physical condition can do it. Just pace yourself, bring plenty of liquids, and get your climbing permit ahead of time. You’ll be rewarded with one of the iconic experiences of the Pacific NW.




Redmond Watershed Preserve Hike

 Posted by on October 14, 2014 at 10:16 pm  Outdoors  No Responses »
Oct 142014
Hiking trail in the Redmond Watershed Preserve

Hiking trail in the Redmond Watershed Preserve

Here are some photos from my hike in the Redmond Watershed Preserve the other day with my daughter and her friends. There’s a decent network of trails for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians although we saw mostly trail runners that day. All the trails are wide, level, and well maintained and great for small kids. We saw and heard a wide variety of birds, small mammals, lizards, plants, fungi, and people!

Lizard at the Redmond Watershed Preserve

Lizard in the Redmond Watershed Preserve


Mushrooms at the Redmond Watershed PreserveMushrooms at the Redmond Watershed Preserve

Mushrooms in the Redmond Watershed Preserve


Fungi growing on trees in the Redmond Watershed Preserve

Fungi growing on trees in the Redmond Watershed Preserve



Mount Baker – Easton Glacier

 Posted by on March 31, 2012 at 9:17 am  Outdoors, Photos  No Responses »
Mar 312012

Looking up the Easton Glacier on the south side of Mount Baker to the summit.  Notice the three people in the lower right corner giving scale.

Sun setting behind the Black Buttes adjoining Mount Baker.

A view of contrasts, textures, and planes of color from high on the Easton glacier.

A backcountry camp at 7000 feet on the Easton Glacier with the Twin Sisters in the background to the left viewed from the East.


Upgrade Project at Snoqualmie Falls

 Posted by on March 30, 2012 at 6:02 am  Family, Outdoors  2 Responses »
Mar 302012
Snoqualmie Falls
Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls

When out-of-town guests visit and want to see something close by that represents Washington, I immediately think of Snoqualmie Falls, a cascade flowing some 268 feet over sheer granite cliffs. It’s a short 25 miles from Seattle, but the Falls and surrounding towns will make you believe otherwise as their charm takes you back in time.

Be warned. Bring a rain jacket if you don’t want to get wet. Even on mildly windy days, the mist from the Falls will blow onto the observation areas.

Upgrade project at Snoqualmie Falls

Construction equipment at Snoqualmie Falls

There are two hydroelectric power plants at the Falls operated by Puget Sound Energy. The two powerhouses were built in 1898 and 1910, respectively. The power company is in the middle of a multi-year upgrade project to update the power plant and enhance the trails, picnic areas, and visitors’ areas. Construction equipment can be seen at the head of the Falls.

The hiking trail to the bottom of the Falls is closed until March 2013 due to the upgrade project. When it re-opens, I highly recommend the family friendly hike down which descends about 300 feet. Seeing the foot of the magnificent Falls gives you an appreciation of the power of falling water.

On the way out, train buffs may also want to catch the Northwest Railroad Museum nearby.



Outdoor Links: Huge Rivers and Mythical Beasts

 Posted by on March 21, 2012 at 2:33 pm  Outdoors  No Responses »
Mar 212012

The elusive Pacific Blackberry  blackberries

Salmon fishing in the Yemen  yemen

March is the month for migrating Sandhill Cranes in Washington –  cranes

The Snow Peak Tulip Lantern LED lamp –  lanternp

Advice for a Seven Day Trip to Oregon and Washington –  7-days

Huge Rivers and Mythical Beasts –  huge-rivers-and-mythical-beasts

Backpacking Bike Trip  backpacking-bike

Are Rainbow Trout native to Idaho?  trout

Oregon Public Broadcasting TV special on Climbing Mount Hood  -mt-hood/

A Wild, Solitary Journey on the Pacific Crest Trail  a-wild-solitary-journey-on-the-pacific-crest-trail

San Juan Islands: