Last Sunday, I topped out on Mount St. Helens for the 20th time. Compared to the search and rescue pros and seasoned volunteers, that’s a drop in the bucket I realize. But for a guy who stepped onto his first glaciated mountain just shy of three years ago, it felt pretty damn good.
I’ve gone up with first time climbers, watching their eyes light up as they first catch the rim of the crater walls and some of those seasoned experts who watch me do the same. I’ve direct ascended steep faces in winter and found fun rock scrambles in summer. Half of my summits have been on the winter route, the other half on the summer route while 4 more attempts did not lead me to the top for reasons ranging from poor weather to my own laziness. All in all, it’s my most common outdoor stop.
Now if you’re asking what would drive anyone to revisit the same mountain over and over, fair enough.
On the practical side, Helens is close to me, less than 90 minutes away. On a nice day, it’s also a relatively straight forward climb (though on a not so nice day, it can be a real beast) but with enough gain to make for good training. And it’s a mountain that can be climbed much of the year too.
But really those points are just the icing on the cake that I tell myself each time I start the drive out there. While Helens is not the biggest, badest, or even close to it, it offers an experience unlike just about any other.
Standing on top of a volcano that erupted just 37 years ago, looking out over the devastated blast zone, and then peering down into the still rather active crater is simply unreal. Seeing that as the seasons change from a rocky landscape to a winter wonderland and back is something I don’t think you can rival and I certainly can’t see myself getting tired of.
So sure, there are moments where I feel like I’ve been there, done that. But then I explore again, see that summit view from just a little different angle or venture to a new part of the Monument and its wow all over again. There’s lots else on my climbing list but 20 is just a start.
Interested in climbing Mount St. Helens? Learn more about the experience in my trail guides.