After a late winter, Spring has most certainly rolled into the Pacific Northwest and things look great! Actually, it may be a little too nice out there, at least for those of us who like alpine climbs as the recent warm temps have the snow melting down fast so get to the mountains now. But for now there’s still snow up high and great conditions for adventures.
(For more on climbing Mount St Helens in Winter & Spring, see my trail guide.)
Speaking of adventures, last weekend I had the chance to head on up to Helens for a couple days of climbing. As of 5/12/2018, the snow line was about a mile and a half into the trail and not consistent until above Chocolate Falls — a week of warming since then and I bet it’s even further up now. Though once you hit snow, things look good! I’m talking step-like bootpath, a fairly compact base (goodbye snowshoes), and great snow to the summit (never had to put on the crampons though a couple degree temp drop and you’ll need them again.) The ridges are melting out so some climber’s opted for a rocky route almost all the way to the GPS – Monitoring Station but that’s not required.
All in all, it’s stunning up there with the mix of snow and rock, and was even warm enough to enjoy an hour on the top. That said, a big warning to anyone heading on up: the cornice the Crater Rim is no joke right now, stay way back, even further than you think. You can however snag an epic view from a snow free spot by walking a few minutes towards climber’s right where the rim has melted out — all the shots of Rainier, Spirit Lake and the Rim that you see here come from that viewpoint (it’s right below the bottom of the photo above.)
Also, if you’re planning on the sliding back down, pay attention — not only were several glissade shoots running towards the summer route (climber’s left of the Worm Flows route) but rocks were coming through some of the more established trenches. As always, look before you slide 😀
So there you have it: a taste of my adventure! I’ve been lucky to climb Helens several times and it really is great out there now with some of the best views I’ve seen. So, if you can make a visit, make a 5,600′ climb and get a permit, go out and enjoy.
Warning: Alpine mountain climbing is inherently dangerous, even Mt. St. Helens and even on a nice day. Conditions change, avalanches happen, people fall, there’s a cornice, etc! Know the route, check the forecast, have proper climbing gear (bring those crampons & the axe, you may need it), layers, plenty of food, water and the rest of the essentials. Have fun but be prepared!