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Mount St. Helens, WA | May-2012

K7ATN's picture
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First off - Chasers Rock! There was no way to self-spot and Phil - NS7P, found me and moved with me to 14.064-cw to get things started. And then, long after our QSO was done, Rich - N4EX, noted my QSY to 14.309-ssb and spotted me there. The climb of Mount St. Helens is different depending on the season - currently there is snow from trailhead to summit while late summer will find you on scree and pumice and rock the entire way. Myself, I prefer the great white stairmaster (snow), because I ski.

Net elevation gain for Swift Creek/Monitor Ridge is nearly 5700 feet over 5.5 miles. If Climber's Bivy is open (not this time of year) the gain is about 5200 feet. We spent about seven hours climbing. We started at the Marble Mountain trailhead at 2700 feet and although the snow was contiguous to the summit in a few weeks there will be plenty of bare patches in the woods and beyond. We started at 4am to summit midday and have the best ski conditions - it also afforded us the chanced to walk on firm snow most of the way. Even with the early start, post holing is an issue on this early season snowpack - it's not yet consolidated. Still, by the afternoon anyone without snowshoes or skis was up to their knees (minimum) on nearly every step.

The summit of St. Helens is at 8365 feet and is about a quarter mile west of where the Monitor Ridge trail leaves most climbers at 8250 feet. There is a saddle (down to 8150 feet) between that 'false' summit and the true summit. We traversed diagonally in that direction starting about 7600 feet. That was just above a substantial avalanche - although only about one foot deep it was 300 yards wide - yikes! Whenever there is snow there are cornices on the summit ridges of St. Helens - the one on the summit block looked like it was overhung nearly 20 feet. Remember that cornice breaks can occur far behind the overhang.

We stayed far from the edge (missing a view of the crater) and set up just over 8300 feet on the summit block. We strapped a 15 foot bream pole to a ski jammed in the snow and ran a half wave to a SOTA Tuner and then to a FT-817. Most all the signals were great - QSB was not really a problem and on many of the QSO we could have had a leisurely rag chew without missing a word. (I guess it helps to have your antenna a mile and a half high.) The summit was awesome - fantastic views south, not a breath of wind, sunny and warm. Except for the intense sun, looking forward to the ski down, and having a craving for a strawberry shake, I could have been up there another hour or two. The ski down was terrific - worth carrying the skis up (and let me tell you I was not very happy about having those on my back for most of the climb). 

On the trail - Mount St. Helens from about 5500 feet
Usual climbers summit - Mount St. Helens - Mt. Adams behind