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Mount St. Helens, WA | March 2014

K7ATN's picture
Summit: 
W7W/LC-001
Cellular Provider: 
N/A

A very long day to get ten points - the usual for the Northwest. Here in Oregon and Washington, we can't do several drive up ten pointers in one day - it might take 12 hours of hiking just to get to one ten-point summit and back down again.

We left Portland at 2:30am to drive to the trailhead at Marble Mountain Sno-Park off Road 83 a bit past Cougar, WA. Besides the unusually great weather that was predicted for this day, permits for Mt. Saint Helens are free and unlimited until March 31 - we stopped at the Lone Fir Inn to register. You can also register at the Sno-Park. Permits in the height of summer permits are expensive and sold out months in advance so free and no limits was very attractive. See http://mshinstitute.org/index.php/climbing/

We arrived at the trailhead a bit after 4am and assembled our packs by headlight. We opted not to take skis as the trail started without snow - when climbing in May 2012 we had continuous snow from the summit to the parking lot. It has been a dry year all across the west.

Marble Mountain is the winter approach - Climber's Bivy is higher and a shorter climb but that road is closed in the winter. From Marble Mountain Sno-Park the trail winds through the woods to timberline for a bit over two miles. It crosses a creek at Chocolate Falls and from here on it was nearly continuous snow for the remaining three miles to the summit. 

The temperature was around freezing and much of the snowpack on the climb was firm to the point of solid - even with crampons we made only the smallest marks and sometimes kicking steps was really just digging in front points.

About a quarter mile from where most folks think they "summit" we turned to climber's left and crossed a ridge to approach the true summit for the activation. Here the icy patches were extensive and the going was slow - that last half mile took almost an hour to cover.

Once in the AZ we carved out a platform to sit and set up. About 18:59 my 2m HT came to life with a call from Dave-N7LKL. He seemed a bit anxious to talk with me, but my proposed QRV time was 19:00 and I needed just another minute to set up. That we made our activation time that close to proposed QRV after 7.5 hours of climbing was pretty much miraculous.

On 2m FM I worked a number of folks from the Pacific Northwest VHF Society that were looking out for me, and then moved to 20m CW for 16 chasers from across the country. When switching the KD1JV MTR from 20m to 40m no RF output was observed - apparently the first bunch of QSO on 20m was too much for the BS170 final and they were toasted. We assembled our gear and headed down.

We choose a slightly different route for the down climb so that crossing the icy patches would be a bit easier. However, the hard layer underneath was all over the mountain and we both slipped and fell several times later on when the snowpack was particularly thin over the ice. We recovered our stashed snowshoes and used them to make better time on the uneven surface. We were back to the car a bit after 5pm - about 13 hours total round trip for the 5.5 miles and 5800 feet. See http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/mount-saint-helens-worm-flow-route for more climb information and the activation report for the climb two years earlier here: http://www.pnwsota.org/blog/k7atn/2012-may-14/mount-st-helens-wa-may-2012 

We did not have photos as the camera failed. Thanks to the kindness of Remi and Andréanne from Quebec we have some summit photos below - thanks to fellow climbers!

Pictures: 
Photo credit: Remi and Andréanne from Quebec
Photo credit: Remi and Andréanne from Quebec
SOTA Flag thanks for Grover-KG7O!