Contact


Santiam Alpine Club

 Activities  Mountain Climbing Instruction 

Mount Saint Helens Climb

May 31, 2013

Coordinator: Fritz Capell

Summit Altitude: 8200 feet
Elevation Gain: 5500 feet
Round-trip Distance: 10.6 miles
Excursion Time: 12 hours (car-to-car)
Carpool ratio: 2.0 (people/cars)

Photo Gallery

As we listened to the rain pouring down on our tents at Marble Mountain all mountain all night, it wasn't looking like a very promising climb day. Yeah, it had been raining for days, but the experts said it was supposed to break any minute... luckily, that minute came right around 5:30am, as we were getting ourselves up and assembling our packs.

We left the trailhead at 6:35, as a group of 10 - pretty good crowd for a Friday! We were myself; 2013 climb school students Carrie and Trevor; 2012 studens Rob, Tyler, Noelle, George, and Adrian; 2011 student Lisa, and her guest Joel.

The clouds hung around for most of the morning, but it was perfect weather for climbing: cool but not cold, and a breeze but not a gale. Visibility was pretty limited for much of it, but not so much that it was a threat to navigation on that route.

Tyler and Noelle broke from the group at Chocolate Falls. They had both just come off from being sick, Noelle was still wheezing and coughing, and they decided they would go as far as they could slowly, but didn't want to hold the team back.

On the lower part of the mountain, we could choose our terrain. The ridges were generally dry, but there was still a lot of snow around. We alternated some, being that whichever surface you're not walking on always seems to look easier, but mostly took the snow, staying out of the larger gullies due to any avalanche potential.

At about 5000ft, Adrian realized that his GPS had made a break for freedom somewhere behind on the trail, and leaving his pack, went back to find it. Rob stayed with his pack, and the rest of us continued up slowly, so that they could catch up. Fortunately, Adrian found his GPS only 200ft or so below, sitting calmly beside his tracks in the snow, diligently observing itself going nowhere. They were able to catch up before too long, and we all united again at 'Tombstone Rest Area', the easily-identifiable antenna at about 5600 feet.

At that point we split. Lisa and Joel decided they would be turning back soon (I think Joel was having some trouble), so they broke from the group. Most of us didn't care about the 'real summit' (being only a few feet above our destination on the crater rim, and a lot more trouble to attain at this time of year), but George was determined to get there, and Trevor accompanied him, so they split out to the west. Myself, Carrie, Rob, and Adrian continued up the normal route.

(Also at that point, I made a stash, and since I had brought quite a bit of extra water for the team, consolidated myself down to one liter for the summit, which I then proceeded to also stash, leaving me with none to carry! I was able to bum a few sips off my teammates, and melt whatever I could for the rest of the climb.)

Conditions had still been foggy up until that point, with a few breaks, but descending climbers were telling us it was beautiful up above, so we were hoping the conditions would hold, and we'd get some views. Things started to clear out about 6000 feet, we climbed above the clouds, and indeed we had blue skies and infinite visibility. Unfortunately the sun exposure brought with it some pretty ugly walking conditions; for 1000 feet or so, we were fighting to keep our footing and post-holing every couple of steps. Fortunately there was solid snow a couple of feet down, so it wasn't unworkable, just difficult. Snowshoes would have been nice - but we could fight our way through it. Just above 7000 ft, the snow got solid again, much to our relief.

Unfortunately the post-holing was hard on Adrian, who had already climbed a few hundred feet extra due to his GPS incident, and was having some trouble with leg cramps. We tried all the remedies we could think of, but it was still varying between annoying and excruciating, and making it really difficult for him. Finally at about 7200 feet he decided he couldn't continue.

Thus three of us - Rob, Carrie, and myself - reached the crater rim at about 2:30pm. We could see little ants George and Trevor on the true summit out the west; they arrived there just a couple of minutes earlier, at about 2:15pm. We sat and lunched far away from the deadly cornices, and about 15 minutes later who should come over the horizon, but Adrian! I guess he just couldn't give it up, and every time he tried, after a few minutes, he would just start walking again. Good strategy, as it turns out!

We had a good half hour to enjoy the summit under excellent conditions, and reconfigured for the glissading descent.

The glissading was perfect. The snow was a little sloppy, but that was good, because it kept us from going too terribly fast, and from hitting any hard ice. The rocks were just starting to peek up through the snow on some parts of the route, but not so much that they got in the way - for the most part, the chutes swooped right around them. It was one of the best glissading descents I've had on that route, and we were able to make about 80% of the descent on our butts. Beautiful!

One last hour of hiking out, and we were enjoying a cold beer in the parking lot (thanks Carrie!) at about 6:30pm.

Congratulations everyone! I believe it was the first time to the top of that mountain for Adrian, Trevor, and Rob. The 2013 students Carrie and Trevor did great, and will be valuable additions to any club climb. Everybody said they didn't realize how tough that climb would be, given its easy repuation from the summer route, but it is a respectable climb on the winter route. Even those that had to turn back did really well, and I hope everyone had a good time!

- Fritz


Pre-Event Forum
[View Post-Event Forum]

Adrian says:
Hey Fritz. I gues I remember my password. Lol. Looking forward to getting xout again.Adrian


Tyler asks:
Hi Fritz, wanted to do the half climb too but its a bad time. Both Noelle and i would like to join you on this, I'll get her to log in and sign up. Looking forward to it, Thanks!


Fritz (leader) says:
I'm going to buy the tickets on Wednesday 5/15. So if you're tentative, it would be a good time to resolve that and get in on the group purchase. Tickets may sell out if you delay. If you're signed up as of Wednesday, you're in for $22 whether you go or not. Make sense? Tyler, I'm assuming you are two.


Noelle says:
Looking forward to this climb !!! Hoping for clear skies and a perfect day!!!! See ya soon!!


Fritz (leader) asks:
Has anybody done this route before?

George answers:
I've made four trips, gotten as high as the crater rim, but never made the summit.

Fritz (leader) answers:
On the winter route? Usually the crater rim is the goal; there is pretty much no chance of making it to the true summit this time of year.

George answers:
I mean, I've been reading trip reports on Peakbagger from people summitting since January. Some are coming at it from directly below, a couple traversed below the rim.

Fritz (leader) answers:
Oh it can be done, but we're not planning to do it. Too difficult and dangerous this time of year. Do that in summer, when it's easy.

Tyler answers:
Noelle and I did this last year it was awesome. There was stll quite a bit of snow on the ground in June and we put the spikes on around 5000' and used the pretty much the rest of the way, not to mention we encountered EVERY kind of weather on our way up. We made it to the rim stood for about 30 seconds and bailed. As soon as we turned around the weather cleared which made for a pretty good hike down.

Fritz (leader) answers:
Tyler, were you on the winter route (from Marble Mountain sno-park)?

Tyler answers:
Yep!


Fritz (leader) says:
Eight tickets secured: Me, Adrian, Trevor, Rob, Tyler, Noelle, George, Nathan. There are still tickets available on that day (as of now) if anybody else wants to join.

Adrian answers:
Thanks Fritz. Looking forward to it.


Carrie asks:
Hey Fritz can I join? Looks like lots of permits still available?

Fritz (leader) answers:
Yep, at present looks like there are 51 available. Go ahead and buy your own here.


Carrie says:
So, does anyone want to carpool? I'm in SE PDX, happy to drive my Volvo wagon. There is no campground at the sno-park, right? What time do you want to get hiking Friday morning, Fritz? Oh, I am so excited! Looking forward to getting out again.

Fritz (leader) answers:
I'll carpool with you, if you're camping - seems that SE is approximately in the right direction, if I could leave my truck at your place.

Fritz (leader) answers:
There isn't "campground" per se, but we can camp around the sno-park. See section above for departure (I don't put it in the forum because it is not public information).


Fritz (leader) says:
Opened for verifying! Please come by and check your contact data, and push the button to let me know that you're still involved and paying attention!

Fritz (leader) answers:
Trevor and Nathan, you awake out there?

Nathan answers:
Sorry Fritz, I'm in!

Trevor answers:
Me too!

Fritz (leader) answers:
Trevor, there's a form up above on this page for your emergency info and such... please fill that in...


Fritz (leader) says:
Folks, please take a look over the gear list and make sure you have all that stuff (note the link that provides a printable or online-usable gear list). Please regard the "Required" equipment as mandatory; if there's anything you don't have, let me know, we can probably find you something.


Joel asks:
Hey Fritz, I don't have an ice axe. Would you possibly have a spare I could barrow?

Fritz (leader) answers:
I'll have to look around; I seem to have misplaced one of mine. You can rent them at REI for like $5. Anybody else have a spare?

Fritz (leader) answers:
Found it, you're covered.


Fritz (leader) asks:
So, when is everybody going up, and with whom? Who will be camping? Anybody want to meet us at 6pm in SE Portland? Anybody need a carpool?

Nathan answers:
I'd like to carpool up there to camp and could meet at 6pm in SE Portland. Where should we meet?

Adrian answers:
Hi all. Looks like I will be coming up on Friday morning. I plan on leaving se Portland around 4:30am. If anyone wants to carpool I have couple of seats open in my Subaru. I am in 50th anx Hawthorne area. Also Fritz is it 25 for the permi

Lisa answers:
Planning on camping, Joel and I will carpool. We are happy to meet up in Portland or Marble Mountain.

Carrie answers:
Nathan you can ride with me again! [address redacted] in Woodstock. You can leave your truck here if you like--

Nathan answers:
Sweet! I'll see you there tomorrow evening. Also, I've got a car camping stove if anyone wants to use it.

Fritz (leader) answers:
Rob and George, are you coming up Friday morning? Could ride up with Adrian. Trevor, that's also an option for you if you'd rather not camp.

George answers:
I'll be arriving late tonight. I'm coming from Walla Walla, so low likelihood of a carpool.


Tyler says:
Noelle and I are camping but not sure what time we'll be able to get out of town.


Fritz (leader) says:
Everybody, please bring $22 per permit. You'll also need a dust mask, I'll bring a box of them, if you want to keep yours it's $3, or you can just give it back. You won't use it, it's just something that you're required to carry in case of ash.


Fritz (leader) says:
Also if anyone doesn't have anything to glissade with, let me know, I'll bring you a plastic sheet.

Carrie answers:
Yes, please, thanks Fritz!

Lisa answers:
Bring Joel one please, I still have mine from last time!

George answers:
A sheet for me would be much appreciated, thanks!


Trevor asks:
Is there still carpooling room? I live in NE but I can get anywhere in Portland.

Robbie answers:
I plan to leave early Friday morning so I'll try and catch a ride with Adrian from his place or I can drive.

Fritz (leader) answers:
Trevor, you could join us at Carrie's at 6pm. Address above. Please let us know whether to expect you.

Carrie answers:
Yes, Trevor, please let us know. If you are coming I will likely use my car-top carrier and will have to put on the railings, etc.

Adrian answers:
There is also room in my car if anyone else wants to leave Friday morning. So far it's just Rob and i.

Nathan answers:
It looks like I'm not gonna be able to leave tonight, and I would like to get in on that morning carpool. Adrian, you still got room?

Adrian answers:
Nathan, I still have room. I am at [address redacted]. I think Rob will be at my place around 4:15. Planning on leaving no later than 4:30am.

Nathan answers:
Awesome! I'll see you guys at 4:15. Thanks!

Fritz (leader) answers:
That leaves you nearly no margin. Google says 1:48 to Marble Mountain, giving you 12 minutes before we hit the trail, assuming everything goes swimmingly... if you can back that up a bit, it would be advisable...

Fritz (leader) answers:
(ok, you did say no later than 4:30, so... yeah, definitely no later than that...)

Adrian answers:
I would be ok with leaving at 4:15 or even 4. Let me know guys. Definitely don't want to be late.

Nathan answers:
How about shoot to leave at 4. That way we have time to get gear together at the trailhead.

Trevor answers:
Carrie I would like to carpool with you. Is there room to park my car?

Carrie answers:
Yes there's plenty of street parking.

Robbie answers:
I'm fine with leaving at 4. Will meet at Adrian's.

Adrian answers:
Sounds good. See you guys then

Nathan answers:
Hey Adrian, I've had some additional work come up unexpectedly and won't be able to make it tomorrow morning. Have fun, and I'll see you on another trip!

Adrian answers:
Sorry Nathan. Next time.


This forum is closed at this time.

Santiam Alpine Club

Banquet

E-mail group

GPS routes

Luau

Membership application

Member info update

Mountain climbing sites

Rope locker

Site map

Trip reports

Club officers

Education

Mountain climbing school

Rock climbing at Smith Rock

Glacier travel and crevasse rescue

Ice climbing

Mountain Climbing School Manual

Mountain climbing terms

Videos