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Mount Saint Helens

With only two in the party (Fritz unable to go), Christian and I arrived at the bivouac at 9 pm Thursday evening and settle down for an early night. No sooner had we done that than the rain started, raining steadily all night - an ominous sign!

We left early on Friday in a light rain in all of our waterproof gear. The trail was a mixture of 20% packed snow and 80% clear, wet trail. Once we reached the snowline, we found that it was reasonably packed, yet soft enough to be able to climb easily. The trail is well marked with posts, although as we proceeded the visibility decreased rapidly.

By the time we got to the tripod (weather station), we had walked up a dirt and boulder ridge and the wind had picked up. From there we continued on, partly on snow and partly on rock and scree. The wind increased to such a degree as we reached the third false summit that we felt like yacht sails and it was very difficult to keep balanced. The rain also increased, driving horizontally with the wind constant at probably about 50 mph. Our boots became saturated and even any exposed area filled with water rapidly and we both soon became pretty soaked.

We ran across some Irish hikers who wanted to make the summit and we walked up with them for another half hour. The white out conditions near the top were severe to the point where Christian and I made an executive decision to turn back, although we probably only had about 20 minutes left, but the wind speed was increasing the further up we went. We figured that if we got on top there would be nothing to see because the visibility was probably 20 yards.

The snow going down was perfect for glissading so it made no difference that we soaked from head to foot so we enjoyed the descent at least. Many of the other climbers we met had decided to turn back because of the conditions. Christian, Fritz and I climbed it last year and had beautiful conditions, so at least that was some consolation - great climb, worth another try!

Tim Butler

Santiam Alpine Club


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