What to do?
The weather forcast was looking abnormally good for what had turned into an early wet fall in the Northwest. Desispsu was itching to take a trip, and I was in complete agreement. While throwing ideas around, a thought came to me...Mt Saint Helens! I took a look at the permit situation, and saw that while we would not be alone, there were plenty of passes left for the weekend. We kept an eye on the forcast, and the number of permits, and by Thursday it was clear that the forcast was going to hold. I snapped up two passes (looked like there would be 60 of us on the mountain) and the plan was set. We would head out on Friday, spend the night closer to the mountain, and get a reasonable start on Sat.
Up up and away
Treeline 5300 feet Down Monitor Ridge
After a good night's sleep, we headed to Jacks, and picked up our passes. We got off to an exciting start, almost hitting an elk on the road up to the trailhead. We found the parking lot already quite full, not surprising given the permit situation. The next question was should we take the snowshoes? The ridge looked pretty clear of snow from our vantage, so we left them in the car. It was a cool start at 3700' with the temp sitting right around 40 degrees F. We bundled up and started the two mile approach to treeline at around 9am. We didn't set any speed records, but we hit treeline at 4800' at 10am after passing through sporatic snow in the thick forest. We took a quick break and started eyeing the route up the ridge proper. As other pages have mentioned, there are large wooden posts that lead the way up the ridge, so route finding was a breeze.
After picking our way up the pumice to the top of the ridge we worked our way up a bit before droping into snow on the west side of Monitor ridge.
We steadily worked our way up the snow, until rocks at the top of the gulch started to make us nervous, so we regained the ridge for a bit, and then dropped onto the east side, where we had our first real postholing fun.
Climbers decending snow Looking down the ridge
We climbed the snow back onto the ridge and then it was straight up snow and the occasional pumice scramble to 6800' where we passed the ridge's namesake Monitor.
Monitor on Monitor Ridge
We slogged on the last remaining vertical and finally reached the crater rim around 2pm. The views were spectacular. It was a bit hazy, but the view is breathtaking.
Mt Saint Helens Crater
Summit Shot West Wall Forming Glaciers Adams in the distance
Only way is down
After a celebatory hershey's bar, we snapped some pictures and decided to start down. Snow conditions were good for glissading, so we were off. Had a blast sliding down, and made good time.
Glissade tracks Me in action
As we lost elevation we started really postholing pretty baddly, soaking my boots.
But we made good time, and found ourselves back at the car before too long. Did run into a climber that had taken a fall and hurt his knee, and then later pulled a good sized boulder down over himself. I gave him some advil, and wished him better luck. He and his partner were moving slowly but he was a tough dude, and was coming down the last ridge as we left the treeline.
We were tired, but drove back to Seattle, stopping in Olympia for some Taco Bell.
A great October day (mid 60s!) at a fantastic location, and great company!
5 hours up, 2.75 hours down. 10 miles round trip, 4,500' elevation gain.
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