Mount Saint Helens in Late November

Mount Saint Helens in Late November

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Nov 30, 2008

Monitor Ridge, November 30, 2008

This was an official OSAT trip led by Dave. The rest of us included Matt, Peter, Pete, and myself. Since the south side of the mountain is such a long drive from the Seattle area (4 hours), we met up at the trailhead the night before and made camp in the one inch of snow on the ground. I was Flabbergasted when Peter pulled a grill out of the back of his truck and started cooking huge steaks and giant tiger prawns. I usually try to eat mostly carbs the night before a big hike but in this case I would make an exception. Increasing precipitation chased us into our tents rather early but we were planning to be walking by 6 am so no worries.
Hood SunriseMount Hood Sunrise

Cloud Breaks
It was cold when I heard my mates stirring in the adjacent tents the next morning. There’s always that reluctance to get out of my warm bag but then I thought about where I was and decided my ambition would keep me warm enough. This would be my second attempt at Monitor Ridge. The first ended prematurely when an unexpected weather front moved in on us in the early spring of 2007. We had been forced to bivouac overnight in the wet falling snow just above the tree line. The next day was just more of the same. This time the weather was supposed to be flawless. We were even able to use the shorter summer approach.

Following a tip from people coming down when we first arrived, we left our snowshoes in the car. The snow on the ground as we started out was patchy and compact on the trail but we had expected a lot more, higher up. They told us not to count on it. I was glad that I was not leading in the dark on this morning because my headlamp battery was low and it would have been difficult to discern the trail. As we were nearing the tree line, we could see the sunrise developing to the southeast. At one point we came to a clearing and had an inspiring view of Mount Hood over a cloud-filled valley. I knew the Columbia River was somewhere down there under the clouds. Hood being one of the last volcanoes in the area I haven’t climbed, I felt a sense of the challenge looking at it.
Dave and Mount AdamsDave and Mount Adams

On the RimGimpilator on the Rim
Above the trees, the Monitor Ridge route is fairly straightforward. Sorry for the bad pun. About every two or three hundred yards the top of the ridge is marked with a wooden post. We followed these up scrambling over the loose talus-sized volcanic rocks. At times the ridge would level out onto a small terrace and here we would encounter more patches of snow mixed with sand and mud. There were only a few spots steep enough to warrant using my hands and at no point in the day did I use the axe I was carrying. The view of Mount Adams to the East was especially encouraging as we worked our way upward. I recorded the route with my GPS as a kmz file. It is available for download and especially interesting if viewed in Google Earth.

It was nearly eleven when we reached the crater rim. There were a couple small groups already on the rim and a couple groups just behind us. I gazed down at the lava dome and watched the steam billowing off a couple hot spots. I imagined the fear of the poor stupid snowmobiler who had plunged over the edge into the crater back in April. (Read The Story Here). It’s truly a wonder that he survived. Then I noticed that the view of Spirit Lake, Rainier, and Mount Adams all in one eyeful was very good. Many times I had imagined myself standing here looking down into what had once been the heart of a mountain. It seems this kind of wishful thinking is usually enough draw to eventually take me to any summit I desire.
Adams from HelensThe Rim Top

There was a woman in one of the other groups who had done this hike many times before and she said that she had never seen the weather conditions this favorable. There was literally no wind and even the air temperature was mild. Not bad for the last day before December. The trek down was uneventful, but the traffic going back to Seattle at the end of Thanksgiving weekend is another story.

Crater Rim Panorama

The view from the crater rim of Mount Saint Helens
Full Size Image / Voting


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Viewing: 1-12 of 12
vancouver islander

vancouver islander - Dec 9, 2008 1:49 pm - Voted 10/10

Nice one

Nice report Adam. Excellent pics as always - particularly the pano of course.

Did you go right to the highpoint? It's the one in this shot and also above and to the left of your pal in your pano. We were there in June this year and the climbing ranger strongly discouraged it. Dangerous cornices. I suppose they're all a bit over-sensitive after the daft snowmobiler incident - who was there illegally anyway.




gimpilator - Dec 9, 2008 1:59 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Nice one


Thanks for looking and nice compliments. It means more coming from a panorama expert like you. Unfortunately I was the only one in my group that wanted to go to the actual summit. When they saw that we would have to drop down along the rim before coming up again just for an extra 100 feet of elevation they decided against it. I was not disappointed with the view from where we were, although I usually like to go to the highest point. I'll probably go back some day to tag the high point.


Tomek Lodowy

Tomek Lodowy - Dec 9, 2008 2:17 pm - Voted 10/10

Well done !

I really enjoy the story and pictures.




gimpilator - Dec 9, 2008 2:27 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Well done !

Thank you Tomek!


Dean - Dec 9, 2008 3:03 pm - Voted 10/10

Nicely written

Enjoyed the commentary and your nice pics. The pano is excellent.


gimpilator - Dec 9, 2008 7:45 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Nicely written

Thanks Dean!


Deltaoperator17 - Dec 9, 2008 5:49 pm - Voted 10/10

Nice Job

I love this Mountain, it was my only real mountaineering expreince prior to 2008. I need to go back now that the dust and ash has all settled. (circa July-Sepember 1980)

Nice job on the report. I really enjoyed reading it and the pano was awesome!




gimpilator - Dec 9, 2008 7:48 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Nice Job

Thanks! When the mountain dries out and is free of snow, it's still recommended that you carry an N95 rated dust-mask. The ground was damp when we were there but I guess the dust can still be a serious problem if the wind picks up. Cheers! Adam


lcarreau - Dec 11, 2008 2:26 pm - Voted 10/10

Adam, I have another question ...

What about rockfall? As the day progressed, did you see increased
rockfall (inside the crater) with the warming of temperatures???

I climbed Adams in 1983, and I experienced strong winds and whiteout conditions. I had to put goggles over my eyes to see.

I can just imagine what a trip to St. Helen's crater rim would be
like if the north winds suddenly came up. Cheers from LARRY!


gimpilator - Dec 11, 2008 8:20 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Adam, I have another question ...

I couldn't see any of the rocks that were falling inside the crater but I heard them fairly often. We stayed on top of the rim for about a half hour and during that time we heard rock fall inside about every four or five minutes. During my first attempt on Saint Helens we were caught in a snow storm whiteout. I wasn't worried about that happening again but in the afternoon as the ground dried out I could see that any increase in wind would make for very dusty conditions. We carried N95 dust masks just in case but didn't end up using them.
Cheers, Adam!


TJ311 - Dec 11, 2008 3:40 pm - Voted 10/10

Nice Report

I love your pictures. Thank you for sharing.


gimpilator - Dec 11, 2008 8:22 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Nice Report

Thank you for your kindness. I love posting photos and reports and seeing what summits others have achieved as well.

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