St. Helens - Dog's head
View of St. Helens from east on day of climb. Shoestring Glacier is below notch in middle. The goal was to reach Dog's head with is the 3rd "point" to right of the notch.
95% of climbers typically take the Monitor Ridge route from the south side. This climb begins lower and takes longer to get in.
A week earlier, I hiked the Ape Canyon trail on the east side of St. Helens. From Pumice Plains, I looked up at the rim of St. Helens. It seemed as simple as pie, to climb the sandy, rocky slopes from there to the crater's rim. I could see no serious obstacles that might stop me.
I am 63 years old and lacking speed and strength, but I can make up for it with my endurance. I can go on and on - if I don't push myself too hard.
Although it was later in the summer and daylight hours were shorter, I gave it a try... starting from the Ape Canyon trailhead at 8:30 and HOPE to complete it before dark.
Ape Canyon trailhead. Most of lower trail is forested with limited views.
After two hours and 4.2 miles of easy uphill trail, I reached the Loowit Junction. I diverged off-trail along the low scrub ridge to the left.
I was a easy walk... just walk off trail - avoiding the brush.
Now the trial gets harder, less scrub, snow patches start to appear. The direct route up, had a steep ravine in front of the reddish area... so I went left.
It's pretty apparent there are several pathways to the top... just pick the route you like... red dots mark my eventual route.
At about 5,000 feet the going gets tough. With no crampons, I set my route to climb over the lava outswelling "pancake" to right.
Onward, onward... trying to find path of optimal footing...
At 6,000 ft, my approach to the "pancake". It did look kinda steep... just have to find out.
Now things are getting a tad steep!
6,280ft - At the foot of the "pancake".
6,685ft - Over the pancake... and looking up at the next pancake.
7,550-ft - above the 2nd "pancake", things are getting hard! Still more assorted hills high up.
7,880ft - I entered a small glacier valley found some much-needed water.
7,960 - Once over the lip of this glacier valley, not much stands in my way... but boy! I am I so weak! So close, yet so far. 400 more freakin ft seems SOOO impossible! Should I turn back? Time for a long break!
Camera telescoping lens got clogged with grit and started getting balky. Sometimes shutter didn't open. Obviously the lens got smeared. Dog's Head is the 8,180ft pt in extreme upper left corner.
8150 ft - OMG! I made it! Awesome views!
The entire crater is smoking and steaming away!
I sat it out for a long time, just recovering my energy and throughly enjoying every minute of my view!
I turned north, followed the ridge line, staying clear of the rim. Footsteps of previous climbers can be seen ahead of me.
The walk down was quite easy... a faint path can be seen ahead.
The view down from the crater rim are quite spectacular!
Another spectacular view of red rock area... looking north.
Now... for the long slip-n-slide trip downward! There were some short danger areas that took good care to descend over steep rocks. I admit I did fall a couple of times and skinned my shin.
Eventually the route got safer, some gullies to cross as I hurry toward Pumice plains in the center.
Windy Pass below me. Goats were seen far to left... but quickly moved away once they spotted me.
Almost to the "plains" below. The trail is visible at bottom.
Once on the trail, it's an easy hike across Pumice Plains. I had to
keep moving to make it out before dark.
A Google Earth picture with my GPS route imposed on the image.
Entire trip: 15 miles, gain+loss 6,800 ft. Gain: 5,900 ft. Low 2,900 ft, high pt 8180 ft. Total times: 11.5 hours.
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