Thursday, January 2, 2014

Lee's Adventure Climbing Mt. St. Helens

View of Mt. St. Helens  Two or Three Years Later

Friday, March 19, 1976

Left Seattle,5:30 p.m. for St. Helens.  Drove to Chehalis where I stopped for coffee and pi a'la mode - which I wouldn't find on the mountain.  Then on to the parking lot above Spirit Lake.  Scanlon was waiting for me, and had been since 6:00 p.m.  He lives closer, drives faster.  Said he left early because he did not want to put chains on in the dark.  We drank hot chocolate - he had a Coleman stove in his 3/4 ton pickup with canopy - and talked for a few hours, then into our sacks.  Wind howling, snow falling.  One other car in the lot.

Climbing Party

We had planned to start climbing at 5:00 a.m., but weather was cold, blustery and mean.  Half heartedly, we started our climb at 9:00.  We needed the exercise after two gallons of hot, sweet chocolate.  By now, some other parties around, including a bus of mountaineers from Olympus who were hiking to Windy Pass to practice snow camping.

Bob and I climbed for about two hours.  I think we were climbing.  Mostly we floundered about on the windy, snowy slope.  Wind gusting to 80 knots (so a party we met headed for their car told us).  We had no reason to doubt their estimate, which, if anything was low.  Snow shooting straight at us and when it hit Bob's beard, it stuck.  When it hit my chest, it penetrated.


After struggling upward for two hours and not getting very high (how high we couldn't tell as the visibility was less than 50 feet).  When you looked up to where you thought the mountain should be, you saw nothing but wind driven snow.  We headed down.  Recognized as down because it was less work than what we had been calling up.  We drifted down on a compass bearing of north, hoping to hit the parking lot.  We missed it by 200 yards to the west.

With the snow, the wind, the blustery mean weather, missing by 200 yards could have been disastrous except we stumbled upon a ski lodge and got in out of the weather under its front porch roof.  I don't think either of us could have walked far in snow up to our waist, which it was when we meandered from the wind-packed ridge.

From the ski lodge, Bob heard the whining engine of a car working its way up the mountain road.  Looking in the direction of the sound, we could, through the driving snow, occasionally see the road.  From the road, it was no problem for two tired  lostees to hike to the parking lot.  

Headed home, disappointed (did not summit) tired, but alive, about 2:00 p.m.  Long way to drive for such a short hike.  I guess there will be days like this. 

Sunday, I drove up to Snoqualmie and put in 10 miles cross-country skiing.  Good day, overcast, but warm.  Show was heavy.  Waxless skis took some pushing.  Enjoyed the workout.  Relieved of the cold, blustery, mean residue of the St. Helens climb.

On Friday, April 30th, 1976, I left Seattle at 5:30 p.m. for a drive to St. Helens about 160 miles away.  I took my time, stopped to pick up beer in Toledo.  Arrived about 9:30.  Slept in Bob's pickup.

One View Looking Back

On Saturday, May 1, 1976 Scanlon and I started climbing at 4:45 a.m.  The alarm went off at 3:30.  We reached the top at about 12:00 noon.  We hiked around the crater, ate lunch, started down about 1:00 p.m. and reached the parking lot at 4:45 p.m.  That was a 12 hour day.  We're not very strong or fast hikers.  Could have come down much faster by sliding, but both of us walked.  We needed the exercise.  A very exhausting day.

When I left home, I had planned to drive on to Hood and climb.  Bob was not willing nor physically able.  I was willing and foolhardy.

The climb was made in clear, sunny weather, but with a very strong wind from the 8500 level to the top.  I had forgotten how steep St. Helens is.  A beautiful mountain.  One I should climb every year just 

for the physical joy of going up and coming down.

There She Blows

What Blew?