My first mountain summit! Well, of course I have climbed smaller “mountains”, but nothing like this. I have done very little hiking on Mount Saint Helens, though it is only a couple hours away. The original purpose of this trip was to glissade, ie. sitting on your ass and sliding down a snow covered mountain. It turned into the added benefit of summiting a volcano.
This hike was the hardest thing I believe I’ve ever done. We started a little late, about 9am. We also started a little earlier in the season, as most people will do this during May, when some of the lower snow has melted. Right from the start, we were in snow. I had on spikes and my trusty trekking poles. It was very, very slow going. As I got closer to the top, it seemed further away. The snow was also soft at this point in the day and every step I took, I sunk a few inches. My climbing partner was not so lucky, as he kept falling through to his knees.
There were so many times that I wanted to throw in the towel. My legs felt fine, but the elevation was definitely making me feel exhausted. I made sure to drink a ton of water and we stopped for snacks fairly often. I just kept telling myself that “I have to reach the top. I came all the way here and it is so close, you must reach the top!” The closer I got, my strides were small and I would only take a few steps and stop to breathe. I started to count my steps and set goals to reach before I would allow myself to stop. It was starting to get late in the day and I wanted to make sure we didn’t walk to the car in the dark (don’t worry, we both had our headlamps).
Six hours after we began, we reached the summit, 8,300 feet!
We climbed about 5,000 feet from the trail head. After a day of being fairly comfortable, warm and dry, I started freezing at the summit. Though it was clear blue skies and the sun was shining down, the wind was whipping through me. The interior of the volcano was so amazing. There was quite the snow drift, so I could not get a better picture of the interior. There was no snow and a steady stream of smoke emitting from the center. The rocks lining the rim were beautiful! I could see Mt. Rainer, Adams and Hood…four out of my five mountains that I usually see during hikes. (Why were you hiding Jefferson?)
After taking in the views, we quickly put on our rain pants, slammed a summit beer, and made our way down to where we could slide. It was terrifying at first, but was super fun! It was a little bit of a lower ab workout too, as you DO NOT want to drop your feet down. This could result in broken/twisted/painful ankles or knees. Use your poles or axe for slowing down people!
After sliding about halfway down, we had to start our hike back. At this time, it was about 5pm and the snow was very soft. We quickly descended, while post holing and made it back to the car about 7pm.
I made sure to put on sunblock, even on the insides of my nostrils (I’ve heard snowboarder stories). However, the chapstick I had did not serve me well and my lips proceeded to blister over the next couple of days. It took weeks to heal. And in true body-healing fashion…things look a lot worse as they get better. If you have never burned your lips…DON’T! Seriously, get the highest spf chapstick you can find.