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Mount Saint Helens Rim
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mini location map2018-07-28
30 by photographer avatarchumley
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Mount Saint Helens RimVolcano, WA
Volcano, WA
Hiking9.55 Miles 4,747 AEG
Hiking9.55 Miles   6 Hrs   52 Mns   1.74 mph
4,747 ft AEG   1 Hour   23 Mns Break
1st trip
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On February 1, while the rest of Arizona was paying thousands of dollars to get permits for Havasupai, I was among those Instagram Fame Seekers who was crashing the servers of the MSH Institute, trying to get one of the 100 permits available each day to visit the rim of the MSH volcanic crater. At $22 it's a reasonable fee, and the permit certainly makes it a more enjoyable experience by limiting the number of people you encounter (endure?) during the hike. Coconino should do the same on Humphreys. :M2C:

So, permits in hand, I headed to PDX for a weekend with friends, and a Saturday MSH summit as the highlight. It's less than 2 hours to the trailhead, so we didn't even get up early on Saturday before making the drive. The weather was record warm in the city, but on the mountain, it was nearly perfect. A light breeze accompanied sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s. The only downer was that visibility was pretty crappy and a layer of brown haze obscured many distant views.

Once we hit the trail, the lower 2 miles went by in a flash. We encountered a ranger who checked our permits before heading out of the trees and beginning the real ascent. As others have written, it's basically the same as Humphreys from the saddle to the summit. Only it lasts a little bit longer, and gets a little bit steeper. And then the final 1,500 feet turns into more of an ashy, gravelly, sandy, mess. You should try to make switchbacks on the climb up ... there have been many who have done it before. But the descenders run and slide straight down, making it appear that the best route is straight up. Save those paths for the way down, and make the climb a bit easier by switching back. :M2C:

Cresting the rim is one of the most unique hiking sights I've ever encountered. Truly impressive. So many colors and textures. The lava dome in the middle of the crater was smoking from a few different spots, and as we sat on the rim and enjoyed a snack, it became eerily apparent that this mountain is ever-changing. There was a constant barrage of rock slides echoing into the crater. Of course, the ash is loose, but it seems that even the solid rock that remains isn't really attached to the mountain. It certainly made me wonder about how close to the edge to wander!

Krista and Steve stayed near where the route reached the rim, while I had to take the opportunity to run over to the high point. There's a surprisingly deep saddle along the rim that you have to drop into and climb back up. Probably close to 300 feet. I wasn't really prepared for that, but it only took a few minutes.

Back with the others, we packed up and began the descent. The first 1,500 feet in the loose gravel and ash goes very quick as you can basically step and slide the whole way. Once the terrain turns into boulders, travel slows significantly until back on the Ptarmigan trail below tree line.

At the trailhead, we enjoyed leftover mac n cheese and a beverage before driving home to the heat. PDX is on a record spell of days over 90, and Sunday hit 98. In a city with little A/C, that's a bit rough, and we spent the better part of the next day floating in the Willamette with much of the rest of the local population!

If I lived here, I'd probably do this one a couple of times a year. I'd definitely like to go back and try a winter ascent sometime. That would be even more fun! :)
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