Made my annual trek up to Mt. St Helens for the 3rd year in a row. Decided to switch things up this time and carry my snowboard gear up to the top so I could ride down. Took a friend with me for their first time climbing St. Helens.
Normally I like to get a super early start so I can start climbing on firm snow, but we were moving a bit slow today and were in the trailhead ready to go at 9am. It was sunny and surprisingly warm when we set off up the trail. There were only 18 out of 500 permits claimed to climb the mountain for the day and we were the last group to start climbing.
The trail was snow covered from the very start. We made decent time as we worked out way up to Chocolate Falls, pausing on the ridge just past the falls to make some final adjustments to our gear and adjust our layers and put on micro spikes. As we started heading up the ridge line that leads to the summit we passed the first group of the day that was headed back after a successful climb.
The late start meant that the snow was a bit slushy and loose as we post holed our way up towards the summit. As we climbed higher the wind began to increase to the point where it was almost unbearable. Climbing with a full snowboard on my back meant that I was particularly susceptible to being blown over and had to brace myself for the strong gusts. We took frequent breaks, taking advantage of any snow free rock outcroppings to re-hydrate, stretch, and grab a quick snack before pushing on.
As we climbed higher out encounters with the other climbers returning for the day became more frequent. Most everyone else was skiing down, but there were a couple other snowboards and one group of people glissading.
After 6 hours we reached the ice covered summit. We had clear view in all directions- Rainier to the North, Adams to the east, Mt Hood and Jefferson to the south. It was crazy windy at the summit, but we lingered for a while as we soaked in the views. Eventually we decided that Greg would start glissading down first, and I would drop in after him on my snowboard.
The first 100 yards off the summit were a bit tough- my legs were cramping up and super sore from the climb, the ground was also icy and it took a couple of falls before I got my legs under me and loosened up. Greg and I switched the lead on the way down. Sometimes he would glissade ahead and I would follow behind as I took a meandering route along the mountain, other times I would drop in ahead of him and scout the best route for him to follow. I managed to ride down to about 4500' before I took the board off and started walking again. I might have been able to continue a bit further, but I was exhausted from route finding and didn't know if the valley below the ridge line was rideable, so it was just easier to start hiking again.
Made it back to the parking lot just after 9 hours. The last hour and a half of hiking were a pretty miserable slog- we were both exhausted, sunburned, and out of water. When we got back to the lot we were the last car left (as expected) but another group of climbers arrived shortly after. They were getting ready to camp before summiting the following day, so we discussed trail conditions and gave them some pointers before heading out.
With out main adventure done for the day, we set off back to the town of Cougar to grab some food. But a couple of miles down the road we were delayed as we were flagged down by a guy who got his civic stuck on a flooded forest road while trying to hunt mushrooms. We offered to help and winched his vehicle out. The entire vehicle was completely flooded and I am pretty confident that the engine block was likely cracked after he flooded the engine, but he declined a ride back to town and insisted on staying behind with hit wife and kids to work on the car and to try and get it running again. After getting back to Cougar we made a phone call to the guys brother and left a message to have him head out to rescue his brother, then sat down for some well deserved food before making the long drive home.