Yesterday we had the amazing opportunity to hike up the south side of Mt. St. Helens for the first time. It's a hike we've heard about from other people for years. It has the reputation of being really hard, but then it has a view at the top like no other hike you can do. Christina signed us up this year a bit late in the season, and September 3rd was the date we got. You have to pay for a permit before you climb, so once we were signed up, we were committed. It was kind of scary to realize we were actually going to do it this year. We did several prep-hikes to try to get ourselves ready, but I was still a little uncertain of how I would do.
We got up really early to head out to Cougar, pick up our permits, and drive to the trailhead, which I'm glad for, because it took us pretty much the whole day get to the top and down again. The first couple miles is really easy. Then you get to the timber line, and the terrain suddenly gets a lot more challenging. First you do lots of climbing/walking up through slopes covered in boulders.
Getting ready to start climbing through boulders at the edge of the timber line. The pole behind Mom and Christina was one of the first of many trail markers on the way up the side of the mountain. They were really critical in the fields of boulders where there isn't really a trail. From this point on, the view was already stunning. On the horizon is Mt. Adams.
In the back left of this picture you can see Mt. Hood.
As we got higher the incline got steeper. It was weird looking sideways across a 45 degree incline.
Towards the top the boulders end and the trail becomes a steep slope of rocky gravel. Then it turns to soft, sandy ash for the last climb to the top. The higher we got, the slower we climbed. Finally, I got to the edge, where the crater suddenly opens up in front. It's an amazing experience to look down into the crater at the lava dome, with little puffs of steam coming out, and across to Johnston Ridge and Spirit Lake, and finally to Mt. Rainier in the distance.
Looking south. The lake might be Yale Lake, but I'm not sure. Again, Mt. Hood is on the left.
Fellow hikers looking over the edge.
I didn't take many pictures on the way down. Climbing down had its own challenges. I was kind of nervous about slipping on the steep grade. It was harder to find the trail going down. We were definitely glad to be finished when we finally reached the trail head. It was a long, very challenging day, but I'm so glad we could do it. It was wonderful to see God's creation from this unique perspective. It was also satisfying to know I could physically do this hike. Granted, it took us much longer than other people. It's amazing how fit some people are. As we were just leaving timberline in the morning we met someone coming down the mountain. He had started at something like 3 a.m. (after working night shift) and been up on the mountain for sunrise. He didn't seem exhausted at all. I don't think I'll ever be that fit. But I guess it surprises some people that somebody like me would do it at all. As we were starting to go down the mountain, someone looked at me made and made a comment about whether a little girl like that could really climb to the top. She made it up and down again, but she was really tired!