After erupting on September 10, 1980 (9677 feet tall) the volcano's new summit is at 8365 feet elevation and it is quite active. It continues to ooze out ash & steam time and again with new lava dome building inside. Hike to summit is ten miles round trip with roughly 5000 feet elevation gain.
Being active volcanic mountain, one needs permit to climb and there are limited number of those for the season and time of the year. While doing hikes around had heard a lot about climbing Mt. St. Helen. Yes, the thought was there but well after watching it from far away and it being so tall had never thought a day would come to stand on its summit.
Group of friends decided to tackle this in September, since we secured permits for this month. September being the transition period for the seasons was not very sure about the weather. The forecast had said after 2 PM the rain would start hence the target was to try to come down the summit before that happens.
We had two groups of some common friends climbing on same day. With names in the register we stuck to our plans, got up very early and started around 6 /6.30 am.
Weather was nice, the beginning of the trail traverses through the forest with tall trees around and suddenly the rocky ridge line comes in the front. Climbing one pile of volcanic rock after the other, the summit you would see otherwise is no where to be seen while climbing. The remaining trail has very uneven surface, sharp rocks around. One has to follow the wooden poles which mark the trail route. Quick navigation and up we go, after a while speed reduced as higher elevation came into play and it became very windy. The final stretch is on the scree field where you go two steps up and come one step down and with heavy wind gust its further hard to go up.
Yes, made it to the top... YAY !!! now one can actually see the new lava dome being formed inside the crater and the devastation caused by the eruption to far distance, lake etc. Knowing we didn't have much time given rain was to come, started our march down. Walking on uneven, sharp rocks for miles is very interesting. Irrespective of knowing the fact not a single time while climbing felt that we were walking on active volcano.
Just in time when it started drizzling and becoming foggy we were out of rocky ridge line and entered the forest for the final leg of the journey. By the time we reached parking lot it had really started pouring and we all made out safe and sound around 5 pm and couple among us around 5.30 ish. The other group was stuck up, probably they had started late and got caught up in weather and took a while but everyone made out.
What they say is mountain creates its own weather and its true, a sunny bright start can be foggy, windy, rainy or anything. It's very important to know and be prepared for all weather conditions. Overall it was a nice experience!! Summited an active volcano.
Photo Journey :- St. helen's climb