Monday, July 23, 2012

Mt St Helens

Cross one more item off the ol' bucket list.

I've always had a certain fascination with Mt. St. Helens largely because it erupted days after my birth. A few weeks ago I finally had the chance to climb the mountain and see the blast zone for myself.

There's a small group of actuaries at my office that likes to mountain climb and they've scaled Mt Hood the past few years together. This year they decided to organize a much larger group to climb the substantially easier Mt St Helens. I wasn't thrilled with the risk or the impending difficult climb, but I couldn't miss a chance to see St. Helen's crater.

The idea was to wake up at 5:30 in time for a coworker to pick me up at 6am...but my alarm didn't go off. Instead Carter woke me up at 6 and said "Daddy...Kelvin is here". Needless to say, I wasn't as prepared for the climb as I should have been.

One guy was crazy nice enough to bring his 7-year old son. It took the adult group four hours to climb up and 3 to climb back down - glad I didn't bring any kids along for the ride.

Mt. Adams was visible almost the entire climb, which is cool because it's a difficult mountain to see from the Oregon side of the Columbia. We got to see five volcanoes from the summit: Mts. Ranier, St. Helens (duh), Adams, Hood, and Jefferson. 

There's Mt. Hood on the left side. It was so brilliantly sunny that day that we didn't require jackets at all. That was great, but it also meant that we got horribly sunburned and decent photos were impossible.

 Rose on one of our many breaks. The climb was 50/50 snow and boulders. Most of the time we had a choice of which terrain to take, so we largely switched back and forth to avoid monotony.

 (from left) Rose, Cori, and Bryan taking a break. My fear of heights was relatively calm during the outing, but this picture kind of freaks me out right now. 

It was about this point on the climb that I completely ran out of juice. I wasn't even sure I could climb that last 300 feet or so. The climb was *almost* as physically challenging as the century bike ride I did last year.

 The triumphant group at the summit...most of the group anyway. Four slowpokes took a bit longer.

The big payoff. This is the new dome (which is still steaming) within the crater of Mt. St. Helens with Spirit Lake and Mt. Ranier in the background. We even got to see a rock slide along the crater wall while there. Just an amazing sight.

I'm really glad I went, but I think my mountain climbing days are close to complete. This completely kicked my trash. I might take Cynthia some day on the same climb, but I have ZERO desire to climb the other peaks in the area.

So, the climb down was also difficult. I got more cuts and bruises going down than up. The worst part was when I slipped on a snow bank and rapidly started to slide toward a boulder. I leaned away from it just in time so that my backpack scratched the rocks but I didn't. But I kept sliding! I was headed toward another sizable rock that I couldn't avoid so I somersaulted over it and jammed my trekking poles into the snow to keep me from falling down an even steeper slope. Broke my poles, but I'm alive to tell the tale.