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Ascent of Mount Saint Helens on 2015-06-06

Climber: Cindy Lin

Date:Saturday, June 6, 2015
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Peak:Mount Saint Helens
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:8300 ft / 2529 m

Ascent Trip Report

It was a hot and sunny early June day (88 degrees or so in Cougar, WA!). Anna and Karol got a hold of permits to climb St. Helens so Rachael and I spent the night in Cougar and arrived at the trailhead around 5:40 a.m. to meet Anna and Karol. Being the amateurs that we were, didn't get on the trail until about 6:20 a.m. The trail to the ridge was easy going, clearly marked and fairly simple. Very little snow to travel on (didn't start until about 6200 ft) meant we were sliding up and down the volcanic ash most of the way. It was slow. Rachael got to the ridge well before me (I've been feeling so out of shape this year!). I arrived at the ridge and stopped for lunch with Rachael while we waited for Anna and Karol. Quite a crowd at the ridge, probably a dozen people or so. When Anna and Karol arrived at the ridge about 30 minutes later, Karol, Rachael and I grabbed our ice axes and started heading for the true summit. Sidenote - during the hour or so that we spent on the ridge, we did not see anyone attempting to head toward the true summit. This made me nervous. The cornice also made me extremely nervous. I'm such a chicken!! But I knew enough about snow to know that it was perfect (hot!) conditions for cornice breakage, and some of the folks on the ridge were uncomfortably close (or on) the actual cornice. Agh!! Anyway, the short trek over to the true summit totally failed. We decided to skip traction devices and just bring our axes because the snow appeared soft. That was a bad call. It was obvious that very few people had attempted the true summit. About 10 minutes in (SOOOOO close!!) the snow became icy. I was struggling to kick in steps with my hiking boots and I was slipping and sliding around, too much for comfort. The closer we got to the summit, the icier the snow. Staying to the right would have been easier, but I was not inclined to get anywhere near that cornice. With the right travel companions, I probably could have been coached up the summit. But I sooooo badly wanted some crampons, and I didn't have the confidence to forge ahead without the assurance of someone more experienced that the conditions were ok without crampons. We reluctantly headed back. I was disappointed, but also relieved to reach the ridge. Like I said, I'm a total amateur. This was an inaugural trip for my ice axe. It was also my first time on a mountain trying to climb up icy slopes. Next time Saint Helens, next time...The trip down was tediously long. Boulders the whole way, no snow to glissade down. The sun was hot, and it was dusty. I might attempt the summit again when I travel on snow better and do an earlier season climb. That boulder scramble down is not really something I look forward to doing again any time soon! All in all, a great trip. I did it with a large pack, in preparation for Baker. The summit fail, as always, weighs on my mind, but as always, came with important lessons. When in doubt, bring traction!
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