Trip Report    

Basic Alpine Climb - Mount St. Helens/Worm Flows

Great group, rewarding skin up the mountain, and excellent conditions for the ski down

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • The Sno Park is perfectly plowed and the snow starts right at the trail.  Exactly what you would hope for!

Our party of six met up Saturday afternoon in the Marble Mtn SnoPark and practiced different methods of building snow anchors utilizing skis.  We practiced four types of anchors and discussed the strengths and weakness of each as well as methods for backing them up or strengthening them depending on snow conditions.  Nice little review as the spring ski mountaineering seasons gets rolling.

After two days of snowy conditions, the weather Saturday afternoon began transitioning to the clear skis forecast for Sunday with intermittent sun breaks and some light snow showers.  We were getting lucky!

Sunday morning we began skinning at 5:45 in clear, cold weather.  The path through the woods to treeline had a well beat in skin track that was impossible to mess up and very low angle.  After popping out of the trees, the entire route was clear to see.  With four radios between the six of us, we were able to spread out and skin at our own pace. Paul skinning.jpg

We more or less followed the boot pack up the main route veering off once to the west to investigate wind slab conditions in an obvious east facing lee where we knew to look from the NWAC forecast and from the prevailing easterly winds over the past 48 hours.  Sure enough, up to 18 inches of light, unconsolidated power in the east lee conditions surrounded by wind scoured snow on the north and south aspects.  This confirmation presented us with both the possibility for good skiing and the primary hazard to watch for that day.  As soon as we hit the worm flow, ski crampons were absolutely necessary for those that kept skinning.  About this time the wind also shifted and began coming strongly from over the NE shoulder of the peak, reversing the prevailing winds from the previous couple of days, with evident surface transport of snow.

Above the antennae some of us veered east of the boot pack to continuing skinning as some of the group backpacked their skis and booted up.  Both options worked great. Catharine.jpg

We arrived at the summit a little after 11:00 and after enjoying a break, transitioned and began skiing down just before noon. Paul skiing (2).jpg

After escaping the wind hammered snow right below the crater rim, we skied east across the boot pack and found great and stable skiing in the wide gully east of the main route.  With the previous days’ snow and the cold conditions, the skiing was excellent and safe.  It was only our last turns that generated roller balls and by that time we the wide gully before it narrowed about 1000’ above treeline and skied the route back to Chocolate Falls.  From there the skin track was a fast and easily luge run back to the cars.MN grinning.jpg

5700’ is tough skinning on wind hammered sastrugi but the work made it rewarding, the clear skies made for gorgeous views, and we couldn’t have had a better group!