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Trip Report    

Intermediate - Practice Session for a specific Mentor Group - Mount St. Helens/Worm Flows

A perfect winter sunrise summit of Mount St Helens.

  • Road impassable/closed
  • FR 83 is currently closed 3 miles before the Marble Mountain Sno Park due to snow plows being out of service. There is parking at Cougar Sno Park. It was not difficult to find parking for 3 vehicles, despite it being a three day weekend. Check for up to date information.

At 12:15 PM on Sunday, 1/15/17, four snowshoers and five skiers departed from the Cougar Sno Park toward the Marble Mountain Sno Park. We stopped briefly at Marble Mountain to fill out our climbing permits. We ascended together to about 4,200', around tree line, to set up camp for the night. It took us about 3.25 hours to get there. The skies were clear and we enjoyed a perfect sunset as we set up camp and boiled water. It got colder as the sun set, and water started to freeze, a reminder that we can't always rely on forecasts being accurate (Mountain Weather and NOAA were predicting 8000-10000' freezing levels on Sunday and Monday). After eating our freeze dried dinners, we departed to our respective shelters and went to bed at around 7:30. We were amazed to still see several headlamps way high on the mountain, and heard the last of them come through our camping area at around 9:30 PM.

Alarms went off at 2 AM the next morning. The stars and moon were so bright that some of us didn't even use headlamps. We departed camp at around 3:15 AM. Initially, we were making such good pace that we needed to slow down because we wanted to make sure that we didn't have to hang out at the summit for an hour before sunrise. Then we slowed down naturally because breaking trail for 4000' is hard. We enjoyed the 7:45 sunrise about 400' below the summit. The last party members reached the summit at around 8:30 AM. The summit was crystal clear, no wind, and above freezing. We enjoyed a long break before heading back down, planning to have the skiers and snowshoers reconvene at camp. The skiers went down quickly, as I sat down, expecting to make quick work of one of the best glissades in Washington state. I scooted a little way, and nothing. I finally got going after giving myself momentum, and made it about 500' with a lot of effort. The snow was just too thick and cementy to get any good glissade going. The glissaders continued our heroic efforts to develop good glissade shoots for about 1000' before giving up, strapping our snowhoes back on, and walking down the mountain the hard way.

We took our time breaking down camp and enjoying the views. We departed camp at around 12:15 PM. The skiers and snowshoers met up again at Marble Mountain, and then at the cars at around 2:45 PM. Good times were had by all.

Snowshoers brought crampons but did not need them. Ski crampons were useful for the skiers for the ascent. We also all had full avy kits. There were 4 PLBs among us, split among the snowshoers and skiers, as well as radios. I have never led a trip with both snowshoers and skiers before, but it worked out really well. I am sure that having a strong, competent group of intermediate students helped.