Mt St Helens – my ascent in 2009

36 years ago today Mt St Helens exploded and lost the top 1,312feet reducing its height from  9677ft to  8365ft. It was dramatic as it was devastating and some 50 people were killed, including a USGS geologist , who supposedly in a safe place. This USGS url gives some details;


When it exploded I vowed I would climb the mountain and had to wait 29 years to fulfil that vow. We were over there partly on a Geol Soc of America annual conference, where I gave two papers and partly on holiday. October is not the best time, but the forecast seemed good. We booked in at the Lone Fir Resort on the the south side for two nights in a cabin. I got my permit and then we ordered a meal and nearly puked as it was grotty bits of chicken and grotty chips.  We cancelled our breakfast and set of to the trailhead at 4000 ft. My breakfast was two crunchy bars and an apple, which is not enough for a climb of over 4000ft.



View of summit from the trailhead


The day before we wandered around the south side and found this lava flow from 1980

The same flow with some re-growth. The next two slides are two lava tunnets from a much earlier eruption.



And back to the climb. I set off a path in the woods leaving Andrea in the car. (for the next week I had to pay back and go where SHE wanted, but it was worth it!) It was easy to begin with and I found a stick as a walking pole.



After nearly 2000ft of ascent the trees first shrunk and then petered out.


The pine forest gave way to bare rock and the trail picked its way through a boulder field



Views were fantastic.


Onwards and upwards, not helped by an empty stomach. The poles marked the route


Looking down and to the south east.



Mt Hood


A seismic station. I joined up with this young man of 72 whose older brother had turned back. He was from New York State and good company.


Me with Mt Adams behind.114

The final push. These three in their 20s were slightly faster, but kept stopping. That was to get rid of the breakfast they had at the Lone Pine !!! There are times an empty stomach is better than a full stomach! Later, I filled in a Tripadvisor report and said it was the worst motel and eating place in the USA. They changed hands 6 months later.


Nearly there with the rim visible.


At the summit, feeling smug. My hiking pole is in the foreground. and Mt Ranier in the back.


The browness by the lake is where all the forest was burnt to a cinder for about 10 miles.



Another view, with the cone which had only appeared in 2004 i.e 5 years old. /it has got more active recently……….


The west side with a new glacier with crevasses.



Looking straight down where the side was blown out in 1980.


walking along the rim.


Some dirty snow and ash is still coming out.


And so to descend!


Nearly there, and Mt Adams beyond.


This was probably the best climb of my life.

We then descended the forest road back to the main road and drove 30 miles to the end of the valley and civilisation. We found a motel at the same price of $60 which was absolutely excellent with a great room and a better bath. I wallowed for over an hour and then we went for a steak meal.

After that we worked our way round to seattle via Port Townsend a delightful place.

We returned to Portland for the conference where we met old friends from Wheaton and the Association of Christian Geologists. In between two days we travelled up the valley on the north side of the volcano.

Here we look down into the valley which was filled with a laher or debris flow shortly after the eruption. Note the lack of vegetation on the valley flor. The forest here was not hit by the pyroclastic flow.145

The caldera and side blown out. Note the greening. Near the bottom is a new gorge carved rapidly out of ash dropped at the eruption. Creationist say this shows that the Grand Canyon could be formed quickly as this was carved out in a day or so.


They can’t grasp that unconsolidated sediments erode very rapidly and I demonstrated on the deposits below. I had half a pint of water which I sprayed on the loose material and it eroded rapidly. But then I ran out of water.


desolation and regrowth.


The lahar from the volcano



More regrowth and a lupin


Andrea and I


Another view with fallen and charred tree trunks., with the Creationists’ gorge in the background


Most trunks pointed to the mountain due to the force of the volcanioc cloud travelling at great speed


More regrowth

A lake gradually going green.


and so we had our final views




The route is simple, it is a case of following a trail almost straight up for 4500ft. In good weather there are no technicalities, but it took me about 8 hours.


2 thoughts on “Mt St Helens – my ascent in 2009

  1. darwinsbulldog

    Photos from a visit to the 7 Wonders Creation Museum in Silverlake, WA in July 2012, on the way to Mt. St. Helens from Interstate 5. They are convinced that the one day changes in landscape at MSH is evidence for Grand Canyon from the Noachian flood. The woman there asked to show my son a short video about how there were dinosaurs on the ark. He watched it but later had some good questions about it, as well as asking if they really believed that?



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