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Trip Report: Mount St. Helens, Worm Flows

Trip Report: Mount St. Helens, Worm Flows

Trip Report: Mount St. Helens, Worm Flows

When: 4/23/2016

Location: Mt. Saint Helens, Worm Flows

Conditions: Overcast, rain

Duration: 5 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Kid Friendly? No

Pet Friendly? Maybe

Useful Links: http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/seasonal-hikes/summer-destinations/mount-st.-helens-hikes


The Full Report:

"Mt. Saint Helens was the first mountain I climbed, and given the weather I ran into, I’m surprised I stuck with the sport. My first mountaineering trip involved hiking in useless nylon rain paints and heavy plastic boots in rain and wind for several hours. The summit was marked by two sticks in an “X,” and we stayed there just long enough to demolish a Pop-Tart. On April 23, I suffered from some serious déjà vu. Four friends and I tried to climb St. Helen’s via Worm Flows on skis. The weather reported a chance of rain starting at noon, so my group and I assumed that if we started early we could be skiing of the summit by then. After a relatively short 30 minutes hike, we put synched down our ski boots, I learned how to use my rented Tech bindings, and we began our ascent on skis. After clearing the trees, we found ourselves in an open snowfield and took the time to learn a bit about the avalanche beacons we were carrying (always check NWAC before going into the backcountry—the rating was low that day, but it had been higher earlier in the week so we took them just in case). After a half hour of beacon practice, we continued our ascent.

Holes of blue sky revealed a beautiful summit ridge as we made our way through the miniature valleys of the Worm Flows route. Dark clouds loomed patiently to the West. Cloud cover dominated the sky as we continued, and by the time we reached the radio antenna the snow had become so slippery and moist such that even the experienced ski climbers were having problems ascending. 500-1000 feet later we regrouped to discuss. As though on a timer, rain began assault our faces exactly at noon. Two group members felt pain in their hip flexors. My boots had proved too narrow for my cave-man-esque feet, and I too was in significant discomfort. We weighed the pros and cons of continuing. Skiing downhill is fun, we reasoned, as is reaching the summit. Of course we were also cold, wet, the snow was ruined, and the incoming clouds had degraded visibility to 50 feet, severely limiting the speed at which we could ski. A vote yielded unanimous vote, and for the first time ever (on a mountain), we turned around.

We enjoyed a half hour ski down on the “Cascade Concrete” that covered the mountain, arriving at the car wet, hurting, but smiling. The skiing was pretty miserable, the weather awful, the equipment painful. That said, with a good attitude and a great team, we all had an enjoyable time and of course reinforced the value of turning back when the conditions aren’t good."

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