Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Mt St Helens and Vulcan Peak

Recap of Mt St Helens (12/27/07) and Vulcan Peak (12/30/07).

12/26/07 - Prep for St Helens.... Weather is slated to be really bad.... taking enough gear to bivy for a night with minimal to no cover. Not fast. Not light.


12/27/07 - Leaving Portland and going up to Mt St Helens the rain turned to snow. The snow turned to a lot of snow.

Road into St Helens

After the road grader took the driving conditions from snow to ice skating rink and me subsequently dumping BigRed (brothers truck) in the embankment, me falling on the road, digging out, watching other guys fall down while walking back to their truck, doubling back to turn around, etc etc etc, eventually make it to the trailhead.

Strap on the snowshoes and start post-holing. Post-holing sucks. Post-holing sucks when you are wearing snowshoes and a heavy pack. And it is snowing. A lot. Find the winter climbers "trail". Progress was slow. Overheating. Too many clothes. Drenched inside out and outside in. More snow. See a couple guys on their way down. Trudge up. Check the GPS. Trudge up.

Get to treeline. Wind picks up. Temp drops. Get out the axe (thanks Ian). Go up. Unconsolidated snow. Well past the original turn around time. Decision time. Turn around.

Back at the parking lot

Drive back to Portland and chow on a philly cheesesteak sammich.

12/29/07 - failed attempt at Vulcan Peak. Downed tree blocking approach road; FR1909. No saw. Met some Cali kids in a Jeep w/ a tarp for a roof. Hike / run in OR Redwoods; 4 miles

12/30/07 - Vulcan Peak - attempt 2.

Take the alt route around where the tree is over FR1909. Get stuck in snow. Use 4wheel drive. Get stuck. Put on chains. Nearly get really stuck. Bail on alt route. Backtrack. Check 1909 - tree is cleared. Drive as high as possible given conditions through some dicey switchbacks. Start hiking at 1pm - 3 hours later than anticipated.

Weather is clear. Temp is nice. No shirt. No jacket. Side zips on pants open above gaiters. Beautiful. Until the post-holing starts. Post-holing sucks. Post-holing sucks when in your attempt at fast and light you decide that there is not that much snow and that the snowshoes wont help that much so you leave them at the truck then gain 1500 vertical feet and have a bunch more snow at that altitude.

Vulcan Peak area

Things are going well. Then the snow to the north decides it wants to make a round-a-bout and charge back at Vulcan. Not good. Temp drops. Winds pick up. Visibility drops. The fun drive up is going to be more fun if it turns to ice. Play the safe route and turn around. Haul back down. Drop 750 vertical and the weather is nicer. 1500 lower at the truck and weather is beautiful. No issues on the way out.

Sunset on FR1909

Back in time for pork chops and some 2 Below.

Lessons learned / reinforced:
  1. Prep clothing for exertion level.
  2. Ibuprofen is your friend.
  3. Take the snowshoes and axe.
  4. Rest stepping is painfully slow when you can see for miles.
  5. Plunge stepping is fun.