Friday, September 22, 2006

Mt. St. Helens

In 1980, when I was but a wee girl, the beautifully peaked mountain 50 or so miles from my home errupted and sent a storm of ash around the world.

Ten years ago, on some kind of goofy whim, I climbed the mountain with my sister. I have joyous memories of actually running (yes running) both up and down the damn thing with abandon. I came back recently for an encore climb up Monitor Ridge to the summit along with my sister, brother, and Arlen. However, the toll of the last 10 years was pretty obvious—it took us 11 hours for the round-trip climb! And it HURT! Nevertheless we all reached the summit and took in the spectacular views. Amazingly, over the course of the 11-hour day we covered 10 miles with an elevation gain of about 4800 feet!

We started at 8:05 a.m. from the climber’s bivouac at approximately 3700 feet. Over the next 5 or so hours, we scrambled up, around, and over hundreds and hundreds of giant boulders and then slipped and slided through a hell basically equivalent to climbing uphill on a sandy beach. The wind was intense and together with the ash and sand of the last 1,000 feet we were caught in an intense natural sandblaster. Thankfully we had dust masks to help with our breathing.

Shortly after we reached timberline we were above the clouds. The sky was clear and rain-free for the rest of the trip. The views of Mts. Hood, Adams, and Jefferson along the way were amazing. From the crater, the view of Mt. Rainier and Spirit Lake were breathtaking. But nothing compares to standing at the crater and peering into the giant yawning mouth of an active volcano.

For the past 2 years, Mt. St. Helens has been undergoing a continuous dome-building eruption. The dome inside is growing at a rapid pace (for a while at 6 feet per day), and is currently at 7550 feet. Don’t quote me on this or anything but I wouldn’t be surprised if Mt. St. Helens regenerated its peak within our lifetime.


Anonymous peacemother said...

That's MY kids!

During your hefty climb, I was steaming in Harrison Hot Springs, BC. Wonderfully healing!

10:35 PM  

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