Mt. St. Helens – Washington
“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Vivian Greene
Why This Mountain?
There is an interesting story on how Mt. St. Helens made the list of peaks. Last November, Tami was hiking solo in Bryce Canyon in Utah. While doing the Peek-A-Boo loop she met this amazing couple, Donna and Darren Heck, They ended up hiking for seven miles and Donna told Tami they had always wanted to hike Mt. St. Helens. The decision had just been made to do 52 Peaks, so Tami took it as a sign to include this mountain. The very cool thing is that Donna and Darren are going to join 52 Peaks for this hike! Also, both Tami and TJ remember the 1980 eruption and ever since that time TJ has wanted to see, and then hike, this active volcano.
Mountain & Route Facts
Mount St. Helens is an active stratovolcano located in Skamania County, Washington, in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is 96 miles (154 km) south of Seattle, Washington, and 50 miles (80 km) northeast of Portland, Oregon. Mount St. Helens takes its English name from the British diplomat Lord St Helens, a friend of explorer George Vancouver who made a survey of the area in the late 18th century. The volcano is located in the Cascade Range and is part of the Cascade Volcanic Arc, a segment of the Pacific Ring of Fire that includes over 160 active volcanoes. This volcano is well known for its ash explosions and pyroclastic flows.
Mount St. Helens is most notorious for its major 1980 eruption, the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. Fifty-seven people were killed. A massive debris avalanche triggered by an earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale caused an eruption that reduced the elevation of the mountain’s summit from 9,677 ft to 8,363 ft, replacing it with a 1 mile (1.6 km) wide horseshoe-shaped crater.
We took the trail from the Climber’s Bivouac. The hike was 9.1 miles with 5,023′ of ascent. The first two miles are a relatively easy hike through the forest. At that point, take the climbing route called Monitor Ridge. After the first two miles, there is about 2 miles of boulders to scramble through, although there is a path to follow that makes the bouldering easier. Follow the poles posted through the boulder field. At the end of the boulder field is the final ascent of about 7/10th of a mile that is a steep uphill over scree. This takes you to the crater rim. However, the crater rim is not the true summit. Once reaching the crater rim, go left along the crater until you reach a rock cairn which marks the true summit. This is about a quarter of a mile along the rim and is not frequently traveled. Be careful, the route is precarious with loose rock and steep drop-offs. The views from the top of Mt. St. Helens are stunning on a clear day and well worth the climb!
Historical and Cultural Information
Washington is a state in the Pacific Northwest with terrain spanning the snow-capped Cascade Mountains to forested islands in Puget Sound. Its largest city, Seattle, is known for its thriving tech industry, vibrant music scene and famed coffeehouses. The capital is Olympia. Washington is the 18th largest with an area of 71,362 square miles (184,827 sq km), and the 13th most populous state with over 7 million people.
Named after George Washington, the first President of the United States, the state was made out of the western part of the Washington Territory, which had been ceded by Britain in 1846 in accordance with the Oregon Treaty in the settlement of the Oregon Boundary Dispute. It was admitted to the Union as the 42nd state in 1889.
The skeletal remains of Kennewick Man, one of the oldest and most complete human remains ever found in North America, were discovered in Washington. Before the coming of Europeans, the region had many established tribes of aboriginal Americans, notable for their totem poles and their ornately carved canoes and masks. Prominent among their industries were salmon fishing and, notably among the Makah, whale hunting. The peoples of the Interior had a very different subsistence-based culture based on hunting, food-gathering and some forms of agriculture, as well as a dependency on salmon from the Columbia and its tributaries. The smallpox epidemic of the 1770s devastated the Native American population.
The first recorded European landing on the Washington coast was by Spanish Captain Don Bruno de Heceta in 1775, on board the Santiago, part of a two-ship flotilla with the Sonora. He claimed all the coastal lands up to Prince William Sound for Spain as part of their claimed rights under the Treaty of Tordesillas, which they maintained made the Pacific a “Spanish lake” and all its shores part of the Spanish Empire. The British-Spanish Nootka Convention of 1790 ended Spanish claims of exclusivity and opened the Northwest Coast to explorers and traders from other nations, most notably Britain and Russia as well as the fledgling United States.