Home > Trip Reports > May 3, 2003, St. Helens

May 3, 2003, St. Helens

WA Cascades West Slopes South (Mt Rainier)
Posted by JoeMack on 5/4/03 9:17pm
Climbed/skiied St. Helens solo on Saturday. Used my new AT set up. It was one of the last weekends before permit season began and it was mobbed. Parked in the Climbers Bivouac lot the night before and it was a zoo. Lucky to find a place to park, but I had to chase away folks who wanted to parallel park and box me in.

Snow was several feet deep at the bivouac and the trail to treeline was snow covered almost the entire way with only one small bare spot that required a little detour. The sun tried weakly to break out and never really did, so the snow stayed a hard crust for the trip up and back on Monitor Ridge. The bootpack steps were regular and easy to climb; I only saw two or three folks that were able to ski the entire way up (thanks to ski crampons; now I know what I want for my birthday).

At the rim it was windy (of course) and cloudy: no Rainier views but you could see Adams and Hood. It was like Jones Beach on the Fourth of July with all the crowd up there. I had lunch and headed down. Stayed on the rim too long: after the first 1000 ft of descent, there was a total whiteout. A light snow was falling. Thank goodness for the pole markers on Monitor Ridge as I used them to guide myself down. It was truly survival skiing mode between the hard crust, death cookies and zero visibility. I inadvertently skiied off a small (3 ft.) cornice. That really got my attention. It was funny that even with the crowds on the mountain, there were certain times during the descent in the pure white when I felt completely alone. I've skiied St Helens when it's been a butterball; Saturday it was a beast.

At tree line, the visibility improved and the roller coaster ride throught the trees back to the car was fun: no need to worry about taking off the skiis to walk across bare spots. Left the lot at 2:00 and I couldn't believe how far down the road people had parked.

Started climb: 6:30 am
Reached rim: 11:00 am
Started descent: 11:45 am
Reached car: 1:30 pm

I remember the fourth of july's at jones beach.


Thanks for the report.  We're hoping to do a bit better with the weather this weekend.  So the road is already open to Climber's Bivouac, or did you park at the Cougar gate and ski the road?




Yes, the road to the climbers bivouac is open. Even the pit toilets were unlocked.

Thanks.  Must be grievously short of snow down there.  Even in the terrible snow year (2000-01?) we skied the Worm Flows because the Climbers' Bivouac access was gated shut.  I guess it'll make for a shorter day.

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2003-05-05 04:17:54