I can now call myself a Mountaineer! Well, barely…
A good friend from work picked me up from my Portland home at 3:30am on a cold January morning. We headed for America’s most famous and active volcano Mount St. Helens.
Our 5:45am start was late by climbing standards but it felt excessively early for me. We trudged through the snowy volcanic boulder fields, postholing every few steps. Then, it was on to the steep ice and snow covered scree slops. Having the bravado and naïve confidence of a guy in his mid-20s, I disregarded the advice of some experienced climber friends and assumed my Kahtoola Microspikes would work in place of crampons. I admit that I was mistaken. The icy Worm Flow winter climbing route was much steeper than I expected so I had to rely heavily on my friends crampon-made footsteps as we approached the summit.
With the lip of the volcano in site, we decided to turn back. The intense heat of the morning sun made the already icy slops more slippery and we were apprehensive about conditions on decent. I felt like I was a part of one of those grand, failed expeditions on Everest or K2 where turning back was the only option, except this was 8,366ft. Mt. St Helens and I was wearing microspikes!
The decent ended up being no problem. With ice axes in hand and butts on the snow, we channeled our inner young boy and glissaded much of the way to the lower boulder fields. It was a unique moment of youthful joy that I hadn’t felt in quite some time.
9 hours later, we were in the car, headed towards Portlandia. I was beyond exhausted and ravenously hungry, but supremely satisfied that I could now add Junior Mountaineer to my resume!