Mount St Helens is of course famous for the violent eruption of May 1982 that took 1300 ft off the top of the mountain and covered the entire area with ash and debris. The Monitor Ridge route is a mellow, non-technical climb on the south side of the peak. It is a popular ski outing, and because the road to the trailhead is plowed in the winter, it can be done in one day from the car (a rarity in the Cascades).

The day before the climb, we drove to Jack's restaurant in Cougar to inquire about permits and conditions. We left the bus there and drove the Jeep to the Monitor Ridge trailhead (Climbers Bivouac) to take a look at the route. We could not see much that day because of low clouds moving in and out, but we were happy to discover that could put our skis on right at the parking lot. We also chatted briefly with three guys who were heading up to spend the night near tree line. On our way back, we located a good spot for the bus (on road 503 around Swift Dam). Back at the bus, we packed our gear and got ready for the climb. We then moved the bus to the spot we had just found and stopped at Jack's to buy our climbing permits.

We got a fairly early start the next morning, leaving the bus around 5:30AM for the drive to the trailhead. We put our skis on at the parking lot (3,500 ft) and started heading up the trail through the forest at 6AM. The three person party we had met at the parking lot the day before were about to leave their camp when we passed them. They did not have snow shoes or skis so they were soon far behind, postholing in the deep snow.

Once above timberline, the snow got very icy and we soon had to put the crampons on our bindings (we use Diamir bindings, highly recommended). The weather was great; beautiful sunny skies! We reached the crater rim at 11:45AM, tired but happy. We must admit we had a hard time though, after two weeks doing nothing but walks along the beach! After the habitual summit pictures, we sat down near the rim to have a quick lunch. We did not get to finish our sandwiches. Low clouds were starting to move in so we decided to head down. We started skiing down just before 1PM. The conditions were as good as they were going to get and we felt we timed the descent just right. The snow was still a bit hard and crusty on the upper slopes, but turned silky further down, then to the typical mashed potatoes consistency near and below tree line. An hour later, we were back at the car. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing and drying the gear.

Car to summit to car, on our skis the whole way! The perfect ski outing!

Mount St Helens, WA - Monitor Ridge

May 6, 2003 - Grade II, 25° snow, 1 day.
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Mount Saint Helens Volcanic Monument Entrance.
 
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Mount Saint Helens viewed from the trailhead at sunrise.
 
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The Monitor Ridge route.
 
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Going up the trail through timber in the early morning.
 
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Steeper slopes just above tree line before reaching the ridge proper.
 
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Taking a break.
 
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On Monitor Ridge, looking down.
 
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Eric about half-way up the mountain.
 
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Snow formations at the edge of the ridge.
 
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Lucie going up the last 1,000 ft.
 
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The summit crater.
 
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Views of the crater rim.
 
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Lucie near the summit.
(high res. images are about 300KB)