Start Planning: Climb Mount St. Helens This Summer

Rocks fall, steam rises, a glacier moves as the mountain rumbles. To climb Mount St. Helens is to climb a living, breathing mountain.

It’s hard not to feel moved by the experience.

John got the chance to summit St. Helens after scoring a permit in late August. While it’s not a technical climb, the five-mile route to the summit is strenuous, gaining 4,500 vertical feet. The last three miles gain more than 3,000 feet, traveling through a sketchy boulder field and what is called “the vertical beach” — a slide-y, sandy trudge to the rim.

Once you’re on top, you don’t want to leave. It’s fascinating to look inside the rim at a mountain that first blew up in 1980, then reformed its lava dome with eruptions from 2004 to 2008.

It’s time to start about planning for this very special experience this summer. Permits for the busy summer climbing season go on sale on Feb. 26, and will be snapped up quickly. For details, go to the Mount St. Helens Institute website.

Dawn hits on the climb up Mount St. Helens.
A climber makes his way through boulders on Mount St. Helens.
Climbers struggle up “the vertical beach” near the top of Mount St. Helens.
A panorama takes in the crater rim and the lava dome at Mount St. Helens.
SkiZer looks down from the rim at Mount St. Helens.
Climbers make their way across the rim at Mount St. Helens.
StHelens_Summit (2)
Taking a break at the top.

3 thoughts on “Start Planning: Climb Mount St. Helens This Summer

  1. I first climbed with a friend, way back the first week the Red Zone was lifted – before permits were required. We parked on the South slope at the snow line at 3,700feet and snow climbed to 5,700feet where we camped for the night. Early next morning we went to the South rim by 0700am. Spent about an hour in AWE!! Belayed each other to look over the cornice into the hole – WOW!!
    Two other August hikes, 1989 and 1995, up and down from the current bivouac parking lot on the then dry dusty trail. On all these, BRING WATER AND SUN BLOCK, but DO IT!!


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