Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Shawn versus the Volcano

Greg and I summitted Mt. St. Helens yesterday! It was way, way harder than we'd anticipated (thanks to Joel's sketchy memory), but we conquered the volcano!
In retrospect, I wish I'd done a little more research on the logistics of the hike. But then maybe I would have chickened out. And now I can mark one more experience off my bucket list: I climbed a real mountain!

Here's a description of the trail that I found online: "This route gains 4,500 feet in five miles to the crater rim at 8,365 feet elevation. Although strenuous, this non-technical climb is suitable for people in good physical condition who are comfortable scrambling on steep, rugged terrain." (from the webpage)
Here's the description our guide, Joel, gave us: "Uh, it's a short hike, I think about three miles to the summit. It's not too bad until the last mile or so, which gets pretty steep and rocky.

Here's my description of the hike: The first two miles were pleasant, as we sauntered through a beautiful forest, offering stunning views of several peaks as we wound up the mountain. There were even a couple of outhouses located along this shady trail for our convenience.

Once we got above treeline, however, things went downhill fast. Or should I say uphill? First, there was the Field of Demon Boulders. There was no trail to speak of through this 1 1/2 mile-long jumble of jagged rocks, just sporadic poles sticking up from the boulders to help us remember which way was up (as if we needed reminding!) We had amazing views during this part of the trek, but volcanic rock does not make for a comfortable resting place. So we pushed on from Mordor.

Next, we came to the scree slope from hell, comprised entirely of ash, pumice and rock. Our friend Andy took one look at the insanely steep incline--and decided he was done for the day. We had a team meeting, however, and decided we'd tackle the slipperly slope of doom one short stretch at a time. So, one of us would pick a boulder or other landmark, and we'd stagger upward and onward until we reached our goal and could
catch our breath.
It was literally a process of taking two steps forward, one step back. But after 5 1/2 hours of hiking/crawling/scrambling and cheering each other on,we made it to the summit! It was a gorgeous, sunny day and the crater views were worth the tortuous climb. We ate our sandwiches and guzzled the last of our water, thinking we'd make it down in half the time.

It took us six hours to get down the mountain! Stumbling on the slippery scree, trying to scramble down boulders in the hot sun, falling repeatedly, suffering from dehydration . . . I was never so glad to stagger get off a trail as I was last night! But we all recouperated over a meal in Cougar (the closest town to the trailhead), and rejoiced in our accomplishment.

The real miracle is that I could get out of bed today . . .


Kathryn said...

Ah, Shawn, always the adventurer. Does this make up for not being able to do Three Finger Jack? I'll certainly look at St. Helens differently when I fly over it on the way to Seattle next week.
I'm very proud of you for persevering and especially for helping your friend make it to the top.

Kathy said...

Hi, Shawn. Here we are again, on this parallel journey. It amazes me how much we seem to be "in step." Bob and I just finished a trip to the Sisters' Wilderness and a climb of the South Sister. It was awesome, challenging, brought to mind many spiritual messages; just as you have described. As you can imagine, I wish we could "do church" together . . .I have a feeling it would be pretty amazing! In the meantime . . . blessings on you both. ~ k and b
P.S. Would love to hear from you. ..

Who links to my website?