Outbound Collective logo

Mount St. Helens: 10/10 Would Recommend to a Friend

Mount St. Helens, we WILL be at the top in Summer 2017!

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

My brother, myself, and a friend were able to secure permits to hike Mount St. Helens on one of the last few days available - Sunday, October 23. The week prior to our hike, we had been checking the weather reports intermittently, and what we saw was less than encouraging. Reports called for rain throughout the weekend, with winds and snow at high elevations on Sunday. Our plan? “Play it by ear,” camp at the climber’s bivouac Saturday night, and make a decision when we woke up Sunday morning. Thankfully by the time Saturday rolled around, the forecast had improved significantly. At this point, Saturday night and Sunday morning called for rain showers with highs near 50 at the base and 30 degrees near the summit. Definitely do-able! 

Photo: Matt Klemsz

Saturday night at 5pm, we arrived at the campground, set up camp, drank some local brews, cooked dinner and a few hours later headed to bed. The morning quickly rolled around and at 4am we were surprisingly awoken by an early-bird crew of enthusiastic hikers setting out to conquer the peak before 10am. Our alarms were set for 6:45am so you can best believe that everyone went back to sleep. 

As anticipated, we were slow moving in the morning and eventually hit the trail around 8:30am. Just a mere ten minutes into our hike, we had to strip off our outer waterproof shells due to overheating and excessive sweating. Now, comfortable and venting body heat efficiently, we motored on, reaching snow-line around 10am. 

Photo: Matt Klemsz

After stopping for a short snack and water break, we continued on. Visibility continued to fall, but the fog kept temperatures high. We passed several groups on our way up, ranging from casual hikers to a group with 30 pound bags, snowshoes, cramp-ons and ski goggles. 

Scrambling up geomorphic rock fields and over snow drifts, we quickly made our way to around 7,000 ft. At this point, we encountered a group on their way down, who warned us that visibility dropped significantly ahead and the snow turned to ice that “...isn't worth dying over.” Bravely, we chose to proceed with caution, knowing that if it conditions got too icy, we would turn back. 

Visibility dropped to around 20 feet and the wind picked up as we continued to climb. The tracks we had been following dwindled down to one or two cramp-on trails. Quite concerning as we had only had our boots and hiking poles.

Photo: Matt Klemsz

We kept climbing for several hundred vertical feet at which point the wind picked up and the fog in the air began to freeze. When we reached 8,000 ft. we decided to turn back, not wanting to risk sliding on our way back down.

The descent back down the mountain was easy going, skijoring and jogging at times. Within two hours we made it back to camp, stopping intermittently to have lunch and take pictures. Upon returning, we consulted the information stand and map, learning that we had been quite close to the top. Bummed? Absolutely not. Rather, we all agreed to return next summer and finish the hike we started. 

Mount St. Helens, we WILL be at the top in Summer 2017! 

Story by Hi-Tec guest blogger, Otto Stefan.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Do you love the outdoors?

Yep, us too. That's why we send you the best local adventures, stories, and expert advice, right to your inbox.


Big Bend Bound: Crafting Your 3-Day Adventure

Erin Newman-Mitchell

A golden happy hour on the California coast

Hannah Sibley

Lake Tahoe's trifecta: 3 Days of adventure at Zephyr Cove

Ranz Navarro

10 Ways to make camping in Yosemite National Park even better

Meghan White

Review: Danner Mountain Light boots in Yosemite National Park

Hannah Sibley