After three days on Mt Rainier, we took a day off from skiing to gather supplies and form a plan for our final three days of the trip. The forecast was looking good for all three days and Jeff would be able to join us on Friday, May 18th for a ski of Mt St Helens. This just happened to be the 32nd anniversary of the eruption.
After getting supplies and heading up to the Marble Mountain Sno-Park on Thursday we had some time to kill. We decided to go check out Ape Cave, a lava tube a few miles to the southwest. We didn’t tour the whole cave but went for 15 minutes or so in each direction. The upper cave is much more challenging than the lower section.
Jeff was able to reserve and pick up the required climbing permits and the three of us left the trailhead just before 8 AM. Snow patches started a few hundred yards in but we resisted putting on skis until the snow was more consistent.
One great quality of getting above treeline is that you can generally see your route (and other people) the whole time. We passed around a dozen people on the way up with plenty more above; some still ascending and others hanging out near the crater.
I was a little bit ahead of Jeff and Dima and decided to head directly to the crater to traverse the rim to the summit while they took a more direct approach. The crater rim is notorious for large cornices but I was able to find a few safe spots that provided a glimpse of the steaming lave dome. A rope would have been a good idea to get better views into the crater.
There seems to be a few fun lines descending into the crater, but unfortunately, entry into the crater is verboten.
At the summit there are two bumps each about the same elevation. Standing on each one, the other looked higher. Jeff and I each had a GPS but they gave conflicting data. I stood on each with my altimeter and the more northwesterly bump (and Jeff’s GPS) was determined the winner.
A short traverse from the summit was required to get us back to the proper drainage. After the traverse, over 4000 feet of great fall line skiing lay before us. Once again, the snow was softened to perfection and we were able to arc turns both big and small down towards a ramp on the skiers left to avoid a small rock ridge we crossed on the ascent bringing us back to treeline. The last thousand feet of decent were spent mostly on skis with a few short portages across melted out sections of trail. I clicked out of my skis for the last time a few hundred feet from the trailhead.