Mt. St. Helens Climb - Worm Flow Route
One day ascent and snowboard down of Mt. St. Helens with Aimee, Brian, and Zack.
FeedbackBy Preston Hunt, 30 March 2002

The Pictures

Pictures are available in the gallery.

Zack's videos are available here: Video1 (3.8mb); Video 2 (3.8mb)

The report

Aimee, Montalto, and I met at the BOOM! Condo at 5:30 a.m. and then rendezvoused with Zack at REI. After a quick stop at the Cougar Burgerville for breakfast and at Jack's to get a climbing permit (this was the last weekend that they are free for this season), we made our way to the Marble Mountain snow park. We had decided on the Worm Flow route due to early season conditions (other routes snowed in).

The parking lot was extremely crowded with snowmobilers; we got one of the last few parking spots. We got started around 8:30 a.m. up the Swift Creek Ski Trail. Snow conditions were great, soft enough to not require crampons, hard enough to not require snowshoes (we packed them in anyway just in case).

Above timberline the solar radiation was intense, causing us all to strip down to our most basic layers. I was grateful for my glacier glasses which blocked 95% of the light (it still seemed plenty bright even with the shades on). I made a bad decision to also take off my liner gloves, leaving me with a really bad sunburn on my hands after the hike (the only real injury for the trip). We saw plenty of people taking off their ski pants, jackets, etc., only to leave acres of alabaster skin exposed to the sun; can you say "lobsterfest in the making?"

We climbed pretty consistently with only quick bathroom stops and Gu breaks. Our most noticeable break was around 12 noon when we caught up with a guy who had previously blasted past us on a split snowboard. All of us admired how fast he was traveling and vowed to get a split snowboard, but after seeing him suffer on the steeps, I am not so sure. Many telemarkers and randoneers were also holstering their skis and trudging up by foot. (All of us, save Aimee, had our snowboards strapped to our packs.)

Between 6300 and 7000 feet, the inner part of my quadriceps started "tweaking" a bit, and almost cramped up when I took big steps. I suspected dehydration as the root cause, and quickly quaffed some water from my Camelbak and then Hoovered a powerbar for good measure. I also implemented a 3:2 rest step (3 steps, followed by a rest count of 2) to give my muscles a chance to bleed off some lactic acid and to increase the oxygen to them.

Everything paid off and, by 7000, I was back in action. I upped my rate to a 5:2 rest step, resulting in a big boost in my feet gained per minute. I gained the summit a little bit before 2:00 p.m. and took in the vistas of Rainier, Adams, and Hood. Zack was already waiting for me, and Aimee and Montalto soon joined us.

We snapped a few photos and then strapped our boards on for the descent (except for Aimee, who, lacking a snowboard, had to glissade/hike out). The first few hundred feet were pretty firm/icy, but soon gave way to delicious slush. The next 4000 feet were pure bliss; we each carved through fresh (though somewhat wet) snow. I was riding my old snowboard with my mountaineering boots, which had given me some worry, but it wasn't any problem at all. The snow was so soft that carving through it was effortless and very forgiving. When the snow is extremely soft, you can be much more forgiving with the bindings -- I even boarded part of the way with only one strap attached.

Once we hit the timberline, we were able to ride down most of the trail, passing tons of people on snowshoes and on foot (the latter group noticeably more miserable). (See Zack's video clips.) Around elevation 2800, it finally became too flat to continue and I hiked out the remainder of the way, postholing every step of the way.

We got back to the car around 3:45 p.m, where we had about 2 hours to bask in the fleeting sun, dry our gear, check out the warming hut, beg pathetically for scraps of food from a nice woman in the warming hut, and listen to the Taurus' stereo while we waiting for Aimee to slog it out on foot. We checked on her status every 30 minutes or so with the TalkAbouts. Funniest quote of the trip was Aimee's "I smell sweet diesel snowmobile exhaust!" when she was a couple hundred feet from the trailhead. We were also amused at several snowmobilers' skills (or lack thereof) at steering snowmobiles on dry pavement after they pulled out of the snow (nearly running us over a few times).

Normally this would be the end of the trip report, but this time there is a denouement: Although she was initially ebullient at having finally made her way back to the car, Aimee quickly faded and by the time we reached Jack's restaurant to sign out and catch a cool drink, exhaustion and nausea had set in. Apparently, the combination of exertion, altitude, and perhaps the ill-timed consumption of a fat-rich chocolate chip cookie caused her to become sick to her stomach and leave behind a few "street pizzas" in the parking lot before we could pull out. Fortunately, that was the end of it, and she slept most of the way back to REI.

The data

Climb:

Mt. St. Helens - Worm Flow Route

Date:

30-Mar-2002

Party:

Preston Hunt, Aimee Green, Brian Montalto, Zack Sachen

Total up:

5590

feet

Avg rate up:

15

feet/min

Up time:

5:36

Total down:

5550

feet

Avg rate down:

73

feet/min

Down time:

1:10

The gear

(Special thanks to Mark who recommended not taking ice axe, helmet, or crampons -- the advice was spot on!)

Qty.

Category

Subcat

Item

Wt. (oz.)

1

Essentials

Balaclava - REI polypro

1.6

1

Essentials

REI polypro liner gloves

1.1

1

Essentials

Emergency solar blanket & storage bag

2.1

1

Essentials

LED keychain light

0.3

1

Essentials

Locking serated blade

2.8

1

Essentials

Paper, pen, & storage bag

2.2

1

Essentials

Suunto Compass

1.3

1

Essentials

Sunscreen (SPF 45) - Aloe Gator

1

Essentials

Whistle

0.2

1

Essentials

Toilet paper

0.3

1

Essentials

Waterproof matches, trick candles (+ bottle)

0.9

1

Essentials

No-Doze tablets (bottle)

5

Essentials

Zip ties (aka cable ties)

0.0

1

Essentials

Sunglasses

1

Essentials

Map of area

0.0

1

Essentials

Extra food (Powerbar)

2.7

1

Essentials

Extra socks

1

Essentials

First-aid kit

2

Essentials

Large heavy-duty garbage bags

0.5

1

Food

Containers

Camelbak Unbottle

3

Food

Food

Powerbars

2.7

4

Food

Food

Gu

1.2

1

Clothing

Wicking

Patagonia Mid Capilene Zip (blue)

7.6

1

Clothing

Wicking

Columbia long johns (white)

1

Clothing

Wicking

REI Thermal boxer briefs (black)

1

Clothing

Insulating

REI Polartec 300 fleece vest

1

Clothing

Shell

Jacket - Arc'Teryx Theta AR

1

Clothing

Shell

REI Gore-Tex pants

14.3

1

Clothing

Footwear

Koflach plastic boots (step-in compatible)

94.2

1

Clothing

Footwear

Insulating socks (pair)

1

Clothing

Footwear

Wicking/liner socks (pair)

1

Clothing

Footwear

OR super gaiters (pair)

10.5

1

Clothing

Headwear

Nike white baseball cap

2.5

1

Clothing

Headwear

Cebe glacier glasses (+ case)

2.7

1

Clothing

Gloves

REI fleece gloves (brown)

1.7

1

Clothing

Gloves

Marmot Randonee Gore-Tex gloves

6.5

1

Hiking

Komperdell Regular trek poles (red)

19.1

1

Alpine

Snowshoes - Sherpa Tech

77.6

1

Alpine

Snowboard - Fosfor w/ strap bindings

192.0

1

Electronics

Canon digital camera + case + lens cleaner

14.8

1

Electronics

Suunto altimeter watch

2.0

1

Electronics

Motorola Talk-About radio (+3AA batteries)

5.9

1

Electronics

Cell phone (Nokia 8260)

3.5

1

Containers

Packs

Dana Design Bomb Pack (3200 ci)

79.4

Total weight (lbs.)

35.2

Gear notes: Didn't use the snowshoes at all, although I would have needed them if I hadn't snowboarded down. The trekking poles were really helpful. Warm day so didn't use any of the cold weather gear, save the Arc'Teryx jacket at the summit. Snowboard bindings need to be reversed on the front binding, as the excessive amount of snow was causing the binding to open up.

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