It was a perfect day to hike in every way! Thanks to Donna, Frank and Lisa.
Music Credit - "Guitar Peace" by Big Box of Paints, Copyright 2011 Techno Prisoners Publishing. For more information visit http://bigboxofpaints.com
From the Washington Trails Association...
"Mount St. Helens is a peak that should be on every life list. And because it is an active volcano, it is best not to put it off for too long. Climbing to the crater rim is an opportunity to see not only amazing views in every direction, but to see geology raw, unformed and in its making.
The hike is hard, but requires no technical climbing skills. The trailhead (Summer Route) is known as the Climbers' Bivouac. The first 2.1 miles climbs 1000 feet through forests and open meadows to the Loowit Trail, which circuits the mountain. This section of trail is described in detail in WTA's Hiking Guide as Ptarmigan Trail.
Continuing much past the Loowit Trail requires a climber's permit (details below). This is where the trail ascends to Monitor Ridge, and the way gets more difficult from here. The next 2500 vertical feet is through boulder fields -- and not any ordinary boulder fields. These rocks are dusted with an ash pumice that tends to shred the skin. You'd be wise to bring garden gloves for this section! It can also be windy, so bring layers and a jacket as well.
The last section of trail climbs about 1000 vertical feet through ash and small rocks to the crater rim. It's described by many as "two steps forward and one step back." Gaiters and long pants are a good choice here. And to get your mind off of the slow slog, be sure to take in the views! You are going upward and before you know it you will be standing on the summit.
The scene at the top is almost surreal -- the huge crater with a dome growing rapidly in size each year and the state's newest glacier forming a horseshoe around it. And the incredible views to Mount Adams, Mount Hood, Mount Rainier floating above the blue-green undulating hills surrounding them. Be sure to stay well-back from the rim while taking photos; this is a cornice and could easily break under your feet.
After enjoying the top, it is time to head down. Trekking poles are a big help for the knees. Depending upon the time of year, it is also possible to glissade down part of the mountain (but be cautious).
The fine print about climbing Mount St. Helens: After May 15th, only 100 people are allowed to climb the mountain on a given day. Permits for climbing above 4800 feet are required year-round and are available for purchase online through the Mount St. Helens Institute. Snagging a permit for peak summer travel is best done in spring, but some permits are available on a first-come, first-serve basis at the Lone Fir Resort in Cougar.
From Cougar, drive east on Forest Road 90 just 1 mile beyond the Swift Dam, and turn left (north) onto FR 83. Continue north on FR 83 to the junction with FR 81. Turn left onto FR 81 and drive 1.6 miles before turning right onto FR 830. Follow this to the large trailhead parking lot. The (Summer) trailhead, known as the Climbers' Bivouac since it is the starting point for every group headed for the crater rim, offers composting toilets and plenty of parking."
Become a member of the WTA at http://www.wta.org