Mt. St. Helens

September 21-22, 1996

A gloomy weather forecast scared off half of those who had signed up. As we drove up to Washington State we passed through several different rainstorms. When we arrived at the climbers’ bivouac we had a fleeting view of the lower part of the mountain. Three of us (Matt Bryant, Trevor Liston and I) took a short hike along Lava Canyon, a spectacularly deep canyon which had been uncovered by the 1980 lava flows. We then drove into tiny Cougar for dinner. To our good fortune, we happened to pick the same restaurant that Bob Lemon and Anne McLucas had chosen, so we joined them. I had arranged to meet them at the trailhead Sunday morning, but now we could enjoy their company earlier. After dinner Trevor, Matt and I played electronic darts until about 11 pm, which turned out to be closing time for the place (which was restaurant and bar combined) — small towns shut down early! When we got back to the bivouac, the sky had cleared somewhat and the moonlight revealed fresh snow more than halfway up the mountain.

Next morning we awoke to heavy fog and low-lying clouds. At our elevation it had rained a good part of the night, so I figured we’d be trudging through some snow. The five of us made our way up through the foggy landscape, which somehow looked a lot like the Scottish Highlands. Halfway up we did reach snow, but it wasn’t deep enough to be a problem, and, in fact, it added considerably to the beautiful landscape. Miraculously, as we approached the final few hundred yards, we rose above the clouds and could suddenly see Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and at the crater rim, Mt. Rainier — all clear as could be! And it was actually sunny and almost warm. After hanging out and serving as roving photographers for the multinational collection of different climbing parties, we descended back into the clouds. By the time we were halfway down, the clouds had begun to dissipate and we could finally see the valleys below us. Unfortunately, this year was not a good year for harvesting huckleberries (last year was a winner), but the weather and enjoyable climbing group made it a worthwhile outing. Leader: Bill Montgomery.

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