Mother's Day and Mount St. Helens

Before having kids, Wife (whom I'm now going to call by her name, Liz, because we're all friends here, right?) and I used to hike, climb, camp, and generally explore the outdoors almost weekly.  Now that "exploring the outdoors" means "check out the worm on the sidewalk in front of the neighbor's house," an opportunity to spend a day on a mountain with friends is a beautiful and rare thing.

Liz and me on the summit of South Sister, before kids (and before good taste in summit beer, apparently).

Liz and me on the summit of South Sister, before kids (and before good taste in summit beer, apparently).

Call it reason #4,365 why my wife rules: A few weeks ago, she took the kids to the coast with her visiting mom so I could join the old climbing crew for the annual Mother's Day Weekend Mount St. Helens climb.  (I should mention here that Liz also let me do this last year, when she--pregnant--stayed home with our toddler so I could go.  Amazing.) 

Some fun facts about Mount St. Helens:

  • There is a tradition of climbing Mount St. Helens in a dress on Mother's Day Weekend.  I have no idea where it comes from, but it's pretty fun to see a bunch of climbing dudes in flowery dresses heading up the mountain.  
  • The "winter route" to the summit, which is the default route through at least late spring, is 12 miles round trip and about 5500 feet of climbing.  This year, it took about 5 hours to get to the summit and 3 hours to get back down.
  • Mount St. Helens erupted in a major way on May 18, 1980, but there have been many smaller eruptions since.  The weekend we climbed, there were several mini-earthquakes detected deep in the mountain, which were apparently linked to "magma activity."

Our wonderful friend Daniel organizes this trip for the dozen+ people who usually go, and I was lucky enough to score a bunk in one of the mini-cabins at the campground.  My friend K and I rolled into the campground by 4pm Friday, ready to yell "FIRST!" when we realized we'd been beaten by at least 10 people who had wisely skipped town early and started in on the beer by noon.  Well played, early birds.

After dinner by the campfire and an unofficial headcount--50+ people in our group?!--we headed to bed early in anticipation of the 3:15am wake-up call.  The weather was super-warm, which meant we needed to get an early start, and we hoped to be heading out on the trail by 5:00am. A smooth morning and mostly smooth caravan to the trailhead had us on the trail by 5:15, and we naturally split into more reasonably sized groups.

It was a beautiful day on the mountain and the breeze kept us cool enough to be comfortable, but the recent heatwave meant we were not fully hiking on snow until much higher up than usual.  Still, I felt great--probably due to the FOUR peanut butter sandwiches I ate on the hike--and it was an awesome day!  We did have an injury and a few folks who took longer than ideal to get back to the trailhead, but in the end, everyone was happily toasting each other around the campfire.  I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story...

Heading up the trail with our goal in sight!

Heading up the trail with our goal in sight!

We were above the treeline before the sun had reached all the nooks and crannies of the mountain.  The temperature difference between sun and shade was huge!

We were above the treeline before the sun had reached all the nooks and crannies of the mountain.  The temperature difference between sun and shade was huge!

Me, checking out the view during a snack break in my lovely floral dress. (Photo credit: Josh)

Me, checking out the view during a snack break in my lovely floral dress. (Photo credit: Josh)

Mother's Day Weekend is one of the most popular times to climb, so it was crowded up there!  We found ourselves having to create new boot pack to scoot around some of the longer lines of climbers.

Mother's Day Weekend is one of the most popular times to climb, so it was crowded up there!  We found ourselves having to create new boot pack to scoot around some of the longer lines of climbers.

The summit celebration included frosty cold mimosas, photos for our moms, and showing a little leg.  We hung out on the summit for more than an hour before glissading (basically sledding on our butts) down several thousand feet.  Note: glissading is the most fun thing I've ever done.  Get thee up a mountain and try it!

The summit celebration included frosty cold mimosas, photos for our moms, and showing a little leg.  We hung out on the summit for more than an hour before glissading (basically sledding on our butts) down several thousand feet.  Note: glissading is the most fun thing I've ever done.  Get thee up a mountain and try it!

By the time we finished glissading and were hiking out, most of us were in tank tops and shorts.  What a great day!

By the time we finished glissading and were hiking out, most of us were in tank tops and shorts.  What a great day!

Of course, I missed my family like crazy, so I was happy to wake up early on Sunday (like I could sleep in if I tried) and head home to them.  That's the thing about having young kiddos--I fantasize about one night away from them for some adult conversation and a full night's sleep, but as soon as I get it, I wish they were there.  I assume this will change when they are teenagers.