Saturday, October 3, 2009

Things you need to know about Hiking Mt St Helen

I saw a documentary on Mt St Helesn the other day and it reminded me of our journey to the top! I wanted to write a quick blog post about that journey and share some wisdom with future hikers.

Before I get into my short (but not short) post, here are a few lessons I learned.

1. Book in advance
2. Bring a hat for sun stroke and sun block (even on a rainy day)
3. Bring extra water
4. Bring a flashlight (even if you think you won't need it, bring it anyway)

Some tips for you:
- The last 1.5 hours of the hike is all ash, it's like running on the beach. You feel like you are taking one step forward and two steps back
- Don't give up, or you will have to start all over the next time you try the hike
- It was suggested to bring walking polls and a dust mask, I would highly recommend both!
- Hike down with a group of people, and start your hike as early as possible. Most hikers start around 6 am.

Here is my story:

On our way home from a road trip, we stopped in for a hike to the top of Mt St Helens. While planning our road trip, I began looking into the hike, what we should know, what to bring, how to get there, and other general information. I found the Mt St Helens Facebook page to be the most helpful, as it was full of comments from people who have previously hiked the mountain.

From what I read online, and what I understood of the hike, you just have to register yourself as a hiker and pay $22 for the climbers permit. Some how we overlooked the information about reserving your climbers permit at least 3 months prior to your hike. The morning of our hike we were up and ready to go at 6am, only to learn they restrict 100 hikers per day on the mountain. We learned that their were 99 people booked that day, and unless people actually call in to say they are not coming, they can not give away the climbing permits. Our group lucked out, and by about 9:30 am, the lady in charge of the climbers permit gave up and let us go up the mountain.  

LESSON 1: book in advance

The hike up the mountain was amazing! And I must say we were quite illprepared for such a hike. We read through the suggested packing list before leaving but made some bad executive decisions before our hike. We started our hike quite late, and it was raining when we left. I had packed snacks, lunch, more than enough water, 2 bottles of Gatorade, some glow sticks, a flashlight, and of course a can of red bull. At last minute I decided my bag was too heavy and that I didn't need a flashlight because it was daytime. I took the flashlight out of my bag and on we went.

A boyscout who gave up so close to the top
Not thinking, but we made it above the cloud line very quickly, and with no sun block or a hat, we continued on with our hike. This is of course LESSON 2: bring a hat and sun block for when you make it above the cloud lines.We made it to the top of the mountain by about 4 pm, after stopping numerous times to wait for our group. We were one of the last people to the top of the mountain, and were warned by a group of boy scout's that we should make our way off the mountain fairly quickly. Luckily we asked another family if we could hike down with them, just to be safe. I think we needed them as much as they needed us! We started climbing down the mountain about 6 pm, just as the sun made its way around the side of the mountain. We hiked down with 2 semi injured hikers, so it took us longer to get off the mountain. I was told previous to the hike, that it would only take about 3-4 hours to get off the mountain. We lost sunlight at about 8:30 pm, and luckily our group had one flashlight and the other group had one as well.  Just for fun, we put glow sticks on everyone so we could see each other, and made our way down the mountain. One of the injured hikers was suffering from dehydration and a bad ankle. She did not bring enough water on her hike, and her group had small amounts on them each. I was told to bring at least 5 liters of water, and that is one thing I did right. I believe I brought about 6 liters, and the two bottles of Gatorade, and the one can of red bull, so had enough left over to share. This would be LESSON 3: bring extra water.

Some of the hikers we climbed down with
We actually made it off the mountain about 11:30 pm, very sore and very tired. We learned quite the valuable lesson while on our hike. No of course you don't need a flashlight during the day time, but having one would have really helped. This is LESSON 4: bring a flashlight. We decided to make the 5 hour drive home right after our hike, as we knew how sore we would be the next morning and just wanted to get home. We were so sun burnt, and I have never been so sweaty, dirty and sore as I was that day!  I couldn't walk for a few days after the hike, my hips and bum were so sore from climbing over boulders and more boulders, and I was so sun burnt.

I can't express how amazing it felt making it to the top of Mt St Helens, and the view from the top was just breathtaking. If you are considering hiking Mt St Helens, I say go for it! I just hope you learn from some of our mistakes here!

Have you hiked Mt St Helens before? Leave your comment below and let us know how your hiking journey went. 

You may also like:

Our road trip across Canada: What an experience 
How to road trip across Canada on a budget
Our road trip across America 

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