Extreme Ironing on the Summit of Mount St. Helens!
"I've never been this tired in my life...not even when I stayed up to watch Harry Potter 7 on opening night!"
The words of this wise student summed up how we all felt after the nearly 12 hours of hiking that went into the powerful experience of standing on top of a Cascade volcano and peering down into the smoking crater. All of us here in Portland orient ourselves by looking North to the snow-covered rise of Mount St. Helens, but few of us can claim to have been lucky enough to see the world from on top. Thirteen excited and newly-graduated 8th graders joined the company of one dedicated 7th grader, four adult climb leaders, and an increasingly heavy ironing board to try their hand at reaching the summit.
As most of the group was new to the wonders of mountaineering, the greater portion of Saturday was spent in the sun, learning about the fundamentals of a safe and successful climb. We talked about the essential clothing and personal equipment that one needs for an outing, as well as the importance of food, water, rest and paying attention to ones breathing and body. We learned the basic skills needed on a mountain climb at a short Snow School (on a less than impressive snow slope!) These techniques included the rest step, plunge step, walking with an ice axe, putting on and walking with crampons, and the theory behind a self-arrest.
Back at camp, we explored the edge of the lake, played some ridiculous games, and feasted on a "make-your-own burrito" spread. There is nothing like chorizo to power you up a mountain. We all went to bed early knowing that we would be awake again in only a few hours to start the climb.
By 4am everyone in the group was up and putting the final touches on their gear, and we were at the Marble Mountain trailhead and moving toward the mountain by 6:15. Our first break all together came at timberline where the sun greeted us in full force. The trail through the "Worm Flows" soon met up with Monitor Ridge, and the group worked its way up this prominent feature on the mountain. The shortest route to the top of the mountain starts at a trailhead known as the "Climber's Bivouac," but due to the heavy snow this year, the bivouac had not yet melted out, forcing our group to take the longer approach from Marble Mountain. The extra distance didn't slow us down, as our group easily kept pace with another Mazama party that was on the mountain that day.
The group tired as we neared the top, and a bit of fog covered the summit, but everyone pushed on. The first in our party reached the top at 1:11pm, and the rest of us trickled up to the rim before we all started the incredible glissade back to the forest. As the fog cleared, we had unbelievable views north to Mt. Rainier, and down to the impressive, and smoking lava dome.
The ironing board made it all the way up to the summit only for us to realize that somebody had forgotten the iron! Please enjoy these photos from this incredible weekend. It was an experience that we all will be able to draw from in many ways for years to come.
"Who forgot the iron?"
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