Two friends and I all got together for a day of touring. It was a rare bluebird day here in the pacific northwest with springtime temperatures. None of us had explored the winter climb route up Mt. St. Helens and decided that was our plan for the day. After gathering weather and current avalanche information, we headed to the Marble Mountain Snow Park and got on the trail around 10:00 AM with no particular goal in mind other than to get out and see some scenery, have a good time and make a few turns. This route takes you up the southeast flank of the mountain to the top of the crater rim.
The trail was a very pleasant trek through the forest and in about an hour, we reached the tree line with what is left of Mt. St. Helens towering above us. From here, the trail becomes a climbing route and you pick the logical terrain and skin track up a well pronounced ridge line to the upper open snow fields of the mountain. The scenery and the vies just kept getting better and better. The terrain and the snow was incredible with so many natural gullies and rollers and fun stuff to play on.
As we hiked, the sun really baked the new snow that had fallen the previous day and it got stickier and sticker as the day wore on. By noon, we were seeing rollers and pinwheels forming all around us. We did a few cornice cuts and kept getting slabs about 8 to 12 inches to go off of what appeared to be a light rain or sun crust. By around 2:00 PM we had made it about 3/4 of the way to the summit and took our lunch break and enjoyed the view and the great weather.
We dug a pit and did a basic isolated column test, an extended column test and a Ruschblock test. My buddy from Meadows is just getting into back country so spent about an hour doing various tests to get him up to speed on doing tests. What we found was pretty much what we had suspected from ascent observation. There was a persistent weak lay about a foot down that allowed the new, wet snow to soft slab. Our test results got a pretty clean fracture (I would say Q-1 to Q-2 as it was very clean and popped with some energy). after a CT-13 on the isolated and a CT-22 on the ECT. When we did the Ruschblock, we got it to fail on the RB-4 with a quick downweight. Again, it failed at the same spot as the other two tests and had the same quality. We agreed that with PNW maritime snow that with caution and some thought behind route selection, the risks were manageable so continued for another 30 minutes to our predetermined turn around point of 1530.
The ride down was super fun, but this was some very sticky shit and had to be ridden “defensively” to avoid the dreaded tomahawk maneuver! We rode the terrain one at a time with each rider going to safe spots while the other two watched. We all had some great runs and it was a super day all around even though on this exploratory mission, we ran out of time for a summit. Our final treat of the day came in the form of being able to ride the approach trail all of the way back to the snow park. Shredlife`s dog “Scooy” was a champ and he kept up the entire time and is going to be a great shred dog.
Here are some pics of the day: