Sunday, February 22, 2015

Mount St. Helens north

Last week on the Loowit Ben and I convinced ourselves that the trails to the north of Mount St. Helens in the Mount Margaret Backcountry area were looking good for a long run. A cool-looking 50k was mapped and Kevin joined in.

Well, it is February. And there were some big snow drifts that resulted in steep traverses with less-than-favorable runouts. About 14 miles in we made the call that pushing on wasn't the best choice and we still made a nice loop out of day that clocked in at ~25 miles with over 6,000' of climbing.

It was another gorgeous outing with good guys and from the summit of The Dome off Boundary Trail #1 we could see Jefferson, Hood, St. Helens, Adams and Rainier; Cascade volcanoes abound!

Starting out from the Hummocks TH
Low on the Johnston Ridge trail; Kevin's photo
Johnston Ridge trail
Johnston Ridge trail
Keyhole before Coldwater Peak
Mt. Rainier from the shoulder of Coldwater Peak
Rainier, Adams, St. Helens Lake, Spirit Lake, Hood, St. Helens; from the shoulder of Coldwater Peak
Kevin descending from most of the way up Coldwater Peak
Mount St. Helens' lava dome
Above St. Helens Lake; Ben's photo

Boundary Trail #1; Kevin's photo
Below The Dome
Looking over at Mt. Margaret, from where we turned around
Kevin styling; a little bit back from where we turned around
Ben, Kevin, me; summit of The Dome
Ben descending The Dome, with Mt. Adams and Spirit Lake

Kevin's photo
Looking up Coldwater Creek into the Mt. Margaret Backcountry
Numerous creeks along the Coldwater Lake trail
Finishing up along Coldwater Lake

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Loowit Trail, Mount St. Helens

When it comes time to plan the next outing, there is nothing better than getting an enticing invite for adventure.

Ben shows up in my inbox, "...interested in re-branding next Saturday or Sunday as Saint Helen's day and going for a 'you shouldn't be able to do this in February' run around the volcano on the Loowit Trail?"

What a silly question. 

It was an amazing day with lots of solitude, elk and mountain goats. 

Relevant trail conditions:
  • Snow: patchy, maybe 1/2-mile total, mostly on the south, southwest and southeast sides; never needed the microspikes we carried all day, though. 
  • Blowdowns: maybe 10? Few new ones, no issues. 
  • Ravines: it appears that heavy rain runoff or ground saturation has caused real erosion and washout issues. Many of the descents and ascents into the valleys are more difficult than normal (according to Ben, his third loop 'round), with a couple being completely gone (and the ones that are OK are frozen dirt). The worst is the Shoestring Glacier valley which requires a long but straightforward detour (see GPS file at bottom).
Ben's photo album on Facebook.
Trail up from Marble Mountain Sno Park to the Loowit
Looking south to Mt. Hood

    Patchy snow on the south side; Ben's photo
Southwest side 
One of the early, and easy, ravine crossings

Goats and Mt. Rainer, looking across the Toutle River drainage
Looking across the Toutle at the trail climbing out
Toutle River
Descending to the Toutle
The descent into the Toutle; Ben's photo
The benched trail is pretty much a slope now; climbing out of the Toutle
"Breaking trail"
Another group
Some big bulls in there
Above the Toutle
Looking into the breach with a little steam coming out of the lava dome
Ben, Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier and Spirit Lake
Stayed dry; Ben's photo
Climbing to Windy Pass, center
Windy Pass; Ben's photo
At Windy Pass
"Action Ben" descending to the Plains of Abraham
Descending to the Plains of Abraham; Ben's photo
Enjoying the Plains of Abraham
Plains of Abraham; Ben's photo

Making up for the goats I didn't see in the Olympics
Another group
Just showing off...
Mt. Adams
Shoestring Glacier valley; regular trail on descent and far side ascent gone
Nope, high route not going to go
Dropping in ~.75m below the regular trail
Shoestring Glacier valley
Detouring through the valley bottom
Easy ascent out
Mt. Hood in the afternoon
Pretty cool huge ant hill
June Lake and waterfall
Nothing like sitting in a parking lot at the end of a long day (as long as it's followed with burgers and fries)