Corie: One more virgin summit for me and my first climb over varied, snow-covered terrain. Our 5am start was pushed back to 6am due to the fact that making coffee/breakfast is much slower when you’re trying to do it from inside the warmth of a tent. The timing was perfect, however, because the sky began to lighten as we came into view of the mountain, and we were gifted with glittering, pink snow during our first stretch of climbing.
The snow pack was lovely on the way up and it made our skis and snowshoes unnecessary. The downside to the lovely, frozen snow? It was so cold that we had to drink straight from the reservoirs on our hydration bladders- the tubes were iced over from the night before- and our bars/bagels were rock hard. Exciting!
Andy lead me through a series of self-arresting skill tune ups when we hit the base of the crampons-definitely-helpful section, and we pushed for the summit.
Avoiding the edge (thanks, cornices!) we snapped a few summit-selfies and panoramas, and made our way back down to a less- horribly windy ridge. We got a bit … Off the trail at one point and had to navigate back to the appropriate ridge line. This made for some exciting scrambling!
Andy was a patient, encouraging coach and adventure partner whenever I became pee-my-pants anxious about a section of the climb and as a result, despite being exhausted and a bit hangry, I had an easier time on the spicier bits than I did on Adams.
Andy: Winter mountaineering is always a bit finicky when it come to weather, so we outlined a few different peaks that would be possible during these months and counted on being flexible to follow weather windows when they appeared. Saint Helens opened up very nicely for us and we pounced! The winter route is know as Worm Flows due to its serpentine nature and follows the side of the Swift Glacier for most of it’s extent. This route is a bit longer than the standard summer route so it makes for long day on the mountain even if you’re moving quickly. We both really enjoyed the day and I got lucky with some excellent powdery turns on the descent!
Mountain #4 was slated to be southern Oregon’s Mt. McLoughlin but when Friday’s weekend forecast came in, our plans changed- not only was weather near Medford supposed to be extra spicy, but the forecast for Saint Helens was looking PERFECT for a Sunday summit. And it really was. Aside from frigid temperatures (we were both burritoed/cocooned in our sleeping bags on Saturday night), and some windy patches, this 12 mile climb was characterized by clear skies and sunshine. The snow down low on the route wasn’t enough to completely fill in the talus fields, so navigating through those sections was slow. However, higher up on the mountain some fresh power made for gleeful turns on the way down.
Equipment List - Worm Flows/Swift Glacier
- The standard climbing kit (See South Sister)
- Ice axe
- Skis, splitboard, or snowshoes for flotation
- Trekking poles are helpful, but not necessary
Car to summit: 6h18m
Car to car: 11h10m