Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mount St. Helens - In Drag!

Guest post by Nick (in the pink dress and red boots) :)

As Liz posted previously, Brad and a couple other silly boys (myself included) decided to get together to climb Mount St. Helens in drag.  Why would we do this?  To celebrate our mothers of course!
For years hundreds of people gather at MSH to climb and ski the mountain in dresses.  Rumor has it that it was Portlanders who started this tradition.  Way to keep it weird, PDX! 

There must have been at least 200 people there that day, we also heard that 650 permits were sold for the day.  Many people must have chosen not to come due an NWAC avy warning.

After some e-mailing, planning, reminders about avy safety, and dreaming of summit burritos, we took off Saturday afternoon for the mountain and spent the night camping near Marble Mount Sno-Park.  Apart from forgetting to read the directions closely and driving 25 minutes past the turnoff we did all right getting there.  

To climb Mount St. Helens you are required to purchase a permit and pick it up at the Lone-Fir resort in Cougar, WA.  When we arrived at the lodge to register we knew we were in for a treat with the logbook being full of other climbing parties.  We hurried off, not wanting to be late for the party.
We started skinning up from 100 yards past the trailhead at 5:30 the next morning, hoping to catch some firm snow for skinning.  The weather report forecasted warm temperatures and the avalanche risk for the weekend was high.

We quickly ran into another group led by the shining star of the day—Kevin—a Seattlite with boundless energy, “woohoos”, and a skimpy sequined silver dress.  It seemed like no matter where you were on the mountain that day you could hear him woohoo-ing someone and see him dancing while his dress sparkled in the sun.
We skinned up through the forest for a good 1-15 hours before reaching the treeline and a full view of our route.  I told myself that it would be easy, just a long walk up a big hill, right?  After climbing for another hour or so we hit rocks and had to boot pack for 150 yards or so. 

Skinning conditions were better early on but as the sun came out and the snow warmed up the snow became increasingly slurpee-like and many chose to bootpack instead of continue skiing up.  Each of us fell while skinning, the steeps became a little frustrating but we made it up anyway.
We finally made it to the summit a few minutes after 11:00 and joined ~40 of our closest friends in avoiding the cornices while trying to get a glimpse down the crater.  This was worth the climb if you’ve never been up there!  I tried to call my mom and got through, but reception was a little spotty. 

Kevin, our diva for the day, was sprinting around the summit back and forth between groups while drinking beer and high-fiving anyone and everyone.  At one point I caught him on video helping a fellow climber do a handstand on the summit.

After downing our summit burritos and snapping a few pictures we transitioned from our skins and took off downhill, still in our dresses.  They flowed beautifully.
The snow was corn/slush and FUN on top. Mount St. Helens is phenomenal with its wide-open runs that provide the right space and steepness for pure joy in turning.  The snow became more and more slushy as we got lower and the sun continued to warm it, but thankfully it never became too sticky.  The run through the trees back to the trailhead felt more like single track and bootpacking was required at times, though it wasn’t too bad.
All in all it was a great day on the mountain, perhaps a bit warm, but good skiing, great company, and beautiful climbers.  It was all worth it for the moms!  We love you all.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, it seems that you had lots of fun there! Funny dresses you have guys :)

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