First of all, a disclaimer: I newb. I’m no expert climber or snowboarder. This was my first climb of Mt. St. Helens and I’m just here to tell you how I did it and got it done.
Ok here we go:
December of 2015 -I check the weather with Mountain Forecast and everything checked out. So that night I loaded up the truck and headed up to Marble Mountain Sno-Park. It was a Sunday (2000-ish, that’s 8pm) and Cougar store was closed. Undeterred, I pressed on deciding to fuel myself utilizing my emergency ration of beer and Clif Bars in the back of my truck. Always have a case of beer in the back of your truck!
2100 – I arrived at the snow park and it was empty besides some high school having a good ole time in the dark. I went and talked to them to be friendly, and I figured it’d deter them from robbing my truck. We chatted, I grabbed a permit (climbing is free in winter), then started skinning through the trees on the Wormflow route. Here’s a Map
*Sno-Park Permit is required at Marble Mountain Sno-Park
Goal was to knock out the first 2.2 miles and camp above the treeline near the intersection with the Loowit Trail (around 3,600 ft). I’ve hiked this before so skinning in the dark was no problem. If this is your first time, just keep heading uphill and you’ll be good.
About 1 hour and 966 feet of climbing later I had reached my goal and pitched my tent in the open area on the right side of swift creek before chocolate falls. I chose this spot because I wanted the longest possible descent without a heavy pack….as I’d figure out tomorrow, snowboarding down a flat trail with a heavy ruck sucks…..and yes, I could have camped in the parking lot but I wanted to get some snow camping in.
I dug up a flat spot, pitched my 4 season tent, and anchored it by filling stuff sacks with snow and burying them. I only brought a 40F bag so I spent the night freezing my arse off!
It was December so the sun didn’t rise until 0830 and that’s about the time I crawled out of the tent. I had a beer for breakfast, packed 2 more for the road, with 1 liter of water, and 2 Clif Bars. By 0900 I was skinning up the mountain.
They say there are cairns and wooden stakes to follow but I just climbed the mountain along the best route I could find. The higher you go the more turns you get, it’s simple really. Just climb up!
I really should have waken up earlier because the sun warmed the snow and made skinning up the steep sections a lot more difficult. They don’t do alpine starts at 0 dark 30 for nothing.
By the route I took I reached the crater rim in 2.8 miles, 4 hours, and 4,667 ft to the crater rim.
At the rim I kept a good distance from the edge cause it was most likely a cornice. I was swallowed by a cloud (killing my view) and getting pretty tired being out of beer, water, and food so I skipped the summit and went to work assembling my board. First time doing it took my 5 minutes, not bad, I like the voile system.
I dropped in from 8,200 ft.
I stayed close to my tracks on the way down since it’s easy to get off course. What seems straight down to you could easily put you miles from your point of origin when you’re descending 5,000 ft. If you want to explore, I recommend you take a GPS and mark your camp so you can at least keep going in that general direction.
Anyway, Coming down was a blast! The best 13 minutes of snowboarding I’ve had in awhile. I don’t think I’ll ever climb a non- technical mountain again without carrying a snowboard to the top. I am hooked.
Back at camp I would’ve loved to build a snow couch and drink some beer to enjoy the afternoon sun and view, but sadly I was out of food and beer. I packed up camp as fast as possible and went about snowboarding through the trees with a heavy ruck. The worm flow trails is a very gradual descent (avg grade is 11%) so don’t make any mistakes and don’t carve. Treat it like a bobsled and get in a rut, turn only when you need to. I nearly pulled it off but ran out of speed in the last 1/4 mile. Took me 17 minutes.
Great trip, can’t wait to do it again.
Summit day: Board, skins, boots, poles, beacon, probe, shovel, GPS, gloves, beanie, goggles, buff, running tights, hard shell top and bottom, Burton pack.
Camp: 4 season tent, bag, pad, jet boil, fuel, zip-loc baggies (for collecting and melting snow), stuff sack (pillow), GoPro4, Tripod, and beer. Could’ve used more beer.