Mt. St. Helens: Worm Flows Route

Worm Flows TrailYesterday was just another Monday, but the previous week I got off to a really great start by summiting Mt. St. Helens. The road leading to the summer route up Monitor Ridge wasn’t open yet, so we took the winter route along “The Worm Flows.” The route starts in the forest and the Worm Flows appear about tree line — I suppose they must be long, stringy lava flows from the not-too-long-ago eruption.

There’s some steep, some rock, and some snow before getting to the top, and we had a lovely day for climbing it all. Once we got to the top, we could see from Mt. Ranier on the other side of the crater (you can see it in the distance in the photo), all the way to the Three Sisters to the south.

View into the Crater

There’s nothing like being on an exposed, snowy, south-facing slope most of the day to watch the snow change. What was mildly crunchy in the morning was mildly slushy by early afternoon. The creek bed that was empty on the way up had a steady trickle running along it as we headed down. The takeaway? The earlier you start the firmer the snow on your ascent, and the better for sliding on your butt (“glissading” on the way down.)

Another factor in that snow quality must be that we were on the South slope of the mountain, which gets the most sun. I climbed Mt. Adams a couple years ago, also up the South side, and it was similar. The other routes up Adams are supposed to require mountaineering expertise.

You can’t climb the north side of Mt. St. Helens, though, regardless of your expertise, because the north wall of the crater is blown away. Though that sweeping view in all directions from the top was great, I was actually more fascinated by the closer view to the North. I’m putting it on the list of places to go soon.

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