Category Archives: Mount Saint Helens

Climbing Mount St. Helens

Since it’s Nothing to Fear Day, I’ll answer one of my most frequently asked questions: “What is the most scared you’ve ever been while out volcano hopping?” 😱

While there’s always a risk with volcanoes, I’m constantly keeping my eyes and ears open. And I never turn my back on the lava. To this point, I’ve never been really afraid on a volcano. Do I have a healthy respect for them? Absolutely! And nothing gets your heart pounding more than looking down and seeing a river of lava running a couple feet beneath your boots when you didn’t exactly expect it to be there.

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Memorial at Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens is one of the most fiesty volcanoes on the planet. It is certainly one of the most active volcanoes in the United States. Situated in Washington’s Cascade Range, this stratovolcano is known for its explosive and frequent eruptions. Mount St. Helens has produced lava flows, towering lava domes, and erupted roiling ash clouds and pyroclastic density currents. Out of all of Mount St. Helens’ eruptions, one event in particular has branded itself into our memories: the eruption on May 18, 1980.

May 18, 1980

It was a quiet and sunny Sunday morning in Washington. Birds were singing in the thick forest and trout were splashing in the Toutle River. Elk roamed through the underbrush. And Mount St. Helens conical peak dominated the landscape.

Since March 1980, frequent earthquakes had rattled the volcano and surrounding landscape. Several small eruptions of gas and ash had occurred at the summit in recent weeks. More startling was the way Mount St. Helens had begun to deform. A tremendous bulge had formed under the north slope of the mountain in a matter of weeks.

Scientists and local government officials had never seen anything quiet like it. They understood that Mount St. Helens was active, but the last eruption had been in 1857. No one alive had witnessed the potential power behind the volcano. They frantically studied the mountain and try to predict what type of eruption the volcano would produce – and when.

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This year marks the 40th anniversary of the May 18, 1980 eruption at Mount St. Helens. Just a few months shy of the anniversary, we climbed the volcano to check out the views from Mount St. Helens’ summit. We could clearly see and smell the steaming lava dome, witnessed rockfalls…

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With the 40th anniversary of Mount St. Helens’ 1980 eruption just a few weeks away, I have been reading up on the volcano’s history. In 1978, Rocky Crandall and Donal Mullineaux wrote this fantastic paper after years of studying the volcano: Potential Hazards From Future Eruptions of Mount St. Helens…

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I am super excited to announce that Intrepid Times and Exisle Publishing are releasing an amazing anthology called “Fearless Footsteps” next year – and that our story about climbing Mount St. Helens will be featured in it! Copyright © 2019 Volcano Hopper. All rights reserved. Loved this post? Share it!

Climbing Mount St. Helens was one of the most difficult, and most rewarding, hikes I have ever done. There is nothing quite like the thrill of reaching the top of an active volcano!

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Monitor Ridge – Part 2

Three steps. Two.  One.  Suddenly, Mount St. Helens’ summit crater stretched wide open in front of me.  The rim of the crater curved around to the north like eagles’ wings.  An enormous lava dome that dwarfed everything around it sat perched in the heart of the mile-wide crater.  The lava dome itself sat steaming happily away, tendrils of the white steam curling up toward us.  The sharp scent of sulfur – like rotten eggs – made my nose sting.  

We had made it!  I clung to my husband, brother, and sister as we cried victorious tears.  Jason, Paul, and Alex had each been overwhelmingly patient and kind to me on that hike. Twenty-four hours before, none of us imagined we’d be standing there together.  But there we were!  Successful because of each other’s patience, love for each other and for the volcano, and because of God’s grace.

Panorama of Mount St. Helens’ summit crater. Photo Credit: Volcano Hopper

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Monitor Ridge – Part 1

Mount St. Helens is 8,366’ of badass stratovolcano.  She may not be the tallest volcano out there, but her slopes are steep and slippery.  And did I mention that she’s active?  At any moment, the volcano could hiccup and cause an ash explosion, pyroclastic flow, rockfall, or landslide.  So, naturally, I wanted to climb to the very top!  

Mount St. Helens as seen from the Boundary Trail – Pumice Plain. Photo Credit: Volcano Hopper

If you’d have told me as a kid, watching the eruption footage, that I’d ever have the opportunity to climb to Mount St. Helens’ summit, I never would have believed it. But on a sunny Tuesday in August, that was exactly what I was planning to do.

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Sometimes there just are no words to describe the beauty of a place. There are not enough words in the English (or any) language to describe how it felt to be standing in front of Mount St. Helens, finally face to face with a volcano I’d longed to see in person since childhood. Feeling the raw power of the volcano still present, and acknowledging the changed landscape around me from the 1980 (and subsequent) eruptions was moving.

So I leave you with today’s Thursday Thoughts. I am not offering commentary in the video – I want you to observe the blast zone from where I stood and form your own observations. The first part of the video is taken from Johnston Ridge just above the observatory. You can see down into the Pumice Plain. The second portion is from Devil’s Elbow, nearly 3 miles to the east down the Boundary Trail. You’ll spot Spirit Lake (with downed logs still floating) and are right in the heart of the ash and pyroclastic deposits from the 1980 eruption.

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The day after our trip to Johnston Ridge was meant to be full of R&R.  The four of us had planned and prepared for the summit attempt for over six months and we were ready to rock!  Now all we needed to do was rest up and enjoy a sunny Monday in Oregon.  Instead, we were flung into an adventure none of us had planned for; an adventure that almost stopped our hike before it even began

Monday, August 5, 2019.  
Legacy Hospital Emergency Room.

Mount St. Helens:  So are you gonna climb me, or what?

Volcano Hopper:  Are you nuts?

Mount St: Helens:  Pretty sure we established that a loooong time ago.  

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10/19