Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
In 1987, the southern slopes of Mount St. Helens were reopened for climbing. Visitors can climb above the timberline year-round; however, a climbing permit is required above 4,800 ft. from May 15 through October 31. Free permits are issued for 24 hours and can be obtained in advance from Monument Headquarters, near Amboy, by mail or in person. Unreserved permits for 40 climbers each day are available on a first-come, first-served basis from Jack's Restaurant and Store on State Highway 503 (5 miles west of Cougar). From 11 a.m. each morning a list is made of those wanting climbing permits for the following day. At 6 p.m. that night's permits are issued from the list. One person may represent a group of 12 people and must be present at 6 p.m. for the permit issue. Due to the high demand for unreserved permits during summer, advance reservations are encouraged to avoid disappointment.
The most popular route to the summit begins at the Ptarmigan Trail (#216A). It is reached by following Forest Roads #81 and #830. The first part of the trail is a two-mile hike through forest. The climb up Monitor Ridge can be slow, ascending steep pumice and lava slopes. The route is marked with wooden posts. During most of the year ice axes are recommended. Crampons and ropes may be needed in icy conditions. Climbers should also carry goggles or sunglasses with side shields (ash is often a problem in summer), gaiters for hiking boots, a windbreaker, rain gear, plenty of water, sunscreen, and gloves.
Climbers are required to sign in at the Climbers' Register outside Jack's Restaurant and Store before and after a climb. From the trailhead to the summit it is approximately 4.5 to 5 miles. The climb takes an average of eight to ten hours, round-trip from Climbers' Bivouac. However, adverse conditions due to extreme temperatures, wind and poor visibility can mean a longer trip. For more information on climbing the 8,365-ft. volcano, call the Climbing Hotline (206) 247-5800 or (206) 750-3961.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication