Mount St. Helens is a popular climb for both beginning and experienced mountaineers. Although people are able to climb Mount St. Helens year-round, late spring through early fall is the most popular season. Most climbers use the Monitor Ridge Route from Climbers Bivouac. This route gains 4,500 feet in five miles to the crater rim at 8,365 feet elevation. Although strenuous, this non-technical climb is suitable for people in good physical condition who are comfortable scrambling on steep, rugged terrain. Most climbers complete the round trip in seven to twelve hours. While climbing to the crater rim is permitted, entry into the crater is strictly prohibited.
Mount St. Helens is not a particularly dangerous climb. Unfortunately, some accidents and injuries do occur. Most serious accidents happen when climbers slide or glissade down snowfields and are unable to stop or avoid hazards. Always control your speed and be able to stop yourself.
The crater rim is precipitous with drops of more than 1,000 feet to the crater floor. A snow cornice develops in winter and often lasts well into summer. Take great care, as portions of the rim may be unstable year-round. Stay off the snow cornice!
There are no active glaciers on the south slopes of Mount St. Helens. There are however, large permanent snow fields which may be very icy and may have large cracks caused by settling.Check the forecast and watch the weather as conditions can change rapidly.Be prepared for weather extremes.
Prepare for sun - goggles or sunglasses with side shields. Sunscreen - the sun reflecting off of snow and ash is intense, apply in those places you might forget to prevent burn from refl;ective sun i.e. under your nose, chin, ear lobes. Avoid contact lenses, as blowing ash and dust can be a problem. And don't forget a hat.
Protect your feet- sturdy, comfortable climbing or hiking boots with gaiters to keep out snow and ash.
Know where you are and where you're going - use a map, compass, route markers, GPS unit to know where you are and where you are going. Be sure to tell someone at home of your plans.
In case of injury, a First Aid Kit is essential. You may need to come to your own rescue, or help someone else. Be prepared!
An all-purpose pocket knife comes in handy for all kinds of purposes, especially the type with extra tools.
Don't get thirsty or hungry! Bring extra food and water. When it's warm, we reccommend at least 4 quarts of water per person. No water is available at Climbers Bivouac or on the climbing route. Carry plenty of food to snack on all day. Bring some extra food in case something unexpected happens. Reduce packaging to eliminate trash.
Stay dry and warm. Bring extra clothing. A beautiful sunny morning can turn into a cold rainy afternoon. Plan ahead! Layer clothing including full rain gear, gloves and hat. Layering allows you to adjust your clothing to different exertion levels and weather.
This is avalanche country in the winter. Bring an emergency signal device if you're out during avalanche conditions.
Emergency Shelter - Yes, you planned to be out on one very long day. Be prepared just in case that longer day turns into something much longer.
Flashlight, extra batteries, and bulb - A necessity when the day is short and the trail is long.
Be sure to tell a friend or relative where you are going and check in with them you return. Having someone that will notify authorities if you don't return can help get you the assistance you need when you need it most.
Reminder: Do Not Rely On Your Cell Phone In A Climbing Emergency! Climbers are cautioned not to substitute a cell phone for adequate preparedness, such as carrying the Ten Essentials, and signing in and out at the Climber's Register before and after your climb.
Conditions vary daily, even in summer. Be prepared to experience different weather conditions at different elevations. You can check the weather forecast for the different elevations along the climbing route here.