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St Helens: Monitor Ridge to Butte Camp

Posted: July 4th, 2018, 9:08 pm
by Chip Down
Windy at Blue Lake TH at 3:45am. No surprise; NOAA had a red-flag warning in effect. Of course, it didn't really get ferocious until I got above the trees and out in the open, around the Loowit/Butte Camp junction.

When I was here a few days ago, on my first trip here, it was cloudy, so today I had a chance to see the scenery I had missed out on. At 6:30 I turned right/east on Loowit towards Monitor Ridge, for my first visit to that part of the mountain. I was glad it was overcast; wearing a sun hat in that wind would have proven difficult. I arrived at Monitor Ridge at nearly 8:00. Not a very impressive time, but there are lava flows to be crossed.

Went up the Monitor Ridge trail, with the intent of leaving the trail at 4800 (where permits are required). Haven't been up that trail in 15-20 years. Didn't even remember what it looked like. That was in November, and I think there was snow. I was surprised at how elaborate the trail is, but it's not well maintained, deeply rutted with lots of exposed roots. I was pleased that 4800' was where the trail exits the trees at a little snowy basin before ascending to Monitor's crest. Nice place to strike out on my own.

I didn't have a plan for my return to Butte Camp/Loowit junction. I toyed with the idea of staying around 4800', just to see what that route would look like. I kept getting pulled up though. I wasn't particularly eager to go high, especially with the fierce wind and my time budget, but easier terrain and enticing scenery took me that way. The crater rim looked tempting, but I could see people milling around up there, and I really don't want to be on the tourist route. Got back to the Butte Camp/Loowit junction at 3pm, so 7 hours return compared to 1:30 to cover the same distance on trail. That was mostly because of my circuitous route and difficulties along the way, but also partly because I dawdled once I reached the point where I was 95% sure I had a safe descent figured out.

Never saw any goats, although I saw evidence I was in their terrain. Heard reports of goats from trail hikers. Dammit, not fair.