St Helens: Rim via Butte Camp route (contemporary)

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Chip Down
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Joined: November 8th, 2014, 8:41 pm

St Helens: Rim via Butte Camp route (contemporary)

Post by Chip Down » August 29th, 2018, 8:09 pm

Finally got around to the Butte Camp route up to the rim. Been kinda avoiding it. Doesn't look fun. It wasn't. Maybe would be a good June/July route. Then looped down considerably west/CW, finishing up a route from a day when clouds sneaked in and forced me to make other plans.

At the tail end of a cold, so slept in, set the alarm for 1:30. Started up the trail from Red Rock Pass at 4:20. Headlamps visible high on monitor ridge. Surprised to find the Butte Camp watering hole dried up, but I could hear the falls up to my left, so I knew the creek had to be just a little off trail. Arrived at Loowit junction at dawn.

There's not a lot written about the BC route, but I gather the traditional route follows the lava flow just barely east of the BC/Loowit junction, whereas the contemporary route just goes straight up the mountain, basically an extension of the BC trail (just cross Loowit and keep going). There was a faint trail for a while, but it quickly faded. I saw signs of it above, but with all the goat activity, I wasn't always sure. Mostly I found my own way. It was a little daunting seeing the south side of the mountain 99% bare. No snowy landmarks, no easy travel.

Around 7000' I entered familiar territory. Also encountered snow, and clear running water, so it turned out I didn't need to fill up at Butte Camp. I intended to traverse CW as low as possible to hook up with my descent route, but rugged terrain kept forcing me higher. Finally saw a nice ridge that I could descend in my intended direction, but had to climb higher before I could traverse over and meet up with it. Came to realize that ridge was the crater rim. Well, okay then. I didn't want to go that high, but I was about 8000', so not much left. To the rim I went.

Drat, rim was extremely sharp and crumbly. No way to walk the crest, and traversing just below the crest was sketchy, so back down I went, then traversed CW. What a nightmare. Finally met up with my descent route, and from there it was a fairly easy drop, just a little routefinding trouble here and there, until I landed in the grassy rock garden I had set my sights on.

I'll probably get back to doing the Traditional BC route, but I think I'll wait until next year, when there's snow.
Red line is a very rough schematic.
Plan was to get to that snowy saddle and ascend the ridge. Trickier than expected. Easy when under snow. Didn't expect it to be so rugged. That monitor is on an extremely prominent butte, which would be a notable landmark even without the tower. It should have a name. We have a Monitor Ridge; can we call this Monitor Butte?
The Terrible Traverse.
Monitor Butte from the other side. That's some steep snow!
Plan was to follow the right edge of the canyon on the left. Getting down there was slightly tricky, not too bad.
I saw this from a distance a few weeks ago, and have wanted to pay a visit.
About a dozen of these clustered in close proximity. All were cut off close to ground, so I suppose something was abandoned here.
I spent a lot of time looking for this. I had looked down on it before, and wanted to see if I could locate it. Tough! You could walk 20 yards away and not notice it.
See any enticing routes up there? Neither do I. Not a great descent.

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