St Helens: Shoestring/Muddy lahar loop

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Chip Down
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St Helens: Shoestring/Muddy lahar loop

Post by Chip Down » October 7th, 2018, 7:28 pm

Route: As forest road 83 nears Ape Canyon TH and Lava Canyon TH, it passes over a huge lahar. If you've hiked Ape Canyon trail, you've seen it to your left for a great deal of the hike up. My plan was to follow the west edge up until the Shoestring/Muddy confluence, and cross over to the intermediate terrain, an open sandy/mossy/bouldery tilted plain, with great views of the mountain. I intended to stay west on the ascent (along the east edge of Shoestring Gully) and east on the descent (along the west edge of Muddy Creek Gully). Upon reaching Loowit trail, I intended to follow an enticing green ridge up the mountain, to its abrupt end.

Everything went according to plan. I struggled to find the Shoestring/Muddy confluence, due to being (of course) at ground level, right in the thick of things. But as soon as the Shoestring Gully started to deepen and get more rugged, I cut over eastbound and gained the other side. As I descended along the edge of Muddy, I could see why it was hard to spot the confluence: Everything is pretty flat here. There's just not enough relief to make it obvious. Also, it's possible I was higher upstream than the confluence, having arrived from Pine Creek Trail (which meets the lahar fairly low, from the west). Other than that, things went as expected. The terrain between Shoestring and Muddy was slightly more rugged than expected, but just enough to make it fun (both above Loowit trail and below). When I reached the end of my ridge, I was pleased to see it ended abruptly, as I thought it would. I like routes with a very clear end point, instead of "well, I guess this is a good place to turn back". I was disappointed that I couldn't see into Shoestring Canyon, due to an intermediate ridge, but it wasn't quite worth scrambling down and then up to get a view, especially considering I've seen it from the other side.

Weather was a big part of today's hike. Forecast said 50% chance of rain after 11:00. It started raining at 9:45, just as I was headed down from my high point. I really wasn't that upset. Clouds were high, visibility was good, temp was mild, almost dead calm...almost a perfect day, so hard to gripe about some sprinkles. Clouds, which had been above Adams/Hood early on, started dropping. Around the time I no longer needed visibility, the cloud level plummeted. Great timing. Although precip was a source of anxiety all day, the intermittent sprinkles never really amounted to much, until the drive home.

Pacing was a big concern, due to the forecast. I started at dawn, enjoyed a fantastic orange sunrise behind Adams, and hustled up the lahar zone fast. I was amazed at my progress. An hour and twenty brought me to Loowit Trail! I was expecting a looooong tedious hike up the lahar, but every time I looked up at MSH it was so much closer. Once I passed Loowit Trail (4500'), I slowed up and enjoyed the scenery. In another 1:10 I was at the end of my ridge (5650'). Not a bad pace, considering the zigging and zagging, the sightseeing, the occasional tricky spots and route decisions. As I neared my goal, and the clouds were still high, I knew I had it made, and relaxed considerably. Spent :30 at top, my first sit-down break of the day. Took :30 to get back down to Loowit, a leisurely 2:45 to the Muddy/Shoestring confluence (3100'), and about an hour of fun wandering XC back to my car (Pine Creek TH).

Snow: A heavy dusting up high, just a few little patches at my high point.

Wildlife: Swarms of goats, to my left and right, none on my little segment (I was separated from them by canyons). There were easily 20. No humans spotted, but heard (I don't understand why people must shout).

Hope this all makes sense. I'm severely sleep deprived. Only got about 40 minutes of sleep before getting up at 3am to get my day started.
Loowit Trail actually passes over that greenish island in Shoestring Gully.
Look at all those goats below East Dome.
That green tilted table would have been a good rest spot, but I was rushing to beat the weather.
Almost to my turnaround. Shoestring (ascent) to the right, Muddy (descent) left.
A bit early, but I had cause to celebrate.
That green sparsely-forested ridge is my ascent route (viewed from the east, because I looped down that way for variety).
Just barely starting to get cloudy up there.
So lucky to have missed those clouds! Kept coming lower, but I descended faster, clouds never caught up to me (I always had good ground-level visibility).
Confluence of Muddy (left)/Shoestring(right).

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retired jerry
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Re: St Helens: Shoestring/Muddy lahar loop

Post by retired jerry » October 8th, 2018, 5:21 am

thanks - this is the best time of year to go hiking as long as you avoid rainy days

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