Mt. St. Helens from Butte Camp

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bobcat
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Mt. St. Helens from Butte Camp

Post by bobcat » August 9th, 2013, 10:11 am

In the long–ago time, when the beautiful cone of St. Helens was 1,300 feet more prominent than it is today, and when many a Portland Hiker had yet to toddle along their first trail, those seeking the mountain’s highest point would camp out beneath two buttes on its south side. The camp became Butte Camp, strictly speaking Lower Butte Camp, and the pair of buttes became Butte Camp Dome.

A friend from out of state had convinced me that it would be worth going up the mountain again for his sake (I’ve avoided it because of the crowds), and I duly purchased my permit way back when. The friend bailed out because something came up at his work and I was left to devise my own plan. There have been a gazillion reports on the two established routes: the winter ascent from June Lake and the summer plod via Monitor Ridge. A third, and yes officially sanctioned though not publicized way, is up the old ascent ridge west of Monitor.

I did the mini-pack in to Lower Butte Camp, a lush parkland bench below the buttes and fed by a gushing spring that runs all summer through thickets of Sitka alder and a meadow of false hellebore, monkey flower, lupine, and linanthus. Cascades frogs burped where I filled up with water and the trail itself becomes a conduit for the flow. After about 300 yards, however, this bounty of fresh water disappears into the lava substrate leaving the slopes below bereft of any indication of its presence.
Campsite, Butte Camp.jpg
Cascades frog (Rana cascadae), Butte Camp.jpg
Creek at Butte Camp.jpg
I rose at dawn the next morning, after a night of solitude on my lovely bench, and hiked up the Butte Camp Trail to the Loowit. A few hundred yards to my right was the lava ridge that I needed to follow. I cut across rocky draws still blooming with buckwheat and heather and began the scramble up the ridge. Of the 100 permit holders that day, 99 would be going the other way.

The ridge itself is not exceptionally difficult, just slow, with many loose lava boulders. Unlike regular routes on Hood, Adams, or Monitor Ridge, there was no boot path to follow, so I picked my way carefully. At about 7,000 feet, I saw that some elk had attempted a summit before me. A couple hundred feet higher, an ambitious coyote had trotted up a snowfield. The snow tongues are the remains of the Dryer Glacier (named after Thomas Dryer, Oregonian editor, and leader of the first ascent in 1853). I slapped on microspikes (Crampons would have been better since the spikes didn't hold well on steeper sections) and made better time plodding up all the snow I could find. Being farther west than Monitor, and around the corner so to speak, this route was mercifully shaded for the lower part of the ascent on a hot day. I ran out of snow and hit ash and cinder. There was just a hundred feet or so of this, though, and I popped up at the rim!
Butte Camp Domes and Goat Mountain, Butte Camp ascent route.jpg
Tolmie's saxifrage (Saxifraga tolmiei), Butte Camp ascent route.jpg
Summiting elk, Butte Camp ascent route.jpg
Looking down a snowfield, Butte Camp ascent route.jpg
I was about 50 yards east of the true summit and about a quarter of a mile from the Monitor route. Visibility was much better than I had expected and I took in the expansive views from the cairn at the 8,365-foot “peak”. After this, I negotiated the jagged rim to the Monitor route, where I greeted a man and his young son, the only two other hikers up there (so far).
West rim and summit, Mt. St. Helens.jpg
At the true summit, Mt. St. Helens.jpg
Mt. Adams from Mt. St. Helens.jpg
Ramparts, Mt. St. Helens.jpg
Mt. Rainier and Spirit Lake, Mt. St. Helens.jpg
Crater Glacier and West Rim, Mt. St. Helens.jpg
West lava dome, Mt. St. Helens.jpg
View down the crater, Mt. St. Helens.jpg
I descended via Monitor Ridge, acknowledging probably 90+ sweaty scramblers slowly making their way up in slow, colorful clumps. Marmots, ravens, vultures, and ground squirrels were also out and about. Once at the Loowit, I headed west, crossing two lava flows radiating midday heat before making the four trail miles back to camp.

Note on nomenclature: Mt. St. Helens is the female mountain in the area. Native Americans called her Loowit, once a fair maiden who won the love of two young rival gods (and siblings), Pahto (Mt. Adams) and Wy’east (Mt. Hood). The ensuing brawl created major destruction, and in punishment, the chief of the gods fashioned volcanoes out of all three. Ironically, then, the mountain’s English name comes from a man, the 1st Baron St. Helens, Alleyne Fitzherbert, a British diplomat and friend of George Vancouver’s. He never saw his mountain.

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Roy
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Re: Mt. St. Helens from Butte Camp

Post by Roy » August 9th, 2013, 11:23 am

bobcat wrote:In the long–ago time, when the beautiful cone of St. Helens was 1,300 feet more prominent than it is today, and when many a Portland Hiker had yet to toddle along their first trail, those seeking the mountain’s highest point would camp out beneath two buttes on its south side. The camp became Butte Camp, strictly speaking Lower Butte Camp, and the pair of buttes became Butte Camp Dome.

A friend from out of state had convinced me that it would be worth going up the mountain again for his sake (I’ve avoided it because of the crowds), and I duly purchased my permit way back when. The friend bailed out because something came up at his work and I was left to devise my own plan. There have been a gazillion reports on the two established routes: the winter ascent from June Lake and the summer plod via Monitor Ridge. A third, and yes officially sanctioned though not publicized way, is up the old ascent ridge west of Monitor.

I did the mini-pack in to Lower Butte Camp, a lush parkland bench below the buttes and fed by a gushing spring that runs all summer through thickets of Sitka alder and a meadow of false hellebore, monkey flower, lupine, and linanthus. Cascades frogs burped where I filled up with water and the trail itself becomes a conduit for the flow. After about 300 yards, however, this bounty of fresh water disappears into the lava substrate leaving the slopes below bereft of any indication of its presence.
Campsite, Butte Camp.jpg
Cascades frog (Rana cascadae), Butte Camp.jpg
Creek at Butte Camp.jpg
I rose at dawn the next morning, after a night of solitude on my lovely bench, and hiked up the Butte Camp Trail to the Loowit. A few hundred yards to my right was the lava ridge that I needed to follow. I cut across rocky draws blooming still with buckwheat and heather and began the scramble up the ridge. Of the 100 permit holders that day, 99 would be going the other way.

The ridge itself is not exceptionally difficult, just slow, with many loose lava boulders. Unlike regular routes on Hood, Adams, or Monitor Ridge, there was no boot path to follow, so I picked my way carefully. At about 7,000 feet, I saw that some elk had attempted a summit before me. A couple hundred feet higher, an ambitious coyote had trotted up a snowfield. The snow tongues are the remains of the Dryer Glacier (named after Thomas Dryer, Oregonian editor, and leader of the first ascent in 1853). I slapped on microspikes (Crampons would have been better since the spikes didn't hold well on steeper sections) and made better time plodding up all the snow I could find. Being farther west than Monitor, and around the corner so to speak, this route was mercifully shaded for the lower part of the ascent on a hot day. I ran out of snow and hit ash and cinder. There was just a hundred feet or so of this, though, and I popped up at the rim!
Butte Camp Domes and Goat Mountain, Butte Camp ascent route.jpg
Tolmie's saxifrage (Saxifraga tolmiei), Butte Camp ascent route.jpg
Summiting elk, Butte Camp ascent route.jpg
Looking down a snowfield, Butte Camp ascent route.jpg
I was about 50 yards east of the true summit and about a quarter of a mile from the Monitor route. Visibility was much better than I had expected and I took in the expansive views from the cairn at the 8,365-foot “peak”. After this, I negotiated the jagged rim to the Monitor route, where I greeted a man and his young son, the only two other hikers up there (so far).
West rim and summit, Mt. St. Helens.jpg
At the true summit, Mt. St. Helens.jpg
Mt. Adams from Mt. St. Helens.jpg
Ramparts, Mt. St. Helens.jpg
Mt. Rainier and Spirit Lake, Mt. St. Helens.jpg
Crater Glacier and West Rim, Mt. St. Helens.jpg
West lava dome, Mt. St. Helens.jpg
View down the crater, Mt. St. Helens.jpg
I descended via Monitor Ridge, greeting probably 90+ sweaty scramblers slowly making their way up in a slow, colorful clumps. Marmots, ravens, vultures, and ground squirrels were also out and about. Once at the Loowit, I headed west, crossing two lava flows radiating midday heat before making the four trail miles back to camp.

Note on nomenclature: Mt. St. Helens is the female mountain in the area. Native Americans called her Loowit, once a fair maiden who won the love of two young rival gods (and siblings), Pahto (Mt. Adams) and Wy’east (Mt. Hood). The ensuing brawl created major destruction, and in punishment, the chief of the gods fashioned volcanoes out of all three. Ironically, then, the mountain’s English name comes from a man, the 1st Baron St. Helens, Alleyne Fitzherbert, a British diplomat and friend of George Vancouver’s. He never saw his mountain.

Awesome trip my friend that's the original southern route before she blew I've done it usually with snow. Funny you saw a coyote at least 20 years ago my wife and I were a on Feb accent on that route a Ptarmigan startled me (very rare this far south). Then very rarely I had pulled a head her and saw a coyote almost traversing the rim. She still laughs at me Ill have her read your tr.

Did you get any wild strawberries or was to late?

Thank you for the tr and the effort you put in on the scree not many get to see MSH like this good for you!

Way to step off the track and nice history. You can tell I am excited by you tr I have over 100 trips to the rim and most when no one is slogging up Monitor or that crowed winter Worms flows route ---

Home off work with a elephant sized right knee you made my day thank you. Oddly enough one June on a slope every expert would claim there was no way for it to avalanche I road a huge slab on skis and lucky plowed into a scree ridge on that route while it rumbled down the mountain. My wife had stopped on the ridge for a drink I was taken a quarter of mile below her and with a bloody body but no broken bones and dirty under wear. ---- Tom/Roy
The downhill of the mind is harder than the uphill of the body. - Yuichiro Miura

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Sean Thomas
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Re: Mt. St. Helens from Butte Camp

Post by Sean Thomas » August 9th, 2013, 11:53 am

Nice report and photos, Bobcat. The included historical and botanical references in your tr's are a big help. Thanks for putting this together and for all of your hard work on the field guide entries.

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bobcat
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Re: Mt. St. Helens from Butte Camp

Post by bobcat » August 9th, 2013, 3:12 pm

@Roy: Thanks, and I defer to your hard-acquired skill and experience on that mountain. The coyote was just tracks, wish I had seen one. Saw lots of strawberries down lower, but I think they've shriveled up or been consumed by critters. Glad you survived the avalanche, that took some skill to turn out of!

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Roy
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Re: Mt. St. Helens from Butte Camp

Post by Roy » August 9th, 2013, 4:43 pm

bobcat wrote:@Roy: Thanks, and I defer to your hard-acquired skill and experience on that mountain. The coyote was just tracks, wish I had seen one. Saw lots of strawberries down lower, but I think they've shriveled up or been consumed by critters. Glad you survived the avalanche, that took some skill to turn out of!
Seriously been wanting to see a tr like this for a long time, defer nothing to me its so lemming like on Monitor (not a bad thing tho) you took the time and respected the Mountain that's true skill.

There is a few of us old farts that love that route :P
The downhill of the mind is harder than the uphill of the body. - Yuichiro Miura

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Peder
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Re: Mt. St. Helens from Butte Camp

Post by Peder » August 9th, 2013, 7:56 pm

That was the story of the 1% (and the 99% on the Monitor Ridge)! Well done... I have been considering that route too and you have firmed my decision. It is amazing to what extent humans are herd animals...
Some people are really fit at eighty; thankfully I still have many years to get into shape…

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kepPNW
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Re: Mt. St. Helens from Butte Camp

Post by kepPNW » August 10th, 2013, 6:19 am

Another home run! Your TRs are always so, well, interesting. I probably learn more from them than just about anyone's. So much appreciated. That does look like a great route, especially in that you were able to stay on snow so much more. I'm sure that made it much more pleasant. :)
Karl
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bobcat
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Re: Mt. St. Helens from Butte Camp

Post by bobcat » August 11th, 2013, 4:20 pm

@Peder and Karl: Well, you guys would probably do it as a day hike although I'd highly recommend Butte Camp as an overnight spot just to get away from it all.

For anyone who wants to do it this way, the trailhead is Red Rock Pass. When you get your parking voucher that comes with the permit (It comes free with the permit if you don't have a NW Forest Pass or it's expired like mine), it lists Climbers Bivouac and Red Rock as the two legitimate trailheads. It's about 13 1/4 miles round-trip to the top from Red Rock, maybe 5,300' elevation. The loop using Monitor is about 16 miles.

There were only two mosquitoes at Butte Camp and I killed them both. Also some biting flies that were a minor nuisance. Earlier in the summer there would be many more mosquitoes.

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Splintercat
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Re: Mt. St. Helens from Butte Camp

Post by Splintercat » August 11th, 2013, 9:38 pm

Nice shots of the Crater Glacier, John -- I'm still amazed (and encouraged!) that a full-blown, flowing glacier, complete with crevasses, can form in just over 40 years... next to an active lava dome, no less!

Tom :)

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Re: Mt. St. Helens from Butte Camp

Post by kepPNW » August 12th, 2013, 5:13 am

Splintercat wrote:I'm still amazed (and encouraged!) that a full-blown, flowing glacier, complete with crevasses, can form in just over 40 years... next to an active lava dome, no less!
No kidding! Even more amazing? It really took just (barely) over half that long... The glacier actually formed within a decade, but the crevasses and seracs were mostly a result of the 2004 events.
Karl
Back on the trail, again...

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