Splitboarding Helens in January

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abramj17
Posts: 15
Joined: July 10th, 2017, 8:39 pm

Splitboarding Helens in January

Post by abramj17 » September 16th, 2019, 11:59 am

Dear Mt. St Helens,

I summited Helens this Winter with two friends who were keen on skinning up and snowboarding down. One of our biggest challenges was getting out of Portland. All of us had to rent gear, and every rental store had lines out the door. The weather was forecasted to be 50 degrees on a January weekend - so I'm assuming everyone had similar plans whether that be Adams, Hood, or Helens.

We weren't able to get out of town until around 7pm, but we also made the executive decision to opt-out of a parking lot dinner.

We arrived at the trailhead around 9:45pm and went straight to sleep. Unfortunately, we were down a sleeping pad and slept in very Tetris-like positions.

We hit the trail about an hour before dawn - hiking the first couple of miles with our boards on our backs. As the trail got steeper along the ridgeline and snowier, we popped our splitboards and skins on for an un-optimal first experience skinning.

As the sun rose people started appearing out of the woodworks. Essentially we skinned/hiked in a line until reaching the summit. Skinning became difficult because the route was cratered with footprints, and the skin couldn’t catch enough surface area. Although they were heavy, we just fastened our boards to our backs. The people who had ski-crampons looked pretty comfortable hiking up - although most people skinning were in our positions.

The altitude hit me pretty hard on this hike so it took me a lot longer to get to the top than I was anticipating, but ripping back down on my board made it all worthwhile. We only made it to the false summit which feels unfortunate now, but there was no way I was going to get to the true summit then.

The ride down was the coolest experience I have ever had snowboarding. The wind had formed little icicles that crunched under my board as I carved through them in the 50-degree heat. We dropped into huge bowls/chutes and had fresh tracks essentially to about 1/4 of a mile to the parking lot. I would 100% recommend skiing/snowboarding down if you are doing this in the Winter.

I hope you enjoyed this report.

Thinking of doing Middle Sister this weekend. Anyone have any pointers/tips/things I should be aware of?

Thanks,

Abram

johnspeth
Posts: 157
Joined: July 30th, 2013, 8:33 am

Re: Splitboarding Helens in January

Post by johnspeth » September 28th, 2019, 10:32 am

My opinions on skiing MSH (YMMV):
Most people carry their conveyances on their backs because of the problems you experienced.
Ice is the one thing that can cause problems for skins on non steep slopes. Steeper icy slopes get you closer to that failure point.
The last half mile at the top always seems icier than below it so starting your run there will get you a good run and save you time. Obviously, you lose the view and some down route selections.
Oddly, many people ski close to the climbing route. There's so much more if you traverse away, left or right.
Try to follow a skin track up. Somebody did some hard work for you so enjoy it. Skinning on a foot path usually doesn't work well.
As always, get avalanche safety training and actively practice what you learn. Get properly equipped for safe travel. Accept that high risk can happen which will require you to alter your plan including turning back.

johnspeth
Posts: 157
Joined: July 30th, 2013, 8:33 am

Re: Splitboarding Helens in January

Post by johnspeth » September 28th, 2019, 10:41 am

And Middle Sister is a long hike from Obsidian TH but it's straightforward. The pitch to the top from the middle/north col can get tricky due to weather exposure. Recent snowy weather might present winter-like difficulties. I would not try to ski it. There will be lotsa rox.

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