Butte Camp Dome, Mt St Helens

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K.Wagner
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Joined: June 2nd, 2013, 1:25 pm
Location: Vancouver, WA

Butte Camp Dome, Mt St Helens

Post by K.Wagner » September 22nd, 2019, 2:40 pm

This was to be my second ascent of this bump on the SW side of Mt St Helens. I did it a few years back with Don Nelson (aka: elk man) and Peder Bisberg. That trip was a crazy one, going up a flood gully, and coming down through dense slide alder. This trip was very peaceful, with no big surprises. I only saw a handful of other hikers on the whole trip, and saw no one on off trail section.
Here is the basic map of the area and the route I did.
Butte_Camp_Dome-Map.jpg
I started from Red Rock Pass, on FR81. The clouds were right at the pass, and there was a breeze, so it was on the chilly side. I was wondering if I was a bit crazy heading up with it like this, but I kept thinking: "The weather forecast said it was supposed clear!" It turned into a beautiful day, with the clouds just above me the whole trip.
01-Start of 283 trail.jpg
It doesn't take long for some dense bear grass to show up along the trail. This would be so pretty if it was in bloom...
03-Bear grass along trail.jpg
After about 1/4 mile, the trail enters trees, with a delightful park like feeling
05-Parkland.jpg
The trail was interesting the entire distance, always changing and giving new views of lava, some I understand is only about 1,900 years old.
07-Typical mid trail.jpg
At around 2 3/4 miles the trail passes through the historic Butte Camp. There is water here, and it is the only water to be found this time of the year. Then it starts to get serious about gaining some elevation. Never killer steep, but enough so that I really had to pace myself. You know you are almost at the top of the climb when the trail breaks out of the trees and starts a pretty open traverse.
10-Exposed traverse.jpg
Then just a short distance to a view point, and the trail turns north and flattens out. Finally a view of the mountain...
12-ontop with a view!.jpg
So then I started looking for a likely place to leave the trail, and finally decided that this looked as inviting as any other spot...
13-Leaving the trail.jpg
Here I did a really fun walk across this almost flat bench. The trees were interesting, uniformly about 25 to 40 feet tall, widely spaced and predominately pine. I wonder if the area got hit by the 1980 eruption? If anyone has some info, I would love to get it.
Here I am approaching Butte Camp Dome. I headed for the left end of the cliffs, looking for a convenient elk trail to guide me up.
14-Approaching Butte Camp Dome.jpg
Turns out, here it is!
15-Following elk trail up.jpg
I love these guys! Here is the trail as it topped out on the SE ridge, right where I wanted it to.
16-Elk trail to ridge crest.jpg
From there, it was just a matter of wandering through the meadows, looking for the easiest, cleanest way up.
19-Approaching summit.jpg
The views are limited from the summit, because of the gnarly little trees, but if you push around a little bit, you can find an open spot.
20-MSH from summit.jpg
On my trip back to the trail across the bench, I ended up traveling just slightly north / uphill of my "going" route. I tripped on something. When I looked down, here was a piece of old telephone wire.
23-1916 phone wire!.jpg
When I got home, I did some sleuthing, and found that the fire tower built on the summit of Mt St Helens in 1916 had the latest technology, a telephone! Not sure where the other end might have been connected. I thought maybe the ranger station in Cougar, but I don't think that the line would have been on this route if that was the case. Maybe there was a station in the upper Kalama area?

So, back to my opening line about our previous trip. On the way down, I took this picture. This is where we finally emerged from the slide alder that Don led us through to get us back down to the trail. When I was up on the dome, I couldn't stop thinking: "We were so close to the easy way down!"
Attachments
24-First switch-back, where the 2015 trip got back on the trail.jpg
Kelly
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Chip Down
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Joined: November 8th, 2014, 8:41 pm

Re: Butte Camp Dome, Mt St Helens

Post by Chip Down » September 22nd, 2019, 6:58 pm

That's been on my "maybe" list for quite some time, via the gully. Looks like it's more interesting than I would have guessed.

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