Snow

Winter hike to Mt St Helens, an active Volcano

Descending from an active volcano which last erupted in 1980 and watching people emerging from the sea of clouds with pointy Mt Hood in the backdrop was a surreal experience.

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I expected a blue bird day on the mountain but what I experienced was completely different. I had been long waiting to climb Mt St Helens and the recent snow and forecast tempted me to sign up for the hike. Mt St Helens last erupted in 1980 and it’s considered as the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in recorded U.S. history. Very interesting part is the caldera which is on the side of the mountain because the volcano erupted sideways instead of the usual top. I had never gotten close to the mountain before and I was excited. Since the trailhead is 4 hours away from Seattle, we chose to camp and then hike early in the morning. So I started from Seattle with 2 other hikers at 3 PM and reached the trailhead around 7 PM. We were at Marble Mountain Snow Park before dark and other hikers had already put up camp fire in the parking lot. We decided to just lay our tents on the parking spots and start the hike by 4 AM. I broke a tiny part of my tent while pitching but managed to set it up for the night. It was not too cold and we had nice time in front of fire having our dinner. I slept ok for the night and this was the first night away from my wife since marriage.

I got ready promptly by 4 AM. With micro-spikes and headlights, we started our hike in the dark at 4:30 AM. We took the Warm flows route which starts from the southern side of the mountain. The first 2.8 miles was quite gradual with most of it in the forest and then the real ascent started. It was interesting to see multiple headlights ahead of us on the mountain and the daylight breaking out slowly. It was very steep from then on and the last 2 miles gained 4000 feet. I started counting steps and kept patience during the slog. It got quite windy at some places and the cold caught on with my toes. I kept hiking without much worry since I had a vague idea of my threshold. Looking at the cloud cover all over, my hopes of seeing the caldera dwindled and I just wanted to reach the rim for the sake of completion. I had counted around 6800 steps in the last 2 miles and it was an arduous ascent with few false summits. Juggling around with my layers, filling my stomach occasionally I reached the rim after 5 hours. Fortunately, it started getting warm and the clouds were getting cleared. I saw the majestic rim initially and could see almost the entire caldera before leaving. We spent at-least an hour on the summit eating, exploring and enjoying the time. I had carried GoPro, but unfortunately it gave up on me and I had to rely on my phone for all captures. I kept scanning the caldera in the North and the escaping fumes were visible which was interesting to watch. In the south, the pointy Mt Hood was visible over the sea of clouds and it was a view to behold.

We started the descent and we saw many hikers making their way up, in-fact too many actually. There were lot of skiers and snowboarders too. I stuck to micro-spikes for the entire hike and it was adventurous descending on steep slopes with ice axe on one hand. There was a thick cloud layer below us and the view of people coming out of it looked quite surreal. We went into the whiteout soon and glissaded few times to help with our descent. The last part of steep section was particularly frustrating since the snow had turned into slush and I kept dancing all around. The final stretch in the forest was ok and it was around 2 PM by the time we had reached trailhead. It took a slight toll on me since it was a long hard hike after a big break but I loved it nonetheless. I was happy that I could finally see the caldera from close and maybe hike during summer, the next time.

Road conditions: Good, no snow on road.
Trailhead: Marble Mountain Snow park. Snow permit required for Winter.
Trail: Well marked in the forest and quite straightforward on the mountain.
Gear: I carried crampons but made the entire hike with just the micro-spikes.

Activity Overview
Photos and Videos

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Categories: Outdoors, Seattle, Snow | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Snow in Seattle

I am not new to snow or snowfall. I have lived in extreme snow conditions during my masters in Ithaca. But seeing the city of Seattle covered in snow and people making the best of it was very amusing. It usually snows just once a year in Seattle but it was different this time. There was lots of snow. Roads were used for sleighing, skiing and snowboarding and tree lined streets looked like a winter wonderland.

Round 1:
It first snowed on the evening of Sunday (2/3). After a couple inches of deposit, Divya and I layered up and got out of the home. I chose to explore Seattle Center and the place looked lit 😀 in the night with snow sprinkled all over.

The lights were the best part

We ventured out again the next morning starting with Centennial Park. I took my bike out and fell on the pavement even before I started riding. Gladly that was the last fall for the day and it was all fun from then on. We both biked, walked the Olympic sculpture park and enjoyed tiny beaches. I then felt the urge to drive and Queen Anne hill provided the perfect slopes and a good vantage view. It was a thrilling experience going down on some steep snowy roads. We then went to Gas works park and I was surprised to see many people enjoying sleighing on the hill. It was a Monday and the school closures had brought many kids out. We didn’t have any sleds with us and managed few runs with an unattended cardboard which was fun but wasn’t that great. I saw few snowboarding and skiing and I just loved the way people were having fun with the snow. There were already news of bus/car mishaps from neighborhoods and I didn’t take car out for the entire snow period thereafter. The snow from the first day didn’t melt completely for the next 4 days and then I was even more excited for a bigger round.

Round 2:
I was surprised to see the forecast which predicted a snow storm which would be biggest in the last decade. This had made huge news in the city and people were preparing for what they called Snowmageddon or Snowcalypse. We joined others to prepare for a possible outage and lockdown. It was interesting to see huge amounts of people in the grocery stores. Some shelves were empty and stocking was going in full swing. I was looking forward for the storm than worrying about it since I had most of the winter/camping gear including a portable stove. It started snowing on Friday evening and I could notice the difference already – the flurries were bigger and it was persistent. We went out to explore in the morning and Queen Anne Ave (one of the main steep roads in the neighborhood) had a different kind of traffic. It was closed for cars and people were using the slopes for sleighing, skiing and snowboarding.

The whole stretch was around 400 meters in length and some sled all the way down. What a unique sight it was. I am usually in awe with the different kinds of transport people use in Seattle (from skateboards to unicycles) and now there were more additions. People were using various non traditional sleds and my favorite was a half broken suitcase which I felt was an awesome ‘jugaad’. We walked the streets of Kerry Park and there was at-least 4 inches of snow. Amidst fancy looking houses, beneath the snow covered trees, it was a winter wonderland. The social media had lots to show and I was impressed with the creative ways people were having fun with.

The snow from the second run hasn’t completely melted yet and we might get more snow this winter. I really appreciate the efforts the city and residents to took ensure the safety. City managed to keep the buses running (with chains on), plowed the roads and provided live updates. Residents plowed their respective pavements and it was beautiful to be a part of the community. I experienced Seattle like never before and I would be happy to do it again.

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Categories: Seattle, Snow | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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