Crater rim of Mount St. Helens, WA.

Three Generations, One Big Volcano: Pushing Limits On Mount St. Helens

In Family Adventures, Hiking   |   Tagged , , , , , , ,   |   4 Comments

By Michael Lanza

The afternoon sun smiles warmly on us as my two kids and my nephew, age 10 to 15, my 76-year-old mom, and I—three generations spanning almost seven decades—plod up the final, strenuous steps to the crater rim of Mount St. Helens. The view could steal the breath away from God.

Before us, crumbling cliffs send small landslides cracking and rumbling down into the vast hole—2,000 feet deep and nearly two miles across—created by the eruption that decapitated St. Helens almost a generation before any of these kids were born. Seventy-five-mile views on this idyllic, Pacific Northwest summer day reveal behemoth, ice-capped volcanoes dominating three horizons: Rainier, Adams, Hood, and Jefferson.

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4 Responses to Three Generations, One Big Volcano: Pushing Limits On Mount St. Helens

  1. Kyle (@grtfulwanderer)   |  February 19, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    Great story. I hiked to the top this past June. The clouds dropped at about 6000ft, but we decided to press on for as long as we could see the trail. Unfortunately, by the time we reached the summit it was very cold, raining sideways, and visibility was about 30′. The descent was slow and disorienting at times, but at about 5000ft the clouds cleared and we were rewarded with a still decent view.

    The group I hiked with was comprised of various skill levels. I joined the group after receiving an email at my workplace and did not know any of the other hikers. Upon starting our ascent I quickly realized I was the most experienced (the group leader had some hiking experience) and a couple of the girls had very little experience (if any). I stayed at the back to ensure no one fell behind, which would have given me opportunity to take plenty of pictures had the weather held. When the clouds dropped at 6000ft I made it clear to the two beginners that it was potentially dangerous to continue, but if they wanted to press on I would stay with them for the rest of the ascent and descent. I was disappointed with the rest of the group once we got to the summit. Because it was so cold, they were in a rush to get down and failed to make a plan to meet up or to tell us what their plan was for the descent. I was left standing on the summit with one of the girls as two other hikers returned the way we came and the other four proceeded to glissade down the snowy slope. We decided to return the way we came up as well because of the low visibility.

    I am certain that the girl I helped down would have had a very hard time reaching the bottom. I found it very disorienting at times even for myself due to the lack of visibility and fatigue from the drawn out ascent and even slower pace on the descent. We were the last to arrive at the parking lot, but not by much. Two of the hikers that chose to glissade arrived only twenty minutes before us. They had apparently slid further and further away from the main route and eventually had to sidetrack back to the trail.

    Despite the circumstances, I came away from the hike with no regrets. Most of my past hikes have been solo and I was able to learn some important lessons about hiking with a group. Of these, the most important is to know the abilities of not only yourself, but of those hiking with you. This is especially important if you are leading the group and making decisions on their behalf. Judging from this article, it appears this is something you have a pretty good grasp on.

    Congrats on reaching the summit on such a beautiful day. I’m sure it is a memory your family will hold onto for quite a while.

    • MichaelALanza   |  February 19, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      Thanks for sharing your story, Kyle. I know well the type of situation you described. Glad everyone got down safely.

  2. Kenny Ross   |  February 19, 2014 at 7:34 am

    Michael,

    THANKS AGAIN!!! Every time I find myself slogging through life with the feeling of being content, you manage to somehow inject my psyche with inspiration! After being snowed in here in northern NJ for much of this Winter, now is the perfect time to start planning a late Spring/early Summer adventure. Congrats to your kids, and especially to your mom…WOW!

    Kenny Ross

    • MichaelALanza   |  February 19, 2014 at 7:39 am

      Thanks, Kenny, glad you enjoyed this story. Nice to hear from you.

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