Friday, September 16, 2022

Hike: Monitor Ridge Climbing Route and Ptarmigan Trail, Mt St Helens, Cougar, WA


Footpath map

Getting There

I left around 3:30p and made it there just after 5p sometime. I took I-5 North to Woodland. Then WA-503 E toward Cougar. It's about 30 miles to the town and the turn off for Climber's Bivouac is another 3.5 miles.

Follow NF-83 for 3mi. When you get to the clear cut area (ugh!) look for NF-81 and veer left. It's another 1.5mile of pavement to 830 Rd. It's a 1/2 mile to the campground on a dirt road.

I opted to make a cocoon in the back of my Jeep rather than setup a tent etc. I found a level spot this time near the trailhead. 

There were people arriving all night (11p, 1a, 3a, 5a). I didn't sleep very well and I got moving around 6am. I was on the trail at 6:20.

The Hike

Distance: 6.94mi
Elevation: 3,560 ft
Highest Point: 7,289 ft

I passed a few people on the way through the forest. I made good time but I felt a bit sluggish, low energy. A lemon (yellow flag). I forged ahead.

I started the technical stuff above the tree line. I was new but familiar the same time. I tried to visualize the route I took last time and keep track next to the lodge poles.

I could hear a group below me in the fog and see three hikers about 1000 yds ahead of me. I snacked on a cliffbar to try to re-energize but I was taking a lots of micro-breaks.

When I reached the top of the ridge section, I mentally prepared for the boulders. They were a bit daunting but I was stoked to keep reaching the next marker and pushing ahead.

A group passed me but when they stopped to wait for more of their group I kept going.

Eventually I made it out of the boulders and started up the pumice. My legs were pretty heavy at this point. Three hikers passed me and zoomed ahead. I could see the top.

I was taking longer breaks and taking fewer steps between them. I decided to conserve my energy to make a safe descent. The self-imposed pressure to reach the summit was released and I felt better. I am still a bit disappointed to not reach the rim.

In hindsight I think this was largely a nutrition problem. I didn't eat enough of the right foods the night before and in the morning to fuel my body for such an undertaking. I vow to make a third hike next year. It motivates me to keep training and learning about how proper nutrition can really make the difference.

I should have stopped for longer to see if I eating a couple more power bars would have helped. I had plenty of time. 

In the end I made it back to the car around 1:30.. about a 7 hr hike. I didn't have any injuries and didn't need any help. A success in its own right.