A Chronicle of Two Creatives

6 Tips for Summiting Mt St Helens in the Summer

Route: Monitor Ridge via Climber’s Bivouac Trailhead


  • The Native name for the mountain is Lawetlat’la.
  • Distance: ~9.5 Miles
  • Elevation gain: 4600 ft
  • Road to trailhead: Rocky but passable by all vehicles
  • Date hiked: August 6th, 2022
  • Permit: Required (available here)

Our keys to summiting comfortably:

  • Sleep at the trailhead and start no later than 4 AM.
    • We slept in our car, but there were several good tent sites available. The parking lot is fairly large with two enclosed toilets. Starting in the dark can be scary, but you’ll be thankful you did later when the sun is beating down for your descent.
  • Bring gloves to protect against the sharp rocks.
    • You’ll be using your hands when climbing some steep, rocky sections. Garden gloves work fine!
  • Bring at least 4 liters of water!
    • I originally thought this was overkill, but it was not. I drank the entirety of my supply, even though we avoided the sun most of the way up.
  • Gaiters help keep the dirt/rocks/ash out of your footwear.
    • This is another tip I was originally skeptical on, but I’m so glad I went with gaiters. We got these ones from REI and they worked extremely well.
  • Poles help dramatically on the final push to the summit.
    • Supposedly this section is called the “vertical beach” due to the very sandy soil, which your feet sink into with every step. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would do this without trekking poles.
  • Don’t forget sunscreen!
    • You’re exposed to open sky for the majority of the hike. Plan accordingly.

Recommended other gear:

  1. Bear spray (mostly for mountain lions)
  2. Polarized sunglasses
  3. Headlamp
  4. Extra layers, windbreaker
  5. Downloaded GPS map
  6. Enough food for 8 hours of hiking

Final tips:

  • We only had to cross one small snowfield to get to the true summit. Microspikes were not mandatory.
  • Getting to the true summit looks sketchy at a distance, but wasn’t nearly as bad as it looked.
  • It’s easy to get lost on the way down as you rejoin the forested trail. A downloaded GPS map would help here.

“What I didn’t expect was that you can hear the crater. That blew my mind. You stand at the top of the rim and just marvel at the unfathomable volume of rock that was displaced so immediately in 1980, and then try to comprehend the new forces at work in the crater: the lava dome and the glaciers. It is all unfolding in a perfect ampitheater, with potential views of several other majestic volcanoes from the top. It was one of the best hiking experiences of my life.” – Dave

Comments (5):

  1. Mary Stewart

    August 10, 2022 at 6:08 pm

    The video was great! The sound of the crater was amazing…what an adventure

  2. Dennis Carulli

    August 10, 2022 at 6:33 pm

    Incredible video and presentation – Well Done!! My entire career as a geologist I never got to experience quite anything like this!! Especially, to hear the glacier moving!!! Love, Dad

  3. Timothy Stewart

    August 12, 2022 at 6:29 pm

    Wow what an experience you both had reaching the summit!!!! The video is spectacular and hearing the mountain come alive adds to the breathtaking views!!!! Nice work!!!

  4. Jon

    September 6, 2022 at 11:09 pm

    I’ve seen a bear about 100yds from me on my descent on monitor ridge 2 Octobers ago..

  5. Susan

    August 17, 2023 at 5:13 pm

    Video really excellent! Showing the views in the dark as you began and then seeing the light rising on the rocks really gives a feeling of your experience. Beautiful sunrise shots too!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.