Loowit (Mt St Helens)

map of mt st helens

Loowit is the smallest of the Washington volcanoes but it also has one of the easiest approaches, because the road to the trailhead is plowed, even in winter. To get to the summit is about 5000’ of elevation gain and around 5.5 miles each way.

We had a blast of warm weather at the beginning of February which Greg, Allison, and I took advantage of to take a quick trip up Mt St Helens. We left on a Friday night and camped out at the trailhead (with the other hundred or so people who were there), then got up around 5am for a 6am departure. Because we were car camping we even got to have our favorite breakfast of coffee yogurt (and blueberries) before leaving.

Pretty soon we were up on the mountain!


I promise I will learn from my mistakes and start recording my videos horizontal instead of vertical…

We got really lucky with the weather, with beautiful views in all directions and really easy skinning conditions on the way up.




At about noon we were skinning across the final summit headwall, where things got a tiny bit icy.

We left our skis on a false summit and walked the last section to the true summit, because the traverse to get there was a bit too steep for our comfort level on skis. Twenty minutes later we were on the summit rim looking down into the absolutely massive hole left by the eruption in the 80s!

It’s hard to imagine but Hood and Adams are only about a thousand feet taller than Loowit was before the explosion. Looking out over that landscape, with no trees anywhere, is also pretty wild. A bit like the “lunar” feeling at the top of the Mt Ventoux in France.


And a few minutes after that we were on our way down, enjoying some of the best ski conditions that we’ve had on a volcano so far. Skiers on volcanoes in the spring time are always hunting for “corn” snow, which you get as a result of repeated freeze thaw cycles. It makes the snow have a consistency a bit like a slushie? Usually you only get good corn snow for a few thousand feet before everything turns into mashed potatoes.

You can also get really strange snow effects on the mountains because of all the local weather effects. We landed in one little where there was a layer of re-frozen snow with ice underneath. When you turned on it all the re-frozen ice would blast off and make a sound like a rainmaker toy.

After that detour we had an uneventful ski out, getting back to the car at a remarkably early 3:00pm. Beautiful day with friends!