Monday, August 12, 2013

Mountain Stewarding with the Mount St. Helens Institute

In June, I started volunteering with the Mount St. Helens Institute (MSHI) as a mountain (climbing) steward. There are two types of mountain stewards: climbing and recreation stewards. The climbing stewards assist on guided climbs to the summit and rove the summer and winter climbing route (depending on the season). The recreation stewards rove the trails below 4,800 ft (treeline) and assist on hikes on those trails as well. Being a mountain steward been such an amazing way to get out onto the mountain, learn some new skills and meet new people. 
In order to become a mountain (climbing) steward, one must be CPR certified and be physically able to summit Mount St. Helens. In addition, each year, the MSHI hosts a weekend-long training that all new stewards are required to attend. The training weekend involved training on soft skills like packing a pack, using a radio, proper hydration and nutrition while hiking, etc. and hard skills like self-belay self arrest with an ice ax and glissading. To see more photos from this weekend, click here.

Up, up, up to the summit we go (steward training climb)
Roving involves roving (big surprise) on the climbing route and making sure people are being safe (e.g., glissading safely, wearing proper shoes, staying hydrated, staying on the route, etc.) and answering questions about the route and the mountain, in general. Roving allows more flexibility and independence. Assisting on guided climbs involves working with a group of approximately 12 clients to ascend to the summit and descend safely. I enjoy the guided climbs because volunteering in this way facilitates meeting new people and making connections over a longer period of time. At this point, I would not feel comfortable roving on my own as I am not completely comfortable using a radio. In addition, I am not confident I would feel comfortable responding to an emergency in the proper way (i.e., providing assistance up to my level of certification, calling it in on the radio, etc.).

It has been really fun to interact with the climbers this summer. Each day during the peak climbing season (May to September) only 100 permits are issued for each day. Usually, by the beginning of the summer, all of the permits have been sold for the entire climbing season. Each day on the mountain, there may be up to 100 climbers. Many of these climbers have never climbed any mountains... it is such a wonderful experience to ask them about their experience, give them suggestions, and explain the volunteer role. Most people are excited and happy to see volunteers on the mountain, especially if they have never climbed it before.

View of the Crater Glacier from the edge of the crater
In addition to the guided summit climbs, I was able to go on a guided crater view climb. This climb started in the pumice plains and then went up and off the trail on the north side (the blast side). We traveled off trail for about a mile to the very edge of the crater. It was incredible! This climb costs 300 dollars for clients. It was free for me because I am a volunteer. I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to see the mountain in such a unique way! From the edge of the crater, we were at eye level with the glacier. The weather was very overcast and so we weren't able to see as much as we would have liked but it was still amazing! Click here to see more photos from the crater view climb!

I look forward to doing some volunteering on the mountain in the winter!

No comments:

Post a Comment