I'd been meaning to get up Saint Helens for years and just hadn't prioritized it when the conditions were right until this spring. Early April seemed like a perfect time to catch it, with good snow coverage and warm enough temperatures to generate some some corn for the descent.
Dan and I drove in the night before and got some sleep in the trailhead parking lot along with a couple hundred other folks with the same Sunday plans. We started moving at about 5:20am and made the wise decision to start in trail runners since the first mile or so of the trail was melted out or patchy snow. From there, it was icy, but doable skinning to tree line and then, when it got steeper, I switched to ski crampons. Most people were booting up with skis on their backs, which seemed strange to me—ski crampons worked great and didn't catch too badly as the snow started to soften. Regardless, we all enjoyed a great view, with Adams and Hood poking up out of a sea of clouds covering everything else below.
Knowing that it'd be icy until 11am or so, we took our time and made it to the top in about 4.5 hours. I scampered over to the "true summit" despite the mountain not really having a summit anymore (I've been told summits matter...), and then hung out with the crowd, eating my sandwich and waiting for the corn to ripen.
The ski down was glorious. There was enough open territory to find fresh tracks and nature's groomer had done wonders. We were back at the car in under an hour, including the walk out. The snow cover was great—with the low angle of the trail, we could just point straight down hill and be carried through the forest like a magic carpet ride. A truly lovely Sunday on my last big volcano in Washington.