Conquering Mt. St. Helena

By Sunday evening, Stephanie and I decided we’d had our fill of the city. In fact, after two days it seemed that something of an urban purification was in order.

Come Monday, the sun was finally out, so I suggested hiking Mt. St Helena, the mountain whose dominant presence on the horizon reminds me every day that I have twice attempted but not yet succeeded in making it all the way to the top. That’s because the trail/fire road one takes to get there is over 5 miles long with a 2000’+ elevation change, peaking at 4,344′ above sea level.

We started early, around 1:20pm and brought sandwiches to eat part way up. The first chunk is pretty cool, a dirt path through the trees with like 8 long switchbacks, and then a hard scramble over some rocks before emerging out on the fire road for the next 4ish miles.

View from the fire road hiking up Mt. St. Helena

Of course Monday was like our first somewhat sustained sunny day in weeks, so the higher we got, the colder it got, especially when the sun hid behind the slow moving clouds. We brought layers, but hadn’t really planned mentally for it to be so chilly. As long as we keep moving it felt like a cool spring day.

Apparently it was quite a bit colder on top of some mountains in the distance, looking north-northeast.

Snow covered mountains in the distance, as seen from Mt. St. Helena

The last 1.7 miles from the south peak to the north peak were the hardest. It felt like we’d already been hiking forever, and here we were at the base of the south peak. How could there possibly be that much farther to go? Stephanie seemed unfazed (she told me later that actually she was fazed—but urged herself on) so we trudged ahead.

It wasn’t until we felt like we were almost at cloud level that I realized we could see all the way to the city, over 60 miles away!

Looking towards San Francisco from Mt. St. Helena

Here’s a closeup.

San Francisco as seen from Mt. St. Helena (over 60 miles away)

Thankfully the top wasn’t too much farther ahead. Three hours after beginning our hike we made it! Finally.

The top of the north peak of Mt. St. Helena

Copious amounts of trail mix were consumed as we took in the view, in awe of our accomplishment.

View from the top of Mt. St. Helena

And there was time for one quick photo at the top before beginning the two hour journey back down the way we came.

Justin and Stephane on top of Mt. St. Helena

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