Mount Saint Helens-The Final Showdown


Two climbers on Mount Saint Helens with Mount Adams in the background“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never…Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” – Winston Churchill

There the mountain loomed above me.  That same volcano I can see from the freeway back in Portland.  After ridge after ridge of hiking and climbing through rock and ash, it towered above me as if it were taunting me, “I am so huge, you are so small.  You might as well give up now.  Turn back.”

At last the day had come.  Me and Mount Saint Helens had a score to settle.  I was already beaten once by Silver Star Mountain this year.  This is what I’d been training for, running up stairs, jogging and biking up hills.

A view from Mount Saint Helens of a climber flexing in front of Mount HoodMount Adams, an even higher mountain standing proud to my right, was laughing at my futile attempts.  I looked back to see The Columbia River to the South going past my own Mount Hood, always standing strong, a reminder of home across the border.  You could even make out Mount Jefferson further South and maybe one of the sisters.  I needed to concentrate on climbing, but this beauty was overwhelming.  I snapped yet another shot from my camera, which dangled on my neck and bumped around on rocks.

A prophetic word from Kansas City: “As you climb these mountains you can look back and take heart at how far you’ve come.”Formations in a view from Mount Saint Helens

Scripture says mountains will melt like wax when the Lord comes back.  As much as these mountains would like to claim they’re undefeatable, they aren’t.

Climbing one rock after another I kept missing what was supposed to be a “trail”, just a foot or two of dust randomly going around rocks with markers to keep on track.

Our party climbing the rocks on Mount Saint HelensAnother guy and I were the last two up in our party of five.  When getting to the end of ridge I shouted back, “Hey guess what’s above this cliff?”


“Another cliff!”

Just one foot in front of the other.

What a bully this mountain is.  I thought about how unathletic I was as a kid.  How far I’ve come.  Once again George Leonard’s quote kept echoing in my head.  Two miles for every mile in the journey.

Feeding a Chipmunk at Mount Saint HelensOur party eventually met up at the top of the last rocky ridge…before the big climb in the ash…  We rested, drank up on our water and sports drinks and snacked.  An interesting machine was to the left, like something from the game MYST or the TV series Lost.  (I learned later this was a seismic monitor to measure earthquake activity.)



A seismic monitor at Mount Saint Helens

Now the big finish.  We walked up the steep trail in the ash, just a huge hill with snow running on either side of it.  You could see several men, women, older people and kids at once all climbing for their life to make it to the top.The Last Stretch of Ash Before the top of Mount Saint Helens

The mountain threw everything it had at me.   The wind suddenly howled around me and I put on my long sleeved army surplus desert shirt as I was getting cold even climbing in the sun.  As my feet kept sinking into the dust a few inches, each step on the incline became one more exerted effort.  I grew frustrated, losing my balance a few times.  When I fell, it was more like falling into a slanted wall than the ground.

Just one foot in front of the other.

Two of my climbing buddies at Mount Saint Helens

Two of my climbing buddies

It was like Mount Doom at the end of Lord of the Rings.  I wondered how Sam would’ve ever been able to carry Frodo.  Sheer determination.

A second wind eventually came, and I started stomping through the ash.  “Yeah, whatch you got, huh?!” I said to the mountain.  (There was a t-shirt in the Cougar gift shop that said, “I kicked ash at Mount Saint Helens.) This lasted maybe a couple minutes.

Will this thing ever end?

But I plotted on, determined to make it however long it took.  I didn’t time that last hill, it’s just one of those journeys that you’ve determined to take no matter how far the destination.

Just one foot in front of the other.

Right before coming to the rim of Mount Saint HelensEventually I saw what looked like my buddies at the top.  Was this really the top?  I went very slow, sore, covered in dust and worn out.  One of them shouted, “C’mon, you’re almost there!”  One final effort.  Just a few more feet…



Josh Taylor at the rim of Mount Saint Helens

Finally climbing over I saw my buddies and then the vast crater below.  Under the blue sky Mount Rainier begrudgingly congratulated us from a distance.  “Whoa….Wow, this is awesome!”  I can’t express my joy at that moment. The climb was brutal, but now it was worth it.  I’d never done any kind of feat like that in my life. To climb a mountain.  That’s the stuff you read about in books and see in movies.  Except this is real.  There right in front of my eyes was the world below me.The View of Mount Saint Helens Crater from the top with Mount Rainier in the background

Our group at the rim of Mount Saint Helens

A six year old kid with a climbing buddy Paul on the rim of Mount Saint HelensWe talked and ate and took pictures with a few other climbers, too tired and sore for dancing, but the triumphant feeling shared.  A couple kids were there and even a six-year old.  We stood there amazed.

The problem with a long hike like that?  The end is not the end.  Back downhill we walked with a frustrating stop/start motion constantly jarring the knees and ankles.  After the long journey through ash and rock, we hiked fast through the the timberline trail.  Eventually we came back to the truck.  Wow, what an adventure.

Mount Saint Helens crater with climbing sticks in the groundI hope you can be inspired by this story.  All I can say for you out there is embrace the process of your own journey and do not give up.  The destination will come in God’s timing, but for now allow God to write out His grand story in your life, pain, downfalls, victories and all.


Category: Faith, Nature, Travel | 2 comments

  • Linda & Dave Hoard says:

    Josh, What a delightful essay on perseverance! I can see you inherited your mom’s & dad’s abilities. We loved your photos, and not just because our son was part of the group!