Mt St Helens Closed to Climbing Due to Eruption Risk
Monday, September 27, 2004
(Updated September 30, 2004)
Climbing and hiking above the 4,800-foot mark on SW Washington's Mount St. Helens is prohibited until further notice due to a swarm of earthquakes that suggest a volcanic eruption may be imminent.
On September 29, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Cascade Volcano Observatory issued a Level Two Volcano Advisory warning that the "current unrest could culminate in an eruption."  Click here to view the latest statements.
The 8,365-foot mountain has not had a major eruption since 1986, but, according to a USGS statement, "there is no evidence that...a large sustained eruption" is likely to occur.
A catastrophic eruption devastated Mount St Helens on May 18, 1980, when the mountain lost over 1,300 feet in elevation and developed a huge crater opening toward the north.  Many square miles of land were buried or stripped clean of vegetation and trees during that eruption, and the evidence is still striking for present day visitors to the National Volcanic Monument.
The May 18, 1980 eruption is still very
evident on the North side of Mt St Helens.

The 1,000-foot lava dome inside the crater,
as seen from the South Rim of the summit.
Photos Matthew Weaver (PMR)
Though the current USGS statement does not predict an event similar to the 1980 eruption, the potential of sudden ash eruptions, steam explosions, rock projectiles, landslides and/or debris flows means that climbing or hiking near the mountain is unwise until further notice.  Effective immediately, the USDA Forest Service has canceled all previously issued climbing permits and will not issue more until the eruption risk subsides.
If a volcanic event occurs, it is possible that PMR could be activated to help with search and rescue efforts, though it could be some time between the event and the point where it is safe enough for rescuers to enter the scene.