Screenshot from Aaron Sales/Global Sessions/Vimeo
AARON SALES hangs onto his snowboard and kite near the top of Mount St. Helens. He ascended the Cascade Peak late last week in approximately 35 minutes, which he claims is an unofficial, non-motorized record.
As of Friday, April 28, 2017
Hood River’s Aaron Sales accomplished a 15-year mission this month by becoming what he says is the first person to successfully snow kite to the summit of Mount St. Helens. After a dozen unsuccessful attempts in prior years, this spring’s snow pack and wind conditions lined up perfectly on April 21 for Sales to climb the east face of the mountain to the crater rim.
The feat is an unofficial, non-motorized speed record for the ascent, which took just under 35 minutes, from a location at the base of the mountain known as The Plains of Abraham to a point on the rim at 7,765 ft. elevation. The record is “unofficial” because current nonmotorized records (about an hour and a half, currently) have been set by ultra-runners in the summer via a different route up the mountain, Sales explains.
Sales used a 6-meter inflatable kite — the same type used for the sport of kite surfing on the water — to pull him up the mountain, with winds exceeding 40 m.p.h. as he reached the summit. He used GPS to track the ascent and had motorized support for safety.
“This turned into a lifetime goal for me,” said Sales, co-founder of an adventure-based events company called Global Sessions, located in Hood River. “I thrive on a good challenge, and after getting denied by the conditions for more than a decade, I decided I wasn’t going to give up until I made it.”
Sales, a pioneer of snow kiting in North America (the News covered him in a 2003 story about the sport), reached the rim of the crater, packed his kite into a backpack, and had one epic snowboard run back to where he started.
“That will go down as one of the best runs of my life,” he said. “A true sense of doing something new and unique can be hard to come by in this day and age. In this in this case, it certainly didn’t come easy, but the bitter sense of disappointment that had built up over the years made that brief but amazing moment at the summit even sweeter.”