I came across this recent article about preparing for and hiking Mt St Helens and it offers an accurate description. I climbed Mt St Helens via Monitor Ridge Trail last October. It was an amazing experience and one of the more challenging hikes I’ve ever done (especially since I was hauling a nine-month-old baby!). That being said, I wish I knew about the permitting system in advance and what to expect. I purchased my permits in early summer, around May or early June, and was lucky to get permits for mid October.
By the time I purchased them, even permits for the weekends in early fall were sold out. We were especially lucky that there was little snowpack when we went, otherwise we may not have summited. Our experience was slightly different too, from the author’s, in that we didn’t see as many people as she did – probably because we weren’t hiking it at peak season. So do your homework: it’s well worth the experience and the view. Someday, hopefully soon, I plan on going back.