The 42-year-old Oregon man said it's the first time someone has reached the summit by kite, and he thinks his adventure from treeline to the crater's rim sets a record for fastest non-motorized ascent.

Share story

With winds ripping up to 40 mph near the summit, an Oregon man ascended Mount St. Helens using a snowkite. Aaron Sales, 42, of Hood River, said it’s the first time someone has reached the summit by kite; he also thinks his 35-minute trip from treeline to the crater’s rim sets a record for fastest non-motorized ascent of the mountain. Sales grew up in Woodinville and has snowboarded and kiteboarded professionally. In 1998 he took up snowkiting, and was among the pioneers in the sport. He now operates a corporate outdoor-adventure company. Sales had been working for a decade to find a way to ascend Mount St. Helens by kite, he said, and had been thwarted about a dozen times by adverse weather conditions. “Nobody had done it before … it was a personal dream to see if I could do it,” he said. “After a dozen attempts with things going wrong, I was wondering if things would come together.”
Sales found perfect conditions on Friday: Consistent wind, stable avalanche conditions and visibility to the top of the mountain. “The planets aligned,” he said. From treeline, Sales said he ascended nearly 3,200 vertical feet in about 35 minutes. “It’s going up the mountain faster than a chairlift,” he said. Near treeline, winds were mellow. “I had to fly the kite aggressively to get moving,” Sales said. Near the summit, they reached about 40 mph, he said. “At that point I’m holding on for a great ride.”  Snowkiters wear a harness system that attaches a kite to four 80-foot-lines that allow the kite to be steered with a handle. At the top, Sales planned to use a quick-release system to drop the kite just before the crater rim. But with the high winds, he instead steered the kite toward a member of his support team, who grabbed it and secured it. Sales said he took about 50 steps to the top and looked into the crater. “I’ve been visualizing what that would look like for 10 years … that was an amazing feeling to not only look there but to see Mount Rainier and Mount Adams and Mount Hood,” he said. “Those are the next steps.”