Eric's Heroes: The scientist who has been the 'face' of Mount St. Helens

Peter Frenzen. (Photo: KOMO News)

MOUNT ST. HELENS, Wash. -- The eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 1980 altered forever the landscape of our state.

It also helped form the exemplary career of scientist Peter Frenzen.

As fate would have it, he'd just finished his undergraduate work at the University of Washington and was about to begin graduate work at Oregon State University when the mountain blew.

Frenzen went to the lunar landscape that had been St. Helens, and was, in his words, "in complete disbelief."

So began a 37-year relationship with perhaps the most awe-inspiring laboratory on the planet earth.

For the past 35 years, Frenzen has been the staff scientist for the Mount St. Helens Volcanic Monument.

He has been the "face" of St. Helens, putting the miracles he has witnessed on the mountain into words we can digest.

Last week, Peter retired. He wants to travel and relax.

But he says he will never completely leave Mount St. Helens, and it will never completely leave him.

We went with him to the mountain to learn from him one more time.

Editor's Note: "Eric's Heroes" is a weekly series airing every Wednesday on KOMO News in the 6 p.m. newscast. If you have a good story about a good person doing good things for the right reasons, share it with Eric by sending an email to

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