Mount St. Helens Circumnavigation: A Marty Post

Near the start of our counter-clockwise route

Near the start of our route

Yes, a rare Marty post!  Since our January return from the South Pole, Chris and I have been spending time getting our ultra/trail running bodies back in working condition.  While getting ready for the South Pole, we had stopped doing long ultra runs (over 2 hours) about a year prior, devoting more time to strength training and tire-pulling.  As a result we lost years of ultra running base.  A week after we got back from the South Pole, we laughed as we tried to “run” 4 miles; we ended up walking most of it.

It has been a few months since Chris and I have spent a long day together doing something physically difficult and challenging.  After spending 48 straight days together getting to the South Pole, we were excited to head out on a little adventure together.


Lava field

Our fitness level had climbed back to a point where a run around St. Helens would be more on the fun side and less on the painful side.  We headed out late Tuesday afternoon for the four-hour drive to Windy Ridge viewpoint on the north side of St. Helens.  We arrived at around 7:00 pm to an empty parking lot, thunderstorms, and heavy rain.  So that we could get an early 5:00 am start, we camped in the back of our Jeep.  While Chris fits perfectly, it’s not quite as comfortable for me.  Our 5:00 am start ended up delayed until 7:15 am as we crossed our fingers that the downpour would abate, and it did!

We had decided on a counter-clockwise route of the Loowit Trail, and with our approach our route would be around 35 miles.


Big wash out and waterfall

Along the way the trail drops in and out of deep gullies left by the eruption and debris flows, and you also get some great running along fairly soft and smooth trail.  Some of the very large lava bed crossings on the southern side were the most challenging as we moved from lava boulder to lava boulder watching for the trail marked with large posts or cairns, frequently stopping to look for the route ahead.

The run is mostly exposed, so when not obscured by clouds, we got some views of St. Helens.  The low clouds for most of the day served us well and kept us cool since the opportunities for water were sparse and silty.  We filtered through Chris’s arm sleeve since we had forgotten a bandana (we didn’t carry a water filter to keep packs light).

Wondering what to eat on an 11 hour “run” like this?  Since we mostly move at conversation pace, we can eat and digest most anything.  It’s great to have a variety of real food (not just gels).  Here’s a quick list of what we consumed:

  • IMG_0481

    Steep area with rope for hand hold

    Turkey, cheese, veganaise and white bread (easy to digest) sandwiches

  • Almond butter, strawberry jelly and white bread sandwiches
  • Horizon cheese filled crackers (these were a favorite!)
  • Dates
  • Nature Pantry “Poptarts”
  • Luna Bars
  • Clif Z Bars
  • Nutra Grain Bars
  • A couple Gu gels and blocks
  • A couple Seattle Chocolates
  • Salt tablets
  • Electrolyte drink

This was a fun adventure and I feel so fortunate that I could experience it with my incredible wife.   We’re going to have a lot of fun adventures to reminisce about when we are 80 years old!

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