Mt. Saint Helens FKT Trip Report
Athlete: Eric Sauer
Finish time: 5:24:11
On August 10th I completed an unsupported, counterclockwise circumnavigation of Mt. St. Helens in 5:24:11. I started right at 6am and it was light out pre-sunrise because the sky was clear. The plan to run reserved early on was thrown out the window with the pure excitement I felt. The temperatures were upper 50s/lower 60s on the south and east sides of the mountain, warming up to the mid 60s on the north and west sides later in the day.
The cool weather made me feel strong and I pushed to the Loowit trail from Climbers Bivouac in just under 20 minutes. The first eventful thing that happened was I took a fall just over an hour in and smashed my hand and broke my sunglasses. It’s okay, they were free and I have another pair (not with me for the run though). I was a little shaken but it just made me even more vigilent. I broke into a faster tempo on the Plains as Abrahams and pushed problem free up and over Windy Pass, hitting the base of Windy Pass in right about two hours. I was faster than I was aiming for up until this point and I tried to tell myself slow it down so I didn’t blow up later, but the section to come is one of the most runnable sections of the route and I felt I had to push pace just to match the current FKT pace. I made just over 6 miles in the following hour, which I think was the most distance I covered over an hour span the whole day. I had just run the route a few weeks prior, so the navigation was fresh in my mind and I hit just about every trail junction in stride.
About 18 miles in I saw a herd of 50+ elk, but the terrain was open enough that they saw me coming, and they ran downhill. The event still put me on edge though because it reminded me of Yassine nearly getting trampled on his FKT a few weeks prior. I also saw the herd was spread out on the other side of the gully I was just about to descend into. As it was hotter and more exposed on this section of the course I was going through water faster than I anticipated, and I knew I was going to run out before the South Fork of the Toutle River. I didn’t ration my remaining bottle, I just decided to go the 20-25 minutes without any water. My theory is always to drink while you have water and not dehydrate yourself early. At the south fork I refilled my three bottles and starting climbing. This ~1600 ft. climb was probably the relative slowest section of my run, and I downed most of my water quickly with the thought that I would refill again at the Toutle River. The Toutle River was dry when I got there with just over half of one bottle remaining. Oops. I quickly ran out of that water and had to go the last 5-6 miles without any left. This likely slowed me down some, but the effects of dehydration take a while to kick in and I was well hydrated up until that point. Also, my saving grace was that it had gotten cloudy starting around the south fork, and there was even a heavy fog through the last boulder field which meant I was sweating less and losing less water.
After one final run-in with an elk on trail I finally topped out and started running again. That is, until I hit the final boulder field in a dense fog which made navigating by the post markers impossible. I made several small deviations through this section, but I navigated with my Garmin watch to find the course every time I made a deviation. There isn’t much of a trial through these boulder fields. I also slowed my calorie intake as well for these last few miles to slow my dehydration. When I hit the Ptarmigan Trail at the 5 hour 11 minute mark I knew I had the FKT. I started sloppily jogging down because my legs were totally shot, but I quickly decided that wasn’t how I wanted to finish and started pushing pace again. After the 13 minute, 1.9 mile descent I reached the trailhead and was done! Ahhh.
Not mentioned above was the fact that I was chaffing like crazy for the last 3 three hours of the run, but it wasn’t until I looked down after finishing that I noticed how bad it was and that there was blood running down the insides of my legs. A lesson in not bringing SNB out on the trail...
Hoka Challenger shoes Salomon low trail gaiters Zensah calf sleeves WSER Drymax socks Rabbit FKT 3” race splits Patagonia technical tee Orange Mud arm sleeves WSER bigtruck hat
Free sunglasses from WS that broke falling before I could use them Salomon Advanced Skin 5 hydration vest
2 - 16 oz Salomon soft flasks
16 oz Amphipod Hydraform Soft-Tech Insulluxe handheld water bottle 2 – Lime flavored Skratch electrolyte mix single serve packets
2 – Honey Stinger waffles
3 – Caffeinated black cherry Cliff shot blocks 1 – Salted watermelon Cliff shot block
Gear not used
Did I mention I forgot my lube?
*I’m not sponsored by anyone, but if someone wants to sponsor me that would be cool. Probably not though.