“This is a summertime out-and-back route to Mount St. Helens' crater rim. Permit required.”
— Chris Flashhard
This is the primary running route for accessing the South Rim of Mount St. Helens. To do this run you must have a permit, and those run out fast. We started this run at 1:00am and completed it in 4 hours – yes it's that tough. So, what do you get for this hard work? An absolutely amazing view of the crater, dome, and surrounding area. I hear on a clear day you can see Rainier, Adams, Hood, and Portland as well.
In the first 2(ish) miles, you'll steadily gain about 1000 ft through a lovely pine forest. The next 2(ish) miles are tough going, navigating a boulder field while climbing another 2500 ft.
The last mile(ish) is best described as a slog up another 1000 ft on loose dirt, ash, and pumice.
Coming up at night and down in the relatively cool early morning, you'll easily burn through two quarts of water, and wish for a third. Any summer ascent up here should be made with a gallon per person, and from how fast it got warm at 8am, it must be roasting by afternoon.
Be realistic about your fitness – even at a slow pace, this is an extremely challenging run.
Other than heaps of water, I recommend leather or garden gloves to save your hands through the boulder field, as these volcanic boulders can be very sharp! Hiking poles looked like they were helpful, though I didn't have any.
Gaiters are a necessity on this route to prevent volcanic debris from entering your shoes and shredding your feet.
Warm gear is a must for hanging out at the top if you arrive pre-sunrise and need to wait a bit; no matter what time of year, the wind up here is always cold...