Phil Brundage had just finished 13th in the Cascade Crest 100 mile endurance run. An incredible feat for sure, but I wanted to find out about something else Phil did less than a month earlier. Phil attempted a solo journey of what he called the Volcanic 1080. The Volcanic 1080 is a self-supported bike ride from Portland to Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood. That’s just part of it. Phil also climbed and ran around Mt. St. Helens, and ran around Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood after reaching each volcano by bike, hence the name (three 360 circumnavigations.)
So I sat down with Phil and asked him some questions about this epic experience.
NWDC: What gave you the idea of doing this?
Phil: Some of it came from out of boredom from training. With running in general, you train to level up, go and do some race, then do it all over again. That in terms of an end game for running wasn’t very satisfactory. I was a hiker before I was ever a runner. Running was just a way to extend my ability to go into the wilderness. (The idea) came from a place of wanting to do something more and getting out of the doldrums of ‘I guess I’m going to do that run again.’ I thought I could just start linking things together with a bike. I could probably run all three volcanoes in a week if I just took it easy on the bike. Once that idea popped into my head, that was it! Biking was just a means to an end, a way to get around without having to drive around. I liked the idea of biking these forest roads and not having to drive so much. I’ve been curious about how far I could go bike packing. How long would it take to bike all the Cascades? I really don’t know the answer, so this is a way to find out. Once I got this notion that adventure is the end game I’m looking for, not just a race, then it all just fell into place.
NWDC: How did you plan this?
Phil: To be honest, there wasn’t a lot of planning. I thought about it for a while. It’s going to take me a day to do the foot thing event (Lawetlat’la Foot Thing Adventure Race of summiting Mt. St. Helens, running around St. Helens, then summiting it again.) I’m going to need two days of recovery before I do something big like that again. Then I need two days of recovery before I did another thing like that. That seemed to make sense, so take two days to bike over to Adams and two days biking over to Hood. It just made sense to do the loop like that. I made a rough estimate of how many calories I would need. 150 calories per mile, maybe 100 calories per mile. I didn’t know how many I would need for biking. So I just went shopping and added up all the calories from all the food I bought. It seemed close to what I need. What could I eat for meals and what could I eat for in between meals. That was my food planning. I got lucky with the bike stuff. I got a couple panniers that Rick let me borrow for the front, and Bree got me a couple for the rear. The biggest amount of time I spent on this was fixing all the bike parts. Some of the planning was getting around Adams because I had never done that before. I read some people’s reports.
NWDC: That seemed like a total scramble.
Phil: The high route was a lot of scramble. The low route is a lot of bushwacking. The moraines were a little sketchy. When you go down those, stuff is rolling all over the place. You stick a foot in the ground and you create a little landslide.
NWDC: It seems like a lot more hiking than running. I’m guessing this is where your hiking experience helped.
Phil: Oh yeah, I figure about a mile an hour for that section, but super exciting. Once you cross the border into Yakima Indian Nation, it’s God’s country. I was in awe of all the meadows and there’s no one over there. It would be nice if there were markings or a safer way to get around, but that’s part of the fun, I think. I had a couple GPX tracks that I created from trip reports and Yassine’s Strava from when he ran it a few years back. Their routes went pretty far down the mountain, and I wanted to go up the mountain. I traced out the way I thought I would go and it ended up working out alright. The glacier gets a little sketchy at the far side of it. It’s a combination of the glacier, moraine deposit, huge piles of rock and crevasses. It’s like picking your way through this frozen wasteland. You wouldn’t want to slip and fall there. The wall after that was tough, especially with the slidy dinner plate rocks. Nothing is stable there. It just doesn’t end. You think you get to the next valley, Avalanche Valley, it’s going to be easy, but no it’s slow. You’re going up and down, trying to figure out how to cross the streams I go to fill up my water after crossing the streams and my foot slips and I get totally submerged in the spring. Son of a gun. All the time I spent crossing the streams carefully then I fall in.
NWDC: What was the low point?
Phil: The cars were just awful. When trucks would pass, they wouldn’t give you any room. The rednecks have these diesel trucks when they step on the gas they have this plume of exhaust. I think in those circles its cool. I think its called rolling coal. I knew it wasn’t personal. In their mind it’s ‘I’m a hick and you’re just some asshole on a bike.’
NWDC: What was your favorite point of the whole trip?
Phil: I really enjoyed the foot thing. Meeting John and Eric, those guys are legends. John held the Nolan’s 14 FKT for 13 years or something like that. They were at the forefront of the ridiculousness of ultra-endurance adventure running. It was a super fun event. Helgi was out there for 24 hours and we didn’t know what he was doing. He was training for Bigfoot 200 so this was just part of his training. Then going around Adams was awesome because of the new trail. I had never done Adams before, so that was a completely new experience.
NWDC: Anything else that sticks out from the trip?
Phil: It was really enjoyable. The low point was manageable. There were many enjoyable points that happened spontaneously on the way that I liked most. I didn’t know what I was getting into and I was pleased with the things that I found. Like hanging out in Northwoods. I didn’t know what Northwoods was, Turns out they have a nice general store. There was a rope swing to cool off in the Lewis River. Its hard to find people to take a week off just to go on an adventure. It’s not like you are going to Patagonia or something like that. Do you really need to? I mean, we have three mountains within 60 miles. You don’t have to buy a plane ticket across the world just to have a sufferfest. I think that was one of the things I really enjoyed is that this is right in the backyard.
NWDC: When you passed out in Dairy Queen, what was that like?
Phil: That’s never happened to me before. I think I was working too hard pedalling there. It was 95 degrees, I’m dehydrated, and I just ran around Mt. Hood. I was skimping on hydration and fuel because I just wanted to get to Dairy Queen. I wasn’t taking care of myself when I should of. I thought I’d just push to Dairy Queen and then things would be OK. I show up there and the air conditioning was off. There was this huge line and I pass out. That’s kind of embarrassing. I hit the deck, wake back up and I’m fine. The lady that was there was a medical doctor and she was like ‘oh yeah, this happens to me all the time.’ So I’m just happy I didn’t fall and hit my head or fall when I was on the bike. It could have been a different outcome. This one is pretty high on the dumbshit scale. I’m pretty happy I didn’t get hurt. They wouldn’t let me go until Bree showed up.
NWDC: So, are you glad you did this?
Phil: Oh, yeah. I’ve got ideas of what I’d like to do next year. I need to track down a mountain bike though. Maybe more of a linear trip, like a point to point on the Oregon Timber Trail and add some running elements into it. I don’t know, maybe I can get around Jefferson. It has no trail on the east side. Maybe that’s the next one to do, make my own trail and bushwack around that thing.
Visit Phil’s Volcanic 1080 report to get the full details of the incredible adventure.