Sunday, July 11, 2010

Connecting The Dots

We just had a 3 day stretch of really nice weather here in Juneau and this got my mind really excited once again about this 100 mile route that I want to put together in the mountains around here.


In the past 4 days I ran almost 60 miles of this potential route. Even before this week I had run all of the route that I have in mind except for the connection between Heintzleman Ridge and Blackerby Ridge. The difficult thing about this connection is that there is a massive glacier that sits between the two (seen center right in the picture below).


There are 3 basic options for getting between the two ridges: drop down and cross Lemon Creek in front of the glacier; drop down to the face of the glacier but stay on the left side of it all the way around toward Blackerby Ridge; or stay up on the ridge past Nugget Mountain and Split Thumb, keeping on ridges all the way back around the glacier and eventually over to Observation Peak (the ridgeline can be seen in the distance on the above photo)


The first option is certainly the least desirable. You need to drop way down to do this and then cross a dangerous river and then climb back up all the elevation you lost with some bushwhacking as well. More and more lately I have been thinking that the third option of staying up on the ridge all the way around would be the best choice. Thus on Friday my friend Bryan and I set out with the intention of scouting this third option. A few hours into our "run" though we decided to drop down to the edge of the glacier and attempt the middle option instead. You still need to drop a long ways to do this but from up on the ridge it looked like this would include almost no bushwhacking and that the climb back up along the edge of the glacier would be so gradual that the elevation lost really wouldn't be a big deal. When it was all said and done this proved to be true and I was really pleased with this route. It's not fast. Took us about 8.5 hours to do 20-25 miles, but it's a pretty straight forward connection and the scenery is amazing. There was one hidden lake (above photo) that we had to cross right above the outlet that poured into a raging deathtrap of a river, but the crossing about 20 feet above the beginning of the deathtrap was only up to the bottom of our shorts and really quite mellow (photo below is of Bryan crossing just above the "deathtrap"). After that we simply climbed up onto the edge of the glacier (third photo below) and then climbed gradual for about 2 hours of very simple/smooth travel and we had connected into Blackerby Ridge on top of Observation Peak.




In all this turned out to be one of the most enjoyable and beautiful runs I have ever been on. I wish the lighting had been a little better so these photos weren't quite so washed out.



I know the specific locations of this route mean nothing to most of you, but the point is that this run put me one huge step closer to piecing together one of the most rugged, challenging, and scenic 100 mile race routes in the world. I hold no illusions that this will ever be any kind of organized/legitimate event, but maybe an annual "pilgrimage" for me and one or two others dumb enough to "run" this route. That'd be sweet.

13 comments:

Mike Alfred said...

I love the way you're turning your running in to a pseudo religious experience. If you can maintain your passion, you are going to continue to churn out awe-inspiring performances like you did a few weeks ago. I just love being able to follow along on the blog when I can't be there in person.

Anonymous said...

'The bigger you can think about new ideas, the smaller old records seem.' I think I've learned one of Geoff's psychology secrets....

ultrarunnerbrianphilpot said...

Can't wait to see what you can put together. A little far away for me to travel to and race.

RiverRunner said...

I've spent 2 summers in Juneau. I would imagine this race to be like the Barkley Marathons, but only with lots devils club. That river can get pretty scary. I would think staying high would be the best bet.

Michael said...

If you want it to become a "real" race, I would give yourself a little more credit... 'cause I think you could make it happen.

Given your "street cred" in the ultra community, I think it could turn into something bigger than you think (assuming you'd want that). If you say it's one of the most rugged, challenging, and scenic courses in the world, I don't think many would doubt you.

I for one would love to give it a whirl... AK is amazing!

Team RASH said...

How do I register for the race online? is there a website? or should I just mail you my race application and some money?

Jill said...

Yes! I'm so glad you're still dreaming about this. I still want to come up and run a remote ridge resupply checkpoint, even if just for you and your two craziest friends (hi, Dan.)

Jeremy said...

I've never been to Alaska, but seeing these photos make me want to go now more than ever. What a beautiful place.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you could include it in an informal AK race series along with the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Challenge. Seriously, I could see most of the AMWC entrants showing up for your "race". They like that sort of unorganized thing. I'd probably give it whirl. Good job at States! That was pretty kick ass.

adam said...

I just started following your blog but I'd do it! I'd always love an opportunity to come to Alaska. Just do it next summer so I can train for it

Barkleybeast said...

Intriguing, Geoff. I'll keep watching this site for further details. It would be worth doing. Hardrock started out just the way you describe - a bunch of guys putting together a tough course with serious questions about whether anyone could finish it.

- Blake Wood

Scott Keeps Running said...

Looks beautiful.

Shoeless Joe said...

Hi Geoff, If you are keen to try the whole route next summer, I would certainly make the effort. See how long it takes to do the whole thing. Heh. As far as I have been able to tell, as long as you can maintain a jog the body remains active and eyes open. Looks asthough the Douglas Island part would allow a fair amount of running for fighting drowsiness in the latter stages.
Joe