Archive for October, 2008

Wild Basin Rim Run

October 30, 2008

(Story by Bill Briggs, October)

This story has several origins, two of which are worth mentioning. The first one jumps out while looking at a map of Rocky Mountain National Park, where the lower third of the Park east of the Continental Divide consists of Wild Basin, the watershed of the North St. Vrain River. This 70-square-mile arena is ringed by high peaks on three sides, circling from Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak in the north to Ogalalla Peak and Elk Tooth in the south, all connected by a high continuous ridge. It would be impossible to design a more imposing and tantalizing closed-loop ridge run than the circumnavigation of Wild Basin.



Peters Creek Grove

October 25, 2008

I have been wanting to check out the Peters Creek grove of old growth redwoods in Portola State Park for awhile. The state park is very close to the Bay Area population centers, but is guarded by a long and windy mountain road where there is sometimes a lane divider and sometimes not. Fortunately, the drive is gorgeous with awesome views of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Tucked away in the northeast corner of the park is the third largest stand of old growth redwoods on the San Francisco Peninsula, known as the Peters Creek Grove. Unlike the easily accessible groves in nearby Big Basin Park and Henry Cowell Park, it is a 5.5 mile trek up and over a ridge just to reach this grove. An excerpt from the State Park’s description of the hike sums it up best:

“This long and strenuous hike takes you to some of the most spectacular old growth redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains… you will have the place to yourself. The descent [from the ridge] is like going back in time to a land of old growth giants and beautiful creekside habitat… allow[ing] you to imagine what these mountains were like 200 years ago.”



October 24, 2008

I’ve been wanting to run the Nankoweap Trail, ever since I heard of it 25 years ago. Yesterday, I finally did it. Well, “hiked” it is more like it …

The Nankoweap is one of the fabulous Rim-River trails; these routes all start from either the South or the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, run down thru a billion years of geologic time to the Colorado River (really fun), and then climb back out again (sometimes less fun). In early season one moves carefully over snow and ice on top, which very quickly change to green trees and grass at the bottom; these trails start in Ponderosa and sometimes Aspen forests, rocket down thousands of vertical feet thru a spectacular desert landscape, finally arriving at the biggest and grandest river in the Southwest.

According to the NPS, the Nankoweap is the hardest trail in the entire Park, and has the biggest vert: 6,000′. It is barely maintained, is remote, and not popular. What’s there not to like?


Temple Double

October 20, 2008

East Temple and West Temple Mountains are the most prominent summits in Zion National Park. They tower over both entrances to the Valley, seemingly a stone’s throw from the highway, and are seen by three million people every year.  And almost never climbed.  Seriously – East probably had probably seen less than 10 ascents ever by last fall, and West maybe 4 parties per year.  It’s bizarre – FAR more people climb Mt Everest than these two bad boys.

Needless to say, this situation had to be rectified …


Steep and Deep

October 9, 2008


Think your last race was steep?  Does your favorite trail have some tough sections?  Check out this Course Profile:   


Yes, we get reports back from Europe about how technical their races are compared with our gentle forest paths and dirt roads, and American trail runners tend to fare poorly when they fly over the pond, from the late 70’s when Rick Trulillo ventured to Davos Switzerland, up to the American men (not women) getting schooled at the last two Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc.  Indeed, in Europe they call it “mountain running” instead of “trail running” for a reason.  But lurking in America, land of the free, are some races that make the Jungfrau Marathon, the Sierre-Zinal, the Three Peaks race, or even the Dolomites SkyRace look like Kansas.
Organized by a local resident – you should be able to guess from where  – this is a series of 4 races held every fall for the past 8 years.  The clock starts at a trailhead, as the runners (all of whom are also climbers) bust up the trail, onto one of the local rock faces, which is climbed or scrambled to the top, followed by either a downclimb or a rappel off the backside, and then a blazing run back down to the start/finish.  The downhill running can be either managed with wild abandon, a measure of technical skill and attention, or some combination thereof, and is actually the most dangerous part of the event, although a second-degree burn caused by brushing up against your red-hot rappel device can be an unexpected mishap as well.
Standings are kept, course records are known and highly esteemed, and a fun, safe attitude is the rule.  For example, switchback cutting is strictly forbidden – this might seem paradoxical given the nature of the event, but cutting switchbacks is bad for the environment and disrupts the honorable nature of this self-timed race.
It’s not for everyone … but then, what is?