Jim decided to run part of the Hardrock Hundred (HRH)
course today with Cody, since this section near Silverton was just marked
yesterday. He figured it would take him about half the time it actually took to
navigate cross-country from Mineral Creek to the KT aid station and on up to
Grant-Swamp Pass and down to the camper. He stopped his run about halfway into
what he'd planned (KT aid station location), and swore he'd never enter this
Later, he was negotiating with the volunteer coordinator
for an extra ticket into the race lottery next year because he's co-captaining
the Cunningham Aid Station and will be working much of the 24 hours it's open!
Sounds kinda like our stock I'm-never-gonna- run-
another-100-miler-again declarations when we're 75 miles into one of them, doesn't it?
Hardrock is a kick-ass course. It has about 30,000 feet of
climb and the same amount of descent (it's a loop course).
That's bad enough all by itself.
Add in the altitude
(between 9,300 feet and 14,000+ feet), very steep climbs and descents, rough footing that often doesn't
follow trails, several potentially wild stream crossings, snow at higher
elevations (even this year), AND two nights out on the trail for mid- to back-of-packers, and
you've got yourself one tough race.
I think Jim would do well on this course because he ca walk fast and strong, does well
uphill, and isn't afraid to bomb the downhills. There isn't a lot of running at
HRH unless you're one of the front-runners. It takes physical strength
and a lot of mental fortitude to stay out there in all kinds of weather
from 6 AM Friday to (up to) 6 AM Sunday. It's the only 100-miler in the
country with a 48-hour time limit, to my knowledge.
Being "out there" two nights is what most concerned Jim until today.
Now he's not sure he can walk and run fast enough to make the cut-offs
on the difficult terrain, either.
JIM'S MINERAL CREEK TO KT RUN
About 6:30 AM I dropped Jim
and Cody off at the Mineral Creek crossing I showed you yesterday. The
crossing is two miles into the start of this year's race, which goes
clockwise from Silverton to Telluride to Ouray to Silverton.
I know that
water was cold as they walked/swam across the creek, but at least it
wasn't waist deep like last year:
I went on back to the camper for another couple hours while
Jim and Cody trudged up the Bear Creek drainage for about five miles between
Bear and Sultan Mountains on old mining trails, the Putnam Basin Trail, animal
trails, and NO trails. He followed the HRH flagging cross-country quite a bit
and took all the photos from this point until I describe the run I did today.
This is a shot of the "rock glaciers" on Sultan Mountain:
Jim was quick to point out that he notices the
beautiful flowers when he's running, too! These are pretty with the early
morning dew still on them:
After climbing into the upper Putnam Basin and over a
saddle between the basin and Lime Creek, he continued ascending to the top of
the Putnam-Line ridge (elevation 12,600 feet) about five miles into his run.
For the next four-plus miles Jim and Cody followed various
sheep trails and old mine trails in a large arc above Cataract Gulch, aiming for
the saddle between Cataract and Porcupine Creeks. Exactly how runners cross
above the gulch is dependent on snow conditions, but any path must stay above
the cliffs, head walls, and rock glaciers.
Just before reaching the saddle, Jim heard an unusual sound
"like a bunch of porpoises." It didn't sound like the chirping of marmots or the
bugling of elk in rut. He didn't know what it was until he saw this large herd of about two dozen elk off in the
This is a close-up of the herd:
How cool is that?! I'm glad he got to see the elk. Those
are the first we've seen on this trip. When Jim described the strange sound to
our friend Tom Hayes, Tom remarked that it was probably the mamas calling to
their young. Tom's been puzzled by the sound before, too, on runs in the
mountains near his home in Bozeman, MT.
After crossing the saddle, the course goes up and down
through Porcupine Creek and its tributaries several times (no bridges) and
climbs to 11,600 feet on the NE peak of the Twin Sisters. Here are several more
photos Jim took of the trail.
I can see a couple more elk in this shot:
This one reminds me of the layers of mountains
in the Appalachian "blue ridges:"
See the two little blue lakes lower right,
Cody is pretty good at finding those HRH markers, despite
virtually no "trail" to follow:
I betcha he followed the scent of the folks
who marked the trail yesterday..
Isn't the view below just fantastic? I think
it should be on a calendar! It
reminds me of scenes from the nearby Colorado Trail. In fact, they're probably
the same mountains we saw early in Segment 25.
I don't see any markers OR trails below, but
Jim was still following them.
I love the way the clouds "pop" in the photo
below. The two-dimensional picture sure looks 3-D. And there's Cody with his
nose in the snow again!
Soon the trail descends rapidly to the South Fork of
Mineral Creek. On the way down, Jim took this photo of the beautiful flowers
along the path . . .
. . . and one of the old Bandora Mine across South Mineral Creek
I think Jim should carry a camera more often
on his runs, don't you?
SUE'S KT RUN
Meanwhile, I was curious about the HRH course and decided
to run the portion between the KT aid station and Grant-Swamp Pass with Tater.
That's about seven miles round-trip.
Problem was, I didn't know where the KT aid station
location is! I drove back to the end of South Mineral Creek Road, passed the
Bandora Mine, forded three creeks, and ended up in a large parking
I assumed the HRH trail went through there, but couldn't
find any course markers. All I found were about a dozen young men and women
drinking beer at 9:30 AM, making lots of noise, and firing rifles at a log up on
the mountain near a trail. I told them Jim and Cody might be up there, and they
promised to stop shooting "soon."
Yeah, right. I crossed my fingers that Jim and Cody were
well out of the way. I assumed they'd already gone by, but had some food and
extra water for them in the truck just in case. I later learned the course
doesn't go through there.
As I drove back toward our campground, I saw a little
turn-off and a faint jeep road on the left about half a mile from the
turnaround. After parking, I noticed HRH markers going up the side of the
mountain (part of Fuller Mtn., I think):
Ah, ha! I had inadvertently stumbled upon the real
location of the KT aid station. ("KT" stands for Kamm Traverse, named after
ultra-runner Ulrich Kamm, who suggested the current route between Twin Sisters
Peaks and Grant-Swamp Pass).
I figured Jim and Cody had long since passed here, so Tater
and I proceeded up the "trail," which was easy enough to follow as it gradually
ascended the open slope above the road. I was again distracted by numerous
flowers, such as the Little Red Elephants, below, which gave me frequent
opportunities to stop to catch my breath.
Just how long does it take to acclimate to 10,000 feet
I could see the switchbacks on the road across the valley
drove yesterday to reach Clear Lake . . .
. . . and had great views of South Mineral Creek
Road through the valley looking east, although I couldn't see as far as our
campground. The campground in the photo below is the paid one at the end of the
smooth part of the road:
After the run I learned from reading the HRH course
description that I had actually ascended the face of Fuller Mountain on an
abandoned mine road and passed the caved-in mine where the "road" ended and the
single-track trail began. The trail definitely narrowed, but I sure didn't see
any remnants of a caved-in mine. Tater slid off the loose rocks on the skinny
trail a couple times, and I wondered about tired HRH runners going through there
in a counter-clockwise year after dark . . .
Just before I entered a stand of trees, I did notice there
was quite a drop-off 1,200 feet down to the Mineral Creek campground below. The
photo I took doesn't begin to give the proper perspective so I won't even show
it here. I later read this part of
the trail also has the "Acrophobia. Exposure." warning!
The next section of trail through the trees and a wet
meadow was very pretty but would be quite slippery after a rain or in the snow.
From the meadow I got this photo of what I'm guessing is Grant-Swamp Pass in the
Soon we came to the Lower Ice Lake Basin Creek, a tangle
of fallen trees across a fast mountain stream about twenty feet across. There
was a waterfall above us and another below:
The HRH markers when right across the skinny pile of trees
in the center of the photo below that are laid perpendicular to the others:
I could see the markers on the other side, where the Ice
Lake Trail begins, but I wasn't in the proper frame of mind to try to get there
across that mess! I wouldn't be able to balance on the narrow log "bridge" and I
didn't feel like getting skinned up crawling over them and the rocks. Nor did I
think it was a good thing for Tater to do.
Here we were, two little old arthritic ladies, and I
weenied out. I'd just have to hear from Jim about Grant-Swamp Pass and look at
the photos he took.
Tater and I turned around and went back down to the truck twice
as fast as we went up the trail. I'd already taken several photos, and
I could run most of the way down. I did take these two parting shots looking
west on Mineral Creek Road:
Rounding a bend, I saw the passenger door open to the
truck. No way it could be Jim. He was far ahead of me. Had someone broken into
the truck and was still there?
I was pulling out the remote key chain and was ready to hit
the alarm when I saw Cody and realized it was Jim! What was he doing
Bailing out, that's what. It had taken him so long to do
the 9+ miles from Mineral Creek that he decided to quit when he saw the truck.
So then I felt kinda bad that I made it so easy for him to stop, but he assured
me he was tired enough and could do the Grant-Swamp section another day. There
are three ways he can go up to it, including two that bypass the nasty creek
crossing. He plans to do that section in a few days.
So that was our Fourth of July. We skipped Silverton's
parade down the main street in the morning in lieu of our HRH trail adventures,
and we were already in bed by the time the popular fireworks show began at 10
PM. In fact, we were well into dreamland by dark, which is about 9 PM now.
There is more than one way to celebrate our freedoms on the
Next up: cabin-fever inspired trek to Clear Lake and
the pass above it. Let's see what's on the other side!