2007 ULTRA RUNNING ADVENTURES

 

   
 
Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
 
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  CUNNINGHAM LITTLE GIANT SILVERTON RUN  

WEDNESDAY, JULY 11

 
" . . . Off to your left is an unnamed basin and directly in front of you is little Giant Peak. The trail
toward Dives Basin is cut across the steep east face of Little Giant Peak. In low snow years, this wide
trail is no challenge at all . . . About a hundred yards below the trail, the steep grass slope disappears
over cliffs that are several hundred feet high. A slip here could be fatal. Exposure, acrophobia."
 
- from the 2007 Hardrock Hundred course description 
 

 

This morning Jim wanted to run from the start of the Hardrock race in Silverton to "our" aid station at Cunningham Gap and compare the time it took him with runners' times from 2005, when the race went in the same (CCW) direction. It's a little over nine miles and he'd be done in plenty of time to get ready for this afternoon's "Potlick" lunch at the park with other runners. I'd drive out to Cunningham to pick him up, and see if I could climb up to Dives-Little Giant Pass before Jim came through. The dogs could go with me.

Jim wanted to check out the trail from the base of Kendall Mountain before I dropped him off at the gym (race start/finish). We couldn't find any markers, however, and we've never run this section before. Unfortunately, Jim forgot to read the course description before we left the camper and guess where it was -- still in the camper!

Under the circumstances, I suggested it'd be easier for him to find his way to the gym coming back into town from Cunningham than to find the course going OUT of town. If he started from Cunningham and came back, it would be the same direction he'd be running next year if he gets into the race (if he even ENTERS it).

So that was it. The only other change we made was for him to take Cody with him.

THE CLIMB TO DIVES-LITTLE GIANT PASS

We put up our tent at the aid station two days ago but haven't put anything into it yet because there is no one to watch the equipment and supplies. (I'll show more photos of putting it up in the next entry re: pre-race activities.) We parked by the tent this morning, glad to see it hadn't blown down or been stolen:

Jim started up Little Giant with Cody. I waited ten minutes to leave with Tater so the dogs didn't run back and forth to be with each other. Neither one needed the extra effort or mileage. Jim and Cody would go point-to-point, ending at Charlie Thorn's house or the nearby gym. Tater and I would go 2.2 miles up to the Dives-Little Giant Pass where Jim hiked five days ago (see July 6 entry), admire the views, go back down to the truck, and return to town to pick up Jim and Cody.

Even though Jim took photos on the way up and down to the pass last week, I had to take more! We "see" different things, and I'm just wired to take more photos. The first photos are mine up to the pass, then Jim's from the pass to town.

The first order of business was to cross Cunningham Creek. This was the only place for Tater to get water during our trek so I carried water for her (Cody wore the doggie pack since he was going farther). Runners have to wade through this creek just before reaching our aid station during the race:

Last year we could see tiny runners 'way up near the "top" of the mountain as they climbed Little Giant after leaving our aid station. They would disappear periodically in the trees and behind rocky areas as they switch-backed up the slope.

It looked from below like they stayed close to the waterfall, but they don't. The trail winds its way back and forth quite a bit west of the waterfall and through the aspens and spruce. Note the HRH marker in the photo above and the pretty flowers along the trail below.

Next is a photo of the lower part of the waterfall before it flows into Cunningham Creek near the aid station, the only place where runners cross it. There are other photos of the entire drop to the first plateau in the June 26 entry and others on the way up that Jim took July 6.

Jim was right -- what looks like the "top" from below is merely the first of three false summits on the way up the mountain. They won't affect the runners mentally as much this year, however, because they'll be coming DOWN the mountain to our aid station. Runners will get their first good look at the aid station when they get down to the last little basin or plateau above it:

Our tent is the smaller white one on the left, above. The big one belongs to a church group with whom we're sharing space. They're cool with all the activity that will begin about 5:30 AM on Friday morning as volunteers arrive to set up the aid station. They have voluntarily offered their assistance with traffic control (lots of crew vehicles soon after the race starts). They told us later that they kept several campers out of the area who were planning to be there this weekend and would have crowded us out during the race. That was more than we expected!

I could see Jim and Cody ahead on each little plateau. You can barely see Jim in the photo below:

He would stop, yell, and wave. I took photos each time and looked at my watch -- I stayed the same distance back (ten minutes) all the way up to the pass! That made me feel good because 1) I was taking photos and he wasn't until after he got to the pass, 2) I was having increasing difficulty breathing as I ascended, especially from 12,000 to 13,000 feet, and 3) I stopped to give Tater water twice on the way up.

Jim was having trouble with breathing, too. We both try to climb hills or mountains at a steady pace that allows us to keep moving, no matter how slowly. On this ascent, we both had to stop periodically to keep our hearts in our chests! It's a pretty steep climb, 2,620 feet in only 2.2 miles to the pass. It's not "reach-out-and-touch-the-trail-in-front-of-you" steep like some parts of the course, however.

To further complicate foot travel much of the trail was rocky, especially above tree line. I knew the loose rocks on the steeper parts of the trail would give me problems when I came back down. There were places I had to get creative on the descent so I didn't end up on my butt or worse. I didn't fall, but came very close several times as I steeped sideways or went down backwards. It wasn't so steep that I had to slide on my rear end, however. Jim neglected to tell me about all the slide-y rock sections on this segment of the course!

I predict some bloody knees and elbows as runners come tearing down this mountain to our aid station on race morning. It's early in the race when many will be going too fast for the difficult race ahead. It will also be their first big descent and after about seven miles of walking or running slowly uphill, they'll have happy feet and want to finally RUN. I hope no one gets hurt too badly on the rocks.

The photo below is either amusing or inspirational; I'm not sure which:

This blue columbine plant is firmly rooted and happily blooming right in the middle of the path, surrounded by those loose rocks. It's thriving against the odds at about 11,800 feet. I hope it doesn't get trampled by those 135 runners in two days. As usual, there are numerous beautiful flowers on this trail.

There are also numerous reminders all the way up to the pass (and beyond) that this used to be a mining area: old metal cables along the trail . . .

. . . posts sticking out of the ground at Dives Basin and along the traverse just before the pass . . .

(Charlie even attached an HRH marker to that one.)

. . . remnants of wooden buildings, mine tailings, odd circular pits . . .

. . . and some shiny object that reflected like a mirror in the sun as I descended from the pass back to Dives Basin (no photo of that, but it was near the pit above).

I was fascinated by views in all directions as I climbed to and descended from the pass. My favorite trails go above timberline where I can see exquisite panoramas. I was particularly interested in the views toward Stony Pass and the Continental Divide to the east:

Tater sat and waited patiently as I took yet another photo on the way down from the pass. Somewhere over there is a new Colorado Trail relocation that I want to find next week. Part of Segments 23 and 24 have been rerouted along the Divide since I ran those sections last summer. I could see parts of the bumpy road that lead over Stony Pass from my vantage point today but I don't know exactly where the trail goes over there.

As I reached the pass the views just got better and better. I thought I was all the way up until I saw the narrow trail traverse along the ridge between Little Giant Peak and King Solomon Mountain. This steep grassy slope disappears over cliffs that are several hundred feet high, as quoted at the beginning of this entry from the HRH course description:

Needless to say, I was pretty careful running through there (the first flat bit of trail I'd seen since crossing Cunningham Creek).

I like the view down into Little Giant Basin, below. The Hardrock course traverses King Solomon Mountain to the right of the lake and up to the pass (or down in even years). The Animas River is in the valley beyond the lake. Silverton is toward the left (northwest).

Tater and I sat and enjoyed the views for a few minutes. Because it's been so dusty, I wore my Dirty Girl gaiters today. These are relatively subtle compared to some other designs I've seen!

Round Mountain is in the foreground below. The more distant snowcapped 13ers are north of Silverton:

 

JIM'S RUN DOWN THE OTHER SIDE

Jim and Cody kept following HRH markers toward King Solomon Mountain and finally found some snow right along the trail for Cody. Jim took the next two photos:

 

While I watched from the pass, they dropped lower and lower toward Silverton on the Little Giant Trail: 

I could see them running down the mountain toward the lake and cropped in on the photo above so I could see them better:

You can barely see the Little Giant Trail in the next photo as it passes right of the lake:

Jim took the next photos as he passed the lake and continued down the trail and two jeep roads (Mayflower Mine Road and Arrastra Gulch Road) toward town.

 

These are remains of the Little Giant Mine across a gully from the trail:

 

I believe this old mine shaft is at the Big Giant Mine site along the HRH course:

Jim went inside and got this shot:

As Jim continued down the jeep road through Arrastra Gulch he could see County Road 2 and the Mayflower Mill across the Animas River canyon:

On the way down Kendall Mountain Jim met David Gordon and his wife, Trilby, who were driving up the road to check out the course. They were in Silverton to crew for a friend who is in the race. When Jim mentioned he was aid station captain at Cunningham, David and Trilby volunteered to help us at the aid station. They are also working the runners' medical checks.

David told Jim where the course turned left onto a trail near the base of Kendall Mountain.  Unfortunately, he missed the turn (easy to do because it was marked for runners going the other direction) and continued across the river on a bridge to a little dirt road in the canyon below CR2. He called me from there to ask me to pick him up along the road a little east of town. I was on my way back to town and only about three minutes away. Other than getting off-course at the end, he had a good run.

So did I. It took me 1:33 hours to get to the pass and 54 minutes back down (plus a ten-minute break on top). I was happy to complete the descent without falling or twisting an ankle on the rocks. Tater did fine and wasn't limping around afterwards. She's a real trooper and still a fun companion on the trail.

CAMPGROUND UPDATE AND POTTY HUMOR

Let's see . . . with less and less snowmelt, South Mineral Creek is getting lower and lower each day. The high and low "tides" are less noticeable now. We take the dogs to the creek about every day to play in the water. The HRH crossing downstream is lower now, too, although the current is still strong.

Most of the folks who came into our campground for the holiday are gone. Unfortunately, a few days ago two families arrived with about five kids' motorized dirt bikes and the munchkins to ride them around and around the rocks and dirt in our campground. We hate the loud, whining racket and the dust and try to keep them out of our immediate area. Some of the kids wear helmets and some don't. They are little -- all look under ten and seem to have no supervision when they are riding. What is wrong with these parents?? The rest of us want peace and quiet. So much for the "perfect neighborhood" we used to have.  <sigh>

We try to keep our sense of humor, however. This morning on the way to the bathroom, for example, I saw what looked like two goats at a nearby site. I did a double-take. What would two GOATS be doing in our campground?? Their heads looked like goat heads, but they were awfully big. Maybe I was seeing things . . .

Not. Jim took this photo as we drove by their site on the way out for our run:

Definitely goats! They were tied on a line between two trees. The driver, who was just there overnight in a tent, was in the back of his SUV doing something with a bale of hay. Apparently the goats ride back there, too -- see the ramp? There was no trailer to haul them. It didn't look like there was much room in the back of the vehicle for two large goats. Why were two goats being hauled in a SUV? Had they just been purchased and were in transit to a new home? We have no clue, but it was interesting and I was glad to know I wasn't hallucinating.

Then there's the bathroom that sits about sixty feet away from our camper . . . close enough to be handy, far enough away to not be a nuisance. It contains only a pit toilet. People have been keeping it pretty clean, although a forest service employee left a note a couple days ago that the person who usually cleans it is very ill. She apologized and said she'd keep it as clean as possible, although that isn't her job. We help by taking out trash other people leave in there (despite the sign not to do that).

While we were chowing down after our run this morning, a "honey dipper" from Cortez drove up and commenced to clean out the tank. We were amused by the name of the company: Le Pew.

We were NOT amused by the odor, however, and quickly closed the camper doors and windows once the process of cleaning the tank began. Things were back to order in less than an hour.

Jokes aside, we really do like this campground and appreciate the opportunity to stay here for free (well, if you don't count all the taxes we citizens pay for opportunities like this).

Next entry: pre-race activities including the runners' Potlick luncheon and aid station preparations. Sorry I'm getting behind again -- we've been very busy.

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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