Hardrock 100: “Wild and Tough”

“Hardrock”.  The name evokes the unique aura of this challenging event.  The 21st running of Hardrock is July 11-13; let’s consider what makes it so special, mysterious, and, indeed, legendary.

(NOTE:  The Author of this post is Peter Bakwin, who in 2006 began 48 hours before the race, ran the entire course, then did the regular race with the rest of the runners, finishing that as well.  No one has attempted the 200 mile Double Hardrock since.  This starts a full week of Hardrock coverage – stay tuned for Anton Krupicka’s Race Preview!)

HR Flowers

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Tenmile Range Traverse

June 21, 2014 – - -

The “Tenmile Traverse” is a classic long mountaineering route near Breckenridge, Colorado, which links ten summits uncreatively named Peaks 1 through 10. But, the route covers only half of the Tenmile Range, and the lower, easier half at that. The true Tenmile Range Traverse” (TRT) is simply the entire range, which adds six high 13ers and some really gnarly terrain to boot. Buzz and I were looking for a long training day, he won’t do anything that isn’t both classic and interesting, and I happen to be probably the world’s foremost expert on traverses of the Tenmile Range (for what that’s worth :-)… so let’s get on it!

TRT Ridge

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Top Ten FKT’s of 2013

“Let your instincts guide your steps … he’ll take you where you most love.” – Kilian Jornet

For several years I have maintained a simple website dedicated to recording and documenting Fastest Known Time (FKT) efforts on various trails, routes and mountains. “Fastest Known Time” essentially means the same thing as “Speed Record”, while acknowledging it is the fastest time that we know about, as some may have been forgotten or not reported. By making this information much easier to share, the Internet (with help from my site), has probably made possible the explosion of FKT-style efforts over the last few years.

2013 was huge for FKT attempts, and may represent the start of new era for this niche activity within the overall sport of mountain, ultra, and trail running. We now are now seeing elite runners make FKT efforts a central focus; they are putting as much effort into an FKT as they would for a race. This has, of course, resulted in some impressive times on some classic routes!

What follows, in no particular order, are my picks for the Top 10 FKTs of 2013. Links are all to pages on my FKT site, which will direct you to further information about these remarkable trips. What are YOUR top picks?

Peter

 

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The 100 Year Flood

My family moved to Boulder in the summer of 1968. On May 5-9, 1969, hard rains produced the biggest flood in decades. As a 7-year-old the 3 feet of water in our (unfinished) basement seemed super cool, sort of like having an indoor swimming pool.

Growing up in Boulder the “100 Year Flood”, was part of the local lexicon, like fallout shelters were for families in the 60′s; one of those legendary things that can’t really happen. We know about these things and plan for them, right? Every summer at 10 a.m. on the first Monday of each month, Boulder tests its emergency warning system – deafeningly loud sirens and a booming voice over the loudspeakers chillingly announcing, “THIS IS A WARNING SYSTEM TEST.”

But on September 12-15, 2013, when the proverbial “100 Year Flood” actually happened, it was a shocker. For one thing, no one ever thought a big flood would happen in September, when summer monsoon storms typically taper off and thunderstorm producing convection is weak. This year the monsoon was stubborn, and a confluence of static weather systems and particularly abundant monsoon moisture produced a cataclysm that the typically subdued National Weather Service forecasters termed “biblical”.

Fourmile1

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A Lifetime of Adventure

I never intended to become a runner. As a kid I hated running as a sport…

I never really thought of myself as an athlete. I didn’t do organized sports at school. Fitness and “exercise” were things I associated with that old dude in the sweats on TV. But I grew up skiing, and have been doing it as long as I can remember. When we lived in western Mass in the 1960s, my father had part interest in a small ski area. I had lace-up leather boots, cable bindings and skis longer than I could reach, and I remember being picked up off the ground regularly by the rope tow.

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Transcendent Running

Running into the tiny village of Guipry, in France’s Brittany district, on August 31, 2002, I was feeling pretty worn. It was the fourth long day of La Transe Gaule, an 18-day stage race across France. I’d run maybe 25 km already that morning, and had another 45 or so to go – a typical 70 km day. This was beginning to seem like a long race!

My low mood was not helped by the pretty town – as I loped along Rue de la Liberation, feeling sorry for myself, I was unmoved by the beautiful late summer weather – sunny but not hot, with a gentle breeze. I was aware that my pace was starting to lag from of my target pace, and it just seemed like too much work to pick it back up.

As I ran through the central square bells began ringing, and a wedding party poured out of the town’s small church. It was a lovely scene, but what flooded my consciousness was the ringing of the bells, which were heavenly. I felt my whole being lighten as they continued to chime, my heart suddenly opened, my step quickened. In a few seconds my whole mood shifted to pure joy. Running felt easy, almost effortless. I finished the stage easily.

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The Escape

Being wedged into a mass of humanity is not a novelty in Japan, but the crowd my wife Stephanie and I were stuck in clearly wasn’t going anywhere for hours.  I had visions of a Who-concert-style stampede and trampling, but of course the Japanese are used to this kind of thing and take it in stride, with their seeming infinite patience and courtesy.  Us Americans, on the other hand, have to be moving – we simply can’t abide being powerless and stuck.

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Glacier Gorge Traverse

July 1, 2012 -

The Glacier Gorge Traverse, in Rocky Mountain National Park, is one of Colorado’s “hard man” classics.  It’s really difficult – 19 miles with over 10,000’ of elevation gain, most of which is above 12,000’, and all of which is gnarly and technical.  I had been wanting to do it for years, but was never able to wrap my head around the technical crux of the route – the west ridge of Pagoda.  This reputedly goes at 5.6-5.7, or some rappelling.  It is so remote and difficult it is impractical to scout – you just have to go do it.  This is probably why the Traverse might only get done once a year.

So when local legend Bill Briggs suggested we tackle the traverse together, I jumped at the chance.  Bill might be the only person who has done this burly traverse more than once, having completed it several times since 1982, with a mind-boggling PR of 7:17.  When someone like Bill asks you do join him for a rare gem like this, you are very well advised to agree!

Glacier Gorge Route

 

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Knowing When to Quit – Part Two

After my 2010 attempt people asked me if I was going to give it another go. I always said, “Nope. Too hard. I don’t see how I can do it better.” So, why one year later, was I sitting alone on top of Gemini Peak in a total friggin’ whiteout at midnight?

Navigating this terrain at night is really hard – it’s all above timberline, and of course, there is no trail of any kind. But navigating in 20’ visibility by looking at a tiny arrow on your GPS which supposedly is pointing to the next summit SUCKS. Fortunately, before I reached Dyer Mountain the fog had largely lifted and I was back on track.

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Knowing When To Quit

(Editors Note:  Peter Bakwin conceives and attempts the Mosquito Tenmile Traverse – the longest and highest ridge in the lower states – 38 miles continuously above timberline).

My head was spinning as I sat on the summit of Fletcher Mountain just after noon on July 24, 2010. Was it the 13,951’ elevation? Or, was it the fact that I’d just gone straight through the night, spending the last 16.5 hours traversing some of the roughest terrain imaginable, without ever dipping below 13,000’, summiting 21 high peaks in the process? Either way, though not quite 2/3 through my attempt to traverse the longest, highest ridge in the conterminous USA, I was simply whupped.

And stunned. Frankly, after years of doing 100 mile ultras, 200 mile adventure runs, and big peaks all over the world, I didn’t think this was going to be all that hard. Heck, it’s just 38 miles from Weston Pass (near Fairplay, Colorado) to Frisco. Sure, the 27 miles from Weston Peak to Peak 10 is entirely above 13K, and yeah, sure, there are a total of 34 named peaks (two 14ers, 24 13ers, and eight 12ers) along the way. But, anyway, how hard can 38 miles be?

Pretty frickin’ hard, it turns out.

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