Wednesday, July 27, 2011

S.A. Ridge, Benchmark set.

One of the first runs of the season with my trusty running partner was up to Grandeur Peak where we noticed a beautiful ridge to the North that we hadn't ran before. As always happens on one adventure, another was formed.

Of course I wasn't going to do any research, but my motivated friend set out a course on google maps (or some more tech version) that showed the route. He even had a three dimensional track we fly by to have a look. It looked easy. About 8 miles of rolling terrain with a big decent at the end. We did a trial run shortly after that covered about the first 4 miles. It went very well, except it wasn't rolling terrain. The hills where big, and more importantly steep. At least big hills are great for training.

The highest altitude on the route is about 7500ft and it descends to 4800ft. Because of the low altitude, its more of a spring, fall, winter type route. Naturally, I decide to give it ago at 5:00pm at the end of July. After smoking through the first 4 miles I get to the new terrain (by smoking I mean slightly faster than walking). I'm expecting a short easy ridge to a big rocky decent. I was dead wrong. Had my wife been along she would have said something wise like: 'maybe we should turn arround' or 'that doesn't look too fun up ahead.' Unfortunately I was all alone and the thought of return never even crossed my mind. I jumped headlong into the Oak brush. As always I was wearing skimpy running shorts and a super light water wicking shirt. As you can imagine, the bush whacking didn't go so well.
I think I had about 1.5 miles of no trail on a steep almost knife edge ridge that was covered in thick, deep oak brush. I think I would label this section the meat grinder. for the first 30 minutes I found it very amusing how difficult it was to move at all through the brush. I was literally dragging myself through in sections. To add to the fun, at times you would come to a huge sandstone boulder that you got to climb over (don't ever say we don't have Sandstone in northern Utah). After an hour and a half it finally started to clear up. ( yeas thats 1.5 miles in 1.5 hours) My legs where bleeding, my shoes where filled with rocks, and I was in a fowl mood.
Just then my wife called to let me know she was still at work and it was ok that I was way, way late. Of course I complained about how much I was suffering (really? like when you get to work 40 hours a week?) and she generously showed much sympathy. From here the trail got really, really good. In fact, I would give this section a 3 star trail, and its accessible from my house! My mood rapidly improved, and as always within 20-30 minutes the bush whack from hell faded into darkness. I'll try and attach a movie or two this time which explains a little of how I was feeling at the time. You can see the bush whack section in the photo's with the sand stone boulder sections... see if you can find the trail of blood and broken branches. I think I am going to upgrade it from a no star run to a one star run.Stats:
Route: starting at the parking lot at the top of little mountain, finishing at the foothill clinic
Time: 3:04:13
Distance: 7.72 miles
Pace: 23:51
Starting Elevation: about 6,000ft
Ending Elevation: 4,800ft

This is your challenge to break my record, just bring your Levis.


  1. I've been eying that ridge as a run for a year or so. I'd done an out and back to about 3 miles out the ridge and wondered what the rest was like. Thanks for guinea pigging it.

  2. Sure thing, I'll usually the one who makes the bad trail choices.