We drove a couple of miles out of town to the Mineral Creek crossing and a couple of cars were shuttled to our end point at South Mineral Campground. The guide line across the creek was fixed and we plunged into the fast flowing water. OMG it was so cold. Fortunately this year it is really low and at worst knee deep. It will be even colder on race day when we hit it at first light. Wet feet for the next 40 odd hours. Today wet feet for just 7 1/2 hours.
The trail disappears into thick pine forest and starts climbing straight away. The low parts are used by horse riders. And according to the scats on the ground, bears. I guess that explains the name of the creek we were following up the valley: Bear Creek.
The mixed group spread out quickly as the elevation gain sorted out those acclimated and those not. We stopped for a snack and allowed everyone to catch-up in the warm morning sun. The mozzies moved in so we moved out. The higher we got the thinner the trees until eventually we broke the tree line and Putnam Basin opened before us. Snow-banks, rocky outcrops, cliff-faces framed the lush green growth of the early summer. The wild-flowers were out in force. A myriad of colours dotting the mountains. The spectacular columbines with their pale purple petals surrounding the creamy white inner petals were my favourite. The tiny white and yellow daisy-like flowers were in abundance.
Crossing out of Putnam Basin we reached over 12,000 feet as we climbed the grassy saddle that led us into the next basin. We spent some time here working out where the trail was supposed to go before we climbed over 12,000 feet again giving us a view across to Kamm Traverse where the first aid station would be.
A long descent back into trees and we were on one of those classic rolling pine-needle lined single tracks all the way to the boggy South Mineral Creek crossing. Another short climb and we were at the site of the aid station. Given we got here in good time we continued up Kamm Traverse. The directions state that exposure is an issue here. It is steep and narrow but not as bad as other parts of the course.
Off the steep traverse we were back in pine trees and some amazing huge conglomerate boulders. Looking up I could see the cliff that they had sheared away from. It was hard to imagine the impact of their fall. The geology here is spectacular and makes me wish I had taken more notice at Uni.
Finally we were at the next big river crossing. A massive log jam provides a tricky but dry feet crossing. The waterfall above makes for an impressive backdrop. After a nasty steep climb we left the course and followed another trail for a few miles back down to our waiting cars.
A fantastic day covering 14miles in 7 1/2 hours. But I finished with a massive altitude headache.