Bear Creek out of Ouray, Hwy 550 up to Engineer's Pass.
This is one of my favourite parts of the course. This year we go up. Which according to Dave Mc is the safer direction (for some reason he thinks running down this windy narrow steep trail is dangerous). And from Ouray to the pass is the longest overall climb of the whole course. We started on the 550 Hwy, the classic tourist route through the mountains. The road cuts through sheer rock forming a tunnel. The trail climbs right up over this tunnel before a series of long, steep switchbacks across beds of loose slate. Running down here sounds like running on broken china. And like Dave says, 'the ground moves under you'. And it does.
Once off the switchbacks we were in the true canyon where the trail has been literally carved into the cliff wall. It is hard to imagine the miners blasting their path up this gorge then hauling massive equipment up there. But they did, and Hardrock enjoys their legacy. Spud and I posed for some pics on some of the more treacherous bends. Bear Creek can be heard tumbling over rocks far below. Race day I will come through here in the dark so the opportunity to soak in the real beauty of this trail was not to be missed.
Passing the Grizzly mine the trail goes through a lightly wooded patch, crosses several small streams and through some open grassy meadows. It was at one of these we saw a bear during marking day 2008. None today.
We stopped at the Yellow Jacket mine for a break and everyone caught up. Back into the woods and more creek crossings and we were finally at the treeline, site for Engineer Aid Station. Someone had carted a chainsaw (it was also trail-work day and some people were working for extra tickets in next years HR lottery) so we cut a fallen tree up for firewood. Amidst all this industry the heavens opened and a hail storm rained down on us, sending us scurrying for cover.
We left some of the trail workers cutting wood and we continued up the valley, marking the faint trail with the HR flags and building rock cairns. The valley opened out into a wide grassy bowl, decorated with wildflowers. The final pitch up to the pass had us sucking in the thin air. We sat and ate marveling in the beauty before us.
Spud and I decided to run down. What had taken 6 and half hours to go up we covered in 1:15 on descent. Needless to say Dave, was right, the ground moved, real fast.
8hrs (1:15 down) 16 miles, 12,190 feet