Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hardrock 100 Trail Work

I have a lot of pictures and video from the trail work and marking I did last week for the Hardrock 100.  I will post some of them as soon as I have a few minutes.  It was a lot of fun and hard work with some really interesting and amazing people.  Almost all had done Hardrock before, most had done it several times.  We worked on some spectacular trails, several blasted right out of the side of cliffs.  I only thought I was about to die on three occasions and was absolutely sure I was about to die on one.  Here is a brief description of the 4 work days.

 We arrived in Silverton Wednesday night and Thursday morning Marye Jo dropped me off at Ouray.  I went with the trail marking crew up from the Governor's Basin aid station location (about 10,500 ft) to the top of Virginius Pass (Kroger's Canteen) at 13,100 ft .  Most of the last 2,000 ft was all on snow.   Some of it was pretty steep.  One of the lower snow fields funneled into a couloir.  We had to traverse a 45deg. slope, at least 100 feet across and about 20 feet above the drop into oblivion.  That is where I knew I was about to die.  I don't think the trekking pole I was carrying would have stopped my slide if I had slipped.  After reaching Kroger's and hanging out for a few minutes taking pictures and trying not to be blown off the ridge by 60+mph winds, Everyone else went back down to Governor's except me.  Marye Jo had driven on to Telluride where we were staying the rest of the week so I continued on to Telluride.  I climbed down into Marshall Basin then up and over Mendota Ridge (12,500 ft) and then down into Liberty Bell Basin and took the Liberty Bell Trail down to town.  The hike down from Mendota Ridge to town was on "ground" not snow.  I could finally relax a little.  (Except for the lightning!)

Friday we did trail work up on Ouray's "Bear Creek Trail."  (There is also a Telluride Bear Creek trail and a Silverton Bear Creek trail)  This was quite a hike along about 2.5 miles of trail blasted out of the side of the cliff wall.  At places, a fall would send you down the cliff more than 400 ft.  We dug out a wash, (beyond the cliffs) creating a trail that can be safely traversed about 20 feet above the creek.

Saturday we scouted a new trail that will have to be used this year up from Telluride to Oscar Pass.  (There is a contested mining lease high in Bear Creek that is 300 ft wide and spans the entire canyon.  The owner has closed off the trail and threatens to post armed guards and have any trespassers arrested.) We also cleared a new path across Bear Creek "Telluride," Over a  large fallen pine.  The original route was too dangerous due to the 100+ inches of snow that fell in April and May that is now melting.  All the streams are at very high levels.  (crossing that stream was the 2nd time I thought I would die.)  I hiked up about 500 feet higher into La Junta Basin and intended to go over a pass to the old Hardrock course on Bear Creek and come back down, but I would have to cross a snow bridge over a raging creek so I opted to turn around and head back down the way we came up.  

Sunday was trail work up on that same trail, called "Ballard Mountain Trail."   We had to repair several washes on the way up and cross through about 0.5 miles of trail blasted out of the cliff wall.  This time the potential fall was more like 300 ft. but the trail was even narrower at places.  Most of our time was spent trying to dig a narrow trail across a very unstable, 100 ft wide section of a wash.  We tried to dig out a path at least a foot wide, but every time you knocked out a rock, everything above it slid down the hill.  We finally had a decent trail created that seemed OK.  Then someone pulled out one more rock.  This started a new landslide that continued to pull down more and  more of the hill side above us until finally a near car size bolder was released and that pulled down even more.  After everything finally stopped moving we had to go back and dig out about 20 ft of the trail again, hoping no more came down on us.

I feel like I got a pretty good workout.  You should try to keep up with Rick Trujillo (Hardrock board member and President of the Imogene Pass Run Board) for two days!  Even when he is carrying a chainsaw!  

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