Mt Mahler and Mt Richthofen, the high point in the Never Summer Mountains.
The 100km (61.0 mile) course will have approximately 14,250ft of hard-earned vertical gain and 14,250 feet of equally hard-earned vertical descent, for an elevation change total of 28,500 feet.
The race will begin at an elevation of 9,100 feet at the Gould Community Center, and will set out in a southeasterly direction on two-track trail heading towards Seven Utes Mountain (11,453′), the alpine summit of which will be gained six miles into the run. The view of the sun coming up over the Nokhu Crags should be pretty special as you pop up above tree line.
From Seven Utes the route crosses a short saddle to connect to the Silver Creek trail which traverses the shoulder of Braddock Peak, before dropping into beautiful Lake Agnes under Mt Mahler and Mt Richthofen and sitting at 10,700′. Runners will follow the northern shoreline of Lake Agnes before dropping down to the Michigan Ditch service road directly below the Nokhu Crags on a short section of scree trail. The Michigan Ditch road will take runners around the northeast ridge of the Nokhu Crags to the first aid station at the base of the American Lakes trail. From the aid station, runners ascend up to the stunning American Lakes (11,200′) on the backside of the Crags. Runners will then drop back down and cross the Michigan Ditch following the American Lakes trail out to the Diamond aid station at the junction of the American Lakes and Agnes access roads.
From the aid station, runners will cross Highway 14 and ascend steeply to North Diamond Peak (11,850′), the high point on the course, from where the route will follow the summit ridge of the Medicine Bow Mountains on faint trail for approximately two miles, before descending west off the ridge on rough jeep road to the Yurt contour trail at approximately 9,600′.
The Yurt trail will not be your friend. It is rough, but will be marked well. Once negotiated, the Yurt trail spits out onto the Ruby Jewel access road which runners take back up the hillside towards Clark Peak for a mile or two before turning north onto the Hidden Valley trail. This trail will take runners back up into the alpine to the high point in Hidden Valley (11,200′), before the descent to beautiful Kelly Lake with views of the Nokhu Crags now far off in the distance to the south. From Kelly Lake the descent down the Kelly Lake trail follows the channel carved out by Kelly Creek through a mix of pine forest and huge old growth aspen groves.
A new Kelly Lake Cut-Off Trail turns you north just before you reach the clear cut portion of the Kelly Lake trail, delivering you to Clear Lake Road in 0.6mi of wooded single track. We loved Clear Lake so much, we decided to throw in a quick 3.1 mile out and back up to the lake. Back-of-the-pack runners will be in for a special treat as they descend back from Clear Lake with an amazing sunset view across North Park to the Park Range.
With Clear Lake negotiated, at approximately 44 miles and over 10,000 feet into your day, the meat of the climbing will have been accomplished. As you loop around on the northern perimeter of the course, you’ll be treated to huge views of the mileage you’ve already accomplished, both in the Medicine Bow Mountains and Never Summer Mountains.
Your trek south will parallel the Medicine Bow range in the valley below, beginning on a mix of single track and double track bordered with vibrant Rocky Mountain wildflowers at the 8,500′ low point on the course. By the Canadian yurt, you will connect with the Northern section of the Yurt trail passing across rough pasture and through pine forest on a slight upward trajectory back to Ruby Jewel Road.
From Ruby Jewel Road, it is fast downhill to the Lumberjack trail and a rolling traverse through a large meadow to the Bockman road crossing and final crew access location. The final climb is a slow grind up to the Gould Mountain saddle on a mix of forest road and rough logging roads. The final descent from the saddle will bring you out to Highway 14, which must be crossed by the Ranger Lakes Campground before the final two groomer miles into the finish.
Make no mistake, this is a tough course, but with perseverance and a steady head you will get it done, and we can’t wait to see that happen!
The course will be well marked with hot pink flagging tape plus extra pin flags and flour at important intersections. On longer stretches of trail, flagging will be placed approximately every quarter mile. Turns will be marked heavily with 3-4 extra flags before the turn and 3-4 flags within line of sight leading away in the right direction. So if you see a lot of flags, pay attention and watch for the next turn. If you don’t see any flags for over 10 minutes you’re likely off course and need to turn back.
Some of the “trails” that the course uses are extremely rough and overgrown, and are at times barely recognizable as trail. And to make matters more challenging there are a lot of old logging roads and game trails. If you think you are on a good trail, then there is a chance that you are not actually on the correct route. So keep your head up and follow the course markings at all times. Cattle and other wildlife in the area may damage or completely remove course markings. So we highly recommend bringing both maps and written directions to follow the course.