Lone Peak is 11,166 ft tall. Most people take a tram to the top for 360 views or expert level skiing. The people in Big Sky, Montana the first weekend in September did not take a tram to the top…we hiked…twice!
The weekend starts off on Friday with a Vertical Kilometer race. This starts at the base of the ski area and races to the top of Lone Peak. A bit more than a kilometer of vertical gain in less than three miles.
At the firing of the gun, we took off. Up. And more Up. There was a little bit of jogging on some flat sections. Most of this was a power hike up the ski hill. Upon reaching tree line, we stumbled onto some rocky terrain. This led to a first high point to crest which led to the ridgeline.
There was about 200 meters of scooting along this ridgeline where I was seriously questioning my decision to do this. A misstep here would mean serious injury or worse.
With a grip on the rocks and slow steps I finally reached the area of the ridge that opened to a 10-foot-wide section. This was somewhat runnable…sort of. Now the altitude was kicking in. My heart was pounding even though I wasn’t really running.
So, more hiking along this ridge led to the final climb to the top.
The trail is at a very steep angle climbing the remaining 30 minutes. Switchback, gravel, large rocks, and dirt. Many places where I was on all 4’s climbing up. About 10 minutes from the top I could hear the cowbells from the people at the top. With a final push I crested the last bit and crossed the finish line. The 360 views were incredible. It felt like being on top of the world. The best news of the day was that the tram was available to begin the ride down…
Day 2…28km, 7600 feet elevation gain.
We woke up early to prepare for the day. After the challenging day 1 we were recalculating our expected finish times (adding an hour to the estimate). Due to the large number of runners this stage went off in 5 minute increments. The start looped around the front of the mountain and then up a steep climb and along a ridge. Other than a sketchy little downclimb area this was straightforward. There was a nice mix of climbing and running. Most of the downhill was runnable (the parts that weren’t contained large rocks.
A little past the half way point we joined the trail that we had climbed yesterday to start the big climb of the day. This took us back up the top of Lone Peak…
The scary parts were less scary today. The climb up was just as hard – maybe harder. Once at the top, we ran down the backside. I was excited about the possibility of this but my excitement soon turned to frustration as most of the downhil was on large rocks. Working down the mountain was challenging. A slight misttep meant rocks tipping up onto your ankle. You don’t want to fall in this area! Eventually we found some singletrack for some nice mountain running on trails through the trees.
The miles were adding up and my body was feeling the effects of the effort as well as the altitude! Crossing the finish line in just over 6 hours was a relief. After that kind of effort it took some time for my body to relax. We rested and recovered the rest of the day while we debated how the body would feel the next morning for day 3.
Day 3 was the most populated day of the weekend. They reported it is one of the largest trail runs in the country. Due to the large number of people they had eight waves of start time.
Most of this 11k run was on singletrack runnable terrain. Our sore and stiff bodies seemed to feel better once we got moving. After warming up the run felt good and the day was amazing.
We cruised through the miles and finished with smiles on our faces!
We then partook in the free mohawks at one of the even tents! I think it’s a good look for me…
After we left Big Sky we made a quick stop in Whitefish for nice little hike…