The concept of this race as a 'run' is something of a stretch. Most of the climbs are 100% hiking; not only because they are typically very steep, but also because all the work is occurring between 10,000' and 14,000'. Prolonged exertion at those elevations turns 2,000'-4,000' climbs into major grinds, and with nine of them to negotiate (along with countless 'rollers') ... well ... you get the picture. Strong, fit hikers can certainly excel on this course, although I found the relentless nature of the climbing more than a little tedious (and I only did 30 miles).
The terrain, scenery and history on the Hardrock course are second to none. The mountains are incredibly lush, especially above treeline, and the endless vistas of beautifully varied skylines were nothing short of breathtaking. The wildflowers were insanely beautiful, and the fauna enjoying their nutritional bounty were equally as fascinating. The final touch on the uniqueness of the course is the human element. There are snippets of mining history littered everywhere on the 100-mile journey. Silverton is more in the rough-around-the-edges Leadville mold, while Ouray, Telluride and Ridgeline have transformed themselves into stunningly beautiful tourist and outdoors destinations. The more interesting history of the region, however, is found among the dismantled mine shafts and random rusted-out steel cables and rails, which appear with frequency and in some of the most inaccessible places you could possibly imagine. The miners and pack animals of this region were, without a doubt, very tough and resilient.
On balance, I would have to say that while the scenery and history surrounding this race are incredible, it all gets a bit lost in the tedium of the endless climbing and descending. For some, this is apparently a good thing and there are those who clearly love everything about this race; however, for me, the extent of the climbing and the lack of any real running beyond steep descents got old ... fast. Still one for the bucket list, I guess, but maybe later rather than sooner.
Topping out on final climb
The final climb to the top of Little Giant from near the top of the second-to-last drop into Cunningham (as shown in the video clip above). The route up Little Giant switchbacked to the right of the waterfall, continuing all the way to the basin at the top of the gulch and then popping over one of the saddles to the right of pointy peak on the right side of the basin. The scree to the right of the basin is shown early in the video clip above. As a ninth and final climb (for Nick), this one was a particularly painful shot to the nads.
Diana Finkel Grouse Gulch
Nick P Finish