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HR Backpack.

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  • Ben Woodbeck
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 18, 2009
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      In an effort to ensure not getting lost when pacing in the upcoming Hardrock, I set off with my runner intent on covering some of the HR trail from American Basin to the finish. Here's what we found between 6/11/09 and 6/17/09 (a period of unsettled weather and plenty of new snow up high) on a hike from American Basin-Chapman Aid Station in the direction of this year's (2009)HR. Following the pictures is a brief narrative of trail conditions. Hope it's useful.
      American Grouse Pass 6/17/09
      Top of Engineer 6/11/09
      Below Virginius 6/13/09
      Heading to top of Virginius 6/13/09
      Mendota Peak (Right side of pic)from South. Note avalanche paths. 6/14/09 Should be clear now?
      Looking NW from Wasatch Saddle towards Telluride/E Fork of Bear Creek 6/16/09
      OSCARS PASS- Heading S toward Chapman Aid -top of Oscars is low point to hiker's left.
      Looking S from Oscar's Pass towards Swamp Canyon 6/16/09. Quite a bit of snow in upper Swamp Canyon.

      There's plenty of snow in American Basin. We carried ice axes and Kahtoola running crampons throughout the hike -and used both. We were definitely at the edge of the running crampons ability, and both would've preferred more aggressive light mountaineering crampons. The Kahtoola's provided a more sporting approach to some of the snow and ice we encountered, however.

      American Grouse is easily doable w/running crampons or none at all if you're confident on snow. On the Grouse Gulch side of the Pass there are a couple of snowfields to cross that the crampons really help on. We used them on the high snowfields below the Pass. The trail through the Gulch itself (once off the Pass) to the aid station is open and clear.


      Road is clear, high clearance 4X4's are driving over it.


      There's snow up high coming off of Oh Point Road, but it was easily negotiated without crampons/ice axe. Trail was clear to Ouray.


      As reported on this group earlier, the road was clear above the Governors Aid Station site. We encountered snow above but were able to skirt it on the edge of the trail. Then in the upper reaches of Governor Basin we found crampons and ice axes necessary. Be sure to check out snow conditions as you go -my partner pointed out "there's been an avalanche fatality in Colorado every month but September." This was not a a confidence-inducing nugget of info as we reached the snows below Virginius Pass and could see that recent snowfall had hardened and formed a 6 inch wet slab layer (this was 6/13/09 and should be consolidated by now, but assess for yourself if you head up there). Somewhat disconcerting to discover a bit of instability in the last 30 feet below Kroger's Canteen. The weather deteriorated at the top of the Pass, with heavy, wet snow falling and visibility being reduced to feet. We descended the basin S of Virginius to avoid newly snow loaded slopes on the traverse from Kroger's to the shoulder off the south side of Mendota Peak and ended up bivvying far below the HR trail in the protection of spruce while the storm raged. The next day we could see fresh avalanche activity - the new snow that had fallen had ripped at where I estimate the HR trail goes- they were sluff avalanches with a lot of loose rocks in them. Glad we avoided it...

      We walked into Telluride via the Imogene Pass road and then re-joined the HR trail and headed up Cornet Creek towards Mendota Peak to check out the trail from the Mendota shoulder to Telluride.


      Trail is in great shape. Some snow up high -the new snow that fell had consolidated and was in fine cramponing shape. Snow is present on trail in upper basin only, and can be easily avoided down low.


      Trail is pretty clear between T-ride and the split between trail 508 (Wasatch Trail) and the East Fork trail. There are a couple of old avalanche paths that have to be negotiated (5-10 steps in width) that we were able to clear w/o crampons.

      We started up the E. Fork of Bear Creek in the creek bed (covered in solid snow) and were able to easily reach Wheelbarrow flats through intermittent snow. Crampons were essential negotiating our way out of the Canyon and into the flats. From Wheelbarrow Flats to the Wasatch Saddle is snow covered but easily negotiated -we made quick work to the Wasatch Saddle.

      From the Wasatch Saddle to Oscar's Pass there is one patch of snow to be traversed. We wore crampons and cut a few steps across and stepped onto the summit of Oscar's.


      There are two areas of the trail that are snow covered (as stated in the trail description). The snow is deep- from a wind-loaded drainage/old avalanche path. Both crossings of this snow field put our running crampons to the test and we had to cut steps with our ice axes to safely negotiate them. After crossing them it is smooth sailing down the HR trail to the Ophir Pass road/Chapman Gulch aid station.

      Gazing at the snow of Swamp Canyon and a nice family that pulled up in a jeep offering us a ride to Silverton made the decision to head back to our car an easy one.

      I would also note that in the week we were on the trail there was quite a bit of melting out there, despite little sun and lower temps, so the snow is going and should be a lot better for race day.

      Good luck finding a place to park/negotiating the madness that is the Telluride Bluegrass Festival this weekend if you run out of Telluride. But hey, there's always the music and beer!

      See you out there-

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