Tahoe Rim Trail 100 - The First 50 Miles

At 6:00am we headed off into the dark.  By then the sky was beginning to get light but for about thirty minutes I was glad I had my headlamp.  The first 4 miles is a gentle climb of about 1,100 ft. so I alternated walking and running.  We reached Marlette Lake and the trail circled around the South end of the lake before starting the climb up to Hobart aid station at mile 6.

Right after Hobart we crossed the first two snow fields as we circled around Marlette Peak a couple of hundred feet below the summit.  Normally, this is one of the best views on the course.  We were 1000 feet above Marlette Lake and  Lake Tahoe is 2,500 feet below.  Unfortunately the view was mostly obscured by thin clouds so I got few pictures the first morning.  Here is a picture taken by James Plant as we started across the first of many snow fields.  This shot was taken just a few hundred yards out of Hobart Aid Station at mile 6.  That is me in the blue shorts and Joey Anderson of North Carolina in the red shorts.  We were back and forth all day, all night and we ended up racing the last 5 or so miles to the finish.  Click on the pictures to see the associated video if there is one.


At about mile 11 we reached the Tunnel Creek aid station for the first time. Runners in the 100 mile race will pass through this aid station 6 times.  The course looks like a double ended lollypop with an appendage off the right side.  We will pass through Tunnel Creek again at miles  17.3 and 35.3 on the first lap and miles 61.2, 67.5 and finally at mile 85.5 on the second lap. 
We get to know the aid station volunteers pretty well by the final visit.  Outbound is when we ran the Red House Loop.  On the return trip we ran straight back on the TRT ( Tahoe Rim Trail) to Hobart aid station and skip the Red House Loop. 

Arriving at Tunnel Creek Aid Station on the first time at 11 miles.  Click on the photo to see a short Video of the AS

After Tunnel Creek (outbound,) the course drops down the 6.3 mile Red House Loop.  It starts with a very steep descent of about 1,300 feet followed by numerous stream and bog crossings.  Then we start the long climb back up culminating in a 700 ft climb in about 3/4 mile near the aid station.  Finally we reach a gentler part of the climb for the last few hundred yards back to Tunnel Creek.  We are weighed upon the return to Tunnel Creek to be sure you are drinking enough water, but also not drinking too much.  Both are really bad.

From the Tunnel Creek Aid Station we continue north along the Tahoe Rim Trail about 6 miles further.  This section is probably the most scenic of the entire race.  The trail traverses back and forth on one side of the ridge line then the other for miles.  The views of Tahoe to the west and Washoe Valley to the east are beautiful.  We pass the Bull Wheel aid station (at the top of Diamond Peak Ski Resort) and on to the Incline Creek trail junction where we drop down the mountain toward Lake Tahoe and the Diamond Peak aid station. 


The Bull Wheel aid station is a vary basic aid station.  Everything must be brought up form Diamond Peak Resort.  I am not sure how they got everything up there.  The resort may have provided some type of vehicle that could climb the road straight up a ski run, but I certainly don't know what type.  From there we continued on across the TRT for about 3 more miles before dropping 2,000 feet down the mountain in 4 miles to the Diamond Peak aid station located at the main lodge at the Diamond Peak Ski Resort at mile 30.5.  The picture of Diamond Peak Aid Station shows just a part of the "spread" which including everything from soup to sandwiches and quesadillas made to order to"veggie things" and a lot more.  I arrived here just about 12:30PM.  Good place to be at lunch time. (I borrowed this picture.)

Marye Jo had all my gear out on a table ready for me when I arrived.  I gathered what I needed and in about 5 minutes was headed out of the Diamond Peak AS.  It was now early afternoon and the sun was intense as I started the climb up from Diamond Peak  I was carrying a coup of soup, a 1/4 sandwich and an orange (or maybe a banana, I can't remember which.)  It is a lot more efficient to eat while walking rather than wasting time sitting in a aid station.
Below, I have just arrived at Diamond Peak, feeling great and way ahead of schedule.

    I don't know who took this picture but I an not using the poles yet because I was still eating a cup of soup and a sandwich.

After leaving Diamond Peak we started the steepest climb I have ever done in a 100 mile race, with the exception of about 100 ft of Chinscraper at the top of the first climb in the Wasatch 100.  We start up a resort service road, shown above that climbs steadily for a while then joins the Crystal Ridge ski run and heads straight up the run.  The road climbs 1,700 feet in just under two miles, which isn't to bad, except that the first mile is a reasonable climb.   

Besides the risk of falling, here is one other disadvantage to running through wet snow.  Your shoes get very wet and stay wet.  My shoes were dry until the stream crossings at the bottom of Red House Loop early in the morning.  They were still a little damp as the snow fields began to soften as the temperatures rose in the late morning.  They never dried completely by the time we were tramped across the snow in the afternoon.  Actually, they never fully dried out the rest of the afternoon and all night.  One of the larger snow fields near Hobart was very steep and steps had been chopped into the side for about 20 feet.  By the time I reached this section in the afternoon the steps were gone and all that was left was a "slide."  There was no way down except to sit in the snow and "schuss" down the slope.  This can be a little unpleasant in running shorts.

After Hobart the trail splits and we head to the left for a gentle 1,000 climb over about three miles to the Snow Valley Peak aid station.  As the name suggests, there was a lot of snow.  The pictures below are of the climb up.

The Snow Valley Peak aid station is run by the Carson City Boy Scouts and they do a super job.  They greet you way before reaching the AS to find out what you need.  They have everything you could need despite being in a very remote area, located right on the ridge line.  I don't know how they ever secured the shelter up there because the wind was howling both time I passed through.  They even had "sorbet."

From here, we had a long, 5.4 mile descent to Spooner Lake trail head, then a flat 1.7 mile sprint to the halfway point at the Spooner Lake aid station at mile 50.2.  (I thought that was the longest 1.7 miles I had ever run, that is, until the second lap.)  About 2 miles out the lake comes into view and the trail drops down along the shore line for a short distance.  The aid station is visible just across the lake.  I could even hear people yelling and music playing.  I didn't think I was ever going to get there, but I finally did and I was quite happy.

I was at mile 50.2 (HALF WAY) and running on a 30 hour pace.  I knew I would loose some time over night, but I was still hoping to finish close to 31 hours.  I added an additional layer of clothing and put on a heavier jacket, toboggan and gloves because I knew it was going to be cold and very windy along the ridge line over night.  It all felt good and ready to start the second 50 miles.

Here is the course map.  Click on it to zoom-in.
Here is a short video of the spectacular view obstructed by clouds in the morning. 
I shot on the return trip that afternoon.  Click on the picture.
View of the Washoe Valley side, Lake Washoe and a little of Carson City off to the far right. 
Click to see the Video
One of many ridge crossings through huge granite boulders.  It's a Video, too.
And back over to the Tahoe side, looking down at Incline Village and the north shore of Tahoe.
Another Video attached.
While James was taking this picture of me, I was Videoing the snow field and Joey up ahead.  Click on the picture to see it.
And another video just past the second snow field as Marlette Lake first came into view. Just a few hundred yards more and everything disappeared into the clouds.
Here are several pictures of the climb up Diamond Peak.  The two above are on the "reasonable section."

In the video to the left, note how people are doing all kinds of zigzagging up the hill. This in NOT the REASONABLE section!

It probably took close to an hour to make the climb to the top of the Crystal Ridge lift.  This section is totally exposed to the sun and it was hot!  It was quite a relief to finally reach the top and be back on the trail again.  We started back along the TRT, this time headed south, past Tunnel Creek AS for the third time on the first day and on to Hobart, at mile 40.3, for the second time. 

All along the north side of the ridge line we climbed over snow field after snow filed.  Some were small enough we could bypass but most were quite large and we had to climb over.  The largest fields were along the trails on the north side near the ridge line.  When we crossed them this morning, they were still frozen and quite hard.  On the way back in the afternoon they had become soft, very slick,  and treacherous.  One step out of the dirty path or chopped steps would at best, land you on your butt in very wet and cold snow.  At the worst, send you sliding down the the hill in a hurry. 

We crossed the snow fields 4 times in all.  Once in the morning of the first day. The second time, the first afternoon.  The third time was over night and the final trip through was on the second morning headed for the finish.

Below are several pictures and videos of what we spent a lot of time running and hiking over.
Snow Valley Peak is the high point of the course at about 9,000 feet.
I was really glad to see Marye Jo.  She gives me a reason the "get there!"