The fourth annual UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge is a multi-faceted multi-media adventure blogging contest open to Trailrunners, Fastpackers, Backpackers, and bipeds of all stripes. We are offer three unique routes. Entrants may attempt any or all of these. There are no aid stations, no course markings, no start/finish, no lemming lines, no cut offs, no set date; in fact, it's all up to you.
How to participate in the 2016 UP Wilderness Challenge:
2016 UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge
1. Sign up on Ultrasignup.com for any or all of the 2016 UPWC routes before you make your attempt and before November 30th, 2016.
2. Between the day you sign up and midnight on December 31st, 2016, complete any or all of the routes as well as your trip report, whatever form it may take. Completing a route must include producing content in the form of a trip report, photo album, video, audio recording, artistic rendering, or any other form which reflects your experience of the route and can be posted online via your personal blog and/or the UPWC Facebook Group.
3. Email your proof and documentation, including trip report link and any GPS data to UltraPedestrian@gmail.com with the subject line "2016 UPWC PROOF & DOCUMENTATION" no later than midnight December 31, 2016. (In the near future this step will be replaced by posting your trip report directly to the UPWC website.)
4. In early 2017 a party will be held at Seven Hills Running Shop to wrap up the 2016 event and kick off the 2017 event. Finisher's patches and other awards and swag will be handed out for both the UPWC and UPMBC and the routes for 2017 will be presented.
5. If you are unable to attend the 2016 UPWC Wrap Party/2017 UPWC Kickoff Party, visit UltraPedestrianWildernessChallenge.com for complete results and visit Seven Hills Running Shop in person to pick up your UPWC commemorative finisher's patch. If you live outside the greater Seattle area, arrangements can be made to send you your finisher's patch via U.S. mail.
We strongly encourage all entrants to join the UPWC Facebook Group to ask questions about the routes, gather and share trail beta, connect with other UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge participants, scope out the competition, and keep up to date on the most recent news, information, and general goings on.
Windy Peak Loop
Route #1, designed by Kathy Vaughan of UltraPedestrian.com, is the Windy Peak Loop in The Pasayten Wilderness. Here follows Kathy's description of the route:
While living in the Okanogan Highlands of north central Washington, I discovered many spectacular running routes. One of my favorites from that time was the 32 mile Windy Peak Loop in the Pasayten Wilderness. The mileage may not be exact, but one can expect to put in a good 50k with lots of climbing, technical trail, cruisy stretches, far-reaching views and lovely wildflowers.
Check out my trip report for lots of good information and enticing photos from the route. I ran it with my adventure buddy Lisa and we started at the Long Swamp Campground. This is reached by driving from the small town of Oroville towards Loomis. The drive itself is scenic and Lisa and I spotted a herd of Big Horn Mountain Sheep on our drive to the trailhead. There are other options. Roads out this way are in rough condition, washboard & potholes to be expected. From Long Swamp, the route begins a lollipop loop by running the 4 mile stick on trail # 342.
The direction Lisa and I went had us connecting to trail # 375, #341, and then #343. The trail then reconnects with trail #342, for the 4 mile return trip to Long Swamp.
The route begins with a good climb towards Windy Peak. At the base of the peak, there is the option of taking a spur trail to the summit. At this point there are incredible, 360 degree views. The landscape is open, rocky and barren. It is easy to linger here too long.
From here, the trail drops down into the lush environment of Horseshoe Basin. There are aspen groves in here and lots of opportunities for shade.
At Sunny Pass, there is an option of taking a 2 mile side trip to Louden Lake. The lake is a good spot to have lunch or cool down if its hot.
There are creeks in this area to get water. There are also good creeks in Horseshoe Basin and nearing the end of the route, in the old burn zone. This is a beautiful area with charred trees, rugged rock formations and abundant wildflowers.
This is a special, high country route in the remote country of the Pasayten Wilderness. I highly recommend making the trip if you like solitude and a nice, ultra distance loop run. I like that the loop offers a variety of different types of ecosystems and terrain to pass through, making for a unique adventure run.
Spider Gap/Spider On Steroids
Route #2 was chosen by Jessica Kelley of Evergreen Endurance Coaching and includes two options:
The Spider Gap Loop is a beautiful route that “penetrates some of the most glorious country of the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Along the way, you'll see massive wildflower meadows, glaciers, alpine lakes, high mountain passes and supreme views of Glacier Peak” (wta.org). Consider carrying traction devices and trekking poles or an ice ax to cross the permanent snowfield at Spider Gap. The route is approx 35 miles and 8500 ft of elev gain.
You can do this route either clockwise or counterclockwise. Here are clockwise directions:
- Start at the Trinity Trailhead and head up Buck Creek Trail (#1513).
- Take Buck Creek Trail up and over Buck Creek Pass, to Middle Ridge and then connect with the PCT.
- Take the PCT to the Suiattle Pass trail (1279). Take the Suiattle Pass trail to Cloudy Pass.
- At Cloudy Pass, drop down to Lyman Lakes on trail #1256, and then pick up the Upper Lyman Lake trail (#1256.2) which leads you to Spider Gap.
- From Spider Gap, descend into Spider Meadows on a rough trail.
- Connect to Phelps Creek trail and take it all the way out to Phelps Creek TH
- Road walk/run back to Trinity TH (this is part of the route - no car shuttles, please!)
The Spider On Steroids Route may be more to your liking if you’re looking for something longer with a bit more elevation gain. Spider On Steroids (aka SOS) is 50 miles, 12,500 ft of elev gain, and crosses 6 mountain passes. This is a challenging route that includes sections of cross-country travel and route-finding. As with the Spider Gap Loop, consider carrying traction devices and trekking poles or an ice ax to navigate permanent snow fields.
For the SOS I highly recommend going clockwise to get the crux of the route (Little Giant Pass to High Pass) done when you’re fresh.
Starting at Little Giant trailhead, go over Little Giant Pass and then drop down into the Napeequa Valley. (The Napeequa Valley is stunning and has been referred to by some as “Shangri-la.” That said, it is a very steep descent on an abandoned trail from Little Giant Pass to the bottom of Napeequa Valley, so caution is advised. From a previous trip report: “...Two horses died falling off the trail here. They reportedly tumbled many hundreds of feet before coming to rest. So don't doubt that it's steep.” Apparently the bleached bones of these unfortunate animals can still be seen from the trail.)
- Travel up the Napeequa Valley on the Boulder Creek/Pass Trail (#1562).
- As you near the northwestern end of the valley, approx 1 mile NW of Louis Creek, look for the North Fork of the Napeequa (NFN) heading north to High Pass.
- Follow the NFN up towards High Pass - there is no maintained trail and some route-finding may be necessary.
- Go up and over High Pass, at which point it’s mostly trail back to your car:
- From High Pass, take the High Pass Trail (#1562.2) to the Buck Creek Pass trail (#789?) to the PCT.
(From this point on, the route is the same as the Spider Gap Loop.)
- The PCT connects to the Suiattle Pass trail (1279), which takes you from Suiattle Pass to Cloudy Pass.
- At Cloudy Pass, drop down to Lyman Lakes on trail #1256, where you pick up the Upper Lyman Lake trail (#1256.2) which leads you to Spider Gap.
- From Spider Gap, descend into Spider Meadows
- Follow Phelps Creek trail all the way out to Phelps Creek TH
- Road walk/run back to Little Giant TH (this is part of the route - no car shuttles, please!)
Two helpful links for the SOS route:
La Bohn Traverse
Route #3, designed by Arya Farahani, is the La Bohn Traverse.
- Route Type: Point to Point. (Drive time between two points: 120 Minutes)
- Distance: 50k (actually closer to 29 miles)
- Vertical Ascent: 11,000’
- Composition: Single Track: 24 Miles. Double Track: 2 Miles. Off-Trail: 3 Miles.
There are three features that make this route so special. The first is it is a point to point between Highway 2 and I-90. Most trail runners in Western Washington long to do that traverse but are intimidated by the size and scope of PCT Section J. This is a much less committing option that can easily be accomplished without headlamps and doesn’t require as much shuttle time between to the two points. Second, this route features 3 miles of off-trail. While this can be intimidating, these three miles are all on boulder fields, talus, and game trail through meadows. You can always see 360 degrees to navigate and more importantly, you won’t disturb the environment so long as you avoid the neon lichen on the boulders. Finally, the best part about this traverse is the the La Bohn area itself. This includes the La Bohn Lakes and the La Bohn Gap, the features that make up the highpoint of the traverse. Bleached granite, crystal blue alpine tarns, and views that would bring tears to Ansel Adams eyes await the few who make the trek to this sacred place. A day spent completing the La Bohn traverse will leave one physically exhausted but spiritually uplifted.
Part 1: Necklace Valley Trailhead to East Fork Foss River via Necklace Valley Trail #1062.
The first five miles are a pleasant, rolling warm up through old and second growth forest, heavily draped in moss and likely dew if one is making the ideal early morning start. Though it gains more than a thousand feet in these first five miles, it never feels a struggle as the biggest climb is no more than 100’. Enjoy the cool morning air of this vibrant, lush environment as it is one of the more comfortable microclimates you will pass through before ascending to alpine.
Part 2: East Fork Foss River to Opal Lake via Necklace Valley Trail #1062.
Now that the warm up is out of the way, let the fun begin! Once you get to the East Fork of the Foss River you will pass through a small campground, cross the river via log bridge, and begin a burly technical ascent. The grade is ruthless and composition unforgiving. One could compare it to the final approach to Mailbox or West Bandera. Continue up, up, up until you finally break free from the how confines of the Necklace Valley Drainage and into the valley proper. Enjoy the amazing views and the gentile grade of the Necklace Valley as you pass by beautiful alpine lakes and a historic shelter on your way to the La Bohn Gap directly ahead of you.
Part 3: Opal Lake to Williams Lake via “off-trail”.
Welcome to the jungle! Just kidding. This is the defining section and crux of the traverse. In the next three miles you will ascend 1200’ on talus slopes, see alpine lakes of untold beauty, take in views of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness more rugged peaks, pass through the La Bohn Gap, descend 1500’ of piled boulders (some that wobble), pass through an old mine site, and finally arrive at picturesque Williams Lake. This section will leave you body and your senses on
overload so make sure to pause regularly and take in the three hundred and sixty degrees of awesomeness surrounding you.
Part 4: Lake Williams to Goldmyer Hotsprings via Williams Lake Trail, Dutch Miller Gap Trail and Middle Fork Trail.
While the most beautiful portion of the traverse is now behind you, the most runnable now lies ahead for the next 10 miles! It’s not all down though. The trail rolls hard and you will feel it but in the end it’s a large net descent. And by no means is it not pretty. Most of the time will be spent on killer single that travels along the well canopied forrest. When the canopy does give way look up in all directions and reward yourself with the towering peaks that are flanking your left and right. Just make sure not to overly hammer this portion as the final ascent, as well as the crux of the traverse is just ahead.
Part 5: Goldmyer Hotsprings to Red Pond via Burnboot Creek “Trail” and Red Pass.
At this point you will pass through Goldmyer Hotsprings. Make sure to keep your voices down if it is late as there are most likely people there sleeping. At this point, instead of continuing down the Middle Fork Trail, you will deviate to Burnboot and ascend up to Red Pass. Once you proceed through Red Pass you will find yourself at Red Pond, at the base of the Red Mountain scramble.
Part 6: Red Pond to PCT Section J (South End) Trailhead.
Congrats! It’s all downhill from here! Take a moment to stop at Red Pond for a rest, a snack, and more delightful views if you still have light. From Red Pond you will begin your final descent, heading down into the Commonwealth Basin via the the Commonwealth Trail. Make sure to keep right at the junction for the PCT. You’ve come this far without stepping foot on the PCT so don’t do it now during the home stretch. Down, down, down you continue and before you know it you will pop out by a picnic table just within the treeline surrounding the parking lot.
You’ve done it! High fives all around! Not only did you traverse the Alpine Lakes Wilderness but you did so in a way that few, if any, will ever experience. I wonderful feature of this end-point is that you’re at Snoqualmie Pass and within less than half a mile is a hotel, restaurant, two minimarts, a brewery (if that’s your thing), and gas stations.
I hope you will enjoy the traverse as much as I did… even though I absolutely know you will!
And please, do not be intimidated by the off-trail nature of this course. The first time I traversed the off-trail portion I spent several hours in the days prior studying topographic maps, Google Earth, and extremely old trip reports from the area. I can’t express how simple it is. Just be cautious while boulder hopping on the descent to Williams Lake. Do your homework and navigation will be very simple. Enjoy!
CalTopo Link for map: caltopo.com/m/3LHO
POINTS SYSTEM FOR THE UPWC
The UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge is all about shattering paradigms, but as we are only in the fourth year, it is still very much a work in progress. While simple speed has it's advantages and rewards, one of the main goals of the UPWC is to recognize and celebrate other aspects of adventuring as well. For the first two years we struggled with figuring out how to quantify these other aspects of achievement. Beginning in 2015 we instituted a points-based system intended do exactly that: award ALL aspects of adventuring, including, but not limited to, speed. Here is a breakdown of the points system:
Five (5) Points will be awarded for:
- Each Route Completed
- Men's Fastest Time
- Women's Fastest Time
- Firsties (First Person or Team to Complete Each Route)
- Lasties (Last Person or Team to Complete Each Route)
Two (2) Points will be awarded for:
- Wildlife Sightings/Encounters
- Blog Writing Excellence
- Photographic Excellence
- Good Style/Fair Means
- Uniqueness Of Methodology
- Overcoming Adversity
Additional categories may be added at any time. All points are awarded at the sole discretion of Ras. There is no system for registering an appeal or requesting any form of arbitration or conflict resolution. But ya never know: call me out in the Facebook Group and if I find your argument creative or convincing or offensive enough, while it won't change my mind, it might earn you some bonus points (see below).
BONUS POINTS FOR PAST UPWC ROUTES
Previous UPWC Routes may be completed for bonus points. Participants will receive 5 bonus pointsfor each route completed from UPWC #1,UPWC #2,and/or UPWC #3. Completing a route must include producing content in the form of a trip report, photo album, video, audio recording, artistic rendering, or any other form which reflects your experience of the route and can be posted online via your personal blog and/or the UPWC Facebook group. There is no signup fee for any of these bonus point routes, and, consequently, there are no finisher's patches for these routes. However, to be eligible for bonus points, entrants must have registered and paid their entry fee for at least one route from the current UPWC before completing a bonus route, and must complete at least one route from the current year by the end of the competition in order to receive the bonus points. Bonus point routes and current UPWC routes may be completed in any order.
Five (5) bonus points will also be awarded for completing the UltraPedestrian Mind/Body Challenge.
Two (2) bonus points may be randomly awarded by Ras at any time for any reason. Capturing a faceplant on video, sharing trail beta in the Facebook group, and displays of creativity are examples of what could earn you bonus points. Two major pointers for racking up random bonus points: be active in the UPWC Facebook group, and let your unique personality shine through in your adventures.
Complete Rules Of Participation
Failure to abide by the following may result in a time-based penalty, subtraction of points, and/or disqualification.
All participants must at all times comport themselves in accordance with Federal, State, and Local laws, as well as Leave No Trace backcountry ethics.
Registration via Ultrasignup.com must be completed before a route is attempted.
Entrants may participate solo or as part of a team. Teams can be independent, unsupported athletes that simply travel together, or team members can mule for one another. But teams will not be allowed to receive any outside support from non-running personnel.
Every member of a team must be a registered entrant in the 2016 UPWC. Registration for minors is free.
All participants must submit proof of having completed the route via Spot Transponder, GPS/Garmin/Suunto/DeLorne/Other data, photographic evidence, and/or a convincingly detailed trip report/blog.
If you are submitting your entry for speed based awards you MUST provide SPOT/GPS/GARMIN/SUUNTO/DELORNE/OTHER data as proof.
UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge participants will receive five points for completing the UltraPedestrian Mind/Body Challenge as well as potential bonus points, as awarded by Ras.
Everyone who completes a route for the 2016 Ultrapedestrian Wilderness Challenge will be awarded a unique finishers' patch (only available through UPWC participation) for every route they complete. Each route will have a unique patch design, and there will a distinct award for participants who complete all three, the 2016 UPWC Triple Crown. In addition, there will be other prizes and awards based on accumulated points. As noted above, points will be awarded based on a variety of criteria, including speed, good style, best photograph, best blog, gnarliest SNAFU, most diverse team, and numerous other aspects of backcountry wilderness adventure. Additional categories may be added based on submissions. All awards will be based on total points accumulated during the contest.