Friday, May 23, 2014

Shafer Butte Fun Run

The first time I heard of the Shafer Butte 50 was a month or two ago on a trail run with my friend Ryan.  He told me that the challenging 50 mile course has been a tradition in the local running community dating back to the 1980s.

Photo by Ryan Anderson looking back at Shafer Butte from Mores mountain during the 2013 Shafer Butte 50

The full course starts and ends at "the Tree of Doom" at Military Reserve Park.  It takes single tracks for approximately 10 miles and then meets up with upper 8th street, then the Boise Ridge Road.  It then follows the Ridge Road all the way to Deer Point, and then to the top of Shafer Butte.  At Shafer Butte the route descends the north side to a saddle and then climbs Mores Mountain, and descends Mores mountain to Bogus Basin Road to the north.  At this point you turn around, run back up and over Mores, up and over Shafer, up and over Deer Point, and then back along the rolling Ridge Road to the single track.  The run finishes when you kiss the "Tree of Doom" on your return.

Well, with nobody organizing the run this year, Ryan stepped up and threw the idea out on the Boise Trail Runners facebook page.  His proposed date was only a week and a half away (any later and it would start to conflict with people's summer races).  With the short notice, there didn't appear to be much appetite from people for the full 50 miles, but lots of people sounded excited about an adventure in the 30-40 mile range.  The plan for the "Shafer Butte Fun Run" was born!

We would start running where the original course met 8th street.  This would knock the first 10ish miles off.  Then those who wanted a 30 miler could do the out and back from there, and those who wanted 40 would run the 10 back down to the tree of doom at the end.  

We met at 6am at the tree, and carpooled up to the start, with those of us who planned on 30 driving.  

The starting crew! (minus Ryan who took the picture)

As we started off we quickly separated into 3 different groups based on Pace.  I watched as the speedy group disappeared into the distance.  I hung back with Ryan and Vicki, and another group was a little ways behind us.  

We quickly reached the Ridge Road, hung a left, and then started the first of many steep climbs.  This one took us to Eagleson Summit, near Boise Peak.  Following the road as we dropped down the other side we relished running through the pine trees looking down on the city of trees, far below.  The road rolled up and down for miles, but trended up.  Shortly before reaching Deer Point, we started to encounter drifts of snow on the road.  It was firm (at least for now) and running over them did not yet pose much of an issue.

Ryan and Vicki making tracks over the first snow we encountered of the day
Cory and Vicki, having fun on the hard snow.
As we got passed the chairlift at Deer Point, the snow was becoming more continuous, and an icy wind was blowing.  At this point, I threw on my shell to defend myself from the heat-robbing wind.  Ryan had elected to go light, and didn't bring a jacket.  He was regretting it.  Fortunately, Vicki had plans to turn around at Shafer Butte, so she generously gave Ryan her windbreaker so he could continue.

Ryan tries to squeeze into Vicki's jacket.  He says he was cold, but I think he just liked the style!

Looking back at Deer Point
2 miles later, we reached Shafer Butte and it was nothing but snow ahead of us on the north side.  Ryan and I said goodbye to Vicki, who planned to wait for her husband's arrival at Shafer Butte and run back with him.  We had seen him behind us not too long ago, and figured he should be there soon enough.

We turned and headed down the north side . . .

Ordinarily this run takes place on the first weekend in June, and at that time the switchbacks down the north side of Shafer are typically melted out.  This year however, in the middle of May, the north side of Shafer Butte would have been fun on skis!  It was fully covered in snow!  Ryan and I took a B-line straight down the black diamond run "Night Hawk"

Eventually we arrived at the campground at the saddle between Shafer Butte and Mores Mountain.  
Ryan has been warned about avalanches
From here we ran up nice dirt singletrack trails as a thick fog set in and it began to hail, and then rain.  

Ryan, getting a picture of fog
Just as I was thinking how lucky we were to be running on dirt, out of the snow, Ryan said "We could run into some snow drifts around the next bend as we change aspects."

We rounded the corner onto the WNW aspect and BAM!  The entire mountain was blanketed in the white stuff.   Ryan was a bit ahead of me, and I saw him run up over a bump in the snow and then he disappeared with a yell.  When I came over the bump, Ryan was waist deep in isothermal snow trying to extract himself.  

"I thought the trail was a bit lower, but as soon as I stepped to the left I fell in.  Too bad you weren't there with the camera to capture that one!" 

A little further on and we began to hear voices.  The speedy guys in front had a hard time locating the trail, and decided to wait for us when they did.

Now in a large group, we continued what had become a rainy, post-holing, side-hilling, suffer-fest.  Last weekend I had jokingly complained about the lack of post-holing on my adventure, but this weekend made up for it in spades!  

The climb up and down Mores Peak ends up dumping you back on nice dirt singletrack not far from where we had departed the saddle earlier.  Everyone agreed that we would take the short way back and avoid having to go through all the post-holing twice. 
Out of the slushy snow and onto the muddy dirt

On we continued down a nice dirt trail/road past many granite formations (possible bouldering in the future?).  Eventually we made it down to Bogus Basin Road, where Ryan's super duper incredible was waiting with a truck full of goodies at our only aid station!
Enjoying all sorts of goodies at the half-way aid station, courtesy of Michelle!
The vibe at the aid station was great, despite the soggy weather.  Brady offered me a Payette North Fork Lager, which I gratefully accepted to wash down my banana cookie, potato chips, etc.

We had a great time hanging out at Michelle's truck, but the standing around quickly made us cold, so we didn't stay too long.  Off we went in the other direction!

We skipped the loop up to tag Mores again to avoid they heinous slow, and were quickly back at the saddle between Mores and Shafer.  Now it was time to toughen up and hike back up Nighthawk to the top of Shafer Butte.

Brady lead the charge, flying up the snow slope.  The rest of us struggled with traction as our running shoes slipped all over the steep snowy slope.

Trudging up Night Hawk
Eventually we made it back up to the top of Shafer Butte.  As we passed the top, Brady thought he saw someone in a small hut off in the distance.  Weird that people would be up here working on a Sunday morning in these conditions . . . (this led to another story, not included here).

We continued back to Deer Point, at which point the worst of the snow was behind us.  As if on schedule, as soon as we were out of the snow and back running on the dirt ridge road, the sun came out, and it turned into a beautiful day!

Photo by Ryan. I was so busy staring at the nice blue skies that I forgot to stop and take a picture of them!
The rest of the miles flowed by as we made our way up and down the undulating Ridge Road, chatting about how nice it was to finish in such beautiful weather.

With only a couple miles left, we made our way back up to the top of Eagleson Summit, where we stopped and talked to Doug, who was waiting there in his truck, for several minutes.  We then ran down the last couple miles to the start at 8th street.

From 8th street several of us drove back down to Military Reserve, while Ryan, Brady, and Bow ran the 10 miles back down to meet us there.  The 3 of them took turns kissing the tree of doom, and then we all enjoyed some well earned snacks and victory beverages in the sunshine!

Not going back to Mores on the way back knocked off some miles, but it was still an incredibly long and adventurous day!  For me I ended up with 27.5 miles with 5900ft of elevation gain in about 6:29.

No comments:

Post a Comment