Pass Mountain 26k Race Report

by Richard Thursday, December 5th 2013

November 16th marked the second race of the season, Pass Mountain 26k at Usery Park in Mesa.  Four of my friends and Summit Hut co-workers (Dave, Charles, Ryan, Kirsten and Maddie) joined me for this race which was great!  For this race we decided to go up the night before and camp at the park.  Usery Park was busy but had great facilities including hot showers.   Charles arrived a little later and got this great picture of the campsite at night.

The evening was nice and cool and the following morning we woke up and started preparing for the race.  The forecast was calling for temperatures in the high 70’s and a small chance of rain.  It turned out to be a perfect day.  It was cloudy most of the day with a fabulous cool breeze. 

Maddie and Kirsten sporting their Selk and Dream walker sleeping bags first thing in the morning

The course was much flatter than Cave Creek and made for some fast times.  The first few miles were on dirt roads and I worked hard to turn in fast mile times. 

Fast miles approaching the first aid station, you can see the lead pack in the distance

(Left to right) Charles, Dave, Kirsten and Maddie looking very strong

After the first aid station we turned down a single track trail and started running back toward Pass Mountain.  The trail was pretty flat until just after the second aid station where it started to climb up to the pass to the east of Pass Mountain.  I had started ahead of my friends but most of them caught and passed me between the second aid station and the highpoint of the course.  It was hard to watch them run away from me but ultimately it was a good mental challenge for longer races to come.  Just before the top of the climb a runner had fallen a few minutes ahead of me and took a pretty good blow to the head.  There was a measurable amount of blood on the ground but it was great to see that five or six other runners had already stopped to help.  I decided to start moving toward the next aid station to let them know.  The injured runner did eventually finish the race and was smiling when he crossed the finish line. 

Climbing to the pass looking east

View to the north at the top

The back side of the climb was smooth and fast as it descended, winding back around Pass Mountain and started heading back toward the finish line.  There were several very short drops and climbs as the trail crossed small drainages. 


With around 2 miles to go I realized that I had gained on Dave and tried to put my head down and catch him.  He had no idea that I was there but he still managed to stay out ahead of me.   We passed the last aid station and had just over a mile to the finish line.  The course was mainly a loop with a short out and back to and from the start/finish line.  On the way out, I hadn’t noticed how downhill and sandy the road had been but I was definitely feeling it on the way back up.  The sun finally came out and made the last half mile seem really tough as I watched Dave pull away and finish a minute or so ahead of me.   I crossed the finish and was overall happy with my time.

Here is a link to the run on Movescount:

I challenged myself on this run to try to drink less water.  I have always struggled with the amount of water I’ve felt compelled to consume on long runs and this seemed like a good chance to try something different.  Normally I would have consumed 70-90oz of water for a distance like this but I was able to only drink 40oz this day without any problems.  My next race is the McDowell Mountain Frenzy on December 7th and I’m going to try to continue to drink less.  McDowell will be a bigger challenge as I plan to run the 50k but there are a few more aid stations so if things start to go wrong it will be easier to catch back up on fluids.   I’m hoping I can continue to need less and that will make for a lighter kit for OP50 in March.  The Holiday season is upon us and finding time to train is going to get harder but I’m hoping I can keep the mileage up and stay healthy.  

Activities | Events

Cave Creek Thriller 31k Race Report

by Richard Monday, November 4th 2013

My running season officially started Saturday October 19th this year with the Cave Creek Thriller 31k put on by Aravaipa Running.  This is the first of 7 races that Aravaipa will put on between now and March.  I’m signed up for all them as well as the Old Pueblo 50, my first 50 mile race.  I like to arrive early to races so I can take my time getting ready and try to get myself mentally ready for the day.  The 31k started at 7:30am, I was in the parking lot by 6:45.  On my way in I was treated to a hot air balloon launching.  It was just one balloon at first but soon there were over a dozen inflating and rising from the desert. 

First balloon rising of the morning

I ran most of this race last year but I had to drop out after about 20k because of an old injury that flared up.    My plan this year was to run the race in three stages.  The first six miles were relatively flat so I was going to try to push a little.  The next 6-7 had a lot of short steep climbs and finished with a mile or so of downhill and through here I was going to try to move quickly but be mindful of not pushing too hard.  The last 8 were going to be tough for me so I had decided to walk most to all of the uphill sections and really listen to my body and not push too hard. 

The first six miles went really well.  It was about three miles, mostly downhill, out to an aid station and then back.  The trail winds through a wash making several rocky crossings and it was easy to lose if you were running with your head down.   The three miles out went really well and when I reached the aid station I felt good.   I grabbed some ginger ale and pretzels and headed back.  The next three miles were a little tougher as the course headed back towards the hills. 

The view looking back towards the race start at mile 6.

Looking up the trail at mile 6

I worked hard to get to the saddle and catch the next few runners and took a moment to enjoy the view to the north.

Looking back from the top

It was about 3 miles of rolling trail with steep short climbs and descents to the next aid station, a total of 6 miles from the last aid station.  I had run this section last year so I did my best to bomb down the trail when it allowed and I wasn’t too hard on myself on the climbs.   The next aid station came quickly enough and I was feeling pretty good overall.   The next 3 miles were a gradual climb to the last mile of downhill and back to the start/finish line to begin the next lap. 

Heading downhill

I always struggle with races that run through the start/finish line.  There is something about running past the spot where I’m going to finish that really gets in my head and slows me down.  Up until this point there were quite a few people on the course.  The 50k distance had started 30 minutes before us and the 19k 30 minutes after but once I got a few minutes past the start/finish aid station I was on my own and didn’t see anybody until the next aid station about 4 miles away.  It didn’t take long and I started to feel the previous 12 miles.  I realized that I hadn’t been keeping up on electrolytes and I started to cramp.   I started taking salt caps and gels but it was too late and I had to really slow down.   The last aid station came slowly but I was able to enjoy the scenery and the great weather. 

The finish line eventually came and I finished within my goal time range.   As always Aravaipa puts on a great race with well stocked aid stations, well marked trails and great competitors.  Everybody has a fantastic attitude and encourages each other along the way.  The next race is Pass Mountain 26k on November 16th and I’m looking forward to it. 

Notable Gear I used

Ultimate Direction SJ Vest – I’ve been running this since last year and it is great.  The fit is good enough, the pack space is usually more than enough but allows for long unsupported training runs and the bottle pockets are great.  My favorite feature has to be the small pockets beside the bottles.  They are perfect for gels, food, and trash.

Merrell Mixmaster 2 – I’m on my third pair.  They have minimal cushion and a 4mm drop with a rock plate in the forefoot.

Superfeet Carbon -  I’ve recently added the Superfeet Carbon footbeds to my shoes and they have really extended the life of my shoes while adding some rock protection from the arch back.  They work well in every shoe I’m currently running.

Activities | Events

Wirepass to Lee's Ferry: A Trip that Almost Happened

by Richard Friday, October 19th 2012

Our trip started on a Tuesday when we left Tucson headed for the Paria/Vermillion Cliff's Wilderness area.  After a long drive north to the southern edge of Utah we arrived at the White House trail head and campground around 10pm.  We dropped an impromptu camp in front of our cars and got to sleep.  Our original plan was to start hiking Wednesday at the Wire Pass trail head and make our way through Buckskin Gulch, the Paria river canyon and down to Lee's Ferry in 3-4 days.  Several days before we left Tucson we heard that there was a large blockage in Buckskin around 10 feet high and 25 feet long.  Rangers said there were several spots with waist deep water upstream of the blockage and that they had not heard of anybody being able to get through.  That information plus the threat of thunder storms Thursday night forced our hand and we decided to alter our plan.  We would day hike Wire Pass through Buckskin to the blockage and then back out on Wednesday.  Thursday we planned to start at the White House trail head and hike down to the confluence of Buckskin and the Paria River and make camp there.  From there we could either hike through to Lee's Ferry or day hike up and down stream to try to see the best parts of the slot canyons the area had to offer. 

Wednesday morning we checked in at the ranger station at White House.  They informed us that the threat of storms had risen considerably and they were expecting the area to get several inches of rain, not the best forecast for hikers in a tight canyon.  They were even expecting to see snow a little farther north as the front came through.  We decided that we should head to Wire Pass and get into Buckskin to see how much water was there ourselves and enjoy the canyon before we decided what would be best the rest of the week. 


Wednesday Morning


Hiking Wire Pass into Buckskin Gulch is a very well known hike.  Quick search online shows amazing pictures of sculpted walls, fantastic colors, and classic picturesque images of desert canyon landscapes.  Our day definitely met our expectations.  Wire Pass above Buckskin Gulch was great.  The trail drops into the wash immediately and stays there for the entire hike.  The canyon walls slowly get tighter easing you into Buckskin where things really narrow.  My pictures really don't do my memories justice.  The scale of the walls, sharp colors, and feeling of constriction were amazing.  We had around 5 spots where we waded through thigh deep muddy water.  We saw a few other groups in the canyon but I was amazed at how few people were there and how remote it really felt.  We decided to take our time and never made it down to the blockage.  Once we turned around, we saw two snakes in Buckskin, which was a treat.  We made our way back to our cars and drove back to the White House camp ground to decide what we should do the next few days. 


Wire Pass


Buckskin Gulch


We discussed our options, how we were feeling and what we thought the weather was going to do.  Being in a slot canyon with a real threat of rain turned out to be more than we wanted to tackle.  We decided to camp at White House again that night and head out the next morning.  The next morning we packed up and headed for Prescott via Sedona.  On our way to Sedona we stopped at Horse Shoe Bend, a beautiful overlook of the Colorado River below Glen Canyon Dam.  The view was well worth the five minute hike.  I would recommend getting there early though, we arrived around 9 am and the parking lot was quickly filling up. 


Horse Shoe Bend


We drove to Sedona through a few small storms for another quick day hike and decided on Bell Rock.  There are quite a few options for great day hikes around Sedona but we chose Bell Rock because of the limited exposure if/when the weather arrived.  The trail was busy but not crowded and the view to the north was almost as good as that of Cathedral Rock but without most of the effort.  We made our way maybe half way up the rock while other “braver” hikers were pushing up much higher. 


Bell Rock


Back in the car we headed for Prescott.  We took Beaverhead Flat Rd to Cornville Rd making our way toward Cottonwood.  The road was amazing!  That route takes you away from most of the traffic heading into and out of the Sedona area.  Views are fantastic and the road seemed brand new.  We crossed the Verde Valley and went through Jerome, always fun.  On the other side of the pass we were treated to a large heard of Antelope that were running around and seemed to be enjoying cooler weather between the small storms in the area.  We found a hotel, took much needed showers and had dinner at the Prescott Brewing Co. which is always good.   That night several large angry thunder storms came through the area, making us feel pretty good about where we were. 

Friday morning we got up and headed to the Watson Lake area.  This is another great/short day hike.  There are several trails that lead in and over large granite boulders at the lake's edge.  The weather was pretty chilly and although we couldn't see any of the higher peaks in the area because of clouds, it didn't seem to be a stretch to imagine snow on the top of them.   We had considered finding a spot to camp that night but we decided to cut our losses and head back to Tucson.  

On our way back we had lunch in Phoenix at Bobby Q.  If you are a bar-b-que fan you really need to try this place.  Everything on the table was amazing.  We had brisket, ribs, pulled pork, pulled chicken, corn bread and mac and cheese but the best part may have been the free homemade donuts at the end.  It will be hard for me to go to Phoenix and not have a meal there from now on. 

There were a few pieces of gear that I used on this trip that really stood out.  First, I was able to try out one of Therm-a-Rest's new sleeping bags coming out next year.  I used the Antares, a 20 degree 750 fill down bag.  What makes this bag special is how it attaches to a pad.  There are two wide and stretchy bands that keep the bag down on your pad.  It also doesn't have any fill on the bottom of the bag through most of the torso and leg area.  I'm a side sleeper and I toss and turn quite a bit.  I never found any issue rolling around in the bag; no cold spots, drafts, uncomfortable positions, nothing.  It was great!  The lowest temp I saw was around 32 and I never had the bag completely zipped.  I was sleeping on an Exped Synmat 7.   This bag is in a series that includes 2 down options, a 20 and a 0 degree, and two synthetic options of the same temperatures.  The Summit Hut will be carrying all 4 in the spring.

I also got a chance to spend more time playing with my Garmin fenix GPS/ABC watch.  I've been running with it a fair amount but this was the first time I used the "Ultratrac" GPS settings that extend the battery life significantly.  It performed exactly as expected but it is worth noting that the canyon walls in Buckskin Gulch were too narrow for most of our hike to be able to find a signal.  This is where the Suunto Ambit would really come in handy with its accelerometer filling in for the GPS. 

Although I never got a chance to do any miles with it, I brought a new pack from Exped, the Lightning 60.  This pack offers a great combination of simplicity and durable materials that give a great carrying, light weight option.  The bag is a single main pocket, roll top, and an effective set of compression straps.  It has a single stay and comfortable suspension that worked well with my load, around 50 lbs. 


Mt Humphrey's Sunrise Summit

by Richard Monday, July 2nd 2012

We left Tucson around 3pm headed for Flagstaff.  We had two options for our hike.  We could either find a campsite, get a good night's sleep and start early in the morning OR we were considering having dinner, getting a few hours of sleep and starting around midnight, putting us at the summit around sunrise.  We had dinner at the Lumberyard Brewery in Flagstaff which was delicious.  After a beer we decided to head to the trail head and go for the midnight start. 

A note on camping at the trail head: According to a staff member at the Snow Bowl lodge, you are allowed to leave your vehicle in the parking lot overnight but you are not allowed to be there after dark.  He did say that we could camp or park on the road anywhere that was not marked as "No Parking".  We found a spot about a quarter mile away from the parking lot, laid out our sleeping bags and tried to get a couple of hours of rest before we started. 

The alarm went off at 11:45pm and we popped up and tried to eat a quick breakfast.  If you haven't tried it yet, PocketFuel makes a delicious and nutritious breakfast, especially on a banana or bagel.  It is a nut butter (usually almond) that has other flavors and crunchy bits.  We quickly packed up and were hiking by 12:11 AM.  We crossed the ski slope and entered the forest as the trail starts a series of long switchbacks that lead up the slope to the saddle.  We weren't hiking more than 20 minutes before we heard something crashing through the brush.  We stopped and listened and started to guess at what was making the noise.  After about 2 minutes the animal seemed to get spooked and started moving quickly making quite a racket breaking branches and dislodging large rocks.  You can't be sure without seeing it but we assumed it was a bear and starting moving slowly up the trail, tripping on rocks and roots as we scanned the forest for eyes instead of looking at where our feet were going.  A few minutes later as I came around a turn I illuminated a pair of eyes about 30 yards away and quickly came to a stop.  My friend caught up and as his headlamp hit the area, we could make out 3 separate pairs of eyes!  We both prepared for a bear encounter and started making noise and doing our best to be as big as possible.  We finally got enough light on the creatures to realize that they were deer.  After a few deep breaths we were off again up the trial.  We were moving slowly and reached the main saddle after about 3 hours of hiking.  There are several steep sections before you get there but the trail is pretty easy to follow, even at night. 

At the saddle the wind picked up considerably and we started adding layers to stay warm.  From the saddle the trail gets harder to follow at night but is marked by small cairns and large white branches.  There are several false summits along the way but we reached the final summit just before 5am.  My GPS watch didn't seem to be recording very well but it recorded 5.24 miles to the summit.  It was a tough hike after a week of work and a day of driving but for me, it was worth the reward of seeing the sunrise at the highest point in Arizona.  It felt like temps were in the high 30's, give or take 5 degrees.  The wind was already building for the day and our best guess was a sustained 25mph.  Both of us were feeling the day's elevation gain of around 10,000 feet (from Tucson) and were eager to get down as quickly as possible.  We found our way over to one of the higher ski slopes and worked our way down the mountain that way. 

This hike at night was a challenge but an achievable one.  It definitely makes me want to do more night hikes, especially if they have a fantastic view at the top. 

Here is a list of noteworthy gear I was using and would recommend:

Pack – Repack 15 from Boreas.  What a great pack! The volume was a little bigger than I needed for this trip but it easily compressed down.  Enough pockets to keep things organized but still simple in design. 

Trekking Poles – Ultra Distance Z from Black Diamond.  The carbon Z poles from BD are fantastic.  They are so light you forget they are there when they are on your pack but still give all the stability you need when you are using them. 

Footwear – NewBalance MT10.  These were the first minimal shoe I tried over a year ago and I keep going back to them.  They are light and give enough cushion for the very rocky sections if you slow down.  For me, the fit is fantastic and I love the heel cup. 

Jacket – TNF Verto Micro Hoodie.  This jacket combines down insulation with waterproof and breathable arms and hood.  It’s very light, compact and surprisingly warm.  Look for it on the rack in early spring 2013.

Trails | Trips

The Authors

Dave BakerDave Baker

I'm Dave Baker, founder of Summit Hut, an independent outdoor retailer based in Tucson, Arizona since 1969. As an experienced and passionate hiker, climber and backpacker, my blog is intended to be an informative and interesting look into the outdoors and the outdoor industry.

Dana Davis

Dana Davis

I’m Dana Davis, co-owner of the Summit Hut. I mostly enjoy hiking and road biking though I often do other things to keep it interesting (mountaineering, motorcycling, backpacking, climbing, you name it!) My biggest challenge is sometimes finding the balance between career, family, and fun but it’s working out so far!

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

I'm Dan Davis, after retiring from the National Park Service as a Ranger and manager, I worked for the Summit Hut until 2009, then retired for good (maybe). I'm now spending my time traveling around the southwest writing and working on my nature and fine art photography business.

Emily Gindlesparger

Emily Gindlesparger

I’m Emily Gindlesparger, a member of the Summit Hut floor staff. Since moving here from the Midwest, I’ve been taking advantage of all possible adventures in Arizona: rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, whitewater kayaking, caving and trail running; I’m always excited to see what’s next!