The climb up Baden Powell has 41 switchbacks. As you climb, looking forward, you look into nothing but air. The drop-offs are not steep, but until you reach the turns they look like dead ends on a sheer cliff…or at least they do to me, someone who has suffered from a paralyzing fear of heights.
As you approach the summit, the trees disappear and the switchbacks get tighter. The turns towards the Mohave have been especially frightening for me; the desert is miles below and looks it. Gnarled and stunted 2,000-year-old-limber pines, twisted into knots by the wind are all that can be found, and a little back-bone ridge that drops off on either side across the top.
It’s not that bad, really, but it took me about 5 tries before I could get across the top. My tension would exhaust me. There are other parts of the course that actually present a real danger (Baden Powell does not) but none of those really frightened me.
The race begins in 6 days. 100 miles of trail through the San Gabriel Mountains. 23,000 feet of climbing. The longest climb is actually at the 75 mile mark. Baden Powell is the second longest climb, and the highest point of the course at 9,300 feet. I reckon I’ll cross the top of Baden Powell somewhere between 9:30 and 9:45 in the morning. The most spectacular parts of the course are along the 4 or so miles of ridge after crossing the top.
I love all but a few miles of this course. It’s beautiful. This will be my first attempt at 100 miles, and I did not pick an easy one. In fact, I picked one of the hardest. I’ve run all but the first few miles up Acorn Trail. I know the course almost by heart. I’ve worked hard for it. Now I just need to settle into a groove, meditate-on-my-feet through the tough parts when I want to quit, make a promise to everyone that only injury is sufficient reason for dropping, and that anything else is an excuse I vow not to take.
Here’s a collection of recent photos taken on the course: