Early morning start and a smooth quiet climb from the Ashland Plaza up to Mt. Ashland. Slow and steady, headlamp blazing the trail for the first hour or so and then I was met with a giant glowing orange peaking through the trees (smoky sun). Pretty noneventful, except a surprise black bear far enough away to be exciting. Arrived at the Mt. A Lodge and parking a little behind schedule, but feeling strong. Climbed the 1000 ft, 1 mile slog to the very top (7468ft) and although I had had blue skies all the way up, it was clear that the CA fire smoke was now creeping in and my views were shot.
Back down at the lodge parking lot, I pretended to be at my own aid station and refilled my waters (lodge spigot), ate a bar and sunscreened up. I took Jace's advice and bushwacked straight down to the PCT, dumped the grass and rocks from my shoes when I hit the trail, and pretended that I was about to start a nice 13 mile run. The PCT on this stretch is lovely - soft dirt, big shade, gradual down and a few rollers. Then little stretches of views of Shasta (although not today). I realized at around mile 20, I was feeling beat. And was also now a bit more behind schedule. I stayed on my eating and drinking but was just feeling tired. My watch reminded me that I had run/hiked nearly 6500 ft already and so the tiredness made sense.
All was good until I hit hwy 99 and had to walk 1/2 mile to the final stretch of the PCT (and Pilot Rock), meaning 4.5ish miles to go. I was feeling pretty done, but at mile 25 when I caught my first glimpse of Pilot Rock and saw how far away it was, I got super discouraged. And very low on water. In my mind, I would be at the base of Pilot Rock at around 7 hours but honestly, the last 4 miles really crushed my soul. And for whatever reason, the base of Pilot Rock was 27 miles instead of 26, which further brought me down. I've run/hiked all of these trails before but never put them together like this. Tagging on a second giant climb at the end of a marathon is pure torture. I moved like a snail on the final 1000 ft/1 mile up. Oh and my water was gone.
My 18yo son Carson planned to meet me at the base and cheer me on. He was there and he had icy cold water, so there goes my unsupported....honestly, I don't think I could have climbed the rocky peak without. I've never scrambled up this last scary, exposed steep pitch and yesterday was my first time. After giving myself a solid 10 minutes to rest (and drink), I was able to focus and climb (not my strength). After a few steep gullies, the rest was just natural steps, easy to move on and the top was out of this world!!
I feel sure many folks could tackle this in faster time. I power hiked up everything (truly way more hiking than running). It was a killer challenge, the placement of the final climb and total vert. Way to put something together, Jace, for our local running community. I hope others go for it!