FKT: Kate Johnson - Umunhum and El Sombroso (CA) - 2024-02-25

Route variation
from Almaden
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
7h 40m 52s
GPS track(s)

With a beautiful weekend of weather ahead, after consistent rains for the previous couple of months, I decided on the spur of the moment to enjoy this 50k route on trails I know and run regularly. 

After spending Saturday morning trying determine whether the streams along the route were known to be contaminated with mercury from the mercury mines in the area and coming up empty handed, I opted for self-supported instead, stashing water around mile 4/27, 9/16, and 7/18/24. I carried all of my food with me. 

Sunday morning, I parked near the park entrance and found the starting point for BuckCrockett (route submitter)'s tracks. 7:22 am seemed like as good a time as any, with the sun illuminating the tops of the mountains I would be running into. I took a quick starting photo and another at the park entrance sign before starting the first climb out of Almaden into Quicksilver County Park. The sun quickly warmed the hills as I climbed out of Quicksilver and across Hicks Road. I skipped my first water drop, having taken plenty of water to get myself to 7 miles, and entered Sierra Azul and the shade of the oak and chaparral forest below Mt. Umunhum. 

I was mostly alone aside from a mountain biker here and there whizzing past. The trails were in great condition despite the recent rainy weather and I soon made it to my second water drop around mile 7. I topped off water there and began the much steeper climb up the left branch of the course toward Umunhum. The weather warmed significantly and I opted to top off my water bladder at my mile 9 water stash to prepare for the 7 miles up to the summit and back before I would have access to water again. Trails were becoming a bit busier as hiking groups and families started to enjoy their days out in the woods. I climbed the switchbacks up the left flank of Umunhum and popped out above the trees and into sight of the famous NORAD box that stands on the summit. 

I took another photo in front of the box and found the summit marker before heading back down the switchbacks. I soon found myself at mile 18 and my water stash, where I topped up again before starting the much steeper and more exposed climb up El Sombroso. The sun was direct and very hot as I trudged up the loose rock incline and I was completely alone - everyone else obviously smart enough to not do what I did and climb Sombroso on the hottest day of the year so far. Finally reaching the summit, I circled the powerline tower at the top, took in the views, and thanks my stars that it was finally (almost) all downhill from there. 

I trotted down the loose descent, back onto the Woods Road trail, and eventually back into Almaden Quicksilver. Only a few miles left of my run, I sent out a few celebratory texts to friends and made my way back through the Hacienda entrance and to the starting point. All told, my time came to 7:40:52. There is significant room for improvement on this time as I have been in something of a winter hibernation. I may have to give another go at this in the fall when I'm in the middle of a big training block and a bit more heat adapted! 

Overall enjoyable day. Glad I opted for the self-supported route as filtering water would have been a bit sketchy without a filter that manages mercury ore. May have to invest in one for the future...