Attempting an unsupported traverse of the Backbone Trail offered a truly one of a kind experience for me in the Santa Monica Mountains. Although I have completed some big runs in the past, none of them were solo over this many miles. I was looking for an adventure that would force me to go outside of my comfort zone, and the Backbone delivered in a very meaningful way. What a special run - rollercoaster ride of emotions - tough to put into words for sure.
I started at Will Rogers at 430am sharp and headed west. I did not cache any food or water in advance. I refilled water at Trippet Ranch, Mesa Peak trailhead (right off Malibu Canyon Rd), the public hose at the firehouse adjacent to Encinal Trailhead, and Danielson Ranch. I was making great time and feeling positive until Mesa Peak trailhead. At the Mesa Peak trailhead, I filled 3 liters of water for the upcoming segment to Encinal Canyon Road - the water barely lasted until Kanan Dume. It was much hotter in the canyons than I expected - I felt like I was baking in the sun. I should have been sure to drink a full liter before even leaving the water station. Getting from Kanan to Encinal with no water was brutal - I did manage to stomach two gels during the ordeal at least (blasting Rage Against the Machine always helps too). Finally arriving to the Encinal firehouse was nothing short of pure bliss. I immediately pounded at least 2 liters at the hose (mixed with Scratch from my pack) to re-charge a bit. After getting back to neutral, and filling my full water capacity of 3.5 liters this time, I marched onto Sandstone Peak, and down to Danielson Ranch (making great time in the Boney Mountain section).
Upon arriving at Danielson Ranch, I was out of water (again) and had a brief panic attack that the bathroom might be closed because it was on the late side. Fortunately, it was open and I hastily re-filled water a final time. This time I just filled about 1.5 liters. This final section was intense. Upon turning on my petzl headlamp again post sunset (although the full moon was bright, there were sections where it was blocked from the mountains), I realized that it was somehow down to 10% energy! After cursing myself for not bringing an extra headlamp (and cursing myself again during the unexpectedly tough Overlook climb), I tried to stay positive and finish strong before I had to rely on the moon / my iphone flashlight. Once I could hear the cars on PCH and see the waves crashing on the beach, a big smile came across my face and I knew the end was near.
What an incredibly humbling experience and a true privilege to be able to experience such a special traverse solo and unsupported.
Kenneth - Awesome effort! Good write-up. I am attempting BBT West -- East on 4/23/21 unsupported... very excited to take on the challenge.
Appreciate the insights.
Thanks, and best of luck Kevin! Hope you crush it out there man - such a crazy and meaningful experience.