Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mt Wrightson

So after the Bull Run 50 miler I immediately relocated to Tucson Arizona for a new job. New adventure in a city surrounded by mountains...yay! Leaving all my awesome friends in DC not so yay....but anyway the adventure is on and I'm now based out of Tucson!

Lucky for me a quick google search of "Tucson + Trail Running" leads straight to the Tucson Trail Runners a group of local trail runners / ultra athletes living right in my new back yard. Since, Tucson is surrounded by mountains it's not really that surprising. Turns out they are a pretty cool group.

They have a yearly series of runs with a different event every other week ranging from 10 miles to 50k and many of them train for 50 mile and 100 mile ultras as well. I was lucky enough to enlist in time for this week's event the "Multiple Wrightson Massacre".

Mt. Wrightson is the tallest mountain in the Tucson basin rounding out at a nice 9453 feet. The Multiple Wrightson Massacre takes place on the "Old Baldy Trail" which starts in Madera Canyon ( 5420 ft ) and climbs to the top in about 5.4 miles. The TTR people come out every year and do this route out and back as many times as feels right. My initial plan was for two ascents but it took me a little longer than I expected (turns out 4000 ft in 5 miles is a little rough) so I ended up only doing the route once.

So, I started in Madera Canyon around 7am and began the climb up. The lower part of the trail is some very sandy single track, it's runnable if you are up to it. However, since it was my first time on the route and I was quickly alone on the trail I decided to take it easy. The trail quickly winds up and begins a series of switch-backs up to Josephine Saddle. From there the trail gets much less sandy and more normal dirt as the environment changes from desert to alpine (this is really cool). A few more switchbacks and another mile or so and you're facing a giant rock face to the right. The trail takes a left and a series of crazy switch-backs swerve up along the west face of the mountain to Baldy Saddle. Seriously.....this trail should be called "Old Switch-Back".... from there there's a good half mile of good running along the saddle until the earlier rock face appears again, except this time I was on the other side and had to navigate my way up some narrow single track that looks like it was blown out of the rock. I took it slow here and made sure I had good footing.
I got to the summit and got spectacular views of the Tucson basin (and Mexico). I didn't stay long, it was pretty windy and I was anxious to get down to the main trail and start running down. The way down was pretty quick compared to the way up. Aside from a few rocky areas I got some really good running in and was down much quicker than the ascent. Overall this is a fun run, I'll probably go back in the future although in the interest of saving time and logging more miles I'll probably skip the summit and do a loop trail (which includes most of Old Baldy) which loops up and over the entire mountain. Good run, good fun, good hill training!

Total 10.8 miles, 4000 ft gain, 4000 ft loss.

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