I know a few folks are headed out to Hardrock this week -- good luck Brownie and NMP with Nick Clark pacing! Wow, what an awesome course. So my wife and I hiked the Handies section of the course, as well as part of Ice Lakes Basin, purely out of interest in doing beautiful hikes, but we couldn't help seeing the Hardrock 100 flags stuck in the ground. Had I thought ahead, I could have stashed a PBR up there! I hadn't thought specifically about doing the race, but after hanging out in Silverton, that course is really growing on me. That, and maybe a dozen or so folks asking, "Are you doing Hardrock next week?" as we talked about running or asked about hiking information.
You guys are lucky, here's to good weather, and have fun!
Some general observations:
1. Top of Handies is snow-free. There is a cornice on the American Basin side, but it is "off-the-trail"/completely avoidable.
2. The only snow at all on the Handies section is on the A-Basin side, where there are very short patches (4-5 steps) not even worth thinking about.
3. CC would seem slightly better for running Handies, but off of the main ridge, the whole thing is runnable.
4. Going up A-Basin, you don't really see the Handies summit for awhile. Just keep going up!
5. Going from the summit block along the summit ridge, there are a variety of social trails through talus. Dropping lower towards the Grizzly Gulch Basin gets you out of the wind quicker -- it all goes the same place.
6. Going off the summit ridge-- besides an incredible view -- you have a slightly steep scree section. I'd go easy here -if- you wanted to stay on the trail, just a few minutes. There are marked flags that show switchbacks through the scree, and social trails/footprints that go straight down. You could bomb straight down the scree if you were careful, the "trail" itself is also loose and somewhat arbitrary. It's dry and loose, fairly consistent (no big rocks, hidden snow, ice, etc.)
7. Tons of water on both sides of Handies, esp. the Grizzly Gulch side.
8. Wildflowers are starting to pop, not peak yet but still should be amazing
9. Trail is well-marked all the way up A-Basin and down Grizzly Gulch once you're off the summit. Nice and runnable. Go for it! Just be sure to turn around and look at Handies once in awhile -- this view is more impressive.
Ice Lakes Section
We hiked up the Ice Lakes trail to the lower and upper basin. I heard that the trail skirted through the lower basin, and sure enough, we saw some flags on the trail. Wow, this course really hits some amazingly beautiful places!
However, I was personally a little confused where Hardrock Trail went. Since I was looking for the trail going "backwards" (down from the basin), I surely might have missed it, but just wanted to let you know, be careful here.
Looking at the course description: Mile 13.0 is obvious. I saw where the singletrack trail came up and intersected the switchbacks of the New Ice Lake Trail. BTW, the Ice Lake Trail is very runnable. Now I'm reading the course for Mile 13.2: "Original Island Lake Trail...The first 100 yards may be difficult to find depending on vegetation"
I didn't see where this trail went. Once I saw flags on the Ice Lake trail, I turned around and looked for where the HR course diverted, and I didn't see it. Granted, I didn't go back up to look too much -- just saying keep your eyes open!
Other than that, no mud or snow on this short section I saw -- just wildflowers and amazing views.