Squaw Valley Panorama

13 Days to WSER: A Hike to the Summit

I was due for a rest day so I decided to take the day off … almost.

The previous day after my run down to the Rucky Chucky crossing of the American River I had driven over Donner Pass towards Truckee. I had camped in the Tahoe National Forest and woke up early to visit Squaw Valley, the start of the Western States Endurance Run.

I drove up to the ski resort, parked my car in the day use parking and put on my running kit. But the plan was simply to enjoy a short hike. That hike however would entail four miles of walking up a ski mountain. I walked towards the starting line for the race, intending to hike up to Emigrant Gap, the highest point of the entire race. Part of the reason for the journey was to scope it out since the following day I planned to return, but then to continue over the pass to check out the running down the other side.

Unfortunately the attempt was cut extremely short. As soon as I reached the service road upon which the race starts there was posted large signs advising that hiking was not permitted. I headed back to the hotel where I will stay prior to the race, where reception advised me that the don’t allow hikers since lots of maintenance vehicles use the road during the skiing off-season. There was however an option to hike up to the escarpment along the Granite Chief Trail. My new plan was born.

I headed across the ski village to the start of the trail and commenced my hike up the mountain. It was a steep hike in places and just near the escarpment I had to cross a couple of patches of snow. But after a little under 3 miles of hiking I reached the escarpment. There were a number of ski lifts spread throughout the area, as well as the terminus for the large gondola known as the “tram”.

I headed into the terminus building to chat with some of the staff there. I found a staff member who had run Western States before, so when he heard that I would be running he was glad to help out by pointing out the various features. He pointed out Squaw Peak and Granite Chief, as well as the way we would ascend onto the escarpment and most importantly, Emigrant Gap. I thanked him and continued on my way.

Squaw Valley - Escarpment Panorama
Squaw Valley – Escarpment Panorama

It was a little over a mile for the final ascent. I reached the top and spotted the Watson Monument that we will run past on race day. Then just behind it was the trail that will allow us to commence the 23,000 feet (7,000 metres) of descent that we will complete over a distance of 96 miles having started with a continuous four-mile ascent.

Squaw Valley - The Trail from Emigrant Gap
Squaw Valley – The Trail from Emigrant Gap

I made my way back to the terminus building and caught the tram back to the ski village, as they allow free downloading for hikers. I considered that I could take the tram up to the escarpment the following day to start my run from there, until I found out that they charge $32 for the one-way journey. I decided that I would enjoy the one-hour hike instead.

It might not exactly be a run but I did measure it with my watch so you can check out the details on MovesCount.com here.

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