www.MountainHiker.org

Hiking Stats as of 12/13/2017
Total Trips:
Total Distance:
Total Elevation Gain:
 325
 3,891.68 miles
 1,060,050 feet

Sep 13, 2014 - Grant, Mount

 

Partners: Kyle Breen

Distance: 18.28 miles

Elevation Gain: 7,274 feet

Trip Time: 6:26

Maps and Stats:
A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a fellow hiker informing me of the Mt. Grant Memorial Challenge (www.911challenge.org), an event serving as a tribute to those who lost their lives on 9/11. Mt. Grant is the highest peak in Mineral County, Nevada and has been closed for public access following 9/11, with the exception of the annual Mt. Grant Memorial Challenge (starting in 2011). This would be a long drive for me, at 4:45, so an overnight stay would be required. I've never done an organized hike or event before, so this would be a new experience. I asked Kyle if he wanted to go, and he was up for it as well, and so I signed us up for the Saturday morning event.

The drive to Hawthorne, Nevada is via 120 through Yosemite or via 108 over Sonora Pass. Either way Kyle was going to have to drive to my house first from where we would carpool. With the notorious Friday traffic we knew we would get off to a late start, and we left my house at 7:30. We elected to take 108, avoiding what we feared would be the weekend traffic heading up to Yosemite, and we arrived in Hawthorne at exactly midnight. The town is quite small, and we easily found the Holiday Lodge motel. We were asleep around 1AM, with an alarm set for 5:30. We weren't entirely sure of the logistics of how the event would work so we wanted to be sure to allow sufficient time to pick up our registration materials in the morning before starting the Challenge. The drive from Hawthorne to Walker Lake took 15 minutes, and we pulled into the dirt parking area just off the highway at 6:20. The event was scheduled to start at 6:30, although it was advertised that one could start any time between 6:30 and 7:30. This was not a timed race, just a hike to the top. There were a lot of people milling around near the start, with quite a variety of older/younger/men/women. We picked up our materials and went back to the car to put on our bib numbers and get our packs ready. I packed my normal full assortment of food, but with a reduced amount of just 3 liters of Powerade Zero because there would be 3 aid stations throughout the hike. As we were getting ready, the organizer yelled out that everyone could start now, and since we weren't quite ready we wound up starting 7 minutes behind everyone else. There were no crowds or spectators, with the exception of a friendly black dog from one of he local houses who was running up to greet hikers as they passed by.

The hike itself has some impressive stats, starting from around 4,200 feet and ascending up to around 11,300 feet (at the top of the peak, the actual finish line is the end of the dirt road about 150 feet below) over a distance of 17.2 miles. So its a lot of miles, and a lot of gain, but countering this is that you are only asked to go one way. Vans would take finishers down as groups formed on the summit. With this knowledge, we figured it would take us somewhere between 6 1/2 - 7 hours to get to the top. We didn't think we would have any acclimatization issues, since this was a relatively gentle grade, over easy class 1 dirt roads and we had just done Shasta the week prior. As we got started we were behind a lot of people on a road that wound up past a lot of homes that had nice views of Walker Lake. The paved portion of the road ended after 3/4 of a mile, and we would be on a dirt road for the rest of the way to the finish line. We started out on a good pace, going about 3.3 miles per hour, and we passed the slowest of the competitors as we reached Mile 1.

Between mile 1 and mile 2 we passed by an informational sign for Mt. Grant, which seemed really odd considering we were in Army territory, and this is the only day of the year that civilians would even see the sign. I suppose it is probably left over from the days prior to 9/11. These first few miles were one of the steeper sections, although this was a relative distinction, as the steeper sections were 500 feet of gain per mile and the gentler sections were 350 feet of gain per mile. Neither one can really be considered too much of a a burden. After mile 2 we saw the first of several memorial posters alongside the road, a reminder of the purpose of the event, and the fact that this entire area of Nevada is essentially used for military purposes. It was shortly thereafter that a jeep drove by, passing out water to anyone who needed any. This was pretty amazing, we were only a couple of miles in, and would be a continual presence on the day. Between the 3 aid stations, the ambulance station and the jeeps that passed by every 45 minutes or so we could have easily done this hike without bringing any of our own food or water. Good information for anyone doing this event in the future or if I go back to do it again at some point.

I was trying to make a point of getting a picture of each mile marker, mostly so we could track our progress against the other event participants. I missed mile 3, but by mile 4 were had passed over half of the participants. The ones in front of us, however, were keeping up a brisk pace, and we were surprised by their maintenance of this speed. We are somewhat used to passing people on the trail, and when that happens we normally catch and pass very quickly. Here, it would take a mile or so to actually pass someone (gaining maybe a few hundred feet per mile) and then it would take another mile to put some distance between us. We surmised that their paces would slow, as we still have 13 miles to go. By mile 5 this was proving to be true, whether that was due to others resting at the aid station or just falling back to a sustainable pace. By mile 6 we were behind a couple of women, the one on the right we didn't see anymore after passing, but the one on the left would never be too far from view for the entirety of the day. She certainly kept up a good pace, and I believe she was the second female finisher.

We passed up the two women, and by mile 7 we could see a group of young adults getting closer to us. We had seen them well ahead of us earlier, and found out later that they had run the first portion of the trail (we hadn't yet started so we didn't see them run out to lead). They must have really burned a lot of energy on that initial effort, as we caught them at the mile 8 marker (no picture as they were leaning up against the sign resting, and I didn't want them to think I was taking pictures of them resting rather than the actual Mile 8 sign). Throughout this time the young woman from Mile 6 stayed a few hundred feet behind us, and she passed those guys as well. After passing the group of guys, we found ourselves alone, not able to see anyone ahead at all. We reached mile 9, still nobody in sight. At this point Mt. Grant started becoming visible off to the left, although the road would continue straight ahead before winding back to the left and coming back up the right hand side of the peak. We stopped for a minute at the second aid station, and I took a granola bar and Kyle took some cheez-its. Since we had brought our own refreshments this was actually the first time we accepted any food or water on the day. We did not linger but more than a minute, and we were back on the trail and up to Mile 10. Along the side of the road we passed the next memorial poster, after which point the road became steeper after several miles of gentle travel.

At mile 11 the road turned left, starting the half circle back to the mountain, and so we could see that there was in fact a woman ahead of us on the road, perhaps 10 minutes ahead of where we were. Mt. Grant was now plainly visible, not looking too far way although it was still another 6+ miles and 2500 feet of gain ahead. At the top of the minor climb we found the ambulance station, where (of course) we were offered water but turned it down. I was hoping for another granola bar but they didn't have food here, as this wasn't 1 of the 3 aid stations. Another poster was along the road, and as we hit mile 12 the views below started to really open up. We were very slowly catching up to the woman in front of us, but as we hit mile 13 our position in the line of people heading up remained unchanged, with only the 1 woman visible ahead and the woman from mile 6 perhaps a quarter mile behind, with the guys who rested at mile 8 falling further behind still. The final aid station was just ahead, and we were now happy to partake in the food giveaways, as we could save our packed food for the drive home. I grabbed 2 granola bars and a water, and Kyle grabbed a Gatorade and another Cheez It. We stopped for about 2 minutes, long enough to toss out our trash and put down our packs for a moment.

From here it was another 4 miles to the summit. With the mile markers constantly telling us where we were (and even an odd 13.7 marker?), and with our newly slowed pace of about 21 minutes per mile, we were able to easily calculate when we would be on top, and it was going to be sooner than we had thought. At mile 14 we could see the path of the road as it switched all the way up the mountain. We also saw another person at the very top, apparently having done the hike in not much over 4 1/2 hours. We were impressed with that. The final poster was located just after this mile marker, and from here it was somewhat of a long slog up the final switchbacks covering the last 2 miles. We hit mile 15, with the woman ahead of us perhaps now 5 minutes in front, and the woman behind us seemingly having closed the gap between us to about 5 minutes as well. It was pretty amazing that we were going to go the final 9 miles without passing anyone or being passed, but with 2 miles to go it was obvious that would be the case. Mile 16 was quickly passed, and the road turned back toward the peak, where we could see the woman a few minutes ahead and someone on the summit of the peak itself. We could also see the flag marking the end of the official distance for the Challenge. By 12:15 we reached the finish, where we were each congratulated, had our pictures taken, and given a really cool medallion (back) as a prize. My first ever finish to an event!

We had been talking about strategy for getting back down, namely making sure that we caught the first available van down as we didn't know how many vans there were and if one van would have to make the 35 mile round trip before coming back up, thus leaving any extra finishers on the summit for a couple of hours until it could return. With this in mind, we informed the volunteers that we were going to climb the talus pile to the top so we could officially claim the summit, but that if a van came we would be right back so not to let it go without us. We made very short work of the summit climb, taking a 10 minute haphazard route around the back side and then just going straight up a fun class 3 chute from which we arrived basically right on the very top. The views from the top of Mt. Grant were fantastic, with Walker Lake dominating the views as we took summit shots of each other (Kyle and Me). We ran into another participant on top, either the first or second finisher, who had completed the Challenge a full hour faster than us. He left as a van approached, and so only had a couple of minutes to enjoy the views from the highpoint of Mineral County. They were quite impressive, but we had to get going. We signed the summit log (we were the second and third signers on the day, and nobody was making any moves to climb it behind us). We descended and walked back towards the van, where we found that the young woman who was always a few minutes behind us had already claimed a spot. The driver asked us if we were ready to go down, and we excitedly said we were.

We considered ourselves extremely fortunate, as we planned on an hour wait on top for either a van to arrive or for a large enough group to form. But it was just the 4 of us finishers on the way down. We didn't even have to wait 5 seconds let alone an hour. As we descended we had to go fairly slow, first to avoid all the people coming up and second to avoid creating dust clouds. So it was slow going, and we chit chatted about where everyone was from and such. The young woman in the front seat (Stephanie) was from this area, having graduated from High School here, and as it turned out appeared to know at least half of the participants. The guy who finished an hour ahead of us was also from Nevada, but not from Hawthorne. We were also informed that we finished either 4th and 5th, or 5th and 6th out of the 80 or so participants. We were pretty proud of that, considering we weren't racing and certainly aren't runners or anything like that. As we descended, the driver and Stephanie greeted and encouraged the participants, letting them know they were "almost to the top" even though after the first couple of miles of descent this was not really true, especially as the pace of the participants slowed the further along we went. Several times we stopped for a few moments so that they could say hello and catch up for a minute, which was fine, we were just happy to have a ride. Perhaps 4 miles down we were told we had to switch vans, but this was okay as we didn't have to wait. Stephanie was very helpful in this, telling everyone she wanted off the mountain and since everyone knew her (and I have to say the volunteers were extremely helpful and friendly) they made sure we kept moving. On the way back down again, we stopped to say hello to the Commander of the Base (it sounded like he was the one who had final authority to approve or deny this event), along with the Sheriff and several other local folks.

When we arrived back at the Ambulance station area, a couple of people who gave up joined our vanpool back down, and at that point we were told to find a couple of people (familiar to our driver and Stephanie) who would have the key to the now locked gate near the bottom of the mountain. We pulled back out, and resumed our descent. In the next couple of miles we passed the slowest of the participants, handing out water to one who said he was out of water. We also saw the people who were supposed to have the key, but they said they didn't have it so we would have to call for someone to open it. This didn't sound promising. Once we got down to around mile 4 we saw a massive herd of Bighorn Sheep. I was glad our driver stopped, and we all started taking pictures and enjoying the sight. As we were watching one of the sheep kicked down a 5 pound rock, and we watched as it tumbled down the mountain towards us. We were all still in the van, so were weren't in danger, but I thought for sure it was going to hit and damage the van. Fortunately it smashed down on the far side of the road and stopped rolling, sparing the van. It was time to cover the final few miles. We reached the locked gate, which was 1 1/4 miles from the parking lot. The 4 of us who finished the Challenge said we were good to hike down the last little bit, and so we climbed over the gate and started down towards Walker Lake. About 1/4 of the way down a small truck caught up with us and asked if we wanted to ride the rest of the way. The 2 participants who hadn't finished were in the truck, and there was room for at most 2 more people. Kyle and I declined, and the truck proceeded on to Stephanie, who accepted the ride back down. We arrived at the parking lot about 15 minutes later, and got started on the very long 4:45 drive back to my house. The good news was we were at least 2 hours ahead of schedule, and would arrive back before dark.

My many thanks to the volunteers and organizers and participants of this race - I was very impressed and had a great time, and highly recommend it!

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2 Comments

 

(1 year ago) Kerry said:

Sure, feel free to link!


 

(1 year ago) Jeremy Elsmore said:

Hello,

Is it okay if we add your comment to the new "911 Mt. Grant Memorial Challenge" Website?

- Very well organized event - took about 5:45 to go from start to the top. Plenty of refreshments offered by volunteers throughout the hike, could have left my pack at home. Good time, great views, highly recommended if you haven't done it. Trip report is HERE.

It would link to this page?

Thanks,

Jeremy Elsmore
Webmaster
www.GrantChallenge.org