Timberline Trail at Dawn

Conquered by the Timberline Trail

Each year on the weekend of my birthday, I look forward to a new running challenge. This year, two friends were getting married at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood on my birthday. I was excited to spend my birthday on the mountain. My friend Grant and I made an audacious plan to run all the way around the 40-mile Timberline Trail, including it’s nearly 10,000 feet of elevation gain in a single day. The wedding was beautiful, by the way. Thanks for asking.

Timberline Lodge Wedding Mount Hood

We planned thoroughly, trained hard and prepared for the big day. Leaving early in the morning from Portland, we got started on the trail as the sun came up. We started out strong. We fell off the pace early, but we still had confidence that we’d finish the trail throughout most of the day.

Mount Hood Meadows Creek Timberline Trail

In the end, neither one of us had our nutrition planned out well and jumping the rivers and creeks throughout the day took a toll. In addition, crossing the Elliot Washout had me completely on edge. The snowfields had me slipping and sliding and holding on for dear life. We also wound up going off track and losing a whole mess of time. As of 2017, there will be a new addition that goes around the Elliot washout. It will add 2 miles and some elevation gain and loss to the overall trail, but it will allay the stress and fears of crossing that super sketchy traverse and climbing out with a rope.

Elliot Crossing Timberline Trail

We wound up hitchhiking out around mile 26, and were fortunate to flag our friends down on Highway 26, while they were en route to the wedding lodging. Despite the brutal day, we had an incredible time and learned a lot. Not only are we planning another attempt, but Grant finished a successful solo loop of this trail not long after our dual attempt. You can experience our entire day in the video below.

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