Saturday, September 27, 2008

Rockin' the Wall-

How to feed on Rockwall...3L of Electrolyte drink, 8 Gels, 1 Protein bar, 4 Vitamin I's, 4 Salt Stick tabs, a 4oz tenderloin and yummy baby potatoes...

The first time I ran RockWall with Bob (yes...head-injury Bob) was last year in July. At the time, I had no clue what I was getting into, and although we had high ambitions of running the entire route from Floe to Paint Pots via Helmet Falls, we realized we were a bit underprepared (lack of food mostly) and decided to bail-out on the last loop up to Helmet and took the last exit out of Tumbling Pass/Ochre. At 40km+ and 6.5hrs on the clock, this was the longest run I had ever done...Aside from being sore for a week, we both agreed to give RW another shot the following year-

RW - Take II

The 'Wall' - An impressive sight

With 2 long-ish runs under my belt in the past week or so (4.5hrs - Vista to Floe, 4hrs+ Castle to Stuart's Knob) I figured I couldn't avoid Bob anymore and decided it was time to conquer RW again before the snow covered the trail. With a clear blues and a forecasted high of 23C (which never materialized; It was 10-15C at best and cloudy/windy) we set off around 8:30am after catching a sweet shuttle in from Paint Pots by a big yellow school bus - perfect timing!

Check out the sweet ride we caught up to Floe Lake trailhead!

RockWall is not an easy run - With 4 passes and close to 3,000m of elevation gain, this sucker packs a good punch! After a relatively short warmup, the route rises 1,000m out of the Floe trailhead and puts you on top of an amazing plateau at approx 2,300m - Of the 4 humps, this is the biggest gain of the day - But like all of them, once you crest the 2,000m mark, the views and terrain really are breathtaking! In my opinion, the further North you go, the better the terrain gets...

On every plateau, we experienced one "hippy moment" after another - Bob and I were in La-La land...Actually, the only reality check we got was a few anxious kilometres near the Numa junction where we were following some fresh bear tracks - fresh enough for me to run with my finger on the bear spray trigger! But, as with most of our other backcountry runs, our "HEYYYYY BEEEEAAARRRR" cries filled the valley bottom and kept the fury bugger at bay.

Back up on Tumbling Pass, we soon forgot about the bear tracks and 'ooed' and 'awed' at the golden larch trees and the sweet singletrack. When we reached the last junction to Helmet Falls, we were both feeling pretty good and there was no hesitation this time around. Aside from the Google Earth version, I had never seen the actual RockWall up close and personal - The real life version did not disappoint! This last section included a couple of little bumps (400m and 300m) hovering between 1800m and 2200m and in my opionion, included some of the best running and views of the day.

Bob in action

The single-track on the high alpine plateau was amazing

Up and over the last passes, and we soon found ourselves staring at Helmet Falls, thundered down the cliffs. With stiff knees and limbs, the last 15km down to Paint Pots was not as easy as we anticipated despite a great singletrack to enjoy- We kept a robotic pace down the valley and after some few frustrating "Enough with these %$&#*&! hills, I thought you said it was all downhill from Helmet!", we popped out at the Paint Pots, and 'raced' the last km back to the truck.

Ranger cabin with Helmet Falls in the background

At almost 53k (52.9km according to Bob's GPS), we covered the circuit in 8hrs on the button - not bad considering all of our photo stops (I'll post Bob's gallery very soon).

If you haven't run it yet - I highly recommend you put RockWall on your 'To Do' running list. Plan for a long day with funky mountain weather, bring lots of food (and real food too!) and settle in for an amazing run.


Mike said...

Great job Phil! 8 hours for the Rockwall is seriously hardcore.
I think the section from Tumbling to Helmet Falls is one of the most amazing places anyone could ever run.
It wasn't until I ran that section that I understood why they call it the Rockwall, it has to be seen to be believed.
Next week you should run it the other way round for comparison purposes :)

Phil said...

Yeah, totally agree that Tumbling to Helmet rocks - Its definitely on my all-time 'best of' list. All the work you have to put into simply getting there makes it even more beautiful - kind of like finding 4 pieces of pizza and a couple of beers back at the truck after 8hrs of running (Bob brought the pizza and I, of course, brought the beers!).

Running it reverse may not be such a bad idea, and a good way to get that long 15km that killed me at the end out of the way...that said, going down the steeps wouldn't be so much fun- either way, I doubt I'll do it again until next year as Bob still has a few more GPS tracks to 'file' in preparation for his book.

Sunshine Girl said...


The thing that is soooo tough about Rockwall as a run, is the elevation gain and loss. That thing is a monster roller coaster of epic proportions. I have spent lots of time in there and still get lost every time I go through Numa Campground and Tumbling Creek Campground, I swear! The two times I ran the whole thing, I ran it alone in summer - and the backpackers couldn't get over it (as always!). They were a constant source of amusement on these solo adventures.

Last years Post TransRockies trip to the Rockwall with Steve and Mike WAS REALLY was the most memorable!

Check out Steve's pics from last year and you will see why!!!
Sept.29 Rockwall pics