Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Softrock 100 Planning and Logistics

From June 24-29, Alex and I are planning to hike the Hardrock 100 course. This multi-day trek is colloquially known as the Softrock 100 (not to be confused with a new race in Ontario). There isn't much information available online about the logistics of doing a Softrock hike/run, so I thought I'd make a series of posts explaining our itinerary and planning.

View of Island Lake from Grant Swamp Pass (mile 85)
Photo by Bryon Powell

The Course

The Hardrock course is a 100 mile loop through the rugged San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado. The race starts and ends in Silverton and switches directions each year.

Softrock course map

We will be going counterclockwise, which front loads a lot of the mileage and lets us relax a little on our last few days. Our itinerary roughly follows the one that Jason Schlarb and others used for Skiing Hardrock:

  • Day 1, 29 miles, 9,350' gain, Silverton to Lake City
    This leg starts with a 4,000' climb out of Silverton and up to Dives-Little Giant. We then descend 2,500' to Cunningham before climbing Green Mountain, Buffalo Boy Ridge, and Cataract Lake. We finish with a 2,000' descent to Sherman where we catch a hiker shuttle into Lake City for the night.
  • Day 2, 28 miles, 8,023' gain, Lake City to Ouray
    Days 2 and 3 might be switched depending on how we feel after Day 1. This day starts with a 7 mile, 4,500 foot ascent of Handies Peak, the high point of the course at 14,058 feet. We then descend to Grouse Gulch before climbing Engineer. A 5,000' descent brings us to Ouray, where we will spend at least one night.
  • Day 3, rest day in Ouray
  • Day 4, 16 miles, 5,508' gain, Ouray to Telluride
    This is the "easy" leg of the trip. We climb 5,000' to Virginius Pass (a.k.a. Kroger's Canteen), take a shot of tequila, and then descent 4,000' into Telluride.
  • Day 5, rest day in Telluride
  • Day 6, 28 miles, 10,169' gain, Telluride to Silverton
    The last push. First comes a 4,000' climb to Oscar's Pass followed by a 3,000' descent to Chapman Gulch. Another 3,000' climb brings us to Grant-Swamp Pass with a view of Island Lake. After another 2,000' descent and 2,000' climb, we reach Cataract-Porcupine Pass and Putnam Cataract Ridge. From there, we make our final descent to Silverton.
Softrock elevation profile

The totals for the trip are 101 miles and 32,000' of elevation gain and loss. If we're lucky, we'll spend a total of about 48 hours hiking/running over the course of 6 days.


The easiest plan would have been to do this hike a few days before the Hardrock 100 race in July since the course would be marked and well maintained at that point in the year. Due to work conflicts, our choices for this trip were either late June or late August.

The benefit of going in August is that much of the snow would have melted from the course by then. However, afternoon thunderstorms are common in the mountains in mid-late summer, and lightning strikes become more of a threat. With this in mind, we chose to go in June and deal with the snow on the course.

Lodging and Transportation

In an attempt to keep this trip as inexpensive as possible, we are staying in hostels as much as possible. This is tougher than it sounds since most of these mountain towns have tourism based economies, so lodging is expensive.

More info to come!