There are four check points along the Ridge Run course. They are at the following locations:
- Ross Pass
- Bridger Bowl
They also serve as aid stations. Note that Sacajawea is a minor aid station and usually only has water. Ross Pass, Bridger Bowl and Baldy typically have an assortment of goodies. Click here for more information on the course, aid stations and cutoff times.
Think of these main aid stations more as check points where you must show your number and get checked off on a list. This is extremely important. It helps the race organizers keep track of everyone.
You reach the summit of Sacajawea about 2 miles and 2000 feet of climbing from the start of the course. The fastest runners reach Sacajawea in less than 30 minutes. The cutoff time for reaching Sacajawea is 1 hour and 15 minutes. Expect only water at the top of Sacajawea. The flat area at the top of Sacajawea is rather small and exposed. So it is best to not linger here.
The Ross Pass aid station is another 5 miles past Sacajawea and 2000 feet lower. Reaching this point is nearly a third of the way into the event. It is located at the far end (south end) of the Ross pass area where you just begin to enter the trees. Usually, but not always, the aid workers and refreshments are on the runners left or east side of the trail. It can be very windy at Ross Pass and locating the aid station in the trees offers some protection and shelter.
Runners are still fairly fresh when they get to Ross Pass. Unless they have fallen and gotten hurt, they are still in a good mood and moving along at a good clip. The fastest runners reach Ross Pass in as little as 1 hour. The cutoff time is 3 hours.
At just over the half-way point (10 miles from the start) you get to the Bridger Bowl aid station. This is about 3 miles past Ross Pass and 1000 feet higher. There can be a slew of spectators and people up on top of Bridger Bowl causing confusion as where the food and water is. The exact location changes from year to year. But it is usually near the little shack that sits just to the runner’s right, (west side of the trail) as you near the end of the flat area at the top of Bridger Bowl. The trail here is in a narrow depression between trees to the right and rocks to the left. Given the number of people, the aid station materials and the terrain, the area can get congested and claustrophobic.
By the time runners get to Bridger Bowl, they are starting to tire. All the people, noise, hub bub and congestion can be a bit of a shock compared to the sometimes lonely stretch from Ross Pass to Bridger. Think of it as a welcome reintegration with humanity and a huge celebration. The fastest runners reach Bridger Bowl well under 2 hours. The cutoff time is 4 hours 15 minutes.
The Baldy check point is over 15 miles into the Ridge Run. This is just over the 3/4 of the way in regards to effort and time. It is about 5 miles and 500 feet higher than Bridger. You go up and over Saddle Peak on the way to Baldy – gaining about 1000 feet then droping about 500 feet.
The aid station is at the exposed south summit of Mount Baldy. There are no trees or shelter. Aid workers are usually situated to the runners left as you approach the aid station. On bad weather days, the summit of Mount Baldy can be miserably cold and windy – not a place you want to hang out.
It is a relief reaching Mount Baldy. From here it is mostly downhill to the finish. Many runners reach Mount Baldy totally spent and exhausted. Even though it may not be the most pleasant place to rest, they tend to linger here refueling, recharging and savoring their accomplishment – especially on nice weather days. The fastest runners reach Mount Baldy well under 3 hours. There is no cutoff time. The slowest can take over 6 hours.
At this stage of the race, it is later in the day and during nice weather, it can be quite warm and dry going from here down towards the finish. The Baldy to M section of the coarse goes down a south facing slope that gets baked by the sun. There are some trees and shade, but it can still get hot on warm sunny days. Make sure you drink up at this aid station if it is a warm day.
Additional Informal Aid Stations
In addition to these main aid stations and check points there have been numerous additional informal aid stations. The number and exact locations vary from year to year. In the past some locations have been: Between Ross Pass and Bridger Bowl, Saddle Peak Summit, Between Baldy and the M, Top of M. These informal aid stations may or may not be there, so don’t count on them. Ask the race director at the Friday night meeting before the race to get an update on the status of any of these informal aid stations.
Usually there are plenty of helpful volunteers ready to hand you beverages and munchies at all the aid stations. Some volunteers have done this for many years. Their experience usually makes your aid station experience smooth and pleasant. Let them know you appreciate their work. Thank them.
Advice for Front Runners
Being one of first runners to get to an aid station may catch the volunteers off guard and not quite in a flow yet on how to handle your needs. Just clearly communicate what you need. From experience, if you need to refill a water bottle, seek out a gallon jug. Using cups of water is slow. Also, be aware that two gallon jugs pour very slowly if not vented and some years they are used instead of simple gallon jugs. So unless you know what you are doing you can waste a bit a time getting your bottle filled. Time seems to pass very quickly in aid stations. But, if you are not in a hurry – no worries.
A word of warning for everyone is regarding water quality. Some years, the water has been bad. Because of the huge task of hand carrying all water up to the ridge well ahead of the event, some of the water sits out in the sun for many weeks. This leaves the water tasting like stale plastic. I’ve seen the water bottles start to grow algae and who knows what else. One year, the water bottles where reused from the year before and the bottles had just been stored in the running club’s storage locker and were not cleaned or dried out before storage. This left them pretty foul and gamey after a year of storage. The race organizers are aware of these issues and seem to be on top of this.
Another thing that can happen is that the aid station volunteers in a desire to plan ahead and be prepared, fill a bunch of paper cups with water and arrange them along the trail. On years where the conditions are dry and dusty and windy, the cups soon get contaminated with dust, dirt, plant debris and who knows what else. Some people may not be bothered with a cup of water with a bunch of grit in it. On the other hand, some people like water with a little color and texture.
Advice for those Carrying a Water Bottle
I start the race with a full 20oz water bottle. I refill it at each of the three main aid stations. This is a total of 80oz during the race and has been sufficient for me even on warm days. If you plan to be out on the course longer than 5 hours, you may want to bring a larger water bottle. Or you can supplement by also drinking at aid stations in addition to refilling.
Advice for those Not Carrying a Water Bottle
On a warm day, you need to drink at least 20oz every hour. Figuring the average cup size used at aid stations is about 8oz, you need to stop and drink two to three cups of water per aid station. Gulping down this much at one stop is a challenge. The flexibility of carrying a refillable water bottle makes sense.
My food preference is hammer gel or any sports gel for that matter as compared to solid food. I carry a small, 6oz, gel flask. If you don’t carry food, I recommend grabbing at least one or two 1oz gel pouches at each of the three aid stations. If you are spending more than 5 hours on the course, you may want to eat more. Check with the race director on the Friday night meeting before the race to get an idea of what food is available at aid stations.