Wilder and Tougher

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What’s harder than Hardrock? One answer is Hardrock covered in snow and ice. In March, four athletes completed the course of the famed Colorado trail race, a 100-mile loop that gains around 34,000 feet. The team consisted of Jason Schlarb and Paul Hamilton, elite trail runners with skiing experience; Scott Simmons, a top ski mountaineer; and Noah Howell, a filmmaker known for his work on skiing.

To their knowledge, no one had ever skied the Hardrock course. They allowed themselves four days, double the race’s 48-hour cutoff.

There were lows—descents frozen like bobsled tracks, blisters and arch pain, navigational mishaps, a lost shoe, delirious fatigue, daily thoughts of quitting—but enough highs to keep them going. The scenery was splendid, the weather perfect, the challenge unprecedented.

Their final day was 28 miles, 10,000 feet of vertical. Howell, who has ascended Alaska’s Denali, said the day’s last climbs were among the toughest of his life. Even the two final, cruise-y miles entailed unexpected post-holing. Quiet and subdued, they finished at 9 p.m. to no fanfare and four to-go hamburgers from their crewperson.

But memories of suffering are short. The following day, drinking Moscow Mules with friends, the four athletes started tossing about ideas for other winter projects: Nolan’s 14, the John Muir Trail, things in Alaska only accessible by helicopter.

“To finish a race—it’s still an event everyone does every year,” Schlarb says. “This was so cool, and it was our own creation.”

This article originally appeared in our June 2016 issue.

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