The course is officially (GPS) 19.65 miles, so long as you take the "quick" way down from the "M"and don't make too many detours during the race. The longer way down makes it 20.55 miles. Total elevation gain is 6,800 feet, with a 9,500 foot loss. If you have run the course before, you don't need a map. If this is your first time on the Ridge, you are well served to get all the help possible. Maps (photocopies of USGS Topo maps) will be available at the Orientation Meetings. We run on the Sacajawea Peak, Saddle Peak, and Kelly Creek USGS 7.5 minute series topo maps.
The first 2.25 miles climbs a 1,800 feet vertical rise on a decent trail to the summit of Sacajawea. There will be race personnel on the actual summit, taking down your race number on their check sheets. Failure to get checked-off (missing the peak, not letting them see your number, etc.) will result in disqualification. You must be patient as you approach the summit - there will be a long line - there's no other alternative. We MUST know who made it to the top, and who is on their way to Ross Pass. If you get missed, then you're out of the race. After Sacajawea, the trail traverses across the South Peak and down to a saddle on the ridge. You will find a 4 foot high "chimney" cairn of rocks which marks where you turn right off the ridge to gain the Foothills Trail. This is a steep loose rock drop, which traverses back and forth until you hit the well-maintained Foothills Trail. This is followed until you come out onto Ross Pass. This trail drops and gains elevation at will - there is no other trail around - keep following it. If there is dense fog or low clouds during the race, we often lose people when they come into the meadows of Ross Pass. The checkpoint is at the far end of the pass, and a good trail does head left, then up and over the pass and down Brackett Creek to Bridger Canyon Road. Don't do that! Find the aid station, get checked-off, get refreshed, and hopefully you're on your way before 10am!! If you have encountered physical problems at this stage of the race (this first 1/3rd of the race is the most challenging), now is the time to bag the race, and go down to vehicles waiting a mile down from the pass.
After the Ross Pass Aid Station, you go about 1/4 mile into the forest and find a Ridge Run Cut-off trail that heads left back up the ridge. The rise is about a 1000 foot gain - and the trickiest, footing-wise. Follow markers - look for orange flagging in trees or on rocks, whenever you're not sure where the trail is. Much of the trail is on talus, with no clear trail to follow. Besides contouring around some impassable cliff sections, this trail does pretty much stay on top of the ridge, if you ever have to make a choice. The Bridger Aid Station cut-off time of 4 hours 15 minutes is pretty tough if you've left Ross Pass at 10am. The only other tricky area is approaching Bridger Peak - there is an obvious trail that goes left of the peak - that is a dead-end. Stay to the right of the peak. After Baldy, after you make the initial drop off the peak, there is a main trail that veers off to the right and down into Sypes Canyon. Motor bikes use this trail, and it is well-used. Don't go that way. Look for the cut-off that goes straight ahead, instead of veering off to the right. Stay on the Ridge all the way down. Once you get to the "M", there are only 2 official ways down - the longer way to the right at the bottom of the "M", or the steep version which angles left at the bottom of the "M". Don't use the abandoned gully (original trail) which is off-bounds, and will result in instant disqualification!