High Rim Trail – Oh how I love to hate you!

Resting at the top of the High Rim Trail

We all have that trail. You know the one I am talking about, the one that always seems to beat you down. Your Nemesis.

Well, the High Rim Trail has been my sworn enemy for the last 5 years. I have never been able to complete it end to end. This is not because it is so long, in fact it clocks in just around 60km. The elevation is certainly challenging, not stupid crazy but still 2000 meters (6000ft).

Nope the problem with this bad boy is it is on top of the hill and weather is always a concern. As is trail maintenance, this trail is remote in places and tree blow down is always a concern. The last time I attempted the full trail, we were rained out. For those of you who scoff at a little rain, this is not what I am talking about here. More like torrential down pouring, in single digit temperature. Not fun!

Like any addicted, obsessive runner I was not ok with quitting. It has haunted me for the last two years. So, of course I booked in another “tour of duty” on this bad boy. I mean, I have already been rained out and turned back by an unpassable road block, this time had to be different. Right?

The day started off cool. Overcast but dry. So, that was something.

Climbing up to the High Rim trail

Straight out of the car you head up the aptly named Heart Attack Hill. Somewhere around 600 meters of elevation gain in under 5km. For those keeping score that is an average of 12% grade. Ya, f—k you trail!

At least the views are worth it though.

View of Kelowna from High Rim Trail

The next 10km are probably the best of the entire trail. Gentle rolls with a well packed and marked trail. Don’t worry it wouldn’t last.

Running some nice rolling trails

It wasn’t long before we entered what we cheerfully named Jurassic World. Considering the valley in this area is arid, I am always shocked at how wet it is on the hills.

Overgrown trails

And, just as a sign of things to come. This is where we started to get wet, and by wet I mean soaked. The leaves on the plants were huge and happily full of water.

Despite this we were moving along pretty good. Until… we weren’t. With the heavy plant growth, we couldn’t really see where our feet were landing. I had no more than said, “We should probably slow down” then I heard a grunt and some cursing behind me.

My running mate, Owen, had turned is ankle. Badly. And, why wouldn’t he? We were all of 15km into the run. Grrrr… this trail was set against us.

Owen is one tough dude though. He gritted his teeth and declared himself fit to continue. I had my doubts, but if anyone could continue it would be Owen.

Resting a sore ankle

One thing that we were not worried about this time, is getting lost. Traditionally, this is a concern on this trail. It is remote and in active logger country, which means a lot of trees can be cut down from year to year. Not only does this mean that the trail markers disappear but in some cases the entire trail.
But, this time we had a GPS file. Ironically, it had to be stitched together from previous trips, but still it worked like a charm and saved our ass a few times.

Since, this is a long trip. We wanted to have at least some type of support. The day before we were able to stash a few supplies where the trail crosses some forestry roads. A pain in the butt the day before, but a godsend on the actual run. In total, we had 3 stashes, at roughly 12km, 30km and 42km.

After Jurassic World, the trail takes a serious downturn. Crazy amounts of deadfall scattered the trail like match sticks. Climbing over the trees was both difficult and dangerous, not to mention time-consuming. Our pace, slowed to a crawl. Literally.

Deadfall on the Trail

Yup, just what we wanted. Slowing to a crawl right after getting soaked. Yah, F—k you trail!

After nearly an hour of negotiating the deadfall, we finally were able to get back to running. Although, it was still in spurts. This section is remote, and trail maintenance is non-existent. But, still we were making good progress for this section.

And then we got lost.

I mean seriously, the trail was there one second and then it wasn’t. Since we are men and clearly don’t need to look at a map or our GPS watches, we spent the next 30-40 minutes wandering around in circles. In the rain! Sigh… F—k you trail.

It really was only a matter of time. Being that we were on top of the hills we could see the weather coming at us. But, did it have to come after we were already cold from slowing our pace?

At some point during this debacle we decided to actually pay attention to our GPS watches. And what do you know? We found the trail in about 30 seconds. A nice runnable section, so at least we were able to get our core temperature back up.

Next stop, was at 30km or halfway, we had a good food stash here that we were able to access and gained back some of the calories we had burned. More importantly we had stashed a BEER! Sweet nectar of the gods.

Unfortunately, we were now getting cold. After hours of being soaking wet on top of the mountains, not really a big surprise. But, we soldiered on. A small blessing, if you can call it that, is we started another big climb right after our food stop. If, nothing else it certainly got our core temperature up.

Log bridge on trails

For the next five or six kilometres the going was pretty good. We were slow,but the trail was mostly runnable. Owen’s ankle was slowing him a bit but nothing drastic. But, then the trail maintenance became an issue. Blow down, flooding and just generally not runnable. And of course, it was STILL raining.

We stumbled in to our last supply drop freezing cold and bitter. I was ready to tap out. But, this is where having a running mate paid off. Owen was in pain, but his spirits were still up. With only 20km left to go he talked me into continuing. Truth be told, we didn’t really have a choice since dropping out would have included at least 15km of running forestry roads.

At this point I was f—king cold. My choice of jackets and running gear was definitely coming into question. But, like most things just starting the final leg was half the battle.

Within 15 minutes of leaving our cache, the sun started to break out. There are no words for how nice this was. Our pace picked up a bit, but to be honest with 40kms on our legs already there was nothing to brag home about.

Owen had been running the last 25kms on a seriously sprained ankle and it was starting to show. We were both looking forward to this last section because of how runnable it was. It had a huge descent that we were hoping would allow us to claw some of the lost time up. But, the technical downhills were proving too much for his abused ankle and we had to slow quite a bit.

Fortunately, the rain was gone for good and the sun was now starting to warm things nicely. Besides being slow, the last leg was fairly uneventful. We finished up just under 12hrs after we started. Luckily, we had stashed one celebration beer on ice in the car!

Mission finally accomplished! I am super glad that I finished the trail, but not planning on trying it again because… f—k you trail!

If you are a glutton for punishment, here is the Strava file.

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