Summary: The Needles 50k is one burly, beautiful loop starting from Silver Ridge Ranch in Easton, Washington, connecting Domerie Divide, Thomas Mtn, French Cabin Mtn, Little Joe Lake, Thorp Mtn, Kachess Ridge (aka The Cardiac Needles), and Silver Creek, sharing the last ~16 miles of the Cascade Crest 100 course. This course is tough (as only RD-extraordinaire Rich White would have it!). Due to access, there will only be 2 limited aid stations. Think graduate level mountain run. Prerequisite: 50 mile trail run in 12 hours or less.
Lessons Learned from Race Reports / Important Things to Note
- Course markings and aid stations are minimal
- Climbing often seems relentless
- The climb up to Thorp Mountain (~mile 16) until the 2nd aid station (mile 24.9), where the Cascade Crest 100 course is the same, is the “Needles” section on the CCC 100 course, which is full of steep, technical, exposed climbs and descents, without switchbacks.
- Course is exposed and above treeline above ~4900-5000 feet, so be ready for full exposure during the day at the top of the climbs around miles 2.5-8 (with some dips in there) and between miles 16 and 22.5
- Final descent is steep, rocky and rooty at some points and feels really long.
- Take advantage of the camping included in registration, as you’re right at the start/finish, so no crazy early wake up and drive from Seattle, and bathrooms are at the start (even flushing toilets!) There is also lodging not far away in Cle Elum, including cabins.
- 1st climb is steep, so be ready to hike and don’t get frustrated at the slow start, as the first 10 miles is the hardest
- Second half of the course is more runnable if you have your legs under you still
- Use the creeks and lake after the first aid station to cool off if you feel yourself heating up
- Pay attention to course markings, especially if running alone. Sharp turn at mile 18.
- Bring enough water knowing aid is about every 12 miles. If you’re a heavy drinker, tank up, especially with warm, exposed temps.
- If you’re nervous about getting lost, download the track on your phone so you can track yourself on the course
- Downhills are deceivingly hard as well, some steep, technical ones throughout
- If you like poles, this is the kind of course to use them on
Total gain/loss: 10,000/10,000
Total climbs: 5 major, countless “minor”
- 2600ft/2.7 miles
- 500ft/1 mile
- 1000ft/2.8 miles (with 2 false summits in between)
- 2600/8 miles (with 4 false summits before the final summit; final push to summit is about 800ft/1.2 miles
- 500ft/1.5 miles (with 2 false summits in between)
- From about mile 22 on, you lose about 2300ft with one small pop of about 200 feet around mile 23
Longest climb: 2600/8 miles (with 4 false summits before the final summit; final push to summit is about 800ft/1.2 miles
Steepest climb: 1400ft/1 mile and 500ft/.4 miles
Elevation profile – see Matt Urbanski’s strava
(Race starts in Easton on the bottom of the map and heads counterclockwise. Map indicates that Kachess Beacon Trail around mile 29 is part of the course, which it is not)
Total aid stations: 2
Furthest distance apart: 12.5 miles
Locations: Mile 12.4 and 24.9
What’s available: Typical aid station fare like Coke, chips, pb&j. Because this is a minimally supported event, if you need special food, and because of the long distance between aid stations, be prepared to carry much of your own fuel.
None, but you get to see a lot of the Cascade Crest 100!
Strava activities and GPX files
Prepping for your first ultra? Check out our 7 Steps Towards Running your First Ultra!