Juneau Ridge Race for Beauty and Brawn

    The Mt. Juneau Ridge has some of the most scenic views in Southeast Alaska. (Klas Stolpe / KINY)

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The second Juneau Ridge Race, a 15-mile outing that features breathtaking scenery and some initial vertical ascents, is set for Sunday, June 27, and approaching its registration capacity of 100 participants.

      The inaugural race was run in 2019. The race wasn't held last year due to the pandemic. 

      Race directors Geoff Roes and Bryan Hitchcock noted a slight change in the course from 2019.

      The run will still start and finish in Cope Park.

      The first two-and-a-half miles still has participants running a slight loop through town and past the Capitol, up Basin Road to Perseverance Trail and up to the Mount Juneau Trail head, where the real vertical climb begins. At the end of four miles, participants will be on the summit of Mount Juneau and, heavy legs notwithstanding, can start to enjoy the three-mile ridge and the snow glissade at the backside of Juneau Ridge down into the far side of Granite Basin.

      “Then back down Granite Basin Trail to Perseverance Trail,” Roes said. “And then this year there is a little bit of a change from the last time we did this. We’ll hop onto the flume, since the flume reconstruction is done, and we’ll head across the flume down into the neighborhoods on that edge of the Highlands.”

      Roes said interested participants should not be intimidated about the course.

      “Many haven’t done the route before or only a few times and they don’t feel that comfortable knowing the route,” Roes said. “In that sense, I want people to know that we mark the course really, really thoroughly and if it is expected to be any kind of inclement weather, we mark it even more. And we have volunteers at several points along the way, including people who rove along the ridge making sure people are safe and on track.”

      There is also no real race cut off time.

      Roes is a proponent of getting people outdoors and enjoying nature.

      “We don’t really cut anybody off,” Roes said. “We don’t have an official limit where if you are not at this point by a certain time we turn you around. We do sort of encourage people if they don’t get to the summit of Mount  Juneau in a certain time to consider turning back just, essentially, for their own safety at that point just for the amount of time they might be out.”

      That suggestion will be given to those who take two-and-a-half to three hours to reach the summit.

      “If people want to be out there all day, if they are on that part of the pack, we encourage them to be out there and we will do everything we can to support them being out there,” Roes said.

      The Juneau Ridge is a popular attraction.

      “Obviously the scenery is the biggest thing,” Roes said. “Probably a lot of people have been up on Mount Juneau Ridge and it is one of the most beautiful places in the world. And also just the community, social feel of being out there doing this really, really cool beautiful route with 60 to 90 other people that love the same thing.”

      This year the race is part of the Alaskan Mountain Running Grand Prix series, a series of mountain races mostly centered around south-central Alaska but expanding throughout the state.

    “Because of that we have a lot of people from up north in Anchorage signed up,” Roes said. “And several people from all over the Lower 48. People from seven or eight different states have entered. Quickly, in just our second year of doing it, it has become just a little bit more than just a Juneau local event.”

    Roes said while there will be some professional runners in the race, the event should not be intimidating for the weekend runner or hiker.

      “We do have some really high level, what I would almost call world-class runners that are planning to run,” he said. “If doing this kind of route is something you are interested in but a little nervous about, then doing it in an event like this might be one of the best opportunities. You are going to have a lot of support out there, both logistical and safety support and course markings. But also just encouragement from other racers and race volunteers. In some ways it is going to be an easier time to go do the Juneau than if you just go do it on your own. And some people get worried about the snow. The good thing this year is there is so much snow that it is not going to be transitioned into that later-season, really hard firm icy surface by June 27. It’s still going to be pretty forgiving and it won’t be punchy soft where you are sinking in but it will be soft enough that, for some of the descents that are required on snow will be a lot safer and more comfortable than they would be at, say, the end of July.”

      Registration for the Juneau Ridge Race is at ultrasignup.com. Registration deadline is June 25.

      Volunteers can contact Roes at Grroes@yahoo.com. Options for volunteering can range from the entire race or 20 minutes of time.


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