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September 1, 2010 (Girdwood, Alaska) – The North Face Trail at Alyeska Resort at once seems daunting yet approachable. The trail, which opened August 2009, has the makings of a classic mountain adventure – vertical gain, multiple switchbacks and endless valley views. To celebrate both its accessibility and steep nature, the 3rd annual North Face Vertical Challenge Climb-a-thon is scheduled for Saturday, September 11, 2010, rain or shine.
This endurance event encourages participants to walk, hike and run up the North Face Trail of Mt. Alyeska and ride the aerial tram down with the goal of logging in as many laps as possible between the race hours of 9:00AM to 7:00 PM. Last year, the race attracted 51 competitors, up eight participants from the year prior.
The top competitor of last year’s race completed 11 full laps. John Collins of Anchorage placed first for the men’s category and Karen Williams of Anchorage, won the women’s division with nine laps. The total elevation gained by John equals 24,200 vertical feet, exceeding the summit elevation of Mount McKinley (Denali) at 20,320 feet.
“The North Face climb-a-thon brings out the best mountain trail runners in the region,” says Brian Burnett, Alyeska Resort Mountain Services Manager. “These top athletes get a chance to log the same elevation as some of the world’s tops peaks including Annapurna, Aconcagua, and Denali.”
The summer climb-a-thon is a complement to the winter version known as the North Face Vertical Challenge, a downhill race typically held in early March. The competition involves taking taps on the Alyeska Tram from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM with the goal of completing as may laps as possible. The first race held in 2009 drew 43 contestants total, nine women and 34 men. The top contender for the men’s division, Aaron Stiassny from Girdwood, completed 40 runs for over 80,000 vertical feet of skiing. The top woman finisher, Kate Mohatt of Girdwood, finished 28 runs totaling 56,000 vertical feet of skiing. Combined, the racers completed 1,209 tram rides that accumulated 2,448,225 vertical feet on the North Face.
Participants of all fitness levels are encouraged to register for the Vertical Challenge Climb-a-thon. The entry fee is $20 in advance per participant and $30 on race day. There are also family discounts available. Registration can be made in advance online at www.alaskamountainrunners.org. Racers will meet at the Alyeska Aerial Tram at 8:00 AM on the day of the race. This event is presented by Alaska Mountain Runners.