Bone rattling speed is the name of the game on this course. Setting shuttle beforehand is recommended but not necessary if you don't mind a little hike-a-bike to get back out of the canyon. Be sure to check out the vistas at the overlook and the cool iron furnace at the end of the 2nd stage.
Stage 1 starts on Scott's Run
trail at the campground. Hold on through the babyhead covered descent down to the creek crossing, push through a short climb and then another short descent until the trail makes a 90 degree left turn. Continue climbing all the way back to the gate parking lot. Briefly take the roadside trail out from the parking lot, but stay straight when it turns sharply to the left and head toward the top of Advanced Ski Trail
, this is the start of Stage 2.
The second stage is decidedly less rocky than the first, with almost no turns and a pretty constant grade, it is possible to build up some extreme speeds. There are occasional technical rock gardens and rooty sections to keep you on your toes. At the very end, the trail will turn sharply to the left and cross a fire road. Put the dropper post down and hang on, you're about to hit the steepest section on the course as you drop down about 300' to the base of the Iron Furnace. It is possible to skip this section by making a hard left and following the fire road down to the bottom.
This is a great time to take a break by the confluence of Clay and Quarry runs in the shadow of the furnace. When you are ready, cross the bridge across from the furnace and bear left. After the short steep climb up to the fire road, head right and keep climbing. After roughly a 0.4mi on the fire road, it will begin to level out. Look for the obvious trail on the left and get ready for more -- you guessed it -- climbing on "The Wall
" Trail. Test your climbing grit on the wall and bear to the right at the fork until you reach the top of Rhododendron Trail
Stage 3 is short but sweet. It starts with a fun twisty section with a few large rocks to dodge before straightening out. Three optional jumps on the left keep it pretty interesting. Be careful of the small bridge crossing after the Clay Ridge trail junction on the left. Following the bridge, this section gets pedaly but still fast with minimal climbing. Following a small creek crossing, the trail will begin to steepen up with a washed out loose rock section after which things will smooth out and get really, really fast. Test your nerve with the speed on this one but be careful of loose trail material at the very bottom--lots of wipeout potential here. Repeat the same climb as before but turn left after the wall and go through the campground and Rock City to get to the start of stage 4.
Stage 4 is definitely the crown jewel of this race. At 1.8mi and almost 1000ft of descent, this stage is a test of endurance and technical skill. Starting at Rock City, the stage winds through rhododendron before straightening out and heading down the ridge. This trail rips through some gullied out sections full of rocks and leaves, with some short climbs before making an extreme right-hand turn between some trees around 0.8mi in. This marks the steepest section of trail as it reverses direction and heads towards clay run.
Look for a sharp left at the bottom to pick up the Mont Chateu Trail. Immediately after this left turn is one of the gnarliest loose rock sections just about anywhere. Hold on to your butts and hope you remembered extra tire sealant. After the rock section, the trail will narrow and steepen, but thankfully becomes much smoother. Thread the needle and try to maintain speed while not falling off of the exposed trail into the creek. The very last section is a fun and technical rock/root pile that can get really tricky when wet, but relax! You're finished and now at a classic WV swimmin' hole. Jump in and cool off before crossing the creek and hiking out to Mont Chateau. If you didn't drop a vehicle, it's time to hike/bike your way back up to the top!