BELLINGHAM -- After many hours on their feet, battling the heat and humidity as they made their way from Bellingham Bay to Mount Baker and back, the three men running toward history faced another tough challenge deep in the night.
Sometime around 2 a.m. Aug. 3, Bellingham ultra-runner Daniel Probst said, they were all having issues with what he called the “sleep monsters” as they tried to finish the second half of their 108-mile challenge.
Probst could barely stay awake. One of the other runners, California resident Beat Jegerlehner, was falling asleep as they walked down Mosquito Lake Road; he would walk off the road or into Aaron Poh, a Bellingham runner who was the other participant.
“No one wanted to stop and sleep,” Probst said.
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But they had to, so they stopped and found a spot in grass along the side of the road — and slept for 15 minutes. It was the only sleep they’d had since snatching about 20 minutes when they reached Sherman Crater on their way to summiting Mount Baker on Saturday, Aug. 2.
Then they got up, and kept going.
Daniel Probst had organized the run, hike and climb from Bellingham Bay to Baker and back.
It marked his fourth attempt at completing the route. Bad mountain weather thwarted two of the previous attempts, and Probst managed to summit during one of the other attempts but couldn’t finish the return run.
The founder of running group Cascade Mountain Runners, he organized the attempts to show such a feat could be accomplished, with the goal of launching a new Mount Baker Ultra Marathon in June 2015. The course will be different for the new race.
The attempts also were a tribute to the Mount Baker Marathon, a competition that lasted from 1911 to 1913 and was the forerunner of the Ski to Sea race.
Back then, competitors raced from Bellingham to either Glacier or east of Deming by car or by train, and then ran 14 to 16 miles to the summit of Mount Baker before retracing their steps to Bellingham.
Runner Joseph Galbraith, a 19-year-old homesteader from Acme, won the race in its first year. His daughters like Probst’s ideas.
“Our family is eager to support Daniel Probst’s vision of recreating the Mount Baker Marathon,” said Edmonds resident Gail Galbraith Everett.
“Winning the 1911 marathon was a high point in our father’s life and has become a touchstone in our family history. This new race will be yet another milestone to commemorate an historic event.”
She added: “We’re glad the name Galbraith is helping to celebrate fitness and the joy of being in the mountains. Whatcom County has a history of promoting these values and we’re pleased to be part of it.”
For Probst, the effort is about more than starting a new race.
He wants to showcase the area’s natural beauty, to revive the spirit of the original Mount Baker Marathon, and pull together a long-desired trail connecting Bellingham to Mount Baker, pointing out the latter has been a wish going back to a 1911 article about the marathon in what was then the Bellingham Daily Herald.
“These are the words that inspire our efforts to see a trail to Mount Baker finally built,” he said. “It’s been over a 100 years since these words were written and they still hold true today. It’s our intention to revive the race and bring attention to this project for the benefit of the community and the local economy.”
To make new history, the three men started running from a beach off Cornwall Avenue at 12:15 p.m. Aug. 1, after a breakfast of waffles and crepes with plenty of fruit.
“Friday was extremely hot and humid,” Probst said. “We had friends that met us at the North Lake Whatcom trailhead with drinks and Popsicles for our climb up Stewart (Mountain).”
When they got to the Acme Diner, they stopped and ate bacon and eggs and milkshakes.
After that they kept going, eventually starting their climb up Mount Baker from the Ridley Creek Trail a little after 3 a.m. Saturday. It would be about an 8,000-foot climb in hot temperatures — heightened by heat radiating off the snow. They reached the summit at 2:25 p.m. Saturday.
They got back to the trailhead about 10:30 or 11 that night.
“We were all fairly dehydrated,” Probst said.
Chris Duppenthaler took photos as they climbed toward the summit.
“Most mountain climbers would consider that an extremely long day,” said Duppenthaler, who works for mountaineering gear maker SMC in Ferndale. “These guys, especially Dan, are truly dedicated and talented athletes.”
At the summit, Probst surprised everyone with doughnuts from Bellingham’s Rocket Donuts that he hauled up the mountain to celebrate and to help fuel their return trip.
In all, it took them 48 hours and 17 minutes to complete the trek.
“I’m relieved,” Probst said. “I knew that we could do this. It took a lot longer than I thought it would.”
He said the real work now begins.
“Now that we’ve done it, I can move on to the next steps in seeing the entire vision happen,” Probst said. “It’s a little scary, too, because now I have more things to work on, more challenges that are not just me against the trail, that may be more difficult than just running up the mountain.”
That includes getting permits for the race he’d like to launch, raising money, and working with local governments to make it all happen.
“But having completed this run gives me the confidence to continue on the task of making this happen,” he said. “And that’s what I needed.”