Mountain Fever

There’s a bug going around my town. Almost everyone I know seems to be catching it, myself included. It starts out pretty gentle and slowly grows to consume huge amounts of one’s time, energy, and focus. In the beginning, it’s nothing more than a desire to get out and run or hike a few of the local trails, but slowly the established trails aren’t enough, and you only find full satisfaction when you get off trail and check out places that you’ve never been before.

I’ve been fighting off this bug for a few years now. When I leave Juneau and head to Colorado for the winter it seems to lessen in severity. I think having fewer places available where I can get off the beaten path seems to decrease my need/desire to do so. Each spring though, when I return to Juneau, the bug seems to come back stronger than before. This season it seems to have doubled or tripled in severity. I don’t consider a run a “long run” anymore unless I am out for 7+ hours, and almost every time I do this, I seek out places to go that I have never been before. This is starting to take me to some amazingly remote, wild, and secluded places. On my 9+ hour outing today, I spent the middle six hours in a valley that I had never been in before, that few people have ever been in before. I saw numerous signs of wildlife, including wolverine, bear, wolf, marmot, and mountain goat. I did not see signs of any humans having ever been there before.

All told, I have done about seven or eight of these outings in the last month, and it doesn’t feel like enough. The bug seems to be hitting stronger and stronger every day. They say that misery loves company, and I feel like this bug is spreading quicker and stronger than ever before. In the past, my options have been quite limited in terms of potential partners to try to get to join me on these outings. Now though, it seems like almost no one ever says no. It has risen to near epidemic proportions. When I recently put in a 42-hour week of running in the mountains, a friend of mine here put in more than 33 of those with me. He could hardly walk by the end of it, but overall his body seems to be handling this bug just fine. Beyond this, the mountains around here seem to be crawling with people who are just starting to come down with a little something. On one recent heavy bout with the bug, when the weather was warm and sunny for three straight days, there were people out spreading the bug around everywhere.

One of the craziest things about this illness is that coming in contact with anyone who has it seems to elevate your symptoms, even if you’ve had it yourself for quite some time. Seeing people out on four or five-hour mountain runs, who don’t even consider themselves to be “runners” has a way of making me even more excited to get out each day.

I think at some point I need to find a bit of a cure for this disease, but right now I only see myself getting more and more “sick” in the weeks to come. I hope some of you are having the same bug going around this summer. If so, just don’t forget to eat, sleep, and drink lots of fluids.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)
What strain of trail fever do you have? Is it getting worse? Who did you catch it from and are you spreading it?

There are 30 comments

  1. joe

    My sickness is very progressive. Every week I seek out a new route that is more challenging then the last. Not sure when it will end but usually the weather or a end of season race is the cure.

  2. Bobby Dixon-Kim

    I was looking for a trail to hike so I wouldn't spend most my days at one of the local portland brew pubs. However, since I couldn't bare the feeling of walking on these trails I ran them! Now I want more and I will keep doing more. I wonder when I will start calling myself a runner? Probably never, because if theres no dirt under my feet I wont run on pavement!

  3. Myles Smythe

    Geoff, I can guess the bug is easy to catch, especially when the sun does not go down for very long, in Alaska, this time of year. More easy hours of fun.

    I especially like to explore every turn on my home trails. So I no longer have to wonder, "where does that go?"

    1. Jared F

      I live further north in Anchorage, but last night I didn't get back to my car until after 7, still plenty of light! I did a "run" last week in the mountains and didn't get back to the car until almost 10, one of the awesome parts about Alaska summers!

  4. art

    I am spending some time mountain running this summer, no races till September.

    Not too many places here where no human has been, but plenty where I've never been.

    Don't think I'll be putting in too many 42 hour running weeks though.

  5. Twardzik

    What a fun and super motivating read! I need to quit working 42 hours a week and doing what u do 42 hours a week. Ur a lucky man and I love to hear u happy and loving every minute of it. Sounds like heaven. Keep writing, it's cool to hear about these remote areas.

  6. John

    Awesome to hear. I think during the the June camp up there in Alaska you either passed the bug to me or just increased the severity of the symptoms.If mountain fever really is a disease maybe we can spread it to the rest of the population. I have a feeling it would probably fix a lot of our problems!

  7. Chris

    While most of the US blazes away, here in WA the summer hasn't even kicked in yet. That said, I've been working on getting sicker and sicker since early March with trips up and down local mountains.

    The problem is, now that the weather seems to have really taken a turn for the better, I'm laid up with a broken ankle. Suck. But… I did enjoy the beauty of Colchuck Lake for a day before getting a very memorable (and scenic) heli ride back to civilization!

    Be nimble on your feet out there, friends, and enjoy every minute!

  8. ED

    I got it. Spent 38 hours in the last 2 weeks moving in the mountains. Includes a summit of the 14er Mt. Russell in the California Sierras. Also a 15hour failed(but close) (and beautiful) attempt on Mt Williamson. Going back for Willy in a week.

  9. Tony Mollica

    Great article! I'd be interested in reading about what Geoff and others take with them for nutrition and hydration when they are out on those long runs.

    1. geoff


      I tend to keep it really simple. Water. Clif gels and Clif shot bloks. on really long stuff i'll throw in a sandwich or a slice of pizza or some other solid food to help the stomach feel a little more full later in the outing.

  10. Al

    Apparently the sickness can be transmitted through the internet too. One quick read of this post and my symptoms feel worse than ever…

  11. Andy

    Yeah, talk about going "viral." CT is definitely not Alaska and it's hard to find the time and the land here to explore where others have not been. But I'll take my 11 hours this past week including some terrain previously unexplored (by me anyway). This is one disease for which there really is no cure, which is a damn good thing. I may be delirious with the fever, but bring it on!

  12. Jeff

    The idea of Colorado being a place with fewer opportunities to "get off the beaten path" sounds awfully funny to someone from the East Coast!

  13. Patrick McKenna

    Noticed that Geoff is still listed as the WS course record holder (see above short bio). Should that be removed now? Hope to see you back at WS soon to break the record again Geoff.

  14. Jared F

    My friend first infected me with the "trail running bug" several years ago with a 16 mile trail run. Since then, the infection has been spreading to the point that now it covers about 60% of my time running. Lately, like yesterday, my runs in the mountains are like what Geoff says, I wonder where this ridge goes? Lets climb that unnamed peak over there and then head down this valley off trail and then connect to the trail over there. All in all, so much fun!

  15. ED

    Just time. I left my house at 0100 drove the 4 hours, climbed to the rim of Willy bowl. it was 1500 and I still had to climb 2000 ft. Turned around and then drove home. 23 hours door to door. Next time going to sleep at trailhead on both sides. Hoping to do it in one slow push, Im thinking 17 hours car to car.

    1. Mark

      My plan: day 1. – get to Anvil and set the camp. 2. Tyndall/back to Anvil 3. Big Willy/back to trailhead (obviously no rush). Heard they like to be climbed together, otherwise get jealous and send a bad weather. Good luck!

      1. ED

        Yea thats a good plan. If you have the legs for the heavy pack a bit longer there is a lake and good spots at the top of Shepherds pass. Puts you closer to the climbing. Or just camp in willy bowl. Anvil has lots of mosquitos and I have heard there r rats. Good luck. Willy has to wait another few weeks for me. Im taking my girlfriend to climb Laurel Mt. this weekend.

  16. Jimmy Mac

    Wow. 42 hours! I'm lucky to get ~10 on the local trails a week. This is why Geoff Roes is a dominant ultarunner and continues to inspire me. Thanks, GR

  17. Rebecca

    Withdrawl symptoms can be devastating. I had to leave the Colorado high country unexpectedly yesteday and head to the midwest for a funeral. Although it has been less than 24 hours since my last run above treeline, I feel like I'm hitting rock bottom. After a short unsatisfying run in 100% humidity on flat grass all I can think to do is look at my pictures from the last few weeks and know I'll be back shortly. It is a sickness!

  18. P Nome

    Yeah, I am in Juneau now and can't stop running these awesome mountains. Not anywhere near as much as you but it certainly is crazy addicting. So easy to get out right from town.


  19. P Nome

    We just returned to Nome. I would have loved to get out! I can't believe I didn't think to connect with you ahead of time. Even in the rain those trails and mountains are a blast.

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