Scum Runners

running scummy summer slammer

A rundown of the Scummy Summer Slammer.

We pause to take a break from scrambling up a rock field. The clouds darken with afternoon showers—whether a storm or a light sprinkle, only time will tell. We deliberate: attempt to find a route straight over the rough patch ahead, or follow a clear path down and around the obstacle, which would add more climbing. Considering the weather, we decide to descend. Despite the additional ascent to an already vertically-inclined day, the group doesn’t show any sign of discouragement (dampening the morale of these weathered ultra-runners is a hard task, even for Mother Nature). I, on the other hand—feeling the 33 miles from the day before and the 20 from today—ponder the stunning scenery and wonder how on earth I’m going to make it through the next 12 miles.

It is in moments like these that one must fight tooth and nail to force the mind through pain.

This saga started on Friday, with the jarring tones of a 3am alarm clock. My partner and I decided to get a head start; our goal was to move as slowly as possible that first day. Goodness knows we’d have plenty opportunities to run in the next 80 miles. Every nook and cranny of our running vests was packed with layers, water, first aid, bear spray, and food—enough to fuel us for the next 14 hours of fun. In that first day, there was a moose, bighorn sheep, plenty of route-finding (read: occasional bonus mile), and a desert-like final ten miles sans water in the parching Montana sun. Eventually we were welcomed into camp by the rest of the group (who’d passed us earlier). That night there was food, knitting, river soaking, more food, and a lavish suite in the back of a truck.

Day two began with a five-mile warm-up on Storm Castle Rd. We then traversed old burns with huge patches of purple and yellow wildflowers. We climbed over the ridge into Hyalite, bagging Hyalite Peak before continuing along the Gallatin Crest trail, which is where I now find myself, contemplating my existence and the wisdom of this endeavor.

It is in moments like these that one must fight tooth and nail to force the mind through pain. Here I am, traveling across miles of singletrack through public land, experiencing the vastness of Big Sky country in its full splendor, learning how to move in the backcountry from some of the best. The final section of the day proves no bed of roses, but our perseverance is rewarded at camp two: brew for some, food for all, and freshly-foraged mushrooms cooked like filet mignon—I wouldn’t have known the difference.

This is the Scummy Summer Slammer, and it is a test of grit. Starting at Hyalite Reservoir, the route summits Blackmore, continues south to Storm Castle Rd., jogs back east to Hyalite Peak, then turns south and follows the Gallatin Crest all the way to the finish line at Buffalo Horn Trailhead. A couple miles down the road, the 320 Guest Ranch offers a roof and a meal for the third night. Fatigue, dehydration, hunger, mud (of which there were vast swaths to slop through on day three), injury, storms, and smoke are all things you might face. In 2021, (the first annual Scummy Slammer), there was a dog attack, an injured knee, a few shed tears, and only seven finishers. But this is all part of what makes it a perfect sampling of Bozeman spirit: experienced ultra-runners teaching newbies trail etiquette and safety tactics, the conglomerate camping in trucks and tents, folks joining in the fun as vital support crew, beer soothing tired legs after long days, and of course, the miles and miles of trail through Montana’s public lands.

“There are few places in the country where a person can run 80-plus miles through a protected mountainscape,” race organizers Kyla Maher and Malory Peterson say. “The Scummy is designed to celebrate that privilege with other awesome runners. We don't take it for granted. Also we really just love running, and you should too.”

2021 Stats
Distance: 80.5 miles
Elevation: 20,440 ft
Time: 3 days
Number of Participants: 50-plus (crewing and running)
Finishers: 7
Aid Stations: Storm Castle Road (camp one), Windy Pass Trailhead (camp two), 320 Guest Ranch (final night)
Organizers: Kyla Maher and Malory Peterson

Naomi Ohman is a firm believer that days off are meant to be days out. Among her favorites from last season are the Beaten Path, Old Gabe 30k, the Slammer, the Rut, and the Moab 50k.