Taking place and running through the highest town in Georgia, the Georgia Sky to Summit 50k is a beast. Featuring 7,500+ feet of gain and peaking the state’s second highest peak. Twice. But it’s not the uphill that racers fear from this course, it’s the brutal downhills. And last week I had the chance to take on the great course, designed and hosted by Run Bum Events. So here is my 2022 Georgia Sky to Summit 50k race report.
2022 Sky to Summit 50k – Race Report
About the Race
The Georgia Sky to Summit is put on by Run Bum Evets and has been running since 2013. Offering three different distances, with a 25k, 50k, and 100k. The 100k distance was new for 2022. And the race typically takes place the first week of November. The course itself it a tough but runnable route with 7,500+ feet of gain through the Blue Ridge Mountains on northern Georgia. Tagging the states second highest point two times. Making it the perfect time to catch the changing leaves. But this can also provide for some unpredictable weather. Here is a link to the Sky to Summit 50k race map and elevation profile.
- 241 Saddleback Dr, Sky Valley, GA 30537
Sky to Summit Elevation:
- 50k = 7,500 ft gain – 11 hour cutoff
- 25k = 3,500 ft gain same loss – 6 hour cutoff
Sky to Summit Race Video
Getting to the Starting Line
Race check in was held the night before in the nearby town of Clayton. Which is larger and has more options for food and hotels. The town of SKy Valley where the race is held is less a town and more of a home community. And doesn’t offer any place to stay or restaurants. When it comes to places to stay there are a few small towns located 20-30 minutes including Clayton and Dillard. Both are really easy to get to.
Parking for the race was mostly paved. And allowed you to park just a few feet from the start. But the finish if the race had you ending about a ¼ mile away from this parking lot. There were 4 port o potty at the start and the lines were very long.
With the race taking place the first week of November in the Appalachian Mountains, the weather can be very unpredictable. For last year’s race it was beautiful but freezing. And this year the day we arrived the temperature was in the mid 70’s. And on race day, of course, it rained for hours. But that didn’t stop us from hitting the trails.
Start of the Race to Aid Station One
The 50k race starts on the road next to the parking lot and the old lodge. And starts by taking you up a paved road for a few miles before turning off onto fire roads and trails. Leading you to the top of Rabun Bald. So you can expect about 3.5-4 miles of climbing right out of the gate. The climbs are steep but do have a few switchbacks so they are not brutal. And very runnable for those that love running uphill.
Once you make Rabun Bald you swing past the fire tower (without going up, yet) and start your descent. The next few miles are flowy downhill with switchbacks and one noticeable climb before continuing to drop in the Wilson Gap aid station. Your first full aid station at mile 7.
Wilson Gap to Darnel Creek to Wilson Gap Aid Station
Leaving your first aid station you will be continuing down but at less of a grade. Leading you to a creek crossing. Which you will then follow as an out and back to a water only aid station. This section past the creek crossing is rolling hills and very runnable. Both ways. And a great section to make up some time.
Once you complete the out and back and get past the creek it’s time to start the big climb back to the top of Rabun Bald. This is the biggest climb of the race, and one of the biggest in Georgia. So get ready. The section out of the creek is full of small steep pushes, then they roll and lead to another climb. Eventually taking you back up to Wilson Gap aid station at mile 15.2.
WIlson Gap to Hale Ridge
Heading out of the Wilson Gap aid station at mile 15 has you heading up and up. Culminating at the top of the Rabun Bald in around mile 20. The climb getting there is a bit deceptive, with the steepest part of the climb happening as you climb the smaller bald to make the ridge accessing Rabun. So it will get steep then send you down a bit before going back up to the top of Rabun Bald. We had a few runners confused by this.
The final climb to the fire tower at the top of Rabun isn’t as steep as other sections and the tower just appears out of nowhere. You go up and tag the top then start the descent. Now this section gets a bit technical for about ¼ mile. This is the steepest trail up Rabun, and you are going down it. Descending 2,000+ feet in about 3 miles. Once you get past the technical section it turns into some steep downhill running. But the leaves give a good amount of cushion which helps.
This will run you right into the next aid station, Hale Ridge at mile 22.
Hale Ridge to the Finish
Leaving Hale Ridge aid station will put you on a fire road that you will be on for the next few miles. There will be a short downhill section leaving the aid station before you start a long climb at a consistent grade. If you have the legs, this section is very runnable. And will climb for about 4 miles before you dump off onto a trail for another few miles.
The Next aid station, Beegum Gap is listed at mile 28.7. But it feels a bit longer with the steady grade of the hills leading to it. But once you are here, it is a short, less than 2 mile bomb down hill. The one thing that does suck is that you will be hammering down that same paved road you originally came up. And we all know how steep pavement feels at the end of a 50k. The good news, it’s short. And pops you above the finish so you see it for the last ¼ mile. Which always gives you a nice finishing rush.
Sky to Summit 50k Aid Station and Post Race Food
As typical for a RunBum Events race the aid stations were fully stocked. With everything from chips and snacks, to bacon and hot quesadillas. They have a good amount of overall options. For drinks they were serving water, Gatorade, sodas, and of course shots of fireball for anyone brave enough. I’d say that the aid stations would be considered above average compared to a lot of other races.
The post race food consisted of vegetarian chili, some donut holes, and a few other snacks. Water, Gatorade, and obligatory cooler full of beer. I’d say it overall below average for a post race meal. But they may have had to keep it light for permit reasons too. And I’ll give the race directors the benefit of the doubt. I’ve never had anything but great experiences with RunBum Events.
Closing Thoughts – 2022 Georgia Sky to Summit 50k Race Report
Even with the hours and hours of rain, I really enjoyed the Sky to Summit 50k course. It’s a great mix of runnable and tough climbs. With some flow and technical downhill thrown in for fun. We were pretty much running in the clouds. But I can imagine that the few wide open views and the fire tower would provide some stunning views if the weather had been good. And I may end up running this one again next year to try and catch some good weather, views, and beat my time from last year. So maybe I’ll see you out there!