By Kie Relyea
The Bellingham Herald
BELLINGHAM — This morning, eight runners will head out from the beach at Cornwall Avenue on the first leg of a 108-mile journey that will take them from Bellingham Bay to the summit of Mount Baker, and then back again.
The event will mark Bellingham resident Daniel Probst’s third attempt at completing the entire route.
The first attempt on Aug. 9, 2013, in which Probst was in a group of four, was thwarted by bad weather that forced them to abandon the effort at the base of a glacier. Two weeks later, Probst went alone and got all the way to the summit, with the help of an American Alpine Institute guide, but couldn’t complete the return run.
This time, he hopes to complete the entire thing with the other seven participants. They will run, hike and climb together — with no planned breaks for sleep over the course of 40 hours — from the beginning on Friday morning to the end.
Four of the runners will be from Bellingham. The others are from Seattle, Canada and California.
Probst, an ultra-runner, said there were a number of goals for the event, which will follow a pace that can be maintained by the participants.
“We’re not looking to go as fast as we can. It’s more to prove that it’s possible,” the 35-year-old Probst said.
The founder of running group Cascade Mountain Runners, he organized this year’s event with the goal of planning and launching a new Mount Baker Ultra Marathon, tentatively set for June 2015.
The route will follow a proposed national recreation trail that will go from downtown Bellingham to the reconveyance land that’s been dubbed the new Lake Whatcom Park and into Acme. It will eventually link up with the trail system that was used by what Probst calls the original mountain runners, over 100 years ago, to summit Mount Baker.
Those were the participants in the original Mount Baker Marathon, a short-lived competition that was the forerunner of today’s Ski to Sea race. Lasting from 1911 to 1913, the race was known for its danger, the devil-may-care attitude of its competitors and even some intrigue among competing towns.
“The Mountain Runners” is also a documentary about the race created by Bellingham filmmaker Todd Warger.
There will be some similarities between the forerunners and this attempt.
The fickle weather, for one. “The weather is one of the biggest challenges,” Probst said.
The presence of a Diehl is another.
Back in 1911, Hugh Diehl drove “Betsy,” his modified Model T Ford, to transport runner Joe Galbraith to the downtown Bellingham finish line in the inaugural Mount Baker Marathon. Galbraith, a 19-year-old homesteader from Acme, won the race.
Back then, competitors raced from Bellingham to Mount Baker by car and by train, then ran to the summit of Mount Baker before returning to the finish line.
This year, Bob and Mike Diehl of Diehl Ford in Bellingham will drive the support van on the first leg of the run to Acme.
One of the eight runners will be 25-year-old Bellingham resident Emily Morehouse, who looks forward to the endurance of it all.
“I’ve always liked getting out and pushing my body and, recently, doing more mountain adventures,” she said. “Being out in God’s creation and pushing myself feels right. Pushing myself harder and longer is an amazing feeling.”
The other runners will be Bruce Grant, Beat Jegerlehner, Suzanne Lundberg Gamble, Deb McInally, Jackie Muir and Aaron Poh.