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Mountain Home Magazine

Sadism with a Side of Bacon

Feb 01, 2024 09:00AM ● By Linda Roller

Mike McNeil

“They look like hills, they climb like mountains,” says Jeff Stover, creator of the Frozen Snot. The Trails Collective, an organization of trails and trail lovers in fourteen states, agree, naming the Frozen Snot the most difficult event in the northeastern United States in 2021. It is described in a variety of colorful terms, but characterized officially as “a frigid adventure race, a mountain epic, 8.3 to 13.5 miles of frozen insanity.”

To create this level of difficulty Jeff Stover became a sadist. No, seriously. It’s even one of his formal titles. And for good reason. Jeff is a serious hiker who also does mountaineering—he started the Megatransect race, now known as the Boulder Beast, twenty years ago. But after he turned that event over to Dave Hunter, he asked himself: “How difficult a race could we make, given our terrain, at the worst time of the year?” As the designer of some of the toughest races run in this region, Jeff knew the terrain. And the time of the year was easy—the coldest and snowiest. To run a race in late January or early February meant the course needed to be compact, to accommodate the minimal daylight. Jeff knew the extreme inclines and drops available on the Bald Eagle Mountain chain and concentrated on Zindel Park, near McElhattan, and the surrounding area.

These mountains have varied elevations, and the rock patches contribute to both the difficulty and the beauty.

Some of this race is on existing trail, used by the aptly-named Boulder Beast, but some of the trails are available only in the winter, as they’re overgrown during summer.

And since there isn’t much else happening with trail runner/hiker events until April…

Mike McNeil

To create something this crazy, it helps to have lots of like-minded hiking and mountaineering friends. Jeff had that, and the first Frozen Snot, in 2013, was well-attended and well-received. Many of the original runners became volunteers, working throughout the year on behalf of the event. Both Jeff and Luke Ebeling, who took over as race director in 2017, credit Tiadaghton State Forest personnel, all the emergency services folks in the area, and the city of Lock Haven. “Without [the city’s] approval, this couldn’t happen,” Jeff says.

The course is primarily on reservoir land owned by Lock Haven and in Tiadaghton State Forest. Today, over eighty volunteers work this course, providing aid stations, cheering participants, and serving as sweepers. Originally, the beginning of the course was the Army Reserve Center on Pine Mountain Road in McElhattan. When that location was no longer available, Jim and Lori Maguire stepped up and provided a base station at their nearby Restless Oaks restaurant.

About halfway through the first loop, after incredible climbs, just as you descend into the gorge, you smell it. It’s bacon! The world-renowned (of course it is!) Bacon Station is the brainchild of Mike Haffley, who did the race for five years. As a volunteer, he chose to man the aid station in the gorge, as this was a turn that was sometimes missed. Just for fun, he would build a fire for people to hang out and cheer the racers on.

Mike McNeil

“One of my buddies, Pat Vilella, is a butcher. So, I said—bring some bacon,” Mike recalls. The next thing you know, it’s “bacon for everyone.” Joanne Heimer, volunteer coordinator, now lists the supplies required for this station as a tent, fire, and thirty pounds of bacon. (Mike says there were thirty-two pounds fried over the open fire last year.) Mike also does breakfast sandwiches for his volunteers—“I treat them right”—and he ensures that the sweepers, the people who make certain no one is left behind on the course, get their piece of bacon, too. A dedicated worker planning on their bacon can get mighty grumpy if Mike runs out.

The smell alone brings the runners down the mountain, and Mike is recognized for his pork prowess. “I was doing a race in Thurmont, Maryland, where someone saw me and remembered me as the bacon guy at Frozen Snot,” he says.

But this is a grueling course in the dead of winter. It’s Joanne and the safety volunteers who make certain that folks on the Frozen Snot are safe.

“This race is run in ice, foot deep snow, and gales,” she says, so injuries are always possible. “Most sign up for the 13.5 mile race, but racers can drop back to the first loop [8.3 miles]. It’s a hard climb if you decide to continue.” The volunteers on ATVs can transport to medical care. Randy “Gorge Guy” Gillen and Scott “Gorge Hawk” Heimer ferry volunteers and supplies into the many aid stations along the course. If a runner has not made the Bacon Station by 10:30 a.m. (the race starts at 7:30), one of the ATV volunteers will transport them off the course. Runners must make the Zindel Park aid station, which is the link between the first loop (the shorter course) and the second loop (the longer course) by 12:30 p.m.

Mike McNeil

Central Region Trail Friends now administers the race instead of the city of Lock Haven, and it’s listed as an event in the Rocksylvania series, one of dozens of such events, most within an hour drive of Frozen Snot. And the warmth and passion from volunteers and event coordinators are making Central Pennsylvania a mecca for those who love roaming the mountains. Jeff sums it up this way: “When I moved here in 1979, everyone talked about fishing and hunting. Now mountain sports are big here. And Megatransect started it all.”

This year’s Frozen Snot—it’s the twelfth annual—is on February 3. Find out more at

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