What what is like riding a 29er hard tail on that terrain? Did you ever wish you had a FS at any point?
I think a good 29er is perfect for the event, although many people do use a FS.
Personally I find a HT better for the amount of climbing and easier to carry when needed. But my priorities might be different to other people whose aims are to complete the race.
The Pivot LES is awesome downhill though. I used a 120mm fork and dropper seatpost. The relatively slack head angle and dropper make it really capable downhill.