12 Glory Laps in 12 Hours

12 Glory Laps in 12 Hours
Last February 20th, I hiked and skied 12 laps on Mt. Glory. 19,638 feet climbed with skis on my back and 19,638 feet skied to raise money for Camp To Belong. It's snowing again and I'm ready for the 2nd edition! Click the logo for more info and ways to support camp!

Camp To Belong - Elk Mountain Grand Traverse

Camp To Belong - Elk Mountain Grand Traverse
We're racing the Elk Mtn Grand Traverse this March, a 40 mile ski race across the roof of Colorado in the middle of the night! Click for updates on our training and fundraising progress!

Peaked Sports

Peaked Sports
Driggs, ID

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Don't Mess With Moose. Or Asbestos. Or Texas.

I made it up Table again yesterday for my sixth monthly ascent in a row since last November. And although this ended up being my quickest ascent yet from the winter trailhead, it wasn't without it's own set of unique and unexpected challenges.

But first, there's a few things I'd like to address:

Yep, that's me on the April 2010 issue of Ultrarunning Magazine. This photo was taken during this past February's Red Hot 50k near Moab, UT at about mile 3 shortly after the race began. I was surprised when I got a message from my buddy Trevor a few weeks back informing me that I should check out the photo because he was pretty sure it was me. Sho'nuf, there's my backside, running away from the camera. Not exactly 15 minutes of fame or anything (because nobody knows it's me except some of my close friends), but still pretty cool anyway.

Back in January, I broke both bindings on my MSR Snowshoes. Not due to malfunction or accident or anything, but rather due to plain ol overuse. I bought one of the first year's editions back in 1997 and since then, have put probably somewhere between 1-2 thousand miles on them. And I've been perfectly happy with them. No complaints at all. Even when I noticed the aluminum plate that makes up the binding platform had sheared of at the edges, I wasn't disappointed because I was completely satisfied that they had lasted this long with no trouble.

Since then, I've borrowed by buddy Jay's pair of Crescent Moons for two ascents up Table, one in February and one in March, and as grateful as I am to Jay for hooking me up like that with his own pair, I still gotta say I was really happy to get mine back from MSR a week ago fully repaired and ready to go. The MSR design is built more for rugged, backcountry conditions and lends itself well to anything from steep climbs and descents in light n fluffy snow to traversing accross slopes to holding purchase on crust and ice. They just seem to do everything well. Even running! (so long as you get used to the CLAP!-CLAP!-CLAP! every half-second as the plastic shoes rebound up and hit your heel mid-stride before your heel lands back down on them just before you plant your foot on the ground. Everyone will hear you coming if you're running on these!

The Crescent Moon design is shaped more similarly to Atlas, Tubbs, Redfeather, and likely most other snowshoes out there, but they have the added feature of being made with materials that are environmentally friendly. An aluminum frame is used with a suspended, fixed-rotation binding and a polyurethane-like decking material that is PVC free.

Unfortunately, even with the tapered tails, I found myself stepping on the front of one shoe with the tail of the other and tripping myself spectacularly on many occasions. The tubular frames seemed to overlap just perfectly so that it became even more difficult to "untrip" myself as I felt myself falling forward.

The traction system on the bottom was insufficient for both climbing and descending the steep slopes of Table Mtn. I would slip backwards while going up and my feet would skip out from underneath me while going down.
And, to add injury to insult, there was a moment a split instant after my feet skipped out from underneath me while descneding that I found myself suddenly crumpled and collapsed down on top of one of the tails you see here... Which led me to ask the question, "Why design anything sharp and pointy on any piece of backcountry gear that actually sticks up at you?!" In my life so far, I've yet to take a visit to the procto, but I dang near would've had to had I landed and inch over and with any more force.
Which brings me to April. And my first-ever failed attempt at summting Table one week ago. Short story is, it was a beautiful warmish spring day and the groomed track leading into the canyon to the summer trailhead was slush. I wore my hardrocks with no booties because it was so warm. My feet were soaked within minutes. Two hours later, at 9,000 ft, a snow squall moved in, the temp dropped substantially, and I was left with ice-cube feet and two hours of climbing to go through calf-to-knee-deep untracked snow from all the big storms we had over the last two weeks. Game over. I want to keep my toes. I figured I'd try again the next weekend.

And so I did. And this time I laced up my Gore-Tex hiking boots to try and thwart off the slurpy feet as this day was even warmer than last week and the snow was visibly more slushed.

The streams had finally begun to flow. Not much, but this was definitely the early signs of runoff.

I spotted a pheasant stepping slowly into a tree-well just off the road. I tried to get a picture of it, but it had already disappered under the lower tree branches.

In two-three months, I'll be sitting in this creek cooling off after a hard effort in the heat. My Gore-Tex boots were already soaked through by this point 45 minutes after I started. The melting snow contained so much water! I hoped the weather would stay warm(ish) at least most of the way up so I wouldn't have froze toes no mo. I've learned that keeping my toes warm has definitely become the number one most difficult task during these winter Table Mtn climbs.

The lower 2,000 ft of the climb was full of melting rotten snow that collapsed under each weighted step. It was even more difficult due to the heavy slush I had to pick my foot up through. Climbing this section was hard three months ago when I had to break trail through light, fluffy, airy snow, but this was a whole other kind of beast. Exhausting. I saw a moose and her calf about 50 yards to my left about 500 ft up from the bottom and briefly took note for my trip down which would most likely be in the dark. I flashed back to Karl's moose experience at last year's Big Horn 100 and I didn't want to experience anything like that. Eventually, the slush turned into a nice firm settled snowpack and I set out for the summit steadily moving well over the solid surface.
Up on the final approach to the summit, the plateau held such a firm crust that I was hardly sinking in at all and soon I was standing on top 2 hrs, 35 min after beginning the climb and 3 hrs, 25 min after leaving the car. I had to remove my snowshoes because the summit was already mostly clear of snow and covered in scree. One of the more enjoyable summits I've had so far in the last six months. Not too cold. Not too breezy. Just about perfect. (for April)

Looking north. Mt. Moran is the tall black peak off in the distance on the left. Cascade Canyon cuts towards the right and empties into Jenny Lake and Jackson Hole.

Looking south over Hurricane Pass and the spectacular Teton Crest Trail.

Looking west down Teton Canyon and into Teton Valley with the sunset over the Big Hole Mtns.

Sunset with the backside of Grand Targhee Ski Resort. I zipped my pantlegs on and put on my headlamp at this point. I figured I'd reach the bottom of the descent within the hour and be back at the car well under two. What I didn't count on, was picking a route down that led me straight towards a bedded down moose in a thicket of trees about 700 ft up from the bottom. I had been keeping watch for any moose activity and sure enough, there they were about 50 yards directly below me: a pair of yellow glowing eyes in the dark. I saw them blink at me. They blinked again. Okay... going to move back up and to the right a bit to give the moose some moose space. I called Susane. "There is a moose just downhill from me and I'm going to pick another route down, but I wanted to call you because these things are unpredictable and if I get trampled, then I want someone to know where I am." We chatted for a couple minutes while I moved right. "AH! There's another one!" Another pair of glowing eyes in another strand of trees. "Man, these moose are everywhere up here! AH! Two more below me again!" I moved further right and now was sufficiently moose spooked. I didn't see any more after that, thankfully, but it was good to have someone on the phone just in case something drastic happened. We got to talking about house projects and ceiling vents and old homes with asbestos insulation and how if you have an older home, it's best just not to mess with the insulation just in case it is asbestos. And I got to thinking that it's also best just not to mess with moose even though most of them are docile and calm, just don't mess with them so they won't feel threatened and turn violent. Texas breifly popped into mind as well.
Soon I was down at the bottom and I began slogging my way over the four mile stretch of road back to the car with water-logged, sloshing, heavy hiking boots and CLAP-CLAP-CLAPPING snowshoes dragging on my feet. UGH... I'm looking forward to the coming months when I can run this road on dirt!