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

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mud Lake Redundency. Redundency. Redundency. Redundency.

So I ran up to Mud Lake again tonight after work. Again. For the 100th time this year. Ran around the neighborhood block first on my way there. Again. Turned around at the "lake" like I usually do. Again. Then I ran home. Against me this colder than normal spring is! It just has not warmed up here yet! At all! I think we've had like 1 day so far over 60 degrees and barely at that so here we are, mid-May, and every trail off the valley floor still contains large quantities of snow. I've yet to set foot on a snow-less trail so far this year. Nothing has melted off. Except for Mud Lake (which really is more of a really steep road than a trail) and possibly the Aspen Trail (but it doesn't have too much to offer in the form of elevation gain). So here I sit all broken-hearted. And you know the rest. But really, it's not that big a deal. I go other places for a run. And this summer, at least we won't be in such a water shortage and high fire-danger. And the wildflowers should be spectacular! How about that summer...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pocatello 50 - Preview

For those running the Pocatello 50 in three weeks (or those interested in catching a glimpse of what us yahoos will be doing while we're out running), here's a preview of the first two sections (32.5 miles) of the course.

Mile 4. Top of the first 1,000ft climb (el. 6200ft) looking south over Mink Creek at still-snow-covered Scout Mtn. Leg 3 climbs due south along the west slope of Scout (the right side of the peak in this photo), turns east up to a saddle south of the summit, then ascends the south ridge to the long, rolling road to the top before dropping back down over the northeast slope via a loooooong glissade. Yaaaaaaay! Only 39 miles to get there!

Mile 4. From roughly the same spot looking north at Pocatello.

Mile 6. Blissful rolling singletrack!

Mile 10. Sign of things to come. Turn-off from the Gibson Jack trail and beginning of the brutal, thigh-burning, calf-busting, lung-searing, off-trail, straight-up 1,500ft climb. Sah-weet! This is definitely one of the unique trademarks of this race and something that makes this event so challenging. (Don't end up skewered like this guy, there's a long ways to go)

Mile 10.5. Follow the ribbons and rock cairns. When in doubt, go straight up!

Mile 11.5. Looking south back down the climb from the top (el. 7200ft).

Mile 11.5. Same place looking northwest. There's a mile stretch of flat road here on top before the wild descent down. So far, there was only minimal snow patches on the trail which will surely be melted off in three weeks.

Mile 12.5. Beginning of the descent and likely the first encounter with snow. The descent is on a steep, rugged, rocky, switcbacking road with sporadic patches of snow, ice, mud, and runoff likely. Fun! After a couple miles, a left turn is taken onto buttery singletrack through the grassy fields and dumps out onto the first major aid station at the end of leg 1 at mile 16.9 (el. 4500ft). Whew! Better hope you haven't trashed your quads already!

Climbing out of the aid station is the beautiful City Creek trail. Definitely one of the prettiest stretches of the entire course. So gentle is the climb for 3 miles, but then comes the true test: The crap chute! At first, I thought there was less snow than last year and surprisingly no runoff streaming down.

But I was wrong. At this point, there is more snow than last year (much of it should melt...?) and the runoff didn't appear to have begun yet. This could very well turn into the same slick, muddy, sloppy, slippy climb up a river of melting snow that I remember. Yeeeaahhh! Definitely one of the highlights of the race!

After reaching the crest at mile 22 (el. 7200ft), there's a long stretch of smooth rolling doubletrack that slowly descends to the next aid station at mile 26. From here, there's a 500ft climb that could also still have snow patches unless the weather turns quite warm. It's all north facing and shaded and this is what it looks like now. Mostly snow-covered and pretty slow-go'in.

After the crest of that 1 mile climb, the trail is mostly flat or gently downhill for the next 2 miles. Most of this snow should be gone by race day as it's almost gone now and sits out in direct sun. This was a slooooooow slushly section for me with all the stretches of slush to slog through.

Mile 29. Turn off onto the West Fork Trail (el. 6200ft) and 1,000 ft to go to the end of leg 2. Again, on a north facing, shaded slope. If it's not too warm over the next three weeks, there could still be snow here too. But with warm temps, it could melt off quickly.

I didn't mess with the third section as it clearly had alot of snow on it and I knew finding the yet unmarked route would be darn near impossible and maybe a tad bit dangerous. Expect a long 10 mile climb up to the summit and a quick glissading descent off the top!
I absolutely love this course. Always something new. Always amazing views. And such an incredible variety of trail conditions: Smooth & rocky, steep & flat, muddy & dusty, snowy & dry. A perfect and enjoyably brutal challenge.
Are you ready?
Geez! I almost forgot to post the photos from the Smith trip a month ago! Wow, has it already been a month??? Susane and I drove out to Smith and met up with Joe for a long weekend of "spring" climbing that was unfortunately not as spring-like as we would've liked. But we still got some good climbs in between the sideways rain and the snow squalls.

Day 1:

Hop on Pop 5.8
Pop Goes the Nubbin 5.10a
Snuffy Smith 5.9
Nine Gallon Buckets (lower anchor) 5.9
Five Gallon Buckets 5.8

Snuffy Smith

Day 2:
Captain Xenolith 5.10a
Helium Woman 5.9
The Outsiders 5.9

Captain Xenolith

Captain Xenolith

The Outsiders

Day 3:

The Purple Headed Warrior 5.7
Anclostoma 5.9
Ginger Snap 5.8 + Cinnamon Toast 5.7 (w/ 2 pitch rappel)

On the crest of the Dihedrals looking West at the Cascade Volcanoes. ???

(I see Black Butte. The one on the right)

Rappelllllllll!!! Bye Joe!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

R2R2R + R2R

A striking and spectacular vantage 1,500 ft above the Colorado while descending the South Kaibab Trail

Staring at my slowly shuffling feet. Face expressionless. Body virtually unresponsive. Other than the slow, perpetual movement of the unending wood steps beneath my feet and my heaving breaths, I sense nothing else in the world. Except maybe the seconds that have become minutes that have become hours. Just over nine of them. Finally, the top will be reached in a few more minutes. And then I'll be able to rest.

I took a fairly last minute trip to Arizona in late April to visit family in Phoenix and, while I was there, I thought I may as well run the R2R2R being so close by. I packed my things, flew into Phoenix late Tuesday night, picked up the rental car, and began the drive north on I-17. I was exhausted. I pulled over to sleep. When I awoke, it was practically dawn. So much for an early start for the run...

The forecast was gloomy. Rain showers, snow flurries, wind...etc. No bailing. Never once considered it. I was here to run. I pulled into Mather Campground to refill water bottles and drove out to the Yaki Point parking area. To say it was raining would be an understatement. It was a downpour. Just so you know, in case anyone is looking for a run-worthy, lightwieght, packable, and exceptionally waterproof rain jacket that I just couldn't imagine being any better, check out the Marmot Essence. This is a no-frills jacket. One chest pocket. No vents. But in a downpour, it keeps me totally dry. And that's totally rad.

I left the South Kaibab Trailhead (el. 7,000 ft) at 8:00am and this is what I was looking at. It was absolutely pouring. Bummer. The middle of the trail was a river of fast-flowing mud mixed with mule urine and feces. Double bummer. And four minutes down the trail... BAM... the business end of a loooooooong mule trail. Trifecta. Luckily, the aft-most mule train captain somehow noticed me behind and yelled up to the mule train captain in front to stop and let me pass. It took all of about 2-3 minutes. But I still wished I had left ten minutes earlier!

After 20 minutes and 2,000 ft down, the rain finally let up and I took off my jacket. It was much warmer down here too. And there were a surprising amount of people going down and coming up given the nasty weather and it being a Wednesday. And then, about 20 minutes and 1,000 ft below, on a striking red/green plateau, I froze in my tracks. I stared, unmoving, witnessing one of those sights beyond beauty. There were others doing the same. Nothing moved. It was silent. I could've stayed a while, but I couldn't. In that moment, time seemed to stand still, but it wasn't. I had to keep moving. Quickly. I packed the camera away and continued down knowing full-well that it would probably be a long time before I witnessed anything like that again here.

The most beautiful of Grand Canyon scenes

I hit the black bridge (el. 2,500 ft) in 57 minutes, crossed the Colorado and continued right on past Phantom Ranch without stopping. I knew I could make it to Cottonwood with the two bottles I started with. It wasn't especially warm and it was very humid making hydration much easier. I passed through the "box" and continued up the wider part of the North Kaibab canyon reaching Cottonwood (el. 4,000 ft) in 2:15. I refilled my bottles. So far, I had only consumed two, half-bottles. (I had mixed double-strength drink mix into each bottle so I could drink the first half of each at double strength, then fill up and continue on with a normal mixage.)

I hit Roaring Springs Pumphouse (el. 4,500 ft) at 2:35 and floated right on up the trail running virtually all of it (except for the steep stair sections) right on up to the high bridge at 6,000 ft. From there, it began raining steadily again and water was cascading off every cliff face and pouring onto the trail like gigantic showers. I walked/ran most of the rest of the climb until 7,000 ft where snowdrifts remained and became larger and larger as I ascended up to the North Rim trailhead at 8,200 ft where it was solid snow four feet deep.

I hit the North Rim in 4:05. Took two pictures. Ate three Shot Blocks and a half tube of honey roasted cashews. And turned back down the trail.

I made it back to the pumphouse in 65 minutes (5:10) and stopped to refill water. 15 minutes later (5:25), I was back at Cottonwood and cruised on by.

Another 65 minutes (6:30) and I was back at the Colorado refilling water at the spigot just across the creek preparing for the final push. I knew I was getting low on food, but hoped I had anough pep in my step to make quick work of this brute of a climb back up to the South Rim. I slipped into my comfortable and familiar shuffle, up to the bridge, across through the tunnel and began my way up.

I knew right away, this would soon turn out to become more of a struggle than I intended. But then again, have ANY of the climbs back up to the South Rim EVER NOT been a struggle?!?! Nope. Wishful thinking, my friend. Dream on...

The short of it is, I took the last of my food after an hour of climbing at around el. 4,500 ft. I still had 2,500 ft to climb and it would take me another hour and twenty minutes of painful suffering to get there. It became very windy. Very cold. Very miserable. I thought I was going to go delerious. And then, after countless steps up over those %#@#! wood stairs, I was at the top where everything was coated in a fresh white layer of snow for the upper 500 ft.

I was knackered. Finished at 5:10pm, 9 hrs, 10 min after stepping off this very cliff. And very hungry. And very cold. And without any time to rest or recover, I walked back to the car, changed my shorts, and raced off back to Phoenix to pick up my parents at the airport. (Happy birthday Mom! Sorry I was a few minutes late! But it sure was good to see you both!)

The next Monday, after hanging out in Phoenix with family for four days, I found myself again looking across the Canyon, this time on a beautifully bright, crisp spring morning and this time headed down the Bright Angel trail with the intent to do another R2R2R.

Within the first five stepsdown, I knew I was in trouble. My lower calves were still shot from the 8,000 ft of descending stairs from the Wednesday prior. I'd been stretching, massaging, wobbling, recovery-ing both calves ever since, but it still just hadn't been enough time. Every step down over those steps was a shocking pain. And the Bright Angel Trail has WAAAAAAY more steps than the South Kaibab. I began to realize for the first time just how much these two trails differed. I was concerned about the 24 mile trip across to the north rim and even more concerned about the return trip. Surely, the climb up Bright Angel would put me in a dark, hellish, pain cave with nothing but my own tortuous thoughts to comfort me. I began to long for the smooth stair-less sections of the South Kaibab trail and I thought about having dinner with Grandma back in Phoenix later that day, and taking a walk through the neighborhood that evening to listen to the doves, and get some final relaxing pool time in before leaving the following morning and soon I was seriously considering that just making it across the river and turning up the Kaibab trail back to the South Rim was going to be enough of a feat for todays run. Plus, as if giving myself further justification, I thought it'd be good to have a go at running a fair portion of the climb to see just how quickly I could have done it the week before. And... AND!... I'd still have a five mile jaunt along the rim back to the car at the Bright Angel Trailhead. It'd still turn out to be around 25 miles.
It was quite warm at the bottom. I refilled my bottles, read up on how well the reintroduction of the California Condors was coming along in the Canyon (There are now over 300 wild nesting birds up from just 22 at their lowest!), hobbled over to the black bridge, and set off again up the climb. Despite the sore calves, ascending wasn't so bad. Even with the stairs. This trail sure is smoother than Bright Angel! Much more pleasant to run. And even in the heat, I felt good. Not great. But good. Good enough to run the flatter, stairless bits.

Looking down on Boat Beach and the connector trail between the black bridge (S Kaibab) and the silver bridge (Bright Angel). They are only about a half mile apart and are apparently the only two spans across the Colorado in a 277 mile stretch.

Looking over at the silver bridge (far left, kind of camoflauged) and Phantom Ranch (with all the leafy cottonwood trees)

This is apparently a condor nest (bottom of the picture, towards the left).

Here is a close-up. I couldn't tell if that's a bird in there, or not.

About 500 vertical ft below the rim, there were three condors gliding on the thermals above, but I only got a photo of these two. Magnificent. The crowds of people were everywhere, stopped and staring upwards with cameras and binoculars out.

It took me exactly 2 hrs to reach the top from the spigot at the bottom. On a good day, fresh, I think I could hammer this climb in around 1:45. But I'll never be able to do it without descending 4,500 ft first and, more likely, after going up the 5,5oo ft over to the North Rim and Back. But considering I did make a few short stops along the way and I still wasn't fully recovered from the last run, I think a 2 hr climb would be possible after a full crossing. Which means I would be looking at an 8 1/2 hour R2R2R. And, with better weather and no snow on the north side, I think another 15 minutes could easily come off of that and possibly more? Hmmmmmmm... That'll have to wait.