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, August 29, 2010

Grand Teton Ascent - Almost

Made an attempt up the Grand Teton yesterday. Looking at the weather forecast on Friday, the idea was to get an early start Saturday morning to beat the thunderstorms that were predicted for that afternoon. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to outsmart the weather... the weather wins.

MikeE and I left Lupine Meadows at 4:30am.

2 hours later at 10,000ft above Garnet Canyon Meadows looking at the wispy clouds billowing over the Middle Teton. No cause for alarm.

Around 7:30am looking up at the Lower Saddle. All systems go.

Upon reaching the saddle at 11,500ft, we caught our first glimpse of the building dark grey storm cell moving towards us from the SW corner of Teton Valley, ID. All we needed was 2 more hours.

Our ascent to the Upper Saddle at 13,200ft was highlighted by deterioring weather conditions that began with a few tiny flecks of snow towards the bottom and ended with a full scale blast of stinging 40mph sleet/snow and a close-range bombardment of lightning and thunder. We were in the thick of it with visibility down to 50 yards at times. By the time the lightning and thunder began, we were already on our way down from the Upper Saddle having already made the decision to not go past the Belly Roll (pictured above) and on to the Crawl and the much more exposed portions of the upper peak. Climbing wet rock in a lightning storm on the exposed summit was not part of our agenda.

Leaving the upper Saddle.

Eye of the Needle

Once back on the Lower Saddle, the storm system passed and the mountain opened up again, but it was now coated with a nice sheen of water and sleet. We could have turned around and headed back up now that the weather was better, but I feared the damage had already been done. It would take time for the rock to dry off and with more intense weather forecasted later in the day and on through the weekend, I figured it wouldn't be worth it. We got turned away, but there were two things that satisfied our minds: 1. We still got in a pretty dang cool climb up to 13,200ft on the Grand Teton. And 2. We'll live to try again another day.

A "situation" waiting to happen a couple hundred feet above the Moraine camping area below the Lower Saddle.

Descending the rock band that separates the Moraine from the Lower Saddle via the fixed ropes set up by the climbing guides.

We got back to the car around 1:00pm in warm sunshine and headed towards Jackson where we encountered a severe thunderstorm that had enveloped the entire region with hundreds of lightning strikes, pounding rain, and high winds. I'm sure things were more than just a little sketchy high up on the peaks and I hope everyone who was up there was staying smart and safe.
MikeE and I are planning another attempt on Labor Day when the conditions are more favorable.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Teton Crest Trail: 8hrs, 10min

Phillips Pass: 6:45am

Fox Creek Pass: 9:15am

Hurricane Pass: 11:00am

Paintbrush Divide: 1:15pm

Well, there it is. The idea of being able to run the length of the TCT in 8 hours is finally turing into reality. When this idea was born, 4 years ago, and before I had even run the length of the trail, I really had a comfortable feeling that it could be done smoothly in that time without requiring a huge effort. My view changed fairly quickly after that first crossing and has remained that way pretty much ever since.

The trail is commonly listed at 39 miles. (I still believe it is longer than that, but can't prove anything until I get a GPS.) 39 miles in 8 hours requires a 12:20 pace. Not that fast really. And for a while (four years), I couldn't understand why I was so outrageously slower than that. Until I realized a few things this summer:

Like just how rugged this trail is. Not sure what the total elevation gain is, but it's alot. And although there are some smooth stretches, yes, the rest is a chaotic obstacle course that, to run it at speed, requires more than just a few special dance moves.

The only water available is that which flows off the mountains, and while availability is generally good (except for late late summer), timing plays a very important role knowing where the water sources are and how much water to carry between them based on how much time it will take to get from one to the next. This is a trail that runs best after some recon work.

The majority of the trail lies above 9,000ft with the two highest points above 10,000ft coming in the second half. Even living every day at 6,000ft doesn't offer enough prep to be able to run uphill at that elevation after 30 miles. The only way to prepare is to spend lots of time up there.

Take only what is neccessary. Take food, a windshell, two water bottles, a phone, and a camera. Lose the rest. If a huge storm comes up, then bail out down one of the canyons. If there's a bear, outrun it, or at least the others nearby. Injury? Suck it up and deal with it. Some other catastrophy? Be safe, smart, and creative.

And finally, just how many photos I was taking! Each shot takes time, if even just a little, and take twenty or thirty of them and include a few sight-seeing excursions along the way and there's 15-30 minutes. The first time I ran the trail this summer, I took ALOT of photos. The second time, not so many. And this time? 4.

I'd like to go back and push the time under 8:00, but with August coming to a close soon and a busy September ahead, I'm not planning on it this year.

Phillips Pass to top of first big climb: 1:00hr
Marion Lake: 2:15
Top of Sheep Steps above Alaska Basin: 3:30
Hurricane Pass: 4:30
North/South Cascade Canyon Jct: 5:22
Lake Solitude: 6:00
Paintbrush Divide: 6:45
North String Lake TH: 8:10

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I had planned on running the Crest Trail again last weekend, but decided against it at the last minute (I had litetally made it one minute up the trail before turning around). I had a two hour run up at Targhee the day before which began fine out on the rolling Rick's Basin loop, but ended with a tougher than expected climb up to the summit of Fred's Mtn where I felt fatigued, pep-less, and just plain spent most of the way up. I was expecting to feel more life in my legs after a relatively light week of running, but maybe I was still recovering from a pretty heavy two days from the prior weekend. This was the feeling again on Sunday as I left the Phillips Pass TH and my mind raced ahead 9 hours to my projected finish at String Lake and I found it difficult to grasp. There would be no way I could finish it off in 9 hours feeling this whooped 1 minute into the run and I had no interest in being out there for over 10. My mental game can overcome the physical. But once the mental game goes, it's over man. Game over. So I drove to Teton Village and prepared to do a loop up to the top of the tram, down into Granite Canyon, and back to the Village on the Valley Trail. 20 miles beginning with a 4,000ft ascent in 7.5 miles. I ran this loop just after July 4th and arrived at the summit in 1:35. Oddly enough, I got to the top this time in exactly 1:35.

Looking west over the southern portions of Granite Canyon and further over the Crest Trail and past that over Victor, ID, Teton Valley, and the Big Hole Mtns way off in the distance.
The rest of the run went really well. Felt good. Warm sun. Finished in 4:00hrs.

Enjoyed listening to Lunker on the Commons area of Teton Village for about 30 minutes after the run.

Lunker. Great local band out of li'l 'ol Teton Valley, ID.

Monday was a whirlwind day at work. Went in early. Got home late. Completely whooped. Tuesday was an Arts Council meeting. Wednesday was my next opportunity for a run and, feeling like I needed some more elevation, I decided on a hopefully quick sprint to the top of Table and back.
In the past, this has been considered a big run. Something to prepare for. Something that would take time and planning. It has become pretty routine over the past few months, so much so, in fact, that I felt comfortable leaving the winter TH, 4 miles from the base of the climb, at 6:30pm without a light, fully knowing that I could be off the trail and on the road back to the car by the time it got dark dark at 9:00. This would require a typical 30 min approach on the road, a 1:15 ascent, and a 45 min descent. It'd be tight, but I thought I could do it. I was also testing out my new Nathan waist bottle carrier to see how I could handle 9 hrs of food + windshirt + camera and phone with it. With one bottle on my waist and one in my hand, I felt faster, and, in fact, I was. I finished off the road appraoch in 28 min, 2 faster than usual. Once on the climb, I was 1:30 under my PR for the first 1,000ft arriving at the first plateau in 15 mins. 2:30 under my PR at the metal post where the North Teton Canyon Trail splits from the direct route arriving at 47:30. And popped up on the summit at 1:10:45, 3:45 under my previous PR from 2 weeks ago. I now know that a 1:10:00 is possible and without nine hours worth of food on me, I'm sure I could go back and knock off 45 seconds. What's funny now is how this ascent had transitioned from a power hike to a run. Whereas last year and the year before, I thought most sections on the way up were too steep and rocky to run, I now find myself picking my feet through the rocks and pittering my way upward in tiny running steps. But it's running! Not much faster than walking, but it is faster! And there are now only a handful of sections where the running isn't happening.

Last one on the summit for the day. Again.

The new Nathan waist pack carries a bottle and minimal other items nicely. I was back to the base of the climb in 50 minutes. Right at dark. Back to the car in another 30. 4 hrs total. Perfect. Felt great.

And then I came home to this. The cat-faced spiders are back for the summer and this one has taken up residence directly under my porch light which essentially becomes a sort of spider exhibit for me to study. Those who know me well enough may already be aware of my strong dislike of these creatures. I have to admit, they freak me out, give me the eebie-jeebies, creepy-crawlies, and whatever other kind of arachniphobia induced spasms exist. But I still find these guys fascinating. I can't help it. Their webs are engineering marvels with guy-lines and support mechanisms built in place and bends and angles that defy any simple design. They know what they're doing and they're brilliant at it. And despite they're thick, prickly, menacing appearance, they certainly do their part to help out by catching alot of bugs!

This one was either extremely hungry, showing off a bit, or maybe just a little surprised, catching, then wrapping up a moth that was bigger than it was. I stood there watching it do its thing for about 15 minutes as it pulled its webbing out of its... you know... backside, and using its two back legs to do the wrapping. Fascinating.
Did a short and easy jaunt up to Mud Lake after work today so stretch the legs. Didn't feel too bad, actually. After work on Saturday, I'll get up on top of something over 10,000ft, still not sure what yet, and then go after another Crest Trail run on Sunday. Summer weather is still holding on so I gotta make the most of it now before things change. And they'll be changing soon!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Speaking French, Summit Memorials, and Whiskey Shots

Forgot to mention a few noteworthy things from yesterday's trip:

As many of us probably know, trail conversations with buddies can produce some rather entertaining and memorable moments. Some appropriate. Some maybe not. But the improvised conversation I had with MikeE during our descent from the summit of the Middle Teton was almost entirely in French (some actual words were even used! Like Teton!), included the commonly used crazy French waiter accent 100% of the time, and will likely remain as one of my more memorable trail conversations (even though I don't even really know if what we were saying really made much sense or if somewhere along the way things got a little off color, so to speak. Or alot.).

This was not only the first time either of us had summited the South Teton, but it was also the first time either one of us had stood atop a peak that had claimed the life of a personal acquaintence. I didn't think too much about it early on as we were tackling the Middle, but as soon as we began to reach the summit of the South, it wouldn't leave my mind and became pretty eerie to think about. One of those wildly mixed feelings of happiness, sadness, fear, and peace.

It also marked the first time I've had whiskey shots at 12,500ft. We met a couple of climbers from Jackson who arrived at the top just after we did and wouldn't you know it, out comes the flask for a quick high altitude celebration. It sure helped make the summit experience much more party-esque!

Trip details:

Left the Lupine Meadows TH (6,700ft) at 5:50am.
Garnet Canyon Meadows in 2:15.
Top of Middle (12,804ft) in 2:15. 4:30 total. 30 min on top.
Top of South (12,500ft) in 2:00. 7:00 total. 30 min on top.
Lupine Meadows TH in 2:45. 10:15 total. Finished at 4:05pm.
Total distance: 16 miles?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Middle and South Teton Ascents

I've had a great weekend. Teton Crest Trail on Saturday. Ascents up both the Middle and South Teton today. Can't say that I've ever had such an ambitious and successful two days playing in the mountains!

The goal: Climb the Middle Teton (12,804ft peak on the right) then cross over to the South Teton (12,514ft peak obscured behind Nez Perce on the left).

More curious marmots. These hardy rodents continue to amaze me with their curious antics and their ability to survive in one of the harshest possible environments.

A close-up of the summit of the Grand (13,770ft) from the summit of the middle. We could actually hear people talking up there!

On the summit of the Middle.

MikeE clambering up the NW ridge of the South underneath a pile of jumbled angular chaos.

The Wind River Range off in the distance. Mixed amongst those far off peaks lurks the Grand Teton's biggest source of spite: Gannett Peak, taller than the Grand by a mere 39ft laying claim to Wyoming's highest point while also being far less known and even less traveled. Someday, I will stand on top.

Aptly named Icefloe Lake, probably my favorite alpine lake simply because of it's many unique features and surrounding beauty.

The Grand and the Middle (in the foreground of the Grand) from the summit of the South.

Looking east from the South's summit over an impressive ridgeline that includes Ice Cream Cone, Cloudveil Dome, and Nez Perce.

A new view for me. Having never stood on top of the South Teton before, I found the view to the south to be thoroughly enjoyable. Like it could be anything less?

Any idea what this is? Does it just look gross? Or is it actually really disgusting? You be the judge.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Teton Crest Trail

Ran the Teton Crest Trail again today. Two weeks ago, the run ended on a slightly sour note after not maintaining adequate hydration on a day with temps just about at the highest point this area sees during any given summer. So today, I wanted to nail it. Today also marked a step in my own personal progression of minimalism. I have traditionally run ultra-distances with a Nathan Race Vest, both for training as well as racing. Last week, I tested my RaceReady shorts's ability to contain all my supplies comfortably and, with surprisingly good results, I decided to put this new method to the test today. I must say, I'm very happy with the outcome. With more experience running in the mountains, I've become more comfortable with what I need and my ability to get myself out of a jam, if neccessary. I guess I just don't see the need in packing so many of the extras for what has now become a routine run. If something drastically unexpected occurs, I'll find a solution. Maybe via my survival instinct or something.

I began at my customary starting point: The Phillips Pass (or Ski Lake) TH on the east side of Teton Pass. I began at 6:45 carrying two handheld bottles (one with multi-hour mixture of electrolyte mix and one with a regular mixture), 2 Shot Blocks, 7 gels, and 3 Cliff Fruit/Nuts/Sea Salt Bars. All of this (except for 3 gels) was loaded into the rear pockets of my shorts along with my 4oz windshirt, camera, and Potable Aqua iodine tablets. The other 3 gels went into one of the handheld pockets with my phone going into the other. That's it. Ditched the bear spray. Ditched the hat and gloves. No light. No arm warmers. I decided I wouldn't need any extra clothing because if the weather turned early on, I could dart out any one of the canyons on either side of the range. And if the weather turned late in the run, then I'd be almost done anyway. All of this was easy, rational, and safe justification. With the exception of the bear spray because if a bear turns early or late, and you're the closest one, chances are, you're going to be a hoser. My justification here lies in the fact that although bears are very much present in these mountains, I have yet to hear of any case where a bear attacked a moving person during the summer months. Yes, attacks have happened in late winter/early spring, but bears are hungrier then and there's not much to eat out there at that time other than say, a cross country skier. I've yet to even encounter a bear at all in all my time spent up in the high country. Now, I know, just because I don't see them doesn't mean they're not there. I know they've seen me. But if they've seen me and let me go by all these times so far, my guess is they've most likely realized how unappealing I am as a meal what with my scrawny, chewy runner's muscles and all.

The meadows that lead up to Phillips Pass were loaded with chest-high lupine that still held every possible water droplet that had fallen during yesterday's thunderstorm on their leaves. Other than being a tripping hazard as I plowed through the foliage, they also released gallons of rather chilly water onto my lower half. Although beautiful, I was glad it only lasted for about 15 minutes.

Getting ready to leave Death Canyon Shelf. A couple of noteworthy things:
1. The wildflowers up here are AMAZING!
2. The curious lenticular cloud hovering over the peaks. Given that every day for the past week has produced a rather intense afternoon thunderstorm (or two) I didn't neccessarily need to see this cloud to feel pretty confident that something would build up and pop. But this cloud (an indication of high winds in higher altitudes mainly over high peaks) certainly reinforced my outlook. The biggest question was... when.

Possibly my favorite vista along the route from Hurricane Pass looking at the Middle and South Teton above South Cascade Canyon and a glacial tairn at the lower terminus of the Schoolroom Glacier.

The ridgetop hallway nearing the top of Paintbrush Divide. 10,200ft.

Looking south from the top of Paintbrush Divide, I knew time was of the essence. Those dark clouds had finally had enough time to gather their energy together and would soon unleash. Time to go down!

Thirty minutes from the end in the lower portion of Paintbrush Canyon, there was a magnificent bull moose feeding off the shrubs. Beautiful animals. By this point, there had been thunder rumbling and light sprinkles for just about the entire way down from the top. Ten minutes later, the deluge began and didn't let up for the remaining twenty minutes to the end at String Lake. With nothing but my windshirt which remained tucked away in my pocket as it would be worthless against the downpour, I quickly became just as wet as I would've been had I actually jumped into the lake.
The best part of this finish was catching up to a hiking group with a few young kids and having the two boys (ages 6 and 8) run with me for about a half mile. The 8 year old had already run a 5k so far in his young life and didn't seem to be having too much trouble clicking over a 10 min/mi pace whilst carrying on a conversation with me! (he eventually dropped back to wait for his 6 year old best friend who was screaming at us to "please just take a one minute rest!")
All-in-all, a pretty successful run. Never really felt great, but I guess that's also something that I find quite satifying really... that I can knock off a rugged, 39 miler, at elevation, without much trouble even when I'm not feeling "on". It sure is a tough 39 miles.
Top of climb above Phillips Pass: 1:00
Grand Teton NP boundary: 1:45
Fox Creek Pass: 2:50
Top of Sheep Steps entering Alaska Basin: 3:40
Hurricane Pass: 4:45
Jct of S/N Cascade Canyon: 5:45
Lake Solitude: 6:25
Paintbrush Divide: 7:15
String Lake: 8:50

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Heat, Hills, Cloudbursts, and Shakespeare!

The week began with a liesurely Sunday morning around the house, then a casual jaunt up to Mud Lake still feeling the effects of the prior day's run up to Table.

That afternoon, I helped set up for A Midsummer Night's Dream presented by Montana Shakespeare in the Parks and hosted by the Teton Arts Council and then enjoyed a very entertaining performance with a few hundred local residents out on the grass on a warm summer evening.

Monday, I began at the high school track for a group workout, but ended up at the top of Spring Creek just SE of Alta, WY at 9,100ft. The pull to higher mountains was too strong and the track was boring. I couldn't help it.
Tuesday was an off day as the Arts Council folks gathered at Alpine Wines for a small celebration of the completion of most of our major summer events.
Wednesday, it was up to Targhee for a comfortable 45 minute lap around Rick's Basin before a time trial to the top of Fred's in 32 minutes. Knocked another minute off my PR.
Tonight, I'm catching up on things at home. Tomorrow, a light run. And this weekend... could be a big weekend. I'm excited...