Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Alpine Jewels

Ruby Crest Trail
The first time I traveled to Elko Nevada with Izzy, my then super-wife-to-be, I noticed these unknown tall jagged peaks in the distance.  The Ruby Mountains and Lamoille Canyon have since been a destination I eagerly look forward to. They have been aptly dubbed the Jewell in the Desert.  Over Independence Day week-end I ran up to the summit of the highest peak, the Ruby Dome, and thoroughly enjoyed the rocky terrain.  I decided then,  I for sure wanted to run the whole Ruby Crest trail in a day.  Fast Forward to the week-end before last and I was getting dropped off by my awesome brother in law on the south-end, at Harrison Pass, and started North towards Lamoille Canyon where my Elantra awaited.  I decided on the S to N direction to get a little more climbing and to knock out the dusty hot road section in the morning.  My pace was slow going from the start, due to new and lingering injuries. (see last post)  The dirt road morphs to 4x4 road after 3 miles.  A ragged looking fellow with a beer in his hand asked if I could help him get his Tacoma Truck unstuck.  He really jacked it off the side of the trail into some trees and I could not get service on my phone so I pointed the direction of the highway and said I had good bye as I have 33+ miles to go.  At mile 6 the wilderness trail begins and dives up and down some sweet shady canyons.  Up-down-up-down-up from valley to canyon. South Smith Fork-Middle Smith Fork- North Smith Fork, and McClutcheon followed by another long climb up to the pass above Overland Lake @ Mile 14.  For some reason I had no pep in my step and the ups got slower and slower.  O well. Ate lunch, then bombed down the switchbacks, said howdy to some bow hunters, all of which said there was "something wrong with me" upon hearing what I was doing.  I chugged as much water as I could and began the next big climb to the Ridge.  I knew there was no water from mile 16-30  so after chugging I topped off my bottles and slogged on.  I cruised the Ridge crest and took in the amazing views of farmland and desert to the East and the back-side of the Ruby Dome to the West.  The ridge continued one peak after another. After 4 big climbs and descents on the ridge, to Wines Peak,  I saw another huge peak (Lake Peak) and started to despair. Luckily the trail swung left and over a pass then a long decent into a beautiful alpine meadow with a stream below Farve Lake. The last 7 miles felt cruiser, lots of lakes and a long never ending over switched-back trail to the top of Lamoille.  37 miles and 9,881 feet of vertical climbing in 10:23 minutes.  Pretty slow, but had a blast.
Looking back towards Harrison Pass

The start of the single track at mile 6

Overland Lake

Super pretty super deep lake, Liberty

The full 37 miles on Google Earth

Cirque of the Towers Traverse


Nothing makes your gut sink more than to watch your belay/rappel device go hurtling off a cliff to the valley floor over a 1000 feet below.  Especially, if you are 3 summits into a 11 summit ridge traverse, with 14 rappels and at least 5 pitches of roped-up climbing to go.  Court cursed and I beat my helmet against the cliff. It was still mid-morning and we had a long, long way to go.  The Cirque of the Towers is one of, if not the prettiest alpine vistas in the country.  The pristine granite climbing is coveted by hoards of climbers and the full "Cirque Traverse" is an extremely challenging  Holy Grail of alpinism.  So of course, Court and I had decided to make it even harder by starting from the car and adding the 16 miles of running to and from the cirque to the day, (instead of backpacking in and making it a slightly tamer 2-3 day venture.)  I have quite the list of runs and climb I want to do in life and the Cirque of the Towers has been at the top of the list for years.  I was super stoked that Court agreed to come along make it happen.  He had backpacked in the summer before and solo climbed the whole traverse, so he was the partner to have.  We slept next to the Elantra at the Big Sandy trail head and got moving at 5:30 am.  By 8 we were surrounded by massive granite peaks and stunning alpine lakes.  Then we dropped into the Cirque. Wow.  Court got way ahead because I could not stop taking pictures. First up:  Pingora, we scrambled past another party from New Zealand and then roped up for two long pitches with great crack in great rock.  I remember yelling down below. "This climb is marvelous."  Court followed quick and cleaned the gear.  We had a super light rack; 5 nuts and 5 cams.  I was glad to have Court's experience on the tricky rappels off the summit.  I could not flippin believe he solo climbed this whole thing (with a rope for the rappels of course.)   After 4 rappels we cruised up and over the Tiger Tower  then started up the narrow sidewalk ramp of Wolfs Head.  Nothing like fast scrambling up a 45 degree ramp that is the width of your shoulders with 1000 foot drops on both sides. The ramp opened up wider into sweet 5.5 crack that we quickly soloed as we passed more parties.  We continued fast past a narrow shimmy with your hands jammed in the crack above. Then the ledge goes up into a tight chimney. I exited the chimney huffing and puffing and started to prep my gear for leading the next pitch on rope.  As I unclipped the locking biner from my harness, the ATC on it slipped off and hurtled into space. Dope.  
We gathered our calm… sort of, and reviewed options.  We both felt fairly confident with our münter hitch skills and decided to press on.  I continued leading all the pitches and belayed Court up on the Münter.  We made it off the Wolfs Head, then ticked off Overhanging Tower, Sharks Nose, Block Tower, the Watch Towers, Warrior, Pylon , and Warbonnet.  The lack of water and the extremely technical rappels on minimal all-natural-placement-anchors presented the most difficult challenges of the day.  The Sharks Nose summit is guarded by a one move wonder that goes at 5.8 on the YDS, but pulling an overhang at high altitude on thin crimps sort of makes ratings meaningless.  That was not the only section I told Court he was an idiot for soloing it the summer before.   Some of the rappels required lowering over an edge to weight the rope which is always scary, for these raps we passed the remaining ATC back up the rope.  At 7 pm we drug ourselves up on top of Warbonnet very dehydrated, tired, and razzled.  I sounded forth the mandatory yeehaww and quickly began the descent before dark overtook us.  By 8:20 we made it back to the trail by Big Sandy Lake and made it out to the cars 90 minutes later. Court jogged much more of the trail than I could and had the car warmed up for me.  Fritos-Ginger Ale-Dr. Pepper-Energy Drinks- Hot Dogs- 5.5 hours of driving and we made it home by 3:20 am.  What a day.   STATS: 20 miles, 11,000 feet of climbing/running 16.5 hrs.  I think next time I am in the Cirque I will do 1 or 2 routes, not 11. 
The Approach Trail

Looking back the way we ran up in the dark

Pingora and Wolfs Head in all ther' Glory. We went up Pingora right where the shadow and sun meet

Hanging Tower, Sharks Head, and Block Tower and Watch Towers

The money Pitch on Pingora South Buttress 

top of Tiger Tower

The sidewalk ramp up Wolfs Head

Passing one of the many other parties going slow

scary overhanging rappels

Looking back over the entire ridge, what a day!

The Top of the last Summit, Warbonnet

Friday, August 9, 2013

Summer Slam

View from White Baldy

Speed Goat Party

I was super stoked to run my first Speed Goat for lots of reasons.  It was my first 50k race, Race Director Speedgoat Karl is a stud, the steep and gnarly terrain around Snow Bird is amazing, and lastly it is an internationally well-known race and quite stacked with elite runners vying for the large prize purse.  One week before the race I rallied my ankle running down Mount Olympus (messing up my fast C2C not just the ligaments in my ankle, I was 1:16 to the top, trying to go under 1:50.)  The ankle started to look better around mid-week and I was able to jog on it a little. So, Friday night Izzy and A and I drove up to Snow Bird and checked into the Cliff Lodge (It is over an hour drive to the Race start and I did not want to do it at 5 in the morning…and who doesn’t like staying in a nice resort lodge for the heck of it.) That eve we checked out the fun playground with A, chatted it up with some elite runners, and ate awesome steak tacos.  Some buddies met us at the pool and we ended up chatting it up with another cool runner, Steve Jones, who just set the FKT on the 83 Mile Uintah high line trail. Leidy peak to the Mirror Lake High Way in 27 hours!

The next morn I taped up the ankle, put on a brace, then headed to the start. I stayed with fellow Davis County runners all the way up the first climb to Hidden Peak.  I was pushing it, but keeping it under lactate threshold.  32 miles with 11,500 ft of climbing is a long way and no point burning up right out the gate.  I topped out about an hour after the leaders, Sage, Max, and Anton, and then started flying down into Mineral Basin. Holy Cow the flowers were amazing and the single track was fast. I loved running down fast and started passing runners like crazy.  Cool temps and light sprinkles kept the rest of the decent and climb back up pleasant.  The whole climb back up to Mount Baldy I continued to pass several runners.  My friend Steve N. had an orange hat that came into view ahead once n awhile and I decided to make it my carrot. It took till Mile 25 before I caught up and then we stayed neck and neck to the finish.  Izzy and A met me near the Tram at Hidden Peak and then we raced to the finish line. Me on boulder fields and trails and them back down on the Tram.  I don’t know how but my lungs, leg, and ankle stayed together, and I finished in a solid 7:40…An hour or two faster than I expected.  

The winner Sage coming into the finish

Me Finishing
Pfeifferhorn and White Baldy
My sister has a huge nemesis in the form of a mountain, its name is the Pfeifferhorn.  Many of her summit attempts have been thwarted by weather, tough terrain, and mischievous mountain gods.  I agreed to help her win the war and finally summit the darn thing.  Izzy came along and the three of us started up the crisp cool White Pine Trail.  It felt nice to take it slow and actually hike, not run so hard my lungs wanted to explode.  I snapped tons of pics and gathered berries along the trail for breakfast. We got a little off trail around Red Pine Lake but it was no biggie and rejoined the trail on the “rib” as the basin joins the ridge between White Baldy and the Pfeiff.  In no time we gained the summit and enjoyed some of the best alpine views in the state.  On the way down I decided to get some training miles in and ran across the ridge and scrambled up White Baldy Peak.  There is not really a trail up White Baldy and the scrambling is fun.  I considered dropping into the other drainage and meeting the girls at the car.  A tender little mercy arrived and I got cliffed out on my decent multiple times.  So, I dropped back down Red Pine and slowly picked my way across a half mile of boulders the size of houses.  My glee as I hit the single track by the lake vanished as I tripped over the only rock on the trail. SLAM!  I hit the ground with a surprising amount of force.  No blood just the wind knocked out of me.  So I got up and kept running.  With-in two minutes I came upon my sister, alone on the trail, sobbing.  She too had fallen hard and my wife had run to go find help.  She tripped on a mild section of trail and appeared to have jacked her knee real bad, she could put zero weight on the knee without screaming.  Some other folks gathered to help and we weighed our option.  We had 4 strong guys and three women, one being a nurse.  Izzy ran the 3 miles to the cars and called my sister’s husband.  I splinted and padded the knee with the entire role of medical tape I had in my bag and we carried her out on our backs. It was extremely difficult for her and us guys, but far better than any other alternatives.  We made it to the cars exhausted, but fine.   The leg was broken in two places (tibia and fibula) so it was crucial that we did what we did and not let her weight it.  That night, (after a sweet climbing comp in Park City) I drove up to the Uintah’s.  As I lay down on my pad I realized how tired I was and how much my chest hurt.  My little fall cracked or at least severely bruised my rib cage.  The mountains are brutal.         

Kings Loop From China Meadow:

I awoke sore, but with energy, and Spence and I headed off up the Red Castle Drainage towards King’s Peak.  I started dragging early on in the run.  The labors of the day before did not wash away with one bad night of sleep on the ThermaRest.  Despite the slow going, I thoroughly enjoyed the terrain and massive peaks.  I did not think I had it in me to make the Kings summit and make it back to the cars, but I stubbornly tagged the top, ducking around the gaggle of folks at the top. My watch read 19.2 miles.  I found Spence sleeping on the pass and we started off down into Painters basin.  I took the cut-off and Spence stayed on the trail.  We met back up in Henry’s and slogged our way on.  My entire body hurt and I was utterly exhausted.  I am strangely fascinated by these dark outer-limits of ultra-running.  Despite the pain I am deeply intrigued by how far the body can go.  We made it back to the cars by dark and then home in time to hang out with the family.    35 miles, 10:20 hrs.  6,400 feet of vert. Not a fast day but a great mental training day and a phenomenally beautiful trail. 
 1 month to Wasatch 100 Mile Endurance Run!!