Sunday, September 21, 2014

Wasatch 100 2014

As I toed the start line of this year’s Wasatch 100 Mile Endurance Run I could not help but see the trails ahead through the lens of two big semi-failed adventure goals: last summer’s Wasatch 100 DNF and this summer’s attempt at the summit of Denali.  Both adventures ended with me giving it my all and not being able to stand at the finish/top.  This time not making in to the end was not at option in my mind.  I equated last year’s drop, at mile 75, to getting off on my salts in the heat, leading to complete GI shutdown.  So I started off the race running very conservative, chatting it up with friends, making jokes, and militantly drinking and downing Salt/Potassium capsules.  As I pounded up the first 4000 foot climb the stars started to align. 

Alignment #1: Absolutely perfect weather.  If I were to pencil in a spread sheet and hand in to God to dial in the weather at each point along the course it would have been identical.  Even when the high was in the 80’s there was good cloud cover. T-shrit and shorts all night, crisp and chilly. Awesome.  

Alignment #2: Good buddies. I like to talk when I run, especially with good friends and interesting folks I meet along the trail.  All along the trail my spirit was lifted by folks.  This year I only ran with a pacer for the last 25 miles instead of the last 60 miles.  It was nice focusing hard all day then looking forward to Spence keeping me company the last 25 miles.  Keeping spirits up for the whole race can be tough, this year it was easy thanks to Spence, Newman, Matt, Scott, Ryan, Matt VH, Casey, Bryan B., Derick, Aaron, and many others.         
Alignment #3: A happy gut. I could eat anything I wanted all day.  The last 25 I even craved gu’s. Weird.   To keep salts and H2O up I did 2 things: I have noticed in the past I don’t really drink as much as I think I am from my hydration bladder hose. So, during the race I stashed multiple Gatorades and chugged them on site then filled them with water.  Then my hose was a back-up and coolant provider.  HUGE help.  
Newman and I getting ready to scrape chins. (climb the super steep "chiscraper")

My goal late in the race was still to go under 27 hours, as the night progressed my bodies ability to keep pounding really surprised and excited me.  All day I followed the simple mantra of running the downhills hard and power hiking the ups.  The only difference this year is that I made sure my power hiking was “with purpose.”  I have hiked behind runners like Andrea Martinez and realized that we are both hiking but she is leaving me in the dust.  I really focused on pumping my arms and straight up power hiking.  Late into the evening I was even able to run a lot of the easy ups, especially leading up to Dog Lake, (where I finally flipped on my headlamp, totally bragging I know, but I was so excited to be moving so well) 

Overall 3 quick highlights from the run. My dad texting congrats to me literally a minute after finishing which means he was up all night refreshing his browser (on vacation) My friend Matthew Van Horn who could not run today due to injury out along the course in a lazy boy and then at night playing beach boys under a beach umbrella all night cheering us on (on a 10,000 ft mtn saddle). And my boss at work coming up to Brighton mile 75 at midnight just to tell me good job and good luck.With a such a great day in the mountains it is hard to decide what to do next.  Buffalo 100 fast…., Bryce 100,  Hardrock…., States…  who knows. I just hope this year’s interstellar aligning was not a unique singularity and more late nights are as shiny.    

30 minutes after my finish.  I finished in the dark and didn't leave Izzy enough time to arrive. oops. 


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Big Mountain Runs

Quick Highlights from the last few weekend Runs and Climbs.

Speed Goat 50K: (torture in my own back yard)
-32ish miles, 12,000 feet of awesome steep uphill running
-Elite international field to ogle at including: Frosty, Sage, Ellie, and Luke
-Amazing single track down into Mineral Fork with flowers galore, followed by a head first tumble on steep scree while trying to pass people that suck at downhill. Ouch. Irony
-Hung with court for a bit then dropped him, waited with Izzy, Spence, and Anna at the finish for Court who hung on and finished despite major bonking and lack of sleep from just driving across the country.
-Fun vibe, cool swag, tons of stellar volunteers.
-I took it slow at first. Maybe 230th up the first climb out of 375. Then went on to pass a hundred people the rest of the day. 8:19 hrs.   

Telluride Mountain Run: (Mini-Hardrock)
-40ish miles, 14,000 feet of awesome steep uphill running and 14,000 feet of steep knee pounding decent.
-Wild flowers like you can’t begin to fathom in splendor gasping up to 13,000 foot passes. <-(plural)
-Court and I took 24th and 25th out of 56 finishers in 10.5 hours.  Spence crushed it and took 8th ,2 hours faster than me.  I think 20 did not start or did not finish.
-Telluride offers easy camping (if you are early), Frisbee golf, FREE gondolas, easy access via ferrata, and down hill Mtn Bike Trails, and easy access sport climbing next to huge flippin waterfall.
-Negatives: Only saw/ate overly expensive hippie food in town and the race did not give out shirts. Lame.

-Friday: Court and I left SLC at 6am, started up the Grand Teton at 11:20 am, Got slammed by a storm up high. Court summited in 3 hrs and went 5:03 round trip.  I turned around 10 minutes from the top, due to strong electrical activity and the severe wet storm setting in. (not a good combo when solo climbing with 3000 ft of exposure)  Went 5:30 round trip. (15 miles 7,000 ft of vert.) A lovely afternoon.
-Saturday: Slept in then hopped in our rented canoe at String Lake then paddled for an hour to and across Leigh Lake to the base of CMC route on Mount Moran. Got lost, due to lack research on our part and bad beta. We got back on trail and cruised up through the alpine wonderland to a sub-summit called the Drizzlepuss, which must be navigated by sketchy down climbing past rappel anchors. Then onto the main slab of rock for 2000 feet of fun low angle climbing. Clouds and wind loomed near but stayed at bay.  Made it back to the canoe and back across the lakes, 8.5 hrs round trip. (14 miles 6,000 feet of vert) 

Lupine Meadows start just before noon

The last section I was ahead before Court took off like a mad man

Court flying up the Grand Teton

The mile+ canoe ride to get to the base of Moran

Court down climbing the Drizzlepuss

On top of Moran with the Grand behind

A little climbing in Park City
Oh the Tetons

Monday, June 16, 2014

Ultra Adventure Denali Style

All of my adventures in running and in the mountains seem to build on each other and grow in difficulty and potential for risk each time.  For example: Top-Rope Climbing ->Sport -> Trad -> Ice.   5/10k's -> Marathons -> Ultras.  The Grand Teton -> Gannet -> Rainier -> Orizaba -> Denali. I know that a big reason for this is a deep fascination (obsession) with finding my limits and pushing them as far as I can, ...safely.  
Attempting to climb Denali (Mount McKinley) is definitely the largest, hardest, and riskiest undertaking I have ever attempted.  The short is that our expedition saw few good weather days, and the notorious Storms of Denali did not allow us access to the summit, though much epic-ness ensued.

Upon arriving in Talkeetna Alaska, Jack, Brooks, John, and I spent almost 4 days waiting at a bunkhouse for a break in the weather to land on the glacier.  It is not too uncommon to wait for a flight out on to the glacier at the base of Denali, but 4 days was more than the usual.  On Sunday June 1, we got word that a landing might be possible and in what seemed like minutes we were in the air and soon landed on the scorching ice field know as the Kahiltna Base camp (7200 ft) .  With-in a couple of hours I was slowly at the head of our rope team moving up the glacier with over 125 lbs of food and gear! With about 50 lbs on my back and 75 lbs pulled on a sled behind me. Day 1 ended with melting snow and fortifying snow walls at Camp 1 (7800 ft) with probably 100 other summit hopefulls.  4 hrs, 1100 ft V+ and 5.5 miles.
Killing time in Talkeetna

Day 2: 
We continued the slog up the Kahiltna through a section dubbed Ski Hill.  Imagine a bunny hill for miles, but going up (on snowshoes) with 125 lbs of gear.  The scorching sun turned into a white out blizzard and with high headwinds.  After hours and hours we made it to Camp 2 @ 9700 ft.  Only 4 other people dug a camp in the snow near us. Our whole group was completely  sapped mentally and physically and eager to get in our tents. I finally climbed into my bag, right after digging a flat spot, building walls, melting water, cooking food and throwing a snowball at Brooks,(Who was a easy target because I knew he would always be stationary on the NPS provided poop-bucket.)  Even down this low I already had on my megga-puffer Mtn-Hardware Down Jacket.  5 hrs, 1900 ft V+, 2.5 miles.  

Day 3:
We woke up tired then slogged up to 11,200 ft camp at the Base of Motorcycle hill.  This camp is like a small town dug into the mountain between a mountain of ice fall debri on one side and a huge crevasse on the other side.  A 14 year veteran guide said that a Japanese woman fell in the crevasse last year then managed to climb out on her own using her spoon...or was it her chapstick lid....
Here at 11,200 it hit me what a gathering of the nations this mountain is.  I made a list of all of the countries from which I met people on the whole mtn.
1. Japan
2. Mongolia
3. Russia
4. Australia (John!)
5. Latvia
6. Canada
7. Slovenia
8. Ukraine
9. Austria
10. France
11. Spain
12. Italy
13. Wales
14. Scotland
15. England
16. Brazil
17. Poland
18. Germany
19. United Arab Emerits 

3.5 hours, 1700 V+, 1.5 miles for the 3rd day. 

Day 4-5: 
As the slopes get steeper it is necessary to advance supplies up ahead and then camp down lower.  On Day 4, Three of us went as high as 13,500 ft to bury food and gear in the snow.  Day 5 we spent recovering in a snow storm in our Camp 3 tents (at 11,200 ft)  One of the interesting things about camp is how close everyone is to each other.  Going to the bathroom is far from private.  Here at 11,200 camp we met back up for the third time with some friends we made in Talkeetna and 9,700 camp, a group of 3 with 2 Mountian Trip Guides.  Awesome guys who lets us play cards and share hot drink under their cook tarp.  2 miles, 2000 V+

Day 6:  
We stashed some extra food, unused gear (errggg), 3 of 4 sleds and then headed up to what you could call Advanced Base Camp (aka 14 or Basin Camp or Camp 4) at 14,200 ft.  If 11,200 was a town than Basin Camp is a city.  The slog up there was long and slow. Temps around zero F, but still hiking in just a base layer due to the level of exertion.  We were lucky to snag a pre-dug out and fortified spot (again) for our 2 tents to fit next to each other.  Here at 14,200 is were I first started to feel the altitude. My slight headache quickly went away with an Excedrin.  Temps at night were well below zero and I found it difficult to keep frozen breath off of everything in my tent. I often could not sleep because I would be short of breath and often sucking air at odd times. 2.75 miles 2,800 V+

BAD WEATHER!!!!!!!!!!

Day 7:
My team and I went back down to the Windy Corner area at 13,500 and got our cache, then proceed to advance another cache all the way up to 16,100 at the top of the first fixed lines.  For all of us this was our most grueling and satisfying day. We handled the technical sections fine (even in strong winds) and felt prepared to make the summit, all we needed was a 2 day weather window.... which never came.  around 2 miles with 3000 V+ for the day.
Day 8-11:
Everyday we jaunted over to the NPS tents to look at the weather board.  High winds and snow daily.  We had some really cold restless days and our patience wore thin. We passed the time reading, playing 21 questions and building an epic snow cave.  I was eating but as hard as I tried I could not down more than 1200 calories a day and I knew I was losing weight. On Wednesday, with a slightly better forecast on the NPS board and after a couple of calls to our wives on the Satilete phone we decided to move up higher and hope for a window in the bad weather.  We could see the high winds blowing hard above, but just crossed our fingers and loaded up our gear.  The fixed lines were much harder with full weight packs and the winds making everything miserable. On top of that, Brooks had a somewhat MAJOR stomach incident on the vertical fixed lines, and my gut was also rumbling as we pushed on past 11 pm.  This section of the route was by far the prettiest and despite the 50 lb pack, extreme fatigue and sub -20 winds, I loved the 1000 foot drop offs and huge huge exposure.  Some sections were full on climbs with an ascender and crawling up deep snow.  Somewhere on this techincal ridge our NPS poop can broke off a pack and fell 3000 feet below to the Peters Glacier below. (costing us 75 bucks after we got off the mtn)  At near midnight we made it up to the desolate 17,200 ft High Camp in howling winds and full on exhaustion. An Austrian climber got separated from his group and stuck with us, his friend wondered into camp in the middle of the night with frost bitten wooded like fingers.  As we struggled to set up our tents in the slicing winds we watched a team of 4 slowly descend the most dangerous section of the whole climb, from High Camp up to Denali Pass at 18,000+.   I looked up from my icy poles and fingers and saw that the team descending was instantly at the bottom, after taking a massive fall and not moving.  Another group already settled-in started to make their way to assist when the Polish climbers slowly got up and continued back towards camp. As far as I know no broken bones, just bloodied faces.  John was already in his bag trying to get warm, as I stowed gear out of the wind and built snow walls around the tent.  I spent the next few hours slowly getting warmer, then having multiple bouts of the runs in the -40 temps and gusts. With only a baggie.  To my detriment I nor John did not boil water or eat any food that night.

Day 12:
We woke up very cold and haggered.  Jack and Brooks had got some more food in em the night before and done better with the cold than me and John.  The weather looked okay but not good.  We all sat in the same tent debating what to do.  Go up 6-8 hours to the summit (12 hrs round trip), get down while we still could safely, or try to wait it out for a day or two at 17,200 for better weather.  As the weather and winds got worse and worse we decided to go down in a white out.  The main factor to my vote going down was my ability to get down safely if weather continued to worsen.  Jack and Brooks had some desires to try and wait longer or go higher, but the weather only got worse and we all felt like we made the right call, despite being very disappointed.

Silver Lining:
Before arriving to the mountain I knew that one of my favorite ultra running/ski mountaineering athletes Kilian Jornet, would be on the mtn going for the speed climb record.  Several times we saw Kilian and said hi when out on runs on our days waiting in Talkeetna.  Then we ended up flying unto the glacier with his Summits of my Life team and we chatted a bit and got pictures with him.  Then up at 14K we camped right next to his team and witnessed Kilian set an amazing speed record. 5 hrs faster than the previous record. Climbing Denali in 11:40 minutes. Up and down.  wow. After descending from high camp to 14K we chatted more with his team (they were waiting to try and climb the Cassin route to the summit!) and ended up giving them lots of our extra food.  He and his team were so thankful that they asked for our emails and said they would send us one of Kilian's DVDs.  Sweet.  He is such a chill humble guy.  He already has speed records on the Matterhorn, Kilimanjaro, and Mount Blanc, and is preparing for Aconcongua in December and Everest next year. Go Kilian.

I am sad I did not get to stand on top, but I know we made the only call we could.  Despite all of our efforts the weather shut us down.  The only chance we had to maaaayyybeee summit was to have hung out at 14 camp longer before moving up.  But with forecasts not looking good then or now, we made the right decision. I may try again some day.  There are lots of things I would do different. Lots of nuances to the mountain that I learned.  But man let me tell you how good it felt to come home to a beaming Anna who latched around my neck so tight and did not let go for 5 minutes.  I am tearing up just thinking about how good it is to come home after a long expedition.  Thanks to my team, family, and friends. To those that let me borrow gear, stay at your house, share a tent and share  the same poop bag, for listening to me talk about nothing but this dang mountain for months and for my wife for understanding that mountains and adventure will always be in my DNA.

Quick lessons learned:
1. Light and fast is best but very difficult to pull off on Denali.
2. With so many opinions on gear out there it is easy to over pack.
3. Efficiency is key. In movement, in gear placement and storage, and in cooking and melting snow for water.
4. The best moments, like killer vistas, joking and suffering beside best friends, pushing harder than you thought you could, and meeting new interesting people is what it is all about.
5. Hot and cold exist in such extremes and and often at the same time on Denali. ie the worst sunburn I got was in a white or snow storm.  

Okay I am done. More pics.
Basin Camp




Friday, May 23, 2014

Spring Trails and Denali Prep

The past few years I joked around with my wife and climbing/running buddies about climbing Denali (Mount McKinley), but honestly I never gave it much thought.  Last January plans got serious when Jack flew down from Alaska and we went and climbed some vertical ice to discuss the possibility.  After the climb I was mentally engaged to the endeavor.  A few weeks later I pulled the trigger and got the $680 airline tickets then paid the $350 NPS fee.  Gear prep began at once and has just now concluded. A frustrating part about going to climb in Alaska is that I own lots of nice ski and winter gear, but a lot of it is not up to snuff for Denali, ie puffy Marmot Jacket not puffy enough, nice Sportiva Mountaineering boots not even close to warm enough.  So much much Ebay, KSL Classifieds, Rei, IME, Gear 30, and surfing ensued. Resulting in:
Gear List
Retail $
What I Paid
(0 = already owned or borrowed)
La Sportiva Olympus Mons
Sleeping bag
Western Mountaineering PUMA GWS
Puffy Coat
Mtn Hardware Absolute Zero
Outer Jacket
Patagonia M's Super Pluma
Gregory Denali Pro
Micro Puffy Jacket
Patagonia Micro Down
Outer Pant
Rab Latok Alpine Pants
Avi Beacon abd Probe
Soft Shell Coat
Mtn Hardware
Black Diamond Light
Butane Stove
MSR Reactor
Insulated Pants
Moutain Hardware Compressor
Ice scews
Grivel   (3)
Snow Shoes
Grivel G14
Liquid Fuel Stove
Mountain House Food
Mtn House (4x18)
Glacier Gogs
Julbo Revolution
Glacier Specs
Julbo Explorer
Fleece jacket
Air Pad
Capaline Tops (3)
BD Raven Pro
Solar Charger
Goal Zero
Water Bottle Parkas
Down Booties
Brooks Sharktooth Longneck Pro Shovel
Titanium Pot
Snow Saw
Work Gloves
Fleece Pants
Black Diamond
Foam Pad
Thermorest z lite
Sun Runner Cap
Capaline Bottems
Wool Beanie
Head Wrap
Face Mask
Prusick Cord

Screw Top Bowl

Scruffy Mountain Beard



With 5 days to go, I just need to get the rest of  my food together and cram it all in the packs.
The route we are attempting is called the West Buttress, and is by far the most traveled on the mountain. Some of the Stats are quite intimidating: The mountain is 20,237 ft.  tall and “At some 18,000 feet (5,500 m), the base to peak rise is considered the largest of any mountain situated entirely above sea level”  (wiki) Around 1100 attempt the summit and 40-50% are successful.  Last year was the most summits ever with 787.  This year is off to a slow start with 12 out of 43 attempts successful summits. Hundreds are on the mountain now. 

Next Thursday, Jack, Brooks, John, and I will land on the Kahiltna Glacier at 7200 ft and then spend the next 16-20 days on the mountain fighting the most notorious storms and brutal conditions in the hemisphere. My gear will be split up between a 60 lb pack pulled on a sled and a 40 lb pack on my back.  We will dig in and make camps at 7800, 9000, 11000, 14000, and high camp at 17,200, then go for the summit.
My physical training has mostly consisted of running and climbing with the following highlights:
1.       A long week end climbing towers and running in Colorado National Monument
2.       A few ski tours with lots of vert to finish off winter and Spring.
3.       A couple of Zion trips with lots of climbing, ridge runs, obscure summits, and super fast canyoneering (Spry in 2:45 and Keyhole in 15 minutes car to car)
4.       Running the Buffalo 50 in 8:01.  A 14 minutes improvement over last year.
5.       Laps up and down Adams waterfall and Eds peak.
6.       A speed go at Olympus and Wire. With a sub 2 hr Oly and 35 minute run up Wire.
7.       A full season of semi-competitive intramural cross country with consistent 19 minute 5K’s
8.       A fun 8 minute pace 21 mile run at the so called "Wedge" over looking the San Rafael River’s Little Grand Canyon
9.       Lots of BCC and gym climbing crowned with a clean lead on Namaste 5.12a in Zion. (my first 12) 
10.   Lots of hauling little Anna on my back.
11.   Weekly ultimate Frisbee matches and heavy weight lift sessions thrown in here and there
12.   A 10,000 ft vert day on the treadmill.