Monday, June 27, 2016


google earth image

The Tushar mountain range is a fantastic little gem of high altitude(by Utah standards) 12000' peaks located east of Beaver and west of Marysville. Common access points are via the Eagle Point ski resort from the west side(Beaver) or the Beaver Creek/Bullion Canyon roads on the east side(Marysville). This range is a former mining metropolis so buffed out dirt roads with miles of high use ATV traffic are the norm, rather than miles of singletrack like in some ranges. Nevertheless, there is a plethora of good quality "running" to be had off the dirt roads and away from the motorized traffic should one so desire, which I do.

While visiting my in-laws down in Monroe it was a short 30 minute drive to Miners Park where I was lucky enough to get out on a much needed alpine adventure after being in the dreaded flatland for so long. I had outlined a very ambitious plan(for me at least) that involved a 35 mile loop with 12k' of gain and 4 12000' summits. Needless to say halfway through the adventure my feeble Florida lungs and body had all but shut down so I had to make some on the fly adjustments. Nevertheless it turned out to be a fantastic day and motivated me to return someday and tackle what I couldn't accomplish this go round.

In short, I hiked up the dirt road(2wd access) from Miners Park leading to the Edna peak area which involved close to 3k' gain. Then I traversed across Edna, Brigham and Delano peaks and then made my way over to the Piute ATV road, bypassing Mud Lake and following it to Bullion Pasture TH. From here I did an out and back up Belknap Peak and then headed down the 4 mile Bullion Creek  ST back to the car. Very fun day. Highly recommend anyone looking for an alpine adventure off the beaten track to plan a trip down there. Didn't see a person all day. I think any non-weekend day will result in little ATV traffic, though the majority of my route was off trail or non-ATV access anyway.  See caltopo link below for possible iterations of cool runs I had thought about. Largely inspired by the Grand Circle Trail Series race in the Tushars.

Top of Edna looking toward Brigham and Delano

San Juans? Nope, tushars

First High point of the loop with mt Baldy behind

Beautiful tundra running towards next objective, mt Belknap

Tons of scree. From afar it doesn't look like there is a very easy route up Belknap

2nd high point. Baldy behind. The ridge traversing to Baldy look cool. Another time

Blue Lake below. 

Perfect scree skiing for days if you wanted it. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

More Jewel than Cruel

The lake at the finish of the race

This isn't going to be a race report. I think most of the time those are pretty boring. No one cares about the minute by minute nutrition strategy or how I felt at mile 25 as I miraculously managed to follow the obvious pink ribbons marking the impossible to lose singletrack for 60 miles. Or at least I don't. But I do think some reflection and ideas are worth sharing for myself and future Jewelers interested in running the race.

Lets start off with some numbers. The race's name is "Cruel Jewel 50", implying its a 50 miler. Its been my experience most races hold pretty tightly to the idea that an extra(but not less) mile or two is within reasonable error for the justification of starting/finishing at a convenient spot. Or if its significantly more, then they name it appropriately, case in point, the Telluride Mountain Run, a 38 miler. The Jewel takes this liberty a bit further. While the name suggests its a 50, the course description clearly states its more like 56 miles. However, my GPS and many others who measured it came out with closer to 60 miles. As far as the vertical goes, the website claims 15k, which my GPS supported, while my official race shirt oddly states 17k.
Starting shelter(in the south everything has bible verses on it)

Basically I came to the conclusion that neither the race directors nor anyone else has a 100% accurate idea of just what the stats are for this race. I find that a little perturbing, since it seems like it wouldn't be that big of a deal to get that stuff nailed down. The bigger thing I find puzzling is why the race is an extra 6-10 miles in the first place when there are 2 very contrived sections of trail that could easily be eliminated that would allow the 50 mile mark to be obtained. There is a 5ish mile loop at the beginning that could be cut, and an 2 mile out and back shortly after that as well. The answer as to why they did this likely was to make the course harder and allowing to see more of the mountains. Certainly it made the course harder, but I didn't find those sections of trail to be any more scenic or pleasant than any other part. My advice would be to cut both those sections of trail, making it closer to 50 miles and also would save them manning and supplying the two required aid stations as well. This would result in a pristine point to point course with no repeats or overlap. I find it annoying when course directors add on out and backs and pointless loops just to increase the mileage(i.e most of Matt Gunn's races). I'm sure others disagree.
Lake at the beginning of the race

Regarding the actual course, it is a very beautiful course with clean, elegant singletrack that constantly flows up and down through lush green forests.(who doesn't love that?) But the one thing I was disappointed about was the lack of viewpoints. Out west, running in the mountains allows you to see for miles and miles. Not in Georgia. This time of year the trees are thick with leaves and line of sight is about 100 yards. A summit, or "bald" as they call em, never seemed like it was that impressive of a place to be. It never felt like I was in the mountains, just in the forest. Maybe winter running up there is better for that purpose.
The high point of the course Coosa Bald. Its no Handies Peak is it? 

The Duncan Ridge Trail, or DRT, or Dragons spine or whatever you call it, isn't all its cracked up to be as far as steepness, difficulty, gnar, etc. Many of the entering racers talked about it in hushed tones, fearing its notoriously steep ascents and technical descents, and insisted on saving your energy for the last 20. News flash: The DRT was like every other section of trail on the course, it went up and it went down. I hiked the up and ran the down. It was mostly great trail, and nothing I would consider remotely technical compared to rocky stuff out west(the dive and plunge of Wasatch 100). Certainly it was difficult, but what isn't after having already run 30 miles? Don't fear the DRT, its challenging, but fun.
There was a few miles of road, but that's to be expected

The course marking was flawless. Very clear. The aid stations were fine. I don't expect a lot from aid stations so it had what I needed. The shuttle service to the start was much appreciated, and food at the end was great. However, the price is what is really sets this race apart. $80 for a 60 mile course is a bargain. In our day when a 5k costs $100, 100 mile races run upwards of $300, and the badwater 135 costs an absurd $1395, a race for less than $1.50 a mile is really cheap.
Cool bridge we had to cross

Some final thoughts for myself mostly. I decided that despite my undertrained state, I wanted to run as much as possible, so I told myself I would never let my legs say "its too painful". I think it worked for a large portion of the race and my legs never seized up. Inevitably I found myself unable to do more than shuffle around mile 50 but by then I was pretty happy with my effort. Another mental game I played was when I hurting was I remembered how crappy Florida is to live in and how great it was to be running in something resembling mountain terrain. I believe AJW on one of the ultrarunning podcasts said it was a privilege to be out there suffering in the mountains as 99% of the worlds population can't or won't have that opportunity. That really hit home for me and I tried to enjoy the experience despite the pain. Having said that, the 100 milers out there I passed looked beyond the point of this mental trickery having any effect so I'm still set on no more 100's.

Looking at the top ten on Ultrasignup, I was the 2nd youngest in the group at 30 years old. And the 10th guy was 60 years old! Amazing how widespread the age group is in ultrarunning, as how you don't have to be in your 20's to do well at a race. Gives me excitement that I have at least 30+ years of good running left, not that I care a ton about organized races. I'd much rather be out there with the boys on our own adventure than some organized event.
99% of the course looks like this

Sunday, August 16, 2015

La Sal Mountain Linkup Loop(almost)

Our route. What we did is in blue, what we failed to do is in pink. 

Like most of my serious running/climbing goals on my "lifetime to do" list, this latest adventure stems from Jared Campbell. The guy just knows how to create cool stuff to do. The latest installment in the "I want to be be like J.C" novel I'm writing is the La Sal Mountain Linkup Loop. The idea is simple enough, traverse most of the major ridgeline, summiting all 9 12,000 peaks with required prominence plus a few extra in the range along the way. In order from north to south, they are:

1. La Sal 12001(just barely made the cut for a 12er)
2. Castle 12044
3. Mt Waas 12331
     Green Mtn 12163
4. Pilot Peak 12200
5. Manns Peak 12272
6. Mt Tomasaki 12239

Large Gap

7. Mt Mellenthin 12645
     Mt Laurel 12271
8. Mt Peale 12721
    Northwest Mt Peale 12,240
9. Mt Tukuhnikivatz(Tuk) 12482
    Little Tuk 12048

If you do the route correctly, it comes out to around 35 miles and 15k according to Jared. We botched the ending so we ended up short, 30 miles and 13k. He did not state his time on his trip report, so we didn't know exactly how long we should expect this to take.

While Jared did a good job at presenting the route with a map, success is far more involved than just looking at his map, which is probably his goal. If you want it, you should work for it. However, I have attached a likely overly detailed pdf beta sheet for anyone interested in doing the route but lacking motivation to pour over or maps as the return journey it is semi-complex, but this post will not bore those who just want to see the pictures and hear the brief rundown.

We set off from Salt Lake around 6 pm and heard the detailed account from Steve about the JMT and gave relationship advice to Court. The quote of the trip went something like this...

Steve-"Me and Amanda always had rules when it came to kissing and lying down. You could do one or the other, but not both simultaneously. Because you know what that can lead to. Lying down and kissing with a girl is...."
Court interrupting-"...quite pleasant".   Steve was going for "a great way to screw up" or something like that.

We thought it was funny.

We camped up near the trailhead Friday night after having some shenanegans attempting to find the correct starting point. After deciding where to leave Court's car outside private property, we hit the sack around midnight. We got going around 7 am and it took us about 40 minutes to reach the turnoff up the first gully that contained what would be our first of thousands of loose talus steps. We hit the first peak, La Sal Peak 2 hours after leaving the car.
Court heading up the talus, La sal peak on the left, Castle on the right. 

The La Sal range opened up before us and I was particularly giddy at the thought of being up in the mountains after having such a dearth of anything even resembling a hill in Gainesville for the past 2 months. The peaks ticked on by one by one and we felt like we were making good progress. The first half of the traverse to Tom is much easier than the 2nd half. Despite more individual 12er's on the first half, they are all shorter climbs with decent psuedo-type talus trails and straightforward traversing that allows faster travel. We all thoroughly enjoyed the first 6 peaks and found ourselves atop Tom 5 hours after departure(we thought this was a good time) with plenty of energy and psyched to continue on.
So many peaks. Atop La Sal Peak
Jogging off Castle

Mt Waas behind 
I believe one of the guys from the Dorais Bro's excursion climbed the pole. I want to be like them. 

Pointing out something I thought was important

Heading over to Manns peak. 

Court descending to Burro Pass

We dropped down probably the loosest and steepest slope of the day off Tom down to West Fork of Burro Pass and thankfully found a beautiful clear mountain stream to guzzle water from and fill up for the next long section. A semi short dirt road run over to Geyser Pass set us up nicely to hit the 2nd longest climb of the day up Mt Mellenthin.
Hey, more Talus! North Ridge of Mel ahead

We found a nice trail that may have had a closed sign on it that look us more or less directly up to the North ridge of Mel and we proceeded up the talus ridge. This climb took along time and we were all pretty tired at the top but grateful it was over. We traversed over to Peale which requires a frustrating out and back to tag the summit, then headed for the final peak, Mt. Tuk. I was starting to worry about time at this point as it was 4:30 and we still had Tuk and the 15 miles back to the car. I picked up the pace over to Tuk and was lucky enough to see a black bear just below the final climb. We all summited around 5, all the summits in the bag, but the adventure far from over.
Mt Peale, the highest in the range, looms ahead

Slogging it up Peale, NW Peale behind and Little Tuk far left 

Looking back to Peale as we head up Tuk
 We climbed down to the saddle between Tuk and Little Tuk, and knew Jared had warned his descent strategy into Gold's Basin wasn't exactly daises and lollipops. We all agreed upon assessing the route it looked like a suicidal nightmare of steep, loose giant talus boulders waiting to crush victims like trash compactor. We opted to continue up to Little Tuk and descend the North ridge half way, then took some 5th class dirt down into Gold's Basin where we found our 2nd and much needed water source of the day.

Steve enjoying some non Talus terrain for a change as we descend to Golds Basin

It was about 6:30 pm now, and we had 15 miles of trails and road to navigate back to the car. All went well until we lost the trail to Ooowah Lake, but recovered with help from Steve's GPS, but then struggled to find our last climb up Shuman Gulch that would take us the 9 miles back to the car. The Gps said we were on route, but we were in a nasty gully with thick bushwacking. It was now dark and 9pm, so we decided to bail down to the road. Luckily we found a hunter who agreed to drive us back to our car, finally done at 11 pm, almost 16 hours after leaving.

We drove to Moab and gorged at Denny's, then attempted to sack out 15 minutes outside Moab. We didn't sleep great due to the barrage of mosquitos, furnace heat, loud traffic and lightning then hit the road back to SLC at 6:30 am.

In summary, this is a fantastic route in the mountains. It is slow going due to the talus and basically little runnable terrain until you get down to Gold's Basin, which is way over half the route timewise. We felt like we were moving pretty well, took little breaks, and it still took us 12 hours to traverse from the car to Gold Basin which is the meat of the route. Assuming you had leg speed left and directions dialed(we did not despite my meticulous notes), the run back to the car could be as short as 3 hours. But it could also take 6-8 hours if you're slow.

Great variations to this route that would allow for less suffering and time would be to do either half of the route as loops, or if you have a shuttle opportunity, to have someone pick you up at Golds Basin. Highly recommend this route!

Saturday, July 4, 2015


Well, we've officially moved to Gainesville Florida, and the first week of PA school is in the books. It is unlikely much adventuring will be happening out here for the next 2 years due to the lack of mountains, rock, and time, but who knows? Maybe a blog post or two will show up if we make it back home during breaks.

Timbre turned 1 year old today, so Annie and I compiled a little video of the last year. Enjoy!

Friday, May 8, 2015

West Side Yo

Up Battle Creek, down TK, around on TK road, back down BC

Mt Timpanogos(Timp) is one of the most popular hikes/runs in Utah, let alone the Wasatch. Hoards of folks flock to one of the two major trails on the mountains east/northeast side with 99% of ascents occurring between June and September, or thereabouts when snow levels are minimal. The two trail choices are Timpanokee or Aspen Grove, both classics in their own way and more or less equally difficult. Hundreds of people can be found hiking on any given summer Saturday.

There are quite a few other ways of gaining the summit, though less trail and more ridge traversing is involved. Everest Ridge or a traverse from the North Summit via the Cold Fusion or Grunge couloirs are more obscure but classics for the adventurously endowed. Equally unorthodox and new to me was the approach from the West Side of the mountain, via the Battle Creek route. Pretty simple route honestly, hike up the popular Battle Creek trail in Pleasant Grove, gain the actual avalanche path/river gully, and hike your butt a total of 7k' of vertical in 4.5 miles straight up to the summit. This is largely an early spring route, as snow prevalence is mandatory due to the loose talus/scree that abounds in the couloir, both for safety and efficiency purposes.
Courtesy SP

Steve and I drove down last night and slept in the Eurovan at the BC TH. We woke around 6am and were huffing(air, not glue) by 6:30. Somehow I got us off route by taking a side trail about 2 miles up, but we managed to correct our course and find the BC avalanche path without too much time lost.

The first quarter of the gully was snow free, so we found ourselves river hiking until we reached the obvious "waterfall" feature, though it wasn't living up to its name today. Bypassing on the right, we donned crampons(microspikes for me) and busted out the axes. We moved efficiently up the solid snow, reminiscent of the Stairmaster 8000 at Momentum, and were without incident until a rogue, terminal velocity moving grapefruit sized rock beaned me in the left wrist. I thought it might be broken, but luckily it was just my watch that broke instead.
Early snow in the gully, waterfall cliff ahead

Steve coming up while the angle was still hands free

We pressed on despite the rock stinger, navigating 2 icy bulges with loose limestone talus for purchase, and made it to the summit in 3 hours exactly(SP guy says 8 hours is a "moderate" pace). Really a fantastic and direct route.  After some obligatory summit photos, we headed down. We had no desire to downclimb BC since that would be slow, less interesting, and dangerous, so we had two options available to make a nice loop: traverse the ridge north and descend Cold Fusion, or drop down Timpanokee.

Some normally loose talus was solidly secured via icy snow, providing more security

Hands on 

Icy bulge in the bottleneck

Microspikes are must have's for icy limestone bulges. 
Cheesy ice ax and summit shot

The descent down to the saddle was slow due to lots of traversing on steep snow, and we decided to head down TK instead of traversing due to time, weather, and safety(lots of cornices).
Its still winter on the Timp ridge

Contemplating the meaning of life(and how to get down)

I tend to prefer rocks to steep snow, but its nice to branch out

Unfortunately the snow was totally mushy heading down into the cirque, and we couldn't even butt glissade without completely body postholing. It took way longer than we thought to traverse the cirque as every step resulted in sinking up to our knees. Largely miserable. 5000 postholes later we made it to the descent, but there was still tons of snow, making hiking the trail impossible to see and totally burdensome. So we continued to fake glissade down through the cliffbands, and much sketchy traversing and downclimbing muddy rocky 5th class dirt to access the next snowy couloir that we hoped would lead us to freedom. Steve was the hero here as he had pants on that allowed less skin loss so he took the lead through this heinously uncomfortable section.
What normally is a trivial descent off the saddle was made more difficult by large cornices

Why is he crawling? Because that is the only way to not posthole
We glissaded/downclimbed through those thick pine trees. Yea, not ideal. 

Shorts+2.5 hours of Breakable Crust=Shredded chicken

Finally, 2.5 hours after leaving the summit we reached dry trail, or at least the best we could hope for as snow continued to appear throughout the descent to the parking lot. After refueling at TK, we began the 8 mile, 1500' journey on the TK road that traverses around the north side of the mountain. It was largely dry, but about 5 miles along the large thunderstorm predicted by Mr. Weatherman rolled in and dumped some rather large gumball sized hail on us.

At this point we were tired and just didn't care. We were cold, hungry, and wet, so let the hail fall. We had it in the bag as all we had to do was find the obvious BC descent trail off the road. I managed to bungle our descent down Battle Creek just as I had done on the ascent, and took the wrong trail down(literally impossible to do unless you're me) that led us to an overlook of BC, with 1000' of loose talus lying between us and the car. We sighed, and started down. The ski descent of the talus was the best glissade of the day(no postholing!), and we rolled back to the Volkswagon in just under 8 hours CTC.

Overall a really enjoyable outing with a little bit of everything. I wouldn't want an outing like this all the time, but definitely memorable.

Stats: 20.3 miles, 8200' vert, 8 hours. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Olympus Scrambling Loop

The route, counterclockwise from bottom

In order to be a true Wasatch runner/climber, you have to have done the West Slabs on Olympus at least once, and preferably time trialed it with a descent down Apollo. However, I don't think nearly as many people, including myself, take advantage of the other 2 high quality scrambling routes the mountain has to offer. Chad Ambrose enlightened me to the option of linking the West Slabs into Geurts Ridge with his last blog post, something that hadn't been on my radar at all. Luckily I subscribe to a ton of blogs, so new ideas are always materializing.

Anyway, I decided that I am pretty bored with running the standard trail on Olympus in any direction as I've done it 27 times, which is what Chad did, so I thought "why not add another ridge on to the docket?" So I did. Kamps ridge is the 3rd excellent ridge scramble that I have been interested in trying, so I designed a route to link all three:

Up Zeus to the West Slabs, West Slabs, downclimb west ridge to saddle, head south to Geurts, up Geurts to South Summit, down one of the memorial Couloirs(the one just southeast of S. Summit) into Neffs, up Kamps to North Summit, down West Ridge, down Apollo, back to Zeus and the car. Should be good!

I started at around 7 am, and with the overnight rainstorm found the slabs to be pretty wet, which made the ascent slightly slower due to increased slickness and the risk of potentially falling to ones death. I have also been sidelined with a cold the past week, so much phlem and coughing ensued on the slog up Zeus, which made me nervous. Neverthless, I proceeded, and hit the top in around 1 hour, which isn't bad, and proceeded down into Tolcat and over to Geurts, still hacking and blowing snot rockets, but less miserable than I was earlier. Some thick bushwacking was involved in Tolcat, so I got in and out of there as quick as a shy guy in a lingerie store.

Geurts was fun, but the bottom section isn't much to get excited about. The top section is excellent though, lots of great scrambling and two fun downclimbs around potential rappelling cruxes, both pretty easy. Most of the ridge is easy 5th class, but a couple sections merit a 5.6 rating if you stick to the ridge(the point) with fun cracks to make it secure. While likely the least interesting of the three objectives, still worth doing at least once.
West View looking at Geurts Ridge
Geurts from top of the Slabs, with S. Summit at far left. Pictured is the best section, but the ridge extends out of frame to the right for quite a ways

Hardest section of climbing on Geurts, 40' of  steep 5.6 with good cracks

First rappel that can be bypassed by downclimbing to the south, left here. (climbers right)

Hit the south summit in 2:30 elapsed time, and ran into Jason Eichhorst from the Bear 100 nightmare on the top who had run the standard trail. We chatted, then I descended and glissaded one of the memorial couloirs down into Neffs on some pretty slushy snow.
Descent glissade

I knew there was a 90% chance of picking the wrong ridge to do Kamps, since I suck at routefinding, was approaching from above versus below, and there are about 10 different ridgelines on the east side. Still I was disappointed when I discovered halfway up my chosen ridge I was on the wrong one. Curses! I could have proceeded up the unknown ridge or bailed down one of the couloirs, but I decided to stick it out. I attempted to traverse directly north, but got cliffed out was forced to pretty much descend back down to my starting point after some wet slabby downclimbing into another memorial couloir. This was frustrating and the detour overall cost me an hour at least. Oh well.
I can see the aesthetics of skiing these lines. Kamps is North of this couloir
View from east with my blunder ridge up/down shown in the middle

After righting my wrong and feeling better that I was on track on the new ridge, I scrambled up the lower Kamps which was fun, but again, not awesome. But the upper section was really engaging. Lots of exposed 5th class on a thin toothpick of a ridgeline. Most of the ridge could be climbed on either side but some straddling was also involved. The crux is the last part of the ridge with some exposed face traversing and offwidth cracks, though I was disappointed that an easy bailout point into the memorial 1 couloir to the south was possible, which makes it seem contrived. But the ridge was much more interesting, and pretty easy climbing although a fall would land you down in Dan's parking lot. It's no Grand or Evolution Traverse, but still a good time.

Couldn't help but add this photo from MP. Fantastic shot. Photo Cred: Moon Mountain Photography

Upper Section of Kamps Ridge, with crux on right face. 

Looking back after the crux

With all my poor routefinding I hit the north summit after 4.5 hours elapsed, which likely could have been 3.5 if I had nailed the correct route first go. Then a short scramble down to Apollo and half glissading/half death talus led me back to the Zeus connector and the car, 5.5 hours, 8.5 miles, and almost 7k' of vert after departing. Sans mistake, I would estimate 8 miles and 6k of vert.

Someone(jared campbell/dorais bros/Ueli Steck) with speed and route knowledge in the spring with prime glissading conditions could go sub 4 on this route if they wanted, which seems ridiculously fast considering most normal mountaineering folk do one of these in a day, or at least that's what summitpost and MP suggest.