Friday, January 2, 2015

Sweatin' it up White Pine

Shreddin the Gnar, or whatever (all quality photos courtesy of Jake)

Ski season is upon us. After last year's debacle involving a massive avalanche and my life almost ending, I seriously debated whether I should continue skiing. Despite my hesitations, I retrieved my lost skis, poles, hat, goggles, etc once spring arrived, enjoyed a summer of running and climbing, and sure enough, winter arrived and I'm skiing again. I didn't do a good job at getting rid of my bad skiing influences, i.e my friends, so they inevitably peer pressured me back into, although it didn't take much to bring me back from sobriety.

I haven't had a plethora of ski days already like some folks out there, but have had some very enjoyable outings so far. We had a great powder day up Beartrap fork after Christmas skiing the trees, and a boney but still quality day up on Kessler though Court's lost ski in the depths of the East Couloir did put a damper on moral, mostly Court's. Luckily he has like 9 pairs of skis.
Court skying off a short drop in the East Couloir before losing his ski in the Bermuda Triangle

Court skiing in Beartrap

Managed to capture the stumble. 

Today was the best day of the year so far, despite the unpredicted sweltering temps. With this last week being terribly cold and windy in the valley, I was prepared for severe bone chilling skiing as we headed up to ski some safe south facing terrain, another one of the classic north side LCC chutes, White Pine. White pine couloir is the last of the major couloirs on the north side I have to ski. Needless to say there was some confusion among the brethren when I said I wanted to ski "White Pine", as that can refer to the trailhead, drainage, the actual lake area, and countless other minor chutes all bearing that name. After clarifying, and making a somewhat annoying pit stop for Pete, we found ourselves skinning up the appointed couloir.

However, after about and hour, and after booting a steep tight section(much exertion), Jake, Pete, and I were baking in the hot sun and being blinded by the solar flare reflection off the snow. We trudged on and up, skinning through lots of firm and breakable crust. Despite us whining as we sweated our guts out and pondering whether this adventure was worth the loss of our future eyesight, the snow ended up a lot like Ebenezer Scrooge: quite crusty at first, but softening significantly with time.

The turns ended up being a lot better than expected, and we enjoyed mostly soft, dense turns down another aesthetic line.

Whenever I get tired and hope someone else will break trail, Jake is conveniently a ways back

Pete with his usual "coat around the waist" stylish skinning 

Boys navigating a short steep choke 
The straight leg technique is an excellent way to break your legs upon impact

What Pete lacks in stylish gear he compensates for in jumping grace.

Does it get much better? Maybe a burrito and Dr Pepper at the car

White pine is another classic, easy access, 3000' "out of the gate" couloir that has a bit of everything. Some steep tight chokes, some open mellow terrain, and a big cliff at the bottom that must be negotiated via a quite narrow chute to the west. Fun!

In other news, little Timbre is 6 months old!

A few weeks old 

Cute little kid. 6 months. When she isn't crying she's a treat. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Random Chossy Zion Peaks

The three peaks we bagged

South Guardian Angel.  I didn't climb it yet.  But it looks cool. 

Great photos like those above here from joe braun. For crappy iphone photos continue reading on.

My immediate family minus the Burningham clan headed down to St George over the Thanksgiving weekend to enjoy some hiking. I decided to test their skills on some Zion choss to see who would be victorious on the sandy sugar hills.

We headed out from the Wildcat Trailhead on the Kolob Terrace Rd for the Northgate Peaks, with my internal intentions to bag North Guardian Angel and both East and West Northgate Peaks somewhat unstated. I'm not sure the family really knew what we were doing. We scrambled through the pass between the Northgate Peaks over to NGA and proceeded to climb the 3rd class slabs to the base of the east ridge. Most people didn't find this too difficult. The East Ridge itself however is 4th class and looks kinda steep from afar, which means nothing too terribly difficult for a climber, but for those unaccustomed to scrambling without  a rope it can be quite unnerving. I led my dad and Caroline (my mom and Rachel decided it looked a bit sketchy for their liking) up the ridge and they did really well considering how loose some spots were along with the exposed sections. They gained expert skills in crabwalking, carefully weighting loose jenga blocks, and trusting feet pasted on slickery slabs. My dad knocked a grapefruit sized rock down which hit me in the arm, but that's part of the game. Annie fed Timbre and then bagged the peak herself. We felt taking Timbre up 4th class was not good parenting.
North Guardian Angel's East Ridge from West Northgate

Great to see this chick out having a good time since most of her time revolves around feeding monster kid

View of the where the 4th class starts, head way right, then way left

Halfway up the ridge with West Northgate behind. I wore my Xmas colors in honor of black friday
Coming across NGA's summit ridge. "It just keeps going!"-Caroline

View across to SGA with Subway below. Next time! 
NGA saddle, with great view of Rams peak on the right

We then schwaked over to East Northgate peak. We lost my dad to the tired crowd but Caroline conceeded to do another one(little did she know there were 2 more) and we bagged that one via some pretty crappy rock on the west side involving pinching some brown sugar while mantling into manzanita with some fairly high consequence fall zone below with Timbre on my back. Bad parenting, but she was asleep. We descended the 2nd class trail on the North side(less fun) and back up to the Northgate Peaks trail. Annie and Caroline seemed a bit tired and Timbre was asleep, so they told me to go ahead onto West Northgate on my own. However, I showed them the cool 3rd class North Ridge and they changed their minds quickly.

Family photo on top of East Northgate. Yes our child can breath

West Northgate slabs

We downclimbed through some volcanic rock and enjoyed the final peak's fun solid scrambling, then headed back to the van. South Guardian Angel is now the only major peak on the Kolob Terrace side I need to bag to accomplish Jared and Buzz's 5 peak linkup, which sounds really cool since you have to descend the complicated ridge system into the Subway from NGA. Maybe later in the Spring my ambitious plan would be to climb all 5 peaks plus descend the Subway IAD!

Map of our peaks and how to get to SGA

Day 2 of my hiking tour took us to Water Canyon outside of Polygamy town Hildale. Jared had done a loop up Squirrel and down Water, but that 11 mile RT was a bit heavy for our group. We hiked up Water Canyon which was interesting, not very adrenaline packed but cool scenery. It was 2.5 miles up to the mesa where we consumed a large amount of Chex Mix. Later we fought over dinner about whether to watch "property brothers" or football.
Water canyon

After church the family headed home and we went back to Zion. Annie was tired and so was Timbre so I bagged Tabernacle Dome on my own. Tabernacle is located near the Left Fork trailhead, and I started directly across from "True North", a vacation rental house. I would not recommend this. It involved heinous bushwaking on volcanic rock through 3 separate gullies. The better approach is up the road another half mile to a big open flat area with a gargoyled NPS road. Its a bit longer but way less horrible, unless you like that sort of thing. I came back on this and it was very nice. 2.5 miles RT with around 900 feet of gain.

Access through the bottom cliffs was puzzling and required adept route finding, something I am not good at. I eventually found a cool tunnel/slot/rain runoff feature that I could stem up. Not sure if this is the only way up but it would be pretty neat if it was. More sandy manzanita winding through sandstone blobs provided access to the quite steep 3rd class friction of the North ridge. Like many Zion Scrambles, various trees with webbing appeared along the way for those who find descending a bit too scary for their liking. The view was pretty cool and my watch showed 27 min to get to the top, which would be far faster if you knew the route. Surprised to see 6 people had summitted in the last month since this peak seemed fairly obscure, though close to the road. We drove back to St George and slept at the Chuckawalla TH in our new van.
Tabernacle Dome from nice flat approach

Looking down the 3rd class friction. Mangled brown access rd visible

Standard Zion anchor
The weird slot thing that allowed passage to upper terrace

Van life!

I'm slowly learning climbing is any respect with little Timbre is a nightmare. She just won't sit by herself for any length of time without screaming, and praise heaven if a nap ever occurs. We went out to Turtle Wall so I could try my luck on a 13a called "the actual parchments" but it did not go well. Luckily some other folks were out there and gave me a catch on it while Annie patiently attended to Timbre's needs. I've never seen a kid so tired that refuses to sleep. No send but one day of effort on a 13 isn't really realistic at this stage for me. Maybe I'll be back in the future. I'm hoping maybe by next spring season Timbre will be walking and maybe that will be better so she can roam around. But who knows. Multi pitch trad climbing is essentially done for Annie and I till our kids are like 10, but I was hoping sport would be doable. It hasn't been so far. But she's pretty fun so I guess we'll keep her.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Pre Daylight Savings Time Peakbagging

I hate daylight savings time, at least in the fall. Who cares if its light in the morning? We all get up, go to work, and sit inside. I want daylight after work so I can actually go do some fun stuff outside. But whether or not I dislike this tradition I have to accept it. So in the final week before the post work activities largely come to a halt with the sun setting at the unfortunate hour of 530 pm, I decided to try to tag a few more peaks that were on my list: Squaw Peak, Grandview Peak, and Spanish Fork Peak.

Squaw Peak-Monday

This peak is really accessible, probably similar to Grandeur Peak in Salt Lake via Church Fork in mileage and vertical. Its 7.4 miles RT, with 2820' of climbing. For the average BYU zoobie on a date it might take half a day, but if you can run it you'll be up and down in less time than the average Provo Temple session, which can easily be seen from the summit. I gave it a solid effort and managed 2nd on the strava ascent leaderboard, with only the mythical creature Sas Quatch besting my time. (see here for clarification). Fun outing, the Provo folks are lucky to have this peak so close.

Looking down the south face of Squaw Peak. Rock canyon trail seen below

Grandview Peak-Wednesday

My gps died in city creek, imagine the blue line connected to the other blue line to make a nice loop

This one is definitely off the radar. Located high above city creek canyon, its isn't really easily accessible from any one direction. Three-four distinct possiblities exist, and they are all involved. I recruited Court for this outing since it involved a bike ride/running combo, which he tends to enjoy. We rode up city creek canyon 5 miles to Rotary Park, then took the unmarked North Creek trail up to Rudy's Flat. From here we more or less followed the ridge east all the way to the summit, which involved some trail, but mostly psuedo-trail/off trail ridging. We summitted right at dark and it was pretty cold. Then came the descent. I had preplanned to descend via the trail-less, possibly horrendous but extremely direct variation down Cottonwood Gulch into City Creek. I like direct routes, and despite the high likelihood we would be jungle shrubbing for 3 miles, it seemed more adventurous, less time consuming, and pure than returning the way we came or continuing on towards swallow rocks.

We started down with headlamps ablaze and found a surprisingly enjoyable dirt stream gully thing in bottom of the U shaped valley with minimal shrubbery and we cruised, taking only 30 min to get from the summit to city creek. Highly recommend this 3rd class adventure running descent. Imagine a less bike friendly version of the Bobsled in the University Foothills and you get the picture. 15 min down city creek and we were back at our bikes. This sweet loop(sans bike mileage) was 10.4 miles and 4400' feet of climbing, which took us around 2:45 hours, plus the 30 min or so of bike time.
Ridge running

Court yelping, "ow!" when the trail disappeared

Almost to the summit

Spanish Fork Peak(aka Maple Mountain)-Saturday

Annie grew up at the base of this peak and has summitted it numerous times, even going so far as to call it "her mountain". I guess the Mapleton folks refer to this peak as "Maple Mountain", but to everyone else its Spanish Fork Peak. The author of the summitpost description has some harsh declarations regarding this discrepancy:

Some locals refuse to call this mountain Spanish Fork Peak, instead calling it "Maple Mountain" or "Mapleton Mountain." This seems to be borne out of some simmering rivalry between David (Mapleton) and Goliath (Spanish Fork City). USGS, understandably, sided with Goliath. Best advice for residents of Mapleton (which exists only because it seceded from Springville in the 1910s, with the blessing of the Utah Supreme Court) is to get over it. The name is Spanish Fork Peak.

I decided I needed to summit it as some point to honor Annie's youth and also because I was intrigued by the Dorais bro's ski video from last year. I was happy to discover there were trails on both sides of the peak, so I could traverse it rather than do an out and back, which I am not fond of. Starting in SP canyon, I headed up the  less popular and steep Sterling Hollow trail and after an hour or so I hit a big open meadow with remains from a large hunting camp. I was unable to find the trail from here and it was getting pretty socked in, so I decided to beeline it north straight up a huge talus field into the clouds with hopes I'd hit the peak. The trail supposedly traversed west around a subpeak but I wasn't going to go spend a ton of time looking for it. Luckily the clouds parted right as I hit the ridge, unveiling I was just below the summit, marked by a giant triangular metal structure.
Talus field where I lost the trail

The talus became tedious so I vouched for straight up 50 degree weeds instead

I got lucky and my direct talus approach worked out perfectly. Summit just ahead
Wanna-be Timp like metal summit structure

Maple Canyon Lake on the descent with a herd of elk
It started to snow on the summit, so I continued north on my planned descent route of the right fork of Maple Canyon, the more common approach. Everything went smooth and 7 miles and 5300' of knee bashing later, I was back at the canyon mouth and met Annie to help with the shuttle. Only 2:41 for this 12.5 mile adventure. Amazing what ground you can cover with some simple fitness.

Now that the sun is gone, the headlamp may be my best friend for after work activities, pending the weather cooperates.

Monday, September 29, 2014

100 miles is really too far

Bear 100

Some people genuinely enjoy running 100 miles. They must, or they wouldn't go back right? Folks like Davy Crockett, Scott Mills, Speedgoat, and that super old guy whose run over 100 of them. Am I missing something or do those guys just not feel pain? Or do they ignore it? Or do they embrace it? I think ultrarunners must suffer from long term memory loss. We can't remember how miserable we were. I can't believe I'm the only one out there who isn't having a ton of fun the entire way.

Regardless of how others handle the 100 mile distance I have come to the conclusion that I am not cut out for this garbage. After about 50-60 miles, I'm done. Then its just a fight to endure the next 12 or so hours of full on misery. After last year's Wasatch 100, I told Annie I wouldn't ever run another 100 miler. Realizing that I make a lot of bogus claims like this and that I'm more or less an idiot, she calmly said, "ok Vern, whatever you say", knowing full well I likely would do another.
Leatham Hollow

And so I, being an idiot, entered the Bear 100. There were a number of reasons I signed up, wanting to go sub 24 hours, revisit an area with beautiful trails where I went to college, possibly qualifying for Hardrock. Plus in my opinion completing the 100 mile distance is what really makes you a certified ultrarunner, so I wanted to run more than just one. My running hadn't been quite as serious this year as last years due to Timbre being born, but I still got a few long outings in. I felt recovered from the WURL two weeks ago and despite how awful I felt after that event I was hoping the Bear would be different since it was on trails and not off trail scrambling.

 It wasn't.

Blind Hollow

After two years of data analysis, my pattern recognition software finally kicked out a result: I don't suffer well. When the going gets tough, I like to quit. Two major 26-27 hour efforts in the last two weeks have both resulted in me whining like a little schoolgirl and pleading with those nearby to take me out to the barn and finish me off with a blunt instrument like old Bessie the beef cow. For some reason I don't like pain. Go figure.

My Bear 100 experience started off well. From Dry Canyon to Tony Grove(mile 52)I felt good, was hitting my sub 24 hour splits, the weather was warm but not super hot, and the scenery was fantastic. Then I ate two cups of delicious chili and pumpkin bread at Tony's and my stomach violently rebelled like Luke Skywalker against the Empire. I failed to run very much at all the next 10 miles, then darkness came. I lost a solid hour off my splits from Franklin to the Gibson aid station due to who knows what, likely just from being alone at night in a foreign land after running 60 miles. I scrounged up some energy and flailed to mile 75 to meet Annie and Steve who would pace me the last 25(thank goodness).
Always beautiful Tony Grove

Delicious but evil

Headed back out 

Steve did an excellent job, as he did on the WURL, keeping me going one step at a time to the end. We walked and walked and walked(like the Pioneer song) and did little running. Every aid station I sat down, swore at myself, the race director, the other runners for looking so less miserable than me, waited for Steve to count down the time left, cursed Steve for loving 100 milers so much, and then hefting my butt back out into the cold and wished for death, Steve was a great pacer, lying to me the whole way, which is what pacers are supposed to do:

"You are really moving well"(1 mile/hour)
"I remember this section, the aid station is only 5 minutes away"(45 min away)
"I think the rain is letting up" (only 2 inches/hour)
"Isn't this fun?"(no)
"This section is all downhill"(then why are we going up?)
"At least this isn't the FE(fundamentals of engineering exam, 8 hour long test all undergrad engineers take)(at least at the FE you get to sit down)

Miles 83 to the end were a mix between mud wrestling and the pitch black water park ride at Seven Peaks. The course required less running and more skiing. The constant downpour of cold rain didn't help moral. Once I reached Ranger Dip at mile 92 it was just a matter of chugging up the last Everest of a horrendous climb and sliding down the other side.
Looks like I did a number in my pants, but it came from outside I promise

I will never leave 

I rolled into the finish at 25:55, 2 hours shy of my goal, but happy to be done. I endured sore legs, blisters, toenail death, butt chafing, groin chaffing, nausea, headache, back pain, and an annoyingly positive pacer. Sounds like a spa weekend doesn't it? I felt for Pete who still had 9 more hours out there in the cold, but he's a better man than I. Annie drove me to Rancheritos for a breakfast burrito then a shower and a nap. (the shower and nap did not occur at Rancheritos)

Despite the idea that I would love to experience some of the other iconic 100 mile distance races like Hardrock or States or even UTMB, I ultimately think those races would be more of ticking things off a list than if I'd actually enjoy the race or not. For me running is largely about enjoying the scenery and places it takes me. Usually after 50 miles or so darkness arrives, scenery disappears, and fatigue and sleep deprivation take its place. Why did I sign up to pay $250 to enjoy only half a race? 50 miles is plenty of time to get tired, believe me, I don't need any more miles to get a workout in. Personally I find the 50k distance to be ideal, just long enough to push your buttons, but just when you feel like you need to be done the finish line appears, unlike a 100 miler when you are only a third done.

Most 100 milers also seem pretty contrived.  A few do a big loop(Hardrock) or point-to-point(Wasatch, Bear) which is ideal, but out and back races(bighorn,bryce) or loop races(HURT, Javalina) hold zero appeal to me. Why am I running the same thing over again?

Some folks also have a joy of running their favorite 100 miler every year(AJW and Western States) and acquire 10-15 finishes of one race. That's not me. If I ever run another 100 miler, it won't be Wasatch or the Bear. I like new stuff.

Also the 100's I am interested in seem to be getting more and more popular, requiring years of praying or bribing to get entry through a lottery or doing qualifier races. Again, not super interested.

 I've done the distance twice. I know I can do it. I don't really have a desire to push to see "how much further I can go". There will always be a harder race. This goes for adventure runs too. As happy as I am I finished the WURL, I'm not sure I will search out other "longer than half a day" adventure runs.

The great thing about ultrarunning is that racing isn't required to experience the grandeur of these cool places. In fact, the most memorable runs aren't the races, they're the "fun runs" I do with the guys and Annie, things like the Teton Crest, R2R2R, Zion Traverse, 4 pass loop, and others. As for Hardrock, Matt Hart suggests in his list of top 8 must do ultraruns to enjoy Hardrock by doing it in 2-3 days, a "softrock" if you will. This sounds ideal as one can experience the entire course in daylight and really take it the spectacle that is the San Juans, not just suffer through the course. And when Steve finally gets into Hardrock in 15 years after putting in every year(and he will) I'll be there to pace him and lie to him the entire way.

To those who will continue their 100 mile quests, I bid you my utmost respect and condolences.