Sunday, December 30, 2012

Inferior to Superior

Superior and Sysco

Annie and I had planned on hitting up St Jorge for the New Year's holiday but due to early season snow and below average cold weather in Zion where we had plans to do some scrumbling(a mix of climbing, scrambling , and hiking) we abandoned that in hopes of saving money and enjoying the new snow.

Nate came in last weekend for the xmas holiday so we got up early and headed up to ski Cardiac across from Alta accompanied by his brother Andrew. Unfortunately, despite the fairly recent snow, the skiing was well, horrible. Nate would say any skiing is great skiing, but being only a moderately stoked skier,  I found conditions to be pretty crappy. Ice, hard, no good turns. But we had fun anyway and got in around 2000' of vert, so exercise is always a good thing.

Brighton recieved a foot of snow overnight heading into Thursday, so I decided I wasn't feeling very well so I called in sick. Enjoyable day with Court, Pete, Stevo, and his visiting brother.

Saturday Court, Pete, Nick and I headed up Cardiac again with hopes of better snow. Court had his eyes on skiing the South Face of Mt. Superior at 11,040, which I now understand to be one of the classic ski lines in the most classic Utah backcountry area. We joined a conga line of sorts, skinning up the face in the early morning daylight till we reached the ridge. A variety of interesting terrain stood in our way of summiting Superior, including steep icy skinning, downhill sideslipping, humping the rocky ridge, testy switchbacks, a booter, and my personal favorite, attempting to skin over exposed gneiss and aspen logs. Court was the only one who managed to keep his skins on the entire time to booter territory. The rest of us managed to salvage our pride and gear through hiking means.
Skinning up the ridge

Pete deciding whether to keep the skis on or not

Courts hat is an avy survival tool. If he gets buried we can still find him.

We summited Superior with 8 other folks mid morning, and froze our butts off while the Alice's and Nancy's ahead of us took their sweet time clearing out of our potential slide path should we trigger an avy on them during our runs. Court and Nick skied right off the summit, while Pete and I took a more conservative line just north of the summit.

Nick booting up the final stretch to the summit with hunter orange-Nate Lowe-wannabe Court pondering his line

The snow was awesome. Deep, deep powder on pretty steep terrain. It was the biggest and most intimidating thing I'd skied in my life. Maybe that means something, but probably not as Pete said he was more scared of 5.10 trad than our ski line. To each his own. We hit the road 3000' feet later, and hiked the mile back up to our car reminiscing about one of the best ski days we will likely have this year.

Court skiing the goods

Nick enjoying the lower bowl screaming, "my quads, my quads!"

Yep, we skied from the top of that sucker.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

10k in a day

10,000 leagues under the sea, 10,000 stripling warriors, and the 10,000 maniacs. Ten thousand is a number that seems frequently used in the world for whatever reason. 10k vertical feet climbed in a day is a pretty solid effort for those endurance athletes who are up to the challenge. I have done over 10k in day only a couple times:

Grand Canyon R2R2R 11,300
Gannett Peak 10,280
Had we finished the full Zion traverse it also qualifies

I decided I wanted to do it a third time only without the severe mileages usually associated with such endeavours. My plan was to conquer the three major "foothill" peaks around SLC which basically rise straight up from the valley without much switchbacking, making for few miles but steep trails. The three peaks are:

Mt Olympus 7 miles RT 4200' (standard trail)
Grandeur Peak 4.5 miles RT 3300' (west ridge. standard church fork only has 2300')
Mt Wire 3 miles RT 2100' (via bonneville shoreline near Hogle Zoo)

You'll notice this only adds up to 9600' of vert, so in my quest I ran another small subsummit on Mt Wire to fulfill the 10k goal. 

I started up Oly around 8:30 and there were quite a few people on the trail. I passed a few couples dayhiking and also found quite a few runners barrelling down after what must have been pre-dawn starts. The trail was solid till the last 3/4 mile where it became quite icy, including my bladder nozzle. I had no water from here till I got back to the car. I slowed quite a bit due to the slippery conditions, and the 3rd class scramble to the top was one of the more sketchy things I've done in my well worn treadless Fireblades. (until I came down it that is). I summited in a decent 1:15  in a full on snowstorm and headed down. My "run" became a parody of the luge. I skated, skied, and fell down the trail till I was fairly bruised. I resorted to off trail shwaking to prevent furthur coccyx injury. Made it down in 2:20, which isn't a great time but I wasn't really going for speed.(i'll be back in better conditions to beat Stevo's time, though I am a long way off of Karl Meltzers FKT of 1:35. Yikes!) 
North summit of Oly from South summit

Slippery ridge

The luge aka How to break your tailbone. Sled anyone?

Grandeur Peak has a standard trail up the east side via Church Fork up Millcreek(current FKT is 33 min, just dumbfounding), but due to its high trailhead elevation, I opted for the lower West Ridge. There is no running this trail. It just is way too steep. Annie joined me on the 2nd leg of my journey, and we set off with poles in hopes of preserving my legs. We summited in just over an hour in a worsening snowstorm, then proceeded back down. We ran into poster boy Ari Menitov coming up with his dog, though no words were exchanged other than "hi". We were back at the car with a RT time of 1:45 or so. 

My hair and nozzle are both frozen. Summit of Grandeur

Somewhere descending the ridge

Annie bailed to go take a shower, leaving me my last objective, Mt Wire. This one is pretty short compared to the other two(FKT is 27 min by Sherpita, my best is 38min so i've got a ways to go). I ditched the headphones for this one, as I had heard that freaking clapping Imagine Dragons song as well as whoever sings that, "shines like a diamond, shines like a diamond" epileptic horrorshow of a musical concoction about 50 times each on the radio. I will kill myself if I hear it again. Starting at Hogle Zoo, I plowed my way up the slicker than snot ridge to the summit in a pitiful but understandable 50 min. I took another way down hoping for better conditions, but did not find them. A guy in front of me slipped and fell flat on his back, or so he would have had his dog not been right behind him. The dog got crushed. I fell about 7 times in similar fashion, often using trees as hand holds(or body holds) till I got to lower elevation where the snow wasn't so deep. I ran back up a small false summit, hoping it was at least 400', then punched it back to the car for a total elapsed time of 5:53 of "running" time. Great day in the mountains. 

Oh good, not much more uphill left. Summit of Wire

Stats: about 15 miles, 10,000 vert, 5:53 time, 3 peaks. 

One should recognize how pitiful this effort really is when compared with other "peak bagging" days by other hardcorers. My hero Jared Campbell(who we saw friday night at the gym) has done Lone peak, Timp, and Nebo all in one day. That's 16,000 vert over 42.5 miles. Sigh. I'm usually tired after one of those peaks. And there is always the WURL, or the new Skyline traverse, where basically every major peak in the valley is conquered, but I'll stick with being moderately proud of my feeble effort. For now.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Smashing and Getting Smashed in Zion


Zion is the place to be in late November. Cool but sunny, spectacular scenery, climbing of all types, and great trails to run. After gorging on turkey and the fixings while spending a more than ample amount of time on our butts watching football, we made the trek down for a dual threat of climbing and a long trail run.

Friday we arrived in Zion about 12 pm and took off for "Smash Mouth", a gorgeous 4 pitch 5.11 splitter finger crack near the Mount Carmel Tunnel that leads to the East Entrance. The wall faces west so afternoon sun was our hope. After a 20 min trek skirting around the base of the wall, Court, Annie and I set off up the crack. Court took pitch 1, a short 5.10+ thin hand crack to a wide hands corner. Fun. I took off pitch 2, a dancy face past 4 bolts which allowed passage to the finger crack. 30 feet of .5 camalots took me to the belay, another great 5.10 pitch. Pitch 3 was Courts, another beauty. 80 feet of fingers, with adequate feet often but a few sections of smearing garbage into vertical terrain. He surprised himself I think by onsighting the beast, a great achievement. Pitch 4 was the crux 5.11 pitch, which wasn't too hard up until the last 10 feet. I pulled through a few hard bulges on good locks, but then fell at the last sequential tips to flarey hand jam crux. Annie and Court both sent on TR, so I felt crappy, but they were nice enough to say it was reasonably hard.

Pitch 1

Court following pitch 2

Annie fighting for some good locks

Crux ending to pitch 4

We then went and hung out with Steve, Izzy and Nick where Crimson King, a hard 5.11 single pitch gave us all quite a bit of grief. We managed to find a place to sleep across the Rockville bridge on some BLM land by a river and some RV's.

Saturday Steve, Court, and I had plans to run the full Zion 50 mile traverse, while Nick and Annie were going to try to run the first half, or Rim to Rim of Zion, a very difficult 26 mile course. Izzy was our crew. Essentially the full 50 miler(10k vert) starts at the East Rim of Zion, heads down into Zion proper ending at Weeping Rock, then climbs out the canyon via the Angels Landing trail. It then heads out to the West rim, which is 13.5 miles from the Grotto. Then it takes the Wildcat Trail down to the Hop Valley trail, another 8 miles, and finally cranks the last 14 miles out into the Kolob section of Zion, where it ends at Lee's Pass.

 We started off from the East Entrance just after 7 am. We all plodded along, and the first 10 miles to the Weeping Rock Trailhead went well with no one really complaining too loud about the difficulties. It was mostly downhill. We all made it up Angels Landing where a few ran, but most walked. The trail climbs the entire time from the Grotto up to the mesa above Behunion Canyon. We were all getting pretty tired by this point, 18 miles in. Steve, Court and I took off as we had 22 more miles to go after the West Rim, leaving Annie and Nick to chug it out the last 8. We ran the flat and downhill, but walked the uphill. We weren't making good time, and the 3 of us finally made it to the West Rim between 6:45 and 7:00 total elapsed time. Izzy had illegally gone down the closed road to the West Rim in the 4 runner due to our need for supplies, which we were grateful for. After binging on food, Court decided he was out for the 2nd half due to stomach issues, while Steve and I decided to press on in a very reluctant manner. Once Annie and Nick arrived at the West rim, they would carpool back to get our car at the East rim, and then meet us in Kolob. They arrived 10-15 minutes after we left the car.

Annie running near Echo Canyon

Nick on East Rim Trail

The crew running on East Rim

After Steve and I came to a junction for the Hop Valley Trail 5 miles later, we decided running in the cold, dark night for another 18 miles didn't sound very fun. So we bailed.  We hitched a ride down to the main road, and waited for our comrades to come get us. We ate Panda Express and made it home at a decent hour. Sometimes its more pleasant to not accomplish your goals.

Nick, Court, and Annie: 26 miles in 7 to 7:30
Steve and Spence: 32 miles in 8:30

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Gossiping with Penguins and Owls


 Annie and I had decided we didn't like SLC this past week due to the ridiculous amount of snow that fell and ruined our enjoyable fall. So we don't do this often, but we took a one day trip to Moab to climb some desert towers and escape the foot of snow on our lawn.

Neither of us had been to arches in the past 10 years, and there are quite a few towers there that are shorter with easy approaches, so we borrowed some cams from James and set off Friday night with hopes of desert summits. It was raining on the way down, and we were afraid it would ruin our plans, but after a night spent sleeping in the car at Klondike Bluffs the day dawned partially cloudy but with lots of sun.

Our first objective was a short, 35m tower called The Three Penguins. It is right off the main Arches road and is the first tower formation you can see from the Visitor Center. We hiked the brutal 3 min approach slabs up to the base and got started. "The right chimney" goes at 10d, and is the best route up the tower. Pitch 1 is a 5.10a/b fingers to OW right facing corner that packs a punch despite its moderate rating. The crux is cupped hands through a bulge, Annie's favorite size. Pitch 2 was all #3 camalot size and bigger. I placed 2  #3's in the first 10 feet then it widened to #4, and finally a  15 foot section of #5 camalot. I got to work with my hand/fist stacks and knee locks while walking my bootied #5 up with me. Finally the crack widens out to where you can squirm inside the crack horizontally using chickenwings and thrutching. A short boulder problem guards the top. This pitch goes at 10d, which felt accurate. Its pretty secure, just strenuous. Annie hated it. "Can we go find a nice thin hand crack?" she said. "Nope, the desert requires mastery of all disciplines, and we have two more towers to go". Annie unfortunately rolled her ankle on the way down and we were fearful of our afternoon plans being botched, but after some ice from the cooler and ibu, she decided to sack up and climb some more. Hardcore.

The penguins

Pitch 1, cupped hands through bulge

Annie showing excellent hand/fist stack technique on pitch 2 OW.

On the summit. My impression of a penguin. I think its more like a chicken.

Side view of the penguins.

Tower 2 on our list was the Three Gossips, located in the Courthouse of the Towers 4 miles past the Penguins. "The west face" route is 3 pitches and climbs to the summit of the North Gossip.The motto of Arches is, "don't bust the crust", referring to the cryptobiotic soil that is crucial for desert life. Anyone who had been in the desert with Annie knows the severe wrath that you can bring upon yourself by trampling the precious soil in her presence. So we carefully made our way up to the tower in washes as there isn't a defined trail to the route.

 Pitch 1 was stellar hands/wide hands similar to 3am crack in the creek, minus the crux 10+ hard bulge guarding the anchors. You get a good cupped hands jam in the roof, but then its #5 camalot size over the bulge and you have no feet to speak of. For the life of me I could not campus off a hand/fist stack! Eventually I managed to lieback the roundy OW and then beach whale it onto the belay ledge. Ugggh. Annie yarded off my #5 camalot which I think was the smart way to do it. Pitch 2 was the crux 11c pitch. A long section of thin hands/ringlocks was hard, then another OW bulge that I had to fall on a few times, and finally one last roof of flaring red c3 size. Needless to say upon seeing that I didn't even try and made like the Red Cross and aided that thing. No idea how you would free that. A 30 foot squeeze finished it off landing me at the shoulder of the gossips. A easy runout 5.7 chimney put us on top. Great views from up there.

Artsy Black and White view of Three Gossips

Hands baby, till the end. Pitch 1 West Face.

Yarding on top of Pitch 1 heinous bulge. The #5 got a full workout
11c crux bulge. AKA hard.

Final chimney to summit. Annie face climbed it.

Doing the Hula summit dance
 Our final tower was Owl Rock, a single 1 pitch 5.8 in the Garden of Eden that I thought had magnificent climbing on it. Huge horns everywhere made for great handholds, a welcome respite from the crack intensive, sandy, and strenuous previous two towers. Rapped down at sunset to the gasping throngs of tourons taking photos. "how do you get the rope up there?" 

Annie on top of Owl Rock

Our knees, ankles, and shoulders hurt quite badly today. There isn't much finesse in this business. Towers kick your butt.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Running Ben with Ben(or near him)

The start

Map at trailhead

Ben Lomond Peak: 16.4 miles RT from the North Ogden Divide Trail with 3600' vert.
I knew nothing about Ben Lomond Peak up until a week or so ago when Court told me about the awesome trail up the peak that he and Nick did not too long ago. Turns out he was right. I got stoked on it so when Court called to give it a time trial I was down to give it a go.

Ben(Pete) and I drove up after work to run it nighttime style since Stevo decided to run it Tues and Court wanted to run it Wed in the light. So we had ourselves a little competition going on for fastest time. Unfortunately Court pansied out for some reason and so it was just the three of us battling it out. Steve posted a time of 3:23 according to his blog, so that was the benchmark.

I had printed off instructions how to get to the trailhead, but didn't do my research as I had directions to the North Fork Park trailhead, which is shorter and starts in a completely different city. Luckily I left them in my car back in SLC so Pete used his Ogden navigational skills he picked up from dating Jackie to get us to the North Ogden divide trailhead, the one we were supposed to be on. 

Pete and I took off about 6 pm from the trailhead, headlights donned. Pete always goes out hard from the get go and was power walking 10 minutes into the run. The trail was remarkably runnable the entire way, though deep crusty snowpack often slowed the pace. I hit the summit wall and the trail pretty much became despicable.  I said screw it and bee lined it up the face where I could see dry shale. I hit the top at 1:43, 10 minutes under Stevo's split I believe. I passed Pete on the way down about 10 min later. It was a beautiful run out as you can see all of Ogden with gorgeous singletrack most of the way. I felt like I could maintain a pretty good pace most of the way.

I hit the top of the wet switchbacks at 2:50, and was hoping to go sub 3, but ended up 3:06 with Pete firing off a 3:31. In completely dry conditions this could go 2:45 by a member of the clan. Also makes me want to do the skyline marathon.

We were both super dehydrated and hungry, as we both ran out of water halfway into the run and didn't bring food. But whatever. Didn't get home till 11. Probably won't be back till summer.

AANG, the car/creature that took us to Ogden

Pete finishing out

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sore Butts In Canyonlands


Canyonlands is a gorgeous national park near Moab that Annie and I have explored a few times. It is broken up into 3 main regions, Island in the Sky, Needles, and the Maze. By in large the majority of this park is inaccessible to travel of any kind due to the ridiculous amount of cliffs, canyons, 2 major rivers, and therefore lack of roads. However, the NPS did us a great service by blasting a road down off the Island in the Sky mesa on two sides and creating a four-wheel drive road that allows access to circumvent that mesa via car, motorcycle, mtn bike, or foot travel.

The white rim road is the super-classic mtn bike ride in the moab area in terms of distance, scenery, remoteness, and overall quality. Consequently permits to camp on the road are hard to come by. We applied for one back in February of this year, and were denied several times until we were successful.

Here is what, a reliable mtn biking source, has to say about the ride:
"The White Rim Trail is Utah's ultimate multi-day party trail. The trail is a 103-mile loop on jeep road through Canyonlands National Park. Technically, this trail is fairly easy. But the length (and a few stiff climbs) means you need to be in good condition to do the whole thing.
The major climbs add up to 4000 vertical feet, but an altimeter or GPS unit that records every little up-and-down will give you about 6000 feet total. Most riders spend 3 or 4 days to ride this trail, spending the night at campgrounds. (Two days = Monster. One day = Lunatic.)"


I guess we fall into the "Monster" category. Annie and I recruited 5 friends plus her brother Tyler to drive the support vehicle, to join us on our quest to ride the party trail in two days. In preparation for this mega event, between the 7 of us riding the road we had compiled over 30 total miles in the last month worth of training, all by me. The 5 recruits, Court, Izzy, Steve, Nick and Lauren, do not even own bikes. Lauren and Izzy had basically never ridden a real mtn bike trail. They were in essence, OTC. (off the couch, not over the counter). We tend to underestimate our objectives, and this was no exception. Go big.

We took off friday morning down the Shaeffer trail. It was a blast. We rode steadily but slowly, aiming for a 45 mile day where we would camp at Murphy's Hogback. We were all pretty tired by mile 40, and to stick it to us the road made us climb a brutal last hill up to our campsite. Many walked, a few prevailed.
Shaeffer Trail Switchbacks. Mile 2

Cruising down the switchbacks

The last brutal climb up to camp

Our campsite was great. We ate chili, freeze dried meals, halloween candy stolen from Anna(steve and izzy's kid) brats, dr pepper,  and listened to Steve's passionate views about Obama. Many shoes were hidden as practical jokes, and at least one 5 pound rock was stashed in a backpack and was carried by Court for over 15 miles unbeknownst to him.

Murphys Hogback camp

Saturday was beautiful, minus the sore rumps. We all did pretty well till one brutal climb about mile 70 where I fell trying to be cool and damaged my right ischium. Annie's knees were hurting quite badly, but we all kept going. We all rode through the last of the flats via many sand bars, with Steve biffing quite hilariously while photographing us while riding, and Court scaring Nick from behind a bush. We were all gearing up for the final climb back up to the rim. Annie and I did it in 21 minutes, and we estimate it was about 2 miles with about 1300 feet of climbing. Pretty brutal. Some people chose to hitch a ride for this section in the Tacoma, which was just fine as I'd say 85 miles OTC is a dang good achievement. Then its was 10 miles back to the car over roller coaster terrain. Annie's knees were destroyed, but she was determined to finish, so while Steve and Court barreled ahead, and the other 3 rode/got ridden for some of the final miles due to fatigue and painful perineums, we slowly slogged along. That's what endurance days are about. Slogging it out to the finish. We successfully rode the whole thing, minus a couple sand bogs. Another long, fun accomplishment.

Annie wishing she could leave SLC and live here

Nick pounding it up a short hill midway through day 1

Steve almost succeeding at a difficult steep loose hill

The green river

The crew. Thanks for looking at the camera Izzy

Total ride time was around 15 hours per Annie. Not a great time since the FKT running is 18:47 and fastest bike ride is 6:10, but we're not world class.  A phenomenal ride, a must do. Maybe we'll train and be back for a one day "lunatic" loop.