Sunday, December 29, 2013

Avalanche Danger is Lame

First winter summit of Lone peak. Not first geeky summit photo. 

The continued unstable snowpack and "considerable" avalanche danger persisting around the Wasatch has resulted in Mill D becoming as tracked as Alta 2 hours after a powder day. Having gotten bored with skiing Butler trees and Powder Park, we decided to hit up Lone Peak and Bighorn so we could actually summit something. The south faces of these peaks are iconic "highway" lines as some like to call them, meaning we gawk at them as we drive past them on I-15, the equivalent crashing hazard of texting or drinking for skiers. The pro's and con's of skiing south facing terrain all revolve around the sun. The lack of shelter from the blazing heat of the sun creates less snow with a crust on the surface, resulting in poor skiing conditions but also safe skiing conditions due to a stabilized snowpack. We like safe conditions 1st of all, and good snow 2nd, though we prefer both to be present if possible. We were hoping we could catch the thaw cycle around 12 pm and maybe get some soft snow after summiting the two peaks.

The start to these lines begins at the schoolhouse springs trailhead in Alpine. Good info to this trailhead can be found here. We skinned up the switchbacking dirt road that leads to the first hamongog, or meadow. The road had lots of snow in places, and not so much in others. We managed to ski most all of it on the way down with minor swearing and core shots. The road turn to singletrack, and climbs steeply up to the 2nd hamongog. From here, Heaven's Halfpipe is in full view. Coverage was a bit sparse, and quite icy most of the way. We struggled to the south summit of Lone Peak 4.5 hours after leaving the car.

We then traversed east across the Halfpipe and skinned up Bighorn. We were all tired by summit 2 having climbed about 7k'. Anytime we can ski over 5k' its a pretty sweet day. The ski out was awesome despite mostly crusty snow with countless hoppers and big wide open turns. The crux of the day was skiing down the singletrack chute to the 1st hamongog where I rolled down more than skied. Several enjoyable pole vaults across creek crossings and some testy icy skintracks brought us back to the car 7.5 hours later. I'll take this any day over tree skiing despite the less than ideal conditions.

My photos aren't nearly as good as this guys, so maybe just look at his TR and picture my face on them.
You know you are at the correct trailhead when you park next to the "no parking" sign. 

Just because there isn't snow doesn't mean you should remove your skis. 

Skinning up to Heavens Halfpipe and Bighorn

In the Halfpipe, giant uncovered rocks created a fun obstacle course. 

Nick looking stoic below Lone Peak summit

The boys traversing over to Bighorn. They look like skinny rocks

Looking back at Lone Peak from Bighorn

The tired skiers with Box Elder behind

Skiing down Bighorn spine

Its not backcountry skiing if you don't do some of this. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Aftershock from Mud

East Temple at sunset

After a delicious thanksgiving day dinner where I watched about 5 hours of football and did little more than a short hike and sit in a hot tub, Annie and I headed south for a much needed break from Salt Lake. With me being in school and traveling all over for PA school interviews, we have had less time than we'd like for fall travels south.

Friday we arrived in St George set on doing "Aftershock" 11b, the big brother to "living on the edge" down in Snow Canyon. I'm not sure why I decided to do this one, likely due to the short approach as I am not a big fan of frictioney sandy sport climbs like those in Snow Canyon. I pulled a Court and failed to bring my belay device to the top of pitch 1, requiring Annie to run the brutal 30 seconds back to the car to retrieve it, only to discover I had left it in Salt Lake, so a Gri Gri sufficed. Pitch 1-3 are pretty sporty bolting on soft, patina sandstone edges that felt pretty stiff for the grades. Nevertheless, we made it up the first 3 pitches before rappelling down after finding the 4th trad pitch to be of utmost choss and sandier than the Florida beaches. Wouldn't recommend this one to a friend honestly, but I guess it was OK.

Aftershock Wall. Our route climbs to the obvious hole in the center, then to the dark black crack above

Annie puzzling out the "10c" moves to the hole

Enjoying 5.7 Jugs after the difficult 11a crimps out of the hole on pitch 3 

We enjoyed a delicious but pricy(for us) Thai dinner and an evening temple session as part of Annie's quest to visit all the Utah temples.

Saturday we made the voyage out to Zion despite the throngs of people. Luckily we had picked what we hoped would be a relatively reclusive destination. We ended up running from the East Rim out to Cable mtn and then over to Deertrap Mtn, a casual 23 mile 3600' vert day. The only problem we found was the mud.

There are 3 kinds of mud: 1. pudding mud, 2. wet cement mud 3. quicksand mud.

About 50% of the trail was pudding mud, 20% dry, and the other 30% was wet cement. It compensated for the lack of elevation gain by wading through the thick stuff. Nevertheless we had a great time and didn't see too many people. I thought about time trialing Angels(FKT is under :30!) but was deterred by sore legs and the traffic jams.
After 5 miles from the East rim, the cutoff to Cable is left rather than right down to Weeping Rock

Great view of Angles from Cable

As much as we enjoy the National parks, we rarely follow the counsel encouraged on the signs. 

Nice view of the Patriarchs from Deertrap

Wet cement mud. The pine needles act like rebar in real cement

We ended the day by eating at Smash burger. We left hungry so we went to Smiths to get some more food since I refused to pay another $7 for a second burger. Some will criticize us for always eating at the same places over and over again, but we ate at two new places this trip, plus a new mexican place with Nate a week ago, and frankly, there is a reason why we have "old and trusty". Either you spend too much and or you leave hungry. Here are 4 places where you can spend just enough and leave satisfied.

"Old and Trusty"
-Panda Express: $15 for both of us, usually quite full
-Subway: $10 for both of us, almost always full
-Cafe Rio: $18 for our standard choices, never leave hungry
-Little Caesars: $5 baby. Hot and ready's never let you down.

Burger joints and fancy sit-downs always disappoint the hungry runner/climber. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Windy Miserable November

November is pretty lame in my opinion. The fall climbing season is usually over for the most part with the instigation of daylight savings time and cold weather. All of the alpine trails have become icy bobsleds or postholing nightmares. And yet there isn't enough snow to ski anything without creating large craters in your new lightweight skis. Life is pretty depressing during this time. The BST, Redbox, and Momentum are getting quite a bit of action among other foothill trails.

Nevertheless, Steve Nate Pete and I got out for a enjoyable 13 mile run via the Mueller Park/North Canyon loop. I ran on the road for longer than I have since the Wasatch and it was miserable. Nate and I invented what we like to call, "doctrine downhill", where we discuss church doctrine while running downhill. Uphill is too hard to discuss doctrine(or anything really) due to heavy breathing. It felt good to get out with the guys despite the windy weather. Bacon, egg, and potato breakfast burritos rounded the adventure off.

Maybe we can so something cool during the thanksgiving break.

Snowy north canyon. I know my anatomic bladder looks like it is leaky, but it is actually my Nathan bladder nozzle causing the outrageous wet spot on my shorts, not to be confused with the person Nathan  running behind me. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Wasatch Old and New

Earlier in the week I was depressed due to lack of outside time as work, school, temple sessions, and dinner parties with friends were requiring more sit down time than I prefer. Luckily thursday-saturday provided some quality time in the great outdoors.

Wednesday I got to run all over Sugarhouse Park with my dad while we chased Caroline in her State Cross country meet. She did pretty well, taking 8th overall, despite pulling a Spence and getting passed in the final stretch. Congrats to her on a terrific 4 year high school career, and the beginning(i hope) of a lifetime of long distance running(if I can convince her 3 miles is just a warmup).
Nice Knee highs! Her first mile time was as fast as I can run a mile on my best day

Thursday Court and I got out up little cottonwood to put some business to rest up the Green A gully.

Wheels on Fire 10a, Stormy Resurrection 11b, Looney Tunes 11b
Finally Redpointing Mother of Pearl 11c

Court managed to onsight/flash/whatever Looney Tunes with me yelling beta at him while he climbed. I found this impressive and it just confirmed the fact that this kid can climb hard when he tries.(which is less often than I'd like to see). I pulled through the tough lieback moves of Mother of Pearl and didn't whip on my poor .4 camalot for the 5th time and finally sent what I think is one of the tougher .11's in the canyon. 4 star route mega route.

Great finger crack of Stormy

Upper dihedral of Mother of Pearl is sun/shade line

Friday I did a really fun loop inspired by Court.
West slabs and summiting Olympus
Linking the North and South summits via lots of 5th class scrambling and looping back via the new bonneville shoreline trail

Starting from the standard west slab approach, send the slabs and take the ridge to the North Summit. Pull on your routefinding goggles and make your way to the South Summit without cliffing out(I was not successful in this). From the S. Summit, down the standard Oly trail, then 10 min past the stream, take the brand spanking new BST back to your car! This loop has no doubt been done in the past but always required road running on Wasatch. NO LONGER! 100% trail. The time is wrong on Strava, it took me 2:45 total.

Slabs are always a treat. Got an extra 50 feet due to lack of snow. 

North Summit looking west
South Summit headwall

It was dark, but I was still able to find the new BST! 

Saturday Annie and I hiked up Bells do to the super classic Arm and Hammer, 10a A0.
Arm and Hammer
Rappelling 5th class dirt

Arm and Hammer is 2nd only to Vertical Overhangs as the best multipitch I've done in the Wasatch. The climbing is fun, wild, safe, and makes you either slab climb .11 or hone your pendulum aid technique. We had some camera malfunctions and only started to get pics on pitch 4. Bummer.

 Pitch 1 is a 5.7 squeeze chimney which are always somewhat insecure. I missed clipping the crux bolt as I was so tightly jammed in the chimney I couldn't reach it behind me as I thrutched up the crack.(Annie easily liebacked it with toprope courage)
Pitch 2 requires some running swinging to snag some tat on a bolt and then pull some .10 moves into a corner. This is likely the closest I'll get to the King Swing.
Pitch 3 is the mega classic Zion Curtain, 100 feet of a thin hands paper flake on a 80 degree wall after another running swing to reach the flake.
Pitch 4 is a superb finger to hand crack with a final roof traverse.
Pitch 5 is the chossiest slab pitch you'll ever climb, but who cares, the other 4 were great!

The descent off Middle Bell is about as fun as other Wasatch gully freak shows, always a treat, lots of 5th class choss downclimbing and we actually rappelled down some 5.6SD(steep dirt) off some ratty tat on a shrub. Highly recommend it.

Middle Bell Tower
Pitch 4 handcrack

Pitch 4 roof

Annie pulling over roof on Pitch 4

Descent. Nice steep dirt

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Postholing in October

Annie and I set out to run a bit up AF while we were waiting for it to get warm so we could climb. We set out from the Summit trailhead to check out the Lame Horse(055) trail that heads down to Aspen Grove where the standard Timp trail starts. We were having so much fun in the beautiful colors and brisk air and feeling the need to exercise since we'd both been sitting a lot the past few days, we started up the AG trail thinking "we'd go till we felt like turning back".

We ended up at Emerald Lake and decided to complete a loop as loops are always cooler than out and backs. We headed towards the Timpanokee trail, and soon encountered a transition from minimal snow to full on postholing.  I was in shorts and a T-shirt and got super cold. We didn't have any plans to summit, so we didn't, and thankfully there is a 2nd trail that heads down earlier than the TK summit trail which requires running up to the saddle. We skied our way down the TK trail to the parking lot, where we were both quite tired, dehydrated, and hungry having not brought any food and one water bottle each since we had originally planned on running for an hour or two. We took trail 150 and 159 back up to the summit trailhead, completing the awesome loop in 4.5 hours, roughly 16 miles and 4k gain.

Map of our loop. Intersection of Timp/TK cut off at bottom
Our cutoff is the first right after Emerald Lake

Adding the summit and no snow to this loop would make it 5/5 stars as there is 0% road running, spectacular colors, runnable terrain, and gets you tired. I need to bring the camera on all our "short runs" in case they turn into more memorable runs. We didn't get any climbing in but it was definitely one of the best loops in the Wasatch I've done this year. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Moving and the Millcreek Crest "Trail"

I think Will Gadd's ideas in the following video are what everyone should make as their slogan for life. I'm making it mine.

"People don't stop running because they get old, they get old because they stop running."-unknown

In that vein, Annie and I set out to explore the "unmaintained" trail of the Millcreek Crest, not to be confused with the uber classic Wasatch Crest, or just Crest, that is so popular among runners and bikers. My goal is link as many loops up these canyons as possible, so this was a trail I hadn't done yet. The Millcreek Crest trail links the summits of Mt Aire to Grandeur Peak, and according to the map below, there is a trail of sorts along the ridge. When a trail is "unmaintained" that means there isn't a trail at all. We thought we'd go check it out anyway, looping back to our car via the Pipeline. Easy peasy. Not.

Millcreek Crest is #22 above white word box

From the saddle below Mt Aire, the trail is an obvious turnoff southwest that climbs up to the ridge. The trail meanders on either side of the ridge, often times decent, sometimes poor, sometimes really faint, and sometimes nonexistent. I guess that's part of the fun. What isn't part of the fun is schwaking in thick brush when you lose the trail, which occured more than 50% of the time. It took us around 3 hours to reach the Grandeur Peak saddle, with the last hour in the dark sans headlamps. That was kinda miserable.

Annie came up with a good definition of hell. Its ridgwacking(shwaking on a ridge) in the cold and darkness without lamps, on loose terrain, with sharp bushes gouging you and bad ankles that roll easily. Annie entered hell on the way down Grandeur as visibility was zero and rolled her ankle badly, creating a long partner assist to get her down to the Millcreek road. I ran down to my parents house from Church Fork to get a shuttle for her as our car was still 5 miles upcanyon at Elbow Fork. We arrived safely back home at 1030, a long journey that I thought would take max 2.5 hours. Once again, my poor estimation skills at work.

Don't bother with this ridge, its not worth your time. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Depressurized Soda

It was Annie's bday on Saturday and she wanted to climb some sandstone cracks as she is a desert aficionado and hadn't climbed much. We settled on attempting Shunes Buttress in Zion, but unfortunately timed it wrong as its a north facing route and this cold weather week created a freezing 45-50 degree shade temperature Saturday morning at 9 am. Remembering our miserable experience on the Warrior last year in the shade, we opted out of this classic in hopes of returning when it was warmer.

I had climbed "Coke Explosion" a few years back and remembered enjoying it as it is south facing, a reasonable 5.10, and only 3 pitches, so we decided to do that instead. We promptly lost the climbers trail after leaving the Angel's Landing conga line and schwaked through some pretty heinous stuff to the base. After a tricky short mantle onto a slab we arrived at the climb.
The route follows the sun shade line on the right

Annie led the first 5.9 pitch, which is a fun corner past a tree, mostly fingers and hands through a short roof with good feet. I led pitch 2, the crux being a #6 camalot size corner in a lower angle lieback for 15 feet.  Not having a #6 camalot made this section spicy. More fingers in a corner ended the pitch.  Pitch 3 was mostly chimney, and Annie did pretty well on it despite moving slowly.
Jungle pitch 1

Annie following up corner of Pitch 2

Annie chimneying up pitch 3

We got a rope stuck on rappel and I had to reclimb some of pitch 2 to retrieve it. We got back down to the ground and were hoping to go check out Lady Mountain, but my poor internet information memory skills did not allow us to find the start. Maybe next time. Cafe Rio and a new iphone rounded out Annie's bday. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Its not often I think sport climbing deserves a designated blog post, but I recently went down to AF and sent the, as some put it, "sandbag 12b",  Helix in the Black Magic Cave. It is definitely one of my new favorite sport routes. This unique climb is a wild ride. It starts out with a testy slab on super pebbly stone to a decent rest under the roof. Then it climbs a steep juggy flake before you lunge both arms into a hole in the apex of the cave. A ab crunching 180 flip around and a fat jug pocket lands you on the opposite side of the cave, then it underclings its way back into the cave before a double toe hook bat hang from another hole allows clipping the chains. The name is perfect as the route literally spirals up the cave like a DNA molecule. It packs a pumpy punch in the 10 or so bolts.

Black Magic Cave

I managed to redpoint it on my 4th go with Jake taking some pics on a fixed rope and Court countering his lack of motivation by providing Kettle Chips and PB M&Ms. Most of Jake's pics didn't turn out great due to poor lighting, but a few good ones emerged. Despite him almost killing us with stray bowling balls while finding a rap anchor we were appreciative of his photo effort.
Court moving off the flake to the hole

Testy slab done, heading off into the roof

Steep and Juggy! Focused on the next clip

Court lowering off midway despite my heckling to continue

Get on this one, its stellar!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Unlikely Cause of Pneumothorax

West Ridge Grandeur Peak

Running any significant distance requires pacing oneself so as to be able to finish. The longer the distance, the more attention needs to be paid to the pace. Running the Wasatch 100 last week I was well aware of the slow, methodical walk/jog/slog pace required to run 100 miles, and had prepared well for that pace in my training runs. I was very happy with the outcome.

Now that the race has come and gone, I felt the urge to just basically go all out with no real need to "back off" and pace myself. Having never time trialed the West Ridge of Grandeur Peak, I was curious to see where I fit in the mix, as there are some sick fast times on that thing. 2.2 miles and 3200' vert, right out the backdoor. There is very little "running" here as the trail is about as steep as the quantum mechanic learning curve. Unlike the Wasatch, this thing comes down to SECONDS not HOURS between times.

My goal was sub 1 hour which seemed pretty conservative, then my real goal was sub 50 minutes, and my "suck it Dorais bros" goal was sub 45 minutes.

 So after work, I parked, stretched, deshirted, then basically stairmastered the heck out of the ridge, power hiking my lungs to the point of collapsing(pneumothorax) and hoping my quads didn't explode. There were some severe winds up there and my visor blew off my head 3 times(precious seconds wasted) till I stashed it under a rock. I met up with one other power hiker dude near the top who I would later learn was a 100 mile veteran with 15 Wasatch finishes and a slew of others. He cranked it out in 1:22, and despite my desperation, heartfelt prayer, EPO blood tranfusions, and flinging myself onto the summit, I only managed 50:42. Bummer. Good enough for 12th place on the Strava list(though I don't own a GPS device). Not where I'd like to be but the list is quite a "whos who" of Wasatch running. Guess I'll have to work on my VO2 max.

Don't worry Mr Burke, I won't be Swindling your ridiculous record of :40 anytime soon. Not like he's quaking in his boots. I don't enjoy doing this stuff all the time, but as Court likes to put it, "redlining for an hour has got to be good for you". 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

New Race Suggestion: Wasatch 75 Endurance Run

Thank you Wasatch Gods. I'm done

Its over. On Saturday morning around 6:30 am, I suffered through my first 100 mile run by running from Kaysville Utah to Solider Hollow, finishing in 25:37 for 20th place at the Wasatch 100 Mile Endurance Run.

What an ordeal.

At 5 am we set off from Kaysville as a herd of cows slowly climbing our way up to Francis Peak. I found this section to be very frustrating as I didn't feel like it was fun running in a massive pack and I was forced to hike at the pace of the herd, despite that probably being for the best. As soon as the pack thinned out a bit more and I could actually run, I found the singletrack above to be some really quality trail. Steve and I hung together till about mile 20 around Bountiful B, and he would be shortly behind me for most of the day till his unfortunate DNF at Brighton.

The first 50 miles went extremely well, minus an incident where I accidently poured Rocktane mix all over my body to cool down instead of water, causing my entire body to become a giant sticky mess. This was just the tip of the iceberg of what stickiness was to ensue.

I pulled into Lambs Canyon at the 12 hour mark after grossly underestimating my split time to my family and pacers from the turnoff down Alexander Creek, but they were patient and realized I was not in mathematical coherency. I was happy to see Annie, Court, Nick, Izzy, my parents and Caroline, and my aunt Nancy and cousin Will. I was in great spirits and had felt solid up till then with no stomach or pain issues thus far, a true blessing.

Rolling into Lambs. Feeling good

The crew at Lambs. I think I was asking for a motorcyle with this gesture

Nick and I pulled out of Lambs and trekked up to Millcreek. I had a mild bathroom incident on the Millcreek road where I was forced to defecate right off the road and two poor women driving by looked quite horrified. Nick just laughed as he is no stranger to emergency pit stops. Unfortunately for Nick, but I guess good for me, was that I was feeling really strong at Desolation Lake and had to ditch him as I thought I may be able to get sub 24. I felt bad, but I had to be selfish.

I rolled into Brighton, mile 75,  at 18 hours, giving me 6 hours to do the last marathon. Annie and the parents hadn't showed up yet so I downed hash browns, chocolate milk, and broth. Annie showed up a few minutes later and we set off, me still feeling mildly chipper in hopes of a sub 24. From Catherine Pass 3 miles later, all hell broke loose. The trails down to Ant Knolls, then Poll Line, and finally the notorious Dive and Plunge down to Pot Bottom, are the worst trails in the Wasatch. Period. I am now going to devote an entire paragraph to the Dive and Plunge ordeal.

The only people that should have to run the Dive and Plunge are murderers, rapists, and Race Directors. This section of trail is horrible not only because its at mile 80, but because the trails are a roller coaster of up and down 50 degree loose gravel filled troughs where the origins of pain, sorrow, and swearing originated. There is no childish laughter here. In the ten mile stretch from Pole Line to Pot Bottom,  I developed blisters, jammed my foot causing two toenails to die, developed massive chaffage of my genitals and natal cleft due to my lack of wiping and poor aim, a 4 gu explosion on impact of one fall causing my shirt to stick to my stomach in goey mess, got a sore throat from excessive fruit and gu acid, and my headlamp started to die. Never before have I despised a trail as I had that day.

Annie was a great sport and put up with my whining and quickly deteriorating mood. We pushed but when we finally reached Pot Bottom(I was convinced it never would appear) I couldn't run at all anymore. The final 10 miles were akin to being beaten with lead pipes while being forced fed vinegar laden horse dung, and two people passed me in the final mile, but I didn't care too much. I finished, and was happy to be done.
Brighton crew. Thanks for coming out at 11 pm!. 

I think I was asking Annie to leave me in a trench somewhere to die. 

The aftereffects. Lost toenails and the inability to walk

The rewards

So in retrospect, I'd like to propose to the Wasatch 100 committee to do away with the final 25 miles. The trails are horrible, everyone is miserable at that point, so lets just finish at Brighton, eat bacon and hash browns, and enjoy the fantastic journey up through 75 miles. It would be much more pleasant, and isn't that what running is all about?