Sunday, August 25, 2013


Longest week of running of my life.

Variations of Desolation 13x3=40 miles, 9k'
I hate doing the same thing over and over again, but I needed to get some runable miles in, and this is the best loop around. Did it clockwise, counterclockwise, and from both Millcreek and BCC. Averaged 2:15 for most outings.

Bluebell-Tungsten Pass loop via Swift Creek TH in High Uintas. ~40 miles, 8k'

The start

Having explored the North slopes of the Uintas around King Peak last month with Steve, I decided to check out the South slopes for my final hurrah before Wasatch as I needed another long outing.

Left the BCC Mill D trailhead after completing my final deso 13 for the week at 9 pm Friday night, got to the Swift Creek trailhead north of Mountain Home after 3 long hours in the car including some horrible washboard for the final 15 miles. Slept in the car as it was raining pretty good. Woke to blue skies so I set out.

As I would discover soon enough, the South slope trails are even worse than the North slope trails. Millions of loose cantaloupe size  rocks all over the trail make it very tough to keep a consistent pace. I power hiked most of the way up Swift Creek to Bluebell Pass as running never seemed possible due to grade and poor trail quality. Hit the pass at 3 hours, ate a bagel, then made my way over to Milk Lake and then down into Yellowstone Drainage at the 4 hour mark. Ran up Yellowstone to the 4 way junction below Anderson and Smith Fork Passes, then headed left over to Tungsten Pass.

Grayling Lake, first checkpoint up to Bluebell

Meadows were most runnable terrain of day(unless they were swamps)

Its not bad at first, but after 40 miles, you end up hating these trails. Wheres the dirt?

Took a short break at Tungsten at the 6 hour mark, then ran down to 5 point lake(big) and then back down into Yellowstone at the 8 hour mark. I had 10 miles left from here which was fairly discouraging, but tried to convince myself to run under 10 hours. The trail sucked, up and down, switchbacks in the wrong directions, big rocks, etc. and it started to rain with 5 miles left. My hips were hurting and I forgot ibuprofen so I walked and the last hour or so was pretty miserable. I made my 40th stream crossing of the day(only maybe half of those were dry crossings) before remembering my cold Dr Pepper waiting for me and I busted out the last mile and pulled in at the 10:27 mark.

Tungsten Pass and Lake with Porcupine Pass up and right

Self photo through a cairn arch. 

Angry clouds

"10 miles! Freak. " 

Joyful reunion

Overall it was a beautiful day, great scenery, saw literally not one person the whole day(enjoyable but maybe disconcerting should I have broken my leg) but I would not recommend this loop to anyone looking for a fun "run". Maybe I'm spoiled but I really think these Uinta trails suck compared to the nice buffed out NPS trails or even the trails around SLC.

80 miles. Hopefully its enough for Wasatch. Taper till Sept 6.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I can climb 5.4

A pretty pathetic week of running considering Wasatch is in 3 weeks, but I made up for it with quality 5th class scrambling up iconic peaks.

CMC face

I had planned to run up thunderbolt ridge after work Wednesday in hopes of linking it with Lightning ridge in some kind of an angry storm linkup, then back over the Pfief and down Red Pine, but when I got to Small Pass I forgot just how horrible Hogum is to travel in without snow. Miles and miles of talus boulder hopping. It just looked miserable. So I had to "settle" for what I and hopefully others deem one of the top 3 classic single peak ridge scrambles in the Wasatch, if not the best, the North Ridge of the Pfief. I had actually never ascended the north ridge, only descended it and naively bailed down an early couloir, thus tragically and blissfully ignorantly avoiding the crux sections of the climb which occur low on the route.
North Ridge of Pfief, from Small Pass

Why Hogum is the least visited drainage in the Wasatch. 

There are 2 crux sections(given 5.4) on the climb, both fairly exposed and somewhat technical for the grade. Certainly more difficult than anything on the West Slabs.  The first is a downclimb off a short tower, where a rap anchor identifies the difficulties. I ended up just jumping across this gap as I didn't feel super solid on the small crimps the tower provided. A fall here would send you barrelling down a loose couloir. Not advised. The 2nd crux comes shortly thereafter, a slab(avoiding a severe overhang) with few features that wouldn't be too bad if you didn't look down and notice a fall would send your body 300 feet down into a twisted mess of granite talus. Some merciful soul has attached fixed rope here via some old pitons in case your mojo dwindles halfway through and reversing your traverse seems scarier than continuing(my case). Once you pass the 50 feet of stressful slab its pretty straightforward with lots of fun 5th class climbing on good and bad rock. A 4th class scramble on horrible rock brings you to the summit.

Short tower downclimb. Looks easy, but kind of tricky as the notch bottom is 5 feet out of view

Spicy meatball. Just use the rope, its not your 5.13 project and death is more pathetic than cheating

More Tetons!

Annie has this weird fetish with certain mountains. She honestly doesn't care most of the time what we do, ie she lets me pick the climbs, trusting I know what I'm doing(debatable). But there are a few mountains she insists we do. Longs Peak was one, and Mt Moran is another. I think Mt Moran is pretty cool, so we planned on trying out the CMC route.

 The actual climb is rated 5.5, and involves downclimbing one small peak and then climbing a 2000' slabby face to the summit. Most rope up and simulclimb in some fashion as pitching it out would take years. The book and other sources all confirm this should be done in a 2-3 day climb, requiring 12-14 hours round trip from the CMC camp from where you stage your attack on the peak. So essentially, adding an extra 4 hours round trip for time hiking to and from the CMC camp, plus canoe time of 3 hours(see below), most parties clock in somewhere in the 19-21 hour mark of total moving time. This seemed absurd.

The journey begins unlike most Teton climbs, in that the trailhead, if you want to call it that, starts after a 3 mile paddle, portage, and more paddling across String and Leigh Lakes. Annie and I are not watercraft people so we didn't look forward to this part of the adventure, but we made it despite our borrowed rubber ducky kayak not cooperating in staying on the truck nor sailing straight. We deemed it "old bessie, the beached whale". We hiked up the streambed which flows from the Falling Ice Glacier on a good trail, which was a nice bushwack free approach. An hour later we arrived at what the Teton Guide Book deems, "the best campsite in the park", some flat spots in pine trees on the crest of a ridge. Too bad you have to hike your crap up there. There were 3 tents present, with one group roaming around, meaning 2 other groups were likely up on route.
"Dang you old Bessie". I hate life preservers too

Beautiful hiking up from Leigh Lake

Some of the less quality loose rock heading up above CMC camp

We had a bit of a struggle finding the supposed 4th class climbing above the camp, and when I found an old piton on the route I had chosen for us, Annie proclaimed that meant we were for sure off route. Nevertheless we pressed on and summited the small peak of Drizzlepuss(best name for a peak ever?) in a timely fashion. From here the "terrifying expanse of the CMC face comes into view" as the book puts it. Here you downclimb a few hundred feet, and despite the intimidating nature of the mountain, its only 5.5, or you can rap off some old fixed nuts like most parties do. We of course chose to avoid rope use, and it went smoothly.

Looking down from DP into the notch. Looks kinda scary at first

The crux downclimb move off DP. No biggie

From here, its a fun, fun jaunt up the face. We soloed in our treadless running shoes, and it was easy and low stress. We spotted 2 parties up higher on the face, one group rappelling and another below the summit. We summited an hour later and talked with the one group for a bit and enjoyed a great lunch.

Annie likes to show off. 

Yee Haw! Spectacular 5th class above lakes, glaciers, and cool spires

More fun

Summit view

A look down at the massive black dike that run down the entire mtn. 

On top! 3:42 from canoe

We began our downclimb a little hesitantly as the face is pretty exposed. Annie reassured us, saying "downclimbing is easy, its like climbing only backwards." We were not surprised to find the two groups still rappelling as we casually downclimbed past them. They were being cautious, which is fine, but their caution was causing more grief and time than safety. Ropes kept snagging, tangling, etc. They told us they had left the CMC camp at 5am that morning. We explained we had started paddling at 7am. I felt bad as I think I made them feel stupid. Not my intention. Yet Annie and I were sure glad we had avoided that whole catastrophe by going light and fast. We downclimbed to safety in the notch, then reclimbed the familiar Drizzlepuss, then slid on talus back down to our canoes. Bar none, the BEST 5th class scrambling route I've done. Leave the ropes, tents, climbing shoes, and cams at home my friends. One day, some tennis shoes, and a sandwich is all you need.
CTC(canoe to canoe) 6:32.
CTC(car to car) just over 9

West horn on left and Drizzlepuss center with rappelling group below it

Shaking out on the pumpy 5.4 slab

While Annie was indisposed I scurried up a subsummit of West Horn

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Other Classic Teton Run

Paintbrush Divide is the shiz
The Teton Circumnavigation is indeed the classic run in the Tetons. Period. Doing a fat loop around arguably some of the most aesthetic mountains in the west, seeing them from every possible angle, cannot be beaten. But when you've already done that, it seems more appropriate to look for something else rather than to repeat it. What is that something else?

The Teton Crest Trail.

Semi useful map

Rather than running around the Tetons, this trail involves running towards and then past them. And while it isn't quite as spectacular as the circumnavigation, it certainly comes dang close. The trail can generally be started at two different points, namely the pansy way and the cool way. The pansy way involves riding the tram at Jackson Hole Ski Resort up to the top of the mountain and running a casual 4 miles to the linkup with the trail proper. "Sounds good to me", you say? No, it shouldn't. Here's why. It avoids 4 extra miles, a ton of vert, you have to pay to ride the tram, and frankly isn't pure in its true traverse from start to finish. QED. Just made this guy look like a dorkwad.

The pure, cheap, harder way to do it is to start from near Teton Pass at the Phillips Pass trailhead. This is how Annie and I decided to do it. The trail ends 40 miles later after descending Paintbrush canyon to String Lake where you've previously stashed your car and chacos. (you could bail down Cascade but again, lame)  Annie has been living in the Tetons this summer, so one of her coworkers was nice enough to drive us to Phillips TH where we got our usual non-alpine start of 8:30.
Fun ST through flowers up to Phillips Pass

You pass in and out of the park multiple times on the trail. 

How do you train for vertical OW? Horizontal OW. 

We ran a casual pace all day, enjoying the trail. It is absolutely gorgeous up there and it is so rewarding to see so much in one day. We didn't set any speed records like usual(no idea what it is, the only running info I found was this guy's blog) and finished at 11:30, which was fine since I was planning on 12 hours. I also was unable to locate any kind of total elevation change data either, but it felt very similar to the circumnavigation, around 8k. The climb up and down Paintbrush Divide is the real deal my friends. Save some serious juice for that section. Its a half marathon with a fat 2000' climb and 4000' drop after you've already done a marathon. Whoa Nelly.
Marion Lake and a girl not named Marion

Death Canyon Shelf. 

Happiness in the face of Death(canyon)

You can sleep peacefully here knowing bears are around and your camping zone is named "death shelf "

Admiring the view. Annie is admiring both the mountains and my backside

North Fork of Cascade. Superb views. 

Annie looks happier than I did here. Topping out Paintbrush divide

Stoked to be soaking at String Lake. Pizza followed. 

And again, I repeat for my own sake, eating 2 candy bars, fruit snacks, a gu and nuts in gorging fashion is not advised before slamming an 8 mile, 4000' drop back to the canyon floor just because you want to empty your pack.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Hodgepodge of Activities

View from Kings Peak Summit
Tuesday: Got down to AF with Court and Nick after work. Despite the horrible traffic, we found the trip worth it. Court wanted to try Pigpen, so I led it and he almost got the flash and would redpoint 2nd go, and I tried Woodstock next door and found it quite puzzling. Ended the day with some routes at Division Wall. 

Court camping out at the monster jug

The crux 

Wednesday: partial LCC ridge traverse. 3:23.(no idea on mileage or vert)
Up White Pine, summited Red Top, AF Twins, Silver Creek Peak, Hidden Peak, and Baldy, then down Alta and back to White Pine. If you want to feel like a hero, do AF Twins. You can bag 3 peak summits in less than 30 minutes(silver creek peak is a 10 min jaunt to the south)! The Wasatch is awesome because in such a short time it feels like you can do so much. 

My off trail route straight up Red Top from White Pine drainage

Red/White Baldy from Red Top

Ridge down AF Twins

AF twins from Hidden peak

Thursday: Quick 9 miler up and down Little Emigration before seeing the disappointing free screening of "In the High Country" with our running hero AK. Felt super let down after all the hype I talked myself into. 

Friday: Psico Comp up at Olympic Sports Park. Ended up being pretty cool despite my reservations. Drove to China Meadows TH with Stevo to attempt long run up Kings after. 

Deep Water Solo comp. Would love to mess around on that wall!

Saturday: Kings Peak via China Meadows to Henry's Fork loop. 36 miles, 6700'. 10:05


Steve had wanted to do something up in the Uintahs this weekend so we decided to bag Kings again via a different loop inspired by our Gannett buddy Greg's video. Running video's are pretty boring for most people, but its interesting for us runners while planning a new adventure. There is some debate on the mileage/vert but our approximation is in the ballpark. 

So we set off from China Meadows and cruised up the flats to Smith Pass. Not too many people on the trail minus a few scout troop looking groups heading out. We dropped down into Yellowstone Creek and then headed up to Anderson Pass. I had a horrible shoe event while barreling through a muddy section that was pretty funny(see video below)

Why Steve won't drink out of North Slope Uintah streams anymore

Red Castle Peak and Steve's new Hoka's. He sprained his ankle about 15 times on the boulders. 

Upper Smith's Lake

I hadn't been over on this side of the pass so I enjoyed the new scenery

Anderson Pass and the less than impressive Kings peak

Steve wasn't feeling his best as he had an unfortunate incident Friday where he had to carry his sister off the Pfief after she broke her leg, so he was pretty tired(and justifiably so). He yelled at me to go bag Kings while I was halfway up Anderson as he didn't think he'd make it. So I ran ahead, bagged the top, but sure enough, on the way down stubborn Steve was making his way up. I had a feeling he would. I took a nap and waited at the pass for him. We were moving slow as we left the pass at the 6 hour mark. Steve opted for the shortcut through the boulderfield(neither one of us felt like doing the toilet bowl) and I was feeling good so I stuck to the longer trail option. Up and over Gunsight, and cruised back out Henry's Fork to the trail that linked us back to China Meadows. Super day, fun run. I felt great all day and did 8 min/mile the last 4 miles out so that was encouraging. 

Gunsight. Lost the trail somehow so I cross countried it 

Running out Henry's Fork