Sunday, August 13, 2017

Trans La Sal

One of only 2 signs I saw that actually mentioned "Trans La Sal" 

In today's ultrarunning community, there are a handful of "classic" traverses or adventure runs that run across or through the best of the national parks or forests. R2R2R, Zion, Teton Crest, Bryce, etc. These are all fantastic traverses in their own individual way. Most ultra-runners worth their beans have heard of most of these by now, if not attempted them. There also exists a plethora of other traverses than incorporate off-trail terrain, with lots of 3rd/4th or even 5th class terrain that may not appeal to the standard ultra-runner, like Nolans, WURL, or other peakbagging sagas. Two years ago I set out with good old Steve and Court to bag all the 12k' peaks in the La Sals, which was a spectacular day in the mountains, despite us failing to navigate our return journey correctly. This prompted me to do some more research about the trail systems through the La Sals.

 One such pure trail run that I was not aware of until moving to Moab a month ago was the Trans La Sal trail. This obscure route was created many years ago, but either never really caught on or has purposefully been kept a secret by those in the know, maybe like the Zion Traverse was 10 years ago. There isn't much info on the internet about it, other than the CalTopo link I'll share below. The La Sals seem to be somewhat of a hidden gem mountain range, nested between the uber popular Wasatch and San Juans.

The route is completely logical, without any contrivances or pavement to link the trails together. In fact, there is no pavement anywhere on the route and very little non-singletrack. The route is almost exactly 30 miles with 8500' of climbing running south to north, or a bit more vert at 9500' running north to south. During my 7.5 hour trek I saw exactly zero people on the trail(quite a few campers at Oowah and Warner), which on a Saturday in the prime season of August was surprising. Good luck having that experience in the Grand Canyon. The route seeks out to accomplish just what the name suggests, covering the entire distance from one end of the range to the other, without crossing any actual summits. The wildlife is abundant, though unfortunately the non-wildlife has a higher prevalence(cows) which makes the drinking water situation a little more dicey. Might want to bring a filter or some Flagyl if you're planning on doing this one unsupported.

There are a couple variations, but the standard route starts at either the Doe Canyon Trailhead at the South end near La Sal(the town) or up at the North at the Bachelor Basin "Trailhead"( in quotes as it doesn't deserve to be called such, good luck finding it without prior knowledge or a GPS app). I chose to go south to north merely because we had a ward campout planned up at the Medicine Lakes area, so a dropoff would be easy. I would highly recommend a GPS app for this route as there are lots of trail systems up there that are unmarked or not marked with the same trail numbers as the map, as well as dirt roads that come and go. The route finding isn't complicated, but it's not NPS trail marking quality.

Basically the linkup is as follows: Doe Canyon to Pole Canyon Trail up to the South Mountain trail. South Mountain trail all the way to La Sal Pass Rd, then down to Squaw Springs. Squaw Springs to Boren Mesa, to Oowah Lake. Connector trail to Warren Lake, then Miners Basin Trail up and over, then take Bachelor Basin Trail up and over and down to the Castelton Rd. This link below will do more good than those words, but still nice to have some names to go with the pictures. Reasonable access points should you need support are: La Sal Pass Rd(4x4), Geyser Pass rd, Oowah Lake, Warner Lake, Miners Basin Rd.

Trans La Sal Cal Topo

Looking back at South Mountain after traversing around it. I ascended the obvious central couloir via Pack Creek earlier in the week to summit that peak. 

Looking towards Tuk

Cool old cabin

Warner Lake

Steep climb up to Miners Basin. Wildflowers and storm approaching

Looking back down into Miners Basin on the climb up to Bachelor

I had a great day out on the mountains and would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a longer day in a remote and beautiful setting. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

aLone in a Box with Tim P-redemption

Four years ago Steve and I tried and failed to link Lone Peak, Box Elder, and Timp in a day. We unfortunately ran into what we like to call "being tired" so stopped after climbing the first two peaks. To be honest this route never really was a "must do" on my list of life goals and I largely forgot about it, especially after living in Florida for the past 2 years. But with PA school done and my flatlander lungs crying for vertical relief, Court suggested another attempt as he had been unable to participate the first time, and I foolishly agreed. I was totally untrained for such an endeavour as I was doing 20-30 miles of flat, sea-level running with some occasional stadium stairs for the past two years. This was going to be closer to 40 miles with 16k vert. Oh well, suffering is suffering. Steve incurred some type of hip issue after crashing on his mountain bike so he was unable to redeem himself. Apparently he ended up catching a fish instead.

Per my request we decided to attempt this thing "backwards" in the sense of starting at Timp and finishing at Lone, opposite of our previous attempt, for a number of reasons.
1. Timp is a beast, and still choked with snow above 9k'. Best to do that in the daylight. The transition from Box Elder to Timp also requires 4 miles of road running, and since we aren't road runners that isn't very motivating, with the easy potential to bail via hitchhiking(last year's fate). Bailing betwen BE and Lone is much more difficult.
2. It would be easier to shuttle to Timp early and finish at Courts house near Big Willow/Bells canyon at whatever unreasonable hour we would happen to drag ourselves down to Wasatch Blvd and not have to wait for a ride.

Pete was kind enough to shuttle us to Timpanokee TH at 6am prior to his 8am dentist appt. We started up the trail at 7am and within 45 min encountered icy snow covering every north facing aspect of the trail, making following the trail impossible, dangerous, and slow. We decided to beeline it straight up the first large bowl and took the NE ridge up to the official Timp ridgeline. We then followed goats along the fantastic ridgeline to the summit, arriving 2:30 into our long day.
about as good as it gets

Both major trail systems still very much under feet of snow

summit photo

We then reversed our tracks back across the ridge, over N. Timp, and down Cold Fusion. The snow was bullet hard so the glissading wasn't as quick as we'd hoped. The loose talus made for a mix of fun scree skiing and ankle bashing. We then arrived at the GWT and followed it North to the Timpanokee road where we did 2-3 miles over to and then down Bear Canyon. Court had failed to drink any water up to this point and I had finished mine on N. Timp, so we were both parched by the time we arrived at Mutual Dell. We couldn't find any LDS young women campers to give us foot massages so we were forced to empty the liters of pebbles from our shoes ourselves.
Traversing back toward N timp

We put our heads down and ran the 4 miles of asphalt up to Granite Flat campground and the start of the Box Elder TH. Tibble Fork reservoir sure looked inviting. I crawled my way up trail 044 to 188 at a snail's pace, finally arriving at the Box Elder saddle around 3 pm. The climb from the saddle to the summit has got to be the longest and steepest summit push in the Wasatch. It went on forever. We summited at 4pm and I ate my Smiths BBQ chicken wings, trying not to look across the valley at Lone Peak. We contemplated dropping into the North Cirque but decided to take the safe route down the Dry creek trail.
Suffering face

White Canyon snow crossing 

Up until this point all the terrain had been done by at least one of us. That changed when we turned off onto the North Mountain trail that would take us over to Lake Hardy. This is not a well maintained or used trail. We got off track several times and ended up way too high on some unlikely game trails. Our savvy route finding skills and Courts iphone app got us back in gear and we arrived at the Lake Hardy Junction. By this time I was not having that much fun. The usual crap of long days were setting in, GI issues, being tired, legs hurting, can't breath, butt chafing, blisters, coughing up liters of blood, you know the usual stuff.
North Mountain trail

I made the executive decision to traverse around Bighorn instead of going over the top since that seemed way easier. Court was arguing for adding on the entire Beatout route because that's just how he is, but I told him to go eat the dead deer lying in the river. He obliged(to go around not eat the deer) and we huffed and puffed our way up Heaven's Halfpipe to the Lone peak summit, passing a couple dudes on their way down, finishing our vertical journey at 9pm.
Looking back at Timp and BE from Lone

Its not over when you reach the summit

Big Willow Glissade

After spending the obligatory 1 min on top we headed down. We were worried about snow conditions being too firm to glissade Big Willow or Bells, and having PTSD from exiting out Bells via the WURL we opted to just head down Jacobs Ladder. Luckily, we encountered some snow on the way down the North ridge which was soft, so that motivated us to head down Big Willow. Much cursing, falling, complaining, and wishing for death occurred over the next 2.5 hours, but we made it down the final 7500' to Hidden Valley park at 11:15 pm. My phone died on the summit of Lone, but somewhere in the 37 mile/16k vert range was Court's final stats.

Once again Court rallied to make this adventure happen and dragged my sorry arse along for the ride. It was a baptism by fire back into mountain suffering again. Needless to say I hurt all over.