Monthly Archives: August 2013

Leadville to Europe!

For all you ladies out there, Hind clothing is running a promotional give away, two lucky people will get outfit with some wonderful clothes. Just fill out a few lines on the linked form, who knows, maybe we could be twins 🙂

Last day of work and only seven, yes seven days until the start of UTMB. I’m just a little excited to be catching a flight to Switzerland Sunday to begin my 3 weeks of travel with family and friends.

Nick crushing Hope Pass, we were shortly in 8th place until a hip injury ended the race early.

Nick crushing Hope Pass, we were shortly in 8th place until a hip injury ended Nick’s Leadville 100 race early.

Quick recap of last weekend; I headed to Leadville to pace/crew Nick Pedatella at the Leadville 100, the third race in his attempt to complete the Grand Slam of ultrarunning (Western States, Vermont, Leadville, Wasatch). He started off really strong, and I picked up him at the Winfield turnaround in 10th place. We hammered it up Hope Pass, but as we cruised down the backside I could tell something wasn’t quite right as he began to have a bit of a hitch in his gait. By the time we got to Twin Lakes inbound he was experiencing sharp pains in his hip joint, which would ultimately force him to drop out of Leadville and the Grand Slam. Nick’s had a rough year, and I hope he comes back stronger next year, as he’s one hell of a runner.

Nick Clark cruising around Turquoise Lake to a 2nd place finish.

Nick Clark cruising around Turquoise Lake to a 2nd place finish at the Leadville 100.

Grand Slammer Dennis Ahern running up the Boulevard at the Leadville 100.

Grand Slammer Dennis Ahern running up the Boulevard at the Leadville 100.

While the organization of Leadville leaves much to be desired (my thoughts on that are well known), the runners and their efforts inspired me and rekindled my enthusiasm for racing. From the amazingly fast finishes by Grand Slam runners Ian Sharman and Nick Clark, to the 29hour finishes of those who had struggled through a long night just to walk down that red carpet for the first time and be called 100mile finishers; the stories of strength, perseverance and triumph abound. The last race I ran was Quadrock back in May, and it was far from a good race for me personally, so I’m definitely looking to redeem myself at UTMB.

Here I stand, a mere week away from participating in the biggest race I’ve even been apart of, feeling rested, healthy and extremely excited just to toe the line and see what happens. While my volume has not been quite as high as I would have liked (780miles and 225,000ft gain since June 1st), I need to trust that the quality of training I’ve put in will pay dividends. The next time I check-in here it’ll be from somewhere in Europe! I’ll post a link to the race tracking website later, for now here’s a little video from the 2011 UTMB to make you jealous. Happy trails to everyone, run fast, run healthy, but mostly run happy. A special thanks to Hind clothing for supporting my adventures and VFuel Endurance gel for keeping me energized throughout the long days.

An Incomplete End (CO 14ers)

This was not how I pictured these past two weekends going when I set out to try and finish the 14ers back in June. I couldn’t have picked a worse weather window, 50-70% chance of thunderstorms and rain/snow likely in the afternoon, a report that lived up to its billing. Even though I skipped the Little Bear-Blanca traverse last weekend due to unsatisfactory conditions (wet with graupel), I was still able to summit all three peaks in the group. Then on our night hike Brian and I got rained on for almost three hours, but still managed to summit again. This weekend’s weather report was equally as horrid, but Steve and I forged ahead, aimed at finishing the Wilson group on Saturday.

Headed toward the Rock of Ages saddle and the Wilson Group.

Headed toward the Rock of Ages saddle and the Wilson Group.

On Saturday we got a little later start than I’d hoped for, and weren’t moving quite as strong as I thought we needed to be given the forecast. We made WilsonPeak in 2:50, then Mt Wilson in 5:40, but by that time a huge dark thunderhead was building to our North and appeared to be sweeping our way. As we sat in the Mt Wilson saddle and pondered our future, a bolt of lightning snapped toward the ground near the head of the valley, decision made, down we went, no Mt Wilson-El Diente traverse and no El Deinte today. As we bottomed out in Navajo basin the clouds rolled over, the peaks

Summit of Mt Wilson, #2 of the day, note the storm clouds gathering (11am)

Summit of Mt Wilson, #2 of the day, note the storm clouds gathering (11am)

disappeared, and hail began to fall. As we started up the trail toward the Rock of Ages saddle the hail picked up, and the echo of thunder shook the valley, but no visible lightning yet.

Nasty thunder and a wall of rain coming at Navajo basin.

Nasty thunder and a wall of rain coming at Navajo basin.

 

 

 

 

We slowly moved up hill, staggered about 100ft apart, when a bolt struck the Wilson-Diente ridge behind us sending us both into a crouch. We proceeded to remain in our crouched position at 12600ft watching lightning strike the surrounding peaks and ridges as the hail steadily pelted us. Finally, after about an hour, the clouds began to lift and the worst of the storm had moved off to the South, so we booked it up and over the Rock of Ages saddle and back down to our car. In total it had been a nine hour day with our hour+ break, and El Diente (an unofficial 14er) was left out there.

Looking up at San Luis Pass from West Willow Creek.

Looking up at San Luis Pass from West Willow Creek.

After much thought and debate on what to do I decided that my list would have to be incomplete for this year, no El Diente and also minus two of the four ‘classic 14er traverses’ (Little Bear-Blanca and Mt Wilson-El Diente). With only one free day left I opted to continue as planned with a nice morning run up San Luis Peak. I was originally thinking of running up Bondholder Meadow, but that approach seemed a little too circuitous, so I opted for the West Willow Creek approach out of Creede. A beautifully runnable trail that partially follows the CT, I hit the snow capped summit of San Luis Peak at 9:06am (2h02min) and plopped down, having summited my 53rd and final official 14er. Saturday’s storms had left all the high peaks with a thin coat of

Snowy summit of San Luis, looked South toward a foggy Creede.

Snowy summit of San Luis Peak, looked South toward a foggy Creede. My 53rd and final Ranked 14er.

snow above 13500ft, and all the rain had left a thick blanket of fog over the valleys below. It would have made for a perfect finish, if things had gone as planned on the two big traverses the past two Saturdays. Unfortunately, it was just another beautiful day at 14000ft.

While I finished the ‘official’ 14ers on Sunday with San Luis, it didn’t feel like a completion, as my original list and intention was to summit the 58 recognized 14000ft summits AND complete the four classic 14er traverses; Crestone Needle-Peak, Maroon Bells traverse, Little Bear-Blanca and Mt Wilson-El Diente. Because of the weather and conditions the past two weekends I’d missed out on the last two and had not summited El Diente. While I don’t regret the choices I made (definitely was the right decision), I’m still bummed to have to leave my list close, but not quite, finished. The mountains will be there next year and I will definitely return for the two big traverses, hopefully in better conditions than the past two weeks have provided. But with pacing

Looking back at a snow capped San Luis from the CT.

Looking back at a snow capped San Luis from the CT.

duties in Leadville next weekend, then a flight to France the following, my next free weekend won’t be until September 21st, most likely too late for such ambitious routes. For now I’ll have to be satisfied with completing the 53 ranked CO 14ers, leaving the celebration for next year. Let the taper begin, as I’m off to France in 13days and UTMB starts in 18days!

 

Then There Were Four…

Descending West Maroon Pass on the Aspen Four Pass Loop, 7/20/13.

Descending West Maroon Pass on the Aspen Four Pass Loop, 7/20/13.

Over the past several weeks I’ve had the good fortune to experience a lot of fun mountain adventures, from the Aspen Four Pass loop and Pyramid Peak on 7/20/13 to climbing nine 14ers in 18hours37min on 7/26/13. I started this summer with twelve 14ers (+El Diente) remaining unclimbed on my peak list, and have finally whittled it down to four after this weekend. While the climbs and plans did not go as planned it was a very successful weekend none the less.

Brian at the base of Little Bear's NW Face.

Brian at the base of Little Bear’s NW Face.

After sending out some personal emails I was able to talk my friend Brian into joining me for the weekend of technical peaks and a little bit of adventure. We met in South Denver Friday afternoon, hopped into my Subaru and booked it down to the Sangre de Cristo mountains, bound for Lake Como Rd. We started up the first 1.5 miles of smooth dirt road no problem, though it soon turned to softball sized loose cobbles. We slowly bounced up the road, bypass a few rocky spots without issue until we finally came to the dry wash at 8800ft. Upon inspection I deemed the Forester could high side on the left (driving up toward Como) to bypass a few larger boulders on the right, and got through without issue. Within 100ft the road again pitched up, this time with more large rocks and craters, ones I did not feel driving the Subaru over, so we parked right near the dry wash and the ‘black bear’ sign to camp for the night. If you have a slightly higher clearance vehicle (larger SUV, Toyota Tacoma, etc) you should be able to make 10000ft with some careful driving as there are only a few problem spots, just too much for a Subaru.

Brian climbing along the ridge to Little Bear at the top of the NW face.

Brian climbing along the ridge to Little Bear at the top of the NW face.

We woke the next morning at the crack of 3:40am, threw together the gear, shouldered the helmets and began hiking up the Lake Como Rd at 4:03am. The road was long, rocky, and tedious, but went by quickly and at 5:50am we passed Lake Como and continued up toward the NW face of Little Bear, our first route. We left the trail around 12100ft and headed toward the black stain at the base of the NW face. The headwall just right of the black stain was our first obstacle, but we were able to surmount it with just some easy class 4 scrambling and soon found ourselves climbing up the ribs and gulleys of the NW face. After a few 100ft we traversed left into a larger bowl and the main gulley on the NW face that takes one to Little Bear. The climbing was mostly solid and very continuous as we ascended a mix of class 3-4 terrain, which was complicated by the fact that heavy rains the previous night had made all the rock and lichen a little damp. As we neared the top we took a leftward ascending route that eventually popped us out on the Little Bear-Blanca traverse ridge, 3 small towers from the summit. There was no easy route up from here, over one tower, then around the crux tower across the class 5 move, which was damp from the previous night’s graupel and rain making it all kinds of sketchy. After tip-toeing around the ledges, we finally topped out on Little Bear at 7:30am.

Descending the Hourglass on Little Bear, very wet.

Descending the Hourglass on Little Bear, very wet.

We sat and pondered our fate for a few minutes, finally deciding that the wet rock on the ridge traverse was uncomfortable enough to make it a “No Go” today, so down the Hourglass we went. We carefully hopped down the rubble filled slopes at the top, reaching the Hourglass proper where we scrambled down rocks on climbers left to avoid the strong flow of water coming down the couloir. We’d spoken with a party earlier in the day who said that a new rope had been placed as of 8/2/13, the shiny orange rope was in fact there. We scrambled most of the way down without use of the rope (climbers left) but finally gave in near the bottom where the couloir constricts forcing one into the flowing waterfall. The traverse back to the main road went quickly, and at 8:45am we once again turned up the dirt road, this time bound for Ellingwood and Blanca.

Climbing the SW Ridge of Ellingwood.

Climbing the SW Ridge of Ellingwood.

 

Looking across to Little Bear and the ridge traverse from Blanca.

Looking across to Little Bear and the ridge traverse from Blanca.

With our change of plans, the SW ridge of Ellingwood became the preferred ascent route, so at 12600ft we left the trail and for a dark band of rock that provided an easy direct line onto the SW ridge. The SW ridge is a very solid and fun route, with moments of exposure, rock scrambling that can be kept at class 3, though a few class 4 moves might be required if you stick to the ridge proper the entire way. We picked our way up the ridge, staying high most of the time and finally scrambled our way to the summit of Ellingwood at 10:30am. Despite the crowds on the trails below and on Blanca, we were alone atop Ellingwood, a pleasant surprise. We descended off Ellingwood via the high route, following the ridge much of the way, until we hit one tower that forced us down the gulley 50-100ft to traverse around before starting our climb back up to the ridge and toward Blanca. We slogged our way up the North face of Blanca, topping out at 11:15am, again with the summit to ourselves.  As we descended the trail back down toward Lake Como low clouds began to roll in, obscuring the summits and pouring over the ridges. The long hike/run out went fairly uneventfully down the road, only interrupted by a short break to watch a highly modified jeep pick its way through Jaws (impressive), though we did beat the jeep back down to the 8800ft mark.

Suped up Jeep on Jaws on Como Rd, one of the hardest 4wd Rds in the state.

Suped up Jeep on Jaws on Como Rd, one of the hardest 4wd Rds in the state.

Back at the car we celebrated our successful day with some food and a cold drink. After a few short naps and a five hour break Brian and I headed out at sunset for one more mountain, summiting at 12:30am and back at our car just after 4am. In total the modified route Saturday AM compiled 18miles and 9200ft while the evening run was an additional 18.5miles and 6200ft, leaving me with just four more peaks until I complete them (Mt Wilson, Wilson Peak, El Diente and San Luis). A special thanks to Hind outerwear for supporting my adventures and VFuel Endurance gel for keeping me energized throughout the long days.