Monday, July 17, 2017

Pfiffner Traverse

Last year, Abby and I took on Mark Oveson's "fast" version of the Pfiffner Traverse, almost on a whim. While we completed the first 40 miles of the route, the final 15 miles were in complete darkness. The route is pretty unbelievable, it traverse peaks and basins weaving a glorious line from Milner Pass to Berthoud Pass.

I decided to sleep in my bed in Boulder rather than camp. Mainly, for the quality of sleep and ease of having a good breakfast; plus I enjoy the waking up process that the drive lends. We got held up behind a herd of elk on Trail Ridge road and I found out that the GoPro was out of batteries so I would have to deal with lower quality phone images. Ah well. Jack and Kiri were already at Milner Pass when we pulled in; I was a little stressed on the tardy start time so I pretty much got out of the car and started walking.

It's actually quite a special moment now that I'm not in a rush (Photo: Abby)

If you actually plan on reading this whole thing, I might recommend following along via my Strava (part one, part two) if you don't happen to have been studying this route for the past couple months and aren't sure where any of this stuff is.

The first peak, Mt. Ida has trail the entire way, obviously being the first I felt great, only stopping a couple times for the predictable morning bathroom needs. From Mt Ida to Flattop Mountain there are a handful non-unique grassy summits: Chief Cheley, UN12820, Cracktop, Eleanor (bypassed), Sprague, Knobtop and Ptarmigan point. The Eureka ditch, just south of Sprague was unfortunately dry aside from a few isolated pools. I elected to bring a lifestraw in addition to my bottles so I could comfortably drink out of any and all sources. At about 4 hours in, both of my bottles were empty so I was happy to not have to be picky about my source. Furthermore, I would be able to shed water weight from my pack by only drinking from streams for the next several miles.

Leaving Milner Pass TH (Photo: Abby)

A regal looking Longs Peak on the horizon from the summit of Sprague.

Last year Abby and I found a flowing stream at the Eureka ditch, but here is just vaguely moist dirt. Just below Knobtop.
Flattop mountain was predictably busy with people enjoying the summer alpine. I turned west and headed down the North Inlet trail. Soon thereafter I crossed paths with Abby just above treeline who was running the North Inlet/Tonahutu loop (plus an extra credit tag of Hallet), an often overlooked classic alpine marathon. I continued down the well traveled trail until I turned back uphill on a trail forking south towards a spectacular series of alpine lakes. The first stop was Lake Nokoni, I was feeling hungry and thirsty so I took some time to put down a bunch of food and drink a lot of water. Revitalized I continued to Lake Nanita where the trail fades away. I was moving well here, but the going is inherently slow when you are bushwhacking around a lake. Constant deadfall and stream crossings necessitate a meandering path through the trees. Above the lake, the Ptarmigan towers soar to the sky -- if it wasn't a 10 mile hike in I'm sure there would be classic climbs on each tower.

Heading down the North Inlet switchbacks (Photo: Abby) 
Lake Nokoni Trail
The Ptarmigan Towers
The route past Lake Nanita is a small col on the northwestern shoulder of Andrews Peak. The hike to this point is quite pleasant as the forest is much thinner. The pass through the col just squeaks above treeline and the rocky drainage ahead looks quite snowy. The snow ends up being a nice change of pace, it is well consolidated and offers a rapid descent. The pass on the other side is the saddle between Mt Alice and Andrews Peak, I have to laboriously kick steps up a snowfield to reach the pass but on the bright side, I was able to take a straight line up. Unfortunately, I make a huge mistake atop this fantastic lookout -- I forget to look around! Another magnificent peak lies just to southwest, Aiguille de Fleur, which is similar in shape to the Spearhead but has a flat mesa like summit covered with grass and wildflowers.

Looking towards Isolation from the Andrews col. Andrews peak has a magnificent east face, barely seen on the right.
The descent from the Andrews-Alice saddle to the faint East Inlet trail is the nastiest bushwhacking of the route. It is steep and grungy but I manage to pick a line following a game trail for bits and pieces that takes me there in what felt like the most efficient line. The west face of Isolation and the Cleaver loom to east, another wall surely full of great climbing which would be frequented more if it weren't for the approach. Surprisingly, I bump into six people in this remote drainage -- two groups of three. The first was simply hiking to Fifth Lake, a long abut worthy objective; the second allegedly made an attempt at Isolation Peak. Last year, Abby and I (along with Mark in his route) bypassed Isolation by instead traversing along its southwestern slope on loose rock, this year I planned on summitting after reading Lisa Foster's guidebook claiming the ridge went at class 2. The group coming down said it got to be technical climbing, I later found there footprints turning around only 100ft above the lake on a snowfield, about 2,000ft below the summit. The remainder of the route went well at an exposed but obvious and easy class 2. From the summit is a fantastic view of Wild Basin and the west face of Longs Peak which is less seen but equally impressive.

Looking up towards the Cleaver (somewhere in there, not sure where). The boulder in the foreground is where Abby and I waited out a thunderstorm last year!
Ten Lake Park which composes a small portion of the much larger, unexplored and trail-less Paradise Park drainage. Mt Adams (?) in the distance.
The west ridge of Isolation, there is more to go beyond what is seen in this photo, but the notches you encounter are easily navigable.
Embracing the wind on top of Isolation Peak
My remaining traverse along the divide before dropping off, Ouzel (left, dark peak) and Ogalla (grassy high point just left of center).
Looking back towards Andrews Peak (grassy, left of center) and the two passes used to traverse from the North Inlet drainage to the East Inlet drainage.
Although storm clouds began swirling around nearby peaks there was no electrical activity, so I steadily moved along towards a group of three summits, Ouzel, Ogalalla and "Ooh la la!". Both Ouzel and Ogalalla lie just enough away from the direct line to be frustrating but the views from the top of each are worth the extra effort. The evening light cast wonderful light onto the nearby summits of Copeland and Elk Tooth. "Ooh La La!", a satellite peak of Ogalalla forms a mighty cirque around the St. Vrain Glacier, although a walk up from the west, approaching these peaks from the east seems impossible. From the summit, the light upon the central Indian Peaks is breathtaking. The perspective on Lone Eagle Peak and the Mohling Traverse is particularly striking.

Looking back towards Alice, McHenrys, Chiefs Head, Pagoda, Longs, Meeker, Ouzel (left to right) from just beneath Ogalalla's summit
The central Indian Peaks basking in the evening light, one of the best views of the entire traverse! If you know where to look for the Mohling Traverse, it is incredible from this perspective, Iroquois looks very proud.
Looking down the Ooh La La! - Cooper - Martin ridge, Island Lake and subsequently Gourd Lake lay just beyond the grassy slope. 
View from the summit of Ooh La La!, Ogalalla's East Ridge, Chiefs Head (barely!), Pagoda, Longs, Meeker, Copeland, Elk Tooth (looking very proud!)
Last year, Abby and I summited "Ooh La La!" at about 11PM in complete darkness which was semi-terrifying as we really had barely any idea where we were. Thus, the following descent to Gourd Lake was executed by means of the most inefficient, tedious, thickly vegetated route which included short slabby friction downclimbs which often ended with a leap into the willows below. My rush to reach Gourd Lake this year was prompted by this. Armed with experience of where not to go, daylight and a promising GPS track plucked from the interwebs I descended with confidence. Reaching Cooper Pass involves a steep section of loose talus but culminated with a long, steep and unavoidable glissade that warranted some sharp rocks in hand, just in case. Island Lake in the evening light was everything I hoped it would be, the water was calm and vividly reflected the walls above glowing in the sunset. I proceeded with my new route which went perfectly to Gourd Lake. I made it from the summit of "Ooh La La!" to the Gourd Lake trail in 1:10, last year it took 2:45!

A reflecting pool just above Island Lake, it would have been nice to take my time and photos here but I wanted to get every last drop of daylight on this tricky descent!
Looking back at my glissade path, there wasn't really another option!
Having rushed down and not bothered to change my layers from windy evening above treeline to calm air a couple thousand feet lower I paused to remove my wind pants and coat, eat and drink then fire up the headlamp. I now had one hundred percent descent on trail to the Arapaho Pass junction near Monarch Lake where I would meet Jack, Kiri, Kyle and Abby. I make a point to jog which feels better and better as I get lower. It is a deceptively long stretch of trail and I'm thankful to eventually see the light of friends having been essentially alone for the last 17 hours covering 40 miles.

Meanwhile down below... (Photo: Abby)
Only Abby and Kiri are at the aid station as Jack and Kyle had rushed out to cell service to check my SPOT. I sit down and begin wolfing down cold soup, I'm in no particular rush to leave, if I were to end right here like Abby and I did last year I would be content, the route is a serious undertaking which is equally matched in the quality of the scenery. Continuing to eat and drink I relish the conversation with Kiri and Abby recounting the spoils of the journey. I eat almost 2 liters of soup along with a couple sliced of avocado bread while they tend to emptying my pack full of empty wrappers and filling it back with food (which weighs a lot more than wrappers). I change into three-quarter tights and a down layer and prepare to leave just as Jack emerges from the trees, happy to see him I stay just a touch longer before saying goodbye at around midnight.

Happily eating Abby's homemade potato and cashew soup! (Photo: Abby)
Back to solitude, I am fully aware of the length of trail between me and Arapaho Pass. The trail is lush, almost overgrown in places. With two liters of soup, a freshly filled pack of food and full bottles my steps move slowly. I follow the tunnel of light before me losing track of time. Feeling sleepy I set a timer for 7 minutes and enjoy a quick nap; I wake alert and refreshed almost in disbelief in how effective the brief sleep was. I repeat my nap tactic 90 minutes later with similar results. The trail continues to steadily move through the forest barely gaining any elevation, meaning must be a steep grind to the pass at the end. At around 4AM, my headlamp flashes, meaning I'm about to run out of battery. I decide to push to treeline which takes another 40 minutes. Knowing first light should appear around 5AM, I take one last lonesome nap in a sheltered nook ensuring I won't be caught above treeline in the dark. I awake to just enough light to move confidently without a headlamp and to see the steep switchbacks ahead. My movement is slow, but eventually I crest the ridge with great views of the jagged ridge stretching from Cherokee to South Arapaho Peak which generally composes the grim finale of the LA Freeway.

The usual night time nap break view. Sidenote: the sense ride is phenomenal!
The sun is welcomed but my effort and loneliness weigh heavily upon me. Staggering up the beginning of Neva's north ridge I doubt my intentions. Staying determined, though breathless, I launch onto the thinning 4th class ridge of Mt Neva barely able to balance. Scared of taking a stupid step off of a cliff I retreat back to safer a ground and take a seat on a rock. I remembered that there is great cell service on this ridge so I call Abby telling her I don't quite feel balanced enough to tackle Neva. After our conversation my retreat seemed as fueled by the effort required to continue as it was by my lack of coordination so I decide to try once more. Moving unbelievably slowly so as to maximize safety, I make my way along the ridge making sure to never get out of breath and potentially lose balance. It takes me actually double the amount of time it took me when I first did the ridge but two hours later I'm on the summit, out of water and staring down the continental divide as it stretches south.

Neva's North Ridge
Berthoud is for the first time visible, though even Rollins Pass alone seems an eternity away. The weight of all my food is useless without a drop of water to be able swallow. Expecting the divide to be a swamp as I've seemingly always found it in the past, today there is no sign of any water. I find a small snowfield below Neva's summit to scoop out of but waiting for it to melt in a bottle is no quick thing. Jasper, the next peak, is only a short 500ft climb a mile and half away but my dehydration and calorie deficit are taking form in severe shortness of breath. The mile and a half to Jasper's summit takes me an hour and half.

I text Abby that I'm done at Rollins Pass. I feel totally satisfied with what Milner Pass to Rollins pass entails. She drives to Rollins Pass while I move painfully slow over UN12660 then down and up Devils Thumb Pass. On the final climb I am forced into a two steps to ten breaths tactic to maintain myself. I thankfully join the High Lonesome trail heading south to where my journey will end. I meet Abby two and a half miles from the pass. In no rush we lay in the grass, she brought me two bottles of water which I easily dispose of along a peanut butter sandwich.

Not a bad place to lounge about. (Photo: Abby)
Abby and I effectively began dating during our Pfiffner attempt last year. Now, happily laying besides one another in the alpine tundra I feel profoundly happy. The remaining traverse feels to be focussed far more on the slog factor and physical challenge than on the quality of the route. They're good peaks, but when the reference is The Park and the Indian Peaks, it is hard to compete. Certainly and validly, this can be interpreted as an excuse to quit, I'll take that. It should also be duly inserted here that what Mark did accomplish from Milner to Berthoud is an incredible accomplishment. What I wanted from this adventure was the splendor that comes from immersion in the wilderness, having accomplished that I felt no regrets with ending the route.

Done. (Photo: Abby)
This is truly a classic route and I'm grateful to be following in Mark's footsteps. I think the Pfiffner Traverse can take many forms, it's a physical challenge, a mental challenge, an exercise in route finding and a scenic tour of RMNP and the Indian Peaks. The possible variations to this route are endless and intriguing. You could draw a line of truly least resistance, skipping all the peaks and staying on trail as much as possible or you could strictly stay on the divide embracing the challenges of the LA Freeway. The tradition that is blossoming out of Mark's initial conception (and I suppose Karl Pfiffner's and Gerry Roach's as well!) is one of creativity and personal satisfaction. In Gerry Roach's biography he describes Pfiffner as a visionary whose dreams reached beyond single peaks or routes but to encompass long and magical traverses. Unfortunately, Karl died in avalanche on La Plata at the age of 22 before he could ever see to these aspirations. When Gerry Roach tackled his commemorative traverse he spent 16 solitary days picking his own line and set of objectives, what Mark did was the same in that he chose the route therein which appealed to him the most. Although I failed to reach Berthoud Pass I got everything and more out of the traverse that I hoped I would. The experience of forging a path through a remote wilderness that is seemingly untapped and full of treasures inspires a lifetime of exploration and discovery.

Peaks Summitted:
Mt Ida, 12,880'
Chief Cheley, 12,804'
UN12820, 12,820'
Cracktop, 12,780'
Mt Eleanor, 12,380'
Sprague Mtn, 12,713'
Knobtop, 12,331'
Ptarmigan Pt, 12,363'
Flattop Mtn, 12,324'
Isolation Pk, 13,118'
Ouzel Pk, 12,716'
Ogalalla Pk, 13,138'
Ooh La La!, 12,945'
Mt Neva, 12,814'
Mt Jasper, 12,923'
UN12660, 12,660'

57.4 miles

Monday, June 19, 2017

Asgard Ridge

I'd imagine the Gore Range is on a lot of people's "list", its close to the front range and is as full of intrigue as it is vacant of 14ers. I also had something in the range on my "list" for a while and also like many had instead somehow forgotten to ever venture into the Gores. Well, I finally made plans to climb something in the range last weekend and in typical fashion I couldn't simply go recon the range with a fun, safe and easy jog up a pretty peak. No that would be far too much of a cop out when I could instead select a mysterious and technical ridge that had seen only two (I believe) prior ascents and then link it into another classic ridge traverse and then finally warm down on another moderate ridge to tag another arbitrary high point. If you're gonna do something, do it one-hundred percent -- or preferably, one-hundred-fifty percent.

The overly ambitious planned route -- clockwise from the Boss Mine.
So the plan was set to start at the Rock Creek TH, run to the Boss Mine then successively dispatch of Asgard Ridge (and of course a tag of Palomino and Valhalla), the Grand Traverse and the ridge walk to Keller then cruise back out on the trail back to my girlfriend, Abby, who I would drop off 20 miles south to run the Gore Range trail to the TH. Literally nothing about this plan could fail. Right?

My first view of the basin on route to the Boss Mine.
I left the parking lot around 7AM, later than I wanted but so it goes. I made it to the Boss Mine by 7:40 where I left the trail to contour to the southern side of the North Rock Creek drainage. The bushwhack was surprisingly straightforward, dry and thinly treed -- minus a small and grungy rock buttress that I stubbornly elected not to simply walk around. The snow began in the trees and was steep enough to warrant an axe but not crampons. The march continued upwards, crossing a few animal tracks then gaining the grassy meadows which compose the eastern end of Asgard Ridge. The route ahead looked complex, though without understanding  what I was seeing the towers camouflaged themselves into the north aspect of Valhalla Pk.

Easy early going on the ridge.
The ridge gradually morphed from a grassy runnable tundra to a narrowing spine of large blocky talus. What in retrospect was a benign knoll marked the first "challenge" of the day, fun 3rd class moves and what appeared to be just more talus walking ahead. Ha! The two reports of this ridge must have been full of it when they said "low 5th class" -- whatever that dangerously subjective term means! Figuring I would be finished with this minor obstacle of ridge I proceeded onward.

Things began to change. The ridge sharpened, towers grew more prominent and notches plummeted in sheer faces to thin cols. I reached the first of numerous notches and greeted an uninviting and exposed downclimb to the notch. I was able to leave the ridge and instead crabwalk down a dusty 4th class slab then traverse snow to the next tower. This next tower was almost comically imposing, Bypassing this tower was an easy decision but still involved a dirty traverse of the loose rock on its northern side. Okay, this traverse is getting pretty real!

The right most tower is clearly a technical challenge on its own!
The remaining ridge left little to the imagination: hard, loose, treacherous, spicy, exciting and adventurous. I began ascending the knife edge ridge to the next tower carefully testing each hold before using it. I searched along the north side for a bypass again but found nothing. I was beginning to feel uneasy about the route -- specifically the rotten state of the rock. I returned to the crest and decided I would check the south side and if nothing jumped out immediately I would bail. I spied a route around to the next notch by spiralling around the south face on a series of ledges. After an extremely airy series of down-mantles I found a Broadway-esque ledge to maneuver myself into the next notch. This was the technical crux of the day for me -- it felt 5.6 -- it was thankfully on good (well, good enough) rock. I believe this went around "Point Odin", it would seem from the only other TR for this route (or that I could find) that up and over may have been the easier option, though more exposed.

Some proper exposure on these moves!
Exasperated, I stared down the final tower standing between myself and Palomino Point. I climbed two thirds of the way to the top of the tower and then tried to find a similar south side traverse to what I found before. The ledge narrowed and then fell away in a startling drop. Reluctantly, I returned to the ridge crest to check the north side. Quickly scrambling back up I made biggest mistake of the day; reaching for a hold I blindly pulled and felt the bone chilling grind of the flake freeing itself. The rock was to heavy to push back but I was able to hold it in place for a second to set my feet, release it then dash out of its way as it thunderously cascaded down and into the air. Shaken, I collected myself. This could have happened at any point earlier, this terrain was no different than the previous two towers, but if you roll the dice enough times, things can happen. I wanted off the ridge immediately, turning around was certainly an option but there was less suspect rock above me then behind me so I elected to continue upwards. I found what I believe was the same "crabwalk traverse" mentioned in the beta TR. Despite strictly pushing not pulling on rocks and trying to evenly distribute my weight across all available holds I dislodged another block. Holding it in place, I again moved out of the way and then let it lose. The sound of crashing rock and the wind fluttering the hood of my coat paired with ominous feeling of being alone came to a peak. I nervously skirted the remainder of the tower to find a snow field softer than I'd prefer but a welcome change from the choss.

I used the leftmost snowy ledge to reach safer ground before reaching Palomino (center skyline).
I charged up to Palomino Point, slapped the summit, didn't bother signing a register, walked 100ft lower to a sheltered alcove from the wind, dropped my pack and sat down. I had never been so mentally exhausted. I had never felt fear like I had felt during the hour or so from the first rockfall to the summit. I had studied maps and knew I could bail down to Deluge Lake and find the trail down to Vail. I found cell service and texted Abby my change of plans, hoping she had yet to reach the TH where there was no service. She had unfortunately just reached the TH, having bailed on the Gore Range Trail due to snow covering the trail and instead ran 5 miles back to the N. Tenmile Creek TH and then ran the 15 miles of road, bikepath and highway to Rock Creek! Realizing my phone could potentially run out of battery (I had a SPOT as well), I messaged a couple other friends with my new descent route and location.

The Holy Cross on the horizon, Deluge Lake below

A thrilling shoe ski was enjoyable consolation prize for the day.
The descent to Deluge Lake was loose, but the fun non-exposed kind where you surf down then shoe-ski snow. After re-examining the topo and navigating to a contouring section of trail at a specific altitude I dropped beneath the snow line, found patchy sections of trail then eventually the trail itself which I happily -- and safely -- dashed down to the sanctuary of civilization and dare I say pavement! Unfortunately, with Abby out of cell service on the other side of the range, the only way for her to realize I was in Vail was to get really worried, go get cell service, get a bombardment of messages and then see my SPOT. My plan was to stay put and wait it out but a ride to Frisco was offered (can't thank them enough!) along with a phone charge. So, I was able to shorten her inevitable drive and get myself to the Next Page bookstore to continue waiting. Eventually and inevitably we reconnected driving straight to the Rio Grande for the biggest meals we could get!

This butterfly walked around my foot for about 15 minutes while I waited at Deluge Lake TH. He didn't seem afraid of me at all, this picture was taken without zoom and he didn't even flinch having the lens an inch from his body!
This was a hard route and learning experience in many ways. I learned its sometimes best to turn your back on something that doesn't quite feel right than to test the waters and find out for sure. I learned that objective hazard above anything else is something I'm not okay with. I learned that having full knowledge of the area is critical. I learned that being able to communicate and share your location is paramount, especially alone. I think I made a poor judgement pursuing this ridge, especially solo -- and that I should have turned back earlier rather than finding out what was ahead. I also believe though, that upon reaching Palomino Pk, my bail strategy was well equipped and executed. I'm happy I didn't listen to music on my phone to save battery, that I contacted a few people my change of plans and that I had a SPOT if I needed it. Its easy to not care you don't have these things when you don't consider there usage but I never want to be in the situation where I'm ill-equipped wishing I had other options. I love the mountains, climbing, running and scrambling but not enough to play Russian Roulette with them. I want to continue to explore the unknown and push myself but I always need to remember to first evaluate the risks and furthermore, to remember that harder, more exposed and higher doesn't always mean I'll enjoy it more. The most fun I had this weekend was romping up the standard trail on Quandary with Abby the next day, certainly not fearing rockfall on Asgard Ridge.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

May 1 - May 7

5/1, Monday - Off
A bit tired from yesterday's run.

5/2, Tuesday - Yellow Spur - 2000', 5:17
Biked to Eldo to meet Anton to climb the Yellow Spur. We didn't move particularly quickly but that wasn't the goal of the day. He led to the Red Ledge which was all familiar terrain to me, I had always been turned towards Icarus here due to time restraints. I took the lead up the first pitch and was only held up by this awkward friction-y corner that I eventually solved by just toe jamming up to the big shelf. Tony then lead the final premier pitch to the finish. Its tough climbing but its basically just a sport route (minus the traverse) till the final 5.6 arete. Downclimbed the East Slabs back to our bikes and rode home.
Anton following the second to last pitch at lightning speed!
5/3, Wednesday - 6 miles, 250', 0:41
Quick short run along the creek as the skies cleared of morning rain clouds.

5/4, Thursday - 3 x Mile - 11 miles, 400', 1:15 || PM: First Flatiron - 3 miles, 1600, 3:13
A mediocre workout. I wanted good rest between each interval (6 minutes) but still couldn't get my splits as low as I would have liked (5:17, 5:25, 5:27). Ah well, got the effort in -- the last quarter of each repeat was good if only as a mental workout for not giving in. In the evening I met Abby for her first time up the direct route on the 1st Flatiron. I soloed the rope up to belay her for the first 3 pitches to the party ledge, then we scrambled to the slot where I belayed her up to the arete. We then scrambled the remainder of the north arete as the sun fell behind the Indian Peaks in the distance. I'd never actually rappelled off the 1st -- always downclimbed -- but given the darkness it would be easier to just set up the rope than try to point out holds in the dark. Actually a really cool rappel, the bottom 30ft or so are free hanging and a 60m rope reaches the ground just fine.
Abby taking a lead up to the North Arete at sunset.
5/5, Friday - Eldo Scrambling - 2300', 2:41
After gulping down a ton of water, I hopped on my bike for a splendid session in Eldo. I had to make a slight adjustment to my Wind Tower circuit as West Overhang was taken -- so I skipped that -- and Wind Ridge was taken so I explored to rock up Tigger than traversed back to the Wind Ridge route once above the party. I was making good time and the wind was calm so I hustled over to the West Chimney where I was able to get going right before a large party began up Rewritten. What an absolute pleasure it is to move freely over such a beautiful wall. I hadn't soloed Icarus in a long time, so I was reminded of just how phenomenal of a route and position it is -- the arete to the top of tower one has got to be one of the best in the state if not country!

5/6, Saturday - Sooberb Lite & Blind Faith - 2500', 6:57
Kyle and I biked down to Eldo with plans for long day of climbing. We first got to Long John Wall, which was taken so we went a bit further up the hill to Sooberb Lite. Right as we were about to lift off a guy down towards Washington Irving -- not sure what route exactly -- took a near a ground fall bouncing down slab and through trees. Or at least it sounded like that. We unroped and ran down to find him moving and talking but clearly concussion symptoms. He had plenty of friends there to help (one was a nurse) so they said they didn't need any more help and sent us on our way. Sooberb Lite was actually a fun really fun route, though overshadowed by everything else in the day. Kyle led the first two pitches -- the second being the good one, while I lead the final. We then ran down to Redgarden and literally everything under 5.11 was taken so we jogged to the Bastille. Blind Faith (which was first climbed free solo) was open and I'd been wanting to try it for ages. I took the lead and got up just fine to the crux. Oh but the crux! I tried several times never able to commit and taking a fall once -- my first fall leading on trad. I definitely need to get better at crack technique and do some more pull ups! Eventually, I just traversed around to set up an anchor for Kyle to give it a shot with a top rope (after the rope was severely stuck on an under-cling!). I think he made it further than I did but then had to hang -- you can't really rejoin the route after hanging once on TR -- he was then hanging on the upper portion of the right crack variation and finished up that. I started leading up the next pitch but we were both so pumped and mentally shaken by this point that I down-climbed while back-cleaning gear then we set an anchor to bail. Thankfully, some guys were heading up as were rapping (moving quickly). The leader undid our anchor and sent down all the gear we thought we were having to leave, lucky for us it was not as expensive of a bail as we expected. Not a huge day by the numbers but mentally one of the harder days I can remember.

5/7, Sunday - Pine Tree Route - 1400', 3:35
Fun day with my house mates. Mike broke his leg pretty severely 10 months ago and today was his first day back outside and he wanted to lead -- and suggested biking to the crag! We ended up on Pine Tree route waiting for another girl to lead it (who broke her jaw last year and was also getting her head back on!). Mike took the lead with the mental trauma still major obstacle. Physically, he could walk up this route and I'm sure he would have scoffed at it before his accident. Today wasn't about physical limits it was instead about mental limits. It took a while but it was important to give him that time and space to sort out his thoughts. My other house mate, Jorge, followed the route then I soloed it. Hoping to squeeze in one more route I rushed the rope over to East Slab on the Dome but the storm broke before I could even get ready, I met the guys back at our bikes for a soggy ride home.

Week Totals: Running
20 miles

Week Totals: Other bike-climb-scramble stuff
112 miles (mostly biking)

Clearly, I didn't actually run that much this week. In fact I mostly just climbed, 5 days in fact -- time to retire my rope! -- which translates still to some good time on my feet and is frankly the most fun you can have! I also definitely needed to back off a bit of the volume to give my legs a chance to actively recover for race week. Quad Rock 25 next weekend, looking forwards to it!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

April 25 - April 30

4/24, Monday - South Boulder Pk, Bear Pk, Green Mtn - 15 miles, 4500', 2:47
Ran from home up the Bluestem trail to Shadow Canyon. I kept a moderate pace, hoping to catch the RMR group on Green Mtn. I put a good effort into my Green to Bear segment but came in just behind Sage's Strava CR on the traverse -- I lost most of my time on the highly runnable section of Green-Bear where his road legs are too quick to stay with! Hit the summit of Green just as the group was descending so I lumped onto the back to chat with friends rather than fight my way to the front with mindless competitiveness.

4/25, Tuesday - AM: Eldorado Canyon - 1900', 2:54 || PM: Salomon Run - 3 miles, 600', 0:34
Biked to Eldo in the morning and did my Wind Tower circuit (Boulder Direct, West Overhang, Calypso, Wind Ridge) then hiked to the col separating the Whale's Tale form the South Buttress. I started up Pseudo Sidetrack, a moderate 5.4 which I enjoyed to the halfway point then spied a fun looking section that appeared to be more fun. Heading up a steep face I joined a beautiful dihedral and handcrack, then some more face moves to top out on the East Slabs. I found out later the route I went up was PA's Variation, super cool! Salomon run in the evening.
Looking back down PA's Variation
4/26, Wednesday - 6 x 3min - 12 miles, 1200', 1:24
Warmed up to the Bluestem TH off of HW93 then started the intervals. Three minutes is a savage interval time, you can't really settle into anything sustained but its also long enough that the quick pace eats your soul for the final sixty seconds. I was motivated knowing that the faster I ran the intervals, the closer to the Mesa trail I would get which would inevitably be less sustained uphill! Since I still felt relatively alright after the sixth, I kept a steady effort back down the South Boulder Creek trail and through the Buffalo Ranch back home.

4/27, Thursday - Betasso Preserve - 3 miles, 500', 0:32
Kinda fun since it was a pretty morning but Abby and I both fell pretty hard over literally nothing on the trail! Given the carnage we called it early.

I think I fell a few seconds after taking this picture, serves me right for not paying attention!
4/28, Friday - Green Mtn x 3 - 16 miles, 7100', 4:11
Three ascents of Gregory-Ranger which is by far the most difficult since you have to actually run quite a bit -- not to say its not still steep! Not pretty, but got it done.

4/29, Saturday - Green Mtn x 3 - 15 miles, 8200', 5:06
A nuclear bomb of wet snow hit last night so today was properly slow. I kept the route to Amp-SR-GM but even with the most efficient line it was mentally trying to move along like a slug in such sloppy conditions. I was hoping to get to 10,000ft for the day but I had obligations for the evening so called it once it was after 2PM. I was able to get 1100ft more than yesterday by doing a bunch of little out and backs catching back up to Abby and Kyle (who joined for sections) at various points.

4/30, Sunday - Gold Hill - 29 miles, 4000', 4:16
It was rough getting going this morning for both Abby and I, so we were happy to let some snow melt (its now 60F after snowing 1ft yesterday!) while eating a proper breakfast. Without giving myself time to think of any of the great reasons to not do this today I left the house with two flasks of tailwind, a hotshot and a handful of gels. I took it pretty easy all the way up to Gold Hill. I stopped once at the bathroom at Sanitas then again up top where I bumped into Ryan on his bike. I still kept it easy heading back down Sunshine canyon until somewhere around the Poorman's Rd turnoff where I started a series of fartleks. I did a few intervals all the way home, the hardest being a relatively all out push from Eben G. Fine park to CU campus near Folsom street.
Gold Hill with Longs in the background.
Week Totals:
92 miles
. . . . plus a bit of biking

Good peak week of volume heading towards Quad Rock 25 in two weeks -- time to start easing off of the gas a bit.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

April 17 - April 24

4/17, Monday - AM: Easy - 7 miles, 0:55 || PM: Green Mtn - 6 miles, 2500', 1:43
Easy morning shakeout with Abby and Jackson with a mile or so by chance with Jack on Apache Rd followed by a Green summit with RMR in the evening

4/18, Tuesday - 1st Flatiron, Green Mtn, 2nd Flatiron - 7 miles, 3700', 2:14
My scrambling form is still properly terrible so it was another slow ramble up the 1st to tag Green. Downclimbed the 2nd Flatiron until I met Abby just at the main rib then turned around and finished the route with her. We then sprinted back down towards the Salomon Run but couldn't quite catch up.

4/19, Wednesday - Bike: Eldorado Canyon
I've been itching to get back into Eldo so despite the wind I hoped I could find something sheltered enough. The ride there took forever with the oppressive headwind putting me in my lowest gears just to get down hills. I made a few moves up Boulder Direct then surmised it was neither fun nor safe so I just rode back home.

4/20, Thursday - Independence Monument - 7 miles, 1500', 6:09
On the way out to the desert we stopped to check out Independence Monument, a proud tower of sandstone just outside of Grand Junction. I took the first lead but we accidentally started up "Geezer Highway" instead of "Otto's Route", the latter being much safer and easier. After carefully getting to an anchor of a fixed nut and an angle I had to leave a locking biner on the webbing to be lowered back to the ground. We then found the start of Otto's and started up. The first two pitches were straightforward, but the third really gave me hell. It was a tough move to make, especially with a backpack with an extra rope (for rappel) and a double rack (totally unnecessary). Eventually, I just tried harder and made it through. The next pitch was 4th class followed by a short section of bolts to a big ledge leading to the summit pitch. On lead, I got to within 5ft of the top but couldn't manage the last move. The combination of too much weight, really cold and strong winds and lack of strength was too much for me. Abby, freezing on the belay ledge was especially cold standing still in the wind. She lowered me back down then we made two rappels to the ground, the final a full 70 meters using both ropes! Super cool even if we didn't make the top.
Independence Monument

Abby on the final rap back to the ground
4/21, Friday - Pothole Arch - 13 miles, 2700', 3:49
After a late night of scavenging for one open campsite we were excited to get out for a run rather than drive around the city in the dark looking for vacant sites. I did this loop once before and really liked it. Starting from Kane Creek we ran along the Colorado River for a ways before angling straight up onto some slickrock to Pothole Arch. Next was a short section of trail before joining a 4x4 road which would loop us back to our car. Just as we were joining the road however, I noticed the car key had fallen out of my pocket! We turned back around and steadily searched our prior path. Having found nothing all the way back to Pothole Arch and knowing there wasn't cell service at the lot we used this blip of service to call AAA to send a tow truck so we could at least get back to town. By the grace of the heavens on the remainder of trail back to the car I spotted the key at the bottom of an especially steep hill I had ran down earlier. We should have expected it there, it was by far the most likely place it could have been!
On top of Pothole Arch

Abby looking back towards where we started and the La Sal's
4/22, Saturday - Canyolands NP - 26 miles, 4300', 6:15
This was the big one for the weekend. Last year I did a similar loop but had my knee lock up halfway and had to limp 9 miles back to the car without bending the joint. This time -- feeling generally healthy -- we planned a larger route to truly circumnavigate the park. Starting from Squaw Flat TH we first went around Lost Canyon for the long way to the Druid Arch out and back. Although a bit longer, this canyon is not to be missed; the whole route is in the depths of the lush canyon or up above on the slickrock bluffs with views of the Needles and La Sal Mountains. Getting to Druid Arch I remembered as a long sandy slog, but with a functioning ITB it wasn't too bad at all, and the views were tremendous! From Druid Arch we took the Joint Trail to Devil's Kitchen, a meadow between striking needles that is way more runnable than most of the trails -- but still quite sandy. Totally exposed to the desert sun, Abby began to feel pretty dehydrated. I've learned I really don't need that much water so I happily handed over the majority of my remaining water. The final section back to Squaw Flat is much longer than you'd think it is and can be difficult to truly appreciate while dehydrated and 5 hours into the day. Luckily, the parking lot sort of surprises you when you get close. Fantastic route that should be on everyone's list!
Lost Canyon

Druid Arch

Devil's Kitchen
4/23, Sunday - Wall Street Climbing - 2:30
For our final day in the desert we went down to Wall Street to clip some bolts before driving home. First we hopped on a random slab route that looked moderate so Abby could get back to leading. It turned out to be a rather slick 5.9, Stego Slab. We then traveled a bit further down the road and found the actual moderates to get Abby's head back into leading. She first lead "Chocolate Chunk", a 5.3 that she could easily solo but got could practice clipping on lead. Next she lead Yogini, a 5.7+, I was happy to see her moving confidently on the rock again! Last, I put the rope up on Banana Peel, 5.10a; after taking a few tries to get the starting moves I was able to clean the route. Abby, hesitant to start up the route found the start similarly difficult but was able to efficiently move through the rest of the route really well and was showing great trust in her feet (something I think has been holding her back). With a fine route under are belts we were happy to call the weekend in the desert to a close!
Stego Slab
Week Totals:
65 miles