Sunday, September 20, 2015

September 7 - September 20

9/7, Monday - 1st Flatiron - 3 miles, 1400', 2:00
Scrambled the 1st with Rush and his friend from Chicago. Walking everything, 40 minute scramble, super easy. Definitely recovery mode.

9/8, Tuesday - Off

9/9, Wednesday - Off

9/10, Thursday - Anemone Ridge & Mt Sanitas - 11 miles, 2200', 1:37
With RMR, we first tackled the newly opened Anemone Ridge which was super fun, before zipping (past a bear, no less) up the backside of Sanitas. Three scoops of gelato for dinner afterwards. Great idea, but limiting myself to two is likely more sensible.

9/11, Friday - Climbing
Well, the streak of never using a rope is over. Jack took me up Boulder Canyon for some sport climbing. I first top roped a 5.8, Edges and Ledges, then lead a 5.9, Brand New Bosch. Awesome to climb something where falling is actually possible but death isn't. My mind still isn't quite all back from the sleep deprivation yet so I stupidly forgot my rock shoes and was wearing Jack's one size too small shoes. As a result, my toes were squeezed lifeless and on my last rappel down I was wincing with each bump into the rock.

9/12, Saturday - Flatiron Quinfecta, 5th Flatiron, 4th Flatiron - 7 miles, 6200', 3:58
Ugh. Set out to do the Double Quinfecta but made the mistake of bringing no water despite the hot temps. I made it through the trifecta in my usual hour, then my experimental line from the 3rd to the Royal Arch trail was a bust. I hopped on the Northeast Buttress on the 5th for a change and found it to be an amazing route with a couple super thin 5.5/6 sections in the typical 5.who-cares slab. I then found a way better downclimb off the south side of the 5th that shaves off several minutes, the 5th turned out to be the one highlight of the day. After finishing the 4th I had already eaten both the gels I brought and was feeling pretty dehydrated. Lap 2 on the 5th I perfected the line, but my split was nearly 14min (versus 9min on lap one). Things really started unraveling with a bunch of hip cramps and more slow movement on the 4th with a nearly 30min scramble. I started heading up to the 3rd but I was fading pretty badly and expecting a pretty miserable time for the last 3, so I called it and jogged back down. Still a good day on paper, just not what I was hoping for.

9/13 Sunday - Campus Loop
Slept through my alarm then found out I'll be doing a little scramble shindig on Wednesday so rather then battle the heat (again) I did an easy loop around campus.

Week Totals:
24 miles

9/14, Monday - AM: 3rd Flatiron Tour - 5 miles, 2800', 2:21 - PM: Green Mtn + Dome Rappel - 6 miles, 2500', 1:30
In the morning I met Kendrick and Stuart for some scrambling, we did the 3rd Flatironette, then walked back down to the true bottom of the 3rd (standard start is 200' higher at the East Bench), then scrambled up to the "U" before I cut over and checked out the North side. Its more fun (difficult) but the rock is sort of crumbly and with the 50ft drop a few feet away I won't frequent it. RMR Green in the evening, followed by a quick session in Boulder Canyon learning how to rappel, just in case that skill comes in handy over the next few days.

9/15, Tuesday - Off
Boy, its hard getting into the groove of running and school again, super inconsistent.

9/16, Wednesday - Tour de Flatirons, Stage 1 (Freeway, 1st Flatiron, 3rd Flatiron) - 4 miles, 2600', 1:15
Eh, not sure how I felt about my performance, but it was pretty cool to compete against some guys I really look up to. My first mistake was running with Anton and Matthias way too hard to the 2nd (not like I kept up too well anyways), had I gone even 30 seconds slower here I think I could have held a much better pace later in the course. The big mishap was having my rope super tangled coming down the 3rd, which wasted 10 minutes and dropped me two places. I finished 7th.
Beginning the rappel of the 3rd. Photo: Eric Lee
Working my way up the face of the 3rd Flatiron, trying to hold onto my 5th place position.
9/17, Thursday - AM: Bike: 16 miles, 300', 0:50 - PM: Mt Sanitas - 9 miles, 1500', 1:20
Quick ride to pick up a circuit component for lab in the morning. RMR Sanitas in the evening.

9/18, Friday - Bike: Flagstaff Mtn - 14 miles, 2400', 1:07
I had biked Flag before, but never as just a standalone road bike ride, but its really fun! You gain a ton of elevation pretty quickly and are rewarded with some great views. Maybe the best part is not having to throw yourself down the mountain, but instead coasting down in the cool breeze without smashing your joints on rocks. Nice change of pace.

9/19, Saturday - Little-Bear Pk (14,037'), Blanca Pk (14,345'), Ellingwood Pt (14,042') - 15 miles, 6700', 5:24
Jack and I made the long haul across the near longitudinal length of the state and made it up to 8800' in his jeep. Lake Como Rd is one of the worst roads in America (like actually, its a thing). A more accurate description than "road" would be "Class 2 trail cars can drive on". We leisurely began at 7:30AM and hike/jogged the loose rubble road up to Lake Como, its not only a technical road its also steep. The standard route of Little Bear is the most dangerous standard route on a Colorado 14er due to rockfall. So instead we took the NW Face, a more technical route, but being mostly 3rd/4th and maybe one or two 5.easy moves it was the obvious choice (especially without helmets). The face turned out to be great fun on its own. We quickly darted out and back on the ridge to tag Little Bear before embarking on the greatest ridge run I can imagine. All of the rock was solid, and it mostly alternated between short 3rd/4th class and extended sections of 2ft (or less!) wide ridge that you could run across. The greatest. Blanca would be the high point of the day, and the views back to Little Bear with the backdrop of the San Luis Valley were near perfect. Last we dropped down and up to Ellingwood Point, our final summit. We descended a talus gully directly off the summit and made our way to the standard trail to Lake Como. Jack didn't want to re-re-re-re-sprain his ankle (its a vicious cycle), so I took the road much quicker slaloming between boulders and baby-heads to stay on dirt for a fun descent back to the heat of the valley. Might be the most fun route I've ever done, its a quintessential mountain run!
Jack standing high above the San Luis Valley, with the traverse from Little Bear dominating the view.
Charging to the first peak of the day, Little Bear, with the next two Blanca (right) and Ellingwood (left) 
Standing on the summit of Blanca looking back to Little Bear. Not sure why I'm frowning, I was loving it! Photo: Jack
9/20, Sunday - Tomato Rock, Hammerhead, Royal Arch, 5th Flatiron, Stairway to Heaven, Primal Rib, Achean Pronouncement, Satan's Slab, Fist, Green Mtn - 10 miles, 5600', 5:34
I finally tried scrambling with a pack and water. I hate to abandon UD (a local Boulder company), but the Salomon packs are on a whole other level in terms of comfort and utility. With a liter of water (in soft flasks, rather than bottles another great purchase) I jogged up to Tomato Rock and quickly mounted the 5.8 sphere. I followed a well defined trail up to the Hammerhead for Yodeling Moves then zipped over to the Royal Arch. The west face of the arch is rated 5.6, but it felt very easy -- I would be comfortable downclimbing it. Next was the south side of 5th, I hugged the far edge and found the climbing much more fun than my slightly less south route I've taken before. I shwacked over and then proceeded to downclimb (like a bumbling idiot) Stairway to Heaven. Being a virgin to the depths of Skunk Canyon it took me a bit to navigate the flood debris and hop on the razor sharp ridge of Primal Rib which uneventfully passed. I descended down in front of Achean Pronouncement to scout my downclimb then jogged all the way to the bottom. The first couple moves are 5.7, but it gradually eases in difficulty until the end is 4th class. Downclimbing was easy since I didn't finish to the 5.6 pinnacle. There were 2 groups on Satan's Slab (I've never seen anyone in Skunk Canyon before), but they were taking the 5.8 direct route. The bottom of the slab is so insanely polished it makes the 1st look quite featured. I eventually found a very thin fault in the rock which angled back left across the face directly to the 5.8 roof, then took a 5.5/6 slab route around the roof and romped up the slab. There were several bulges and notches that felt between 5.5 and 5.7, its a sustained route! I picked up a faint trail which lead me to the south edge of the Fist and followed ledges and fist cracks to the summit. The downclimb off the back isn't particularly hard but the holds are extremely thin, so it takes quite awhile to identify the route, especially on-site. Out of water, I finished up to Green and took a relaxed jaunt completely on trail back down.
The Norther Slabs of Skunk Canyon, From left, Mohling Arete, Angel's Way, Satan's Slab, Stairway to Heaven, Hillbilly Rock.
Looking back up the super crimpy downclimb off the Fist. Keep in mind this is at about 70 degrees!
Week Totals (Run):
48 miles

Week Totals (Bike):
48 miles

Now there is a week of training I can be happy about. Even more, throw in a math test -- which I believe -- I did great on, and its an even better week.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Nolan's 14 Pacing

When Logan asked if I wanted to help pace him during his Nolan's 14 attempt several weeks ago I was honored. If what I regularly do can be effective at preparing me for anything its marching up and down vert. I've never quite fully embraced the ultra long mindset like Logan has, so I figure I'd maybe do 10 to 15 hours (I've only been over 10 hours twice before) and then follow along from the sidelines.

Getting some calories in the trees below Yale.
A group of 8 or so, including Logan and his partner Adam started up Mt Shavano, the southernmost Sawatch 14er, Friday morning at 5AM. As I anxiously made it through my classes, they made it over Shavano, Tabaguache, Antero and Princeton. I was very thankful my schedule didn't allow me to start on Princeton, it is a very big mountain with lots loose rock. Its not uncommon to see refrigerator sized rock fall. The plan was to begin with him on Columbia in the middle of the night at the N. Cottonwood trailhead. Adam had to drop after Princeton though, so rather than sending Logan up Yale -- a 5,000ft climb on trail with a 5,000ft off trail descent with plenty of bush whacking -- alone, I threw together a pack. Logan refueled in the parking lot at Avalanche Gulch then we were daintily jogging the 3 miles of road up the Denny Creek trailhead.

The pace felt slow, but I had to remember that he had already been out for 16 hours. We moved steadily through the trees, but at treeline it was becoming obvious that he wasn't feeling well. He primarily was complaining that his headlamp was too tight and that his head was "one thousand degrees" even in the 40 degree air. I told him I had a pocket knife and I'd be okay cutting off his dreadlocks to cool his head down, that have surprised the crew at N. Cottonwood for sure! Halfway, up I turn around to look for him, and don't see his lamp, crap. I jog down a bit and find him resting head on hands on poles, we found a large boulder to get out of the wind and sit down for bit. Eventually, he decides to not nap and we finish up to the summit, gradually feeling better. The summit is completely entrenched in a cloud, occasional flakes of snow and drops rain are falling. We pass Julian and Jason (maybe) heading down a long descent over the northeastern ridge. Eventually back in the trees, we found ourselves on some absurdly steep dirt, 40-50 degrees I would say. "Heads up there is a rock coming your way!", Logan shouts. Unfortunately the long preface to the word "rock" mean that by the time I had processed it, the rock had already hit me in the back of the calf. There was a long bushwhack until we crossed a couple of creeks and found a trail. On the 2nd try, we headed the right direction and made it to the crew at North Cottonwood.
An unbelievably beautiful morning trudging up Columbia. Yale (covered in clouds) looks about how it felt a few hours before.
The long night's toll was then tabulated. Being suddenly sedintary left us shivering in a steady rain. Logan decided he wanted a quick nap, so I laid my head down too. I was instantly asleep. I was awoken 15 minutes later and with minimum motivation assembled our packs and stumbled out of camp. As if on cue, the rain faded away and the black sky began to lighten. By the time we had turned off the trail to Columbia's southwest slope the sky was blue and we were watching clouds pour over Mt Yale into Horn Fork Basin below us. Columbia is steep, looks like about 2,000ft in a mile to gain the ridge. Here we met a solo hiker who accompanied us to the summit. The traverse to Harvard started with a very long (longer than necessary perhaps?) into the drainage on the east side. We slowly made our way along to gain Harvard's southwest ridge which surprisingly very far away from the summit. Logan met me on the summit 6 hours after leaving N. Cottonwood.
Clouds gathering in Horn Fork Basin, Logan a few feet from gaining his 6th summit
Descending Harvard, our route finding went perfectly and Logan finally accepted the need to push downhills a bit. We made our way to Pine Creek in 90 minutes successful weaving through the swampland almost dry. The aid station at Pine Creek was next level cool -- it a 10 mile hike in there -- they had hot soup, chips, coke, candy, etc. We stayed just long enough to refuel then started up Oxford, but here was the beginning of the end for me. We set off up a scree field where Logan was sure we would quickly find a game trail and then some unmistakable lightning rod trees. Well, after a long bit of wandering, we found nothing and Logan was really against just wingin' it and heading up, so I obliged, it was his day. We made contact with Pine Creek over radio and found out that Julian and Jason were just getting into camp. Julian knew the route perfectly so we planned to team up with him. This time delay was exacerbated when we then had to wait out a subsequent storm, a hour later, we were marching up the Oxford, on route. About 600ft below the summit, by breathing started to get intensely labored and my heart rate quickened. Over the next 200ft I could tell things were going south fast instead of grabbing the easy summit of Oxford, I cut straight to the saddle and slowly ascended Belford. I laid down for a couple minutes behind natural talus wall which calmed my breathing but cooled my down.
Slowly making our way up Harvard, Rabbit Ridge can easily be seen on the ridgeline.
I was at a junction here, my pace had slowed to a crawl and I couldn't bare the thought of thwarting the great feats accompanying me so I made the tough decision to head down Missouri Gulch rather than over Missouri (the next summit) to the aid at Clohesy Lake. This did mean however, that from here on out, I would probably be alone. The switchbacks down Belford seemed to never end, this was compounded with what seemed to now be the cold/sickness Logan had 6 days before. I had to walk, even downhills. I would take 200 steps, then sit down and calm my heart rate and resist with everything I could not to fall asleep alone in the darkness. This pattern went on for maybe 2 hours, but it could have been far more or less, my clocks were all out of battery and time seemed to have lost all meaning. I reached the parking lot and collapsed behind the bathroom and fell asleep. I made sure to leave my headlamp on, just in case some crew came by, they wouldn't see me for a while though. I woke up "later", unsure of what time it was but certain sunrise must be soon. I made the uncalculated and irrational decision to trek and hitch-hike back to my car, 30 miles away.
Logan negotiating the talus a few feet below the summit of Harvard.
The only quantifiable progress I made walking was the 6 miles of dirt road out towards the highway. Emotions had huge pendulum swings from, "this is crazy fun" to honest crying and self pity. I finally got one of few (I saw maybe 5 over 3-4 hours) to stop, he was an ultra-runner and immediately understood what I was going through. He kindly got me to the Highway 24, but he had to meet people soon, so I let him on his way. His clock read 4:20AM, two hours to sunrise. The highway, that stupid god-damned highway from hell was a depressing few hours (I've tried hard to avoid cursing on this blog, but this situation is as deserving as any I can think of) . Cars were few and far between and in the massively oversized rain pants/coat Jason had generously given to me and my uncoordinated stumbling down the road I must have looked either insane, drunk or more likely, both. Just when the emotion was reaching a tipping point (more self pity and crying, not proud of it, but it happened), a car stopped for me. This ride brought me to the light in Buena Vista, I could almost taste the jar of Nutella in my car. I walked 2 miles up Cottonwood Pass, the sun now fully risen and my body finally warming up. A single lady stopped for me (didn't expect that to happen), her husband had run Hardrock -- and she used to work at Avalanche Pizza in Silverton! -- so she was really understanding and we had some good conversation on the remaining 5-6 miles to my car.

I happily unlocked the car, almost in disbelief at what had happened. Something I think is so cool is at the end of the day, no matter if it was a 4 mile walk or 36 hours of hell, you just get back to your car and your back in the civilized world like nothing happened. I charged my phone and texted my mom, hoping she hadn't filed a missing person report quite yet. I checked Logan's SPOT and saw he just made it up Huron, it was a tough night for those guys. After enough lounging I set off for Winfield to see him up La Plata, but after 20 minutes of driving I had to pull over and sleep for a bit. At 10AM Sunday, I had not slept aside from 15-20 minute naps since Friday morning at 7. I only slept for a couple hours before I felt rested enough to head to La Plata, he was past Winfield now and I would only be meeting him for the inevitable end at N. La Plata TH. I met up with the crew at the TH and shared my story and listened the stories of others who had started and dropped or crewed, it was fun. Jason came it first looking like he had just finished an easy 5K, followed an hour later by Logan who was mentally beat but physically alright. Julian came in happy to be done a few minutes later, all 3 finished 12 peaks in 60 hours, that is amazing.

Now days later, time away has dulled the pain. Was I just being a wimp on Oxford/Belford? Maybe I should have just hardened up and dealt, but maybe it was the right choice, I'll never know for sure. I do know that I should have hike to Clohesy Lake not back to my car, that would have spared me one the worst things I've ever experienced. What I did do was learn -- a lot. First, I'm trying all 14 next year. I learned a ton of the route this year, but I strongly believe there is better route in some spots. Aside from Princeton, Yale and Huron, the route is pretty easy to understand. I'm likening the experience to trying heroine, its not something you can just try and forget about. I want more, and I doubt I'll be able to push Nolans from my thoughts for a very long time. Labor Day 2016, I'll be ready at Fish Hatchery or Blanks Cabin, that my promise to myself.

Note: I haven't proofread this yet, and just wanted to publish it, sorry for any stupid remarks or grammatical errors, I'm still catching up on sleep!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

August 31 - Sept 6

8/31, Monday - Green Mtn + T-Zero - 6 miles, 2700', 1:30
Mondays are always fun, and somehow I felt really good cruising up without much effort despite some residual soreness in my quads from the LPT. Went and ticked a quick scramble of T-Zero going down, finishing the whole thing this time instead of dropping off after the initial handcrack; the final flake move engages a somewhat questionable piece of rock but I found a method to weight it pretty minimally.

9/1, Tuesday - Creek Path - 5 miles, 200', 0:44
Easy cruise with Jack, felt really sleepy the whole time.

9/2, Wednesday - Longs Peak - 11 miles, 5000', 2:35
Got up early to hammer a quick lap before class. The only route really doable as a pre-day-with-responsibilities is up and down Cables. Well, I take that back, just stay away from the Keyhole. I arrived at 6AM and set off with nothing but my shirt, shoes, shorts, hat and an energy gel just in case. I really hammered up through the trees, but while trotting up Jim's Grove I was exposed to a fierce headwind that definitely slowed me down and dampened the initiative I had taken earlier. I forced myself to run/hop through the Boulderfield, but again I think I could have been a smidge faster. I skipped past a party roping up for the North Face, I slapped the summit marker after 1:40:00 (I saw 1:39:59 between the touch and when I got the button though!). Without pause I turned right around and shot down towards Cables, the roped party had only placed one piece of gear in the time since I'd left on the bottom parallel cracks, I took the one he wasn't on and danced down the talus. Heading towards the trees the wind was equally fierce, but now at my back. I enjoyed the lift but had to concentrate heavily on balancing. I pushed as much as I felt safe to with my ankles in the trees and finished at 2:35:02 (0:55:03 descent). I was really hoping for sub-2:30, but apparently, today wasn't that day.

9/3, Thursday - Streets - 4 miles, 0:35
Felt really bad, avg pace was barely sub 9. Just wanted to move around a bit.

9/4-5, Friday/Saturday/Sunday - Nolans 14 Pacing - 43 miles, 15,100', 36:04
This was insane. I'll do a separate post later.

Week Totals:
69 miles