Sunday, December 9, 2012

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Serenity Now!

Life has gotten busy.  It's not unusual for me to think that I no longer have time to continue my antics in the mountains.  But this thought is always rebuffed by the fear of what my life would be without my antics in the mountains.  So, I will need to figure out a way to cope with the chaotic lifestyle of a working man who wants to travel efficiently through the mountains, and be a good dad and husband.

You should see the inside of my Subaru.  I change clothes in my Subaru more than I do in my own house.  In my Subaru, one will find soap, shampoo, a hair dryer, contact solution, a towel or two, clothing for when it's hot, clothing for when it's wet, clothing for looking professional, ski boots, skis, ski poles, road running shoes, trail running shoes, Gu gel, Gu drink powder, sunglasses, goggles, backpacks, visors, hats, a headlamp or two, helmet, avalanche beacon, shovel, probe, heart monitor straps for Suunto and Garmin, and sometimes a baby safety seat.  And these are just the staple items.  On top of the staple items are all the weird stray items, some of which get cleaned up, but some of which just stray.  Stray items include, a titanium piton (yeah Harder, it's yours), ski leashes, cable TV bill from April 2012, a half-eaten Gogurt, shoelaces, Ritz crackers that fell out of the package and got stomped on in the back seat, canister of stove fuel, 8-10 water bottles of various type and size, my in-the-car glove hanging dryer, a power inverter, iPhone charger, Blackberry charger, weird USB charger/cord thingy, and charged and uncharged batteries.  And the tangible is more than what is visible.  Earlier this week, I dug into some smoked salmon while I was driving down Big Cottonwood Canyon.  Apparently, not all of it made it into my mouth because the interior of my Subaru smells like rotting fish.  Of course, because of the crumbs and splotches on my center console, instrument console, and dashboard, I wouldn't be able to tell what is rotting fish or what is the Coke/sandwich/gummy bear of yester-year.

If my Subaru is an emblem of my life, I am in trouble.  It is the antithesis of serenity.

Last week I worked about 125 hours and didn't even set foot in a ski boot, a running shoe, or the mountains.  This week I skied a solid 15 hours (maybe more) and climbed over 30,000 vertical feet.  Yesterday, I watched my four-year old scrunch into a tuck, attempt to ski through bushes like his dad, older brother and sister, eject and bury himself in a snowbank.  He cried because his hands and face were freezing.  I took him to the car, which I started and left running while I went to round up older sister and brother.  I found sister crying in the snow because the rope tow rope had smacked her in the face and gave her a nice rope burn on and under her nose.

This morning, I met Chad and Eric at the Big Cottonwood mouth at 6:30 sharp.  I drank a Coke, but was dozing a little bit as I pulled into the Brighton parking lot.  In 2 hrs and 30 minutes, in a full-on blizzard, and with some good company and conversation, I banged out 5,000 vertical feet.  Then I rushed home to be at my kids' Christmas cello concert at the university by 11:00.

Sometimes I wonder if serenity is found in chaos.  Because sometimes chaos is strangely satisfying.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

2012 Utah Snow and Avalanche Workshop

Check out this seminar. November 3, 2012. Cost is only $26. Seems like it would be really interesting and entertaining. Register here.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Transitioning into Skimo Training

Mostly recovered from the St. George Marathon, I transitioned into skimo training this week.  There isn't any snow, so I started out by trying to classic roller ski.  I can't classic roller ski in a straight line, so I skated on classic skis, kind of.  When I got home, I went on to YouTube to see if it really is possible to classic ski on roller skis.  Apparently it is.  Apparently I need a lesson and lots of practice.

I think the best dryland training for skimo at this time of the year is hill walking.  One of the best hills around is Grandeur Peak.  It's a big bang for your buck in that it gives you 3400 vertical.  I went up Grandeur 3 times this week:

Mon:  52 minutes to the top; 1:16 car to car at a subthreshold pace, edging into threshold the last 10-15 minutes on the uphill.  Controlled running down until last 1/2 mile, and then crazy arms and crazy legs.

Wed: 54? minutes to the top with JD and Tom D; 1:20 car to car at an endurance to subthreshold pace.  Controlled running on the DH.

Fri: 48:50 to the top: 1:12 car to car at threshold pace.  Controlled running until the last mile.  Ran into JD and Andy on the way up, but only stopped for a few seconds to tell them that I wasn't going to stop.

In addition to the above, I worked in a 6 mile flat run on Tues. I barely made it home due to calf tightness from the marathon.  On Friday, with the kids out of school, my family went to Snowbird, rode the Tram up, and spontaneously decided to walk down.  3000 vert. and 3 hrs later, we made it back to our car.  It turns out that Ergo Baby carries 7 yr old girls, 3 yr old boys, and 1 yr old boys in a pinch (separately of course).

On Saturday, I had a fun outing with my brothers Aaron and Sam, Uncle Roman, and the Dorais bros.  We climbed the West Slabs, traversed to the North Summit of Olympus, and exited at the Wasatch TH.  Other than the celebration that included popping and sharing a single Rockstar (diet) followed by a topless flex-off on Olympus' Summit, the highlight was the charge down the mountain.  We went controlled for the first mile and a half.  Then, competition overcame us and before we knew it we were charging down Olympus.  Let's just say that there was lots of free riding and straight-lining going on.  

In sum, I got in about 15k vert (18k down if you count the Snowbird hike) and about 11 hrs of training in.

This photo will keep me smiling for awhile.
Jason ( who obviously practices that pose), Andrew John, me, Aaron, Sam, and Uncle Roman on the top of Olympus.  Photo by Jason's camera.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Autumn Run in the Wasatch

First off, thanks to Chad for his Local Heroes write up, featuring . . . me.  

With the marathon over, I was anxious to get up a route I'd been thinking about for awhile -- the "Granite Halfpipe" (don't know if it really has a name; that's just what I call it).  I met Jason at 6:30 AM at the 7-11, but we weren't that psyched.  It was lightly sprinkling.  Rain was in the forecast.  Thinking we would just go until it sucked, we left a car at the BCC park n ride and drove up LCC to the Granite Halfpipe.  Of course, once we scrambled a ways up, we realized that we were somewhat committed.  Going down, dry or wet, would be somewhat of a challenge.  So, we went up.  And eventually ended up on top of the west summit of Twin Peaks.  From there, went to the east summit, descended Broads Fork, and got to the BCC road just as it started raining in earnest.  Some days you win, others you lose.  In addition to getting a weather break, we caught a ride down BCC on our first try and made it to where we needed to be by 11:30.  Today, we definitely won.

I took some pictures with my S90 that is on the fritz.  I dropped it into a lake in Colorado this summer, but after I dried it, it's still going, kind of.  Pictures below are heavily doctored, but still depict an autumn Wasatch.

The "Granite Halfpipe"

View of Alta and the Bird

View of Hogum, the Pfeif, the Y, and Coalpit.  (This one is for you JON S.)
Jason in LCC

The clouds are getting lower!  It snowed lightly (very lightly) on us for a bit.  Looking into Deaf Smith canyon and beyond from west summit of the Twin Peaks.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

St. George Marathon

In May 2011, I ran my first marathon -- the Ogden Marathon. On about 90 miles and 4 weeks of training, I managed to do it in 3:12. But it wasn't pretty and it hurt a lot.

 Yesterday, I ran my second marathon -- the St. George Marathon. I'm a year older, have a few more running miles in my legs, and on top of that, I seriously trained on the road for 6 weeks. In those 6 weeks, I mostly did endurance training with a bit of "speedwork" mixed in. This was essentially what I did:

Week 6 -- About 50 miles. Mostly easy. This included a 20 mile run from Mountain Dell Golf Course down Emmigration Canyon to my house.

Week 5 -- About 45 miles. Half easy, half hard. This included the Mid-Mountain marathon (only 25 miles and on the dirt -- don't count it as a real marathon), which I did in 3:17ish. I was happy about this effort, particularly about the fact that I made it the full distance without having to stop due to cramps, injury, fatigue, mental breakdown, etc. This gave me hope that I could break 3 hrs in a road marathon.

Week 4 -- About 40 miles. Mostly easy. This included a hike-o-run up the Grand Teton.

Week 3 -- About 40 miles. Mostly easy. This included a repeat of my Mountain Dell to home run. However, I lost lots of confidence after this run. After about 12 miles, my legs and ankle hurt. I had to walk and jog most of the way home. Part of this was due to the fact that I was trying some new, lighter shoes. Another part was due to the fact that by this time, my body was having a tough time absorbing the miles of the previous weeks.

Week 2 -- About 20 miles. Three quarter easy, half hard. I ran a 5k (hills and headwind) and was 17:40ish. Ran the first mile in 5:20, after which my face and arms went numb. Then I just survived the last two miles. I also ran 4 x 400 at the track for the first time. I won't disclose my time because it is embarrassing. I never guessed that 400 measly meters could be so hard. Respect.

Week 1 -- About 45 miles, including the marathon. Made the mistake of going up Grandeur with Jason and then running down the day after the 5k and struggled to get my legs feeling better before the marathon. For the most part, they felt ok, but there was soreness even before I started.

The marathon was pretty fun. It was fun in large part because I didn't know what to expect. There came a time in bike racing and ski racing when I could pretty much predict what would happen. Given my inexperience road running and marathon-ing, I had no clue. That's what made it interesting.

As usual (for me), I started too fast. I went 5:47 the first mile, and by mile 7, my average pace was 6:05. That made me nervous, but I put "feeling" over reason, and just went with it. By Mile 12, my hip (that got injured in the avalanche) started hurting, and I ate 2 ibuprofen pills. That was a mistake, because at Mile 13, I started heaving and throwing up. I stopped twice briefly to put my hands on my knees and heave, but since Mile 13 is lined with lots of crowds, I was spurred on to keep moving. That was definitely the low point for me in the race. I was weaving and heaving. I got a bit scared that my marathon goal was in jeopardy, but again, going by "feeling," just did the best I could. When I saw that my Mile 13 split was 6:28 and half marathon split was a bit under 1:24, I realized that the damage wasn't too bad and that I was still on track. 

Through Mile 20, my overall average pace stayed at 6:26, and then at Mile 21, I did a 6:06 mile bringing it down to 6:25. When I hit mile 24, I knew that I would probably get my goal of 2:50. Still, running 2 6:30s on the flat was really hard, like really really hard. A lot of this was due to fatigue, but I will remember that feeling of difficulty for a while. I like keeping a mental file of moments of pain like that. It keeps me alive, happy, and sane.

I crossed the line at 2:48:43. I was proud of that. And even though I can scarcely walk today, I'm quite happy with that time. A part of my satisfaction arises from the fact that 6 months ago after I got caught in an avalanche, I didn't think that I would be able to manage a marathon. The body is an amazing thing.

So, what's next? I'm slightly intrigued with road running. I would like to train for a marathon for real and do a solid 4 months with real speedwork worked in. I ran Ogden off 4 weeks and 100 miles of road training. I ran St. George off 6 weeks and 200 miles of road training. I'd like to think I could do better with a bit more training and a few hundred more miles.

But, it's going to snow soon. . .

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Yama El Grande

Got up the Yama El Grande again with my brothers and uncle.  A fun fall day.  I made a video:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Denali Part 8: Indispensable Gear

Perhaps one of the hardest things about Denali was getting the necessary gear together.  Fortunately, friends like the Straightchuter, the Powder Whore. and Brian Harder were able to point me in the right direction. I also relied on the American Alpine Club's Denali gear checklist and Mark Westman's Alaska Climbing.  Through these sources, I put together a gear list.  If you, by chance, think you might want to give Denali a go, I'd be happy to share the list with you.

Of the 75 pounds of gear that I took, there were a few pieces that proved indispensable.  By this, I mean that without this gear, the trip very likely would have failed.  Here is my top 10 list in no particular order:

Exped Downmat 7 UL -- Combined with a Z-rest, this mat kept me off the snow and very comfortable.  Towards the end of the trip, ice got inside the mat, but it still functioned well.

Jetboil Helios with custom carbon stove board -- The word on the street for stoves was MSR's XGK.  However, after experimenting with the Helios, I felt it made more sense.  This was confirmed on Denali.  The Helios is a system that has a built in heat exchanger and cozy on the pots.  The pots fit firmly on the stove.  The stove has an integrated wind screen.  Although the stove requires propane/butane canisters, it allows for a liquid fuel feed, which allows the stove to work fine at higher altitudes and colder temperatures.  Finally, the whole system was very efficient.  For 1 large Jetboil fuel cannister, Aaron and I got 3-4 days worth of water and cooking.  

Aaron with his carbon stove board and the Helios Guide cooking system
Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 -- This tent protected us in gale force winds and withstood meters of snow.  Inside it was roomy for two people and has lots of pockets for organization.  

Julbo Trek Glasses -- I had no idea how bright glaciers were.  Luckily, I had these.

La Sportiva RST Skis w/ Spitfire Boots w/ RT Binding -- The RST ski is a light mountaineering ski. Combined with the RT binding and Spitfire Boots, the setup was key to being efficient and fast going up and down.  For true ski mountaineering, the Spitfire boot is really on of the only options out there.  It has a full coverage sole.  It keeps snow from entering the front of your boot.  It has good ankle articulation (not the best, but good enough for hardcore mountaineering).  It is pretty minimal with only two buckles--light, but has good support as well.  

Extolling the virtues of the Spitfire
Camp X3 600 Pack -- These packs weigh about a pound, yet are able to hold all that is necessary for a summit bid.  I've used this pack in nearly all of my other mountain projects.  For most of the trip, it was relegated to a sled duffel, except for summit day.

Climbing up the "fixed" lines with Camp X3 600 Pack.
Montbell Thermawrap -- I've had this piece for 3 years.  It's been used a lot.  It got used on Denali every day.  It's probably the best puffy I've owned.  It's got holes in it; it's discolored, yet it still functions well.  Having been through so much with me, it's developed a high sentimental value.  

Gore Active Shell (Arc Teryx Alpha FL top, Millet bottom) -- Active shell is a newer product from Gore.  What makes it great is that it is much more breathable than other hard shell materials, yet it still is a hard shell.  It keeps wind and weather out, but breathes well enough to allow a person to put out a reasonable aerobic effort without getting drenched.  From base camp to the summit, I wore my Active Shell pants almost exclusively.  Above, 14k my Active Shell top was a mainstay.

Action Suit:  Active Shell clothing, Camp X3 600 pack, Julbo glacier classes w/Buff and visor, La Sportiva Skis

                                                                                                                                                                          Snow 'Chutes -- Brian Harder supplied these.  Their weight to utility/strength ratio is very very high.  We used these things to anchor our tents.  Dig a little hole, put a snowball in, then stomp, and voila, an anchor is set.

Gregory Whitney Pack -- This is a gear hauler.  There were a couple days where I couldn't get this thing on my back without assistance.  Once Aaron hoisted it onto my back, I was able to slog in relative comfort up the mountain.
A 60 pound load. 

Other essential items:

Steel spade
Snow Saw

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cathedral Traverse: My Favorite Photos

Below are some of my favorite photos of the Cathedral Traverse, which I did last week with Jason, Chad, and Andy.  While some of those guys feel like we "settled" for the Cathedral Traverse, I am thrilled to have traversed the Cathedrals.  Never before has an outing emphasized the difference between the mediums of rock and snow like this one did.  Never before has an outing emphasized how less-comfortable I am in a vertical environment when the medium is rock.  Will my foot stick?  Will it slide?  Not fully able to predict this, the traverse was a mental challenge for me.  I'm glad I had good partners and good guides.  Thanks guys.

After the clouds lifted, this is the view that greeted me.  I have mixed feelings about this glacier.  On the one hand, it's intriguing, especially since it is August.  But on the other hand, this glacier looks like it is dying.  It is pitifully small.  Has it always been in this condition?  Or  am I  unfairly comparing it to Pacific Northwest glaciers or Alaska glaciers?  
My guide framed in front of the GT just as the clouds burned off.  The North Ridge of the GT loomed BIG.  I was feeling slightly out of my league. 
This is Mt. Owen.  We rapped and downclimbed this mountain.  When the downclimbing got serious (5.6), I pulled out a rope and rapped.  The others waited for me at the bottom.  
The descent of Mt. Owen requires negotiation of this snowfield.  We traversed across the top of the  snowfield, and then downclimbed.  This was scary because there is lots of air at the bottom of the snowfield.  Andy and Chad courageously led the charge and in doing earned a spot in the Top Ten Moments: Bad Ass or Dumb Ass (forthcoming on this blog).  Lucky for us, the snow was very soft, which enabled us to stick our feet deep into the slope.  We each had an ice axe.  I had a prayer.
Two of the Cathedrals of the Cathedral Traverse:  Mordor, I mean Teewinot and Mt. Owen.  

Chad leading the second pitch above the Gunsight.  This would take us to the Grandstand.
This is the view from the Gunsight.  In view is Teewinot, Mt. Owen and Delta Lake.  The clouds didn't completely leave.  Would it rain on us as we climbed the GT's North Ridge?
Jason belaying Chad.
Andy, Jake, and Joe climbing the Italian Cracks.  Photo taken from the Grandstand.
One of the stunning views from the Grandstand.  Mt. Moran in the distance.
Another view from the Grandstand.  Cascade Canyon and beyond.  The thunderheads threatened, but never got serious.
Chad on the second pitch of the Italian Cracks.  
This photo was taken on the last pitch of the North Ridge direct route.  Maybe we were off-route.  Jason led this pitch; Chad and I followed.  As he was doing so, there was an uncharacteristic pause with lots of grunting and gasping.  After a few moments, we heard a, "Whew!  That was sooo physical."  Worried (and serious), I asked, "do you think I will make it?"  Jason said, "I doubt it" and kept climbing.  

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Denali Part 7: Summit Day

On Wednesday June 13, 2012, Aaron and I decided that we had endured enough of the Denali weather and that it was time to go home. I walked to the weather board, and the forecast was more or less the same: unsettled today, partly cloudy tomorrow. To me, partly cloudy meant more snow. I had more or less convinced myself that I was satisfied with what we had accomplished, that I didn't need to stand on top of Denali, that I could come back another day.

Fortunately, the weather was unsettled enough that we were forced to second-guess our decision all day long. Looking for someone to snap me out of my uncertainty, I picked up the sat phone and called my friend Brian Harder. What should I do? I asked. He checked the weather and reported unsettled. But he also provided the sage advice that weather on Denali changes quickly. I might have commented that it had been snowing straight for over a week.  But Brian had spent lots of time on Denali.  Could he be right?

As the day wore on, Aaron and I became less resolved about leaving. Around dinner time, in an effort to unload some food, we had Colin Haley and Nick Elson over. In a more positive way that I thought was warranted, Colin asked, "did you see the weather report?" I said I had, but that it was no cause for celebration. Colin said, "are you kidding? Partly cloudy means good weather. That's the best you get here." I said, "Oh." If anyone knew the mountain, Colin did. Needless to say, by bedtime, our plan to depart had eroded. If the weather looked decent when we woke up, we were going for the top.

The next morning, the weather was decent.

By 8:00 AM, it was still well below zero.  Outside our tent, we could hear climbers bustling about, getting ready to go.  We buried our heads in our bags.

By 10:00 AM, we were suited up and ready to go.  With skins, we were able to make relatively quick work to fixed lines.  There, we were fortunate enough to benefit from a booter set by a French party of 2 and a Tahoe party of 4 (I said Seattle in the video, but meant Tahoe).  We stopped at the top of the fixed lines to tend to Aaron's cold feet, putting toe warmers under the tongue of his ski boots.

Around Washburn's Thumb at 16,800, Mark and Janelle Smiley overtook us.  At the 17,000 foot camp, the Tahoe group, the Smileys, and we took a quick lunch break and then continued up to Denali pass.

To reach Denali pass (18,200), you have to cross what is known as the Autobahn.  When I got to the Autobahn, my heartrate increased a few beats.  There was a fair amount of windloading.  And to cross the Autobahn you had to traverse an exposed 40 degree slope.  It's called the Autobahn because a number of unfortunate souls have slid to their deaths off the slope.  By the time I reached the Autobahn, I had passed the French team, and while I could see where the route went, the snow was a clean slate.  Excited and scared, mostly scared, I went into rando race mode and skirted across the Autobahn.

Climbers ascending to the base of the fixed lines from Camp 4.
Denali Pass and the Autobahn.  The three specks are me, Mark and Janelle Smiley.  Photo by Aaron.
Until I reached 18,200, I really didn't notice the effects of the altitude.  Not so after 18,200.  Between 18,200 and 19,000 feet, I felt pretty wasted.  I didn't have a headache, but felt kind of bonked.  Perhaps it was because I pinned it across the Autobahn.  I ate and drank what I could.  We made a rookie mistake by taking insulated STEEL bottles.  Lips freeze to steel when it is below zero.  Aaron seemed stronger here, and I did what I could to hang with him.  At around 19k, the Smileys left us and rallied to the top.

 At the Football Field, around 19k, I looked off towards the head of the Messner.  Luckily, the conditions (lots of new snow, wind, and loading) were such that we didn't even consider skiing it.  At the Football Field, the summit of Denali came into view.  Getting to the summit would require crossing a large flat area, skinning and then cramponing up a 40 degree face to gain the summit ridge, and then following the ridge to the summit.

Unfortunately, my camera literally froze and I didn't get many pictures of the summit ridge.  It was cool.

View of the Football Field from about 20k.  Photo by Aaron.
Me, climbing the summit ridge of Denali.
Standing on top of Denali was one of the coolest things I've experienced.  Fortunately, although we had experienced wind at lower altitude, there was only a breeze on the summit.  It was probably between 10 to 20 below zero--cold enough that we couldn't dally on the summit for long.  At about 19k, the altitude started to get to Aaron, but he battled upwards and stood squarely on top.  Later in the day, he said that it was a bit of a blur and that he felt like there was a baseball lodged in his skull.

Then, we skied off of Denali.  We skied the summit ridge, made turns on the face, and then tucked it across the Football Field.

Aaron standing on top of Denali.
The view from the top.  Looking down on Foraker and the Alaska Range.

Two dudes on top of Denali. 

After we reached the top of Denali, we didn't let ourselves relax.  Driven to movement by the bitter cold, we reminded each other to move mindfully, and to descend safely.  There was no straightlining and lots of sideslipping.  "Just get down safely" was our mantra.  We took our skis off at about 18,500 and walked to Denali Pass and then midway across the Autobahn.  Then, realizing that skiing was probably safer than hiking, definitely faster, we clipped in and skied down to 17 camp.

At 17 camp, we said our goodbyes to some our Camp 4 friends who had moved up to 17 Camp.  We also spent a frantic, cold hour trying to brew up and cook a ramen.  We eventually gave up, resigned to the fact that a Jetboil does not function at 17,000 ft.  Tired and cold, we continued our descent.

As it often happens on epic adventures, a moment of magic occurs.  While an argument could be made that the whole summit day was magical, I will forever remember the magic I walked through at 16,500 feet.  It was 11:30 PM and the sun was just setting, golden hour in the Alaska Range.  The sun's rays and the increased oxygen felt palpable.  This onset of physical comfort coincided with an onset of mental relief: having passed through the gauntlet (twice), at last we could relax.  We could genuinely enjoy the moment.  I raised my arms and axe.

Bliss.  Photo by Aaron.
Aaron descending the West Buttress at the end of Summit Day.  
The Magical Moment.

Perhaps one of my favorite photos of the whole trip is the photo below of Aaron.  I had descended the fixed lines was on a mad mission to brew up, get some food, and go to sleep.  Apparently, at the bottom of the fixed lines, Aaron hung out for a bit and took this self portrait.  I think it pretty much sums up the day: frazzled, burnt, frost nipped, content, beautiful, end of the day.

Self Portrait by Aaron Inouye

Saturday, August 4, 2012

But I've Never Been to Disneyland . . .

Dad, everyone in my class has been to Disneyland, except me.

Well . . . I'll bet not many in your class gets to hike-a-bike up Puke Hill.

Are we ever going to Disneyland?

Trust me, this is better . . . 

Ethan, 10 years old.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Denali Part 6: Life at Camp 4

Aaron and I moved into "14 Camp" aka Camp Four on June 6, 2012.  In large part because of its location, simply being at Camp 4 was exhilarating.  Camp 4 sits at 14,000 feet, the highest Aaron and I had ever really climbed.  Camp 4 is surrounded by notorious peaks and features--places that magazines and books always mention, and places to which I've always dreamt of going.  Now we were there.  Messner Couloir, Orient Express, West Rib, Edge of the World, Valley of Death, West Buttress, Denali, Sultana, Arch Angel, Hunter.  

Denali from Camp 4, rising above the Messner, Orient Express, and West Rib
I'm sure part of the exhilaration at being at Camp 4 stemmed from the fact that that's as high as we'd have to haul our junk.  Camp 4 was to be our home away from home.  From Camp 4 we would acclimatize by climbing to 17k once or twice, and then once acclimatized, make our summit bid.  It was a Wednesday when we got to Camp 4.  We thought we could get "it" done by Sunday.  Our level of confidence and optimism ran high.

From June 6, 2012 to June 14, 2012, it snowed every day.  To simply say "it snowed" is accurate and not-so-accurate.  Some days it snowed, other days, it nuked, full-on.  On the days that it snowed, we skied around.  On two of those days  we climbed to the top of the fixed lines, or 16k.  And then we lounged around in our tent.  On another one of those days, we climbed to Washburn's Thumb at about 16,800.  On that day, we turned around because of unstable snow and low visibility.  And then we sat in out tent.  

Climbing the fixed lines to 16k

Downclimbing the West Buttress ridge after going to Washburn's thumb.  Weather was approaching.  Photo by Aaron.
Aaron climbing the West Buttress ridge at about 16,400
On the days that it nuked, we tried to stay out of the weather.  And we pretty much just sat in our tents.  We had a cook tent under which we excavated a table and two benches.  On one nuke day, we spent nearly the entire day sitting in the cook tent and drinking tea.  On another one of the nuke days, we couldn't sit in our cook tent because of high winds.  So we laid in our Mountain Hardwear Trango 2, ate Nutella, listened to a book on tape, slept, watched our tent shake and shimmy, and did our best not to go stir crazy. 

Our camp at Camp 14.  Aaron standing in the "bathroom."
Clouds and weather coming in over Foraker
Inevitably, there were breaks in the storms, even on nuke days.  These breaks provided us a window for a variety of activities, like alternately gazing at the summit and wondering if "it" would ever happen or gazing towards Foraker and wondering if that lenticular meant that "it" would, in fact, not happen.  Like taking a sponge bath.  Like skiing lines of tight powder 8s, eighties style.  Like going to visit the weather board at the 14 Camp ranger station.  Like building snow walls around our tent.  Like hanging out with other climbers.  Like practicing our Japanese; I had never had the occasion to speak so much Japanese.  
Skiers express themselves on the local hill.  Aaron pointing at our powder 8s.  Yes, we simul-skied them.
Sponge bath at 14k--pure luxury
Suffice it to say that after 8 days of weather at Camp 4, our confidence level and optimism had waned.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Few Snapshots of My Training Week

I'm about 2500 feet above Wasatch Blvd on Grandeur Peak, a go-to training run for me.  But I'm having second thoughts about banging out the last 500 feet.  I stop and look around.  Then, I cautiously and slowly proceed.  A grasshopper jumps and, making a clicking sound, flies away.  I nearly go into cardiac arrest.  I can't take it anymore.  Mentally, I've lost it.  Without looking at the summit, I turn around and begin to walk, not run, down.  I walk as softly as I can, so I can hear.  As I pad down the mountain, I hear something rustling in the skunk cabbage to my left.  I stop.  I bend down and peer through the scrub oak and out emerges a rattlesnake--THE SECOND ONE OF THE DAY.  I scream like my 7 yr old girl, and run away.

I open the door to the warming shack on Hidden Peak, and exit into a thick mist.  It was 104 degrees in the valley yesterday.  But by the time I arrived at the top of Hidden Peak my arms were numb from my shoulders down.  It is probably about 40 degrees right now.  I descend into Mineral Basin and soon the mist is only above me.  Without a plan, I keep descending on a jeep trail,  I've never been on this trail.  At times, the road becomes the stream and the stream becomes the road.  To my right, the mountain is rusting red.  I pass an abandoned mine, and soon I'm in American Fork Canyon in a familiar place: the Speedgoat Pacific Mine aid station.  Now, I pretend that I'm racing the Speedgoat, wondering if this year I will be able to stave off the bonk that left me near-motionless the last two times I climbed this "hill."

It's pouring rain.  Yet a warm feeling of satisfaction engulfs me as I trot down the mountain.  I've met my training goals for the week.  My watch, set to buzz each mile, buzzed for the 21st time today.  The rain falls harder.  Where the roads converge I meet, nearly collide with another runner.  Our eyes meet as we now share the same trail.  The strides lengthen.  And lengthen.  I feel the soreness and the fatigue in my legs and feet melt away.  At times, loose rocks cobble a runnable path.  Other times my feet disappear into rivulets.  I hope I don't turn an ankle.  Mud flies over my head.  Water courses down my face.  I taste salt and grit.  My feet are squishy.  Running is raw.  I am running flat out.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Lone Peak and Summer Binge Training

I got back from Alaska about three weeks ago.  The first week after I was back, I didn't do much in the way of physical activity, except for eat.  I kicked the second week off with a race (Wahsatch Steeplechase).  It didn't go so well.  My body had forgotten that it was Born to Run and I walked the last 5 or 6 miles (total 16 miles), which were all downhill.  During the second week, I eeked out a few miles, but they didn't feel so good.  The third week (this last week), I felt a quite a bit better and logged some good time and a bit over 20k vertical.  I'm starting to believe that I might be able to at least finish the Speedgoat, which happens at the end of the month, and which has become an annual tradition for me.  I will binge train one or two more weeks, rest, and then throw my hail Mary at the Speedgoat.

These goats were roaming around Lone Peak this morning.  Me: "Why do goats go to the summit of Lone Peak?"  Chad: "Why do you go to the summit of Lone Peak?"
This week I was able to get out on some mountain runs with friends Brian Harder (now from Alaska), Kim Young (from Jackson), Andy Dorais, and Chad Ambrose.  I didn't take pictures of the first three, but today, running with Chad (check out his newly-started blog here), I got some keepers.

Chad and I started on Wasatch Blvd., went up Big Willow to the "Notch," ascended the ridge to the top of Lone, tagged both summits, continued along the ridge to Bighorn, and then to South Thunder and North Thunder.  We then descended Thunder Bowl, had an epic bushwhack in Bells, and once we found the trail, ran out Bells.  It was a fun adventure. Here are some pics:
Chad nearing the North Summit of Lone Peak.  He was there in just under 2:15.  I waited to take this picture and topped out in 2:16.  
Look at those nice shiny, un-bloody legs. . . . This was before the Bells 'schwack.

Bighorn Peak
All of the peaks on the Bells Canyon Rim play hard to get. 
Chad on summit of Bighorn.

I found Snap Dragon!
The ridge leading to South Thunder and North Thunder.  Chad actually considered climbing that thumb.  I didn't.  We went under it.
Approaching the thumb.
A little spice below South Thunder.
Photo by Chad

Photo by Chad

Photo by Chad

Photo by Chad

. . . . Sadly, no pictures of the bushwhack, or the blood.