Monday, September 1, 2008

Saturday, 8/30/08 Mt. Yale (14,196)

Mount Yale (14,196ft.)
9.5 miles RT
4,300 vertical
Jeff Valliere, Kevin Lund, Dale Peterson

When making plans for the weekend, Kevin proposed climbing Mt. Yale on Saturday before we met Dave and Hoot for a climb of Ice and North Apostle the following day. At first I was a bit hesitant as I was not really interested in climbing Yale for the 3rd time on a busy holiday weekend, but I started thinking that it might be fun to go take a stab at the fastest known time of 1:32 set back in 2001 by Bill Briggs. FWIW, fastest known times (or FKT’s) don’t really mean all that much and carry little weight, as there may be faster times but not known or posted anywhere, but at the very least it was a good benchmark time to shoot for.

We arrived at the Denny Creek TH at ~7:40am (snagging the last parking spot in the lot) and prepared for our ascent. Kevin was planning on hiking, Dale was planning on hiking/running at a moderate pace and I was intending to dig in deep and go for broke. While Kevin and Dale were packing their packs, I was already set to go, but used this time to get in a short warm-up. I started up the trail for a bit and it was a bit steeper and rockier than I recalled, but I knew my legs were feeling great and was eager to get on with it.

Back down to the car, I got Sierra leashed up for Kev and I gave a few route instructions and we agreed to just meet on the summit. I started my watch at the parking lot at 8:07am. Although the trail starts off steep and rocky, I was feeling even better than I anticipated and knew at that moment I was going to have an awesome day. The weather was cool, but not cold, sunny, clear, no wind.I kept a quick cadence up the steep trail, going hard, but knowing that I needed to pace myself just right for maximum efficiency. The loose and rocky trail was not conducive to maintaining an even rhythm, but I did what I could, always looking for the path of least resistance and cutting the apex whenever possible.

Before long, the trail leveled a bit and I was really able to up the pace. At 10:3? in, I came to the creek crossing and tip-toed my way across a few small logs and wet rocks (completely overlooked the nice, big dry logs spanning the creek slightly upstream) and was happy to have not gotten wet going at such a quick pace. In 5 more minutes I came to the junction and took right hand turn for Yale.

At this point, I was really starting to hit my stride, I felt like I was absolutely flying, cruising effortlessly up the trail and tearing through the rollers, my feet, legs and brain all working in perfect sync. By this point, I was starting to pass crowds of people who had started earlier and they were all great about stepping to the side as they heard me coming up behind them. As I passed, most people made some sort of complimentary remark, either to me or to one another. All of this super positive energy from others on the mountain only added fuel to my already hot fire.

There were some surprisingly steep sections as I neared tree-line and I was careful to not blow my quads and power hiked when necessary, all the while assessing the terrain ahead planning on where I would resume my run and always staying focused on maintaining a steady output regardless of the gear I was in ("changing gears" quickly was key here).I reached tree line at 38:?? and could now start to see the summit and the general path of the route. At this point, it was starting to seem somewhat unlikely to me that I would better the FKT, but I was hoping to come close.

Skeptical, but not deterred, I pressed on up the hill, now in full on, “hands on the knees” power hike mode, always looking for the best traction as the steep trail is pretty slick with loose dirt on hard pack.The trail just gets progressively steeper as it works it’s way up to gain the ridge, but occasionally there was a brief flat section where a running pace could be temporarily initiated, if only for 20-30 seconds. I got to the base of the headwall at an hour even, the point I would consider to be the start of steepest section of trail as it rears up to gain the ridge crest through a braided mess of loose dirt and rock.

The ridge still looked distant, but I caught a glimpse of a few guys topping out and it was closer than I had thought. I arrived on the ridge at 1:08:?? and knew it would be a quick boulder hop to the summit along the ridge. I cruised this section fast, hopping from rock to rock with surprising speed and agility, as the “super computer” as George likes to say was working at full capacity, everything was just coming together perfectly.At this point, I knew I had the FKT in the bag, but now it was a matter of how much.

I looked at my watch and was bent on getting in under 1:20, but could not up the effort any more, as I was already at my max speed, you can only go so fast across this type of boulder strewn ridge. I tagged the top at 1:19:24 and felt the most unbelievable runners high I have ever felt. I paced a bit and laughed aloud as I soaked it all in, looking down toward the parking lot, 4,300 feet below, feeling fresh still and not the least bit winded.

I poked around for a while checking the views and then built a nice recliner chair facing Harvard and Columbia, where I sat until Dale arrived at 10:20 and then Kevin/Sierra at 10:45. Everyone on the mountain was quite friendly and many asked about my run and offered congratulations or some kind words. I felt a bit awkward receiving so much fanfare (especially in the company of Dale who has placed top 10 at Pikes 20 or so times) but he and Kevin were quite excited for me.

We then headed down at a casual pace, talking to more people along the way. About a mile from the cars, we bumped into Shep and Dave who walked up to meet us, awesome surprise! We all had a great time chatting on the way down.

I felt absolutely amazing on my run, it was awesome hanging out with great friends, the weather was perfect and even though crowded, the energy and spirits amongst everyone on the mountain was at such a high, it was truly inspiring. I would have to rank this as my best run yet this year, perhaps one of my best ever, I sure wish all days could be this great!

Splits:10:3? to creek crossing
15:?? to Yale/Browns Pass jct.
38:00 to treeline
1:08:?? crested ridgeline
1:19:24 summit

1 comment:

  1. Sitting here debating where we are gonna go in the morning. Yale it is! Don't think I will match your time though...