Sunday, February 17, 2008

Brutalized on Bross

Mt. Bross 14,172
~10 miles/~3,800 vertical
7.5 hours
Jeff Valliere, Dave Hale, Scooby, Shep and Sierra

Our plan throughout the week to do something involving Decalibron looked better and better as the week progressed. The weather reports were calling for reasonable temperatures and relatively light wind, SWEET! (1st lesson… don’t believe any predictions for light wind anywhere near Bross).

We got a bit of a later start than we would have liked at 8:35am from the winter road closure just below the junction of 415 near the Paris Mill, but none of us on 2 legs were very eager to face the wind. It was obvious that the winds were a bit stronger than predicted, but we were hoping for the best. We start up the roughly 3 miles to Kite Lake through unbroken wind drifts and fresh snow. I was kind of hoping for some easy cruising along the road, but the deeper than expected snow and 30+ mph headwind made getting to Kite Lake a bit of a workout in its own right. Emily started off with us on skis, but the strong wind gusts were nearly stopping her in her tracks and she opted to turn back about a mile below the summer trailhead.It took us nearly 2 hours to reach Kite Lake where we took a 20+ minute break to fuel up for the upcoming climb.

At this point, we still did not have a plan, but were thinking we would go to the Democrat/Cameron saddle and determine how much we wanted to bite off. We worked our way slowly up the center of the valley and though it was a clear day, it was obvious that the winds were absolutely howling up high. The possibility of multiple peaks just did not seem to be the best idea. Moments before we were about to engage the steeper slopes of Democrat’s standard route, we spied that nice, low angle snow gulley between Bross and Cameron as climbed by Kiefer and Jamie Princo last month.

At the spur of the moment, we cut hard right and headed for the gulley, deciding to go up over Bross, then descend Dolly Varden Gulch. At this point, for some reason, I was starting to feel a bit fatigued, so I handed over the duties of trail breaking to Dave and he happily obliged. It was obvious to me at this point that my performance was lagging and I was not sure why. I was feeling unusually tired and low on energy. I kept coming up with excuses to take a break and rest, and would be thankful when Dave stopped so I could rest for a moment and catch my breath.The higher we went, the more intense the wind became. The whole time I just wanted to bail and head back down, but I did not want to let Dave down, and I knew I would regret it later .

Once on the summit plateau, the wind was absolutely raging. Dave got a bit ahead on the final stretch and he stopped to remove his snowshoes where the snow ran out near the summit. I caught him as he was stashing them under a rock and he and the dogs seemed a bit desperate. I stooped to remove mine, but the wind was just so crazy I could not even deal with removing them, yet they acted as sails on my feet and it was nearly impossible to walk.Oh well, I’ll just clank over the rocks the best I can to the true summit and not worry about it (normally I really baby my snowshoes avoid every little rock as to not dull the points). I tag the summit, collapse on my poles for a few seconds to catch my breath and we start our way down. As if someone flipped a switch, the wind has subsided. I quickly take advantage of this momentary lull and remove my snowshoes and decide to carry them for a while. Seconds after, the wind switch got flipped back on and the wind was hammering with renewed vigor.It took all my might to hang on to the snowshoes and I staggered like a drunk sailor across the wide open and exposed summit plateau .

Finally, Dave and I decided we needed to attach our snowshoes to our packs so we could use our poles on the steepening loose talus leading to the top of the continuous snow slope that would lead us down Dolly Varden Gulch. Doing this was no easy task under the circumstances and we were both feeling a bit desperate, as were the dogs. In this moment of desperation, the wind took hold of Dave’s glove and carried it off to Alma. Fortunately, he had extras, but it was still a bummer.Reaching the snow at about 13,700 feet in Dolly Varden Gulch, I thought we were home free. Dave and the dogs took off down the snow at a fast rate, but I was having a terrible time staying upright. One step would land on hard crust, the next I would post hole, all the while getting thrown about by the constantly furious wind. After taking a few less than graceful falls (resulting in a few choice words ) I decided that it would be best to put my snowshoes back on, as difficult as it might be.

It was a slow process, as the ground blizzard was reaching epic proportions and I could hardly see my feet, even while kneeling down.The snowshoes helped, but it was a huge workout getting down this seemingly endless snow slope, even with the tailwind. By the time we reached the bottom at 11,600 I was completely tapped. Neither of us had anything to eat or drink since Kite Lake and I was mentally and physically drained. I would have been tired on a good day, but I felt like absolute crap from the start and the hours of staggering in survival mode really took its toll on me.

Once out of the wind, I laid down for a few minutes, forced down some hammer gel, Vitamin I and warm drink. This was the most worked over I have been in a long time, and we still had 3 miles of trail breaking. Luckily, I got a second wind (no pun intended) and started to feel a bit better. I was able to break trail for a while, but I somehow convinced Dave to lead for most of the way.Interesting conversation made the trip out go fast, but the final half mile seemed to drag on forever. Once in sight of the car, I was quite relieved and was already starting to forget how brutal the day was.

Today was a great lesson. I’m not really sure what I learned, other than I am a big wimp and I will never be even half as tough as Ken Nolan.For most of the climb, I was asking myself why we do this? I still can’t quite figure that one out, but fortunately, I have a short and dulled memory and am already planning to do it again .Pictures:

Marshall Mesa Run

~5.5 miles
~400 vertical

Allison, Sierra and I got out for some easy jogging around the Marshall Mesa area in the afternoon. It was warm and sunny, and due to the melting fresh snow, very muddy. If I were organizing a race here, I would have called it the "Franken Foot 5 miler". Each shoe would accumulate about 5lbs of mud which added a bit to the challenge, at least the challenge of running somewhat smooth and efficient like.