Monday, September 1, 2008

S. Boulder Peak Attempt

~4 miles
~2,500 vertical

Got out with John today for an attempt of S. Boulder from Eldo up the ridge. Some 5th class, lots of 4th and 3rd class, bushwhacking, boulder hopping. We only made it about 1/3 of the way after about 3 hours. Tough going, but really fun.

Sunday, 08/31/08 North Apostle and Ice Mountain

N. Apostle (13,860) and Ice Mountain (13,951)
9 miles
4,000 vertical
Jeff Valliere, Dave Hale, Dave “Hoot” Gibson, Dale Peterson, Sierra and Shep

Starting from our campsite ~.3 miles below the 4wd TH above Winfield, we got off to a prompt 6am start and headed up the road at a good pace. I was familiar with the Lake Ann trail to just above the junction of the Three Apostles Trail and was a little uneasy about how easy it would be to follow the route up into the basin, as I have read numerous TR’s where people have had mixed results finding the route.

Roughly .2 miles past the junction, the Three Apostles Trail crosses the creek on a large log. Beyond this, the trail continues to be well worn and very easy to follow along the West side of the creek up into the basin to 11,300. At around 11,300, the trail crosses over to the East side of the creek and loosely meanders through the willows S/SE to the base of a large rock pile below the headwall. From the large rockpile, we headed East up a steep grassy slope, until we saw a cairned route head SW up the hill toward the lake at 12,100 feet, exactly as described in the Roach guidebook.

Up the talus and scree we went to the saddle under less than inspiring gray skies. We topped out at the saddle after a surprisingly long ~2:40 from the campsite where we bumped into a solo climber named Ryan who asked if he could join us. He seemed like a nice enough guy and he immediately meshed well with our group as we made the short jaunt up to N. Apostle. The peaks were in/out of the clouds and this did nothing to relieve my trepidation for Ice Mountain.

Dave, Dale and the dogs opted out of Ice., while Hoot, Ryan and I carried on. The climb up the ridge is very straight forward and is easy class 3. I was starting to think Ice was cake and a bit over rated until we reached the crux. We got to the first gulley and Hoot went up and checked out a steep chimney. While I was waiting, I traversed over a minor rib at the top of the same gulley and found the route as described in the guidebook.

I crossed the gulley and started up the right side and reached the class 4 crux. The rock in this section is loose and the move up the crux was a bit awkward. Once past the crux, I missed the crossover on the right to the class 3 finish and kept heading up the gulley on ever steepening rock. Hoot noticed this and pointed out my mistake, but I was committed at this point. Up I went, testing and retesting each small and suspect hand hold. A few grunts, some foul language and a few stemmed out stretchy moves on knocking knees saw me to the top safely, arriving about the same time as Hoot who had taken the easier way.

I was a bit on edge and did not linger. I followed Hoot down to the class 4 crux down climb and knowing how awkward that one move was going up, I opted to find a better way down as Hoot accompanied Ryan to the top. I was able to gingerly descend the exposed rib to a point where I could cross over into the gulley below the crux. In my opinion, this was easier, but it was exposed for longer with many loose rocks and ledges to negotiate.

Once we were below the crux, it was easy street back to the saddle. Unfortunately, I let my guard down a bit and stepped on a rather large rock that looked stable, but just the slightest bit of weight from me stepping on it set it into motion. I surfed it for a foot or so until I was able to leap to solid ground and avoid going off the edge with it. It crashed 20-30 feet down the mountain and stopped just short of the big drop. This really startled me and I was ready to be done. From then on, I was on a heightened sense of alert as we picked our way back to the saddle and then the valley floor.

The trip out was a cruise and I sped ahead to catch Dave, Dale and the dogs and we walked the last mile together, arriving at camp around 1pm.

N. Apostle and Ice did not disappoint. As advertised, Ice is more dangerous than it is difficult. If you take your time, you can keep it at class 3, but it certainly is loose and a good bit of care needs to be taken.


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