Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Bear 100 - The Agony, the Triumph, the Mud

For a long time I never thought I would run a hundred mile race.

Taking eight hours to run a fifty mile race sounds SO much better than over twenty (or THIRTY!!) hours to run a hundred miles!

Definitely not interested in such ridiculousness as that!

Or anything taking over ten hours!

That was before I did the Rim to Rim to Rim back in May, which took over seventeen hours, AND before we ran the Blubber Creek Aid Station at the Bryce 50 and 100, which was a crazy 40+ hours of no sleep!

So after those, I knew I could do it, and why not?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Supporting Half the WURL

I have just returned from the longest and hardest trip I have ever made in the mountains, having been gone over fourteen hours. I am weary, but resting fast; sleepy, but sleeping deep and fast; hungry, but eating much. For one whole night I explored the ridges and the summits east of here, climbing among the airy mountains with but little to eat on account of its being so inaccessible...

I will soon be off again, determined to use less than twenty four hours for a trip of a hundred miles in the North, the Bear.

The mountains are calling and I must go...
Yes, I (badly) plagiarized portions of John Muir's letter to his sister where he famously stated "The Mountains are calling and I must go" - but more than that, the words TOTALLY fit my thoughts about this past weekends adventure, as well as my upcoming 100 mile race!

The Wasatch Ultimate Ridge Linkup - also known as the WURL - is a ridiculously amazing 30 mile traverse along the tops of the mountains around Little Cottonwood canyon created by two-time Barkley finisher and all around crazy-mountain-guy (but REALLY nice every time I've met him) Jared Campbell.

According to Jared's Wasatch FKT site, there have only been 4 men who have successfully completed the WURL. Two ladies recently finished the route, but failed to Summit the final peak, Lone Peak, before heading down.

With this in mind, my friend Jennilyn had asked for some support and company through some of the difficult spots and throughout the night so she could give the WURL a go. Every time I've been up in the mountains of Little Cottonwood Canyon I have craved more and more. So I was definitely excited to get up there, even though I knew this was going to be a lot harder than I might expect.

I had mentioned to some running friends what I was planning, and my friend Ryan who I had just paced the last 25 of his first sub-30 Wasatch 100 Finish said he might be interested in joining me for the start - which was PERFECT because I hadn't been up to Superior yet! I knew that I could have made it eventually, but I wanted to get up to Jennilyn ASAP in case she needed me!

So Ryan met me at Alta and we started up towards Superior!
Trail Beards make you tougher. And Faster. Proven FACT

The trail up to Superior isn't extremely long - but as soon as you get up to Cardiff/Pole Line Pass - it gets even more steep and technical. In other words - WOW AWESOME!

Wow look at that view. But what's with the 'Mun'? (Man Bun)
Once we arrived at the top of Superior - I did my traditional Peak Yoga poses

Then I got a text from Jennilyn saying she was completely out of water - and had been for some time! Uh oh! So Ryan turned back to meet some friends he had promised to meet at the bottom of the canyon - and I continued to Monte Cristo to get to her with my extra water sooner than later. Before he left Ryan suggested that I wait for her at the peak and NOT down climb Monte Cristo because it is a pretty serious climb.

Ryan is a great friend - Thanks for your help!
Continuing on I noticed a mountain goat just below the saddle between Superior and Monte Cristo

When I got to Monte Cristo - I looked down. And down some more. WOW! that is quite the cliff!

She should be SOMEWHERE back there on that ridge...
And then as I'm considering what to do - I look at the third bump on the ridge and I see her pop into view WAY out there!

She is in this picture!
Third bump - the tiny little person on top!
I yelled at her, and she yelled back, and sent me a text that she was REALLY thirsty, so I decided I could downclimb to get there faster.

That was a crazy ridge and climb!

When I got up to the first bump - I climbed over the summit, and there she was!

And she was very thirsty!

So we grabbed the extra bottles out of my pack and filled her pack up, then began our trek back across the ridge and up to Monte Cristo.

We were excited to get back to Cardiff pass, because there was extra water and some food and soda stashed there. So we passed over Monte Cristo, Superior down the ridge to Cardiff Peak (which we had to summit for the WURL to be official!) and finally made it to the stash.

Leaving Monte Cristo!


Down to the pass!

So thirsty! And it was starting to get darker and colder
After we refueled and put on some warmer stuff - we headed up Toledo - which was a cool little climb. From this time on I didn't get quite as many pictures - eventually I'll find a way to get cool nighttime pics that I can take while on the move!

Toledo, some other small summit with a name I can't remember, and then we climbed up Flagstaff, which was steep and not very fun in the dark.

Yay we're on top of a mountain!
From this point there were a few sections where we could actually RUN, which was nice. Hours and hours of scrambling on tough terrain is slow and tiring!

 When we were finally on the Honeycomb Cliffs ridge - we were keeping our eyes out for Ben and Nate who had promised soup and BACON. We were almost completely off Honeycomb Cliffs when we finally found them.

SIDE NOTE: Before I started this run - I wanted to make sure I understood the route and had a backup way of knowing where we were. Jennilyn had sent me a GPX of the entire WURL, and I had FINALLY figured out how to use the navigation function (which is AWESOME) by watching this 9 minute video... and creating a route on my watch. Subsequently - I was known as the "Ridge Nazi" because I was trying to keep us on course as much as possible! "Always go higher! Up! Up! To the Ridge! Then that way!"

We (okay really Jennilyn) sat down and drank the Thermos of Chicken Noodle Soup Nate brought, and ate some of the bacon that Ben had, (I did have some bacon!) and headed down to Twin Lakes Pass. Then it was up to Patsy Marley, across to Wolverine, and finally to Tuscarora and down to Catherine's Pass, where the next stash was.

I think this was Tuscarora

The next section, and couple of hours, were the section that we were all least familiar with, and the one Jennilyn was most worried about.

Devil's Castle.

It really is about as scary as that name sounds. (At the same time - even in the dark I didn't think it was as scary as downclimbing Monte Cristo!) Summitpost's entry for Devil's Castle says, "the easiest climbing route requires Class 5.2-5.5 YDS moves with exposure"

Legitimate climbing, folks!

In the dark. Getting up to it first meant we had to find our way through these giant limestone pillars, and then find our way to the spots where we could climb to the summit. We found a good one, and made it to one of the three tops. We thought it was the main one, but really until I go back in the daytime - I am not sure!

Devil's Castle Summit
After we climbed off the top, we had decided that we would back track a bit and circle around the ridge, to avoid some of the scary cliffs. Unfortunately since none of us really KNEW the route... we ended up on the South side of Devil's Castle sitting on some very VERY large cliffs.

Ben and I had found a route we thought looked good - so eventually we took that route and it led us down below onto some very nasty scree that tired my feet out immensely!

We finally made it back to the ridge and headed towards Sugarloaf. There is a little walled house thing made out of piled rocks where Jennilyn's husband Ben was waiting to take her to the finish.

It was SO amazing to be on a dirt trail again!

We made it and relaxed for a bit - Ben had packed up some Mt. Dew for me! SO awesome!

Just Magical!
This was the last portion of our run with Jennilyn. Her plan was to continue on the rest of the WURL with about 6-7 more peaks, including some very gnarly scrambling.

After we were ready, we headed up and over the summit of Sugarloaf and down to the saddle between there and Baldy, where we said our goodbyes, and Nate, Ben and I headed down to Alta.

Heading down from Sugarloaf
We're pretty sure we saw some Bears just below Cecret Lake. Deer have small close-together eyes that shine yellowish or very light greenish-yellow in your headlamps. These were BIG not close-together eyes that were dark greenish-blue and there were two sets! We moved a bit more quickly down to the cars then!

The 11 or so hours I spent with Jennilyn plus the time heading up to Superior with Ryan and down to Alta with Nate and Ben (totaling about 13 hours!!) was extremely moving.

I only went fourteen and a half miles. THIRTEEN hours to go LESS than FIFTEEN miles.

And it was AWESOME!

Sounds super slow, right? So how in the world could it be awesome.

Well... I did summit thirteen peaks. THIRTEEN!

Superior, Monte Cristo, Cardiff, Toledo, Flagstaff, Davenport Hill, Honeycomb Cliffs, Patsy Marley, Wolverine, Tuscarora, Point Supreme, Devil's Castle, and Sugarloaf. Probably more little ones too!

And the views... WOW

That ridge put something in my soul - and my soul wants to go give it back (yet never return it... just keep on going back again and again!)

After I made it home and showered - I slept for 2 hours and woke up. 

couldn't sleep any more!

Jennilyn was still out there!

I sat glued to my computer, watching the SPOT tracker, instant messaging Ben and Nate about what was going on, keeping an eye on facebook trying to find out where she was and how she was doing.

Another friend was planning on meeting her near Pfiefferhorn and continuing with her until the end. 

Unfortunately due to stomach issues - Jennilyn decided to head down at Red Pine. The section from there to Lone peak had some very technical and dangerous scrambling that people have died on. 

NOT something you want to attempt while feeling dizzy and faint!!

I think her dehydration early on in the attempt may have contributed a lot to the later sickness after we left her.

The thought that MAYBE if I'd gotten to her sooner with water she wouldn't have had the issues later on has definitely plagued me a little... but at the same time - she had an amazing day in the beautiful Wasatch Mountains. 27 hours, 27 miles, and probably that many peaks as well! Amazing and brutal attempt at one of the hardest feats in the Wasatch Mountains.

Inspirational and tough! That's Jennilyn. Wow.

Earlier I mentioned that there have only been 4 men and 2 women who have completed the WURL - that was increased to six after Jennilyn went down. Spencer Weiler and Court Pace started a while after Jennilyn and were able to complete it (partially by using our stash!) Nice job out there gentlemen!

Since leaving - I want to be back up on that ridge.

As I wind down my preparations for the Bear 100 - I'm already thinking about what I should do next. Since I haven't run the 100 yet, I don't know that another 100 will be on my mind.

But you know what?

And I NEVER thought I would say something like this.

The WURL is on my mind. 

Along with all the other crazy ridge runs people like Jared Campbell, Noah Howell and Jason Dorais have thought up (CURL, etc)

Awwwwwww, crap!

Those mountains are calling VERY loudly!

I'm excited.