Sunday, November 25, 2012

Catching Up: Nov 12 - 25

Mon-AM: 2:31, 5300' ~ 2xGreen Mt.
Both laps I went up Gregory-Ranger and down the NE ridge.  Not a particularly inspired effort this morning--I seemed to be bonking pretty hard on the second climb--but got it in. Still waiting for encouraging signs of fitness; kinda feel like I'm in some doldrums right now.
PM: 1:06, 2700' ~ Green Mt.
Up 1st/2nd Access and down NE ridge. Started this one pretty late, so that when I got to the base of the First Flatiron I decided the combo of soloing on icy holds in the dark was probably not very wise.  Just ran the trail to the top then.

Tue-AM: 1:00 ~ Creek Path
Got up at 5:00am for an easy hour mostly in the dark before flying to Tennessee.  This was the most pathetic run I've had in a while.  I usually reserve this kind of shuffling for the week after a 100mi race, but I think I woke in the middle of a sleep cycle or something because my legs would simply not function. Literally 10min/mi pace.

Wed-AM: 0:50, maybe 1000'? ~ Percy Warner Park, Nashville TN
Went out for what would've been a nice jog with a big group in the peaking leaves in Nashville except that I was coming down with flu-like symptoms and I felt absolutely terrible.

Thu-Sat: SICK
Suffered through the flight/bus home on Wednesday and spent the next three days bed-ridden.

Sun-AM: 2:10, 2500' ~ Satan's Slab & Fifth Flatiron
Parked at NCAR with Joe and hiked casually up to Skunk Canyon, enjoying the beautiful fall day. Changed into rock shoes at the base of the imposing slab and started up.  The first stretch up the water chute held the crux of the day with some semi-desperate weird little thin pocket holds on a slightly steeper stretch.  The 5.6 climbing there was legit.  Above that gaining the ridge was more moderate and the south ridge itself was a spectacular arete.  The next crux was the negotiation of a big boulder that had some wild exposure on steeper than average rock.  Not a slab.  The rest of the climb was a romp, finishing with consistent 5.4 to the fantastic summit.

Hours: 7h27min
Vert: 11,500'


Mon-AM: 1:51, 3000' ~ 5th Flatiron+Green Mt.
After yesterday's outing with Joe I returned to the Fifth to try out what was supposed to be an easier line on it's east face--East Face North Side--so as to be climbable in running shoes. Turns out it was a heavily-sandbagged rating in the guidebook (check the comments on the mountainproject link), and it isn't really any easier than sticking to the North Buttress route that we climbed yesterday. Some tense moments as a result, but I got through it, and after completing our downclimb (on the south side of the rock--the usual sneak is on the north side), I continued on to the summit of Green before descending.

Tue-AM: 2:52, 5000' ~ Flatiron Quinfecta
Awesome day out with Joe.  After feeling so sketched yesterday on the Fifth I advocated starting with the First so as to get my confidence back up (even though it contains, by far, the hardest climbing of the whole link-up).  After lacing together the first three Flatirons we descended to the Royal Arch trail, humped over Sentinel Pass, and decided to do the Fourth before the Fifth, poo-poo-ing reports that the descent between the 4th and 5th flatirons is truly heinous.  Climbing the Fourth was fun (only my second time ever) despite the grubby upper piece of rock and then we suffered and swore and grumbled our way down that gulley; I'll never go back there.  Finally, at the base of the Fifth I confidently led the way up the route that had given me the willies the day before with zero issue.  Joe and I were both bonking pretty badly at this point and were quite dehydrated on the ridiculously warm fall day, but 23min after leaving the summit of the 5th, we were back at Chat.

Wed-AM: 2:27, 4000' ~ Angels Way+5th Flatiron+4th Flatiron+Green Mt.
Joe and I were back at Chat this morning for another epic scrambling session.  Jogged the Mesa trail over to Skunk Canyon and quickly dispatched of Angel's Way--an extremely aesthetic ridge of rock but with only occasional 5.0-5.2 difficulties more of a hike than anything. From the top of Angel's we bushwhacked over to the base of the Fifth Flatiron where Joe climbed the North Buttress and I went up the East Face North Side.  Descended to the base of the Fourth, climbed the whole thing, and then I told Joe that I was either going to tag the summit of Green or climb the full east face of the Third (we were both pretty parched again). He chose Green, so we headed up there before descending back to Chat.

Thu-AM: 2:40, 5500' ~ Flatiron Quinfecta+Green Mt.
Starting from Chat I linked up the five Flatirons again: 1st-2nd-3rd-5th-4th.  Switching the order of the last two avoids the heinous bushwhack down the gulley between those two rocks.  And for me, today, it left the highest flatiron--the Fourth--for last, putting me the closest to the summit of Green at the end of the link-up. After this morning I have some new respect for Buzz Burrell's and Bill Briggs' extremely strong efforts on this enchainment.  Buzz has the FKT at 2:01:xx, but chose to downclimb the 2nd and 5th Flatirons--to make the 2nd more interesting, and to save time on the 5th, I imagine. This is impressive style and may be necessary in order to break the record, but something in me definitely appreciates the symmetry of actually ascending the east face of each rock.  If I had simply descended back to Chautauqua this morning--instead of continuing on to the summit of Green--I think I would've been in the 2:25-28 range for the full car-to-car link-up, so I definitely have some work to do. Going 2hr-flat definitely requires a higher level of fitness than I currently have, too.  Either way, a particularly fantastic start to Thanksgiving Day.

Fri-AM: 2:00, 3200' ~ Third Flatiron+Green Mt.
Ran to Chat and then up the Royal Arch Trail to the true base of the Third Flatiron.  The standard East Face route starts a couple hundred feet up the rock from the East Bench.  I always thought that was kind of strange, but after this morning's scramble I don't mind it--there wasn't really any interesting climbing below the usual start.  After downclimbing and tagging the summit of Green I descended Greenman-Gregory.

Sat-AM: 4:45, 6000' ~ Longs Peak (14,255')
With Joe, ascended via The Loft and descended the Keyhole. It was so windy in the parking lot that we almost decided not to even attempt going up the mountain. but of course resolved to at least go to treeline to suss the conditions.  At treeline I suggested we head up to the Loft because I thought it would be a little more sheltered from the wind.  As we neared the top of the Loft couloir we clearly saw the easy ramp to the left that exits onto the Loft but instead donned crampons and scrambled up a more direct 4th Class line of exposed ledges and popped over the headwall to find a party of two building an anchor to rappel what we'd just climbed.  Our route-finding blunders weren't over yet, though, as I inadvertently led us the extra 700' up to the summit of the Beaver only to be stymied by the Notch, of course.  After dropping 1000' back down to Clark's Arrow we finally crawled our way up the Homestretch slabs to the summit of Longs--it'd taken us a ridiculous 3:35 to get there, losing nearly an hour alone on the headwall below the Loft--and descended the Keyhole uneventfully (other than the hurricane-like winds) in 1:10. Yet another learning experience.

Sun-AM: 2:16, 4000' ~ 5th Flatiron+4th Flatiron+Green Mt+The Spy
Ran up to Chat and took the Royal Arch Trail to the base of the Fifth.  Linked the two flatties, tagged Green, and then headed down to the base of the First Flatiron to scramble The Spy. It's a very short climb (300'), so if it wasn't such a cool position on a narrow, hyper-exposed ridge, it wouldn't even really be worth doing. Felt strong on the run home, nice to finally be feeling some energy again.

Hours: 18h52min
Vert: 30,700'

Even before I got sick out in Tennessee 10 days ago, my running wasn't going very well.  Ever since I got back from South Africa in mid-October I'd been low on energy.  For a couple of weeks I crammed in the volume and vertical, trying to build strength and fitness and confidence, but, of course, the harder I tried, the more forced and sluggish things became.  Pretty classic case of end-of-the-year burn-out.  So, when I finally came down with the flu and was relegated to laying in bed for several days, it was obvious my body was trying to tell me something so I decided to quit forcing things and just get outside on feel, with no goal-oriented ambitions.  I called off competing in The North Face 50mi Championships and for the past week have instead done a lot of scrambling in the Flatirons.  I'll keep up this schedule of running (/climbing) once per day at least until the end of the year, and probably beyond, before I truly begin to build up for a fun-filled spring and summer season of racing and summits.  I'll definitely continue to get out and tag peaks, but it will be with low expectations and probably a lot of slow, non-race-specific snow-slogging.  The best part is that I'm healthy and I feel fortunate to be voluntarily choosing to scale back the running instead of being forced into it by injury, which so often seems to be the case.

Picking my way up a crux on Satan's Slab last weekend. Photo: Joe Grant.
An airy perch hanging out over Satan's east face. Photo: Joe Grant.
The fantastic North Arete, just below the summit of the Fifth Flatiron. Photo: Joe Grant.
Summit of the Fifth last Sunday. Photo: Joe Grant.
North face of Mt. Meeker as seen from our perch in the Loft couloir Saturday morning. Photo: Joe Grant.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Week Summary: Nov 5 - 11

Mon-AM: 2:11, 3200' ~ Third Flatiron+Green Mt.
Really nice cruise up the mountain with a descent of Bear Cyn. More energy than expected.
PM: 1:04, 1600' ~ First Flatiron
Started this in the dark after a late-afternoon massage with Jeff Staron, who worked on my fibula/peroneals.  Climbing the First in the dark by headlamp was more than a little spooky, especially with the strong winds that I found on the North Arete.  For some reason not having a sense of scale for the exposure (due to my sight being limited to the cone of my headlamp) was more unnerving than scrambling it in broad daylight.  Pretty sure I won't make this a regular practice. Really slow, tentative run back down to Chat after the downclimb.

Tue-AM: 2:32, 5300' ~ 2xGreen Mt.
Went up Gregory-Ranger and down the front both times. First lap was with Dakota and I think this, unfortunately, pushed me to go a little harder than I should've and I ended up running the second climb slower, which is really rare for me.  Good to start reintegrating some running ascents of the mountain (as opposed to my now-usual running/scrambling/grunting/hiking affairs) back into the routine. Race specificity.
PM: 1:00, 2000' ~ First Flatiron+
Joe and I led Dakota on a casual scramble of the First from Chautauqua. We'd had hopes of getting in a couple other objectives, too--and even thrashed around looking for the base of the Spy in the dark--but the dynamics of group scrambling had us moving a little slower than usual and darkness came too quickly to get on anything else without headlamps.

Wed-AM: 2:10, 3200' ~ Third Flatiron+Green Mt.
Up the Third and then down Bear Canyon and back on Mesa.  I really like this loop...a nice mix of scrambling, steep hiking, and cruiser scenic singletrack.  My legs were fairly tired this morning--I've been going at it hard non-stop for the last 10 days or so with no easy day--so I just took things mellow. Try to rest up today for either a legit long run tomorrow or another lap on Longs Peak.

Thu-AM: 4:43, 8100' ~ Green-Walker Ranch-Eldo Cyn-Green
Started out by heading up Amp-SR-Greeman on the frontside of Green and then ran down to Walker Ranch for a CCW loop before heading back through Eldorado Canyon and back up to Bear Canyon via the Old Mesa Trail. Finished by descending the frontside of Green and running home.  This loop is my standard race-prep long run, and I'll add an extra lap on Green (so another ~5mi/2500'/1hr) each of the next two weeks as progression. This is the longest continuous run (other than the first 42mi of the LT100) that I've done in the past two years, so it was really good to get it in.  I wasn't climbing particularly well, but not badly either, and overall kept a pretty high pace, definitely not just jogging around...this is somewhere in the 30-32mi range. Really fun day out; I've missed being healthy enough to do these kinds of runs.

Fri-AM: 2:06, 3800' ~ 2nd+3rd Flatirons+Green Mt.
Didn't have shoes with sticky enough rubber to comfortably negotiate the first few hundred feet of the First Flatiron so I scrambled both the Second and Third instead before heading to the top of the mountain and descending Gregory-Ranger.
PM: 1:32, 3000' ~ Flatiron Trifecta
Was originally planning on just heading up the First Flatiron and then to the summit of Green but after I felt really good on that original scramble I made the on-the-fly decision to link-up the Second and Third as well. I did the First downclimb and the full scramble of the Second before having to finally switch on  my headlamp and then enjoyed a fully-in-the-dark scaling of the Third.  I must say, it was much less nerve-wracking than my headlamp ascent of the First earlier in the week.  Should've been well under 1h30 for my Chat-to-Chat time, but I was lazy on the final techy descent in the dark.

Sat-AM: 2:13, 3200' ~ Third Flatiron+Green Mt.
Still had some tired legs, so just jogged up the hill and was happy to sneak in a final scramble on the Third before the snowstorm---flakes started falling about half-way up the face and I started worrying a bit about wet rock, but I made it up and then down the SW Chimney with no issues. Descended Bear Canyon.
PM: 1:01 ~ Creek Paths
Wow, first run I've done like this in a long, long time.  Didn't feel like mucking around in the drizzle and dark up on the mountain so just cruised around the flatlands. Too many runs like this and I'll have to start tracking miles again...

Sun-AM: 2:00, 3000' ~ Green Mt.
Up Gregory-Ranger and down Bear Canyon. the new, crusty shellacking of snow on everything made for a nice change, but the wind on the ridge was pretty biting. Legs finally felt "back" after Thu's long run.
PM: 1:02, 2700' ~ Green Mt.
From Chat went up ASG and down the NE ridge. Didn't have to employ the headlamp until the downhill, which was nice. Arctic frigid wind ripping on the summit.

Hours: 23h34min
Vert: 39,100'

Kind of an up-and-down week for me in the lowlands of Boulder.  Fatigue finally caught up with me mid-week after ten days straight w/o much rest, so an easy day there set me up for my first legitimate long run in a long, long time on Thursday.  It went well enough and reminded me of the joys of moving continuously and quickly over easy terrain...a different kind of kinesthetic experience from all the scrambling and off-trail travel that I've spent much of the last six months pursuing.  Races demand specificity, however, which is probably a good thing for my fitness.  Weather shut down any weekend plans for high peaks, so I'll likely make an effort to get out tomorrow before I visit Nashville for a Fleet Feet speaking visit on Tue/Wednesday.  I'm still only very fleetingly confident in my trail running fitness, so hope I can increasingly bolster that over the next two weeks.  We'll see, this time of year feels so unnatural for having any kind of killer competitive ambitions.

All five Flatirons set in stark relief this morning.
Summit of Green, with Bear Peak in the background (the West Ridge trail is finally open!).
Dinosaur Mt (at the mouth of Bear Cyn) always looks to offer so many promising scrambling opportunities.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Week Summary: Oct 29 - Nov 4

Mon-AM: 1:37, 3300' ~ Third Flatiron+Green Mt.
Most of the snow was gone, so enjoyed a nice day on the hill. The wind on the last pitch of the scramble made it feel really sketchy on the downclimb, but I made it through.  Took a long descent down Greenman and Gregory and was really psyched to feel nothing in my fibula.  Jeff's massage seems to have really worked.
PM: 0:41, 1600' ~ First Flatiron
Cruisy quick lap on the Flattie before the sun set, from Chautauqua.  Leg felt great, really nice warm evening.

Tue-AM: 2:16, 4500' ~ Mt. Elbert (14,433')
Up and down the NE ridge. Ugh, kind of a rude re-introduction to altitude.  It's been six weeks since I've been over 4000m (well, I haven't even been over 2500m in the past six weeks), so the uphill was definitely a struggle today.  The truck said it was 12F when I woke up, but I was sweating in the sun on the climb and generally enjoyed a comfortable day weatherwise...very little wind.  Really fun to get back up in the high country, very little snow up there still.

Wed-AM: 2:58, 5000' ~ Longs Peak (14,255')
Joe and I started from the East TH and took the Reveley Route over the shoulder of Mt Lady Washington to the base of the old Cables Route on the North Face where we donned crampons and headed up the relatively short, iced-in dihedral that goes at 5.4 in summer conditions.  I was in a pair of steel Kahtoola KTS crampons and was very impressed at their lightweight performance on both steep ice and rock. Descended via the Keyhole before cutting back over the shoulder of MLW and back down to the trailhead.  Weather conditions were ideal with reasonable temps, moderate winds, and clear skies. Metal traction was only mandatory from Chasm View to the summit.  This happened to be my 100th 14er summit of the year and my 14th summit of Longs Peak this year (but June was the first time I'd ever been up Longs, so my 14th summit ever of the mountain, too.).

Thu-AM: 2:04, 4500' ~ Flatiron Trifecta+Green Mt.
Linked-up the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Flatirons before heading to the top of the mountain and running back down to Chat via Ranger-Gregory. Haven't completed this enchainment in a couple of months, so it was fun to string together what ends up being ~2500' of scrambling.
PM: 1:08, 3000' ~ First Flatiron+Green Mt.
Quick spin up the hill, with a snappy 12:45 scramble of the east face. Timed it perfectly to get back to Chat right as it was getting dark.

Fri-AM: 2:31, 4500' ~ Torreys & Grays Peaks (14,270' & 14,267')
Parked half-way up the road and summited Torreys via the Kelso Ridge before bopping over and tagging Grays, too.  Conditions were pretty nice, frigid on the summits, but not terrible and the snow wasn't too troubling on the ridge.  My energy on the uphills, however, was rock-bottom.  I had nothing.  But, on the downhills my legs seemed to have plenty of pep, so maybe just the altitude affecting me?
PM: 1:00, 700' ~ East Leadville trails
Nice, peppy cruise at sunset (which was amazing).  It was fun to feel good after feeling so wasted this morning.

Sat-AM: 2:53, 6000' ~ Belford-Oxford-Belford (14,197' & 14,153')
From the Missouri Gulch TH. Seriously seemed like maybe September conditions. I took Microspikes but never needed them; any snow was either powdery and trivial or nicely-packed and my shoes gripped fine. Took me a long time to get into the sun, but once I was it was warm...unless there was a breeze. Then it got cold real quick. Overall, a beautiful morning, though.
PM: 1:07, 2200' ~ Mt. Sherman (14,036')
From Iowa Gulch. Got this in quick, finishing just as it got too dark to really run. Felt really good on the uphill, which was encouraging because I've been really struggling with energy above treeline this week. Once on the ridge it was crazy windy (and cold) but manageable. Pretty cool to be watching the sun setting over the Sawatch from the other side of the valley.

Sun-AM: 2:56, 5000' ~ Mt. Massive (14,421')
Started from the Half Moon TH and went up the east slopes before descending the southwest slopes.  Not too much snow to deal with ever, but the wind above treeline was pretty bad.  Lots of hunkering down in my hood just marching up into the gale. The run down was much more pleasant and it was fun to do the run as a loop instead of the usual out-and-back that happens on 14ers.
PM: 1:20, 1700' ~ Stairway To Heaven
Started from NOAA with Joe and jogged up Skunk Canyon to the base of the Stairway To Heaven rock ridge on the north side of the canyon. Found some exceptionally good rock in places with wild exposure (typical of the flatirons) and then just some 3rd-4th Class scrambling in other spots. The summits of Like Heaven and Heaven were totally worthwhile, though, especially with the stunning views of Satan's Slab immediately to the west. Getting off the rock was a touch hairier than expected, but the downclimb will be way easier doing it a second time. Jogged back down to the car after some casual exploring around.

Hours: 22h31min
Total: 42,000'

Well, this marks the first week back to full activity after my three weeks of doing mostly nothing.  Much credit must be given to Jeff Staron, who largely fixed my fibula/peroneal injury with one incredibly painful visit last Friday.  When Rickey Gates first recommended Jeff, he claimed he was a miracle worker.  Now I believe it.  I also finally moved into an apartment this week after seven months in the Roost.  Of course, I then promptly went on a three-day trip back to the big mountains.

My efforts at altitude this week have been all over the place.  Except for Longs Peak on Wednesday and Mt. Sherman Saturday evening I have invariably felt like an utter sloth when trying to go uphill above treeline.  I know that shouldn't be surprising, but in past instances of re-acclimating to altitude it hasn't been this sluggish of a process, so I'm beginning to wonder if maybe I'm dealing with a bit of an iron deficiency.  I'll probably give it another week before I become truly concerned.  Either way, it's been a blast getting back to the high country, and nice to experience the big mountains in a different season.

Some video footage of our ascent of Longs on Wednesday, courtesy of Joe.

North Face route on Longs ascends directly to the right of the Diamond.
The Knife Edge on the upper Kelso Ridge of Torreys Friday morning.

Belford summit Saturday morning.
Lenticular cloud ripping over the south summit of Massive Sunday morning.
Summit of Massive.