Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Aug 12 - 25

Mon - 1:52, 3000' ~ First Flatiron+Green Mt.
Got up early enough that I had to wait about 5min at the base of the First for it to get light enough to climb it. Pretty slow ascent, then, but good to get it in before getting on a plane to France. Descended over Flagstaff back to my apartment.

Tue - off.
Wanted to go for a jog in Les Houches in the afternoon/evening to shake off the jet-lag, but I was suffering temporary semi-blindness from unknowingly putting hydrogen peroxide in my eyes. Don't do that.

Wed - 2:07, 5000' ~ Brevent, Chamonix
Cruised up and down the local hill with Joe. The last 1000' or so were in a cloud, so it was quite chilly and the big views across the valley to the Mt. Blanc massif were obscured. Thankfully, my eyes seem to have recovered despite waking with them crusted shut.

Thu-AM: 8:25, 14,000' ~ Les Houches to Courmayeur, UTMB course
The BUFF house is just outside of Les Houches, 2mi from the base of the Voza climb on the UTMB course, so Joe and I started our tour around the mountain from there.  Overall, the day went really well---there were a few navigational errors on the descent into St. Gervais, but otherwise it was just a great day in the mountains, ~45mi or so. I was more than a little surprised at the smooth, gradual nature of almost the entire track, however. This is definitely a running race.

Fri - 5:00, 9000' ~ Courmayeur to Champex-Lac, UTMB course
Met Seb Chaigneau, Timmy and Krista outside the bus station in Courmayeur for our 29mi run over to Champex. Seb and I ran together all day, enjoying epic views of the backside of the Mt. Blanc massif much of the way. Got another room in a hostel in Champex that night. Pretty cush way to do a multi-day outing.

Sat - 4:29, 6000' ~ Champex-Lac to Chamonix, UTMB course
I woke up today with a gimpy hamstring, so just jogged easily back to Chamonix. Ended up taking the wrong climb out of Trient (went up to La Balme instead of Catogne), which meant I missed the final climb up to Flegere as well. Interestingly, I found this final 29mi of the course to be the most to my liking out of the whole loop. More steep, direct climbs and descents with less gradual terrain in between than earlier in the course.

Sun - off. 
Left achilles and right hamstring were pretty dinged up, so decided to just take a day and make sure I recover.

Hours: 37,000'
Vert: 21h53min


Mon - off.

Tue - :31, 250' ~ Les Houches
Just jogged into Les Houches to test out my legs. Things are loosening up.

Wed - 2:16, 5100' ~ Brevent
Up and down this 8300' peak on the north side of the Chamonix valley. Took it easy just testing out my legs and dabbled in a little via feratta on the way up, nothing too interesting, though. It was a gorgeous day, however, and I was granted spectacular views over to the Mont Blanc massif that were obscured when Joe and I ran up here last week.

Thu - 6:08, 13,000' ~ Mont Blanc
Up and down the Gouter route, starting at the bottom of the Glacier du Bionassy/Bellivue Telepherique in Les Houches at 3300'. With a 15,781' summit and a few rollers along the way, it was a big vert day. The route involves very nice trail all the way up to the Grand Couloir at ~10,000' where the route crosses a gully prone to rockfall before ascending the 3rd Class ridge on it's climber's righthand side. After scrambling nearly 1000m of vert up this one gets to the Gouter hut at 12,600', whence begins the long trudge up flat to 35 degree snow slopes and ridges. I put on my Kahtoola KTS Steel crampons at about 13,500' as the snow was still fairly frozen at 10am, and trudged my way to the summit happy for the extra security these offered. After reaching the top in 3:54 from Les Houches I spent nearly a full hour on top enjoying the view and pristine weather. I was eventually joined by Seb Chaigneau and Joe and we soon descended. After a few hundred feet of descent along the bootpack track I could tell the snow was much softer than during the climb, so took off the crampons and enjoyed an unencumbered descent back down the mountain, dropping the nearly 13k' of vert in 2h14. Really rewarding summit.

Fri - 2:24, 5400' ~ La Jonction
This is a run from the valley floor up a spectacular ridge of forest and rock that splits two impressive glaciers--Bosson on the left and Taconnaz on the right. The summit of the ridge (8600') is where the two glaciers meet, thus the name. It is also the route of the first ascent of Mont Blanc, way back in 1786. Near the top of the ridge there is a plaque on a giant boulder under which the pioneering duo of Balmat and Paccard bivied during their first ascent. I love this kind of history. The run up was on fantastic trail and the views of the glaciers were breathtaking. We just don't have stuff like this in Colorado. Not to mention the vertical mile of climbing with thousands of feet of relief still above you.

Sat - 2:44, 5500' ~ Gornergrat
Last night Joe and I drove to Switzerland and hopped the mandatory train to Zermatt to spectate at the Matterhorn Ultraks 46K Skyrace, a first-year event. The course looked to be quite spectacular, so I opted to run to its highest point, the Gornergrat Observatory at 3100m (10,400'), getting in the standard vertical mile of relief. The course took a less-than-direct route to the summit, and the same with the descent back to town, but the views of Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn, Dent Blanche, and the Weisshorn were all stunning.

Sun - 2:03, 3500' ~ Vallorcine to Chamonix
Joe dropped me off in Vallorcine (~ mile 92 of the 104mi loop) and I ran the UTMB course back to Cham via Col des Montets, La Flegere, and La Floria. Steep climb with somewhat techy footing at times and the same on the descent to Flegere. Should be fun after nearly 20hrs on the legs. It was a misty, foggy, drizzly morning, as the last few days have been. After two weeks of bluebird days, the Chamonix valley is taking its usual late-August turn toward gloomy weather for race week.

Hours: 16h06min
Vert: 32,750'

It's been a great couple of weeks, but I'm ready to just race this thing already. Resting before a big race always feels that way, though. I've had the usual little niggle here and there, but nothing really worth mentioning. I'm primed and ready to go, feeling like I've prepared pretty much the absolute best that I can. I'm really excited to race 100 miles against such a deep, international field on what I think is a very fair course. The track is overwhelmingly smooth and fast and not at high altitude, but the ~32k' of climbing should allow me to be competitive. In the past there has always been a lot of talk about how "the Alps are not like North American mountains". That is patently true. The vertical relief and the miles of glaciers and granite spires here is like nothing in the US. But the UTMB course never engages any of that. At all. It tends to roll through grassy hills instead. The Hardrock course is magnitudes more rugged and remote than anything the TMB covers. Nevertheless, I'm really looking forward to the extra energy that the runners are sure to receive any time we pass through the many villages on the route.

My first run in Chamonix--descending from Le Brevent. Photo: Joe Grant.
Panorama of the Mt. Blanc massif from Grand Col Ferret (99km) before crossing from Italy into Switzerland.. 
Aiguille Verte (behind) and the Dru, just up-valley from Chamonix.
Businessman Seb on the summit of Mont Blanc.
Nearly to the top of the Gornergrat, high above Zermatt with the Weisshorn behind. Photo: Laurent Court.
At the Casa de BUFF outside of Les Houches. Photo: Jordi Saragossa.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Aug 5 - 11

Mon-AM: 2:36, 5000' ~ Mt. Almagre (12,400')
Parked at the lot above Helen Hunt Falls again (7500') and ran up 7 Bridges to the N. Cheyenne Creek trail, which becomes a proper goat path after you leave Pipeline and stay next to the creek. Made it to the dam at 12k' in 1:23 and then continued on to the north summit, reaching it at 1:37. Kind of a cool hint in the air that felt ever-so-slightly like fall is on the way. Descended the exact same way I came up.

Tue-AM: 7:35, 13,000' ~ Pikes Peak-Intemann-Sect. 16-666-Buckhorn-High Drive-Sect. 16-Intemman
Decided to take advantage of the smooth, runnable Springs trails to get in a proper running long run in preparation for UTMB (most of my longer efforts the last couple of years have included large chunks of hiking and/or scrambling that don't provide quite the same sustained training effect of running every step, in my opinion). Parked at Memorial Park in Manitou Springs and started off the day with a Pikes Peak Marathon in 4:09, 2:34 ascent and 1:35 descent. Running up Ruxton, I bumped into Peter Maksimow and we ran to Barr Camp together in 1:19 from the starting line (68min from Hydro), chatting all the way. I appreciated the early company on what was otherwise going to be a long, solo outing. The upper half of the mountain wasn't as casual as I would've liked---I always seem to struggle on this mountain---and I was only able to manage a desultory 43min split for the last 3mi. I would've thought my deep acclimation would've allowed me to go 40min or so. Ah well. I didn't even stop to go inside the tourist-mobbed summit house because I didn't have a shirt with me, and just turned at the marathon turnaround and started the descent, knowing I had a long day ahead of me still. Took it casual on the way down, keeping a steady groove, but never pushing. After hitting the finish at the bottom of Ruxton I continued back over to my truck at Memorial for a re-stock on gels (I'd eaten 3 on Pikes) to fuel the second half of the run. From the Roost, I ran up Crystal Park Road to catch the rolling Intemann Trail over to the Section 16 climb. From Manitou to the top of the Section 16 loop is approximately a 2k' climb, and it went really well despite the 90F heat and the 8k' of vert already in my legs. No problem running the whole way; I suppose the extra oxygen helps. From the top of Sect 16 it's a super cruisy 1k' descent to High Drive and then another 2k' climb in ~3mi up the 666 trail. I felt strong on this, but by time I got to the top I was super dehydrated---enough so that I drank from Bear Creek at the top; probably not a great idea. The water helped a ton, though, and the rest of the run I felt quite strong---down High Drive, and then another 1000' climb back up around Section 16 before finishing the run back to Manitou on the Intemann Trail. Great run.

Wed-AM: 2:14, 5300' ~ 1st-3rd-5th Flatirons+Green+1st Flatiron
Biked to Chat. Awesome morning on the flatties...nice and cool and overcast, so scrambling was a real pleasure. After various creaks and crinks had loosened up my body and energy was actually really good considering yesterday's big outing and I just generally had a blast. Got me really excited about the fall scrambling/climbing season post-UROC.

Thu-AM: 2:38, 5200' ~ Longs Peak
Up Loft/Skyline Traverse, down Cables. With Joe. Easy effort on tired legs, but a morning on Longs is always a blast. Showed Joe the downclimb into the Notch, which is fun, and then took the Stepladder to the summit. Cool, foggy, cloudy weather lower down on the Front Range, but a really nice day up high.

Fri-AM: 2:29, 5000' ~ Longs Peak
Up NW Gully, down Cables. Great run, energy is back after Tuesday's long effort. After passing through the Keyhole I left the crowds and scrambled up the NW Gully, which is mostly 4th Class but has maybe 50' of easy, but wet, 5th Class. After the crux, it mellows to Class 3 and joins the spectacular  finish to the Keyhole Ridge. 1h35 to the summit, and then I took it pretty easy on the way down, scouting different options below treeline.

Sat-AM: 2:05, 5000' ~ Longs Peak
Up and down the Cables. Decided it was time to really take a shot at going fast on Longs, establish a legit PR for myself. Ended up tagging the summit in 1:21:29 and descending in 44:24 for a roundtrip of 2:05:53. A little surprisingly, there were bits of fresh snow on the north face and the usual wet spots were all ice. This wasn't really an issue on the way up, but it probably slowed my descent by a minute or so as I had to be careful in the shady spots, and of course on the Cables downclimb itself. All in all, pretty happy with the effort. Chris Reveley ran 2:04:27 way back in 1979 (a couple weeks after he ran 3:39 to win the Pikes Peak Marathon), and Andy Anderson went 2:02:54 in 2011 and 1:56:46 almost exactly a year ago to establish, what is, to me, a pretty notable FKT (consider that he then went and set the Grand Teton FKT a couple weeks later, besting Kilian's effort--obviously he was in fantastic form after a summer of rangering on Longs Peak). I'm not the best pure hill climber so I knew I'd never approach his 1:14 ascent, but I was hoping to sneak under 1:20. Alas, running fast uphill at altitude is hard work.

Sun-AM: 2:39, 5000' ~ Longs Peak
Up Kieners, down Cables. Woke up an hour late, which meant that I ended up running into a bit of weather that could've otherwise been avoided. As I was working my way up the Glacier Rib (scrambling next to Lambs Slide) a pretty dark-looking cloud was building just off to the north despite it only being 9:30am or so, but there were enough gaps in the sky to keep me confident. Once I entered Broadway, though, I started getting pretty nervous. Even though I hadn't heard any thunder or seen any lightning, the east face of Longs is just a very exposed-feeling place, so I suppose that was affecting my confidence. As such, I scampered up to the summit (1:44) as quick as I could and barely paused before heading down the north face over rock that was slick from the night's rain. There were plenty of other people standing around nonchalantly on the summit, but I don't like lightning, or even the prospect of it. As it would turn out, I didn't hear any thunder until I was literally 2min from the car, and then it started raining quite hard.

Hours: 22h16min
Vert: 43,500'

Really good week of running before heading over to Europe tomorrow for the next month.. Quality long effort on Tuesday,  and a good, hard sustained bit of up-tempo running yesterday, so I feel like I have all my bases covered. This morning was my 25th Longs Peak summit this year, and 40th lifetime. Part of me doubts that I'll see the 50 summits I was initially hoping for this year, but so far I've definitely gotten to know a lot of different routes on the mountain.

Downclimbing into the Notch on Longs Peak on Thursday. Photo: Joe Grant.
Stepladder: the pitch of 5.5 leading to the skyline and summit of Longs Peak after exiting the Notch.
  More Montreal action.

Friday, August 9, 2013

July 29 - Aug 4

Mon-AM: 3:44, 7100' ~ Grand Teton
Up and down via Owen-Spalding. Still pretty tired from Speedgoat, duh. Lazy 2:16 up, 1:28 down. Nasty weather was lingering to the west all the way up, so I spent very little time on the summit, fearing electricity in the clouds. Just as I got past the Belly Crawl and back to the Upper Saddle it started snowing quite hard, which was interesting, and then it was raining on me the last 20min before the parking lot. Always good to get up this mountain, though.

Tue-AM: 3:50, 5600' ~ Teewinot
Jodee wanted to go up a mountain, and I needed an easy day, so we decided on Teewinot. Strong hiking on the climber's trail (only a few minutes slower than when I'd done it on Sunday) but then the last 1500' of mostly 4th Class terrain (understandably) slowed Jodee down. Tagged the summit in 2:15 and then took our time getting back down through the techy stuff before jogging back down to the cars. Weather didn't move in as quickly today, which was fortunate.

Wed-AM: 3:27, 7100' ~ Grand Teton
Up and down the O-S again. I had to be back in SLC in the evening, so decided I needed another lap on the Grand before the drive. Yesterday's easy outing definitely helped and I felt quite a bit better today, going up in 2:07 and descending in 1:20. I lost a bunch of time on the descent, though, as it took me several tries to find the correct chimneys to complete the O-S downclimb. Legs felt much better on the descent than they did two days ago, though.

Thu-AM: 2:51, 6000' ~ Twin Peaks, SLC
Up Stairs Gulch and down Broad Forks with Joel. I didn't pull into SLC until late last night, so I was pretty groggy this morning. Stairs Gulch is a pretty great line, ascending a vertical mile in ~3mi to the 11,300' Twin Peaks. Lots of Class 2 and 3 terrain marching up low-angled slabs of slate and schist with a few moves of Class 4 thrown in. We opted to make it a loop and descend the trail, where I nearly stepped on a groggy rattlesnake. Finished with a fast mile+ running the road back down to the car. Always fun getting out for a scrunble with Joel.

Fri-AM: 2:20, 5300' ~ Twin Peaks, SLC
I was really indecisive about what I was going to do this morning, so ended up just tagging Twin Peaks again, this time just running up and down the Broad Forks trail. 1:26 to the summit of the East Twin. Ran into two moose on the trail in the upper basin, above the lake.

Sat-AM: 2:20, 5000' ~ N+S Olympus via West Slabs, SLC
Parked at the junior high school at Oakview Dr just off Wasatch Blvd and ran the streets up to the West Slabs TH. Scramble up the Slabs was a ton of fun, and then lots of scrambling up the ridge to reach Olympus' North summit. The downclimb from there into the saddle below the South summit is definitely the crux of this whole run. Tagged the South summit, and ran the trail easy back down to Wasatch Blvd where I then took the contouring use trail until having to run the road the final mile or so back to the school. Great loop.

Sun-AM: 2:15, 4500' ~ Mt. Rosa (11,500')
Down in Colorado Springs. Parked at the upper Gold Camp lot (above Helen Hunt Falls), and ran up 7 Bridges to Pipeline to Frosty's Park to the summit of Rosa. Descended Buffalo Canyon to St. Mary's Falls and back to the car. Awesome loop. The trails in the COS are so smooth and runnable, it's really a lot of fun after spending all summer on off-trail, techy terrain. Tagged the summit of Rosa in 1:27 before enjoying one of the funnest, most flowy 4000' descents that I know. Really great trails back there with no one on them.

Hours: 20h47min
Vert: 40,500'

Really fun, varied week of running. Ended up being too tired in the Tetons---and the weather ended up being too uncooperative---to really get in any long days and do any scouting of the Traverse. No worries, though, those mountains are so incredible it's really hard to go wrong.

Also, finally got my Speedgoat 50K race report posted. The 10 days post-Speedgoat were pretty busy for me (Tetons. Outdoor Retailer, visiting family), so I apologize for it probably feeling like old news.

The complicated terrain between Teewinot (in pic) and the Grand Teton (standing on it). Mt. Owen isn't even visible.
A tip from a comment on last week's post turned me on to these guys. Good ol' Montreal, getting things done in the music scene.
Parlovr - 3 songs in a tunnel - A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

Parlovr - Hell Heaven - A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.