Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Belford To Columbia, Idaho FKT, Fat Dog Video, And Myostatin

Belford to Columbia, Idaho FKT, Fat Dog Video, and Myostatin

Got out and ran part of the "middle" section of Nolans on Monday with Kendrick. Going from Missouri Gulch to North Cottonwood was a fun line (Belford, Oxford, Harvard, Columbia), and the drop down into Pine Creek was really quite easy. We nailed the descent, had hardly any bushwacking, found a part of the river to cross that didn't require getting your feet wet, and then found a perfect line up to the North Ridge of Harvard. All in all I think it took us just under two hours from summit to summit. My quick notes - drop off Oxford towards the southwest, generally following the ridge but then angling down into the valley staying on the grassy tundra. When you get to the hanging valley with the willows, go around the west side of them, find a game trail that traverses southwest and when that trail begins to climb, drop almost straight down through the trees. This takes you through the cliff section without really having to deal with them. When you hit Pine Creek, cut straight across, and climb up through the forest staying on the granite slabs until reaching the northeastern side of the north ridge. From here, go straight up on a really steep grassy slope that takes you directly to the ridge above most of the cliffs and talus. From there it is a easy climb on the ridge to the summit. We did this section in ~7:30 at a fairly slow/mellow pace.

 Top of Belford looking at Harvard
 Top of Oxford looking at Harvard again
 We went straight through the woods here, and went up the grassy slope in the center of the photo, angling right and hitting the ridge right above the cliffs in the middle/right side of the photo
 Columbia from the summit of Harvard
 Harvard getting pounded with rain
Summit of Columbia looking at Yale

A big contrags to Jared Campbell and Luke Nelson on their Idaho 12ers FKT. Looks like a fun time, and a line that does not seem to involve too much pre-work before an attempt. Of course, Jared makes everything look easy! 28:14 for the total time.

One of the races that I've thought would be cool to run is Fat Dog 120. This is a new video from this years race. With it now being a Hardrock qualifier, it seems to be filling very fast, and some have suggested that it will have a lottery in a year or two. Time to get after it - just gotta figure a way to get up to BC.

New article on myostatin and muscle fatigue. Research has shown that blocking myostatin results in the growth of extra large muscles, which has been of interest to body builders and people in the livestock industry for several years. Now, in this article, the authors have found that myostatin "endows skeletal muscle with high oxidative capacity and low fatigability, thus regulating the delicate balance between muscle mass, muscle force, energy metabolism, and endurance capacity." So, will there be research into making more myostatin in humans for endurance sports? Another form of EPO I guess that will be coming in future years.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Grays And Torreys For A Year Straight - #52

Grays and Torreys For A Year Straight - #52

Well, it's done. I've now run up Grays and Torreys for 52 consecutive weeks. Each run has started and ended at Bakerville. Sometimes I ran the standard route (mostly during the winter months), while other times I ran alternative routes (mostly the Full Kelso and the north face of Torreys, as well as the Full Traverse of Stevens Gulch). I've put in over 728 miles on these two peaks, and over 275,600' of gain during this time. Although the peaks can be insanely crowded during the summer months, I've found ways to avoid most of the crowds and have really enjoyed my time getting to know these two beautiful peaks during the four seasons of the year. The fastest that I ever ran the two peaks from Bakerville was in 3:12:04 going up and down the standard route. The longest it took me to run the two peaks was 5:17:44, again going up and down the standard route (in early spring with about 9" of fresh powder, breaking trail the entire time). I only ran twice with someone else, while the other 50 runs I did solo.

I completed the challenge despite getting sick twice, competing in 7 races and one Nolans attempt, and maintaining two part time jobs. The minimum distance of each run was 14 miles with 5,300' of gain. Sometimes it was longer, when I would add on Kelso or do the Stevens Traverse, but most times it hovered right around 14 miles roundtrip and 5-6,000' of gain. I ran based on a Sunday to Sunday week schedule, so sometimes I had to run back to back, other times I had the luxury of waiting out storms for up to 10 days to fit in my once a week run. I used snowshoes in the winter, but never skis as part of the challenge was to run up and down. Here are the dates of each run:

2/15/14 - The Half Year Point.
6/28/14 - this one didn't count towards my weekly goal since I had already done it on the 25th - bonus #53 I guess.

The question is, do I stop now or keep going? I know for sure I will not do this again through another winter, especially a full on winter like we had last year. That was just stupid insane. I like the full year, and think that is a good number. Of course, I probably will keep doing this run, since it is so close to home and is the only run around that gets in 5,300' of gain and ~14 miles. But I think I will call the record at one year. Maybe I will sleep in this week and get some rest... but then again, most likely I won't.

 For the final run, I showed Kendrick the Full Kelso route... such a logical line and really one of the best on the mountain.
 Hard to make out the sign, but it says "Grays Peak, 14,279', #52 - Once a Week for a Year from Bakerville, 52 in 52"
I've grown to love this view of Kelso and beyond...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Nolans 14 Attempt 1

Nolans 14 Attempt 1

Well, that didn't go as planned. Kendrick and I gave a go at the Nolans 14 line on Thursday into Friday but bailed after Missouri. We were doing fairly well, although we slowed significantly between 13,000'-14,000' after the first couple summits. However, with no aid between Winfield (before Huron) and Avalanche (after Yale), we just didn't feel comfortable trying to make the push with the amount of food we had and going through another night. So, in the end, we bailed after covering about 60 miles and 21,000' or so. I learned a ton, made several mistakes, and am really excited to give the line another go over Labor Day with the big group. On a side note, Jason Koop and the Gosneys are giving it a go right now, and they are doing really well. I really hope they can make the push all the way! 


We started at Fish Hatchery at 5pm. Originally, this was so that the drops off Huron and Oxford would be in the light, but upon reflection I think it is better to start in the morning and do these drops at night. We had already been up for 12 hours before we started, and going into the first night and next day with a 12 hour sleep deprivation was not the smartest plan. It didn't really impact us too much, but I do think it played into our overall fatigue.

We nailed the line pretty well from Fish Hatchery through Highline and then up the east ridge of Massive, with little route error. At the top of Massive the wind was howling and we quickly put on some layers and made a bee-line for the Southwest Slopes route. We gently trotted down this, passing by a family of goats before descending down into the dark of night in the valley. Crossing over Halfmoon Creek and climbing again to the backside of Elbert was no problem, and we found the right cairn and ridge going up Elbert. It seems that everyone goes too far here, and continues on the road until they reach the wash out from one of the gulleys coming off of Elbert. If you encounter the washout gully on the road, you have gone too far. The ridge you want is the one to the left (if looking up at Elbert) of this gully, and you get on it by aiming for the gully to the left (north) of the ridge, then climbing onto the ridge via a grassy northern slope. If you look close at the Koop track, they went one ridge too far. From here, dropping south and then going around Bull Hill and finding the Golden Fleece Mine was not a problem, but we did take our time since neither one of us had done this drop. We hit it just fine, and made our way down Echo Canyon to the road. From there, we went up the road to meet Tara (our only crew) at the La Plata trailhead.

We were in good spirits, and took off up La Plata at a nice clip. The moon had gone below the horizon, so this climb was pitch black, with just the massive starry sky above us. Finally we reached the summit and then went down the southwest route to reach Winfield. This was a fun drop, although muddy in the willows, as well as a bit slick on some of the sandy/dirt/talus sections.

At Winfield we had to change plans. We were unsure about getting any aid at North Cottonwood Creek (between Columbia and Yale), and so made the decision to push all the way to Avalanche past Yale until our next aid. This was sadly our downfall, as we had to load up with new packs and try and carry enough food for a solid 24 hour push over 7 summits with no aid. Ideally one has aid at either Pine Creek (between Oxford and Harvard) and then again at N. Cottonwood, but we did not know about the road going up N. Cottonwood since it was being worked on. We set off in good spirits, but with 30lb packs on now, we slowed down a bunch as the packs were so heavy. From the top of Huron, we made the drop off the east side and nailed the descent down to Clohesy Lake, hitting it perfectly and going around on the south side directly to the trail ascending Missouri's west ridge. Again, this seems to throw people off, as many descend one basin over (north) and then have to come back up the road a bit to get to the trail. Not a big deal, but in something like Nolans, I would assume every bit helps.

However, this is where we ended our journey. From Missouri, we assessed our food situation and calculated that we didn't have enough to make it all the way past Yale, and so we made the call to Tara and bailed down Missouri Gulch. It was disappointing to not complete the line, but I'm happy with how it went. The enormity of this line only becomes apparent when you give it a go. Running the peaks individually, or even stringing together a couple will not prepare you for how big this line is. It requires excellent endurance, route finding, aid, and crew to have a successful attempt. We had the first couple, but with such a long stretch with no aid or crew, it seemed foolhardy and dangerous to keep going.

I learned a ton on this attempt, and believe I will be that much better prepared come Labor Day to give it another go. I'm super thankful for my wife Tara who crewed for us at La Plata and Winfield, and for Kendrick for sharing some solid miles in the mountains. Our spirits were high the whole time, our energy was good, and we felt confident in our decisions and capabilities. All attributes one wants on such an endeavor. Now to just put together the other aspects that will make the next attempt successful. My respect goes out to those who have completed this route (eight people?), as well as to those who have tried. This line is amazing, but also insane, and to even attempt it garners some respect in my book. To finish it, well, WOW.

 Ready to give it a go...
 Summit of Massive.
 Sunset over Elbert.
 On the summit of Elbert.

 Sunrise on La Plata.

 Between La Plata and Winfield.
 Summit of Huron.
 The drop off Huron.
 Summit of Missouri looking north - Massive and Elbert cannot be seen, La Plata is the big peak in the distance in the center left of the photo.
Harvard (left), Columbia (center left), Yale (center right), and then beyond... such a big line!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

G & T 51 And Nolans 14

G & T 51 and Nolans 14

On Monday I did my second to last run up Grays and Torreys (#51). In an effort to tapper and conserve energy, I basically just power hiked up the standard route. Nothing special on this run, just some goats on the G & T saddle. My final run to complete this epic year of running up a 14er once a week will be towards the end of next week. Depending on what happens this weekend, it might be a very slow run to complete the journey.

 Still lots of flowers in the valley.

Starting at 6pm on Thursday, August 7 I will be giving Nolans 14 a go. Kendrick Callaway will be attempting it with me. Here is my SPOT tracking page. I hope it works, if not, Kendrick also will have a SPOT with a tracking page (I think he is using David P.'s SPOT so it will be under his name). We are going North to South from Fish Hatchery. I'm super excited, and pretty sacred. I hope the mountains allow us to complete this journey.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

G & T 50, New Scientific Studies, The Quandary Crusher, Nolans, K2

G & T 50, New Scientific Studies, The Quandary Crusher, Nolans, K2

Yesterday was my 50th running of G & T in as many weeks. Saturdays are never good (except in winter), and a Saturday in August guarantees crowds. However, it was my only option to keep the challenge going, so I opted for a super obscure route - the Direct North Ridge of Torreys. This is a gem of a mountaineering ridge, but is rarely if ever climbed. The ridge sits just to the west of Eroica, a classic spring snow route, and just to the east of the Tuning Forks, the other classic spring climb on Torreys north face. Dead Dog receives the most traffic in the spring, with the Tuning Forks getting the second most. Sometimes people do Eroica, but I've never seen many on it. The ridge in between the two is what I like to call "classic class 3/4 scrambling on Rocky Mountain choss." If you do not know how to move efficiently and safely over technical talus choss terrain on slopes approaching 70 degrees or so, this is not the route for you. However, if you are looking for a fun way to G & T without seeing a sole until summiting, this might be up your alley. It is similar to Elbert's west ridge, but without the goat trail, more technical, and with a ton more choss.

Start at Bakerville, run up to the Grizzly/Stevens split, and head up Grizzly Gulch. Cross the river 3 times until reaching a large avalanche path with tons of downed trees blocking the passage. Go to the far side of the avalanche path, and then begin the 3,000' climb up the north face of Torreys. I stay along the edge of the trees, then make my way through a small bench up and over the cliffs to gain the bench before the talus starts. From here, head straight up on the right side of the massive avalanche gully, picking the most efficient line through the talus. Continue up as you surmount another small band of cliffs, then continue as the ridge forms. As you continue to climb, you will get excellent views of Kelso Ridge and the Grizzly basin. There is nothing hard on the ridge, just 3,000' of straight hands and feet climbing. Finally, the ridge dumps you out directly onto the summit of Torreys, just past the white cliff section of Torreys. From here, it is a quick run over to Grays, and then the usual descent back down to I-70. I ran this yesterday in 3:46 rt with a lot of stops for photos and to wait for the crowds on the way down.

 The ridge is in the center right of the photo.
 3,000' of classic choss.
 Looking down about 2/3 the way up.
 The final 500' or so.
Crowds on Grays.

Went up and did some climbing at Eldora on Friday. I put up a handful of problems on this wall about 10 years ago. It's a great little spot, as it sits at 9,500' and is only 30 minutes from Boulder - great for an easy escape from the summer heat. No one climbs here really, so it is a bit overgrown. Problems range from V0-V8 with the potential for more.

Alan Arnette, out of Estes Park, successfully climbed K2 a week ago. Really impressive, and it was great to follow along on Twitter.

A couple new articles have been published. One is on compression clothing, which is all the rage right now. Seems like the science is still out on just how beneficial the clothing is, except that subjective perceptions can make or break a race or send. The other article looks at heavy load endurance training programs. The authors found that such training programs/blocks can result in subsequent underperformance. This makes perfect sense, so no real news here, but there is a reason behind being a bit tired or slower after some heavy training. It takes a bit for the body to bounce back and return stronger.

Fun video on the Quandary Crusher, a "race" up Quandary Peak. I believe it is put on by the same people as the Kite Lake Triple Triple, which I'm running.

Finally, some Nolans 14 news. James Sims is attempting Nolans starting on the 5th. Best of luck. Two people have tried to do a thru hike of Nolans this summer (Gavin and Ryan), both pulled out after about 3 summits. Peter and Mike tried a thru hike in July, but the monsoons turned it into a cool Sawatch fast pack instead. Ana Frost is currently training on the course, as are about a dozen other people. I'll be giving my first go at it next week, so August through the first two weeks of September will see a lot of action on the line. Best of luck to everyone giving it a go!