Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Running the PCT in the North Cascades

i knew it. i knew once i got out and experienced the north cascades of washington that i would be absolutely blown away. 2 nights, 3 days of bliss with mandy in one of the most beautiful and rugged places on earth. friday mandy lead me on my first "real" climb up the southwest face of liberty bell spire. saturday i dropped her at rainy pass on the pacific crest trail (PCT) and met her 21 miles later to finish her run of almost 40 miles on the day. this was her last really long run before the wasatch front 100. she's going to rock that race and it's been such a pleasure to coach her. without a copy of the map on saturday it was a bit of a mis-adventure for me, and in turn mandy as well. but we were back to the nuun van just as the sun set. mandy had a 9hr day so a leg soak with the puffy's on was a necessity.

the next day we started at cutthroat trailhead and ran to the lake and then the pass. from there mandy headed back to return the favor and drove around to rainy pass to pick me up. as you can see in the video i continued on a bit further to granite pass to see tower mountain. the way the PCT was etched into the side of this mountain just stoked my fire to run the entire PCT someday. CORRECTION: Scott Williamson & Adam Bradley currently hold the Pacific Crest Trail record of 65days 9hrs 58min for the 2,655 miles from mexico to canada. still check out jb benna's documentary the runner on horton's record (there are a lot of pacnw runners in it).

i'm slowly crawling out of my injury train wreck and running in the north cascades has completely revitalized me. it may have been quite a few miles over what i should have run, but there is healing in these hills and the intangible factors of healing served me well. there is nothing i enjoy more than a long run in a beautiful place with a beautiful person. this same person had a surprise spread of peanut butter and jam, recovery drinks and mango's waiting for me when i arrived at the van. life is good.

oh and i had a chance to thoroughly test the new nathan quickdraw elite handhelds. my honest opinion-
  • once set up they don't have to be adjusted, meaning you aren't constantly pulling the strap tight around your hand.
  • you actually don't have to hold them - the strap is thicker and will stay on your hand without squeezing (pretty sweet)
  • the trash pocket makes life easy when you come through the aid stations you know exactly where the trash is.

  • they seem over-engineered and not simple enough. it feels like a lot of material.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Climbing Liberty Bell Spire North Cascades

mandy is a climber. i am not. well not yet. i've got some experience with a rope and harness having adventure raced for years. that consists of ascending and rappelling up and down a rope with the occasional tyrolean traverse. i guess ski mountaineering and climbing a few mountains has given me some base knowledge as well. however i was pretty much a complete rookie when it comes to the tactile art of rock climbing. weeks ago mandy pulled out one of her books and decided on the fred beckey route up the southwest face of liberty bell spire. taking the blue lake trail to the climbers trail, the route then goes at 5.6 in 4 pitches with 3 raps to the notch.

at the gym the day before i received the following text "we're doing this route fast & light ultra style, not freedom of the hills fashion.". nuff said. we both wore our harness for the run in. i wrapped the rope around me like a backpack and mandy stuffed the rest of the required gear in a small bd climbers pack which doubles as her purse as it turns out - fast and light. we ran the 1.5 miles in and started our scramble up to the notch. i really had no idea what i was in for as far as technical climbing.

after getting to the notch mandy quickly figured out the route. then started up this slot chimney thing. i was kind of amazed by what i was witnessing and tried not to think about how i would accomplish the same feat. after coming out too far on the rock and having to fight back a panic attack i figured out my way up the route. it just got easier and considerably more enjoyable from there. mandy is an amazing instructor and a fantastic climber. it was fun to watch (see photo below).

as the wind picked up, so did our urgency to get to the top. the temperature was low and the wind was howling. these two things conspired to make my hands a lot less agreeable, just when i needed them most. i found that i love the feel of climbing rock and the grit of climbing it. we got to the top and quickly hid from the wind to celebrate. the views were amazing.

other than some confusion on their exact location we had a very fun 3 rappels down the mountain and an easy downclimb and run back to the car. i'm totally hooked. climbing rock reminds me of climbing trees as a kid. i love it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Running On Orcas Island

this past weekend i had the pleasure of taking mandy hosford to the san juan islands for some runnin' and some campin'. we headed out early sunday when most people were headed back to reality. mandy is a salt lake resident so i wanted to impress her with the best of the pacnw. i have a short list that seems to grow daily, but on that list is rainier, san juans, north cascades, snoqualmie and the olympic peninsula.

the sun was out for her first ferry ride and we arrived with plenty of time to get our run on. i'm on the good side of my recent injury battle. surgery to remove my neuroma was a complete success. i'm still dealing with an ab/hip issue but it might prove to be manageable. at least i feel like i'm doing the right things to make it manageable. regardless, i can't think of a better place to reacquaint myself with trail running on what i knew would be beautiful and buttery smooth singletrack. plus the quiet beauty of the islands is good for your soul.

with a copy of james varner's orcas island 50km trail map in my pocket and virtually no recollection of the time i ran the race left in my brain we headed out. we started with the 1,500ft foot climb up mount constitution via the mountain lake loop, then finished with the mount pickett loop for about 16 miles and 3,000ft of gain. the views of the island were amazing. the climate and singletrack were a stark contrast to the trails mandy is used to running in the wasatch. after the running and a soak in mtn lake (for the legs) we headed to eastsound to enjoy some good music and good food. a nap in the sun on the grass finished us off - life is good.

monday started in the fog and was a perfect way to wake up and enjoy the quaint little town of eastsound and the shore before heading home on the ferry. this one should be high on your list of place to enjoy and run.


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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Enchantment Basin Hike

if there is magic on earth - it lives in the enchantment basin. i got my first taste of this place this winter. i was lucky enough to join a couple friends on a backcountry ski tour up aasgard pass. i vowed to return as soon as possible.

well this weekend i hiked the entire 20 miles of trail, and it did not disappoint. my 17 year old nephew is visiting his uncle from new hampshire for two weeks. the goal was to show him one of the most beautiful places on earth and challenge him a bit.

my friend heidi joined us as we left seattle at 5am saturday morning fueled by excitement and the deamon bean. generally speaking you apply in the winter for a camping permit for the enchantment basin. if you are lucky your name gets drawn.. but this takes forethought and more advanced planning than i am capable of. every morning however at 7:45am there is a drawing of around four permits for those that show up on time. the day before 15 people fought over 4 permits. we were insanely lucky in that only 3 other parties showed saturday morning... so we all got the permits we wanted. sweet!

off the 8 mile road trailhead we headed toward stuart lake and aasgard pass. once up to colchuck lake you get the first view of aasgard pass, dragontail and the colcuch glacier. maybe it's the name, maybe it's the skiable bowl, maybe it's the imposing presence of the dragontail - i just love that piece of rock. it's impressive to say the least. i will return with skis this winter for sure.

we decided to camp down near perfection lake which seemed to be about 1/2 on the route. i was excited for dinner, not just because i was hungry but i also wanted to test out my new msr reactor stove. this is an amazing piece of gear. it boiled water every time in less than 3 minutes. it's entirely self contained and is so efficient that it's the perfect stove for backcountry ski tours where it's colder and more exposed (re windy) than your normal camp.

we then headed up out for a quick hike up to the prusik peak saddle. prusik peak is an impressive wedge of rock (it's in the pictures below). makes me think about learning to properly climb. thankfully my recent injuries were distant thoughts. i'm pretty sure the magic of the enchantments helped me feel better than i have in a long long time.

we finished the night with some recovery clif hot chocolate, my favorite wintertime bevy. for heidi and i the night was restless. previous to this trip, the highest josh has ever been was the summit of mt washington in new hampshire (6,288 ft). we were now over 7,000 and he had hiked further than ever before so he was out cold.. dead body sleep.

heidi and i did a bright and early morning run around perfection lake and then up prusik pass. it was the perfect way to start a day, in the most perfect place on earth, perfection lake.

the hike out was essentially all downhill and by the end my young nephew was starting to show wear and tear. he held in there with his combat boots even as heidi and i started to jog the smooth downhills. we just couldn't help it. josh was a helpful and happy addition to the trip, and he did awesome.

it's a 20 mile point to point with just under 6,000ft of climbing if you go the assgard pass route. i want to see how fast i can run it when the body starts to work as designed again. i also want to take everyone i know to this magical place. it truly is one of the best trails i've ever experienced.

heidi is a talented journalist and she wrote a blog post as well. check it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wonder-Girls Circumnavigate Mount Rainier on the Wonderland Trail Video

here is the video i took of the girls adventure running around mount rainier in 2.5 days. 94 miles with 20,000 ft of gain.

a bit of history on this route. my buddy, mtb pioneer, patagonia ambassador, bad ass and all around nice guy, john stamstad was the first to run the wonderland trail for speed in one shot. in 2003 he ran the trail non stop in a time of 24hr 01min. he drove the route and dropped supplies for himself first, then ran it. he basically set the standard for speed attempts on the trail. kyle skaggs of hardrock course record fame then ran it supported in 20:52 - stout!

i love peter bakwin's site fastest known times. it's fun to read through the fkt's and imagine the incredible effort and fun i'd have attempting some of these. here is what the page on the wonderland trail says. "The Wonderland Trail has not seen a huge amount of speed record activity. In 2003 mountain biking legend John Stamstad ran the trail self-supported in 24:01. His trip was reported in the May 2004 issue of UltraRunning Magazine. Kyle Skaggs beat that time on Sept. 23-24, 2006, 20:53."

Monday, August 3, 2009

Wonder-Girls Circumnavigate Mount Rainier on the Wonderland Trail

i had the district pleasure of crewing krissy meohl and ellen parker this weekend as they ran the 94 mile wonderland trail that circumnavigates mighty mount rainier. if you know ultrarunning you know krissy. if you have been paying attention to the local nw ultras this summer you have seen ellen's name because she has been tearing it up. if you know trails in the pacnw then you know the wonderland trail is 94 miles with 20,000 feet of vertical gain - no joke. most folks take a week or two to hike it. the girls had planned to knock it out in 2.5 days.

since we all had work to do friday we drove down to longmire late in the day. the girls were quick with their prep and hit the trail around 6:55pm, running counter clockwise. a few miles later i met them along reflection lakes (ellen's favorite part) video below. they were truly enjoying themselves, that much was obvious.

they finished in the dark at box canyon (mile 13) later that night. we camped here. up early, coffee, breky and out. the girls had 19 miles to go so it gave me a bit of time to play, before meeting them again at the white river camp ground. they looked good although ellen had some leg pain at that point. a simple comment really, and an issue that never bothered her again. but one i couldn't get out of my head. worried dad syndrome. from there they were on their own to the finish. which meant they took bigger packs (ellen was borrowing my nathan hpl #063 horton pack and loved it), sleeping bags and two whole days worth of food. they finished saturday with 25 miles to mowich lake. there was apparently a discussion about calling me since ellen's blisters from white river (where she got 4th!) were back with a vengeance.. but they toughed it out.

from longmire to mowich (and a little bit further) the girls said was the most beautiful sections of the wonderland trail. i was insistent on finding that out because one thing was clear - it's a whole lot easier access than i had imagined, and there are campgrounds and water everywhere. crewing sort of demystified the wonderland trail for me (and i've got big plans for this trail - right ty draney?!).

sunday my 17yr old nephew josh (who is visiting from new hampshire) and i met the girls with a variety of soupy ben & jerry's ice cream to congratulate them. there was pain in ellen's face as she said "matt, i'm in the hurt locker" when they arrived at longmire. i applaud her toughness. they got it done - congratulations girls!!

some of my twitter posts here.. and the video is DONE - it will be posted later today.