Friday, August 31, 2012

Summer Zion Climbing: Space Shot

The worst thing about my sprained ankle/midfoot is the inability to do anything in the mountains for a little while.  Jason and I had planned on returning to the Tetons this week to try and sneak in the Grand Traverse before the weather turns and our work demands make those kind of things unreasonable.  We were going to drive up Wednesday evening but that morning, my ankle was still grotesque and stained various shades of blue.   It's hard to run long, climb fast, and move efficiently in the mountains when even slightly and temporarily disabled. And worse, a lot of easy scrambling can be highly consequential  and the cankle just wasn't to be trusted.
Desert Rainbow
Still, free days are not to passed.  Seeking out perhaps the most unathletic of adventures, we decided to go aid climbing.  Being fools, our destination was the desert in mid summer.  A few years ago, I got started ticking off many of the trade routes in Zion and after gaining moderate proficiency, dabbled in the idea of linking up walls.  That was fun until the speed and freedom of mountain running and skiing took over making climbing in general and particularly aid climbing seem stagnant.

The gimpiness on Wed
Well, temporarily handicapped, it was time to revisit the past.  Forget that aid climbing is the antithesis of our preferred style, or that I've only tied into a rope once this year.  Neither of us had climbed Space Shot so we would start with that before chasing the shade and moving across the Virgin to Moonlight Buttress where we were pretty certain we'd be making a moonlit ascent.

We caught the first shuttle, shouldered about twice the recommended gear, and ambled up to the start of the route.  Broken and ugly, the first three pitches are wandering low fifth class, working their way up to the start of the steep climbing that follows a right trending crack system just to the left of the huge arch.  Jason led this section while I followed awkwardly with the pack.

Feeling confident that the cankle would handle standing in etriers, I then took the lead for next couple pitches and the section of "tricky nutting" which would prove to be crux of the day, at least time wise. For some reason, I had two ball nuts on the excessive rack which rendered this section fairly straight forward.
Top of pitch 4 
Blue on blue (photo by JD)
Since we suck at climbing right now, aiding is the name of the game
Fully in the sun and sweaty

Hours later... (photo by JD)

Photo by JD
Too much crap

By this point, it was nearly noon and we were severely behind schedule.  The sun had finally made herself known in full force and the sweating was full on.  A wall in Zion in the summer? By the time we were sitting on the Earth Orbit Ledge, the psych was still high internally but the heat was sufficiently draining that we moved slowly and solemnly.  Jason took the final bolt ladder before groveling with the obese rack over the last couple free moves to the finish.  Then it was my turn to try and remember how to jug a steep line as I stepped off the ledge with a lot of air beneath my feet.

Jason looking down into space
Welcome to the Earth Orbit Ledge (photo by JD)

A photo of me wishing Jason would hurry up so I could get out of the sun (photo by JD)

Airy perch before the final bolt ladder (photo by JD)
We topped out at 4 pm, after a very pedestrian 9 hour ascent.  Hot, thirsty, and sore we opted for a swim in the river rather than a prolonged lesson in how to suffer on Moonlight.  Regardless, I was reminded of why I enjoy climbing, aid or otherwise.  The terrain is wildly beautiful and the promise of progress is ever present.  I don't know why I felt like I could pick up with climbing where I left off a couple years ago but am still pleased by how smoothly we performed from a systems stand point.

Desert gremlins
Sitting in the river afterward, eating canned peaches, the voices had been quieted.  My need to go and see and feel the earth and its wildness was transiently calmed so that I can now return to work and focus on the mundanities of life in the civilized world.  Even though Space Shot is a small trade route in a crowded park, it was enough...for now.

Gollum, the Virgin River, and some peaches

Space Shot follows the thin right trending crack system just to the left of the larch arch
Gear for the day:

BD C4 Cams x too many
Handfull of BD C3s
Metolius off set cams x just about right (these make any aid route about a grade easier)
CAMP Ball Nuts x 2  
Offset nuts x not enough (only had a couple and wished for more)
Various quickdraws and slings
Full aid regalia 

Soft Goods:
Outdoor Research Tempo Shirt - pop open the pearlys to keep cool
Outdoor Research Ferossi 3/4 Length Pants - another fantastic versatile piece from the Ferossi line
SCARPA Crux Shoes - good for alpine scrambles and aid climbing
CAMP Speed Helmet
CAMP X3 600 Pack

None - too hot to eat
Drink - not enough.  We started up with 7 liters but dumped 2 out early cause the pack was too heavy.  That was stupid. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Hidden Peak Hustle

The Black Diamond retail shop has gotten into the trail running game with a full compliment of shoes and clothing now available.  I think this is a good move since many of the traditional lines between climbing, running, hiking, etc are being blurred as athletes are experimenting with speed.  

Many records on iconic peaks have fallen this summer as more runners are climbing and more climbers are running.  My favorite account is by Andy Anderson on his new FKT (fastest known time) on Long's Peak in the Front Range.  It's amusing that a lot of us are trying to run to objectives, solo the easy stuff, and then run out (kind of like Alex Lowe in the 1980s and 90s except still not even close to his level). 

In an attempt to promote their involvement, the BD store put on a great event around the base of Snowbird yesterday.  Both a 5K and 10 K course were laid out and around 100 people showed up to race and to have a chance at a very generous loot of prizes in the raffle.  

The 10K was probably the more competitive race with Dom Layfield winning after the early leader took a wrong turn.  The 5K was a nice change from some of the longer running we've been doing and the course was a beautiful loop that gradually climbed to a high point before a winding forested descent and then one last flat to slightly up hill mile home.  It was almost entirely on single track and was going according to plan...

Jason was supposed to win and I was hoping to maintain my position in second.  Win he did, and in the process picked up a nice gift card to the store.  Adding to his take for the day, he also came away with a new pair of carbon Z Poles in the raffle.  

The dirt podium with Jason taking the win
My day (and week)  was suddenly derailed when while descending through a patch of smooth shady trail, I came down full force on an inverted ankle.  Seeing stars, I tried to continue running.  Unable, I whimpered and tried to walk.  That too proved difficult so eventually I sat down for a moment before deciding to hobble back to the start/finish line as a DNF.  Instead of a gift card I won a discolored elephant cankle and at least a week off of any adventures.  And to add insult to injury, I came away empty handed from the raffle.

My elephant cankle
In spite of my troubles, the race was a success and the event went very smoothly.  I would like to return next year to see if I can at least finish (I believe the finishing rate this year was 99/100) and hope to see more of you out there.  But, in the meanwhile, check out the trail collection at the BD store.  The folks there are laid back, helpful, and all around good people.

And, for those wondering about ankle injuries, the Canadians are pretty good at performing research to create and validate clinical decision making tools.  One of their more famous guidelines is called the Ottawa Ankle Rules.  It's basically a simple set of yes/no questions that can guide a physician as to whether or not Xrays should be obtained.

They read as follows:

X-rays are only required if there is any pain in the malleolar zone and any one of the following:
    • Bone tenderness along the distal 6 cm of the posterior edge of the tibia or tip of the medial malleolus, OR
    • Bone tenderness along the distal 6 cm of the posterior edge of the fibula or tip of the lateral malleolus, OR
    • An inability to bear weight both immediately and in the emergency department for four steps.

    That said, if in doubt, I would recommend seeking expert medical attention.  I did even though I didn't meet any of the above.  My unofficial doctor squeezed my ankle, laughed, and said, "Sucks for you!"  Brothers are nice. 

    Friday, August 17, 2012

    The Cathedral Party Video

    Over last weekend's trip to the Tetons, I shot a bunch of video with the plan of making a video.  I've been extra busy at work so Jason got to it first and put together this piece.  I don't think it's too bad for his first try at film editing and he did a good job putting it to a soundtrack that conveys the festive lightheartedness we felt through out the day.  

    Music: Blind Piolet
    Six starring idiots: Andy and Jason Dorais, Jared Inouye, Chad Ambrose, Jake Trauscht, and Joe Knuth
    Filming: Andy and Jason
    Edit: Jason


    Thursday, August 16, 2012

    The Cathedral Traverse: Party Style

    Over the last couple years I've been climbing less and less and running more and more.  I've enjoyed the freedom and speed when unleashed from the weight of roped climbing.  But lately, the desire is welling up once again.  Chad Ambrose brought up the idea of trying to "run" the Grand Traverse in a day back in April while on a skiing trip to the Tetons.  I thought, "sure, no big deal..." and put it out of my mind for the summer. I had done the traverse before, back when I was a younger aspiring alpinist (note: I'm still a youngish aspiring alpinist), but did it in the only style I knew...heavy and slow.  Nonetheless, my even less experienced partner and I pulled it off and I rode that high for weeks.  
    I'm different now.  The mountains are smaller. I've learned. 
    I thought the day would simply be a matter of putting our heads down and grinding.  I should have considered our collective preparation and lack of logistical planning.  Since the spring, our two man partnership had blossomed to three and then four.  It's hard to deny friends and it's almost always more fun in a group.  My plans to return to the vertical were put off and early last week, I realized our planned date was upon us.  Better get in some climbing I thought. I then proceeded to do 6 pull ups on Sunday, bouldered for 20 minutes on Monday, and then got my "lead certification" at Rocreation on Tuesday, just in time for the Traverse.

    When asking the other guys, well, their preparation was only mildly better.  All three, Jared, Jason, and Chad, could count on a single hand the number of times they had tied into a rope over the summer.  We  laughed it off and made claims that the traverse is all aerobic anyway.  We'd be fine in that department right?

    Willing to solo at a low grade, but lacking the skill and courage to solo the whole traverse, we decided to bring a full alpine kit; rack, slings, harnesses, shoes, etc.  I picked up a full lead line for the first time in two years and disgusted by the weight, put it back into the disorganized gear pile in my garage.  A half rope would have to do.

    After a healthy dinner of eggs and pastries at the Bunnery, we chased the last light out to Lupine Meadows to catch a couple hours of sleep before our planned alpine start.  Tearing into the dirt lot, the logistics of the day suddenly became more complicated.  Young alpinists and friends from SLC, Jake and Joe, were lounging around at the trailhead and were also planning on an early start to a one day run at the Traverse.

    Unconcerned, we laughed at them as they tried to get some sleep in the back of Joe's CRV.  They probably laughed at us as they gave us the slip.  When we looked up at Teewinot with bleary but excited eyes, we were shocked to see not only our friends lamps, but two other parties high on the peak.

    Fighting to fit on the summit
    We'll pass em we thought and after drinking some Rockstars, the party started. We smoothly made our way up Teewinot's bare East Face and passed a couple parties en route as we joined our buddies, Jake and Joe.  Now ascending as a pack of 6, we soon found ourselves fighting for our turn to straddle Teewinot's airy summit.  With hoots and shouts into the night, the mountains responded with swirling clouds that further obscured the blackness.

    We scrambled to the southwest and made our way to Peak 11,840, where we nailed the first critical route finding.  We rapped into the dark and leap frogged someone ahead at each station to rig the next rope.  All six of us were through the three rappels just as the day was dawning, giving us our glimpse of the high peaks, shrouded in clouds.

    Joe looks at a big drop into Cascade Canyon

    The party train rolls on around the East Prong

    A picture of me taking of picture of a rapidly vanishing glacier

    "This is F##### up!" -Jared
    We moved well as a large group until we hit a patch of steep snow to the north of East Prong.  Down climbing was slower for some, but that was likely just because we couldn't see where we'd end up in case of a fall.

    Ambrose in action high on Mount Owen
    Having left our packs at the base of the upper mountain, our route finding through the dark and now clouds had been impeccable.  It wasn't even 8 AM and morale was high.  We scrambled up to Owen's airy summit and might as well have been standing on a boulder 5 feet off the ground.  Jared and Jason, who had never been on the mountain, took in the view...360 degrees of grey.

    There was a lot of yelling and cheering on the summit of Mount Owen and a peculiar new tradition was started...summit hugs?  

    A peculiar new tradition of summit hugs
    After collecting our packs the first hint of our unravelling occurred when looking for the ridge to follow toward Gunsight.  The main problem was that it wasn't there.  Through the dense fog, I could only see precipitous drops on what appeared to be all directions except our ascent route.  

    We pulled out the topo.  I hate topos. 

    Convinced we'd found the way, we descended until we became confused again.  Stalled out and listening to the rumbling from our clients (being the only ones that had been there, Chad and I declared ourselves the guides for this section), we almost descended back into Glacier Gulch.  Then to our salvation, the clouds parted and the forecasted 7:00am sun finally showed up. We ascended back to the correct notch, made our way to the west and descended a fun but loose gully to the ledge system that would take us to Gunsight Notch.

    The GT shows herself to us for the first time
    The train rolls on toward Gunsight Notch

    Negotiating the last stretch of techy scrambling before Gunsight

    Joe K catching some rare sun in Gunsight

    Getting started on the goods as we climb out of Gunsight
    Climbing out of Gunsight was a change of pace.  Until this point, we hadn't stopped for more than a couple minutes, but now we were donning ropes and pitching things out.  We were passed by another party and I could tell the proverbial wheels were on their way.  

    Leading my first pitch this year
    Psych level is high at the base of the North Ridge
    And then they came off.  Completely.  For multiple reasons, our efficiency was left behind and the six of us transformed into a new group.  The other guys were fast, smooth, and confident.  The new guys were slow, awkward, and unsure.  That doesn't mean the party stopped though.  Highlights of this section were the first pitch of the Italian Cracks, Jared throwing me a piece of cheese from his belay 5 feet below mine, and feeling cold for the first time this summer.
    Leading the youngsters up the North Ridge
    Jared and Chad's foot on the North Ridge of the Grand

    Hanging out on the North Ridge wondering when the party will end

    Looking down the Italian Cracks

    JD and Joe
    Once we finally gained the Second Ledge, we split up and JD, Jared, and Chad fired the direct finish while Jake, Joe, and I put away the ropes and explored around to the OS finish.  I had already done the direct finish so I feel like I was the winner by getting to explore new terrain and then having time for a nap in the sun while the others made their way to the summit.  

    With closed eyes, still air, and warmth on my face, I was content.  Our main goal of completing the Grand Traverse in a day will be left for a future date.  Instead, we found beauty and camaraderie through our efforts and the hunger for more.  Occasionally, a mild failure helps inspire more than does easy success.  Back in SLC, I told Jake that pulling the Cathedral Traverse, "party style", was almost more fun then stressing out, going fast, and finishing the whole thing...


    The party ends early

    Gear I used:

    Scarpa Crux approach shoes - Fantastic for scrambling and easy climbing.  Out of the box with no issues.
    Outdoor Research Ferossi Pants - Stretchy and thin like tights and perfect for long aerobic activities in the mountains.  
    Outdoor Research Torque Tee - Available this Spring as part of OR's new 'High Exertion' line.  Also perfect for long aerobic activities in the mountains.
    Outdoor Research Transcendent Hoody - The quintessential light alpine puffy.  Don't leave home without one (neither Jake nor Joe carried puffy jackets.  Stupid youngsters). 
    Outdoor Research Helium Jacket - Light, wind and water proof, and bright green. 
    Arcteryx Harness (first generation R320?)
    CAMP X3 600 pack - Lightweight, comfortable, and my go to pack for any day trip into the mountains to ski or climb. 
    CAMP Speed Helmet - Again, lightweight and comfortable and bright green!  Mine is always crooked on my head though...

    Monday, August 13, 2012

    New GT Speed Record by Killian Jornet: 2:54

    Well, Kilian's ongoing quest to annihilate every significant mountain or trail record in the world is alive and well.  Recently, he broke the near 30 year old Grand Teton running record by over 12 minutes.  His total car-to-car time was 2:54:01, with his ascent time being 1:50.  Adding to the impressiveness of the run was the lack of snow from the Lower Saddle to the Meadows which I would speculate slowed him by perhaps 10 minutes.

    Prior to his record run, he went on a recon mission with Anton Krupicka and the guys made a bumpy low budget movie of the affair which gives a good idea of terrain for those unfamiliar.

    On a local level and for those who are inspired by Kilian's running, Black Diamond is putting on a new race at Snowbird on August 25 that looks to be a good time.  They are calling it the Hidden Peak Hustle but the course is more rolling and runnable along the base of the mountain.   Hope to see you all there.  More info below...

    And lastly, over the weekend a group of six of us tried to rally the Grand Traverse party style (the real one in the Tetons (no offense Wick)) but got derailed on the North Ridge of the Grand as our efficiency and psych waned. 

    I'll explain the party of six in a later post, but regardless, we pulled off the Cathedral Traverse and had a great time in the process.  Write up and pics to follow but for now I'll leave a teaser pic by Chad Ambrose.
    Somewhere high on the North Ridge of the Grand Teton. Photo by Chad Ambrose
    More to come in a couple days once work demands settle down...

    Sunday, August 5, 2012

    Outdoor Retailer Dawn Patrol

    This week the semi annual Outdoor Retailer Show came to town to show off all the new Spring 2013 products.  Also on display were many brand ambassadors/athletes who a lot of us watch in awe in their various venues of sport.  I had the chance to go out for a run with a few of them and show off one of our local gems, the Pfeifferhorn. 

    Luke Nelson (Patagonia), Pete Swenson (Dynafit), Jared Inouye (La Sportiva), Wick (SCARPA/Trab),  Matt (Neptune Mountaineering), and Chad Ambrose (Someone should sponsor this local hardman) joined me and Jason for an ill advised 5:00 start without headlamps.  Actually, two of the guys brought lights so the rest of us tried to snuggle up next to them as we ran and stumbled along the trail for the first couple miles. 

    I was surprised by how dark it was still at 5:30 and was reminded that the days are getting shorter and that hopefully early autumn snows are just around the corner. 

    That's probably still wishful thinking as this day was warm and the haze of recent fires still coated the horizon.  Chad kept the pace honest as most in the crew had either 8:30 or 9am obligations.  That's alright though since getting up early has its rewards. 

    Box Elder and Timp catching some sun early Saturday morning

    Luke and Pete gaining the Pfeifferhorn Ridge

    Another romantic shot of Luke and Pete

    The crew along the interesting part of the ridge line just ahead of Jason, who also couldn't pass us this shot.

    Matt, Wick, Pete, Luke, and Jason
    Breakfast on the Pfeiff
    Also, in recent events, the Speedgoat 50K was held at Snowbird last weekend.  Many great national and international runners were in attendance and I held some optimistic goals at the start line.  Rather than get into the six and a half hour play by play from my perspective, I'll summarize and say that the first half felt great and the second half was a worsening pity party of cramps and sore legs.  It was still a fantastic event in spite of all the controversy surrounding the "two winners".  For more on that saga visit, where hundreds of arm chair ultrarunners have voiced their opinions.  

    But to catch a glimpse of the race and the terrain, check out Matt Harts quick video below.  I think he snuck me into a couple shots.  Thanks Matt!