Saturday, July 31, 2010

Weatherford Trail 07/31/10

Mt Humphreys via Weatherford
Coconino National Forest
Flagstaff, Arizona
Mileage 23.25
Time 7:27
AEG 5072ft

Rain was the theme of the day, beginning with a torrential downpour at 1:00am in Phoenix and holding steady all the way to Flagstaff. As we arrived, the mountain range was completely engulfed in a storm cloud that didn't look promising for our 23 mile hike.

The seven of us left the trailhead at 7:45am with a light drizzle quickly turning into a heavy rain coming down from the mountains. I intended to run the entire 11.5 miles to the summit in preparation for my next race, although...two miles in, I had to break under the shelter of a large Ponderosa Pine. The group pressed on and caught up to me. After much contemplation whether or not we should continue hiking (or go for coffee) we decided to hike an additional mile and see what happened with the weather. The further we went, the better things looked. Two miles became four, then four became seven and before we knew it, the summit looked like a feasible goal.

Surrounding views were absolutely amazing, the forests appeared to be on fire with bright white clouds spewing up from each side canyon and ridgeline. Often times the summit completely disappeared as passing vapors were so thick I could literally touch them with my hands. As challenging as the conditions were with the rain, it really made the hike more interesting and reaching the summit all that more rewarding. I broke away from the group in the final mile on our way to the top, upon reaching the peak, I was treated to a little solitude above the clouds on Arizona's tallest mountain at 12,633ft. This would be the fourth time I've summited this peak in the last two years, and each time it's an entirely new experience. It always amazes me that I'm still in Arizona. The Weatherford trail has to be one of my personal favorites in the state for a number of reasons, mainly because it's runnable, which is what Matt and I did on the way back down.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Kendrick Peak 07/17/10

Kendrick Peak Trail Run
Kendrick Wilderness Area
Flagstaff, Arizona
Mileage 17.03
Time 3:56
AEG 4841ft

My friend Liz sent out an email this week looking for people to escape the heat and hit the trails up North. Myself, Matt, Mark and Paulette couldn't pass up a trip to Flagstaff when the Phoenix temps are still over 110. An early start (and I mean early), put us in Flagstaff just after 7:00am, we were on the trail by 8:00am with cloudy skies and a low of 61 degrees. Nice.

The plan was to run/fast hike up Kendrick Trail #22, roughly 4.5 miles to the summit (where we stopped for a quick group photo), then run down the badly burned Pumpkin Trail for 3.5 miles and across the Connector Trail 1.75 miles to Bull Basin. We stopped here to refuel before our 3 mile/2000ft climb back up Bull Basin. Everyone was a little fatigued at this point, mainly because of the humidity, yet we pushed on. Reaching the saddle at the Kendrick Trail intersection an hour later we took a few pictures at the cabin and geared up for the final 4 miles back down Kendrick Trail. A smile came over my face knowing how smooth and runnable this descent was going to be. I let it rip and was off the mountain in 29 minutes.

The scenery was incredible over the course of this trail run. We had a clear view of the Kachina Wilderness, Mt Humphreys, and even the Grand Canyon. The weather cooperated with us, so thankfully rain jackets were not necessary, and the overcast skies gave a much needed relief from the sun.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mount Whitney 07/10/10

Mount Whitney
Inyo National Forest
Lone Pine, California
Mileage 21.6
Time 9:29
Elevation 14,505
AEG 6700ft

The climb to the summit of Mount Whitney certainly was one of the most remarkable and memorable experiences of my life. With all the challenges we faced along the way, I looked for every opportunity to take in the beauty and majesty of this iconic mountain.

Dana, Chris, Wally and I rolled into Lone Pine, CA late Friday afternoon and met with the other half of our group in town to get the permits required for hiking. We drove up to the Whitney Portal and set up camp at 8,373ft, with the sun setting behind the mountain we had enough light to get everything situated before our early morning trek. The weather forecast only showed a 20 percent chance of rain, so everyone was optimistic until raindrops fell around midnight on the top of our tents. At daybreak the weather did not look promising, as light drops steadily turned into a heavy downpour. We waited out the passing storm in the cab of Chris's truck and hit the trail at 5:00am. The first few miles were slow-going as we battled rain up until we reached Lone Pine Lake. As the sun rose over the mountains, the clouds gave way and we packed away the rain gear. It wasn't long before we were above the treeline at 11,000ft and the sun broke through the clouds, illuminating the massive granite rock faces in front of us. Every view of this mountain range seemed worthy of a postcard, yet pictures will never do it justice. We hiked along glacier fed streams and lakes, crossed snow fields, climbed several switchbacks, and traversed across boulder fields on our way to the summit. The altitude is a major concern for any hiker, although I didn't seem to be affected by it until reaching the summit when I began to experience a slight headache. I paced myself on the way up, kept hydrated, and took the time to eat enough to combat the major symptoms.

Heading up towards the Crest, the trail seemed to disappear into the rocks, and the mountain looked impossible to climb. At 13,600ft, Wally and I reached the saddle at the Crest where the Muir trail intersects the Whitney trail at the edge of Sequoia National Park. The view of the Eastern Sierras was breathtaking, and the excitement began to build with less than two miles left to climb. I finally reached the summit at 14,505ft after 5 hours of rather strenuous hiking, the feeling of accomplishment erased any feeling of fatigue or altitude sickness. We signed the register, had a bite to eat, and took a quick photo before heading out. A storm was building over the next mountain range in Sequoia NP, when I caught a glimpse of lightning, I pointed and yelled "It's time to go!"

Descending from the summit took far less time than the climb up, we hurried down because of the looming storm behind us. I was surprised by the amount of hikers proceeding given the conditions, and by the time we reached the Crest, a Ranger was forcing people to turn back due to the lightning. Rain and hail fell on our back while winding down the switchbacks past Consolation lake. I still made an effort to take a few pictures, how could I not? Finally, I made it back to the portal around 3:00pm, when everyone reached the trail head we gathered for a post-hike party in the campground and shared our stories of this truly unforgettable journey to the summit. Congrats to everyone in the group on such a great accomplishment.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Camelback Mountain 07/06/10

Camelback Mountain Hike/Run
Phoenix, Arizona
Mileage 7.97
Time 1:11
AEG 1300ft

When you're short on time, it's nice to have the local mountain as a fall back for a quick workout. I parked at the Echo Canyon trailhead, hiked up Echo Canyon trail (1.25 miles in 20:08). Not my best ascent, last week it was 18:52 when the morning temps were 10 degrees hotter, which completely zapped my road mileage on a similar route. Considering the extra mileage I was adding on and the summer heat, I paced myself on the way up. Smart move, I felt untaxed by the time I hit the summit. I sped down the 1.5 miles on Cholla in about 16 minutes, and then it was all pavement from here on out. A bit of downhill on Invergordon allowed me to recover from the mountain and I ran the 5.21 miles back to my car averaging 6:45/miles. Road running seems effortless after all the hills and trail running. What feels like an 8:00/mile pace is actually 6:30-6:45/mile on the GPS.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

National Trail 07/03/10

National Trail Trail Run
South Mtn Regional Park
Phoenix, Arizona
Mileage 18.2
Time 2:46
AEG 2500ft

Four am rolled around pretty quickly this morning, with daytime highs fore-casted near 110 degrees, there really isn't any other choice when you're looking to put some mileage in. Not much relief today as Tropical Storm Alex pushed some moisture our way (mostly Southern Arizona) raising the humidity to 20 percent, which makes the morning temps a bit higher (90 degrees at 5:00am).

I heard my friend Eric was looking for people to run roughly 20 miles with him on South Mountain, and let's just say there weren't many takers, just me. He is training for the Headlands 50, the same weekend I am running the Devil Mountain 50 two weeks from now, so we were looking to get in the same mileage. Not many people at the Pima Canyon trailhead at 5am, given the heat and holiday weekend, we didn't mind though. There's nothing better than having the trail to yourself as the sun rises over the mountains. I felt great despite the heat and after a few miles I cut loose and let the legs do their thing. Eric and I parted ways after 2 miles and I pushed hard up the National trail towards Telegraph pass. At the trail junction, I ran down the Telegraph trail to the trailhead to refill my bottles at the water fountain. I was 9 miles in at this point and the heat didn't seem to be a factor. I climbed back up nearly 1000ft to the National trail and headed back home. I knew my body was losing fluid faster than I could replace it, I didn't appear to be sweating and hadn't relieved myself the entire 3 hours I was out there. Great run though. Eric stayed out a little longer and ended up running 19 miles. Now it's time to begin my taper for the next race.