Zioneering – the Temple Throne Traverse (not quite)

March 14, 6 AM, Canyon Overlook Trailhead

Jared Campbell and I are in Zion National Park. It’s a cool starry morning, and we immediately are enjoying scrambling up the white and red sandstone in the total darkness, our headlamps illuminating tiny circles in the smooth rock. Hey wait, it isn’t supposed to be dark … we timed our 6 AM departure based on when “Civil Twilight” was supposed to start.  Hmm… we keep climbing up the bare rock … then both realize that it’s not going to get light for another hour because I forgot to adjust for Daylight Savings Time. There are a few more things we should not have forgotten as it turns out… JaredMorning

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Top Ten FKT’s of 2013

“Let your instincts guide your steps … he’ll take you where you most love.” – Kilian Jornet

For several years I have maintained a simple website dedicated to recording and documenting Fastest Known Time (FKT) efforts on various trails, routes and mountains. “Fastest Known Time” essentially means the same thing as “Speed Record”, while acknowledging it is the fastest time that we know about, as some may have been forgotten or not reported. By making this information much easier to share, the Internet (with help from my site), has probably made possible the explosion of FKT-style efforts over the last few years.

2013 was huge for FKT attempts, and may represent the start of new era for this niche activity within the overall sport of mountain, ultra, and trail running. We now are now seeing elite runners make FKT efforts a central focus; they are putting as much effort into an FKT as they would for a race. This has, of course, resulted in some impressive times on some classic routes!

What follows, in no particular order, are my picks for the Top 10 FKTs of 2013. Links are all to pages on my FKT site, which will direct you to further information about these remarkable trips. What are YOUR top picks?

Peter

 

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The 100 Year Flood

My family moved to Boulder in the summer of 1968. On May 5-9, 1969, hard rains produced the biggest flood in decades. As a 7-year-old the 3 feet of water in our (unfinished) basement seemed super cool, sort of like having an indoor swimming pool.

Growing up in Boulder the “100 Year Flood”, was part of the local lexicon, like fallout shelters were for families in the 60′s; one of those legendary things that can’t really happen. We know about these things and plan for them, right? Every summer at 10 a.m. on the first Monday of each month, Boulder tests its emergency warning system – deafeningly loud sirens and a booming voice over the loudspeakers chillingly announcing, “THIS IS A WARNING SYSTEM TEST.”

But on September 12-15, 2013, when the proverbial “100 Year Flood” actually happened, it was a shocker. For one thing, no one ever thought a big flood would happen in September, when summer monsoon storms typically taper off and thunderstorm producing convection is weak. This year the monsoon was stubborn, and a confluence of static weather systems and particularly abundant monsoon moisture produced a cataclysm that the typically subdued National Weather Service forecasters termed “biblical”.

Fourmile1

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Leadville

Last weekend’s Leadville marked the return of Scott Jurek. Scott, as Anton told me last year, is “The Man” – 7 straight WS100 wins, Spartathlon, Badwater, 24 hours, etc – it is unlikely anyone will do that and hold that stature again. And he’d been out of competition for 1-3 years (depending on how you figure it). Can he come back? Is his time past or does he still have it? People would ask me my opinion, and I didn’t have one – I didn’t know.

This is his interview on Colorado Public Radio.

 

 

 

 

 

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Zironman

 May 25-26, Zion National Park, Jared Campbell, Ryan McDermott, Buzz Burrell

Jared conceived of Zironman two years ago while studying Google Earth during one of his typical four-hours-of-sleep nights; it was an ingenious route, going from the west boundary of Zion National Park to past the east boundary via the most “interesting” terrain. “Zironman” was a fun way of saying the route involved climbing, running, and canyoneering, and it consisted of some iconic technical canyons as well as virgin country where apparently no one had been before. Now that the Trans Zion route seems crowded every weekend in May, these are the types of projects one dreams up.

We geared up for it on a hot day in back in June of 2011, but after spending 8 annoying hours shuttling a car in 100 degree temperatures, we wisely scaled our initial attempt back to 3/4 of the distance. That Zironman “fun run” went really well – we figured out that “No Man’s Land” had a viable route through it, we did all the hard parts, and were really keen to come back the next year and knock it off.

The following year I was injured, but Jared and his best friend Ryan very graciously offered to wait until I recovered, a relative term though that may be, so we were quite keen this year. But mere hours before we were to start, the project was in jeopardy.

Our plan was to start at 5:30 in the afternoon, knock off Icebox, the first technical canyon while it was still light, then do the entire middle section which is normally exposed to the blazing sun during the night, arriving at the start of Imlay, the most technical canyon in the park when the sun came up. An excellent plan. Except 5:30 wouldn’t come for another 4 hours. We were sitting around with nothing to do.

Could Jared handle doing nothing? I had seen him accomplish incredible projects, but never this. This might be the crux of the whole route.

How the pro’s hang out

Ryan ironing his running shirt – being totally prepared is key

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Only photo in existence of Jared Campbell not moving

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A Reminder

I knew it was a different morning on Longs when I left the parking lot with a bare head and bare hands. Usually I’m pretty chilly at the trailhead, but on this day the sweat was pouring off my eyebrows and nose on the very first steep cut up through the trees, and instead of dreading the breeze at treeline I welcomed it for its cooling properties.

Whenever one has a mishap in the backcountry, the chain of decisions and events that led up to it always seem so obvious in hindsight. But I suppose that’s just the way it works. I was battling a bit of a head cold and was feeling beat down from a previous 10 days of high-volume outings, so on this morning I resolved to just wake up whenever my body wanted, not interrupting my slumber with the typical 5am alarm that I set when I’m planning on an ascent of Longs Peak. As such, I arrived at the trailhead an hour later than usual, and on top of that it was a gloriously warm day—temps in Boulder later in the day would reach the low-70s.

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How is Ultimate Direction made??

I recently visited the factory where Ultimate Direction is made. This was extremely worthwhile: I met all the people we work with, saw the entire production process, reviewed prototypes for our completely revamped 2014 product line, then discussed the changes and improvements we wanted to make directly with the people who will be implementing them.

And, since the factory is in the Philippines, my morning run was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, followed by a quick swim. Very different than the 11 inches of snow and 8 degree temperature in Boulder this morning!

I also wanted to check on working conditions over there – I’ve always wondered if there really are “sweat shops” – what was our factory like? To be socially, environmentally, and technically progressive is very important to me personally, and thus I always want to move Ultimate in that Direction. And (presumably by coincidence), this town happened to be the start of the infamous “Bataan Death March” in WWll!

Upon arrival, my worst fears were realized: working conditions were really hard …

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Flatiron Double Quinfecta

The other day I was thinking about what it is that compels me to maintain Boulder, CO as my home base (i.e., my winter crash pad and touchstone of all things urban and civilized in the summer season). Aside from the fact that I have friends here and I enjoy the compact layout of the city, more and more my motivation has become the city’s iconic Flatirons.  Not the trails that surround these 50-55 degreed slabs of stone, nor the pair of peaks (Green and Bear) upon which they reside, but rather, the towering chunks of rock themselves and the proximity they have to a thriving city center.  Quite simply, if I lived anywhere else on the Front Range I know that I would spend most of my time dreaming and scheming as to when I could make a trip to Boulder to link together a few thousand feet of scrambling.  Makes a lot more sense to just continue residence and save myself all of that inevitable stressful yearning.

Scampering up the final pitch of the Third. Photo: Joel Wolpert.

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The Escape

Being wedged into a mass of humanity is not a novelty in Japan, but the crowd my wife Stephanie and I were stuck in clearly wasn’t going anywhere for hours.  I had visions of a Who-concert-style stampede and trampling, but of course the Japanese are used to this kind of thing and take it in stride, with their seeming infinite patience and courtesy.  Us Americans, on the other hand, have to be moving – we simply can’t abide being powerless and stuck.

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Ring of Bells

The Four Passes Loop (nicer name: “Ring of Bells”), is considered one of the best long trail runs in North America. Starting at 9,600′ at the postcard-perfect Maroon Lake above Aspen, this loop is almost exactly Marathon distance, and transects the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness Area while going over four big passes, each over 12,400′. The scenery is amazing. There are no signs of civilization; only a runnable single track trail.

There are two ideal times to do it:

1) Late July, when the entire route is blooming with wildflowers; or,

2) The third week in September, at the height of the changing Aspen colors.

We choose #2!

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