Triple Trek pt2

10 o’clock at night, standing alone on the bank of the Colorado River in full flood stage.  Can I swim across?  Theoretically, yes.  Emotionally, no.  I conducted an inventory of my emotional reserves and made a rational decision:  I’m not going.  I measured, and my cajones weren’t big enough.

Span Bot

This trip I had brought a Space Blanket, so wrapped myself up in that and slept soundly, while learning that sleeping in a Space Blanket keeps you both remarkably warm and remarkably wet, becoming quickly soaked in your own perspiration.

Next morning I hiked upstream to allow for the fast current, eased myself into the brown water, and swam across with no incident, and without regretting the previous nights decision.  I busted butt up Red Lake Canyon (what lake?), across the various fins and valleys the Needles are renowned for, including the infamous Elephant Hill jeep road, reaching Squaw Flat Campground by mid-morning where I had a friend waiting for me with food supplies for the rest of the route.

Except instead of my friend, there was a note pinned to the campground sign which read: “You didn’t show up so I left.  Hope everything is OK.”

No food and 45 more miles to go wasn’t that OK. Kaput again. Busted.  Without further ado I put out my thumb and began the long hitchhike back to my car, pleased that I had extended the route, but also noticing that by failing at Spanish Bottom last year I got a direct boat ride back to the start, while failing at Squaw Flat meant it would take hours to hitch all the way around.  My second ride was pretty good though, peaceful because there was no radio in the car.  I asked why, and he explained he stole the car two days ago and had already sold the radio.

Tower

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Triple Trek

I pushed through the Tamarisk thicket on my hands and knees, being careful to avoid puncturing my air mattress, then waded out up to my waist in the cold, brown, swirling water, my shoes sticking in the mucky bottom, and while wearing a backpack, tried to get on my yellow inflatable mattress. It was an awkward moment. Peter and I had discussed practicing the technique in advance, but since Boulder had been cool and rainy, and we don’t like being cold, we skipped that part. So this was our first try – it was not going to be elegant no matter what – so nothing to do now but trust our plan, lunge up onto the mattress, and start paddling across the Green River.

We started as far upstream on Queen Anne Bottom as we could get, having first rappelled down a short cliff band, and were aiming for Millard Camp on the other side, after which the River pushed up against more cliffs, making an exit from the River impossible, and a much, much longer River trip probable.  I kept wondering how Peter was doing behind me, but never turned around – we really had to make that one exact spot – if he didn’t make it there was nothing I could do about it, and vice versa, so I looked toward my spot paddled for it. The Green was running 14,740 cfs, so I was “ferrying” – pointing myself slightly upstream in order to get as far across as possible while the strong current pushed us downriver. It was going to be close. The River turned left here and we were aiming for the right bank, so the water was moving much faster on this side – I paddled harder – hmm, really need to make this I thought, but the current was really strong now. A wedge of rock stuck out in the River, I figured there would be an eddy line behind it – yup, still 15’ from shore but the eddy line grabbed me just as I was being swept past the exit point – made it!

I scrambled onto the rocks, took off my pack, and looked for Peter. He was on the same line as me – he narrowly made the eddy line but recirculated twice before managing to get out, as his arm strength was too far gone.

Not too bad. Our plan worked. It was 10am on the first day of our planned 3 day, 100 mile trek in Canyonlands National Park.

16 River Gear

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TA SI SOBO: Adventures in Middle Earth

On a crisp early fall day Stephanie said, “Let’s go someplace warm this winter and do a long hike.” This seemed like a good idea, but didn’t take root until a while later when I got the flu for 2 weeks, giving me nothing to do but dig into the details of a trip plan. I could think of only one thing that interested me: traversing New Zealand’s South Island via the Te Araroa (Maori for “The Long Pathway”). This route, which was finally linked only in 2011, runs the length of both islands, but we didn’t have time for the full 3000 km. The 1300 km (800 miles) of the TA on the SI would be most suited to our tastes: rugged, remote, and wild.

“TA SI SOBO” was born: “Te Araroa, South Island, SouthBound” (Thru-hikers are as efficient with their jargon as they are with their hiking!)

Te Araroa

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R2R2R.alt

R2R2R is a world-class route, staring on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, running 5,000′ down to the Colorado River, across a bridge, then 6,000” up to the North Rim. Then back again – “Rim to Rim to Rim”. I first ran it sometime in the 80’s, and it was quite the thing back then, but in the last few years this route has become extremely popular, particularly the R2R version, which has created conflict, controversy, and even caused the Park Service to institute Day-Use Permits for Groups of over 7 people.

We wanted nothing of that churn-fest, but did want to explore the millions of great things to do in the 1,900 square miles of the Grand Canyon besides getting in line, so we decided to run Rim to Rim to Rim – by a different route. It was a great plan. Super fun. No one had ever done it. That’s because there is no bridge – you have to swim across the River.

It’s not called the “PB Adventure Vest” for nothing!

PB Vest

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Don’t try something new on race day!

UD Ambassador Ethan Veneklasen Shares:

Ummm, duh! Everybody knows that. It’s one of the most oft-repeated maxims in running.

Cascade4 - EthanBut did you ever stop to think about why we all know this useful little nugget? One can only assume that it’s because most of us continue to do stupid things and thus, its repetition is warranted.

As athletes, we like to think that our experience will protect us, that we won’t continue to make the same mistakes time and time again. I, for example, have an ongoing discussion with myself about starting races too fast. Yet I continue to do so…and I continue pay the price.This year at the Cascade Crest 100, my “new thing” was giant stuffed green olives.

 

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2014 Long Trails FKT Summary

The JMT, PCT, TRT, and lastly the AT … what happened on the big trails in 2014?

JOHN MUIR TRAIL (JMT)

The JMT is one of the premier backpacking trails in the world, running 223 miles through California’s Sierra Nevada from Mt Whitney to Yosemite Valley. It is a fabulous route: remote, rugged, committing, but yet with generally good weather, excellent (though rocky) trails and easy navigation. The JMT has become one of the key targets for FKT activity in the western US, and 2014 was definitely a banner year, with several new FKTs being set, both supported and unsupported, along with some spectacular “failures”.  Here’s the full recap, in chronological order – – –

Peter Bakwin, JMT record 2000.

Peter Bakwin, JMT record 2000.

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Wind River High Route

The Wind River High Route is possibly one of the best backpacking routes in the world. It runs along the spine of the Wind River Range in northern Wyoming, probably the most wild and remote range in the Lower 48, is modeled after the famed Sierra High Route, and thus is mostly off-trail and above timberline.  I put together the great team of Andrew Skurka and Peter Bakwin, and July 29-Aug 3 we gave it a go. It still has never been done … Alpine Pass

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Tenmile Range Traverse

June 21, 2014 – – -

The “Tenmile Traverse” is a classic long mountaineering route near Breckenridge, Colorado, which links ten summits uncreatively named Peaks 1 through 10. But, the route covers only half of the Tenmile Range, and the lower, easier half at that. The true Tenmile Range Traverse” (TRT) is simply the entire range, which adds six high 13ers and some really gnarly terrain to boot. Buzz and I were looking for a long training day, he won’t do anything that isn’t both classic and interesting, and I happen to be probably the world’s foremost expert on traverses of the Tenmile Range (for what that’s worth :-)… so let’s get on it!

TRT Ridge

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The Royal Arch Loop – Grand Canyon

It’s 5am on April 17, when a Ford F250 pulls into the dark parking lot. Peter Bakwin and I say hello to Elaine, who fills us in on local lore while driving an hour and half out to Pasture Wash, where we are dropped off by an abandoned cabin. We shoulder our packs and navigate straight west across the flat and featureless plateau until the abrupt vertical cliffs. Vertical indeed – it’s 6,000 feet down to the Colorado River – it’s not called the Grand Canyon for nothing. We’re looking for a very interesting way down thru the Toroweap sandstone, called the Point Huitzil route, a hidden route that we turned up while researching on the Internet. This connects with the Royal Arch Loop, way out on the west end of the Park, which I’ve been wanting to do for decades. Then we’re going to walk the Tonto Rim back to Hermits Rest. Total distance: about 70 miles. 2.5 days. We just have to make it the next few hundred meters.

“We have an unknown distance yet to run, an unknown river to explore. What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls ride over the river, we know not. Ah, well! We may conjecture many things.”

– John Wesley Powell, 1869

Rim

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