The Ultimate Direction Dirty 30

Miles and Miles of AMAZING SINGLE-TRACK TRAILS

Ultimate Direction Dirty 30

Imagine yourself running on single-track trails through aspen groves, lush green meadows, and thick pine forests. After navigating up steep rocky ridges your reward is a majestic view of snow-capped mountains as the Continental Divide is practically within reach. No need to imagine: The Ultimate Direction Dirty 30—and all the sweat, grit, and dirt—can be yours for the taking.

Jason Schlarb competing at the Ultimate Direction Dirty 30.

Jason Schlarb competing at the Ultimate Direction Dirty 30.

Held in beautiful Golden Gate State Park on June 3, Ultimate Direction Dirty 30 has two distances to tantalize and challenge any trail runner. The 50K course has over 7,250 feet of climbing and 7,250 feet of descent between 7,500 feet and 9,500 feet of elevation. The 12-mile route includes 2,500 feet of climbing and descending with stunning views.

The start of the Ultimate Direction Dirty 30.

The start of the Ultimate Direction Dirty 30.

Race Director, Megan Finnesy, makes sure runners are taken care of from start to finishline; no detail is missed in the planning and organizing of the Ultimate Direction Dirty 30. A sample of what runners can expect:

* Course: Well-marked and maintained with fun, energetic course marshals.

* Volunteers: Top-notch support and encouragement by all race personnel.

* Aid Stations: Stocked with runners’ favorite endurance foods and beverages.

* After Party: Held in a beautiful mountain park setting with a stream to soak weary legs. A hot meal off the grill, beer, live music, and massage make it a perfect end to a well-earned day.

Aid crew having fun at the Ultimate Direction Dirty 30.

Aid crew having fun at the Ultimate Direction Dirty 30.

Dirty 30 is in its 9th year and fills up quickly with runners from overall Colorado and across the United States, as well as attracting international entrants. Brian Metzler, founding editor of Trail Runner Magazine and former editor of Competitor Magazine gives the popular race high praise:

“The Dirty 30 50K has emerged as one of the best trail races in Colorado. It is an authentic mountain ultra that’s known for a challenging course, superb aid station support, high-quality tech shirts and a great post-race party. Megan has proven herself as a race director with a conscience, always looking out for the runners’ best interests while delivering consistent quality in everything she does.”

Dirty 30 offers $4,800 in cash prizes for the top five male and female overall finishers. Fun awards are also given out to the “bloodiest” finisher, the runner “who traveled the furthest,” and the “lowlander” (those coming from below 2,000 feet elevation). Special attention is given to SISU’s (those running Dirty 30 as their first ultra) and 360 Club members ( those finishing under 360 minutes).

Yummy yum! Aid station treats!

Yummy yum! Aid station treats!

Finnesy’s goal has always been to create a top-notch experience for the runners, while giving back to the race community—and she has certainly delivered. The Ultimate Direction Dirty 30 has raised an impressive $40,000 for local nonprofits. Gilpin County High School Athletics has been the beneficiary for the last five years and has helped pay for athlete uniforms, equipment, and scholarships for students to attend sport camps. Attending Ultimate Direction Dirty 30’s happy hours at Runners High in Golden (or joining via Facebook Live if you can’t make it) provides a great opportunity to learn more about the race, get helpful tips from race veterans, and connect with the Ultimate Direction Dirty 30 community. The informative panel discussions make it an evening not to be missed. Save the date for the upcoming happy hours:

* February 22: Running your first Ultra – hear directly from SISUs

* March 29: Nutrition for Ultrarunning – sports nutrition specialist

* May 10: Running your Best Dirty 30 – meet the elites and 5+ year D30 finishers

Kick off your summer with Ultimate Direction Dirty 30 — the experience will provide you with momentum that should last throughout your 2017 racing season. Registration is now open.

Ultimate Direction Dirty 30 Race Details:

* Date: June 3, 2017, 50k – 6 and 7 a.m., 12-miler, 10:00 a.m. * Location: – Golden Gate Canyon State Park, Black Hawk, CO – 1 hour west of downtown Denver, CO * Race Details: www.dirty30.org

FKT of the Year!

What was the coolest Fastest Known Time of 2016??

We compiled a list of nominees, recruited 21 experienced people to figure it all out, they voted, and the results are in!  Results with more info are also up at Ultrarunning.com, and all award photos are courtesy Ultrarunning Magazine.

Appropriately, there was no run-away winner – instead, the voting was close, as the voters valued different traits and qualities. Their comments were as perceptive and interesting as the FKT’s were amazing and laudable, so let’s see what runners did and also what the voters thought – – –

FEMALE FKTOY

#5 Joelle Vaught – Trans Zion, May 20

JoelleThis sweet set of trails totals 48 miles crossing beautiful Zion National Park, border to border. Joelle’s time of 8:26:09 bettered that of Krissy Moehl as well as Bethany Lewis before her.

Voters’ comments:

“Great time on a classic route, but only 6 minutes faster than previous FKT.”

“She put down a solid time besting Krissy’s stout time, and made my final vote because this route is more competitive than many others.”

“Joelle and Gina (Mt. Whitney FKT) did marvelously speedy routes on treasured paths, but those are too short to reward as the top picks.”

#4 Sue Johnston – 4,000ers Calendar Grid, January 1–December 26

SueThis is a mind-bending effort by possibly the foremost female adventure-runner of her generation (Hardrock 100 wins, JMT record, and more), but many people may have never even have heard of Sue. The “Grid” is to summit all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4,000 foot summits during every month. Seventeen people have a Lifetime Grid. Sue was the first to attempt a Calendar Year Grid. She reported hiking 3,159 miles and climbing 993,970 feet of vertical over 205 days (totaling 1,001,830′ for the year).

Voter’s comments:

“Never been done before…and for good reason…it’s sick!”

“Amazing but too contrived. An FKT for gridding? I’m not ready for that.”

“This is the kind of project that redefines what people think is possible, which is exactly what FKTs are all about. My head just about exploded when I heard about this. There can’t be that many people who have run/hiked 1 million vertical feet in a year, much less on tough mountains in (frequently) horrible weather.”

#3 Meghan Hicks – Nolan’s 14, September 9-11

MeghanFred Vance’s concept of “How many 14ers is it possible to climb in one shot?” has gone from obscurity to relative fame, as multiple attempts are now made every year. The Sawatch Range in Colorado has 14 summits over 14,000’ high somewhat lined up in a row, with few trails, continuous rough terrain, navigation challenges, and of course, serious vert. The cut-off time to ascend and descend all 14 is 60 hours. Meghan was the 17th finisher and first woman to tag all 14 peaks over the roughly 100-mile route in that time (Anna Frost and Missy Govney earlier had reached the 14th summit within that time but paused on top).  Meghan’s effort was Supported and she completed it in 59 hours, 36 minutes.

Voters’ comments:

“I would rate this higher, but she was with another person, which helped with logistics.”

“She was actually the first woman to do this route and set the actual women’s FKT, but she got practically no recognition.”

“Like Joe Grant [see below], Meghan deserves incredible kudos but the 14er craze is hard for a Californian to understand.”

“Commendable obsession and planning. A very important benchmark for Nolan’s.”

#2 Amber Monforte – John Muir Trail, Unsupported, July 22-26

AmberThe JMT is one of the world’s best long trails, as it crosses many Wilderness Areas and a couple of National Parks but no roads for its entire 223 miles, starting from the highest mountain in the Lower 48 and finishing in the iconic Yosemite Valley. Amber’s 4 day, 1 hour, 13 minute performance would have been the overall record 17 years ago. This is one of the most contested long trail routes, and the first solid Unsupported attempt time by a Woman.

Voters’ comments:

“It’s cool to see more women finally targeting these things. Amber’s JMT seems particularly noteworthy. Almost going sub-4 days unsupported is stout!”

“Close to the supported time and nearly under 4 days.”

“JMT seems like an ultimate FKT test and it’s about time a gal knocked it out unsupported – hoping for more attempts on this one in the future.”

“The JMT holds a mythical place in my heart.”

“An excellent time on one of the premier routes, done in a very pure style.”

#1 Heather Anderson – Arizona Trail, Self-Supported, October 7-27

Anish“Anish” now holds the Overall Self-Supported (backpacker style) records for the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and the AZT. She stands alone (and ahead of all men too) in her specialty, with her AZT being two days faster than the Men’s Self-Supported FKT, and was on track to be the quickest AZT ever until Michael Versteeg set a faster (Supported) time a few days previous.  Anderson covered the 800 mile route in 19 days, 17 hours and 9 minutes.

Voters’ comments:

“If she didn’t hold the other FKT’s I might have ranked the AZT lower, but she has serious FKT cred.”

“It’s the longest distance on the ballot (Female) and it is an overall FKT – plus it is only right that she win the inaugural award.”

“I based my #1 picks on the FKTs that were long AND with minimal or no support. Although there are FKTs on the list that are incredibly impressive, I prioritized remote/mountain based FKTs where commitment, risk, and skills are all required to succeed, not simply physical and mental strength.”

Honorable Mention:  Gina Lucrezi, Mt Whitney, CA, highest mountain in the lower 48 states, August 10. Lucrezi ascended and descended the peak, covering 22 miles and 6,000 feet of vert, in 5 hours, 29 minutes and 22 seconds for an Unsupported FKT.

FEMALE SUMMARY

Thru-hiking, with a long a tradition in the ultra-community, was honored here, earning the #1 and #2 spots (separated by a small margin in the voting). Historically, vastly more FKT efforts have been attempted by Males than Females. This is possibly due to external factors rather than intrinsic gender-based characteristics. The outstanding Women’s FKTs listed above are examples that their ability is certainly equal to Men’s, and their participation is likely to increase.

 

MALE FKTOY

#5 Nick Elson – Grand Traverse, August 13

NickIn a surprise result, as this route is better known to climbers than to runners, voters recognized Nick’s bold achievement, which is a clear sign that “hybrid” activities are an accepted and important part of FKT’s – people increasingly find the boundaries between sports unnecessary and not representative of how they see ultra-recreation. The Grand Traverse consists of the 10 Teton summits clearly visible from Jenny Lake. Legendary alpinists have contested this FKT for decades, including Alex Lowe; for the previous 15 years Rolando Garibotti held the FKT at 6:49. The North Ridge of the Grand Teton, the hardest section with a 5.8 grade, is done free-solo. There is 12,000 feet of vert in about 17 miles. Elson took almost 20 minutes of the record, completing it in 6:30:49.

Voters’ comments:

“I love that the previous records were held by luminaries such as Rolo and Alex – real alpinists.”

“Nick has the overall win for me since this route is so iconic and combines not only running but risky climbing”.

“Broke a time of two absolutely legendary alpinists.”

“Remarkable fusion of climbing/scrambling/aerobic skills.”

“There’s a reason this FKT hadn’t been challenged. You can die.”

#4 Leor Pantilat – Sierra High Route, August 6-10

LeorThe man who knows the Sierra’s better than anyone now has the FKT on both the John Muir Trail and the much harder and higher SHR, which roughly parallels it. This is its first “serious” effort, taking a huge three days off the previous time. This terrific route sees a tiny fraction of attention compared to the JMT, probably because it requires much more navigation and ability in order to move efficiently on the extensive 3rd class terrain. Pantilat covered the 195 mile route Unsupported in 4 days, 16 hours, 21 minutes.

Voters comments:

“There’s not enough data on this route: not established enough to know how great it is.”

“Leor is second for his Sierra High Route since this route requires a ton of planning and navigation, plus it’s unsupported.”

“Leor’s record is the closest to an ideal in FKT: difficult, rare, and fast, and would have been my top choice in other years.”

“The AZT and SHR records may be strong, but only time will tell.”

#3 Karl Melzer – Appalachian Trail, August 3-September 18

KarlThe original long trail, both in terms of when it was established (1932) and its long FKT history (first thru-hiked with great publicity in 1948). No route has this history, which includes David Horton, Pete Palmer, Andrew Thompson, Jen Pharr-Davis, and Scott Jurek. This was the Speedgoat’s third try and he took about 9 hours off Jurek’s time from the previous year. Demonstrating classic FKT ethos, Karl supported Scott on his attempt, then Scott returned the favor. Meltzer covered the 2,189 miles from North to South in 45 days, 22 hours and 38 minutes.

Voters comments:

“What struck me most of all is Karl took three attempts, showing tenacity and grit, and not giving up.  Also the bar had been raised higher by Jurek the previous year”.

“The amount of pure effort Karl put into this over several years demands recognition and appreciation.”

“Pete and Karl are a tossup because they are so similar with time spent moving daily, but the AT is much tougher logistically – Karl had to carry more gear between longer sections without crew support, while running on a road requires almost nothing except maybe a water bottle.”

“Happy for Karl since he had been gunning for the AT FKT for years. But it seems like last year’s news, especially considering the incremental improvement in time.”

“Karl’s AT FKT would win most years, but I dinged him (and Walmsley) because those routes are a bit rote by now.”

#2 Jim Walmsley – Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim, October 4

JimThe best ultrarunner in the US knocked this one out of the Park 😉 and was recognized for it. Records have been kept on this uber-route for decades, recently including Anton Krupicka, Dave Mackey, and Dakota Jones, with Jim taking 25 minutes off Rob Krar’s 2013 time. In the process he blazed South-North Rim in 2:46 which is a one-way FKT itself, even though it was done in the much harder direction.  Walmsely covered the 42.2 miles in 5:55:20.

Voters Comments:

“He took a ridiculous amount of time off an FKT from two of the best trail runners in the nation. Mind blowing.”

“R2R2R (and R2R) – Walmsley crushed this one, pure and simple.”

“Both Walmsley’s and Kostelnick’s runs are actual runs and real bar raisers. Like, seriously crazy shit, both of them. But, neither are very creative which lowers my interest level a great deal.”

“His time on a super competitive course is blazing fast, but it didn’t require as much planning as the others.”

#1 Pete Kostelnick – Trans America, September 12-October 24

PetePete’s prodigious effort was the clear winner in the inaugural FKTOY voting. The Trans-Am has a longer history than many realize, going way back to the “Bunion Derby” days of the 1920’s. Pete broke a 36-year-old FKT by a whopping 4 days, including taking a ‘zero’ day, averaging over 72 miles per day for 6 weeks. Kostelnick covered the 3,067 miles in 42 days, 6 hours and 30 minutes.

Voters’ comments:

“72 miles/day for 6 weeks!! Very tough record to even attempt due to the time required.”

“The planning of something like a Transcon earns him big points.”

“Unreal performance, taking 4 days off the record, averaging 72 miles per day and even with a day off. However, there have been few attempts by legitimate runners.”

“Near 40-year-old record broken, smashed … oh, and 3,000+ miles!”

“Audacity of it plus a 36 year record.”

“More than 250 people have run the TransAm and this guy has the record by 4 days. Incredible.  Anyone who has done multiday knows that doing 72mpd for even several days is huge.”

“The sheer length and difficulty overcomes my natural inclination to reward Karl’s feat, which is almost equally admirable.”

“Pete cut major time off the old record and the MPD is staggering. Plus, he brought honor back to this record after a cheater was exposed earlier in the year.”

Honorable Mention: Joe Grant, all 57 Colorado 14ers, Self-Supported and Self Propelled.  Starting and finishing at his house, he rode his bike to each trailhead, then climbed them all, with no outside support. Grant completed the roughly 400 miles of hiking/running and 1,100 miles of biking in 31 days, 8 hours and 33 minutes.

MALE SUMMARY

The results make sense, yet could not have been guessed in advance. Voters really balanced their opinions, going for an endurance feat on a route that dozens of people have fallen to their death on; an excellent though seldom traveled route through our most populous state; a record on the most historic thru-hike in the world; the fastest run by the fastest guy in the country; and finally one person who embodied the classic ultrarunning values: thorough planning and preparation, methodical execution, and superhuman perseverance.

The results may also show interesting shifts in FKT values: Karl Meltzer is an extremely well-liked person, the AT is very well known, and his clearly is a fantastic achievement – but maybe there has been some “AT overload” and people are looking for what’s next. Life is about what’s next, and FKT’s embody that.

OVERALL SUMMARY

AnishThe voters were of different genders, ages, and parts of the country, and this group process clearly yielded the best result (no voter voted all 10 results all correctly). Our community of participants created this inaugural FKTOY, not publicists or profiteers.  With FKT’s being discussed all over the world by major media, it was important to establish something credible coming out of our community itself.

Next year the FKTOY will be back, with a bigger list and process, all designed to showcase the cool things people are doing and inspire ourselves.

YOUR Comments are requested below!

What is the best Fastest Known Time of 2016?

The “FKT” has arrived!  Runners all over the world now understand and use the term, and may expend more effort going for a Fastest Known Time than in a regular race.

So the time has come for a “Fastest Known Time of The Year” Award!  Following the long-standing Ultra Runner of the Year (“UROY”) awards that have recognized and celebrated the sport’s best since 1981, the FKTOY award will recognize the top FKT by a Female and by a Male. The purpose is to learn, appreciate, and be inspired by the accomplishments of others. No one actually wins anything – just the respect of their peers.

So a list of top candidates was created by Peter Bakwin from his FKT site, then a group of 21 experienced runners were recruited to vote … and after much deliberation, their votes decided it!  It was an amazing process.  The winners will be announced next week in Ultrarunning Magazine and on this blog, along with brief comments from the Voters as to why each was valued (Hint: they ALL were incredible, but two more so than the others :-)

So here is the list of candidates and what they did.  What do YOU think about these routes?  Which do YOU think should be the inaugural FKTOY?  Please post your Comments below.

FEMALE (all in chronological order)

Joelle Vaught – 5/20; Trans Zion; 48 mi; 8h, 26m, 9s – Sweet route crossing Zion NP on trails; previous FKT’s by Krissy Moehl and Bethany Lewis.

Amber Monforte – 7/22-26; John Muir Trail Unsupported; 222 mi; 4d, 1h, 13m – One of the mostly hotly-contested long trail routes. Only 5h 13m slower than Sue J’s 2007 Supported record.

Gina Lucrezi – 8/10; Mt Whitney (car-car); 22 mi; 5h, 29m, 22s – 6,000′ vert in 11mi to highest point in lower 48 states; first known attempt by a Woman.

Heather Anderson – 10/7-27; Arizona Trail Self-Supported; 800 mi; 19d, 17h, 9m – “Anish” now holds the Overall Self-Supported records for the AT, PCT, and the AZT.

Meghan Hicks – 9/9-11; Nolan’s 14; 100 mi; 59h, 36m – Open Course tagging 14 14ers; few trails, lots of navigation, tons of vert. Supported.

Sue Johnston – 1/1-12/26; 4000ers Calendar Grid; 3,159 mi; one year – All 48 New Hampshire 4,000′ summits every month for a year. Reported 3,159 mi, 993,970′ vert for the project (1,001,830′ for the year!), and hiking 205 days.
Yikes!  Stout stuff!  What about the guys?
MALE
Ryan Ghelfi – 7/6; Mt Shasta Ascent; 1h, 37m, 5s – This used to be an actual race. Ryan beat FKT’s by Rickey Gates, and John Muir from 1874!
Uli Steidl – 7/26; Mt Rainier (car-car); 4h, 24m, 30s – Bettered Willie Benegas 2008 time. This is the Runners Record; there are separate records for Skiers (which is faster).
Leor Pantilat – 8/6-10; Sierra High Route Unsupported; 195 mi; 4d, 16h, 21m – Technically difficult for most runners so few attempts have been made; this took 3 days off the previous FKT. Roughly paralleing the JMT but above it, mostly off-trail, with 3rd Class sections and navigation.
Nick Elson – 8/13; Grand Traverse; 17 mi; 6h, 30m, 49s – Legendary alpinist Alex Lowe had this FKT, then Rolo Garibotti at 6h, 49m for 15 years. 10 Teton summits, 12,000′ vert, climbing up to 5.8 grade, free solo.
Joe Grant – 7/26-8/26; Colorado 14ers Self-Powered, Self Supported; 400 mi; 31d, 8h, 33m – 3+ days faster than Justin Simoni from previous year. Start/Finish at his house, hike/run 400mi, bike 1,100mi, climb 57 14ers, no Support.
Karl Meltzer – 8/3-9/18; Appalachian Trail Supported; 2,189 mi; 45d, 22h, 38m – Speedgoat’s 3rd try took about 9 hrs off Jurek’s time from previous year. This is the original long trail, featuring David Horton, Pete Palmer, Andrew Thompson, Jen Pharr-Davis, Scott Jurek, and countless before.
Jim Walmsley – 10/4; Grand Canyon R2R2R; 42.2 mi; 5h, 55m, 20s – Took 25m off Rob Krar’s 2013. Super classic route. Blazing 2h 46m S-N to begin, which is an R2R FKT going in the slowest direction.
Pete Kostelnick – 9/12-10/24; Trans America; 3,067 mi; 42d, 6h, 30m – Goes way back to the “Bunion Derby” days of the 1920’s Broke 36 year old FKT by 4 days. 72mi/day for 6 weeks.
Incredible!  How does one choose between these?  The Voters were allowed to vote for up to 5, ranking them accordingly, then the scores were added up.  Find out what happened next week, and let us know what YOU think now by posting your Comment.
Leor

Frost and Fire – A Quandary Adventure

by Brandon Yonke

As the new year approached, I knew I wanted to start the year up in thin air. I had freshly acquired a zero degree sleeping bag that needed to be  broken in; my urge to be in the mountains remains regardless of the how minuscule the temperature is. A drive to Breckenridge for a day of skiing doubled as an opportunity to summit Quandary, and I decided to take it. After a day of taking lifts to the top, and skiing down, I drove to the Quandary trailhead to switch it up in the morning; hike up, run down.

I arrived about 7:30pm after finally finding a gas station that hesitantly agreed to let me bum a refill of my 3 gallon water jug- an act which I had received some peculiar looks for. Later, as I stood in the trailhead parking lot, dividing  the water up into bottles, I chatted with a couple of skiiers who had just returned from the summit. Conditions sounded to be good, as reported online, though the clear night sky would surely be dropping the temperature.

I laid out a sleeping pad, blanket, and bag across my trunk in anticipation of a cold night, and tried to fall asleep much earlier than normal.
All night long, it was either me sweating, or the water bottles I was sleeping with… but never at the same time. I started off abnormally warm and layered down to get comfortable. Then around midnight, I was too cold and layered back up, while at the same time my water bottles began sweating. Either I kept them to the side in my sleeping bag and tried not to touch them, or I would have no liquid water. It was an uncomfortable night trying to find creative sleeping positions inside of a mummy bag while my breath crystallized to every surface of my vehicle.

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Prime mountain real estate.

At 5am I woke up with windows completely frosted over; even the interior plastics had frost on them. I was happy to see my water was still liquid. With it, I washed down an icy Clif bar and rock solid cranberries for breakfast. I added some Tailwind mix to my water, and a pinch of salt to aid in keeping the water from freezing on my trip to the summit.

With this being my first dead-of-winter 14er attempt, I was indecisive about what to pack/wear for layering. I’m one to normally opt for light-and-fast pack preferences, so I went through the options what seemed like a hundred times. I’d be wearing the Altra Neoshell trail shoes and some mid-high gaiters, a choice many times lighter than boots. What benefit I gain from weight, I lose in warmth with that option, so I wore two pairs of wool socks, one medium and one light weight. I used similar strategy with tights, wearing an ultralight pair underneath my medium weight Goretex tights. On top, I had a LS compression, LS quarter zip, and puffy jacket. I packed along my Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket and snow pants… just in case the weather got away.

After checking that I had my keys a dozen times (I locked them in the Jeep a few weeks ago with the engine on… it’s an expensive lesson you don’t forget) I shut the door, turned on my headlamp, and wandered into the forest. I couldn’t get over how many stars were out that morning, compared to the lackluster metro Denver area sky. I stopped at the trailhead sign, and on the ground beside it, traced “Yonke 5:30am 1/2/17” into the snow with my shoes. Passing the Quandary Peak: East Ridge sign, I felt a tranquility come over me. I was right where I wanted to be, doing exactly what I love to do; following a headlamp-lit trail into the sky while the rest of the world is still.

I switchbacked my way through the forest as the sky shone through the towering evergreens around me. I quickly realized I had made the terrible winter mountaineering mistake of layering too warm. I dressed down to just my compression top, and shed my goretex tights. I paused for a couple of minutes to let my temperature catch up with me, and continued upward. Within minutes, I was heating up again and could feel sweat cooling my legs. I then became that guy standing in the forest with just my drawers on. Finally, after slowing down a bit and getting my layers right, I stopped perspiring and gradually layered back into a comfortable-cool.

As I emerged from treeline, I could see the silhouette of Mt. Silverheels and the surrounding range behind me. The range was a black outline on a dull purple canvas, changing its hue with each passing moment. Light “phantom” snow streaked through my headlamp beam, even with a sky void of clouds.

I topped out the false summit and continued on toward the saddle, where the trail turned to wind blown rock as a result of the consistent wind. The slope ahead of me started to glow a dull red. Behind, the sun was just about to rise in a fiery lightshow. Looking toward the sunrise and down the mountain, the only contrast I saw against the snow were the trees below. Nothing else moved. I was the only person on the mountain, an increasingly rare claim, especially on mountains more proximate to municipalities. Even the Quandary goats were residing elsewhere; having decided to give up their post as king of the hill.

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Daybreak from about 12,700ft, on the windblown ridge of Quandary Peak.

The skies were clear until about ten minutes past sunrise when the snow rolled in. The hastily moving clouds shot right over the summit, enshrouding it in a grey mass. The wind picked up noticeably, and was picking up little bits of the snow pack with it. I was quickly reminded I had lowered the mask of my balaclava earlier. The blowing snow stung my bare skin and I pulled the mask up to cover back up again.

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About 5 minutes after sunrise as the clouds came in.

The path to the top remained defined and packed the whole way to the top, with minimal snow coverage and visible cairns for the likely-unnecessary reassurance. I gained elevation with relative ease. Microspikes were not necessary, but they provided just enough additional traction to move with a bit more of a powerful step.

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Heading up. 

In the final hundred feet, I was fully in the clouds. The snow system was still moving fast over the peak, and bringing the wind along with it. I tagged the top and had a look at what little there was to see. The Tenmile range continued in its jagged manner toward Breckenridge, disappearing a couple hundred yards out. It was near identical views as my last summit here about two months prior- limited sight, foggy/cloudy, and colder than average. I turned and walked the frosted, wind blown rocks of the summit back to the snow packed slope and began my descent.

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Coming down, the clouds gave way to a bit a clarity, and the sun shone through in streaks for a few minutes. I didn’t see anybody else until about a mile before the trailhead- a couple of hikers snowshoeing their way upward. We exchanged a few words on trail condition as I tried to break up the ice in my water bottles to no avail. I chewed on a chucky, ice-shardy mouthful of Tailwind as we parted ways, looking forward to finding some liquid water back at my vehicle.

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Sun peeking through the clouds on the way down.

The trail from treeline was straightforward, and again I layered down once out of the wind. Turning around and looking up, the summit was still in the clouds, hiding in its mystery, while snow fell gently in partial sun here. I emerged from the trail not long after, erasing my “sign in” from the snow on my way out. The weather had generally cooperated, with its moments of wind and cold.

I chugged down some frigid, but liquid water back at my Jeep at the expense of a moment of brain freeze. I sat on the rear bumper, steam coming from my body, staring back up at the summit. Beside me, I Jetboiled some instant coffee to keep starting the day right (ha). Despite the almost sleepless night and undeniable cold, all was good. I wouldn’t want it any other way than to experience sunrise on a silent mountain. I’ll look forward to next time; maybe the goats will decide to rendezvous too.

 

Aire Libre – Oaxaca Mexico

Aire Libre’s second great adventure, chronologically named AL-02: Sierra Norte de Oaxaca, took place in the heart of the Sierra Norte (North Sierra) in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. The Sierra is also home to the Pueblos Mancomunados (Commonwealth of Villages), which is a circuit of 8 small towns that live within a shared communal system and also in close political and economic proximity. We passed through 6 of these communities.

On the first day, we departed Benito Juárez heading towards our first destination: La Nevería. We ran on a wide path with a general downward slope and after 12 kilometers or so we were entering the town limits.

 

AIRE LIBRE AL-02-16

 

We then moved in the direction of the third pueblo, called Latuvi and situated on top of a group of hills blessed with a privileged location right in the middle of the great valley surrounded by the Sierra Norte mountains. The trails we followed between La Nevería and Latuvi were amongst the most beautiful and fascinating we experienced during our whole journey. The variety of sights is hard to believe and is due naturally to the constant altitude change.

From Latuvi we were to depart for San Miguel Amatlán. The trail took us through the Canyon of the Phantom Trees (Cañón de los Árboles Fantasmas), a place that truly does justice to its mystic name. At 18 kilometers and including some steep uphill sections, this was the longest and toughest leg of the day.

 

AIRE LIBRE AL-02-94

 

Upon arrival at San Miguel Amatlán, we stopped there to spend the night in one of the eco-tourism centers operated by Sierra Norte Expediciones.

We suspected that the second day would be the most difficult, being that it would practically a whole day of running uphill until we reached the highest point of all of our journey. We climbed around 1,300 meters (4,265 ft) as we ran another wide path of around 30 kilometers, all the way to San Isidro Llano Grande, which stands on top of the mountain at roughly 3,000 meters (9,840 ft) above sea level. The forest community greeted us with more rain, fog and cold wind.

 

AIRE LIBRE AL-02-86

 

On the third day, we started towards our next goal: Cuajimoloyas, which is the most populous Pueblo Mancomunado, with around 800 inhabitants.

We set out once again into the trails, which luckily now took us on a downhill slope, and we then reached a well-known trail known was La Cucharilla. This fascinating section of the forest proved to the most enjoyable single track of our adventure.

After exiting the trailhead, we continued through sunflower fields up the foothills of another nearby mountain, until we again reached the town of Latuvi. We had our last break there, along with our last AL-02 meal.

Our last 15 kilometers would be especially challenging, as we would be closing the adventure with another 600-700 meter ascent (1900-2300 ft) that separated us from the well-known view point where we departed from in Benito Juárez. The same hanging bridge which marked our starting point awaited us for the grand finale of this epic journey.

 

district vision-1

 

The Pueblos Mancomunados represented an avalanche of emotions and sensorial stimuli. The people of these communities opened their hearts and their homes to us, genuinely offering the warmest of hospitality. The views around them made our hearts sing and moved our souls with their combination of raw beauty with absolute simplicity. We profoundly and strongly recommend that you visit this circuit the next time you’re in the mood for a holiday mixing Nature with some physical activity.

Check out the trip video to get a better look at the adventure. Click here!

The Nolans 14 – Nick Pedatella

“I’ve scouted the whole route except for the North side of La Plata, but that should be easy enough since it is all trail”

Some 40+ hours later as I was enjoying a midnight walk along the banks of Lake Creek – which is more of a river than a creek – my comment to Meghan Hicks as we started our respective Nolan’s 14 journeys seemed rather laughable. Clearly I had underestimated the difficulty of the challenge, especially in terms of nighttime navigation while at altitude and sleep deprived. After descending a rather questionable scree slope from the the summit of La Plata I was rather frustrated with my inability to find what is reportedly one of the best sections of trail along the entire route. However, my immediate concern was figuring out how to reach my crew at the La Plata trailhead who were probably wondering where I was since I should have arrived a few hours ago.

LaPlata Route Nick Pedatella Nolans 14

My descent route off of La Plata. Not even close to the real trail. Photo: 14ers.com

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Training While Traveling: by Heidi Kumm

When June rolled around I was excited for my summer gig, a job that had me road tripping around the Western US with the #yourlead van for three months. I was going to run all the trails + pile on the miles. With two big races scheduled for my fall I figured I would have no problem getting in my training. Little did I know how hard it is to fit running in with traveling!

Heidi headed out on the trail.

Heidi headed out on the trail.

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Wild Bruce Chase vs. The Bruce Trail: FKT

by: Chantal Warriner

18 Women from Ontario, Canada with One Goal

901.5 km / 563 Miles (with detours at time of relay)

Wild Bruce Chase logo

The Bruce Trail was built in the year 1960 and is known as Canada’s oldest trail. It also happens to be Canada’s longest marked footpath and provides access to the magnificent Niagara Escarpment. It is entirely built and maintained by volunteers who share a dream to secure the continuous conservation corridor that stretches along the escarpment from Tobermory to Niagara Falls, Ontario.

The trail attracts thousands of outdoor enthusiasts every year. It’s only logical that these hikers and runners would want to set end to end records. Isn’t that human nature?! There are men’s/women’s solo records, ladies team records and coed team records. Not forgetting the many others who share bragging rights.

On May 5th, 2016, a friend of mine emailed me about this “once in a lifetime opportunity to set a Bruce Trail ladies relay record”. The email was very motivating. It stated things like “YOU could be a Bruce Trail Record holder!; Are you in? Will you break the record with us??” How could anyone say no to that, right?!. Needless to say, the team was built and runners committed very quickly.

The fastest known time (FKT) for the ladies relay we were trying to break was reported at 5 days, 17 hours and 56 minutes. Our team, named Wild Bruce Chase, was hungry to break the record. The organizer of the event, Erin Dasher, Ontario’s 5 Peaks Race Director, had tirelessly planned and meticulously detailed the logistics of the end to end continuous relay event.

With almost 70 legs ranging from 5 to 15 miles, each runner spent hours researching their routes and maps in order to efficiently run the terrain and perform exchanges without a hitch. Team members also ran group and route specific training runs to prepare. This preparation, in addition to fitness and generous resources highly influenced the outcome of this richly rewarding adventure.

Less than two short months later, we began on July 1st, 2016. There’s something to be said about beginning such an epic attempt on our national Canadian holiday ­ Canada Day. We were feeling patriotic, confident but also nervous to see how the long weekend was going to be executed. If you’re picturing a beautiful morning of blue skies, birds tweeting and a big orange sun cresting the horizon, you couldn’t be more wrong. Our relay began at 5 am on July 1st, but the 1st of our 18 courageous ladies started the relay and 400m into the leg, it began to treacherously downpour! We began the 563 Mile Fastest Known Time attempt and our runner couldn’t see more than 10 feet in front of her. Great!! It got real, real fast!! Gulp.

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Unsupported Longs Peak Triathlon FKT

IMG_8429On Tuesday, Stefan Griebel and I completed an unsupported Longs Peak Triathlon—biking 40mi from Boulder to Longs Peak, running the 5mi up to the base of the Diamond, climbing the seven-pitch Casual Route, continuing to the summit, running back down to the trailhead, and biking back to Boulder—in 9h06m. It was deeply rewarding, and super fun. I have a few thoughts on this.

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Big Day in the Park

jed_TLAs a pretty weak climber, I tend to try and leverage my strengths that come from 22 years experience as a runner when I’m dreaming up mountain objectives. The problem is usually finding a partner that harbors a similar interest in mixing A) moderate alpine climbing, and B) linking together lots of it. Most of the climbers I know who are strong enough to move quickly on 5.8-10 terrain are more likely to want to spend their time challenging themselves on harder routes and minimizing the amount of enduro foot travel (this tendency is totally understandable). Enter Jed Brown.

Jed and I climbed the Diamond together back at the end of June and had a great time. Jed is one of the more impressive mountain athletes I know—Alaskan-born grit, endurance sport enthusiasm and experience, unwavering mental composure when things start to go a little bit sideways, doesn’t mind running with a climbing pack, and, oh yeah, recipient of a Piolet d’Or. He’d never tell you.

But then he spent the entire month of July on an expedition to a 7000m peak in India, so we never got out again. When he got back last week, he texted me saying he had three weeks before school started again (he’s a Computer Science professor at CU-Boulder—some people are truly next-level human beings) and was psyched to get on some alpine granite. In typical fashion, a casual text rapidly and inexplicably snowballed into an out-sized objective: a link-up of Longs Peak, Spearhead, Chiefshead, and Mt. Alice in Rocky Mountain National Park. And, it makes the most sense to complete the loop via bike, too.

This would be a notable and big day as a simple run. And in the past I would’ve been super psyched on this as just a run. However, a big part of my motivation with climbing has always been to mix it with running into an engaging amalgam of mountain movement that covers inspiring, remote terrain via challenging, aesthetic routes. Rocky Mountain National Park is the perfect arena for this type of thing. Hence, we would be spicing things up by climbing each peak via a technical rock route.

So our plan was this: on the drive to the Longs Peak TH, stash bikes at the Wild Basin TH; climb the Casual Route on Longs Peak’s Diamond, Syke’s Sickle on Spearhead, Central Rib on Chiefshead (really just the most logical means of gaining the Continental Divide), and Central Ramp on the East Face of Mt. Alice; run the 8+ miles out to the WBTH; bike the 8 miles on the road from there back to my truck at the LPTH. Do it in-a-day, preferably without extending it too far into the nighttime.

There was precedence for this kind of thing, by much stronger climbers than myself. In 2003, Jonny Cop and Kelly Cordes established the “Triple Lindy” linking what they determined to be the three biggest faces in RMNP (the Diamond, Chiefshead NW Face, and Mt Alice East Face) in 22h42min car-to-car. In 2011, Scott Bennett and Blake Herrington upped the ante by climbing some slightly harder routes and adding the NE Face on Spearhead, completing the loop car-to-car in 23h45min.

I’m not a good enough climber to efficiently get up any of the 5.10-11ish classics on Chiefshead (there doesn’t appear to be anything of quality at a more moderate grade on these faces EDIT: the Flight of the Kiwi route that Scott and Blake did during their link-up actually looks pretty reasonable, something to think about for 2016…), so I settled on simply climbing Spearhead and linking along the obvious ridge to the summit of Chiefshead (its Central Rib).

A key piece of our strategy of fitting all of this terrain into a single day was the equipment we planned to carry. Or maybe, the equipment we planned on not carrying. Jed and I each carried <20L packs—day packs, really—mine was a prototype of Ultimate Direction’s forthcoming 18L Skimo race pack. I prefer it for its sleek profile, low center of gravity, and durable materials.

We kept our packs trim by bringing almost no extra clothes—I had a longsleeve baselayer, a pair of cycling leg warmers, and rain shell—a 30m rope, and a trim rack of nine cams (doubles 0.3-0.5 and one each of 0.75, #1, #2) and maybe half a dozen finger-sized nuts. And three Petzl MicroTraxion progress-capture pulleys. These would be key to keeping our strategy of simul-climbing all day as safe as possible. Jed didn’t even bring leg coverage, spending the entire day in essentially his underwear. But, then again, he’s Alaskan. With food (~1300 calories of bars and gels) and water (a half liter flask was my total capacity), my pack weighed in right at 10lbs, carrying the rope (Jed had the rack).

After locking up our bikes in the dark at the Wild Basin Trailhead, Jed and I drove to the Longs Peak TH and started up the trail at 4:06am. A little bit of a late start, to be honest, but the sun is rising later and later these days, so it worked out pretty well. The approach was uneventful, other than finally nailing all the below-treeline shortcuts in the dark but then losing ~5min to extra bathroom breaks. As we rounded Chasm Lake, the early breezy conditions abated and the sky was clear, and we could see a pair of headlamps already high above us on Broadway and they seemed to be hovering right around the center of the face, at the start of the Casual Route. Bummer. Oh well, with our plans of simul-climbing, we hoped passing would be easy.

Jed scrambling the North Chimney earlier this summer.

Jed scrambling the North Chimney at sunrise earlier this summer.

After scrambling the North Chimney, I arrived on Broadway first and was surprised to see the headlamp party still camped out at the base of the Casual. Seeing that these guys clearly weren’t in much of a hurry, I immediately set about flaking and tying into the rope. By time Jed arrived all he had to do was hand me the rack and I started climbing, 2h05 after leaving the trailhead.

We basically planned on climbing each route in two pitches. I’d lead the first half of each one and Jed would lead the second half. This was my fifth time climbing the Casual Route this summer, so I have it pretty dialed and moved through the first four pitches in 38min, placing four cams and clipping five fixed pins and/or anchors, protecting the 5.9 sections of climbing with the Micro Traxions.

Jed reaching my belay in the long corner in the middle of the route.

Jed reaching my belay in the long corner in the middle of the route.

Butt shot of Jed leading up the corner---at least he's sporting the stars 'n bars!

Butt shot of Jed leading up the corner—at least he’s sporting the stars ‘n bars!

Jed is a stronger climber than me, so he, of course, never held me up in following and 50min from Broadway he was leading up the magnificent, long 5.8 dihedral that makes up the meat of the middle part of the route. I got a bit tired in this corner, which seems to be the norm for me, but got a bit of a break when Jed hit the crux 9+/10a climbing above and 1h48 after leaving Broadway we were both at the end of the route, on Table Ledge, just before 8am. So much fun! The weather was perfect and our energy and spirits were high. Onwards.

Longs Peak summit.

Longs Peak summit.

We topped out Longs Peak (via upper Kieners) at 8:23am and snacked for a couple minutes amidst a crowd of hikers that were steadily making their way up the Keyhole Route. Both Jed and I were a bit worried about how our knees were going to hold up with the 10k’ of descending we would encounter on the day, so the next nearly 3000′ drop down the Trough on the west side of Longs to the base of Spearhead in the Glacier Gorge would be a good test.

Spearhead (right) and Chiefshead (left), our next two summits.

Spearhead (right) and Chiefshead (left), our next two summits.

It went well. I was feeling really high energy through here so got a bit ahead of Jed and when I got to the base of Spearhead I remembered the guide-book mentioning being able to take an alternate start at 5.6/7 for Syke’s Sickle from the left to get to “Middle Earth Ledge” a pitch up. At first I thought it looked like easy slabs, but these slabs turned out to be relatively feature-less and there were a couple cruxy sections in running shoes, working a dirty finger crack. Once on the ledge, though, it was an easy scramble up to the base of the next pitch on Syke’s and we roped up here, with me taking the lead again. The first few rope lengths were fun but not very challenging climbing in the 5.6 range. I had to remember to have at least one piece of gear between Jed and I, otherwise there was no point in having the rope out at all.

Our route up Syke's Sickle.

Our route up Syke’s Sickle.

Eventually, though, the face steepened and the climbing became much more interesting, especially when we got up into the “Sickle” feature of the route and Jed took over the lead. The position and exposure here at the crux stemming 9+/10a roof section is spectacular and my impression of the route became much more positive—it suddenly felt like it deserved all its acclaim of classic status.

Final move onto Spearhead's summit.

Final move onto Spearhead’s summit. Photo: Jed Brown.

Once I’d grabbed the thank-god fin/arete, it was a quick (albeit, run-out) romp up the final slab, and right at noon Jed and I were standing on the summit of Spearhead.

Psyched on the summit of Spearhead. Photo: Jed Brown.

Psyched on the summit of Spearhead. Photo: Jed Brown.

The next section of the route is a bit of a trudge up the connecting ridge to the Central Rib headwall of Chiefshead, and I definitely felt low-energy through here, letting Jed set the pace. In retrospect, I think I was just feeling the altitude. I was happy to get to the steeper, more technical sections on the headwall as this offered a break from the cardio action, and Jed and I had fun following our nose looking for the most direct line still in the 5.6-7 range. We certainly weren’t going to go to the trouble of breaking out the rope and rock shoes for this section.

Some of the 5.6-7 scrambling on the Chiefshead Central Rib.

Some of the 5.6-7 scrambling on the Chiefshead Central Rib. Photo: Jed Brown.

Once on the summit of Chiefshead at 1:06pm, the day’s weather had definitely taken on a different timbre. Low, grey clouds darkened the skies to the south and east, and an insistent cold wind made us each don an extra layer. Nevertheless, things were actually looking pretty favorable with patches of blue to the north and west, so there was really never any question of whether we were headed over to Mt. Alice. Of course we were.

Jed running the grassy ridge on the Continental Divide, leading to Mt. Alice.

Jed running the grassy ridge on the Continental Divide, leading to Mt. Alice.

After a couple minutes of talus hopping, the Divide turns into a beautiful grassy ridge and an east-extending rib of this offered perfect access down to the base of the East Face of Mt. Alice (along with some scree plunging, shoe skiing, and boulder hopping, of course). Jed and I were both distracted through here by a whole herd of big-horned sheep—an exciting reminder that the Wild Basin is a much more remote and less-visited corner of the park than Longs Peak and the Glacier Gorge, whence we’d just come.

Neither Jed nor I had ever climbed on Mt. Alice, though just the previous week Jed had done a long run looping over the summit of the mountain. A prominent 4th Class ledge defined the base of the East Face and offered convenient access to the start of our Central Ramp route, which allegedly traced the lefthand edge of the East Face itself.

East Face of Mt. Alice with the ledge system that we used to access our route.

East Face of Mt. Alice with the ledge system that we used to access our route.

I was starting to get pretty tired at this point—sleepy more than anything—and was reluctant to put rock shoes back on. We eventually found the base of the route—a choice between a 5.8 dihedral and a 5.5 chimney—and started up. Things soon became inobvious, and, being on the sharp end, I was getting frustrated with the uncertainty of route-finding and not knowing whether I’d find gear or not.

After only a few hundred feet of stop and start rambling, I made a hasty belay, brought Jed up and told him he could take over. Really, more than anything, my feet were killing me and I wanted a chance to slip out of my shoes.

Jed, of course, persevered without batting an eyelash (though, notably, he did agree that his feet were quite painful as well), and he continued moving the rope up the face. A long stretch of moderate terrain soon turned into a steep and tricky crux section that was punctuated by a handful of closely-placed, old pitons. Thankfully, Jed set a belay at a large grassy ledge above there and brought me up before continuing up the final couple pitches to the top.

At this point, I finally noticed the gathering dark clouds and rumbling thunder became more insistent. Just after Jed had run out the first 100′ of rope things became much more dire with gusty winds and suddenly it was raining and then sheets of hail were coming down. I looked up to see Jed thrutching through a steep chimney, but he continued charging and with all the atmospheric theatrics I followed just as quickly as possible.

I arrived at the top to find Jed hunkered down just below the ridge, saying that the rocks on the ridge itself were buzzing and that we should probably wait it out here for a minute. No argument from me, other than avalanches and rockfall, electrical storms in the high peaks are really the only other thing that get me nervous.

Thankfully, despite the wrathful intensity with which the storm had initially hit, it had mellowed considerably by time we got the rope and rack packed away and changed back into our running shoes. During this process I put on every piece of clothing I had with me; Jed persevered sans long pants without a word.

Psyched on the summit of Mt. Alice. I was in too much of a hurry to take my helmet off.

Happy the rocks are no longer buzzing on the summit of Mt. Alice.

When we emerged from our alcove it soon became apparent that things were subdued enough to actually go and tag our final summit (at 5:49pm) and descend to the south via Boulder-Grand Pass and down to Thunder Lake. Just as we dropped into the pass the skies opened up again in earnest and thunder was cracking over our heads—we were pretty psyched to be off the Divide.

While I’d been dreading it a bit when we were up high on the Divide, the run out the Wild Basin (a full 7 miles of trail from Thunder Lake down to our bikes at the road) ended up being one of the highlights of the day for me. As has been the case the second half of the summer, on a long gradual downhill like that my IT band actually feels better and better the faster I go, so I opened up my stride and enjoyed the perfectly graded, often cushy trail. Running along at dusk in mid-August in the evergreen forest at 10,000′ on springy trail after a rain, after 15 hours on the move and feeling some finish line fever…I had distinct flashbacks of joy and nostalgia to running the Colorado Trail around Turquoise Lake at the end of the Leadville 100, which I’ve done so many times. In that moment, I really missed racing, but at the same time felt thankful for the opportunity and ability to challenge myself in an all-day adventure of a different tenor.

Gear explosion at the Wild Basin TH before boarding the Reeb Cycles adventure rig.

Gear explosion at the Wild Basin TH before boarding the Reeb Cycles adventure rig.

An hour of running from the lake, we reached the Wild Basin Trailhead 15h48m after starting our day and were just left with the task of biking the 7.5 miles back up the highway to my truck at the LPTH. Jed got a couple minutes headstart as I was re-packing my bag and proceeded to crush the ride—I never caught up. I was also dawdling like a granny, even weaving at times due to some serious bonkage; I’d hit my last gel back at Thunder Lake, high in the Wild Basin.

All in all, this was an outstanding adventure with a truly top-notch partner. The Mt. Alice route was a bit of a disappointment, but it’s a beautiful mountain and worth including as an aesthetic extension of the loop. On that day, I said I had no desire to ever climb it again, but right now I’m pretty sure I’m gonna have to give this thing another shot next year, if only to do a proper route on the spectacular NW Face of Chiefshead. Time to up my climbing game.