Sunday, July 27, 2014

Three Joe traverse, Bass Creek

Bass Lake and beyond from Stormy Joe.
I was finally able to spend a fine summery Sunday traversing from Little to Stormy Joe in Bass creek. I have wanted to do this traverse ever since hearing about Missoulian mountaineer Forest Dean's attempt last fall. It seems like kind of a long day in concept, but in reality it is quite doable, and I had a blast.

I left the Bass creek trailhead 7:15 and walked the normal winter route to the upper trailhead, then continued up the Little St. Joe trail for about 15 minutes. I wasted about 15 minutes searching for water (in retrospect, year-round water is available near the little saddle below the final summit pitch, somewhere around 8,000 feet), but otherwise the climb was casual. With 3 liters of water squirreled away in the pack I proceeded to the summit of Little St. Joe, ate a Snickers bar then continued west toward Big St. Joe.
Just your typical Big from Little St. Joe photo.
 I ended up passing a solo hiker headed out to Big St. Joe on the long ridge traverse between the peaks.  The ridgeline traverse was a little craggy and brushy in a few spots, but nothing too bad.  I worked through the summit cliffs on Big St. Joe via a stout 4th class gully just north of the ridge proper.  I hit the summit of Big St. Joe in 3:45, feeling fantastic and enjoying the day.  The descent to the Big/Stormy saddle was a bit slow at first, but the last 1,000 vertical feet went quickly on open sandy scree.  From the saddle, I was pleased to find a relatively krummholz and cliff-free route just south of the east ridge of Stormy Joe, which I took for most of the climb.  Eventually the sneak below the cliffs petered out, and I scampered up some 4th class rock and climbed the last few hundred feet on the ridgetop.
Crux gully on the east rideg of Big St. Joe.  I followed the right edge of the snow,
started up toward the left notch, then cut right near the top of the gully.
You just kind of have to follow your nose.
The exit from the gully was stout 4th class - plenty of holds but steep. 
5th lifetime summit of Big St. Joe.
It got a little bushwackey for a few bits, but wasn't as bad as it looks in the picture.
Looking back at Big St Joe from Stormy Joe.
Afer a celebratory stop on the summit, I made the slowish descent of the Southwest ridge, then cruised down an unmaintained trail from the Bass/Lolo Cr. saddle to Bass Lake.  I had a slow quirk when I dropped beyond the trail, but it was good to get a bit of character building bushwacking in just to keep things real. Having only been to the lake in the winter, I was struck by the beauty of the lake in summer, especially when it is full. I existed via the Bass creek trail.  I have been wanting to run this one for several years, and it was great. Of note, I took the summer trail on the North side of the creek, and it was quite nice for running, albeit a touch slower than the South side/winter trail. For stats, I think the checks in around 7,000 vertical feet and something just shy of 20 miles and done in 7.38 at a moderate but steady pace.
Bass Lake outlet, where I swam.
This is a good traverse. The peaks are iconic, the length is solid yet eminently doable, and the ridgeline traversing is relatively fast, at least compared to characteristically slow ridgelines in the central and southern portions of the range. The outing is blissfuly lacking in commitment, as one can bail south off the ridge pretty much anywhere except off the cliffy south face of Stormy Joe. It would also be a fine outing in the reverse direction.  Go do it.

With a long race in just 6 days, I held the pace back a bit, and it was encouraging to feel good all day.  I had a relatively smooth day, but have no doubts that it could go faster.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Photo: Amy Groen

Words truly can not express how excited I am to be married to Leah.  We had an absolutely fantastic wedding filled with friends, family, love, food, dancing, and everything else I could have asked for. Thanks to everyone who made it so amazing.
Brothers. Photo: Niles Grey
Challening Leah's mother to a match of ropey stumpey
during the rehersal dinner.  Photo: Amy Groen
Sharp looking wedding party. Photo: Niles Grey
Katuba signing ceremony: Photo: Niles Grey
Breaking the glass. Photo: Niles Grey
Best toast ever. Photo: Niles Grey
Sitting in with the band.  Photo: Amy Groen
Dancing. Photo: Amy Groen
New family! Photo: Eileen Samberg
Sunset in the field. Photo: Niles Grey

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Sheep mountain for time

With a few days of little to no excercise in the future, I decided to put in a hard longish effort and run Sheep mountain for time.  After a full day of work and running errands, it felt a bit late to start the run at 6:15 pm, but I was able to get back before dark.  The run was wonderful, and it felt good to push hard and close relatively fast, at least compared to past runs on Sheep mountain.  The only snafoo was that I was about 200 calories shy of having enough fuel, and I spent the middle hour or so on the edge of bonking.  In any case, it was a good reminder that Sheep isn't that far a long as one saves enough energy for the last few miles at the top.  Also, I still have an unconfirmed theory that the absolute fastest way to do Sheep is to bike up to the last steep pitch below Blue Point and run from there.  18 miles and around 5,000 vertical feet in 3.14.45, starting and ending at the Woods gulch trailhead.  I think it could go 5 minutes faster, but a sub-3 hour time would be stout, at least for me.  Also, the Sheep mountain trial is clear, and it looks like the Forest Service has put in some new waterbars on some of the steepest parts of the trail.  Go get it!

Cheesy self portrait on top of Sheep.

Splits:  Top of Three Larch road: 21; Switchback where it gets steep: 45; Blue Point: 1.09; Top of next to last hill; 1.35; summit 1.48.  Blue point on return: 2.25; Top of last downhill: 1.50; Woods 3.14.45

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Early summer long runs

On the CDT near Lost Trail Pass.
After a long period gingerly ramping up running volume this spring, which was continuously derailed by skiing, I have been fortunate to find time for a long run almost every week since late April, which has allowed time to explore some new trails and get off the beaten path at times. I have a virtually inexhaustible list of runs I want to do, especially around Superior, so hopefully the streak will continue. To be continued…

4/29 - M trail + Sypes attempt + crash and burn running home.  I tried to run the M to Sypes, but there was too much snow.  I of course did not give in without a fight, and pushed it way up into the snow before retreating.  I ran all the way home, which involved a lot of pavement running which took me down.  Hobbled it home, arriving late and humbled.

5/2 - Sentinel long run.  Spent a fantastic spring morning running up Hellgate, over both Sentinel summits, down Pengelly and around the the fire road then up University, up North Sentinel and down the ridge.  Ran this one real slow, but the calves held in there, and this run was a great confidence boost.  It was also great to be out on a warm spring morning cruising around on the hill.

5/13? - Sentinel laps with Doug.  OK, maybe not so creative, but I had a great afternoon pounding the quads back into downhill shape by running 3 Sentinel laps plus a University lap.  All in all I was able to touch most of the major trails (Evans, Pengelly, Smokejumper steep and flat, and chopsticks or whatever the normal University trail is called).  Somewhere just south of 7k vertical and done in 4 hours.  My quads were trashed for several days.

5/21 - Three larch + Blue point + Sidewinder.  A fantastic, cool evening.  Also not terribly creative, except that the upper 1,000 vertical feet was in the snow.  Legs felt fantastic. 

5/28 - Blue Mountain + Deadman point + end of 30K course.  Ran up Blue Mountain via the recreation trail, then took the road to the summit.  Came down the Deadman trail through intermittent snow, then ran the loop out to Deadman point, which was new to me, and worth the extra time to get out there.  Ran a short extra loop back in the main Blue Mountain area to make this a proper 4 hour run.  I ran out of gas at the end, but this was another good confidence boost going into the Scout Mountain 60K.  Also, I think that the standard Deadman loop is a fantastic and under appreciated run, and the big Deadman ridge downhill is one of the best sustained downhills around for training. 20++ miles in 4 hours.

6/8 - Scout Mountain 60k.  4th place.  Had a good race, but recovery was slow, so I took a week off, and it took almost 3 weeks before I was fully recovered.

6/13 - Middle Cottonwood to Sypes. Leah and I got up early and busted this one out before helping set up for Kyle’s wedding.  We ran the car shuttle, making this a proper long run.  Once the road slog was done, the rest of the run was one of those outings where everything was perfect.  Couldn’t have asked for better weather, temps, wildflowers, interesting trail, etc.  Plus I got to run with Leah, which is always a treat. One of the best runs of the year.

6/25 - Lolo peak loop from Mill Creek.  I ran/hiked Lolo peak, ascending the Lantern ridge trail, which conveniently ended right at snow line.  From snowline, 45 minutes of ridgline scrambling had me on the summit.  An unfortunate rain squall had me butt glissading down without a proper break to enjoy the view, but I got out of the worst of the storm, and had a great time cruising around on snow back up to Carlton ridge.  I managed to get myself a little lost on the ridge, but this is kind of standard operating procedure, and I re-located the trail before dropping out of snow, so no problems.  The run down the Carlton ridge and Mill creek trails is one of my all time favorites, and this iteration was no exception.  Also, the trail has already been cleared by mountain bikers, so it is good to go. I think Matt Radlowski and crew cleared the trail this year, so thank him next time you see him around town.  Another fantastic mountain adventure with just enough running to qualify as a proper run. Aboug 6,000 vertical feet and 15+ miles in 3.55.
Starting up the Lantern ridge trail.  The adventure begins...
On Lantern ridge, closing in on Lolo.
6/28 - Stuart peak + North hills + run home.  Leah and I ran out to Stuart on a rainy Saturday.  Fortunately, the rain never got too severe, and we had a great time jogging at a comfterable pace.  I wanted this to be a legitimately long (for me) run, so I ran back to the house from the tailhead via waterworks, which added about an hour, and felt surprisingly good.  About 26 miles and a lot of hours.

7/1 – Spent a post-work evening out in Superior and ran Dry creek/Ann Arbor gulch as a loop, grinding out about 10 miles of dusty roads before cruising the beautiful Dry Creek ridge trail.  I had 30 extra minutes, so I bumped up to an unnamed peak on the ridge and enjoyed the fine evening views east to Illinois peak and the Cliff lake peaks.  The run down Ann Arbor was made more adventurous by downfall and vegetation encroaching on the trail, but it is clear enough to run, and I had a blast.  In fact, the downhill was the only time my legs felt good on an otherwise dissapointingly high gravity day.  Somewhere around 18 miles and 4,000 vertical feet in 3 hours, 10 minutes.
Coming down Ann Arbor with Illinois peak and Cliff lake in the background.
The trail is pretty faint - but it is all there if you don't mind using your imagination in a few sections.
7/4 - Borah peak with Leah.  More of a hike than a run, but we took running shoes and packs and ran quite a bit of the descent.  The scrambling high on the peak was pure fun - not too hard, but interesting and engaging. Had a great day out, and it was kind of fun to hit the highest peak in Idaho with a casual 1 pm start and still be back to Challis in time for fireworks.  Great day in the mountains.  5,500 vertical feet in 5 hours, 30 minutes.   
Leah running down from Borah peak.
7/6 - Wrapped up our mini-Idaho road trip by running for a few hours on the CDT near Lost Trail Pass. I ended up running a road/trail loop, starting and ending at the Threemile ridge trail.  It was hot and I lost the trail and ended up running game trails back to the car, but this was otherwise a surprisingly easy run after several days of peak scrambling.  Plus, the views were spectacular, and it was great to see a new chunk of country.  ~20 miles, 4,000++ vertical feet and one head over heels tumble in 3 hours, 45 minutes.
Bumped into this hottie on the CDT.
So much for a recovery run, Leah.