Saturday, August 6, 2016

Final countdown days

I have been trying to scrap together as many pre-fatherhood days in the mountains as possible over the past few months.  Here is a quick summary.  Outdoor ambitions have been scaled back to meet the demands of buying a house and spending time with Leah.
Counting down the days.
Photo: Susanna Girolamo and Joshua Phillips
Kootenai to Bass run

I took a Friday off of work and went for a run.  Without a lot of time to plan, I rolled the dice on a loop from Kootenai to Bass creeks in the Bitterroot.  This is an obvious close-to-town loop on the map, but the historical trail connecting the drainages has been lost to vegetative recovery, and the connection is notoriously heinous.  I chose to make the connection over Bass peak, which allowed me to spend much of the day above snowline and out of the brush.
Emerging above snowline on the way to Bass peak.
Heavenly twins in the background.
After a delightful crisp early morning bike shuttle from Bass to Kootenai, I started running.  The first four miles had been cleared by volunteers this year, and were enjoyable.  The next two or so have not been cleared in several years, but after a half hour of heavy downfall, the trail opened up enough to make decent time.  I left the trail well before Kootenai lakes, and climbed Bass peak via the Southeast ridge.  The bushwacking to snowline was not bad, and the climb to the summit was long and enjoyable.  I did several awkward detours on both sides of the ridge to avoid scrappy gendarmes, but they weren't too bad.
There is a trail under there somewhere.
Kitted out for bushwacking and wet brush.
Closing in on Bass peak.
On Bass peak.
After taking a minute on top, I backtracked about 100 yards on the Southeast ridge before finding a suitable break in the cliff band.  Established on the East face, I made a high traverse to the Northeast ridge before glissading quickly down to snowline.  In a stroke of poor judgement, I passed Bass lake on the South/bad side.  It took a while to negotiate, but I made it to the dam by early afternoon.  The run out on the trail was enjoyable - it is always fun to spend some time in Bass creek in summer, as there is a lot to see that is obscured in winter.
Gear drying and relaxation at Bass lake.
This being early June, I spent much of the day reflecting on the loss of friends and family.  I do this annually, and it is bittersweet to reflect on death in the season of rebirth.

Anaconda-Pintler Hiline loop + Warren

I celebrated the 4th of July and unwound from a long week of house moving by running the Hiline loop in the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness.  The previous day, Leah and I did a long walk from Phyllis lake to Johnson lake, also in the Pintlers.  It was fun to get another long mountain day in with Leah, and it was pretty cool to do what for most people is an overnight backpack trip in a day, deep in the third trimester of pregnancy.

I have wanted to do the Hiline loop for a long time.  Since we were camped in Rock creek, I started at the Moose lake trailhead and used the previous days' driving to drop a car off at the main Rock creek trailhead.  With the shuttle in place, the run ends up being about the same length as the standard loop from Carpp.  The morning hours were spend working up the drainage below Carpp and Tamarack lakes, and running the interminable, low grade switchbacks all the way to Cutaway pass.  The morning light on Warren and the surrounding mountains was striking.  From Cutaway, the descent into La Merche creek and subsequent climb to Warren lake were enjoyable.  The day was heating up as I descended into Fishtrap creek and climbed out toward Rainbow lake, but I was still feeling good, pushing at a moderately hard but sustainable pace.  I made a game-day decision to climb Warren from a point on the trail about a mile shy of Rainbow lake (instead of from the pass), and it ended up working flawlessly.  The climb to Warren was long, but it actually felt great to take a break from running and just hike and scramble.  By my memory, this was my thirteenth Warren summit.  Why I spend so much time on a mountain covered in hideous talus is beyond my comprehension.  The descent to Edith lake involved loose scree high on the peak, treacherous steep beargrass, and just a touch of unpleasant tree hopping and bushwacking.  Standard mountain fare, and I enjoyed it all.  Having never been to Edith lake before, I took a minute to chat with some super nice hikers and enjoy the ambiance.  I took my time running easily on the trail exit to the car.  Roughly 30 miles and done in about 9 hours car to car.

By all accounts, this is a stellar run.  There are several variations (taking the Hiline extension to Carpp lakes instead of bypassing them and various ridgeline extensions, including my Warren extension).  To my surprise, the Warren extension added less than an hour to the day.  The trails had not been cleared yet this year, but the downfall was quite manageable.  The trail tread and grades are for the most part conducive to fast running, the views along the route are top notch, and the committing nature if wrapping behind Warren peak is compelling.  While I returned to the car feeling good, in retrospect the day took a toll on my body, and I ended up taking four days off of running for everything to come around.

And, my camera was out of batteries, so photos will have to wait until next time.  Which is a shame, because scenery along the way is one of the main highlights of the outing.

Lolo Peak - Lantern/Carlton loop

7/8 I devoted a splendid Friday morning to one of my two favorite runs in Missoula (the other is the simple University/N. Sentinel loop).  There is just enough running for this to count as a long run, and the rest of the outing is steep, technical, and wild.  Once all of the morning sleepies were out of the system, and the short section of downfall was surmounted, I put in an hour long hard effort, which put me at the miner cabin on Lantern ridge satisfactorily whooped.  The remaining walk to the summit was quick and enjoyable, and I had ample time to reflect on all of the support Leah and I have received over the past month as we move into our new house.
Quick descending on Lolo peak.
The descent off the peak was more enjoyable than normal, since there is still enough snow to glissade much of the peak.  During the run out from Carlton ridge, I damaged my foot, and had to limp run the last four miles to the car.  A PT appointment at Sapphire and week off of running later have not resolved exactly what I did to it, but it seems to be either stress in the muscles deep in the forefoot, muscle stress to my middle toe, or perhaps just a bruise in the forefoot.  Not resolved a week later, but the foot is certainly on an upward trend, and I have had quite the week of biking on Missoula's impeccable trails.  Before the foot tweek, I was on track to do the loop in about 3.50 at a moderately bright pace with an hour threshold effort thrown in (2.10 car to summit).

7/30 Jeffrey and I ran the loop in the backward direction on a scorching Saturday morning.  I have been doing all of my outings alone recently, and it was nice to have company.  We climbed at a stout pace (2:30ish to summit), and descended at an average speed, with some wandering to find the climber trail on Lantern ridge.  4.10ish.  Nice morning.
Jeffrey near the summit.
Sheep Mountain loop
I ran the E. Fk/Sheep Mountain/Woods loop on a hot Sunday morning.  I must have rolled out of the wrong side of bed that day, as I was exhausted the entire run.  Just biking to the trailhead was a slog! After cresting the peak about 20 mins behind normal, my body finally woke up, but then I re-aggravated my left foot on the run out.  What a beat down!  Still, it was great to find time for this fine outing so close to town, and an hour and a half nap chased by a few cups of coffee put me in good position to help out with house chores in the afternoon.  I don't feel like I have been pushing too hard physically the past month or so, but perhaps my body is begging to differ.  Need to be careful. 4.50

Shadow rolling high on Sheep mountain.
Murphy/Beargrass Highway
6/30ish  Ran the Second Thought/Murphy/Pt 6/Beargrass loop at a (slightly too) hard effort.  I really like this outing - plenty of running and elevation, but also some fun technical ridge walking and a nice summit.  My new favorite La Sportiva Helios shoes were inadequate to protect my feet from all of the pokey rocks.  3.05.

7/29  Ran the loop backward to save my foot from the fast 5-mile Beargrass highway descent.  Nice to get this done in the morning before the day got too hot.  Foot held in there, and it was nice to stride it out a bit on the way down.  I now have the off trail route dialed, which makes the outing more routine than ideal, but it is still an all time favorite close-to-town long run.  3.00

Due Date run
8/14  Today was Leah's due date, so in addition to being on a very short leash, I have been trying to bank sleep and energy.  After brunch, I set out on foot to do a long run close to the house.  Ended up running Smokejumper/University/N Sentinel/Jumbo via L/Down S. ridge to Mountainview/N hills/Orange Street and home.  The pace was adequately relaxed, and I took two water breaks in the Clark fork, but I still got a little beat down by the heat. My shorts were stained with salt, and I was ready for a 90 minute nap by the time I returned to the house!  In any case, felt good to get a long run in, and foot held up marginally. 4.15


And, on a random philosophical note, aside from the condescending title, my thoughts on running with music and/or podcasts align well with this article.  I usually find simply connecting to the experience the most valuable way to spend time on the move.

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