Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Shasta: no summit but great training

Quick recap:

The Shasta area weekend forecast called for cold temps, high winds, and blowing snow. We decided that even if we didn't summit, it would be good training for the Big Guy, so we packed up and headed ~3000 ft. up to Lake Helen. My pack was heavy but not as heavy as the previous weekend's 70+ lbs. -- at least I could lift it off the ground this time as opposed to having to prop it up on a rock and backing into it. :p

The weather held for a beautiful climb to Lake Helen (see photo above). The entire area around Lake Helen is totally exposed to the elements, but there was a bit of bare ground surrounded by tiny rock windbreaks. We opted to set up the tents on bare ground rather than snow, Howard and me in the NF VE24, Bob and Lloyd in the newer VE25. As soon as the tents were up, the wind speed really picked up, and the next 14 hours or so were spent trying to keep the tent walls from collapsing.


As the wind speed steadily rose, the temp dropped to the single digits below zero. Poor Howard was repeatedly pummeled as the tent wall pressed down upon him with the higher gusts, those higher gusts eventually becoming the sustained windspeed, 40?, 50?, 60 mph? Sans anomometer we don't know the exact number. What we DO know is that around 2 a.m. the wind was strong enough to finally snap one of the VE24's tent poles. "HELP!" "HELP!" I gigglingly yelled to Bob & Lloyd, slightly frightened, at the same time laughing at our predicament. After unsuccessfully trying to repair the tent pole, most of the rest of the night was spent holding up Howard's side of the tent wall with my feet. Thankfully, a two-hour calm from about 3-5 a.m. finally allowed some sleep.

As the winds once again picked up, we were unable to light our stove as the VE24 has no vestibule (what the heck kind of expedition tent is that?!) Bob and Lloyd kindly let us into their tent so we could eat breakfast and hang out while deciding what to do. Meanwhile, the wind still howled... to the point I was afraid our tent might blow away even though we'd secured it pretty well. When we checked on it a couple hours later, it had further collapsed and the fly was half detached, at which point we decided to GET THE F OUTA THERE!!

We broke camp and retreated down the mountain back to the interesting town of Mt. Shasta where we spent a warm night at the Cold Creek Inn. The next morning Bob, Lloyd and I spent some quality hours doing crevasse rescue, running belay/rope stuff, and a little refresher on self arrest. I even hung from a tree and prusicked and ascended my way up the rope -- now THAT was fun!

So, in the end, even though we didn't summit the mountain, we got in some great training for Big Guy: as my good friend Doug kindly wrote in an email this morning:

"You probably did Shasta for training, and if it was nasty on Shasty, that is so much the better for Big Mac (you WILL have storms... take a good long book and lots of tea bags)."

Monday, April 14, 2008

Mt. Shasta this weekend!

Five of us are going to attempt to climb Mt. Shasta this coming weekend: H'ard, myself, and three friends from New England, Bob, Lloyd and Mats. Aside from the obvious draw of climbing such a beauty (ain't she though?!!) in early spring conditions, this is a training climb for something I've hinted at in previous posts: an attempt at DENALI, aka Mt. McKinley, later this spring. (O_O)
Living in coastal SoCal, where the temps hit 90 this past weekend, it seems very strange to be filling my backpack with things like down jackets, face masks, snowshoes, mountaineering boots, and the like. When I lived in Vermont, I spent my winters snowshoeing and cramponing across the White Mountains of NH, including Mt. Washington, home of the "world's worst weather." (Now you know why I moved to CA.) But other than Mt. Hood last summer, I've hardly been on snow in the past two years.
In "training" for Alaska, yesterday I eclipsed my all-time heaviest backpack by A LOT, carrying a 70-75 lb. pack 3 miles with about 1000 feet of vertical. I felt pretty, uh, maxed out with that poundage but needed to really know that I could carry that much. Even after my knowledgeable and experienced friends (hi Deb!) recommended getting some hikes in with a heavy pack, I'd kinda put off doing it all winter. After reading the following pre-trip conditioning advice on the Mountain Madness* site, I knew I had to stop procrastinating:
"Besides aerobic training, such as running and cycling, you need to do strength training with a pack. This is the most valuable thing you can do to prepare yourself. The best method is to go on long hikes or climbs with a heavy pack once or twice a week. Begin with a light pack and work your way up to approx. 50% of your body weight (55 – 80 lb.) "
Well, I didn't exactly start with a light pack and work my way up, but jumped right in with carrying well over 50% of my body weight... not tellin' exactly how much! :p What was I carrying? Three 2.5 gallon containers of water to stash on the trail for use during long runs (plus some other stuff).
"Looks like cruel and unusual punishment." So commented one of the 25 or so hikers we met on the trail yesterday morning. My response: "It is! But I'm in training!" Surprisingly, I'm sore in just a couple of spots--mild shoulder tenderness and a right hip flexor ache. The Mt. Shasta pack feels rather ladylike in comparison. I'm really looking forward to this trip. :-)
*We are not going on a guided trip ($5000+!!!) on Denali but as a private group of nine.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

"Living in the NOW"

This is one of my favorite blogs. (Hi Bill!!) In honor of Bill's blog, here's a recap of my day:

We got up and hit the trails. I ran the first 7 miles with Sook. We talked a lot, then split up. I continued for 10 more miles. It was hot. Like 90 degrees. There was lots of poison oak in Serrano. When I finished, I Tecnu'd myself and jumped in the ocean. (Okay, I got in up to my knees.) Then we went to Coldstone for a coffee shake. It was yummy. My sweetie made a great dinner. I did dishes. We walked around the neighborhood. Life IS good.

Okay, I know that was too wordy, but I can't be Bill on my first try. This will take practice.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Flowers & other ramblings

I've been getting in some good runs in Point Mugu SP, a 17 miler with the gang two weekends ago (Hard's photos), a solo 23 miler this past weekend (no photos), as well as many "Ray loops" which never get old.
The spring flowers are spectacular right now with, among many other species, poppies, yuccas, giant coreopsi (sea dahlias), and Catalina Mariposa lillies in full bloom. I am botanically challenged and know the names of the latter two only because Chris picked up a book on flowering plants of the Santa Monica Mountains. :-) The giant coreopsis is an odd plant, more akin to something in a Dr. Seuss book--a tree really--about 2-5' tall with a trunk 1-5" in diameter and many bright yellow blooms shooting off the top. It grows only in the mountains and dunes on the southern and central California coast and on the Channel Islands, which explains why I'd never seen it before last spring. When not in full bloom, the plant is rather unremarkable, but IN bloom, it's pretty spectacular. Here are some smaller ones along the trail in La Jolla Canyon which is part of the Ray loop:

Bill and Kim sent their C2M photo links, here and here. (The two photos above were taken by them.) Speaking of C2M, a few days ago Chris received a very funny email saying, WRT the bonus/boner-adjusted results:
"Sounds like a good activity for Cub Scouts and slacker runners, but not what I would think a serious ultra runner would want."
Heehee! Apparently he thinks Meltzer, Nye, Jones-Wilkins, Carr, Horton, Angle, Goggins, et al, are not "serious ultra runners." God forbid people should actually have a little FUN in both putting on and running these things. No, we must be SERIOUS, people! Good grief...
Finally, my dear friends from back East, Michelle and Dave, better known by their trail names of Chickety and Neighbor (AT '05), are heading to the California-Mexico border in 10 short days to begin their northbound thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail!! I am very excited for them and hope to join them for a few days in late June. A sentence from a book I just finished, Dakota: a Spiritual Geography, jumped off the page, seeming particularly applicable to the quest they are about to undertake:
"In choosing a bare-bones existence, we are enriched, and can redefine success as an internal process rather than an outward display of wealth and power."
I couldn't agree more.