Wednesday, June 18, 2008

San Joe-Zee

(No,that's not Kansas. It's J.D. Grant Park, near San Jose.)

Chris had a business trip in SJ this week, and we flew up on Saturday in order to visit friends Ann and Wayne. Ann has a most *amazing* wine cellar, and along with Lisa and John, we imbibed in a couple of California chardonnays, three French bourgognes--1979, 1982, and 1986 vintages!--and two sweet dessert wines, sorry I can't be more specific. If that wasn't enough, Ann served a scrumptious five-course dinner as well! Had to have some food to go with all that wine!
On Sunday I was feeling completely and totally unmotivated to run or exert myself in any way after so much wine the night before, so we DROVE up Mt. Diablo (trying to avoid all the road bikers) and walked the nature trail loop around the summit. Hah! I did pick up a map so will be ready to hit the trails next visit, many miles there!
I love visiting the Bay Area with its abundance of trails and open-space parks. One of my favorites so far is J.D. Grant. Only 20 minutes east of the city, up the narrow and winding Mt. Hamilton Road, this park has been almost deserted every time I've been there. Except for the sound of airplanes, it is also a very quiet place and one with lots of wildlife. In a 15-mile run, I saw a coyote, lots of birds of prey, a bunch of wild pigs, a deer, and about 3 trillion comical ground squirrels. :)
Tuesday I got in about 14 miles and 4000 ft. of vertical on and around Mission Peak, always a good climb and workout, and on Wednesday a quick 8 miler on the New Almaden Trail (reminiscent of the Wildwood Trail in Portland in the way it weaved in and out of the terrain's curves) in Almaden Quicksilver Park, new terrain for me. Tuesday night we had dinner and more good wine with our friends the uber-cool Zombies and got to see their awesome new *retail store* in Palo Alto (opening later this summer). We wish them continued success!!
Flew back to Santa Barbara Wednesday night (SO much more of an enjoyable airport than nasty LAX!), with a spectacular full moon over the ocean to enjoy on the drive home on PCH. :) Home for a few days, then over to the Right Coast early next week...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Post Denali ponderings, Part II

I decided against doing another day-by-day account of our Denali trip since the West Buttress route is so well known, traveled, and documented, AND since Mats is doing such a good job over on VFTT. (Another of our team members, Arm, has posted 100+ nice photos!)

After weighing our gear for the flight out of Talkeetna and coming to the astonishing conclusion that we averaged about 117 lbs.!! per person (although mine was more in the 100 lb. range), I commented that my JMT speed hike pack weighed in at 4 lbs. at the start. This prompted a sort of compare-and-contrast between climbing Denali via the WB and blitzing the JMT. While on my run today, I got a little carried away with it. Here goes--JMT first, then Denali (some numbers are educated estimates):

Total miles hiked: 223 / 38
Average miles per day: 58 / 2.7
Total elevation gain, in feet: 38,000 / 18,000
High point reached: 14,505 / 19,918
Highest pass: Forester 13,153 / Denali 18,200
Demigod: John Muir (duh) / Bradford Washburn
Miles hiked in the dark: Many / 0--it was light all the time!

Partners in crime: 2--crew Chris & Deborah / 7--Frodo, Lloyd, Arm, Garret, Jeff, Mats, & Rob
Time spent in tent: Not nearly enough / Way too much
Surface: Dirt, rock, kitty litter-pumice / Snow & ice
Footwear: Montrail Hardrocks 13 oz. each / La Sportiva Nuptse mountaineering boots 3 lbs. each, MSR snowshoes, Black Diamond crampons, OR overboots up high
Gaiters: Dirty Girls, short / Mountain Hardware, high
Pack: Nathan Intensity / North Face Snow Leopard, circa early 90s (& child's sled low on mtn.)
Average daytime temp: Pleasant (60-70s) / Cold (0-10s)
Layers of clothing: 1 / 5, including down jacket at 19,000 ft.
Painkillers taken: 8 Tylenol / None
Sunscreen: Lots on 80% of body / Lots on 5% of body (face only)
Days without shower: 3 / 14
Food: Mary Jane's Farm pastas, spuds, oatmeal, Snickers bars, jerky, nuts, salami / Same
Java: Starbucks Doubleshots / Folgers instant (possibly the most significant hardship of the trip)
Water: Plenty / Plenty (just had to melt a boatload of snow in order to get it)
Poop: WAG bags in Whitney Zone / Clean Mtn. Cans on entire route
Permits: $15 (for the Mt. Whitney Trail) / $200 per person
Favorite sections: Rae Lakes, Pinchot Pass, Evolution Valley / Fairview Inn, Talkeetna :)
Most adrenaline producing: Climbing Half Dome on reconnaisance hike / Flying to the Kahiltna Glacier, climbing the fixed ropes, traversing the 16 ridge, climbing to Denali Pass unroped, descending Denali Pass roped (i.e. like everything above 14,000 ft.)
Least favorite part: Lyell Canyon / Trying to sleep at 17,200 feet
Best campsite: Lower Evolution Valley / 14,000 ft. Basin Camp (when the sun was out)
Jumping-off town: Lone Pine, CA / Talkeetna, AK
Funny place names: Tully Hole, Bubb's Creek, Happy Isles / Motorcycle Hill, Squirrel Point, Washburn's Thumb, Pig Hill
Crowd factor: High / High
Foreigners: A handful / Many
Quizzical comments: "Well, aren't YOU adventurous?!" / "I DON'T KNOW!" (Hong Kong climbers' response to every question)
Flora seen: Lots / A tiny bit of lichen
Fauna: Lots--birds, marmots, pikas, deer / 1 Raven (Talkeetna population omitted from count)
Fuel: One 8 oz. isobutane canister / 10 gallons Coleman
and finally...
Pack weight:

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Post Denali ponderings

Home again safe & sound with all digits intact after a fab 17 days in Alaska with Team Dom, pictured below at the 14,000 foot camp! That's top row Bob aka Frodo, Lloyd, Garrett, and bottom row moi, Rob, Jeff, and Mats (he's not an albino--that's sunscreen on his face). Team member #8, Arm, is missing because he took the photo.

Having landed at LAX just this morning after a red eye from ANC, I'm still processing all the fun--and it WAS fun in an extreme, masochistic (read: I-can-go-two-whole-weeks-without-a-shower!!) sense (and yes, I did actually "wash" my hair with Arm's hand sanitizer and a liter of water one day). I'm contemplating whether to write up a sort of sole-female, novice day-by-day account or whether to leave it in executive summary form. For now, will opt for the latter.

BTW, for those who were fooled, the previous two posts were ghostwritten by a certain jokester we'll call "Chris," but the facts are almost completely accurate. We did have a marginally functioning sat phone complete with 3 lb. (?) solar panel but no Blackberry, Gooseberry, or Dingleberry... two plus weeks without internet--oh my!

Our team public affairs director and eternal optimist, Mats the Swede, is in the process of posting a day-by-day summary on the northeastern US hiking website Views From the Top. (Click on Trip Reports, then "Team Dom Denali Attempt Day by Day.")

As previously mentioned by my ghostwriter, we lucked out and were able to fly onto the Kahiltna glacier late on Thursday, May 22, and over the next week and a half gradually made our way up the mountain to a high camp of 17,200 ft., where we spent three restless nights, punctuated by the panic-provoking sensation of trying to breathe with plastic bags over our heads. This lovely piece of real estate was preceded by 10,000 vertical feet of sled hauling, fixed rope ascending, eye-popping/leg-vibrating, multi-thousand foot sure death-inducing dropoffs, subzero temps, waaay too many hours in the tents, mastering the pee bottle, and getting to answer the call of nature with the aid of Clean Mountain Cans. Damn, but THAT was fun! The guys were chivalrous enough to never demand that *I* carry the contents to the nearest crevasse. Eww. (Why yes, as a matter of fact, I CAN "be" female when it is of personal benefit.)

On Monday, June 2, all eight of us started for the summit. One of our unfortunate compatriots who was suffering from altitude sickness turned back at 18,200 feet as did our fearless team leader who opted to accompany him. (He'd already summitted in 2004.) Another of our members decided to take off solo; he did summit. The remaining five, of whom finishing as a team was paramount, stuck together, maintaining the pace of the slowest member. Alas, the weather turned on us before we could achieve our goal--it was nasty indeed, w/~30-40 mph (?) blowing snow and subzero temps--necessitating our turning back at the 19,900 foot level, approximately 400 feet below the summit. The trek back "home" bordered on Epic, with none less than five self/group roped arrests on the infamous Denali Pass/Autobahn/most deadly section of the route requiring about three hours to traverse a mile. Needless to say, it was a night *I* will not soon forget.


Although we still had a few days to spare, we unanimously agreed to get the flog off the mountain and retreat to the outpost of Talkeetna to eat real food, drink beer, and hang out with like-minded fringe elements of society. If you are ever in the neighborhood, don't miss the historic Fairview!! :-) With heavy hearts, our Alaskan escape from reality was over all too soon as we retired to Anchorage and our respective flights home.

Here are a couple of shots, with more to follow...

My tentmates-turned-bros, team leader Frodo and snow melter extraordinaire (and soon-to-be new dad!) Lloyd:

Steep section of trail heading up the West Buttress headwall. Just above this point it gets really steep, necessitating the use of fixed ropes and ascenders.
Gotta go... for my first run in 3 weeks!