Thursday, June 30, 2016

Mt. Rainier Solo June 2016 Trip Report

I was watching the videos from my GoPro last night and they are really good. I have to edit a movie for this trip. Which also means sorry, no video today.

I know that this seems spur of the moment, but I assure you, it had enough planning. It started back in Nepal, on the hike down from base camp. There was some talk among people about what to climb next, with one of my teammates wanting to go grab Denali while still acclimated. Nolan's 14 was in my mind much of the trip and when asked what was next I tried to describe it in a few sentences several times to my metric speaking teammates, but 14,000 feet doesn't sound as interesting when you are sitting in a tent at 17,000. Originally my plane tickets were to arrive home on Saturday, June 4th and I was going to return to work on Monday, June 6th. That leaves just enough time to decompress with my parents before returning to work. However, when we summited early and were back in Kathmandu so fast, I looked into getting my ticket changed, and for $250 I could move it up five days, which was worth it to me. So I reached the USA on Tuesday.

As I said when I announced I was going to Mt. Rainier, I could have gone back to work early, or spent more time decompressing at my parents, both of which are things that I might have done under different circumstances. In 2014 when the season was canceled I returned directly to work, nearly four weeks early, and on a Wednesday. After college semesters I always enjoyed the week or two of quiet and peace from going back to stay with my parents. So Tuesday I was scoping out possible flights to Seattle and looking at the weather. Wednesday I emailed the rangers for a solo permit, and after receiving it, booked a next day flight to Seattle. It wasn't cheap, but it wasn't expensive enough to deter me.

Thursday I drove to Chicago and boarded a direct flight to Seattle, which I was upgraded to first class! I just recently made United MileagePlus Gold status, which is pretty exciting. Pretty uneventful Thursday evening, I found a hotel near Seattle and went to sleep. Friday morning I stopped at the Tacoma REI, which is the smallest REI I have ever been in, and bought a few last minute food supplies and a map. The drive to the park was as clear as I have ever seen it.

Mt. Rainier on the Drive from Seattle
Mt. Rainier loomed in the distance, taunting me to come and run it.

The rangers were nice and got me set up with my permit. Turns out only 20-25 people solo Mt. Rainier a year and there happened to be four solo permits granted that weekend. I went for a short run  Friday night and then stayed at the little motel and cabins at the entrance to the park. My friends had reserved a room there back in May 2015 when we first attempted it, and while it isn't the cheapest place, it's nice and so conveniently located. I had enough of sleeping on the ground in April and May so I opted for the bed. Plus, cabin number 1 has a fireplace, which is awesome. Listening to a crackling fire is one of my favorite ways to fall asleep.
Token Park Gate Selfie at Dusk
Saturday I woke up at 2 AM. This is so funny to me, here I woke up at 2,000 feet above sea level, hours after many other people probably left for the actual summit. I felt like that high school kid that was actually going to be a professional athlete in five years, just showing up and winning the game for his team without all the effort. At 3:36 AM I left the pavement and headed up the snow. The snow was mush until about 8000 feet. That slowed me down. I was hoping that perhaps it would be frozen, or that the trail would be exposed so that I could move fast but it was not to be. However, once above 8000 feet the snow became frozen and I was able to move quickly.

At 4 miles and 2:18 after I started I passed through Camp Muir at 10,000 feet. I didn't even stop. I decided in advance that I would put on crampons when I felt I needed them. Well, the trail to Ingram Flats looked downright flat and easy so I didn't bother with crampons. At the rock ridge before Ingram Flats though I stopped and put my crampons on. At this point two guys carrying skis caught up with me, the first climbers I had seen all day, and it was around 6:30 AM. I caught them just past the camp there at 11,200 feet and then headed up Disappointment Cleaver. It was a bright sunny day and perfect weather. It seemed like a Colorado 14er in May.

At the top of the cleaver I started to pass people coming down. Quite a few people, maybe six were unroped, which I thought was crazy for that route if you had a partner. I mean, yes I was unroped, but the consequences of a fall up there would not be good for a soloist. Anyway, I marched up the rest of the mountain, stepping over a couple small crevasses and feeling very strong as everyone else I passed seemed to be having a harder go of it.
Summit Selfie
I made the summit 5:41 after starting at 9:17 AM, the perfect time of day to summit something. Great views, and plenty of daylight to descend. I stayed for only a few minutes then headed down.
Yep... Tights.
It took me 3:02 to descend, reaching the parking lot not too long after noon. I took it easy and conservative on the way down, which is to say I kept it safe. Most mountaineering accidents happen on the way down, and soloing I feel the need to be extra cautious.

GPS Elevation Profile of  my Climb and Descent on Strava
After checking in with the ranger station at Paradise, I drove back to Tacoma. I spent some time reading and walking in Point Defiance Park, which is really nice. Then I went out to eat at Olive Garden, and slept in my "manager's special" minivan rental when I figured out how to put the seats down. After paying for two nights of hotels, and having to wake up at 4 AM, I wasn't about to pay for another partial night of hotel. It was a really good trip. Since attempting Mt. Rainier last year in May I have thought about doing the one day ascent often. It's really nice to check it off the wish list. Now I feel like my Mt. Rainier climbing is complete, I don't need to do it again. That being said, there are are few interesting things I would enjoy doing in the future if anyone wants to join me:

  1. Liberty Ridge
  2. A true speed ascent trying for the speed record of 3:51 (although I probably need to get better at skiing)
  3. Willis Wall
  4. Introducing new people to mountaineering by leading a trip
  5. A winter ascent

Monday, June 27, 2016

Comparing Climates Across the USA

I'm suffering. It's hot and humid down here in Kansas next to the Oklahoma border. I found this interesting map a few months ago, I think someone tweeted a link, with average high temperatures by county across the US. Both links are the same link. It's interesting to move the sliders around.

So what is my ideal day? 40F in the morning and 70F in the afternoon. That's a pretty high temperature swing as most days have a 20F morning to afternoon temperature swing, not 30F. Now, saying I have an ideal day, I need to clarify, I like the variation of sweating in the summer and skiing in the winter, so I do like variation, but I could take my ideal day 10 months a year.

As I was playing with the climate graph, and thinking about how much I was suffering in the heat here in southern Kansas, I had the idea to compare Montgomery County, Kansas to Dubuque County, Iowa. Then I had the idea to compare them based on the clothing I would wear while running. What you end up with is the chart below.
Average High Montgomery County Days Dubuque County Days
9F to 32⁰F 0 76
33⁰F to 49⁰F 79 64
50⁰F to 79⁰F 163 147
80⁰F to 108⁰F 123 78

It's organized by #1 weather you have to worry about snow and ice and slipping, #2 long pants and long sleeves but very comfortable, #3 shorts and short sleeves which is great, and #4 hot and slow. So as you can see I traded nearly 11 weeks of cold and snowy weather for an additional 45 days of weather that is hot enough to slow me down and deter me from moving any farther south. Plus, I gained nearly a month in the comfortable ranges. No place is perfect, and this list is only for average highs, not the lows or average temperatures. So we'll see. I have to finish suffering through these 123 days of heat before getting to the good eight months of the year. Hopefully I will remember to give a climate update in January, when the temperature to go running is amazing.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Independence: Week 2

It's still a bit of a whirlwind. I am learning new things quickly, figuring out where to run and shop, and adjusting to the heat. It's significant, the heat. It's not just the 90+F heat either, it's the 80+% humidity at the same time.

So why did I name my new series "Independence", aside from the obvious fact that's the town I'm living in?

Well, for starters now that I'm 30, I feel that I can't even pretend to be a kid any more. I mean, in your 20s you still count as young, but 30? People make a billion dollars by 30. Successful professional athletes retire by 30. Rock music stars overdose and die before they get to 30. It's like there is no pretending, no hiding, on do overs, this is your life. I'm an adult. Which means, at least in America, that I strive for independence. That means financial independence, it means living independently (like not in my parents house), and in my mind it means buying a house too. Those are all things I am working on, developing my independence.

It's also ironic and I find it funny because I don't think true independence really exists. I could say I am living independently hundreds of miles from my family, but I still talk to them often and I have all of the relationships with my coworkers and friends. Similarly, I strive for financial independence, from my parents I made it years ago, but ultimately we aim for the same thing from our employer (it's called retirement), where we are financially independent enough to do what we want when we want to. Yet, everyone has a boss, and to pretend that you are free from the constraints of the financial industry when you are financially independent is ridiculous. Analogously, I say I am striving for independence, but looking for a nice lady friend, it's a contradiction.

Work was good. I led a meeting with some international colleagues that I will be working closely with, and I had never been in a meeting with any of them before, and only previously met one in person. Other than that I'm learning the more detailed aspects of axles, which is why I came here.

I ran 59 miles and bicycled 57 miles during the week, and the high temperatures were over 90 Fahrenheit six out of seven days, and only 89 on Saturday. The temperature alone is not so bad, but it's humid here, routinely 70+% in the two weeks I've been here, which makes any afternoon activity a sweat-fest.

Social activity has been up to my desires already. I went rock climbing Saturday afternoon. The rock was hot, the routes were difficult, and we sweat like crazy. I've been out to eat with coworkers (friends) a few times and been to a couple grill out events at people's houses. People are quite friendly and social and I can see already I will soon be turning down invitations to do this social thing or that social thing so that I can sleep and run more. That's kind of something I was famous for in Dubuque, not committing to social stuff.

That's about it for week two. Next week will be a little crazy as I go out to Colorado and try Nolan's 14. If anyone wants to join for all or part of it you are welcome, but fair warning, I'm not waiting for you if you can't keep up.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

I Will Be Attempting Nolan's 14 July 2nd

Well, the title says it all. The plan is, leave Coffeyville/Independence after work Thursday and drive to Denver. I don't have a place to stay in Denver yet, so if anyone wants to offer a spot on the floor I will take it, although I will be arriving around midnight.

Friday morning my mom will arrive, and my sister flies into Denver, and perhaps we will meet up with another Iowa friend. We will pick up last minute supplies at REI in Denver or wherever we can find the stuff we are looking for. In the afternoon we will drive up I-70 in bumper to bumper traffic to Leadville. Maybe we will take 285 or another route if I-70 looks especially bad. Dinner will be had at Quincy's Friday night, and hopefully no one will have altitude sickness. We will sleep in Leadville or camp near there, I don't have a reservation yet, again if anyone has a spot on the floor for 3-4 people let me know.

Saturday we will wake up early and get breakfast at the Golden Burro (because it's the only breakfast place open at 6 AM in Leadville) and then around 7 AM or maybe a little later, head to the Fish Hatchery for me to start running 14 14,000 foot mountains.

Here is a good description of the route.

For sure there is a start and a finish, and at least four "aid stations" along the way, but we only have a two wheel drive vehicle, and the crux is definitely the six mountains from Huron to Yale. Which is another way of saying I haven't figured out how I am going to do those. I mean, I hope to sleep a couple hours both nights I will be out there. However, it's convenient to sleep at Winfield (which is really early) or Avalanche Gulch (which is really late) and not in between which is probably where I will be at midnight.

The goal is to finish as early as I can on July 4th, and then drive back to Kansas. This is kind of a must, turns out I am flying to Mexico for work on Tuesday, July 5th, fortunately in the afternoon.

Finally, here is the trip report from 2014 when I did part of the route as research for a serious attempt some time in the future. Also, the video at the bottom of that post is good, worth a watch.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Huge Benefit of Primary Morning Workouts

So it's been hot here in Kansas, 90s and humid since I moved here ten days ago. It has quickly forced me to run in the mornings before work for my main workout of the day, because then it's only in the 70s. While it is tiring to wake up early I have quickly discovered a big benefit, doubling.

It is ideal to train twice per day instead of once per day, you can train at a much higher volume. In other words, there is more benefit to running 10 miles in the morning and four in the evening than only 10 miles in the morning. In the past my primary workout has always been in the afternoon, after work and before supper. Here's the thing, when I do my main workout for the day in the morning before work, what am I supposed to do after work? I haven't had cable or Internet for five years. I fill my time running, exercising, and cooking. Yes of course I watch movies on DVDs and spend time on the Internet on my phone, but not 5 pm to 9 pm every night. 

After getting home from work, I get a little bored, and go run, or more commonly because of the temperature, bicycle. So my volume is increasing quickly, this is a good thing.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Independence: Week 1

I thought for quite a while about what to name this, "Small Town Kansas", "I Live in Kansas", "Small  Town Living", "Back to Kansas", "Return to Kansas", but nothing struck me as really capturing the essence of this move the way I wanted. I wanted something that was an unambiguous fact, like "I Live in Iowa" was, and something that could not be taken negatively, as inevitably I will have some criticism of small town life. As a bonus, it's always nice if I can see some humor in the title, and it's late and I want to get this published, so I might save that description of what the word Independence means to me for next week, but superficially it means Independence, Kansas, where I am temporarily living until I buy a house, and I may buy a house here.

The week started with Sunday in Dubuque. I went to church so that all of my friends could see that I was alive and healthy with all of my fingers. Then I finished packing and headed down to Kansas. So I work in Coffeyville, well, I work in the Coffeyville industrial park, which is outside of the city limits. It's a five minute drive from the city limits of Coffeyville, and 15 minutes from the city limits of Independence, so my coworkers are split somewhat between Coffeyville and Independence, with a number out in the country, and a few from places farther away, like Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

Monday dawned and I went into the office. The week was both slow, and a whirlwind. A number of people were traveling so there were some quick conversations as I tried to learn all I could. Tuesday we had a test failure. That's a big deal. Tests aren't supposed to fail. The test had been running for hundreds of hours and on the morning of my second day a test fails, and it's on "my" project. I put my in quotations because while it is part of my responsibility to solve the problem, it was my second day in the office down here and frankly there was so much I did not know, I was afraid to say much of anything. Of course, I never get into the specifics of work, but the failure does not seem to be as significant as initially feared, and should be a minimal setback.

I ran 62 miles last week, with one double. Not a big number, but higher than I expected. That's part of the reason I moved down here, fewer distractions and better ability to focus on my limited remaining competitive running career. We shall see if I was correct or naive.

Saturday I quit sweating 10 miles into my 16 mile long run, because it was in the upper 80 Fahrenheit and humid, at noon. A few miles later I found a gas station and had some water, but a bit of a scare none the less. I've quit sweating in hot weather a number of times, so it doesn't scare me too much, but it's a really good reminder that I need to be hydrated as much as I can, especially as the forecast has highs above 90 ever day for the next two weeks, and lows all above 68F.

Saturday afternoon I went down to Tulsa and did a little rock climbing, then some shopping for some new biking shorts, and I ended up buying running half tights, which have no padding, but are very light, and padding is really not necessary for rides under two hours. Then I went to Whole Paycheck... I mean Whole Foods for some grocery shopping that you don't get in a town of 9,000 people.

Full disclosure, I'm definitely in the honeymoon phase of moving down here to Independence and Coffeyville, so if I don't blog about it much now, it because first impressions are often wrong, and I'm apt to be more positive than reality, that's just the nature of the honeymoon phase.

Facebook friends, I posted the vast majority of my Everest 2016 pictures into an album on Facebook, feel free to go over there and check them out. Some are pretty good.

Finally, here is a photo of me on my 30th birthday at Everest basecamp, a small part of the motivation to name my new blog series "Independence".
30th Birthday Cake at Everest Basecamp

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Real Mountaineer

I brought a file to Nepal to sharpen my crampons at Everest base camp before the summit push. Crampons get dull when you walk over rocks, which isn't is a huge part of mountaineering, maybe 2-3% of the mileage on Mt. Everest, while you are wearing crampons. It's the kind of thing that builds up over time. Usually I use my crampons one day here, two days there, maybe three days in a week in Colorado. An expedition however involves a lot of days on the mountain, I spent 19 days, at least part of the day, above base camp on Everest 2016. Three of those were rest days at camp two, so not using crampons, but the other 16 had crampons, and I walked over rocks on every one of those days. Point being, bring a file because in that many days your crampons can get dull.
Jeans, Running Shoes, and a Down Jacket
So before the summit push, my first one, I got the file out and sharpened my rather dull crampons. I think I was the only person on our expedition that brought a file. Two people borrowed it to sharpen their crampons, and two others used it to take pictures, as if they were sharpening their almost new crampons. Several of my teammates, people who would be summiting Everest in a week and a half commented that I was "a real mountaineer" and I didn't know how to respond to that. It's Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. 1-2% of people that attempt it die. You had better know your gear and be prepared.

So I guess I'm a real mountaineer now. I suppose that means I can put red laces on my mountaineering boots now. Or perhaps it means I am doomed to be single for a long time. Or perhaps it means Mt. Everest was the 9th hardest thing I have ever done, we may never know.