Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Zion Traverse attempt

May was a really good training month for me. I was able to complete several solid trail runs with a lot of elevation gain. The long run of the month was a sweet run in Zion National Park. We were attempting to complete the entire Zion train (East entrance to West entrance), which is about 50 miles, but we got pounded by the weaher and had to change our plans...

Zion traverse attempt with Craig Lloyd, Matt Williams and Josh Greenwell. May 18, 2011. (about 30 miles total).

We failed to complete the entire Zion traverse yesterday, but what we got instead might be the most incredible run I have ever done. The weather forecast looked terrible, but we were hoping to get lucky like we did on Stansbury Island last month. Worst case scenario we would run the East Rim trail, get wet and bail from there and we were all ok with that.

We set up camp just outside of the park for a very restless night of sleep. It rained most of the night and I had failed to properly secure my rain fly, so it was flapping all night long. Annoying. My hips and back did not like the hard ground either, but I felt pretty good when we broke camp and headed for the east entrance of the park. The weather looked like it might not get too bad. There were a lot of clouds and we even had a brief shower on the way to the park, but nothing serious. When we started it was cool, but it looked like the storm might hold off for a while.

The East Rim trail is amazing. The miles were flying by and the views were constantly impressive. We settled into an easy pace as we made the climb to the rim. We were all just enjoying the run, talking, laughing and taking pictures. It was almost like Christmas morning, as each bend brought a new and exciting view for us to take in. I was having a blast! We took our time to check out several canyons and the steep drops off of the trail.

About an hour in it started to snow on us, but only last a few minutes. For the most part on this section the weather was great. The last 4 miles of the East rim are the most impressive and I don't think you can find a more scenic trail anywhere. The steep canyons and sheer cliffs are spectacular and you wind around and down the walls on trails that have been carved into the side of the cliffs. Unreal. Eventually, we made our way into a very tight canyon with very high sheer walls on both sides. Stunning. Around the bend and Zion Canyon opens up to you and the trail down to Weeping Rock is magical. It was trail running heaven and we were all soaking it in, laughing, yelling and smiling.

At Weeping Rock we ran down the canyon road to the Grotto, where we met my nephews that had been waiting for us. I took some Cytomax, and we all used the restroom there. Just as we were about to leave it started to rain and the weather only got worse from there. We ran across the street and started our climb up the West Rim trail (Angels Landing Trail). It is very steep and gains a few thousand feet very fast. We only ran a small portion of this because it is just so steep. We had a good hiking pace, but after about 20 minutes Jun and I broke out the garbage bags to keep the rain off. Dorsimus was having some stomach issues and slowed a bit, but he kept pushing hard and we passed several tourists on their way up to Angels Landing.

When we got to the Scout Overlook near Angels Landing the weather had not improved, but we decided to keep pushing up. The trail was wet and we were mostly hiking the steep slopes up to the West Rim. It was gorgeous. All of the rain had caused several water falls to start spilling over the cliff faces and it was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.

At about mile 17 we had to climb a really steep slope and we were just getting pounded with snow. It was cold and whenever we would stop for a few seconds we would get chilled. We stopped at a spring so Matt could get some water and it was snowing hard. We were all quite cold and my fingers were numb. At that point it things got ugly. The trail turned into a mud bog, the weather showed no signs of improving, we were going slow and we still had 30 more miles. Jun thought it might be a good idea to turn around and after talking and thinking about it we all came to the same conclusion. It would have taken us considerably longer to finish the traverse, we were already wet and cold and we were one broken ankle or accident away from someone getting hypothermia. Not to mention it was just nasty. It was an easy decision.

There was some initial disappointment when we turned around, but after a few minutes we were running again and my numb hands and toes started to warm back up. Our spirits picked up and we were having fun again. We took a break to drink some fresh rain water spilling off of one of the cliffs and then we had a really fun (although wet) run back down to Angels Landing. We had planned on climbing it, but the weather actually got worse and it was raining hard and the wind had picked up as well, so we took a break in some rocks that had a nice roof shelter and we decided it was just too nasty. I am a peak bagger and rarely miss an opportunity to grab a summit and we were very close to tagging Angels Landing, but I had no interest in going up that thing in those conditions.

After the break we ran all the way back down to the Grotto. The trail was really wet and full of tourists. I got a little behind the other three as I just tried to take it easy. Jun was setting a pretty face past all the way down. There was so much water coming off of the cliffs that we actually had to run right through a waterfall. It was pretty cool.

Back at the Grotto we decided to run back down the canyon to the visitors center to get in a few more miles. My legs did not like the pavement as much as the trails, but the views were stunning. We were all in good spirits and even though we didn't complete the traverse we had an

amazing time. I would say that there is no trail anywhere that can top these views. I was awe the entire day and I can't wait to go back and finish it off.

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