August 13th 2011:
With Matt Van Horn and Josh Greenwell:
We intended to attempt a double of Kings Peak, but there were a lot of issues that slowed our progress and in the end did us in. Our first mistake was starting without any sleep around 10:45 Friday night. We all felt really good and it seemed like a good plan, but this would come back to bite us a few hours later. The other problem we had was running at night slowed us down a lot. The first 5 miles on the trail were almost 30 minutes slower than I had done them last year. This trail is very technical with a lot of rocks that have to be avoided and it is just plain hard to run in the dark on it.
Crockett was also going for a double and had started a little over 5 hours before us, so we wondered what time we would run into him and we finally did in the meadow by the big mud bog. He gave us a warning about some solid ice just below Gunsight Pass and told us it was warmer up higher, which we were happy to hear because the meadow was freezing. We didn't feel it until we would stop and then you would instantly be cold. The temps were in the 30's and none of us are used to that right now.
We ran most of the way to Gunsight Pass and from there it was hiking up the switchbacks. We were all feeling the altitude at this point. I had run most of this section last year, but just wasn't feeling it. The cool thing was with the full moon we all turned off our headlamps and hiked by the light of the moon. It was pretty awesome. After Gunsight we took the shortcut up to the plateau, making sure to avoid the icy snow Crockett had warned us about. Somehow I stayed on a rough trail all the way up, which has never happened before. Usually I get into the boulders and have to scramble through this section. Once on top I could see the other guys ahead and they were going higher up on the plateau, but it is only a little more elevation to gain.
I wore my Hoka Bondis and this proved to be a mistake, as the stability of these shoes on rocky terrain is horrible. Well, the Kings trail is littered with rocks and there are several loose boulders that have to be navigated through. This slowed me down so much and was very frustrating. Everytime we would get into the boulders my pace would slow like a snail as the other guys would get ahead and would have to wait for me to catch up. I think I tweaked my ankle at least 10 times and had a few really close calls where I almost completely turned it. Every time this would happen I would yell HOKAS! and Josh would giggle.
We got to Anderson Pass a full hour behind my time from last year. I was frustrated about that and this is about where the altitude started to hit all of us. Matt had a headache, jsh was feeling a bit dizzy and I started to get nauseated. This might have been my slowest trip from Anderson to the summit. Navigating the boulders in the dark in my Hokas while not feeling well just didn't make it speedy. If you haven't been there before, Anderson Pass to the summit is just a large pile of loose boulders. Jsh stayed with me and we slowly made our way up. Matt pushed on ahead. This was an experience that I will always remember. We were the only people on the mountain in the dark and it was very impressive. You could see the lights from distant cities at least 50 miles away and all of the surrounding peaks were lit up by the moon. The moon was so bright that I could even see a lot of our route through Henry's Fork and I was able to point out to Josh where we had started.
The higher we went the worse I felt. I have had this feeling many times. In my 9 trips to Kings I have had altitude sickness almost every time. In recent years I have been able to mitigate this by taking Diamox, which is a medication that helps your body make red blood cells at a faster rate and helps eliminate the symptoms of AMS (Accute mountain sickness). I have taken this drug many times and it has always helped. This trip I made a few mistakes. First, I only took one dose before we started and usually I would take 2-3. Second, I noticed that the medication had expired and I could tell that it wasn't as potent as it has been in years past.
I had no energy and was feeling nauseated, but I just kept plugging away. I'm sure I was dreadfully slow, but I just wanted to get to the top and get back down. Matt passed us a few minutes from the top coming down. He was cold and still had a headache. Jsh went on ahead and reached the summit a few minutes before me. As always it is a great feeling getting to the highest peak in Utah. This was a different experience because it was in the middle of the night. I'm sure not many people have done it this way. We snapped a few shots and I wanted to get down. I wanted to throw up, but I kept trying to hold it in. About 20 yards below the summit I couldn't hold it in any longer. I just started throwing up. I got down on a rock and spent about a minute heaving everything out of my stomach. Now I started to really get worried because I just lost all of the energy and water that I would need. If I couldn't replace it I would be screwed because I still had to get off the mountain.
The trip down was slow. We finally got back to Anderson Pass and I was feeling a little better, but I was shaky. I knew I needed calories, but the thought of eating made me sick. Finally we stopped and I took a gel and an S-Cap. They stayed down. We made our way across the Anderson basin to the plateau where we finaly met back up with Matt. On our way up the plateau I started feeling really sick again. When we got to the top I felt like I was going to puke again, so I layed down right on the side of the mountain. I closed my eyes and started to drift in and out of sleep. I thought I was having a conversation with Matt, but I was really in a dream like state. finally the guys got cold and as the sun started to rise they told me to get moving. I got up and felt a little better, but still didn't have much energy. I just kept moving.
Just before Gunsight Pass it started to get light and I could see Davy coming over the pass to us. I just about had a serious fall just below the icy snow field after I slipped on some solid black ice that I couldn't see. I almost took a serious tumble down the steep slope. I was able to grab a small bush and stop my fall. I greeted Davy and he looked tired, but I am sure I looked worse. I told him he was going to be the first to do a double and it seemed to perk him up. We wished each other well and I actually ran a few steps back to Gunsight Pass. I was feeling a touch better.
Below Gunsight we stopped at the spring to fill our water. I was out. I had started with 70 ounces (probably about 40 went out with my puke below the summit). I also took some shot blocks, but almost puked after two, so I didn't push my luck. I did however feel a lot better and I actually started running again. I was surprised how good I felt. After about a mile we ran into the first group of hikers heading to the summit and they were surprised to see us. They were also surprised we had already been to the top.
The run out went surprisingly well. My legs felt fresh and as I re-gained my energy I could run faster. I was still slow, but I kept a good pace most of the way back to Elk Horn crossing. I was able to get a few gels in me and it seemed to help. From Elk Horn to the finish I still felt pretty good, but I did get a stomach cramp that nagged me most of the way. We kept looking for the Quest for Kings runners because we knew that they would be passing us. We had already passed 3 early starters. With about two miles left Aaron K. and Faceless Ghost came cruising up the trail with another runner I didn't recognize. They were moving fast.
The last few miles were hard, but I actually felt pretty good. My legs were not sore. More than anything I was tired. We stopped and talked to Kim who was also doing Q4K for a few minutes and Matt ran ahead finishing about 5 minutes before us. We finished in 10:27 which was a full two hours slower than my time from last year. All of us felt like we could do another lap, but we knew it would be brutal and slow. We would have had to do it very fast because of time commitments, so we decided it wasn't going to happen. I took a brief nap in the front seat of my car and then we decided to go home.
Even though we didn't get the double I had a great time. We had a lot of laughs and got to do something very few people will ever do. If we ever try a double again we will get some sleep and start early in the a.m. which will allow us to do both summits during the daylight hours. Doing the technical portion in the dark was just really tedious and slow. I learned a lot on this run. I was happy that I was able to rebound and run out the last 10 miles. Jsh and Matt were both very strong and it was good to be out there with them. Now I want to go back and try it again.
Also congrats to Aaron Kennard for winning the Q4K marathon with an incredible 4:47 time and congrats to Crockett who finished the first ever double of Kings.