Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Big to Small" 3 peaks in a day.

"Big to small" (Mt. Olympus, Grandeur Peak, Mt. Wire) with Matt Van Horn

About a year ago Matt and I talked about doing this climb/hike/run which would give us 3 summits and about 10,500 feet of elevation gain. We thought it was a really cool idea, but it took us a year to get to it. We decided to do Oly first because it is the most difficult and we could get it done while we were still fresh. That was a great idea.

We parked our car about .5 from the trailhead in a neighborhood and we did that at every peak. After our trailhead break-in last week we were both a bit paranoid about leaving the vehicles at the trailheads. I think we ended up starting around 6:30. It was very cold, but we knew that once we got moving it wouldn't be bad, but I was worried that it was going to be bitter on the summit. Once we reached the trailhead we both felt great and within the first mile we stopped so Matt could shed some clothes. We hiked most of the way up because Oly is steep, but we did run where we could. There was snow/ice on the trail for the last 2500 feet, so I put my micro-spikes on and they seemed to help a lot.

From the saddle you have a nice rock scramble through a steep chute that leads you up to the summit block and we were expecting a lot of snow and ice, but surprisingly there wasn't much and it was nice because we moved up it quickly. There was some snow/ice to deal with just below the summit which required us to take it a little slower, but we did manage to reach the summit in under 2:00 which surprised both of us because we didn't feel like we were pushing it at all. Matt beat me up by about 4 minutes. After a few minutes on top we both put in our headphones so we could blast down and when we entered the chute I was surprised to see a huge sheep dog running fast on the rocks. After another look I realized it was a large mountain goat and there were 5-6 others within 20 yards. Awesome! We stopped to watch them and it was pretty amazing to see them maneuver around on the rocks with precision so quickly. I lingered for about 5 minutes and then we took a few photos and then cruised down.
The descent was tricky. There is a lot of snow and ice on some steep technical trail and you have to take it slow. I slipped several times, but luckily didn't fall. With about a mile to go Matt pushed ahead and I stopped to take a gel and remove my spikes. The run down was fun and I was feeling great. Matt beat me back and met me on the road so that we could go get #2.

After a break to get some food we parked in the neighborhood next to the Grandeur trailhead and I changed some clothes and put on some different shoes. It was nice getting warm in the car and I really didn't want to get out, but we finally got moving up the trail to get our second peak of the day. The climb up Grandeur was slow. We both felt good, but we both lacked a little steam and it showed in our ascent time of 1:30. There was some annoying snow below the summit that we had to navigate, but for the most part the trail was in pretty good shape. On top I took a gel and we took in the views for a few minutes and then I convinced Matt to run the switchbacks instead of bombing it straight down on the east side. We had decided to do the longer loop into Church Fork which would add about 7 extra miles, but we wanted the miles and to make it more challenging.

The run down to Church Fork was much more difficult than I had anticipated. I left my spikes in the car and that was a mistake. It was very icy and snow covered almost all the way to the Pipeline trail. I slipped a few times and even went down twice, nothing serious, but enough to make me go much slower than I would have liked. On the plus side it was absolutely beautiful and I was thankful to be there enjoying the trails. Matt was waiting for me at the Pipeline where we picked up a decent running pace considering our legs were now pretty tired. The sun was out and it was actually quite warm and we could see the dirty dark cloud hovering in the valley below and it was nice being above it. At Rattlesnale Gulch we went down and again I was expecting more snow here, but it was pretty clear. Matt got ahead of me and on one switchback I turned the corner and was shocked to see him wearing only one glove. Haha! The Millcreek Flasher?? So funny.

We had a nice pace running out of the canyon and I was happy I could run a 7:30 pace 16 miles in with all of that vert on our legs and still feel great. The only negative was when we hit the inversion as we entered back into the valley. It was noticeably a lot colder and the air wasn't as fresh. We kept up a solid pace all the way to Foothill, but when we hit the hills my legs were definitely protesting. We slogged back to the cars and quickly made our way to Wire. We parked about .4 from the trailhead and both of us were feeling pretty tired, but excited to bag #3.
The slog up Wire was actually quite fun even though I felt kind of crappy. Matt was joking all the way up and we chatted and laughed. About half way up I really started feeling bonky and I realized I had not been keeping up with my energy or salt like I should have been so I downed a Gu and an S-Cap and after about 20 minutes I felt much better. One guy passed us going up and looked very pleased with himself. Little did he know that we were 20 miles in with about 8K+ of elevation on our legs. We were both ok watching him move up ahead. At the last saddle Matt moved ahead of me and actually started running near the top and he kept the run all the way across the ridge to the summit. Awesome! My legs were totally wrecked at that point and it was inspiring to see. I picked up my pace, but only slightly. I joined Matt at the summit where we celebrated a little and enjoyed the views of our third summit of the day.

The run down was tough. My legs and hips were sore and I was so ready to be done. I was slow, but ran just about the whole way down. Matt got ahead of me again and I finally joined him at the trailhead where we ran back to the cars together. We did it. Almost 23 miles and just under 11K vert for the day. 3 summits, a lot of laughs and an incredible time outdoors on the trails.
Now we will have to think about Matt's aspirations to bag Oly, Twins and Lone Peak in a day.

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