Saturday, July 25, 2015

LPT for Month Seven of LPP

Charlie rides the Peak-to-Peak Highway towards THE peak - Longs Peak

Follow me on this and see if you can help me find the flaw. The elevation of Lyons is 5374 feet. The distance from Lyons to Boulder is about 12 miles, but we'll round down to be conservative; say ten miles. The average grade between the two has to be 10%, so Boulder's elevation should be 5374 + 5280 (10% of ten miles) = 10,000+ feet. Yet, Boulder's elevation is supposedly only 5430 feet. How can this be? You'll immediately jump on my guess for average grade, but I rode this stretch yesterday and it seemed harder than riding Super Flag.

Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity (you ten people know who you are!) will recognize the two acronyms in the title, but the two other readers, LPP is the Longs Peak Project and means climbing Longs Peak by a different route in each calendar month of the year. LPT is the Longs Peak Triathlon, which has traditionally referred to biking from Boulder to the trailhead, hiking/running into the base of the East Face and climbing the Diamond. We're stretching it a bit to be any technical (5th class route) route on Longs Peak. That way you have cycling, running, and climbing.
They say the camera adds ten pounds. Untrue! It apparently adds about fifty. It's amazing that my bike doesn't collapse.
We chose to do Kiener's Route since it is not very sustained and only 5.5/5.6, but it is on the spectacular East Face and has stellar position. I'd soloed it a few times before and knew we'd be fine, but Charlie had never seen the route before. In order to go light, since we were on bikes and unsupported, we chose to not bring the following gear, which a regular climbing party would bring: rope, harness, rack, belay device, rain jacket, helmet, rock shoes, mountain boots, crampons, and an ice axe. Leaving that all behind really lightens the load. We just went in running shorts, scrambling shoes, and Kahtoola Microspikes.

I put essentially all my climbing gear in a mesh bag and used bungy cords to strap it to my handlebars. Charlie put it all in his Ultimate Directions Peter Bakwin Adventure Vest 2.0 (I used the same pack) and wore it on the ride up there. We both wore La Sportiva scrambling shoes. Charlie in the very unfortunately discontinued Exum Ridge and me in the Mix.
Trying to run on the slight descent towards Chasm Lake

Some might wonder why we rode up there, making an already very difficult LPP tougher. I'm one of those people. The reason: Charlie. He's a 24-hour Leadville 100 finisher, a Hard Rock 100 finisher, an ex-near-pro adventure racer, etc. The longer and the harder, the better for him. Which makes things tough for me, as my speciality is more the shorter, easier, slower. I excel there and not on such arduous adventures. Ten days before today, I hadn't been on a bike in nine months. I did four training rides, including this one. The saving grace is that my brother gave me a ridiculously good road bike and I'm much better suited to biking than running. Mainly because I can sit on my ample backside and still make progress. I really feel that is the biggest drawback to running - you can't sit down at the same time! Plus, having a bit extra around the middle doesn't matter as much on the bike.

Charlie heads up the bottom of Lambs Slide, just far enough to gain the rock rib (out of the photo to the left). The Diamond looms above and Kiener's traverses in from the left to follow the left edge of the Diamond.
We met at the Safeway in north Boulder at 4:45 a.m. and got all our gear ready. We had to wait until Safeway opened at 5 a.m. so that I could use the bathroom, but this wasn't a huge drawback since we were going without any headlights and needed a touch more light. We both wore red flashers on the back of our bikes so that the cars would see us. I figured the roundtrip would take us between 11 and 12 hours. I'd done this same adventure before with Stefan Griebel and we took just over ten hours. The FKT for this route is 9h40m by Bill Briggs. And, as long as we're talking FKT's, Stefan and Jason Wells have done the unsupported LPT via the Casual Route in 9h57m. This is a very impressive time, but it is also the ONLY known unsupported LPT on the Diamond.

Charlie and I pedaled north on 28th Street (highway 36) and noted the time when we hit Broadway. We had no reason to think, given our lack of training, that we had a chance at the FKT, but we kept it in mind, at least for awhile. Reality set in once we were high on Longs Peak. We traded pulls for a bit and then spotted a group of three pulling onto 36 from Neva Road. I accelerated a bit to catch them and asked if we could sit on their wheels for a bit. They were nice guys and we chatted with them. They were headed for Old Stage via Lefthand Canyon. I tried to convince them that riding to Lyons was a much better choice, but they stuck with their plan.
Charlie kicking steps across Lambs Slide, heading for Broadway
We made Lyons in 30 minutes and turned up South St. Vrain Canyon Highway 7. The first mileage sign we saw said "32". We knew the Longs Peak turnoff was a mile marker "9". We had 23 miles to go, mostly uphill. We soon got into a nice rhythm of switching leads at every mile marker. This helped alleviate some of the monotony of the climb and made it easy to set small goals and not think of the enormity of the day. Charlie was pulling strong and after ten miles or so, I'd long for my turn at the front because then I knew I wouldn't get dropped, at least for the next mile. The weather was stellar - clear blue skies and relatively little wind. We'd pay our dues for this lack of wind on the return trip. We just kept turning the pedals and turned off on the Longs Peak Road after 2h48m.

I pressed the pace on the mile-long Longs Peak Road to the trailhead. Why do this? I told myself that I wanted to be sure to break three hours, but that was guaranteed. The real reason was to show Charlie that I was strong. Why do that? Insecurity, pure and simple. It seems I'm always the anchor with Charlie. He assures me that we're a pretty equal team, but I'm still more convinced that he's just being nice about it. Anyone could see that I'm no Charlie. That would be very evident later in the day.
The spectacularly exposed and narrow Broadway
As we entered the parking lot we saw fellow Minion Drew Hildner. He was there to do a fast solo on the Keyhole Ridge (5.6). Charlie and I plan on that route for our September ascent. We transitioned into our running shorts and scrambling shoes, stashed our bikes behind the ranger hut, and started hiking up the trail. The thought of running only entered my head as that it could be immediately rejected. I couldn't do it. But we hiked strong and got to Chasm Cut-off in a bit over an hour, at 9:30 a.m.

We continued to Chasm Lake and around it and up the talus on the far side, headed for the East Face of Longs Peak. We got onto the top of Lambs Slide and were able to kick steps, in our Microspikes just high enough to gain the rock rib on the left. We scrambled up this until we were directly across from Broadway and then found a sharp rock to use as an ice axe and then carefully kicked steps across. Charlie led the first half of this until his hands went numb. He had forgotten to bring any gloves. I took over and finished the traverse. We didn't rush this. We knew a fall here could be fatal and took our time to kick a good step. The sharp rocks also work amazingly well as a good handhold.
Heading up Kiener's Route
Once on Broadway it was an easy, quick, though massively exposed, traverse to Kiener's Route. This ledge is only a foot wide in some sections, but it was completely dry and we were careful and attentive. A couple was gearing up at the base of Kiener's and we said "Hi" before pressing onwards. The rock was dry and solid and the scrambling felt very secure. Soon we were on the third class terrain and I was out of gas. I kept eating and drinking but the altitude and 9000+ feet of gain that we'd already done slowed me to a crawl. Did Charlie go by me to show me how strong he was? Nope. Charlie's secure. He knows he's a badass. He's also a great partner and would never leave me behind. I've got a bit more to learn from this kid...
Charlie high on Longs Peak with Chasm Lake below.
Earlier this month Charlie and I had joined Andrew Hamilton and some others on Longs Peak. Andrew was in the process of setting a new Colorado 14ers speed record and Longs Peak was his last peak. The weather was cold, rainy, misting, foggy. I had led everyone into some wet willows trying to take all the shortcuts and soaked myself. In the dark, near the Keyhole, as Andrew struggled to find the route, I found myself getting very cold, my feet and hands especially. We knew the Homestretch was icy and technical and I had no ice axe. My primary reason for being there was to help Andrew and to celebrate with him and I felt I was becoming a liability. Hence, when another companion turned around, I did as well. Andrew, Stefan, Charlie, and two others headed up into the cold, icy darkness on MY peak and I headed down, defeated. I was too wimpy and too weak and was sure the others came to the same conclusion. Not Charlie. Charlie thought, "What a mature decision to put his ego aside and turn around, thereby making the remaining group safer." A true friend is one that sees the best in you, even when you can't see it yourself. He's not blind to your flaws or limitations, but the first thing he sees are the best qualities.
Charlie down climbing the wet Cables Route
I try to always set a pace I can maintain. I like continuous movement. With such a strategy a slower guy like myself can produce some fast times. My pace on the upper mountain was extremely slow, yet I still had to stop. Just for a minute, but I couldn't keep moving. I started again, telling myself I'd take another rest at 13,800 feet, but then kept going, promising myself a rest at 14,000. I did stop at 14,100 feet when Charlie stopped for a bathroom break.
Transitioning at the Longs Peak Trailhead
We tagged the summit after 6h42m from Boulder, about 3.5 hours from the trailhead. I was hoping to do this in three hours, but hope doesn't make you faster. Training does and I didn't do it. It didn't bother me, though. I mean everyone wants to be stronger, but the weather was holding and I had just completed month seven of the LPP. I was pretty excited about that. We stayed a few minutes on top to rest just a bit and eat a bit and then started down the North Face, chatting continuously. We ran into a roped party coming up something on the North Face, though not the Cables Route. We downclimbed the very wet technical pitch and at the bottom we heard a yell from below. It was Drew. He had taken some photos of us and was running back to the trailhead. We didn't give chase. I was too tired to safely run the talus, so we hiked down to the Jim's Grove Trail and then mostly trotted the rest of the way out.

Before we got to the Jim's Grove Trail we hiked right into a mother ptarmigan and her chicks. They were so well camouflaged that I never saw them until I almost stepped on them. The chicks were so cute, so small. The mother, small and fragile herself, ran back and forth between me and her chicks, making a hissing sound almost like a rattlesnake. It might be silly, but I was inspired by this. Her bravery was noble, though probably just evolutionary genetics. She was standing up to two creatures more than 100 times her own weight. She might not be able to protect her babies, but to get to them we were going to have to go through her. Inspired by a bird...what have I become?
An inspiring ptarmigan protecting her chicks
We ran pretty well on the lower sections, probably because I smelled the barn - meaning the saddle of my bike and the coasting to come. I thought we moved very efficiently at the trailhead, yet it still took me 12 minutes to transition to my bike.
Always the fashionista. I can't help it.

We cruised down the Longs Peak Road and out onto the Peak-to-Peak highway. I knew we had forty miles to finish in Boulder, but a good portion of that we'd already earned on the way up and would be free now, as we coasted towards Lyons. We were mentally prepared for the three or four climbs before the long, final descent to Lyons and they went well, though with considerable effort.

Then we hit highway 36 and the hell that is the ride back to Boulder after going for ten hours and facing brutal crosswinds and headwinds. Charlie did the bulk of the work here and I hung on as best I could. The first three miles out of Lyons were ridiculously hard for me. If that had continued, I'd have stuck out my thumb. We got back to Broadway after 10h43 minutes, so about an hour off the FKT. It was solidly under my predicted 11 hours, though. I was satisfied. But mostly I wanted to be out of my biking shoes and off my bike. The next three miles back to Safeway were easy, downhill miles, thankfully, and it was with great relief and satisfaction that I pulled up to my car.

The roundtrip was 91 miles (about 80 miles on the bike) and 11,000 vertical feet. Five months to go. Next up is the Casual Route on the Diamond.

1 comment:

Cordis Hall said...

Hey, Bill I was checking on your blog to get some relative other times on LPT splits (because Anton's are fast enough to not mean anything to me). You beat me by 8 minutes! Anyhow I noticed you said that you are planning on Keyhole Ridge in September. I've had my eye on that ridge for a while, particularly now that Lambs is an ice rink. I don't mean to intrude on your team with Charlie, but I'd love to come along to see the route from some guys that obviously know Longs very well. But really, I get it if y'all have your goals set and wish to keep it the to of you and not drag along a kid, so feel very, very free to decline. Or you could just schedule on a day I have class :) Let me know.