Sunday, May 01, 2016

Road to Denali, part 15: Skyline Traverse

On top of Green Mountain. What a view!

Bad weather and an Ultimate Frisbee tournament combined to squelch our plans for a high-altitude weekend. We didn't let the weekend go to waste, though. We did some food training! Actually, taste testing, but still, an important job. We sampled a few freeze-dried meals to see how we liked them. We both gave big thumbs up to the Chicken & Rice and the Spaghetti and Meat Sauce. I also tried out our new skillet for making pancakes on Denali. It worked great on my stove! :-)

But we didn't just eat. Feeling guilty about not getting up high, we decided to do the 17-mile, 6300-vertical feet of the Skyline Traverse - a traverse of the major peaks above Boulder. When I made that plan, I figured the snow would stop and we'd be cruising along on either dry, damp, or packed snow-covered trails. Instead we ended up breaking trail for ten of the miles we did, mostly not too deep, but at times the snow was above our knees.

Once I made the plan, I recruited Homie. A month ago he did the double Skyline and he's running a 108-mile race in Georgia in eleven days. While this would be a huge outing for Derek and I, it was, literally (and I know that word is overused), barely a warm-up for Homie. We picked him up early and the three of us set out from the South Mesa Trail at 6:10 a.m.

Homie said we had to summit the 4th-class Red Rocks summit above the Hogsback, so that made a total of six peaks, along with the usual South Boulder Peak, Bear Peak, Green Mountain, Flagstaff Mountain, and Mt. Sanitas. Our goal was to average an hour per peak and we traded off leading the way on each one. I got the first one, SBP, and it was a long, hard slog. Above the saddle I couldn't even find where the trail went, at least in sections, and I've been up that trail nearly two hundred times! We all wore Gortex shells and I wore my down mitts and was happy to have them on SBP. My companions were tougher and didn't need as much protection, though Homie, in shorts and running shoes without gaiters, did admit to having cold feet.
On the summit of Red Rocks, above the Hogsback
We struggled to the summit in 1h37m. We knew we'd be behind schedule here, as we'd gain nearly 3000 feet on this first summit, but I thought 1h20m was reasonable and it would have been if we weren't postholing through snow. Derek took over the lead and nearly got us back on track - 2h02m to Bear. Homie took the lead on the brutally deep West Ridge of Bear Peak. When his bare knees and thighs were covered in snow I feared he'd get frostbite. I offered to take the lead. He would have none of that. Later I noticed his bare ankles covered in snow and he at least stopped to pull up his socks.
Homie downclimbing the scramble up to the Red Rocks' summit.
We got to Green Mountain's summit after 3h22m. We called Sheri and checked in. She had just finished the Green Mountain loop herself. We were all impressed that she broke trail on this loop all by herself. She thinks it was her first time putting in the track. Nice.

I led us down the slippery descent and up to the summit of Flagstaff (3h55m). We saw some friends on their way up as we descended. Homie then led up down the 2000-foot descent to Eben G. Fine park and up to the summit of Red Rocks (fun scrambling!) - 4h48m.

Derek and I were hurting pretty good at this point and we decided there would be no more running. This wasn't much of a sacrifice, as we only had Sanitas left. We started up at 4h54m and Derek took over the pacing. We hit the summit at 5h26m. I really want to sit down and rest, but I feared my legs would lock up. We started down right away, slow and easy...

But then Derek asked if we'd break six hours. I assured him it was in the bag. Then he wanted to get back down before noon, meaning we'd have to break 5h50m. Crazy kid. Where he gets such crazy ideas, I don't know. This obsession with breaking this time and that time. I just shake my head and grudgingly put up with it, not wanting to alienate my son.

On the descent, I was leading with Derek behind me and Homie in the back. Halfway down or so, Homie says, "Bill, we're in trouble." I knew exactly what he meant, even with zero context, except for the fact that we were running down. I was stumbling down like a knee-capped rhino with a torn Achilles. Derek, even with his shin-splint pain, was dancing into and out of rocky gaps, leaping over roots and down drop-offs. Even Homie marveled at his agility. Eighteen-year-old legs attached to great overall athlete is a powerful combination.
So glad to be heading to pancakes and a chair!
We made it back to the parking lot, where Sheri was waiting to pick us up and drive us to iHop, at 11:58 a.m. We had been moving for 5h49m. This was Derek's longest trail "run" and it was done in very tough conditions. I was pretty impressed with his endurance and his toughness. It was a great day out with two great companions.

1 comment:

Gayla Wright said...

Seems like the apple did not fall far from the tree. Do you have a nice variety in the food department? Or are you going to be like the guys on Mt MERU and eat the same meal every day? Love you both, oh, all three.