AT: HTC Summer 2017 backpacking trip day 1

The summer Holy Trinity Chatham back packing trip was set for Grayson Highlands State Park in VA.  Michael and I drove up and met the crew — large this time at 15 hikers, at the trail head.  We were joining the AT at Fairwood Road (VA 603). The two of us got there late due to a nail in the tire that had to be taken care of before we left Pittsboro, right when most of the hikers were ready to go. The big group took off and Michael and I left 15-20 minutes later.

We caught the main group half way up the hill, and then I decided to keep moving to find Shae, Caleb, and Bob, who were ahead.  After at least an hour or more on my own, I started to worry that perhaps the plan had changed and I hadn’t been told!  I had stayed on the AT, but never saw the lead group.  I reached the 6 mile point, where the itinerary said the shelter would be, but it was at least another two miles according to the map and other hikers.  I debated for quite some time here on what to do, eventually finding a nice rock to make a cup of coffee on and wait.  And wait.  And Wait.

After 45 minutes I debated whether I should just go forward to the shelter/camp site and wait, or go back.  I assumed either way if the plan had changed, someone would realize I was following the original plan and come find me.   I opted to hike back to the group, and after at least a mile, finally came across Shea, Caleb, and Bob.  They had waited at a trail junction, but slightly off the trail, and we never saw each other. The four of hiked on to the camp area and set up our own tents, and waited for the rest of the crew to show up.

Photo’s below:

Strava data – this includes my back and forth route along the AT:

Trailhead sign (and my HEAVY pack — I packed enough to solo thru-hike the AT other than food!):

I was my own barista on the trail, waiting for the group and debating whether to go forward or back…  The coconut is a bit sweet for me, but the frothiness was good.

Lots of ponies by the shelter… We had camped before this, on the other side of a fence and stream as no tents were allowed in this area.

A good place for the food, considering the bear stories we had heard on the trail and read in the log book at Wise Shelter…

Pikes Peak via Crags and Devil’s Playground

When in Colorado in July or August, I always try to squeeze in a 14er…  I hadn’t done Pike’s yet, and hadn’t seen Gordo for two years since he paced me through Leadville…  We got a bit of a late start, as Ben was on call until 6 a.m. and had a call come in that kept him up until 2, but eventually we were on the road a little after 7, picked up Gordo a little after 8, and made it to the trail head around 9 a.m.

This was going to be stout — 4300′ in 7 miles up, then back down.  This just 2 days after the 20 miles Ben and I put in at an average of 11,000 ‘ over in Breck.  But there were donuts waiting at the top!  Pikes is one of those mountain summits that has a road to the top (as well as a train!), along with a gift shop, deli, etc.  But we heard the donuts were good and were determined to earn them the hard way!  🙂

(I did need to excuse myself from the mass crowd inside the building at the top — there’s something about big crowds in places like this that I get a bit agrophobic…  Big crowds in big cities or stadiums, etc., never bother me, and “phobic” isn’t really the right word…  But I guess there’s something I don’t care for about such close proximity to 500 or 1000 other people in settings like this.  :-/)

I’d have to say this was my strongest 14er to date…  I was feeling it on the 1st steep pitch up to 13,000’ or so, but there there’s a mile and a half flat/gradual ascent section before the final pitch, and that gave me a chance to recover.  The final pitch of all my prior 14ers have been a slog, but I felt pretty good on this one.  We arrived at the top roughly 30-45 minutes faster than I had expected!

Lots of photos below:


And some shots from Gordo:

IMG_20150722_100503071 IMG_20150722_111616249 IMG_20150722_115622169 IMG_20150722_131842497 IMG_20150722_132631976 IMG_20150722_132648158 IMG_20150722_134814448

Mount Washburn, Yellowstone

This was a family hike of roughly 3.25 miles up with1500′ of gain to 10,200′, and then 3.25 miles back down the same trail.  I was able to sneak in a few hill sprints ranging from 30-120 seconds.  With a backpack full with all of our food and water, 2 minutes at 10,000 feet was tough!


AT: US19E -> Damascus Run

On June 12th Sho Gray and I ran from US19E to Damascus, roughly 74 miles by trail distance, but more like 75 miles or more by the time we were done.  Not due to getting lost, but due to “side trips” to get water, back track a bit, etc.  I had estimated maybe 20-22 hours based on the elevation profile and from what through hikers had told me — namely that the last 30 miles into Damascus was “easy.”  Boy did I underestimate it!  It was a very difficult run that took over 25 hours to complete, had 15,000′ of climbing, and was filled with rocks and roots and mud most of the way.  Both Sho and I had moments of despair, but we persevered and made it through!  Here are photo’s from the trip…

First, the map from the GPS data: Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 5.12.39 PM

Next, the elevation profile: Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 4.25.02 PM And now just random photo’s Sho and I took along the way: 11289861_653365220273_477716749_n 11541296_653365250213_939594453_n 11541318_653365275163_2045145477_n 11637869_653365439833_950857036_n 11647317_653365429853_1157875560_n 11650466_653365320073_1523579652_n 11650666_653365225263_1299348017_n 11650761_653365030653_1015992070_n 11651311_653365409893_75085878_n 11652126_653365290133_325504724_n 11653477_653365160393_1481651955_n 11655529_653365364983_1754572062_n IMG_5108 IMG_5110 IMG_5111 IMG_5116 IMG_5119 IMG_5120 IMG_5128 IMG_5130 IMG_5132


  • Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek pack – ripped across the top and I lost my Sawyer filter bag and maybe (?) some food…  UD is replacing the pack, and I still love it, though maybe a touch small for this distance/length of a run
  • Sawyer Squeeze Bag water filter system — will next time use the Sawyer mini filter in-line from the hydration pack to mouth piece, and a collapsable cup to  fill the hydration bladder.  The Sawyer squeeze bags are great when you have running water, but not so great when you have a small spring / puddle, which is what we had the 2nd half of the run.
  • Altra Superior 2.0 — my 1st pair ripped in the toebox and this was a brand new pair, never worn before.  Had a bit of a hot spot the 1st day but overall this shoe was still great, considering it was brand new.
  • Nike combat compression – still happy with these after moving on from under armour.
  • Petzl Tikka RXP headlight – love this light.  One charge lasted all night.
  • Fenix PD32UE – super bright hand held helpful for finding the trail in some areas when it’s not always obvious.
  • Icebreaker bodyfit 200 top — got some terrible chaffing between this and the pack.  Had never chaffed in this shirt before, but had not worn it with the SJ pack.
  • Icebreaker 200 hoodie — ended up wearing this at night and taking off the body fit due to chaffing, and it got me through.
  • Injinji toe socks – awesome as always.
  • Buff – never leave home without it…
  • Had a knife, black trash bag,  and a rope for emergency purposes — ended up using the rope to tie my pack together once the top ripped so badly.
  • Food:  Started with Ucan super starch in the bottles and a bit of gatorade for flavor (it’s all the shop at the hostel at the start had…).   Epic bison bars.  Vfuels.  One pack of pop tarts, one pack of peanuts.  Was really low on food the last 5 hours, but I’m not sure if I lost some food due to the torn pack or if I just had the perfect amount to get through to the end….
  • Water:  gathered along the way from water falls, streams, and springs.

Grays and Torreys, hike 2

I’m in CO trying to acclimate for Leadville, trying not to over do it during the taper, etc.  I’ve been trying to do some “runs” where I get some elevation higher than where I’m staying this week, which is 6100′.  Next week we head up to Twin Lakes which is closer to 10,000′.

As part of that, Lucho agreed that a 14er at moderate effort wouldn’t be a bad idea.   It worked out that Gordo, who’s going to pace a segment or two for me in Pb, could drive up from Colorado Springs.  He reached Ben’s house at 6:00 and we took off a few minutes later.

Ben and I had done this trek last year, so I knew what to expect.  A relatively easy (though there are no “easy” 14ers) trek up to Gray’s and over to Torrey’s and back to the parking lot.  Last year this was my 3rd and 4th 14er in three days, with no real time to acclimate.  So I was tired from the prior two climbs and sucking air in general.

This year was just day 3 in CO, so definitely not acclimated yet.  But overall I’d have to say of the 12 times I’ve climbed a 14er, these two felt the best.  It was only on the last pitch up Torrey’s, which is quite steep, that I needed to stop very 25-50 steps to pause.  But I never had any dizziness or light headedness, so that’s a good sign.

Strava data, where you can see pace, elevation, and HR data, is here:

Screen Shot 2013-08-09 at 9.12.14 AM

Now some photo’s..

The bridge right out of the parking lot – that’s Ben and Gordo already leaving me in the dust:

Hmm, HR already 109 and I’ve not even started running (hiking) -what’s up with that??  When we got out of the car in the parking lot, it was already 85-90, which I thought was odd.   In hindsight, I think it was Gordo’s driving — passing other cars on the approach road (a single lane, nearly 4WD only road!).  🙂

However, even after the run during lunch, my HR was 80-90, which was odd.  And it remained higher than normal the rest of the day.  Today it was mid to upper 50’s, which is maybe 5 BPM high.  HRV was a good dip below normal though, so today will likely be an off day!


There are Grays and Torreys in the distance!IMG_2615

The trail is wide and easy, here.  It would become very steep, rocky, and technical shortly thereafter.IMG_2617

Looking back down the trail we had come up.  It was quite crowded for a weekday!IMG_2618

Looking up…IMG_2619

From the summit, looking out.IMG_2620IMG_2621

Someone had left this sign so we had to get a picture.  🙂IMG_2622

From Torreys looking back across to Grays, which we had just descended.IMG_2626

Another sign, but I was too lazy to pick it up.  🙂IMG_2628

Looking out across the valley we had hiked through.IMG_2629IMG_2630

Grays and Torreys

After two 14er’s in two days, why not try to knock out two more on my last day in CO?  Ben and I met at about 6:00 a.m. at the bottom of the approach road to the parking lot to Grays and Torreys, and I jumped in his car for the trip up the fairly unmaintained road… Well, on the way down there was a road scrapper working on it, which was a good thing as the ascent and a pretty sketchy section were many people opted not to park.  In the FJ Cruiser, it wasn’t too bad.  When we did make it to the parking lot, there were several other cars there so we weren’t the only ones that took the gamble.  🙂

Ben had recently run this route — twice in one day — and done the 1st loop in 2:38.  I was thinking anything under four and I could still have time for lunch, a shower, and time to get to the airport!  I was feeling pretty tired from the prior three days — nearly 10,000 feet of vertical, much of it above 10,000′ feet!  So I knew I’d be slow, but 2:38 would not be possible for me unless I had a lot of time to acclimate!

Here’s the elevation profile for what we were about to start:

The bridge at the parking lot that leads you to the trail…

First shot of Greys with the sun just coming up…  The approach trail is relatively easy, and we ran a little of it, but as I said above I was pretty tired already so I needed to save some energy!

Me atop Greys:

Ben and I…

This is the trail up Torreys… It was steeper in real life!

Atop Torreys… Four 14ers in 3 days!  (Yeah the record for all 54 is 10 days, so 4 in 3 is not that great.  😉 )

We hiked down the trail to the parking lot, started driving down, and asked a couple if they wanted a ride.  They had a two mile walk as they had stopped below the washout — which had now been fixed by the road scraper!  After that we headed to Idaho Springs for pizza and beer at Beau Jo’s…  An old friend was in the area so she and her family came by to chat for a bit, before I had to rush off to shower, change, drive to the airport, etc…

Mt. Sherman – 14,036

After work was done for the day, I had a few hours to kill so thought I’d tackle another 14er — the 2nd in two days.  Mt. Sherman was less than an hours drive away, so off I went…

After driving about 10 miles on a long dirt road, you start to go up an old mining hill.  I parked about 11,500, well below the gate at 12,000, but it seemed like a good chance to get a nice downhill road run in for training for the Ridge To Bridge marathon in October.  I quickly started climbing the hill and the reached the gate, and then continued up eventually coming upon several abandoned mining buildings.

This is looking back down the valley and the road I had just climbed..

The valley from just a little higher:

The last little ridge line is a bit sketchy…  This was at 13,800′, and I really started thinking that 13,800 was good enough…  This was about 4′ of solid ground in the middle, but both sides of that were scree — and 500′ drops (or more?) to your death.  The picture really doesn’t do it justice to how precarious it looked!  I’m not normally affected by heights, but this one was giving me a slight sense of vertigo..

Another shot a bit further up.  I basically looked down at my feet and started moving.  I was ready to turn back, but eventually made it up without any difficulty.

This is looking back down… I really need a person in there so you can get a sense of how narrow that ridge is!



The summit!

Me… There was no one up there to take a picture, so it’s just me… This was the quietest 14’er I’ve ever done.  I only saw two groups of three all day…


Eight down, 46 more to go!


Mt. Quandary – 14,265′

I was in Keystone CO for work and had the opportunity to hike Mt. Quandary a short drive away.  I could not sleep so I was out the door a little before 6:00 a.m. and hiking by 6:30.  While I took the photo below on the way out, this was the 1st glimpse I had of the peak a few miles from the trail head.  I’d be hiking up that ridge line in just a bit!

Here’s the trail head sign… There were already 8 to 10 cars there — but there would be many many more when I left a few hours later…  And a sign with the most obvious statement of all — “There are no easy 14ers!”


There’s not much to report so I’ll just put in some random images below.  It took me about 2 hours 25 minutes to hike up, including the time to take photos along the way, chat with other hikers, etc.  It was a beautiful day and, as always, big mountains don’t disappoint with the views!  I’m always humbled by how slowly I move once over 13,000′!  It’s like slow motion up there…




Garmin Data here…

Grandfather Profile Up and Over and Back Again

Here is what I wrote on DailyMile, but I wanted to include some photos here…

Route was: Grandfather Profile -> Calloway, then Daniel Boone Scout down on the back side to just about the Boone Fork parking area on the Blue Ridge. Nuwati to Cragway and up around the Boone Bowl, back to Daniel Boone, back up to Calloway, and down the profile.

I had the mountain all to myself — because it was mid 50’s and POURING for much of the the run. :-/ Really wish I had more phone protection, though the iFit neoprene did somehow keep it safe enough. Maybe a poncho or a jacket would have been nice, though I only got cold the one time I stopped under a rock ledge because the rain was so intense.

Garmin distance was more like 11-ish but the trail markers show 13+. I did leave the Garmin off accidentally on one 10 or 15 minute section — when I had stopped under a rock ledge when it was raining really hard to try to protect the phone. I’m going with a “heavy half” of 14-ish. 🙂

Garmin does show 4000+ of climbing which would be about right.

Not many views with the clouds, other than the gorgeous trail:

Calloway Peak:

The first long down ladder on the back side…  You can never tell the steepness by photos:

Looking up:

Tame part of the trail down on the backside of Grandfather… The Nuwati…

Looking into the Boone Bowl:


Mid run snack…  A little early in the season, I suppose — only a couple of handfuls!


Nearing the top of Cragway:

More trail shots nearing the top of Cragway approaching Daniel Boone Scout:


After that it started POURING!  Really Really Pouring…  I had to wrap the phone up as best I could, double wrapping it in a neoprene iFit.  It still works, so that is good.  But I got no other pictures the next couple of hours!