Suiattle Crest 50 Mile 2012

I returned to repeat the Suiattle Crest 50 mile adventure run on August 20th. The original run was done on August 4, 2009 in 13h37m. Last week I completed it in 11h44m (1h53m faster). This complete loop, entailing six passes, covers most of the highlights in this region of the Glacier Peak Wilderness including a breathtaking view from Little Giant Pass, a tour through wild Napeequa Valley, 360 vistas from the High Pass area, verdant wildflower meadows, stunning Lyman Lakes, and Spider Gap. It’s quintessential North Cascades scenery – well worth a revisit after three years. With GPS, I found that total elevation gain is actually higher (near 14,000 ft), but distance is a couple miles short of 50 miles. The route/trails are in essentially the same condition as three years ago: Napeequa valley is still quite brushy (and wet in the morning) and the climb up to High Pass is nicely hidden in the brush (tip: the use path starts at the far end of the meadow near the cascading stream and it’s worth spending the time to find it since the slide alder is unsavory in this area. It’s sad to note the recession of the Lyman Glacier, which is essentially now a remnant ice patch. Despite relatively healthy snowpacks the last couple years, the glacier has continued to lose thickness appearing noticeably smaller than my visit in 2009 with the terminus even receding from the last glacial lake. It seems only a matter of time before the permanent ice vanishes entirely. The receding glaciers in the Cascades are clear signals of global warming. Splits, video and some photos below with the compete album here.

Location (Elevation): Time Elapsed / Split / Real Time (difference 2012 vs. 2009)
Little Giant TH (2,600 ft) : 0 / 0 / 06:40
Little Giant Pass (6,409 ft) : 1:18:36 / 1:18:36 / 07:59 (-17)
High Pass (6,876 ft) : 4:30:18 / 3:11:41 / 11:10 (-1:05)
Buck Creek Pass (5,796 ft) : 5:39:01 / 1:08:46 / 12:19 (-1:04)
Cloudy Pass (6,420 ft) : 8:10:20 / 2:31:19 / 14:50 (-1:08)
Spider Gap (7,040 ft) : 9:32:11 / 1:21:50 / 16:12 (-1:28)
Phelps Creek TH (3,500 ft) : 11:01:50 / 1:29:38 / 17:42 (-1:41)
Little Giant TH (2,600 ft) : 11:44:19 / 42:29 / 18:24 (-1:53)

Gear:

  • La Sportiva C-Lite 2.0
  • First Endurance EFS Fruit Punch Drink Mix
  • Injinji Midweight Performance Toesocks
  • Ultimate Direction Wasp Pack
  • Rudy Project sunglasses
  • Black Diamond Z-Poles


Ptarmigan Traverse FKT 2012

Uli Steidl and I completed the Ptarmigan Traverse in 12h17m a new FKT. It has been three years since I last enjoyed the Ptarmigan Traverse so it was time to come back to see some of the most beautiful scenery in the Cascades and refresh the prior FKT, which was set by Colin Abercrombie and me on July 28, 2009 (14h36m). This time I was joined by distance running legend Uli Steidl who has innumerable running victories and accolades to his name from road marathons to mountain running to ultras. Conditions were very similar to 2009 with nearly identical weather (hottest days of the summer). Prior to this run I figured somewhere in the 12 hour range was possible and we were able to hit that target finishing the traverse in 12:17. We started at the Cascade Pass trailhead at 4:49 am and finished at Downey Creek Bridge at 5:06 pm. Complete photo album here.

Overall, the 2h19m improvement from the 2009 time was due to a consistently faster effort throughout the traverse (see comparison below). I attribute this to more route experience and dialing in on nutrition and hydration, which helped keep energy levels high especially in the second half of the traverse. Bachlor Creek was as lovely (brushy) as ever although we avoided making any time consuming errors in the brush and the Downey Creek Trail felt as long as I had remembered. The 8.5 mile jog along the Suiattle River Road seemed especially needless because there were five forest service vehicles parked at the Downey Creek Bridge. In fact, the closed portion of the road is in better shape than the open part! It seemed like they were prepping the road, perhaps for opening? An open road will inevitably result in an opportunity to better time, all else equal, because no matter what the thought of 8.5 mile further prevents forces you to keep a little bit reserved in the tank.

Comparison: 2012 / 2009 / 2008 (difference 2012 to 2009)
Cascade Pass TH (3,600 ft) : 0 / 0 / 0
Cascade Pass (5,392 ft) : 43 / 48 / 55 (- 5)
Cache Col (6,920 ft) : 1:39 / 1:50 / 2:13 (- 11)
Spider-Formidable Col (7,320 ft+) : 3:26 / 3:40 / 5:00 (- 14)
Yang Yang Lakes (5,830 ft) : 4:10 / 4:26 / 6:20 (- 16)
White Rock Lakes (6,194 ft) : 6:25 / 7:11 / 9:51 (- 46)
Spire Col (7,760 ft+) : 7:52 / 8:54 / 11:55 (- 1:02)
Cub Pass (6,000 ft+) : 8:55 / 10:16 / 13:42 (- 1:21)
Bottom of Bachelor Creek (2,440 ft) : 10:51 / 12:48 / 16:30 (- 1:57)
Downey Creek TH (1,415 ft) : 12:17 / 14:36 / 18:10 (- 2:19)

Location (Elevation): Time Elapsed / Split / Real Time
Cascade Pass TH (3,600 ft) : 0 / 0 / 04:49
Cascade Pass (5,392 ft) : 43:10 / 43:10 / 05:32
Cache Col (6,920 ft) : 1:38:34 / 55:24 / 06:27
Spider-Formidable Col (7,320 ft+) : 3:25:37 / 1:47:02 / 08:14
Yang Yang Lakes (5,830 ft) : 4:10:17 / 44:40 / 08:59
White Rock Lakes (6,194 ft) : 6:24:54 / 2:14:36 / 11:14
Spire Col (7,760 ft+) : 7:52:01 / 1:27:07 / 12:41
Cub Pass (6,000 ft+) : 8:54:49 / 1:02:47 / 13:44
Bottom of Bachelor Creek (2,440 ft) : 10:51:23 / 1:56:34 / 15:40
Downey Creek TH (1,415 ft) : 12:17:15 / 1:25:51 / 17:06

Complete photo album here.

Skyline 50k

Last Sunday I had a great experience running the Skyline 50k in the East Bay hills. This race is a classic Bay Area event with 32 years of history. While the course has 4,750 ft of cumulative elevation gain, the route includes 17 miles of fire road and 3 miles of paved road allowing for a relatively fast pace. The remaining 11 miles of the course are on single track including the legendary French Trail in Redwood Regional Park traversing a thickly forested hillside with stately redwoods. The days leading up to the event were very hot in the bay area hills so I was not expecting cooperative weather. However, Sunday morning dawned foggy at Lake Chabot as a little extra push of marine air served to keep temperatures in check throughout the morning. In addition, the early start of the race at 7 am helps to mitigate heat issues.Photo by Adam RayI moved along nicely through the early stages of the race finding a rhythm on the fire roads reaching Big Bear Aid Station in about 58 minutes and Skyline Gate in 1:35. The French Trail was inspirational as usual, despite the inevitable fall-off in pace due to its twisty and technical nature. I was able to move at a consistent pace up the MacDonald climb, a short but steep climb that is never easy but I knew it was the last major climb of the course.  I got into a nice rhythm heading down to Bort Meadows that continued along the Brandon Trail and Cascade Trail. The final stretch of single track around the north side of Chabot on the Columbine Trail included some small hills that slowed the pace down and I was happy to finally reach the Honker Bay aid station. I passed through that aid station in 3:12 and I knew it was going to be close for breaking the legendary Tom Johnson’s course record from 1997, which I recalled was somewhere in the 3:32s. With 20 minutes to run the last 3 miles, I moved at a decent clip through the bridge crossing at the far end of the lake. The pavement for the last 1.5 miles is deceivingly difficult on tired legs with its rolling hills, but with about a quarter mile to go I realized that if I picked up the pace I would have a good chance of breaking the course record. After a hard charge, I arrived at the finish in 3:32:05, lowering the previous course record (3:32:37) by 32 seconds.The organization for this event was phenomenal and a big thanks goes to race director Adam Ray and all the volunteers for making this a great day on the trails for all the participants. The course was well-marked, aid stations were superb, and the post-race bbq was delightful. It was great to mingle with runners as they came in and spend the afternoon picnicking at Lake Chabot. Thanks to all involved with this awesome event!

Lost Coast – Sinkyone

Part II of the Lost Coast adventure run is from Chamise Mountain to Usal Beach. The first portion is a descent along the long ridge of Chamise Mountain down to Needle Rock and the park visitor center. At the beginning we were above the marine inversion and treated to fantastic views but everything below 800 feet was enshrouded in thick fog which would hang tough along the coast all day long. The route through the Sinkyone is arduous and entails over 7,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain on an often overgrown footpath. Due to the remarkably persistent fog, the coastal vistas that I knew existed from the 2010 trip were not visible. However, we did encounter some great sunlight through the fog along the ridgelines as the route would poke above the marine layer near the crests. Total time for the second day was around 7:30. Here are some of my favorite photos from Day 2, with the complete album here.