2009 Adventure Run Recap

Great Western Divide

A recap of Adventure Runs in 2009 in chronological order:

  • Thompson Peak: (June 17th) Located in the rugged Trinity Alps region of the Klamath Mountains, this climb entailed passing through the rugged glacier-carved Canyon Creek drainage with granite cliffs, waterfalls, and lovely alpine lakes.
  • Mount Sill: (July 9th) Stellar views from the summit (known as the best viewpoint in the High Sierra) and travel on the Palisades Glacier, the largest body of ice in the High Sierra. The approach via first, second, and third lakes with Temple Crag towering above was equally impressive.
  • Clyde Minaret: (July 10th) The highest of the jagged Minaret group of peaks near Mammoth Lakes. Stunning scenery on the approach via Lake Ediza and Iceberg Lake, including the Minaret Range, Mount Ritter, and Banner Peak. Early season conditions made the lower chute on the Rock Route a little spicy, but the scrambling was fun.
  • Mount Olympus: (July 16th) My second time up Mount Olympus via the Blue Glacier. I managed to improve my FKT from 2007 by 24 minutes, completing the round trip in 11:06. Great weather and similar conditions, although a bit softer snow conditions.
  • Clark Mountain: (July 21st) The highest point in the Dakobed Range, Clark provides great views of Glacier Peak, other peaks in the Dakobed Range, and the Napeequa Valley.
  • Ptarmigan Traverse: (July 28th) A new FKT of 14:36 on this classic traverse from Cascade Pass to the Suiattle River. The Ptarmigan travels along the crest of the North Cascades and includes extensive glacier travel, high passes, and alpine lakes.
  • Suiattle Crest 50 mile: (August 4th) An aesthetic single large loop providing a grand tour of the region including Napeequa Valley, High Pass, Lyman Lakes, and Spider Gap. We completed this awesome loop in 13:37.
  • The Stanford Loop: (September 23rd) Another single large loop with excellent views of the Southern High Sierra including Center Basin, the Great Western Divide, Lake Reflection, and the Kearsarge Lakes area.
  • Middle Palisade: (September 24th) A classic scramble of the northeast face of this fourteener passing by gorgeous Finger Lake on the approach. Awesome views of the High Sierra from the summit!
  • Pinnacles National Monument: (October 20th) Only 2 hours from the Bay Area, Pinnacles is a slice of the desert Southwest with boulder caves, red rock formations, and stately gray pines.
  • Rae Lakes Loop: (October 24th) One of the most popular backpacking destinations in the High Sierra, I did this 46 mile loop in 12:31 in late-season conditions with extensive snow travel from Vidette Meadows to below Dollar Lake. While the snow, particularly on the north of Glen Pass, slowed me down, the amazing views of the snowcovered peaks more than compensated.
  • Carmel River: (November 17th) My first exploration in the Venetana Wilderness, which had been closed for a year due to the large fires in 2008. This point-to-point 19 mile adventure included great views of the Santa Lucia Mountains, a stop at Jack English’s cabin in Pine Valley, and a walk down the lush Carmel River canyon with over two dozen crossings.
  • Sykes Hot Springs: (November 24th) The most popular destination in the Ventana Wilderness for good reason, the hot springs are perched above the Big Sur river in a lush redwood forest making for a zen setting. The hike includes great views of the Santa Lucia Mountains and rugged Ventana Double Cone. On the way back I took the Terrace Creek Trail through a nice old-growth redwood grove and the Coastal Ridge Road with superb views of the Big Sur Coast.
  • Rose Peak: (December 8th) This one wouldn’t normally qualify for an adventure run, but with 6-8+ inches of snow on the summit, this one was adventurous! The Diablo Range in the East Bay usually gets some snow at least once every winter, but the copious amounts of snow and the low elevation (1,500 ft) were rare. We enjoyed spectacular snowy scenes in the oak forest and lovely views of the Diablo Range and Bay Area. Picturesque photos from the Santa Cruz Mountains the previous day can be found here.

Excited for the many plans and ideas taking shape for 2010!

High Sierra Adventure Runs

Much of the FKT focus in California is with multi-day long routes (John Muir Trail, Tahoe Rim Trail), but there are numerous single-day loops and routes in the high Sierra that are aesthetic, providing the runner with all the scenery and fun without the sleep deprivation and extreme fatigue. There are a plethora of peaks to scramble and climb in the Sierra so this list focuses on routes that are mainly nontechnical and mostly on trail or relatively easy off-trail travel. There is undoubtedly many more worthy routes to design, these just happen to be the ones I am most interested in at the moment.

  • Rae Lakes Loop (Kings Canyon National Park): The most popular backpacking destination in the Southern Sierra, this 42 mile loop has 7,300 ft of elevation gain and starts at Roads End. This one is popular with fastpackers (aka Rae in a Dae) and is basically a “one-up” meaning there is one major hill climb, which is the ascent up to Glen Pass at just below 12,000 feet. While there may not be many climbs, the trail is apparently not very conducive to opening up the stride for long stretches. Map of the loop.
  • Evolution semi-loop (Kings Canyon National Park): Start at North Lake and end at South Lake. The most aesthetic route in this magnificent region passes through 12,960+ foot Lamarck Col, descends down Darwin Canyon with some off-trail travel, joins the JMT for an ascent through Evolution Basin to Muir Pass, continues on the JMT for a descent of LeConte Canyon, and finally takes the Bishop Pass trail up through Dusy Basin and down to South Lake. This semi-loop is approximately 38 miles with 8,200 feet of elevation gain and 7,700 feet of loss. Map of the route by Jay Helms (route highlighted in yellow).
  • Stanford Loop (Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Parks):¬† This one has the makings of a classic. A giant loop around Mount Stanford (South) starting at the Onion Valley Trailhead with four high passes – University Pass, Forester Pass, Milly’s Foot Pass, Kearsarge Pass. This one promises spectacular views of Center Peak, the Great Western Divide, Lake Reflection, and the Kearsarge Pinnacles.¬† There is off-trail travel between Upper Kern Basin and Lake Reflection with some class 3 scrambling giving this one a feel of adventure.
Kaweah Range from Little Five Lakes

Kaweah Range from Little Five Lakes

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Best Bay Area Hill Climbs

If you are looking for some E (elevation) in the Bay Area, this post provides a great list of hill climbs, including famous mountains like Diablo and Tamalpais, but also lesser known trails and summits. These ascents will not only get your heart pumping, but will also inspire you with the beauty of nature. The high point is provided in parenthesis.

  • Steep Ravine/Dipsea - Mount Tamalpais State Park (1,500 ft): Aptly named, this magical trail on the flanks of Mount Tamalapais traverses through a redwood filled ravine complete with a rushing stream and even a ladder! When this trail is combined with the lower portion of the Dipsea Trail it climbs from Stinson Beach to Pantoll in 3 miles.
  • Black MountainRancho San Antonio Open Space (2,800 ft): Fantastic views of the Silicon Valley are the highlight of this climb with an exhilarating last 1.5 miles to the summit where over 1,000 feet of elevation is grinded out.
Black Mountain Trail, photo courtesy Gary Gellin

Black Mountain Trail, photo courtesy Gary Gellin

  • Mission Peak - Mission Peak Regional Park (2,517 ft): Lots of steep up, with ~2,100 ft over 3 miles. Great views can be seen while ascending the aesthetic summit ridge.
  • Kings Mountain via Richards RoadHuddart County Park (2,000 ft): A great climb to gauge hill climbing fitness. From the rock at East Meadow to Skyline Blvd under redwoods; ~1,700 feet of gain over 2.9 miles, virtually all of it coming in the last 2 miles.
  • Kings Mountain via Lonely Trail - Phleger Estate (2,000 ft): 4.1 miles from the entrance into Phleger Estate to Skyline Blvd on great single track amongst redwoods and streams with a steep finish.
  • North Peak (Montara Mountain)San Pedro Valley County Park & McNee Ranch (1,898 ft): Gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean and pristine coastal scrub is everpresent on this 1,800+ foot climb in 3.5 miles.
  • Rose PeakOhlone Wilderness (3,817 ft): One of the Bay Area big boys, Rose Peak is an arduous 10 mile climb either from Sunol or from Lake Del Valle. A roundtrip will have you running nearly 20 miles with over 5,000 feet of gain either way you go.

Eight more great hill climbs after the jump!

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2009 Adventure Run Ideas – WA

The Southern Picket Fence - August 5, 2008

The Southern Picket "Fence" - August 5, 2008

A selection of adventure run possibilities for 2009 and beyond in Washington State.


  • Ptarmigan Traverse: Tough to pass on this one.
  • Mount Olympus: Shoot to lower my FKT from 2007.
  • Lyman Lakes/Napeequa Valley: An area of astounding beauty covered thoroughly in a 50 mile loop.
  • Mount Shuksan: An iconic mountain that has yet to see speed activity. The Sulphide Glacier would be a quick route.
  • Isolation Traverse: The middle section is an enigma with sparse and conflicting info.
  • Cathedral Peak: Long trail run to reach this extremely scenic area of the Pasayten Wilderness.

2009 Adventure Run Ideas – CA

Merriam Peak from Royce Lake - July 21, 2007

Merriam Peak from Royce Lake - July 21, 2007

A selection of adventure run possibilities for 2009 and beyond in California’s Sierra Mountains. New for this year is a section for the Northern California Coastal Ranges, which features an appealing mixture of old growth redwoods, rugged coastline, and snowcapped mountains.


  • Middle Palisade: This peak lends itself to the fastest time of the Palisade group with a shorter approach and sustained scramble.
  • Mount Sill: Known as the best viewpoint in the Palisades and an interesting route.
  • North Palisade: The highest point in the Palisades subrange has a more technical finish.
  • Clyde Minaret: The Minarets are gorgeous and this is a cool scramble.
  • Mount Stanford: Named after my alma mater – a sweet mountain in the midst of a very rugged section of the Sierra.
  • Arrow Peak via Bench Lake: Famous view of this symmetrical peak from Bench Lake.
  • Mineral King Area: Tons of great scrambles here.
  • South Guard/North Guard/Mount Brewer: Wild and remote; access from Kings Canyon on the westside.
  • Mount Whitney: The Mountaineers Route is a classic.
  • Mount Russell: Sweet scrambling routes on this mountain next to Whitney.
  • Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne: A point-to-point 33 mile trail run through a spectacular canyon.
  • University Peak: A cool looking mountain out of Onion Valley.

See Coastal Ranges after the jump.

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Best Peninsula Single Tracks

Here is a list of my twelve favorite single track trails on the SF Peninsula. The list is generally organized by location from north to south, but they are all located in the Santa Cruz Mountains in a relatively small area that is rich in protected public lands. I can assure you that each one of these is a trail running treat!

Note: mileage listed in parenthesis is the length of the trail, not including mileage required to get to the trail or get back as part of a complete run.

  • Soda Gulch Trail - Purisima Creek OSP: One section in meadows and chaparral with views to Half Moon Bay; another section in lush redwood forest with cascading streams (2.6 miles).
  • Chinquapin TrailHuddart Park: A fast descent trail with a cushy coating of leaves and redwood needles (1.6 miles).
  • Skyline Trail - Huddart to Wunderlich: This awesome trail is under a thick canopy of Douglas fir and redwoods as it traverses the hillside below Skyline Blvd. – it has a great surface and elevation profile to find a nice rhythm (5.7 miles).
  • Razorback Ridge and Lost TrailWindy Hill OSP: Numerous switchbacks up a ridge under a thick canopy of oak trees leads to a meandering section along the ridge with ancient Douglas firs lining the path and finally views of the entire Bay Area (3.8 miles).
  • Toyon Trail - Portola Valley Ranch: Super narrow and fast from top to bottom, watch the sharp turns (2 miles).
  • Los Trancos TrailFoothills Park: Get a great workout on the steep hillclimb along Los Trancos Creek, but also enjoy the lush fern forest along the cascading stream and great views from the high point (7.5 miles).
  • Table Mountain Trail - Upper Stevens Creek: A good hill climb in thick fir and hardwood forest give this trail a real wilderness feeling (3.5 miles)
  • Brook LoopPescadero Park: Super views of the Pescadero watershed along with great mileage in redwood and fir forest (5.7 miles).
  • Achistaca Trail - Long Ridge OSP: Beautiful forest, meadows, and gorgeous views to the Pacific Ocean (1.7 miles).
  • Ridge TrailCastle Rock SP: Sweeping views of the Santa Cruz Mountains and a magical madrone forest make this trail a delight (1.5 miles)
  • Canyon TrailButano SP: Extremely narrow trail and steep relief off the side characterize this technical trail which traverses in and out of redwood-filled gullies (2.75 miles).
  • Skyline to the Sea Trail and Berry Creek Falls Big Basin SP (from HQ to Berry Creek Falls): Huge redwoods and spectacular waterfalls, including Berry Creek Falls, Silver Falls, and Golden Cascade¬† (5.5 miles).

My List of World Famous Hikes

Here is collection of twelve world famous treks outside the United States that I would like to do at some point. Most of them are in the most rugged, mountainous areas on the planet – I like mountains! These trips would be more relaxed, but I imagine they would still be (much) lighter and faster than standard itineraries. As far as the combination of outrageous scenery, ease of travel, and budget, South America is the winner right now and will likely be my focus in the coming years. For trails on the West Coast of the United States, including the John Muir Trail (340 km) and Wonderland Trail (150 km), check out this blog post.

  • Huayhuash Circuit, Peru (140 km): Amazing loop around the Cordillera Huayhuash Peaks in the Peruvian Andes.
  • Ausangate Circuit, Peru (70 km): A super high altitude hike circling the Ausangate Massif (6,372 m).
  • Paine Circuit, Chile (100 km): A loop around the Paine Massif in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia.
  • Fitz Roy, Argentina (38 km): Very photogenic spires as long as the weather cooperates! This is usually combined with the Paine Circuit and the loop seems like it would be a good adventure run.
  • Annapurna Circuit, Nepal (~300 km): Majestic region of the mighty Himalayas.
  • Everest Base Camp, Nepal (92 km): I think I would be too tempted to actually climb Everest, or at least something nearby.
  • K2 Base Camp, Pakistan: The peaks and glaciers in this area look like they are out of control! Unfortunately, the political situation is similar.
  • Haute Route, Alps (180 km): From Chamonix Valley to Zermatt. Either the dollar gets stronger or I will need a lot of dollars for this one!
  • Tour du Mont Blanc, Alps (163 km): There is an ultra race of this route that would be super fun, but it would also be nice to take 3-4 days to do this hike.
  • Milford Track, New Zealand (57 km): A short one that ends at the iconic Milford Sound. This would be a good one-day adventure run.
  • West Coast Trail, British Columbia (75 km): Pristine wilderness coastline and so close to Washington State where I grew up.
  • Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (55 km): Hopefully I’ll make it here before the last cube of ice melts away from the summit plateau.

Cool Ultra Trails

Here are some sweet ultra trails in wilderness settings in California and Washington State. If I am going to be running as far and long as these trails, the scenery better be spectacular and this list delivers! I don’t think I am ready to run the longer trails on this list, but maybe sometime in the future.

  • Wonderland Trail (93 miles): Encircles 14,410 foot Mount Rainier, entailing forest, meadows, alpine lakes, and spectacular views of glacier-clad Rainier.
  • Stevens to Snoqualmie (75 miles): Along the Pacific Crest Trail from Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass traveling through the heart of Alpine Lakes Wilderness with some of the best mountain scenery in the United States.
  • John Muir Trail (211 miles): A point-to-point trail from the summit of Mount Whitney to Yosemite Valley covering the most wild and rugged section of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.
  • Tahoe Rim Trail (165 miles): Running a complete loop around Lake Tahoe just sounds sweet.
  • High Sierra Trail (72.2 miles): Passing some of the most gorgeous scenery in Sequoia National Park, this point-to-point route goes from Crescent Meadow (West) to it’s official end at the John Muir Trail at Wallace Creek (East) 49 miles from the start. The trip would continue over the Sierra Crest and down to Whitney Portal for an additional 23 miles, hence 72 miles total.
  • Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne (33 miles): Following the Tuolumne River through a spectacular canyon almost to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, this point-to-point starts at the wonderful Tuolumne meadows and concludes at White Wolf Campground.
  • Skyline-to-the-Sea (29.5 miles): From Saratoga Gap at the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, traveling through Castle Rock State Park and the gorgeous redwoods at Big Basin State Park.
  • Rae Lakes Loop (46 miles): From Road’s End in Kings Canyon up to a string of gorgeous lakes in the High Sierra.

2008 Adventure Run Ideas – CA

Here is the list of potential adventure runs in California’s High Sierra! Bar exam studies will likely preclude getting to most of these this summer, but I’ll be living in California so there will be plenty of time in the coming years to run through these peaks (and more) in the high Sierra. See Washington adventure run ideas here.

  • Mount Sill: Known as the best viewpoint in the Sierra, this peak is located in the middle of the Palisades subrange and is the sixth highest ranked peak in California (with 300 feet of prominence) at 14,153 ft. The southwest slope is class 2/3 and the north couloir is class 4. I will likely do the north couloir because it has closer access and is more interesting with a steep 500 foot snowclimb followed by rock scrambling.
  • Middle Palisade: Middle Pal is the 11th highest ranked peak in CA at 14,012 feet and is also located within the Palisades subrange. The fastest route is the northeast face and entails a couple thousand feet of scambling and walk around scenic Finger Lake.
  • Russell, Whitney, Muir: The highest point in the continental United States, the Mount Whitney hike is very popular and requires a permit, even for day use. A loop including Mount Russell would only utilize the Whitney Trail on the descent, however. The barren nature of this area, long drive, and red tape doesn’t make it the most attractive.
  • Mount Stanford (South): The most direct route is out of the Onion Valley trailhead and over University Pass. Mount Stanford, known as “one of the shyest major peaks in the Sierra,” stands 13,973 ft and involves some really fun scrambling. Plus, it shares the name of my graduate school so I have to climb it!
  • Arrow Peak & Bench Lake: This mountain is fairly remote with lots of cross-country and trail mileage to access , a cool scramble, and an awesome reflection in Bench Lake. The classic reflection in Bench Lake and of the super aesthetic looking Arrow Peak is what attracts me to this mountain. There are lots of other great peaks in this vicinity that are worth tagging as well. Access is via Taboose Pass.
  • Clyde Minaret: The highest of the famous Minarets, this is one I have had my eye on since I started climbing in the Sierra last summer. This will be super fun run with a solid amount of running on trail and then a great rock scramble.
  • Seven Gables: I have climbed lots of mountains in this region and Seven Gables has always caught my eye. Similar to Mount Goddard, its position West of the main affords spectaculr views. There is lots of trail to access which would be great for running and the climb is accessed from the West side which makes for a shorter drive – big plus!
  • Mount Humphreys: A towering peak that is easily recognizable from a distance. This climb has a really fun scrambling portion.
  • Half Dome: My friend Hari Mix has the record in 2:38 for this 14 mile roundtrip, 4,800 ft elevation gain hike up one of the most famous features in the world.
  • Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne: A point-to-point 33 mile trail run through a super famous canyon.