I love goals. More specifically, I love the process of goal setting.
This past year (or years if I’m totally honest) I’ve done a lot of reflection on my goals. What goals were successful in motivating and exciting me? Which goals were a total flop, forgotten nearly as soon as I set them? How can I ensure the goals I set this year inspire me?
Life has had a lot of ups and downs lately, and racing does not excite me in the same way it used to. The tagline for this blog is “finding limits and pushing past them.” Does that motto still ring true? Do I still care about pushing myself to that extent?
Three words come to mind when I think about goals that excite me:
Learn: Learn to problem solve. Learn new skills.
Explore: Explore my mind and body. Explore new places.
Experience: Experience all that life has to offer. YOLO.
What goals can I set (from an athletic perspective) that meet these criteria?
In chronological order:
Steep Dreams full weekend: Vertical, Individual and Teams Race. In 2022 I considered entering the full weekend, but I was fairly certain it would destroy me. Hardrock was extremely important to me, and I was not willing to risk injury in training or on the race course. However, participating in the individual event and then volunteering at the teams event the following day left me wanting for more. I immediately knew that I wanted to come back and participate in the full weekend. Steep Dreams checks off all 3 goals; I have so much to learn when it comes to ski mountaineering. Skiing steep slopes enables me to explore my mind and body in ways entirely different from trail running. and the experience of the Steep Dreams weekend is unlike anything else I do. (One caveat for this goal – the current Rockies snowpack is extremely unstable and shallow. If we don’t start to get a better snowpack within the next month I may decide to re-evaluate this goal.)
Meet the Minotaur. How does running this race achieve my goals? I’ve run Meet the Minotaur every year, surely I’ve learned all there is to know. While I’ve run Minotaur every year, I’ve never trained specifically for it. It has always been a side project, on route to a higher priority goal. This year Minotaur is the high priority goal. I am going to explore my capacity for this style of racing and learn how to push my body to the next level. I want to experience running Meet the Minotaur at my highest capacity. This means I will be doing a lot of vert, a lot of technical running, a lot strength training, more intensity than I’m used to, and (most importantly) a lot of consistency. I am so excited to give this event my best shot.
Divide 200. I think this one is self-explanatory. Racing 200 miles through the southern Canadian Rockies checks all the boxes. I am certain the learning curve for this goal will be steep, but I am here for it. I will push myself to my limits and I’m excited to see what that looks like. In the process of running 200 miles I am sure I will learn more about my body and mind than I ever wanted to know!
In my last post I teased about a big announcement. I actually have two announcements.
The first one is running the Divide 200. If you follow me on social media, you may have already seen me post about that.
The second announcement is that I’ve finally decided to officially take on a few run coaching clients. While I’ve been personal training for 15 years, I’ve only coached runners occasionally and unofficially. I don’t want to overload myself and I want to be as available as possible, so I’ll be accepting a limited number of clients to start. While I have experience working with individuals of all levels and distances, I think I can be most valuable as a coach to individuals training for long distance mountain races on courses I’m familiar with such as Meet the Minotaur, Sinister 7, Bighorn, Iron Legs etc. If you’re interested, please email email@example.com . All run coaching will also have a strength training component. Check out the Mountain Movement Coaching tab for more details.
It’s been a year full of some of the most intense highs, and lowest lows. As we come into the final days of 2023 I can’t help but reflect on all the experiences of this past year, and think about what I hope to glean from the future.
This past year I did a lot of things well, and I’m proud of myself for what I’ve accomplished. During the first half of the year, this personal success was helped along greatly by Dobby’s enthusiasm and Matt’s unflagging support.
My big goal for the first part of the year was to survive the Steep Dreams Skimo North American Championships in March. This was not a competitive event for me, rather my aim was to complete the event within the timeframe allotted and to not get hurt. In the weeks leading up to Steep Dreams I focused on improving my uphill ski fitness, and challenging myself to ski steeper terrain. I am happy with how I committed to the process throughout training and during the event. This became a highlight event of the year for me.
My “A” goal (from an athletic perspective) of the entire year was the Hardrock 100 in July. The entirety of the 1st half of 2022 was focused on getting in shape for this race. I hadn’t run a 100 mile race since 2019, and I was in relatively poor running shape when my name was drawn for the Hardrock lottery. I wrote myself a run program including high-intensity intervals (ugh) beginning in January, and I stuck to that program with a level of consistency I haven’t had in a long time. This consistency was helped in no small part by having Dobby enthusiastically join me for nearly every workout. My consistency was interrupted by a two-week “hiccup” when I got COVID in May, and those two weeks of fatigue definitely set some of my training back. Once I’d recovered from COVID I didn’t feel that I had any more time left for high-intensity running, and the remainder of training was based on building race specific training volume.
When Dobby suddenly died in June it threw me into a tailspin. I loved that dog as though she was a part of my soul, and I wasn’t sure how to continue chasing my goals without her. In the midst of a lot of crying, I decided that I needed to fully commit my remaining time to doing the very best I possibly could. No excuses, no half-assing it or jogging it in. It would all be “full send” in honour of Dobby’s spirit.
One week after Dobby’s death, at Meet the Minotaur, I ran as hard as my legs would let me. I didn’t have the fitness I had hoped for at that race due to my COVID setback, but I did the absolute best that I could, and I was/am so proud. It was the perfect way to honour Dobby.
3 weeks after Meet the Minotaur I was back on a race starting line, this time for the Hardrock 100. I’ve run many 100s over the last several years, but I’ve never managed to make it from the start to finish without feeling sorry for myself at some point along the way. My goal for this run was to focus on the process and to run with gratitude. The race did not go perfectly, but I was so happy to complete the run with no tears, no pity parties and only a heart full of joy to have had such an experience. As I reflect on my run at Hardrock, I am filled with gratitude.
Life after Hardrock was aimless. Returning to a dog-less home was heart-wrenching and Matt and I immediately starting looking for another mountain running companion. This process was not seamless, and I struggled because no dog could ever fill the hole Dobby left behind. After some bumps in the road we adopted Dali; a large, energetic and goofy husky/german shepherd. Dali was only 8 months old and had potential hip issues. I had to taper my enthusiasm for long runs, and build her run capacity up more moderately than with my past dogs. During this time of restraint I missed Dobby more than ever, and I felt like such a spoiled brat for having those thoughts.
I signed up for the Ironlegs 50 Miler in the hopes that I could utilize some of my high-altitude fitness to achieve a good time on the course. Unfortunately, being completely focused on an outcome goal is a terrible way to run an ultra. It became obvious early in the race that a PR time was not in the cards, so I decided to just enjoy a long run on my backyard trails reconnecting with the ultra community. After 40km of running I was sore, tired and more than happy to call it a day.
My aimlessness continued after Ironlegs when I registered for the fall season of ultimate frisbee. I love playing ultimate, and I figured this would be a good way to get some speed back in my legs while having fun. Unfortunately, I was a bit over-enthusiastic in this approach and wound up giving myself a plantar-plate injury as well as Achilles tendon issues. I kept running through these injuries. I’ve had some tenderness in my Achilles in the past and I’ve always been able to run through it. Why should this time be any different?
I was frustrated by my aimlessness and general lack of fitness. I kept running through the pain of injury in desperation to get the feeling of fitness back. Dali was also turning out to be a great run partner, so I was highly motivated to keep running since it seemed to bring her so much joy. The Achilles pain was soon joined by hamstring pain travelling down my right leg. I had had some minor hamstring niggles off and on all year, but now this was a persistent pain that was waking me up at night. Eventually I admitted to myself that I needed to stop.
Admitting I was injured was hard. I am strong and resilient. I don’t get injured … or at least not like this. Upon reflection, I realized that I stopped weight lifting with any consistency in December 2021. My strength and resiliency in years past has been, in a large part, due to my commitment to strength training. This injury is a reminder that actions (or non-actions) have consequences, and now I am paying for my neglect.
I started back to consistent strength training in the early fall. I also took 10 days completely off running at the end of October, and I’ve been building back up methodically since then. My achilles pain is non-existent, and my hamstring only makes itself known with very specific movements. I am now running pain-free, and I’ve started back on a structured training plan which includes strength training as a non-negotiable pillar.
Reflecting back on this year, I can see that setting process goals led to successful outcomes, while outcome goals and general aimlessness led to frustration. Hardrock was a huge achievement that took a lot of mental and physical focus, I definitely needed to take a break afterwards and I don’t regret the aimlessness of the last few months. I just wish I would have retained a bit more fitness and avoided injuring myself with my stubborness.
Looking forward to 2023, I have some big goals and I’m excited to be heading into the new year feeling fresh and healthy. I hope to retain the lessons learned from this year, and to continue that process of exploration, learning and experiencing all that life has to offer.
I’m feeling a bit aimless at the moment, but Dali is my one constant. Every day I make sure that she’s happy, exercised, fed and learning. Teaching and caring for her gives me direction and purpose. But what are we working towards?
An internet aquaintance is working his way through the entire 5 volume series of Kananaskis Country Trail Guides. This is a project I considered back in the Moxie days, but never followed through on. It seemed daunting and tedious at the time. The aquaintance shared his trail guide checklist, and suddenly this challenge seems more manageable and exciting. I aim to work my way through the list with Dali as much as possible (some of the trails are not dog friendly) over the next several years. This should keep us busy for a long time 🙂
Check out our trip tracker here and follow along with our progress!
I first qualified for Hardrock in 2013 at Pine to Palm. I followed that up with qualifications at Fat Dog 2015, Bighorn 2017 and Bighorn 2019. All of these runs were painful learning opportunities, battling through IT band pain, shin splints, nausea, extreme mud, a car accident and blisters. At times I was frustrated with the process and lack of lottery success, but in the end I think this journey worked out in exactly the right way. Over the last 9 years I’ve raced the 100 mile distance many times, and each race has taught me valuable lessons. The accumulation of years, miles and experience has taught me patience, resilience and gratitude.
In 2018 I ran The Ute 100M race through the La Sal Mountains in Utah. This was my first high altitude race, and an early vomit session taught me the need to respect the thin air. That race was a rollercoaster of emotions as I battled through altitude and heat, but it also became an invaluable experience in preparing for Hardrock. I learned about the extreme temperature fluctuations that accompany changes in altitude, and the wild momentum shifts that go along with those environmental changes.
I’d been hoping to get in some altitude training at home, but this didn’t happen because late-season snow meant training had to be completed in the foothills and valleys. Instead, I drove down to Colorado two weeks before Hardrock in an effort to acclimatize to the high altitude. My friend Chris and I met up in Leadville, and we climbed up a couple of 14ers (14 000ft mountains) in the area. I felt like death as soon as we climbed beyond 3800m. This was especially noticable on the first mountain of the trip, where I found myself needing to take a rest break after every few steps. My time in Leadville did not build my confidence for climbing at altitude. Fortunately, my downhill running felt better and better with each outing. I took solace in the thought that I could make up for my lack of uphill fitness with my downhill skillset.
I left Chris behind in Leadville and made my over to the San Juan mountains. There were two peaks on my radar, Mount Uncompaghre and Wilson Peak, which I’d been meaning to do on previous trips to Colorado but hadn’t yet completed. I successfully climbed both mountains without the same altitude issues I’d been having in Leadville and my confidence began to grow. Maybe I was adapting.
The final week before Hardrock was spent in the Silverton area, checking out sections of the course, eating and resting. Some runs felt good, others felt terrible. I gave up trying to predict how I’d feel on race day and instead focused on how lucky I was to be able to play in such beautiful surroundings.
Nicki joined me two days before the race start and we camped out in the Kendall Mountain Recreation Area in Silverton. The race organization had arranged this free camping set up, and it was amazing. The camping area had toilets, wifi and a kitchen area, plus it was walking distance from the race start. I was super thankful for these amenities.
Matt was scheduled to fly into Montrose on Thursday afternoon, but early Thursday morning he called me to let me know he’d missed his flight. Matt was supposed to be my main crew man and driver for the ride home since I’d be too tired after the race to safely drive. Not having Matt was very upsetting, and I was thankful I had Nicki there to keep me focused on problem-solving rather than ruminating on what had been fucked up.
I contacted work and let them know I needed to extend my vacation by another day to allow time for the drive home. Nicki pivoted from her pacer role to crew role. Matt tried to figure out how to get on a standby flight. Unfortunately, Matt flying standby was super stressful for me since we didn’t have arrangements for getting him from the airport to Silverton, but I tried (unsuccessfully) not to dwell on it.
The evening before the race I couldn’t stop thinking about the potential of Matt being stranded at the airport. I sent Kris a message (he was my pacer who was driving out from Denver the next day) and asked if he could pick Matt up from the airport in the event he was successful at getting in on standby. As soon as I sent that message I felt a weight lift off my shoulders and I was able to get a few hours of sleep.
The temperature on race morning was cool, with many runners bundled up in puffies as they waited for race start. The starting line was a bustling mix of runners, media and spectators. It was so crowded that I wasn’t even 100% sure where the start line was! I met up with Chris and Leo, and we snapped a quick photo before the final countdown to the race start.
I tried to run slowly off the start and I think I was reasonably successful. Leo took off ahead, while Chris and I stayed in the same general vicinity for the entire 1st climb. I pulled ahead a little during a small downhill, and Chris caught back up while I was enjoying a snack on the side of the trail. In an effort to help with digestion, I planned to stop and chew my food rather than eating on the run. I wound up following this strategy about 50% of the time.
The descent off the first climb was super fun, but it was also the muddiest section of the course. I passed several runners as I descended, slipping and sliding and wiping out once in the muck. I paused for a water refill at the aid station before beginning the long hike up to Grant Swamp Pass. This climb started out super mellow with some runnable sections and I was enjoying myself until suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my lower leg. Something had bit or stung me! Thankfully, I’d remembered to take an anti-histamine that morning, and the burning/itching sensation subsided over the next hour.
The trail up to Island Lake was super buffed out and busy with hikers and media. Everyone was considerate, stepping to the side and cheering the racers on as we climbed up the steep slope. I had seen photos of Island Lake on social media so I was excited to see it in person. Unfortunately, the general busyness of the trail was too much for me. I made an effort to smile and be polite (everyone was being super nice), but I wasn’t able to relax and enjoy myself because of the crowd. I took this climb too hard and I paid for the effort.
Excited to get away from all the people, I enjoyed the scree run down Grant Swamp Pass. The scree was nice and soft so you could just let your legs go and enjoy yourself. The scree slope was followed by a boulder field, which was much more difficult terrain. You had to be careful not to roll an ankle and the course markings were sometimes difficult to see. I was thankful I had the route uploaded to my watch, as I went off route at one point. I caught up and passed Leo on this descent, but I was fairly certain he’d catch me on the next climb.
CHAPMAN GULCH – MILE 18.1
The hard climb up to Grant Swamp Pass had brought on a bit of nausea, and I cut back on my snacks for the next hour while my stomach calmed down. The next climb up from Chapman Gulch was relentless. Leo and I left the aid station together and I apologized that I didn’t really feel like chatting. I had one headphone in and was fully committed to the grind at this point. The climb up the mountain just kept going and going, increasing in steepness with seemingly no end. I had to go back to my stopping while eating strategy. Leo and I leapfrogged up the climb, with Chris visible and closing the gap from behind.
I made the summit first and was rewarded with the most wonderful downhill of the race; cruisey switchbacks through fields of wildflowers and ribbons of waterfalls. I quickly made a gap on the rest of the racers and enjoyed an entire descent to myself, cheered on by the marmots.
TELLURIDE – MILE 27.8
The skies opened up and I ran into Telluride in a torrential downpour. Nicki and the rest of the Canadian crew were waiting the aid station, huddled under communal tents. We changed my socks and shoes and lubed my feet. I drank 500ml of Gatorade and ate a few chips. Unfortunately the chips were Pringles and I was turned off by the texture and generally lack of saltiness. Nicki gave me the amazing news that Matt had made it to Silverton, and I headed off on the next climb with a joyful heart.
I had intended to use the washroom at Telluride, but in my excitement I forgot. The race director had been very specific that you needed to poop at least 200ft off trail, so it took my quite a while to find a suitable location. Eventually I found a spot, but in the meantime Leo leapfrogged ahead of me and Chris caught up from behind. We slogged up the final steep climb to Kroger’s Canteen and arrived together!
Having the 3 of us together at Kroger’s was a highlight of the race. We each enjoyed a mini tequila shot, and then it was time for the very long descent down to Ouray. I went ahead on the descent, no one visible ahead of me and no one visible behind. My downhill legs still felt great, so I kept enjoying myself. Soon I was trotting down a smooth gravel road and some alarm bells started to ring quietly in the back of my head. This descent was too long and runnable. I could easily overdo it and cook my legs if I wasn’t careful. I decided to walk the flat sections and anything that felt like it required any kind of effort.
Thunder boomed and the skies opened up with the most torrential rain I’ve ever seen. It was spectacular! The temperature wasn’t cold so I could run in the rain without fearing hypothermia, but the storm didn’t quit so I decided to pop into a roadside outhouse and put on my rain jacket. Just as I came out I saw Leo run by but I don’t think he saw me. I ate a couple of gummy candies and it felt like one of them was caught in my throat, so I coughed. Suddenly I was hunched over, vomiting on the side of the road.
Nathaniel Couture (another Canadian) saw me emptying my stomach contents into the ditch and decided to run with me the rest of the way into Ouray. I wasn’t feeling too badly despite the puke session, so we were able to make our way into town at a reasonable speed. I was greatful for the company and it was fun to run with someone for a bit after so much solo time.
OURAY – MILE 43.9
We arrived in Ouray and it was so good to see Matt’s smiling face. He had made it! Nicki was also there and ready to pace me, but first I had to change out of my wet t-shirt/bra and get some food into me. It felt like I took a long time in that aid station, but perhaps I needed that time for a necessary reset.
Nicki and I began the long hike up Bear Canyon next to Meghan Hicks and her pacer. I ran ahead during a short downhill, but than Meghan passed me back during the sustained climb up the canyon. The Bear Canyon portion of the trail was really neat, cutting right into the canyon side wall with a huge cliff below. As darkness set in, you could see the headlamps working their way up the canyon.
I was feeling good until I wasn’t. Suddenly, I found myself keeled over and dry heaving on the side of the trail. My entire stomach was in convulsions but nothing was coming out. It was very painful, and I hated that Nicki had to see me this way. Eventually the convulsions eased up so that I was able stand up and continue my hike.
At the next aid station I had some coffee and saltine crackers (recommended by Nicki). The crackers weren’t particularly satisfying, but they went down okay. We continued our climb up and over Engineer Pass, overtaking Leo along the way. It looked like Leo was going through a rough patch of his own.
My legs were still feeling fine at this point, but I knew they’d eventually quit on me if I couldn’t get some calories in. Nicki and I ran down the jeep road from the pass to the Animas Forks aid station. I may have had a dry heave session along the way, but my memory is foggy. I was greatful for my downhill running ability and hoped that some replenishment at the aid station would save me from a total death march.
ANIMAS FORKS – MILE 57.9
Nicki and Kris swapped out pacing duties, and we headed out into the night for the highest part of the course. I was very nervous that this section would turn into a non-stop vomit fest due to the altitude, and I monitored my effort closely. Chris and his pacer Alissa left the aid station with us, and we headed up the next climb as a team of four. The effort felt too much for my stomach, I slowed down and Chris and Alissa soon disappeared up the trail in a sea of headlamps.
I felt like I was reasonably steady during the Handies Peak section. Definitely not fast, but moving at an okay pace. We passed Chris and Alissa on the descent off the peak, Chris was having a trail nap while Alissa stood watch. I wondered if that strategy would pay off or just bleed more time. (Spoiler: Chris beat me by 2 hours)
I was excited for some running on the next section of the course. The terrain was very moderate on a slightly downhill jeep road. I took two Tums to settle my stomach, and then decided to take two Saltstick Fastchews to get my electrolytes balanced out. I’d been craving salt the entire run and nothing seemed salty enough.
Both the Tums and the Fastchews were fizzy, and the effect of swallowing four fizzy tabs at once was a volcano in my stomach. My race deteriorated before my eyes as I threw up all of my stomach contents. I tried to get running after the stomach explosion, but my legs felt like lead and the effort to run felt enormous. In the past I would have gotten very negative at this point and spiraled into a negative feedback loop, this time around I decided to accept that running wasn’t happening. No point in feeling sorry for myself, it was time to hike.
SHERMAN – MILE 72.7
When we reached the Sherman aid station I began to realize just how tired I was. The volunteers gave me a bowl of soup to eat while they bandaged up my pinky toes, which had blistered from the downhills. I repeatedly spilled the soup all over myself and I’m not sure I managed to get any of it into my mouth. I was in okay spirits, but I was a bit of a disaster. We left the aid station and began the long hike onto the most remote portion of the course.
The next miles drifted by in a blur. Some guys ran past me, while I passed no one. I was disappointed not to be able to move at a faster pace but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. The weather was warm and the trail was boggy, it reminded me of some of the bogs we encountered on the GDT. I knew from experience that this was high danger for blisters. If your feet dried with the grit from the mud in your shoes, your feet would be destroyed. I also had made a plan before the race started to avoid blisters at all costs, and instructed my pacers to be insistent that I clean/lube my feet at aid stations. The result of this plan was more time than I would have liked spent at aid stations, but I successfully finished the race with happy feet and not a single painful blister.
The pace was agonizingly slow, but Kris kept me entertained with stories of his previous pacing experiences (he is an expert pacer), as well as an introductory course on F1 driving. Did you know that Canada has two F1 drivers, and that they both suck? Me neither!
I thought one of the upcoming aid stations had smoothies and I became a bit obsessive. Turns out neither of them had smoothies, but I think the thought of smoothies was motivating. On the descent down to Maggie Gulch my legs felt completely locked up. It was a painful stumble down to the aid station
MAGGIE GULCH – MILE 87.1
At some point I discovered that I actually like the Saltstick Fastchews, I just had to take them one at a time with water instead of 4 fizzy pills at a time. I also discovered I liked saltines with salted avocado. At Maggie Gulch I even discovered that I liked eating quesadilla! My nausea was gone and I’d made it through to the other side, now I needed to slowly refuel and see if I could get my legs back.
Thunderstorms circled around us as we climbed out of Maggie Gulch, but a patch of blue sky stayed overhead. The climb up to Green Mountain was endless. The aid station captain had told us it “wasn’t that bad”, but it seemed to go on for hours! Thankfully we were walking through fields of wildflowers, and that made the tedium much more enjoyable. I also felt like I was getting my legs back. I couldn’t run, but I could move smoothly without pain.
Descending down to Cunningham Gulch felt extreme. I was 90 miles, and well over 30 hours into a mountain race and now I had to work my way down this steep slope without falling off a cliff. My downhill legs were more functional than they had been 2hrs ago, but I still wasn’t exactly spry. I was very thankful to my poles for support. This descent probably wasn’t as death defying as it seemed. I’d like to go back there on fresh legs to see what all the fuss was about.
CUNNINGHAM GULCH – MILE 93.2
It was such a joy to come into Cunningham Gulch. I’d made it down from Green Mountain in one piece, and now I had less than 10 miles to go! My stomach was good, my legs were feeling better by the minute, and if I kept moving I could kiss the rock before dark. Kris and Nicki switched off pacing duties again, and I loaded up with candy and quesadilla for the last leg of the journey.
While I was in the aid station two other girls arrived, that definitely lit a fire under my ass! I took the longest in aid, so all 3 of us headed up the final climb at the same time. I decided to take a caffeine pill and tried to push the effort up the climb. I wasn’t moving fast (Nicki wasn’t even out of breath following behind me), but I moved as fast as I could manage for that section. My goal was to get out of sight of the two girls so that they wouldn’t try to chase me. I knew my downhill legs were completely shot, so this felt like the only way to maintain my lead. Soon I was a couple switchbacks ahead, and when the trail went around a corner and out of sight I felt like I could relax a little bit.
Thunder was booming all around us, but a patch of clear sky remained overhead. We theorized that Dobby was watching over us. Taking a moment to breathe on that final highpoint was a special moment.
I tried to run a few times on the last descent, but it just wasn’t happening. I wasn’t in pain, I was just completely spent. I was pretty sure that my glycogen stores were at zero, and Nicki joked that I’d run my ass off. I walked as efficiently as possible, only attempting to run when we finally arrived on the streets of Silverton.
Courtney was out cheering on the finishers (she had finished 12hrs earlier), and I managed to hustle a few metres for her. Then Nicki told me that someone was closing in from behind and I was forced to jog those last two blocks. Dirty trick Nicki!
SILVERTON FINISH – MILE 102.5 (38HR, 17MIN)
Finishing Hardrock was incredibly meaningful to me. It was the culmination of years of hardwork and self-discovery. It was a celebration of my health, and of the trail community that I am so thankful to be a part of. It was an opportunity to explore my limits, and process some of the trauma I’ve experienced recently.
I am beyond grateful to those who have supported this dream of mine, too many to name, but especially:
Wow, I am so far behind on my blog. There have been several significant life events since Steep Dreams, and I’m not even sure where to start. Let’s forge ahead in point form and get into more detail later.
Run training was going well through April even though spring snow and cold temperatures limited my ability to get much steep mountain running in. Dobby continued to grow into the best mountain running dog ever. I could feel my fitness improving, and I was feeling happy and optimistic.
In May I organized Run for the Braggin’ Rights. This is a free run event in Bragg Creek which I host every year to raise money for the trail association. Dobby and I ran 75km together over two days, and then I did a 3rd day on my own. I was feeling strong and my 100 mile legs were starting to make an appearance. Two days later I was sick and I’m fairly certain I had COVID. This knocked me off my training schedule for about two weeks, and although I don’t think it impacted Hardrock training much, it definitely derailed my training for Meet the Minotaur.
The snow finally began to melt in June, and Patrick and I got out for an awesome day of ridge running at Moose Mountain. Dobby joined us and she was such a delight. I came home floating on Cloud 9. The next morning Dobby seemed to be in discomfort, and within an hour it was clear that her condition was worsening. I took her to the 24hr clinic, expecting a urinary blockage or something similar. I was mentally prepared to pay $1000-$2000 dollars for emergency surgery, but the diagnosis was much worse than I imagined. She had a diaphragmatic hernia and she required immediate surgery. The cost quoted was $6000-$8000 and it was likely that she could have complications going forward due to organ tissue death (some of her intestines and part of her liver had floated out of her diaphragm). Matt had just lost his job the week prior and we couldn’t justify the cost given our financial situation. We also knew that Dobby’s quality of life may be permanently affected going forward. Letting go of Dobby was so hard, and I still question the decision. I’ve always aimed to be very pragmatic about my animals, but that pragmatism has eroded over time. Moxie, and then Dobby, became part of our family unit. Dobby was the sweetest dog I’ve ever interacted with. She had a heart of gold and enhanced my life in ways I never imagined.
A week after Dobby’s death I ran Meet the Minotaur. I wasn’t sure how that race would go. Dobby never did anything halfway; she loved hard, played hard, chewed hard and chased hard. I decided that I would aim to channel Dobby’s spirit and adopt her “full send” attitude. I raced well and surprised myself by squeaking into a top-10 finish.
The hard racing at Meet the Minotaur resulted in a serious case of DOMS and I basically took the next week off for recovery. I was happy about the muscle soreness, since I figured it would be the perfect training stimulus for Hardrock which was 3 weeks later.
At the end of June I also had follow up imaging on my bone graft. I’m happy to report that it is looking healthy and the TIMF saga is nearly behind us.
I’ll save my Hardrock race report for another day, I didn’t feel right writing about it until I’d caught up on the last few months. Until then, I hope you are adventuring outside and give your doggos an extra squeeze from me.
I was nervous and excited heading into the Steep Dreams ski mountaineering (skimo) race at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. I had won a race entry to any of the skimo events through an Instagram contest last year, and I chose to compete at Steep Dreams because it was at an ideal time of the year. I figured that a race in late March would give me plenty of time to learn how to ski steep terrain without interfering with training for my summer running events.
Going into the event I had two main concerns:
Finishing within the time cutoff.
Not getting hurt.
The race course covered about 13km of distance, with 1700m of vertical gain. The time cutoff was 4.5hrs. I did a few 1700m days in the backcountry in the weeks leading up to Steep Dreams, and finishing within the cutoff was going to be tough but doable. I really wanted to be safe on the descents, but I worried that if I wasn’t fast enough on the ascents I wouldn’t have time to take the descents as slowly as I wanted.
I was not willing to get hurt at this race. I made a pact with myself that if I didn’t feel I could descend a route safely, I would DNF the race and find a route down that was within my ability level. I was particularly concerned about exposure to cliffs, icy slopes and moguls.
I recruited my friends Sean, Jamie and Colin to join in the weekend fun. Sean had some friends with a house on the hill who generously allowed us to stay with them, so we were able to have amazing accommodations only 1km from the chairlift. It was fantastic to have access to a hot tub, kitchen and hot shower so close to the resort.
Race morning arrived and I was very nervous. My stomach was gurgling with anxiety and I hoped I wouldn’t have to find a washroom mid-race. The ski down to the race start from the top of the gondola was a bit spicy and I found myself 2nd guessing the entire event. The slope was steep and moguled, and the snow had been scraped off the rocks on the entrance. It was clear there would be no powder on this day, but my worst-case scenario of icy moguls might be coming to fruition.
I made my way carefully down the steep slope to the groomed run below, side-slipping most of the way and feeling very unsure of myself. WTF was I doing??
The race start was at the Heaven’s Gate Yurt, halfway up the mountain. We hung out there for an hour while we waited for our final pre-race instructions. While we waited I met Nathalie, another racer with undeveloped downhill skills. She had previewed the entire course the previous day, and she gave me the low down on all the descents. Talking with her was reassuring and gave me so much confidence that I wasn’t in over my head. I can’t thank her enough for sharing her course knowledge and positive attitude.
The race began with Colin, Jamie, Sean and myself positioned at the back of the pack. The uphill pace was intense and I didn’t do much passing during this ascent. Jamie and I stuck together, while Colin pulled ahead and Sean dropped behind. I considered pushing harder (I’m not used to being at the back of the pack) but I knew that if I increased the effort I’d implode.
After a short bootpack up the Stairway to Heaven it was time to descend Whitewall. Nathalie had warned me that this was a spicy entrance. It was a vertical drop off of a cornice onto a steep slope. I remembered my promise not to get hurt so I sat down on my butt and scooched forward until I could just barely get the edge of my ski into the sidewall. The volunteers were amazing and very encouraging as I gathered up the courage to drop onto the slope. I dropped in without incident, and then slowly picked my way down the firm (but not icy) moguls to the more friendly terrain below. I was so slow that everyone passed me on this descent, but I made it down unscathed and stopped to take a breather. My first double-black diamond, cornice dropping descent was over!
From there the race course meandered on a narrow trail through some trees (my favourite part) and then a short but icy mogul run (yuck!). By the time I reached the transition zone I was feeling a lot more confident in my downhill skiing and ready to tackle the next climb. I drank some water and ate some candy in transition before beginning the next ascent. I was feeling very good, and now I was passing tons of people. I passed Sean on one section (and managed to photobomb his selfie) and then Nathalie a little while later. Then it was time for the second bootpack of the day. This one was longer and steeper than the first one, but I enjoyed it. Bootpacking feels very natural to me.
The next descent was steep (another double-black diamond), but I don’t recall having any issues with the entrance, and once the grade mellowed a bit I actually enjoyed a few turns. Soon it was time for the 3rd climb.
After more snacks and water in the transition area I headed out for the 3rd ascent. It was somewhere around this point in time where I passed Jamie. He looked like he was bonking so I asked if he’d eaten any candy yet. He said, “good idea!”
This climb included many kick-turns followed by a longer bootpack up to the summit of T2. I passed a few more people and marveled at the speed of the individuals near the front of the pack who were blowing by me on their second ascent of this climb. We were sharing the course at this point so it was a bit crowded, but I found it energizing. From the top of the bootpack we were warned by the race director that the ridge ski down to Truth Couloir was awkward, and it was. I slowly maneuvered my way down towards the entrance of the couloir, frequently running into the vertical sidewall on the icy track.
Nathalie had told me that this was the toughest descent entrance, and I mentally prepared myself to quit if I wasn’t able to safely get into it. The main entrance involved a vertical drop of several feet into the steep and narrow chute. It was definitely beyond my pay grade; I don’t “drop” anything. The volunteer was helpful and pointed out a more mellow option which involved side slipping some rocks, but no air time. I carefully made my way in and then “skied” down the chute. Ski in quotations because I side-slipped the narrow section, only turning 3 times. The fan of the chute actually had some nice snow and I enjoyed the rest of the descent.
I looked at my watch before the final transition and realized I had tons of time to finish the race. I could relax and celebrate the final climb and descent. This transition was a bit comedic. My bindings had iced up, and I found myself rolling around like a turtle on the ground trying to get my skis off. I knew that Jamie wouldn’t be far behind me so I lollygagged a bit until he caught me. We completed the final climb and descent together. Up all the kick-turns, but this time turning right at the top away from the bootpack and towards the final descent to the finish line. This is the same descent that we’d gone down earlier in the day to get to the start line. For some reason it felt much easier this time around.
Jamie and I finished in 3:45, 45 minutes ahead of the cutoff time. Colin was waiting at the finish line, having finished his race 30 minutes earlier. Soon Nathalie crossed the finish line, with Sean a few minutes after. We were all elated to have completed the event and stoked on our “speedy” times. In reality our times were not speedy at all, we were at the very back of the pack! I’ve never been so happy to finish almost in last place.
Some after thoughts:
This was a very fun event that made it possible for “regular” people like myself to push our limits in a relatively safe environment.
The course was well-marked, something I was nervous about since I was unfamiliar with how course flagging works at skimo races.
The volunteers were attentive and knowledgeable, enabling “mediocre” skiers like myself to navigate the technical terrain safely.
The cutoff times were appropriate for individuals who had good fitness, but didn’t have skimo gear and weren’t expert skiers.
I’d love it if more recreational backcountry skiers took part in these events. I think it would build the community and create a party atmosphere, similar to what you find at old school ultramarathons. Training for, and completing this event was a highlight for me. I’m fairly certain I’ll be back next year, hopefully with less fear and more stoke!
P.S. I realize that I’m not “regular” or “mediocre” in terms of my fitness. I’m just trying to convey that I’m not an expert skier. I’ve never skied a couloir before this event, and while I’m comfortable on black diamond resort runs, I found these double-black descents to be at the very edge of my comfort zone.
This will be my 4th year running Meet the Minotaur. Each year has been on a different course, and every year I’ve loved it. Without fail, the courses have featured steep climbs, epic views, and technical descents.
This year, Meet the Minotaur is moving to a permanent course. I’ve had the pleasure of exploring portions of the course over the last few years, and last year a group of us completed the entire route as a “fun” run. This latest version of Minotaur is much like the earlier editions except about 50% longer. Here are a few photos from the course
If it isn’t obvious from the photos, I want to stress that this is not a “running race”. The course covers steep, rocky and remote terrain. Your ankles and knees must be very strong and stable. Most of the descents are not on nice scree that you can ski, rather the descents are on ankle busting rubble that requires more control.
Here are my top tips for preparing for the 2022 Minotaur Skyrace:
Build gradually. Don’t wait for the snow to melt to start training. Start now, so that you can build up your stamina gradually. When it comes to steep vert training, many of the physiological changes are from strengthening your connective tissue rather than your aerobic system. Make sure you get some studded shoes or microspikes to help with traction, then head out to some steep trails to get your joints accustomed to the slope. While the trails are still snow and ice covered, stick to non-technical trails and build up your volume methodically. Some trails in the Calgary area I’d recommend are Prairie Mountain, Mount Lady Macdonald (to the heli-pad) and Cox Hill. You only need to program one vert day per week in these early stages, the rest of the week you can train as you would for a normal trail race.
Get comfortable with verton rough trail. Aim to get in a couple of outings with ~2500m of climbing in the final 4 weeks leading up to the event. These training sessions should be on steep terrain with marginal trail. Some good options in the Calgary area would be Mount Lady Macdonald (to the ridge top), Grotto, East End of Rundle, Mount Baldy (bypass route), South Opal and Midnight Peak. In my opinion, routes like Ha Ling, Prairie Mountain, or simply repeats of Mount Lady Macdonald to the heli-pad are too runnable. Wherever you get your vert, make sure at least 50% of it is rocky (like in my photos).
Prepare for the elements. Test your gear out in real world scenarios. The Minotaur course has minimal aid, so you need to be self-sufficient. Dial in your gear so that you’re prepared for wind and freak thunderstorms. At a minimum, you should have a windshell, gloves, hat, space blanket and waterproof layer. I use gardening gloves from Rona, and a rain jacket that I’m able to fit over top of my run pack. If you aren’t able to place your jacket over your pack, your pack and everything in it could get soaked. In the first aid section of my pack I carry bandages, pain killers, asthma medication, antihistamine, safety pins, duct tape, and an extra buff. And yes, I carry all this stuff with me both in training and during the race.
Dial in your gear.
The Minotaur course will destroy your shoes. You want to wear shoes with a robust upper, excellent grip, and cushioning for the rocks. I’ve experimented with a lot of shoes over the years, and my best success has come Goretex fast-packing shoes, or from Nordas. If you decide to go the Goretex route, make sure you test them out on long days beforehand to see if you’ll get blisters. Goretex is horrible for shoe breathability, but it does add a durability aspect. Norda makes its upper from Dyneema, so the upper is incredibly strong. However, Dyneema doesn’t stretch much so the upper tends to gap at the ankle. A gaiter is absolutely essential if you don’t want to be stopping frequently to empty rocks from your shoes. Nordas have excellent cushioning and grip, as do most fast-packing shoes.
Make your mind up about poles, and then practice accordingly. Much of the climbing on this course is steep enough that you can bend over and put your hands on the dirt/rocks. Personally, when terrain is that steep I prefer to go without poles, however you may feel differently. The 2nd descent is on awkward rubble, where poles can definitely help. Poles may also assist for portions of the 3rd descent. If technical descents are not your strength, I’d strongly recommend training with poles and using them for the race. But if you’re a strong descender you may find them to be more hassle than they’re worth.
Practice with your pack full of gear. Get comfortable wearing your pack loaded with all your race gear during training. This will help you to efficiently access and stow the items you use most frequently, and help you to troubleshoot any potential chafe points.
Dial in your nutrition. When we completed the course last year, it took us nearly 11hrs! We all ran out of water on a very hot day, and called in Susan for emergency support at the bottom of the last descent so that we could recharge with some cold Cokes before jogging to the finish. Don’t underestimate your hydration/fuelling needs for the Minotaur Skyrace. During the race, I would aim for about 500ml of fluid/hr, while also making sure to arrive at the start line well-hydrated. On a hot day I might bump my fluid intake up as high as 800ml/hr. Make sure to have some electrolyte (or at a minimum have some food) with your water. This will enhance the absorption of your water so that you don’t just pee it all out. I’ve been really enjoying the Xact hydration tabs at half strength on hot days. In addition to water, you’ll want some simple sugars to eat on the run. Choose foods which are easy to swallow and digest. Unlike in a typical running race where you can zone out, your brain will be very active during the Minotaur Skyrace. There will likely be times when your adrenaline is elevated on exposed ridgelines, and you will need to be coordinated and nimble while moving efficiently on the rocky terrain. With this elevated adrenaline, you’ll want to intake sugar at regular intervals (sorry keto athletes, fat and protein won’t help here). I find Dino Sours and Muir energy gels work well for this. I usually will have a few candies every 15-20 minutes on the ascent, a gel at the top, and then I normally don’t fuel on technical descents because I’m too focused on my footing. I have at least 5 mouthfuls of water every time I eat. Nutrition is very individual. Practice it in training on similar terrain and at a similar intensity to what you would expect during the race.
Training to compete vs training to complete. If you are training to complete the race in the time limit, you do not need to do much running and would be better off spending your time learning to ascend/descend steep terrain efficiently. If you are training to compete for a top spot you do need to practice some fast running in addition to power-hiking. The first 1km, about 1km between the 1st and 2nd climb, and final 5km are all runnable. The last 5km is mostly downhill and very fast, make sure you have the leg speed to take advantage of this stretch if you’re looking to place in a top spot!
Because people were asking: my typical training heading into Minotaur includes about 5000 – 6000m of weekly vert and 80-100km. This volume includes a lot of scrambling, and I usually try to bookend my scrambles with longer run approaches on good trail. This is an effective way to learn how to run on tired legs.
It is not necessary to do this much training in order to be competitive at Minotaur. I train like this because it makes me happy, and that’s why I do this sport.
So get out there, increase your volume in a methodical manner, train on race-specific terrain, and have fun!
Actually, this story started more than 3 months ago.
I noticed that I was struggling with motivation early in the summer. It’s never been hard for me to maintain an active lifestyle. I love physical activity and being outdoors makes me feel alive. But I noticed that my drive was waning, and the joy I normally felt when I was out adventuring was not so bright.
Also around this time, Moxie really began to struggle. She didn’t cuddle much any more. I think the lap dog position she normally maintained was not as comfortable. Intuitively I knew whe didn’t have much longer with us, and in retrospect I wonder if my flagging mental health was tied to my realization that we were going to have to say goodbye.
During my 8 day adventure hike in September I embraced the solitude and adventure, but I was frustrated with my inability to push myself like I normally do. I spent more time in my tent then I did hiking. I wondered what was wrong with me.
On September 26th Moxie passed away and I sunk down into a world of grey. Any remnant of motivation was gone. I cried daily, without warning and unprovoked. I could not push myself to do anything other than easy wanders on the trails, and attempted road runs left me in a puddle of tears. I haven’t felt that world of grey since my 20s, and it was terrifying. I remember the struggles I had back then, bawling my eyes out in the shower for no perceivable reason and I refused to go back there.
I had my annual physical with my doctor in late October. She asked about my mental health, I started crying and said it was shit. I didn’t feel like I should be grieving for Moxie anymore, after all she was “just a dog.” My doctor assured me that grief takes time and to give it a couple more months, we could follow up if I was still struggling.
Matt and I had discussed maybe taking some pet-free time after Moxie to see how we enjoyed the freedom of a pet-free life. Our desire to live pet-free didn’t last long, and I began scrolling through the adoptable dog postings at the local rescue shelters. Matt was fully on board with the idea of getting a new dog, and I soon began filling out adoption applications.
I emailed the Cochrane & Area Humane Society (CAHS), asking about a dog named Oreo. I thought it was very suitable that I could enjoy my #summitOreos with my adventure partner, Oreo! In my adoption profile I mentioned that I’d prefer a dog with a low prey drive, since this was one of our biggest challenges with Moxie. Moxie would run off for hours, and was uncontrollable when it came to the chase. Thankfully, she had a great sense of direction and always came back … but I got used to doing a lot of waiting at the parking lot. CAHS said that Oreo also had a very strong prey drive, but had I considered looking at Poppy?
Honestly, I hadn’t really considered Poppy. I’d seen a video with her doing tricks where she seemed very smart and food oriented. Those traits seemed obsessive to me, like a border collie obsessing over a ball, and I am not interested in having a “robot dog” with a one-dimensional personality. But, after talking on the phone with adoption services for awhile I thought I might as well go in and check her out. Adoption services mentioned she had a “mouthing” issue, and that she loved to run so much they had her running on a treadmill at the shelter. I don’t think I had any appreciation for what “mouthing” is, and I was intrigued by the treadmill running.
My friend Arielle and I met Poppy at the CAHS after a run in early November. Poppy had tons of personality, was very affectionate and was clearly a naturally happy dog. She had those puppy dog eyes that melt your heart, and was definitely not a “robot dog.” We took her for a little walk, and I caught a glimpse of what “mouthing” was when she excitedly chomped my arm. I was wearing my best down jacket, which thankfully didn’t rip.
I went home and talked over my experience with Matt. I was clearly smitten, but I was desperate for another canine companion so I wasn’t being very picky. The next weekend Matt and I went to visit Poppy together. We were hoping that we could adopt her and take her home that day, but CAHS was adamant that we do more training with her before we could adopt her. On this visit the trainer showed us how they were muzzle training Poppy, and some techniques they used to distract and interrupt the mouthing when it happened. They did not sugar-coat the mouthing issue, and emphasized that Poppy had broken the skin with her enthusiasm.
Matt and I thought that most of Poppy’s mouthing issue stemmed from her being cooped up in a shelter most of the day . She clearly had a high need for stimulation and exercise, something we thought we could provide since I intended to bring her on all my trail runs. It was obvious that CAHS was doing all they could to support Poppy, but from our perspective we didn’t think the mouthing habit could be broken until she was in a home.
Matt met with a trainer at CAHS for a third time while I was at work, and this time he was able to fill out the adoption paperwork and bring her home. We were so happy!
Life with Poppy was total chaos. She chewed the furniture, shoes, my car seatbelt, our ankles, feet and arms … the list goes on. We gated off the house so that she only had access to the living room and we learned not to leave anything out that we valued. On day 2 she chewed my arms so badly on a walk that I thought she may have to be muzzled for all future adventures. Looking back, I wonder why we were so confident that we could manage this behaviour. Matt and I aren’t dog experts by any stretch, and Poppy had a very big problem.
Poppy was also hilarious, joyful and eager to please. She made us laugh constantly, and when she wasn’t chewing our arms off she was very cuddly. I felt the grey clouds begin to lift. I needed the chaos. The chaos felt like it was bringing me back to life.
We weren’t intending to rename Poppy. But she is such a ridiculous goofball, and when she stole Matt’s sock from the bedroom we knew that her name had to be Dobby (after the house-elf from Harry Potter).
3 months later, after a lot of time, attention, love, and ongoing support from CAHS I am happy to report that I have no Dobby teeth marks. The house is no longer gated and the furniture has not been chewed in weeks. Recently, I’ve even been able to have Dobby sit in the back of my car unrestrained, my remaining two seatbelts are intact. My mental health has improved dramatically, and my drive to push hard, adventure and explore has returned. Running with Dobby is a daily joy, recall is excellent, and she is just so happy!
I know we aren’t out of the woods yet. Dobby still mouths occasionally, but the episodes are infrequent and short. Every evening she gets rowdy and feels the need to rip shit up. We call it rip-shit-up o’clock, and we prepare for it with stuffed animals, tug-of-war and various dog toys. The evening antics never fail to make us laugh, it’s a good way to end the day.
I always knew that Moxie was an integral piece of our family unit, but I don’t think I fully understood the impact she had until she was gone. I am so grateful for the time we had with her, and I am excited to have a new monster in our lives. Dobby, you have some big paws to fill!
I awoke in the dark on Day 8, confused about why the sun was taking so long to rise. That is when I finally clued in that my watch/phone had switched over to Alberta time.
I had been concerned about waking up to rain and snow, but the day was calm and conditions were dry. I thanked the universe with gifting me an extension of the good weather.
The next several kilometres of trail traversed cross-country over mountain passes and across alpine bowls. There was no trail, but travel was relatively straightforward once you figured out which spot on the horizon you were aiming for. Although there was no scrambling, the terrain was surprisingly treacherous, with very little flat footing. Plant growth concealed boulders and holes that could easily result in a turned ankle or broken leg. Travel over the cols usually involved hopping along very large rocks. It took all my concentration to ensure I didn’t slip or overturn a boulder. In this remote terrain, rescue would be very slow and it was unlikely anyone would find me to provide assistance.
The awkward footing was made worthwhile by the incredible views. I was never bored and always in awe of my surroundings. At one point I slipped and snapped my pole, but I continued onward. The weather remained perfect until my final climb up to the Holmes tarns. A cloud bank rolled in and suddenly I was in a whiteout. Thankfully, I was well-practiced with this routine and I had all my layers on before getting hit by the storm.
The initial storm was short-lived and I was able to enjoy views of the tarns, and catch a glimpse of a couple of nimble mountain goats before the rain returned in earnest. I was now only a few kilometres from rejoining the main GDT trail, and I hurried across the rocky terrain. The weather was nasty and there was no shelter. Thankfully my pack was very light (I had eaten all my food except a handful of trail mix) so I was able to move unencumbered.
I was in and out of the rain for the rest of the hike. The Blueberry Lake trail had deteriorated into a total mud pit due to the wet weather combined with equestrian traffic. I wiped out several times on my descent, and tightened my shoes so that the wouldn’t get sucked off in the bog. I ran into a couple of horseback riders halfway down the trail and we had a good chat. They knew the equestrian girls who were riding to Grand Cache, and had come in to do a little maintenance on the Jackpine Valley trail. I was concerned about my car, leaving it for a week in the wilderness was nerve-wracking for me, but they assured me it was undisturbed.
Finally, I reached the Blueberry Lake trailhead. I was covered in mud and soaked to the bone, but my soul was full. I had left a towel, dry clothes, snacks and Coke in my vehicle. It felt incredible to put on a clean pair of sweats and stuff my face with all the high-calorie foods.
Surprisingly I never felt lonely on this trip. I became very comfortable talking out loud to myself and discovered that I’m perfectly capable of carrying on a one-person conversation.
I think I could enjoy even longer solo trips, but food weight is a limiting factor. I don’t enjoy carrying a heavy pack, and this trip was near my max weight/bulk. If I want to explore further, I’ll need to either have a resupply point or travel in warmer weather when a stove/fuel isn’t necessary. Even in that scenario, stove and fuel probably only take up the space of one day’s food.
I’m not a huge fan of stoves, but I’m glad I was convinced to bring one this time around. I would have been miserably cold without it.
Thermal tights are amazing. Rather than bringing waterproof pants, I just brought winter tights. These tights are fairly thick, and still insulate when wet. They kept me warm, packed small, and didn’t snag or tear on branches. I don’t think I’ll bother with rain pants in the future.
I woke up super late and super puffy on Day 7. Take a look at my face in the video, I’m a total marshmallow. I eventually did get going on my hike, and it was an absolutely beautiful morning.
I took the Meadowlands alternate because I’d been told it was easier than the Loren Lake High Route. I would love to hear from someone who’s done the Loren Lake route, because Meadowlands was a very dense bushwhack. I was not precisely on track, and I’m certain this route would be much easier coming down through the brush than fighting your way up it. It’s possible my experience was worse than it needed to be. Suffice it to say, it was a VERY slow hike to get above treeline. I’ve never been so excited to get out of the trees so that I could side-hill across avalanche slopes.
Eventually I did get onto the ridge, and it was such a treat. The views were insane, and I could not stop commenting out loud to myself about how amazing it was. This was a definite highlight of the entire trip.
Travel along the ridge to Perseverance Mountain was slow. I felt like I was moving well, but the map told me otherwise. The ridge was exposed in places, and there was occasional route-finding. There was one downclimb which was sketchy, and I wished there was someone with me who I could pass my pack down to. A fall there would have resulted in broken bones for sure. I don’t think this section would have been nearly as difficult to upclimb, and it’s possible there was an easier way that I didn’t find.
When I finally reached the summit of Perseverance I was overjoyed. Very few mountains have given me such a sense of accomplishment. And looking back along the ridge I’d travelled which seemed to go on forever added to the feeling.
Looking at my watch, I couldn’t understand how it was already so late in the day, it didn’t feel that late. I debated pushing over the next high point before setting up camp, but if I ran into difficult terrain I risked being caught out in the dark. Once again, I decided to set up camp early and enjoyed a double dinner.
I checked the forecast using my Zoleo and it did not look great. I crossed my fingers and hoped that I wouldn’t be waking up to fresh snow. The sun seemed to take forever to set, and it wasn’t until the next day that I realized my watch and phone had temporarily switched back over to Alberta time.