Facebook Messenger is a dangerous app. The conversation started innocently enough:
Phil: Did you fix on a plan for your scramble on Sunday?
Me: No. Did you have an idea?
Somehow that conversation morphed into a Saturday run plan that included 3 peaks, 60km of distance, 10km+ of creekbed and 26oom of climbing. How does that happen?
Saturday morning came early. Somehow Phil and I had convinced 5 other suckers-for-punishment to join us on this adventure. We all met up in the Dawson parking lot at 7:30am, bleary eyed and ready to go.
The run started at 7:45am with a steep climb up Cox Hill. Cox Hill is the highest point on the TransCanada Trail and a personal favourite of mine. The views above treeline are fantastic and the ridgeline from the false summit to the top is a fun run. The pace up to the summit was brisk and I wondered how long it would be until the first person cracked.
After an awkward summit selfie we bombed down the trail towards the saddle between Cox Hill and Jumpinpound Ridge. Terry is a very strong downhill runner and he led the charge. The next climb brought us up towards Jumpingpound Ridge and our second summit of the day. The snow was knee deep in places in the trees, but mostly we were able to avoid it or we could walk on top of the crust. I’ve been up there multiple times where we’ve literally been crawling through the forest in waist deep snow, so I was stoked about the relatively good conditions.
The brisk pace continued up to the summit. Two out of three summits down, that means we’re more than halfway done right?
It was easy to get excited about our progress, but we were only 12.5km into the run and had completed less then half of our elevation gain. We said goodbye to Mike at the top of Jumpingpound Ridge and wound our way down to the valley floor through sometimes deep snow, but mostly good trail. Somewhere along the way a tree branch tried to decapitate me. It’s not a trail run unless there’s a little blood, right?
Now that we had lost all of our elevation the real adventure was about to begin. We ran/hiked up a dried creek bed for the next 5-6km until we reached the start of the route up Mount Howard. With no new intel on trail conditions since the 2013 flood, we were anticipating the worst on the creekbed, with piles of deadfall and ankle twisting rocks. It was a pleasant surprise when we found the creek relatively smooth and nearly entirely runnable.
I hadn’t been paying attention to my water status and suddenly I realized I was totally out. The creek was dry at this point and we about to climb nearly 1000m up a mountain. Patrick was kind enough to give me about 500ml of his water, but I knew I was going to have to conserve. I wasn’t willing to back track 2-3km to where the creek was flowing so I would just have to suck it up.
The climb was steep through the trees, and once we broke out of the trees it was even steeper. There was a short section where the slope was so extreme and covered with loose rubble that it was difficult to make any progress at all. The group spread out on the steep slope as it became obvious who the climbing specialists were. Patrick practically floated up the mountain, while others struggled with the terrain and altitude.
Progress was slow with multiple stops to regroup but eventually we made it to the summit.
The weather was perfect and views were spectacular. This route is definitely worth the long approach up the creekbed, and grovel along the ridge line.
The downclimb from the summit was slow going with melting snow making for slippery footing. Ryan snapped a pole while Terry bent his. I did a lot of sitting down on my butt and lowering my feet down. I’m sure the descent would have been a lot easier had we had dry conditions.
The difference in skill sets became even more apparent later on as we travelled down the mountain, as once again the group split up and regrouped multiple times. By this point everyone was out of water and my stomach was starting to feel a little off. I ate some snow to keep myself from getting too cranky.
When we eventually got down to the creekbed all I could think about was filling my camelback so that I could settle my stomach. Some people get cramped or tired when they’re dehydrated, I get sick. We were still 15-20km from the parking lot and I did not want to start the pukefest now.
I had brought a water filter and I filtered water for those who wanted it. (We were drinking from a spring so realistically the water was probably fine). Another 2-3km of creek bed and then we were back on the gravel road for the 16km run/shuffle/walk back to the car. This is where I expected the suffering to really start.
Patrick blazed ahead while the rest of us jogged behind at our own paces. I was happy with how my legs were feeling but my stomach was still off. I tried to keep coaxing in water, sugar and salt. It worked for the most part.
About 5km from the end my breathing became more laboured and I mentally kicked myself for not bringing my Symbicort puffer. The puffer only lasts 8-12hrs and I had last used it at 6am that morning, more than 12hrs earlier.
I shuffled into the parking lot with Philippe, legs feeling good but breathing seriously challenged. Thankfully Phillippe let me use his Ventilin and my lungs slowly returned to normal. Note to self: always bring Symbicort on long runs.
The real suffering for me didn’t start until after I got home and tried to eat. Matt had cooked a fantastic dinner, but I resorted to spending the next hour lying on the hardwood floor while my body decided whether or not I was going to throw up. I cancelled my Sunday scrambling plans. I needed a rest day.
On the positive side:
Phil and Patrick both completed their longest runs ever! Ryan and Terry capped off a solid block of training with a seriously tough run and are prepared to tackle their 100km race in California in a few weeks. Philippe finished his second scramble ever and I was reminded about the importance of hydration and medication 🙂