Monthly Archives: August 2017

Spray Valley 10 – The Conclusion

Part I and Part II


We gave ourselves the luxury of an 8 hour sleep on day 3.  Neither Arielle nor I could stomach the thought of another 4am wake up call.  Both of us were feeling the effects of the last two days, and we took some extra time in the morning to tape up any hot spots on our feet and massage our sore joints back to life.

We left the campground at 8:30am and 10 minutes later we were hiking up Rimwall.  Oleg led the way up the mountain, and with his expert route-finding we made it to the summit without issue.  I was impressed with the efficiency of our movement, maybe it would be a short day!  I began to dream about a shower and a soft bed.

The scree run down Rimwall was super fun and we were laughing as we flew down the mountain.  It was the calm before the storm.


 

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Fun times running down Rimwall!


I don’t remember exactly when it started, but at some point Arielle began to complain about some pain on the inside of her knee.  As soon as she described the pain in detail I knew what it was – pes anserine bursitis.  I have had this condition a few times and it is very painful.  The only way to relieve the pain is with ice, but we had none.

The condition is aggravated whenever you have to lift your leg more than a few inches off the ground.  Seeing as we were scrambling over boulders and up steep mountain terrain, this meant it was aggravated with every step.


The route up The Orphan begins in a dry creek bed which is littered with flood debris. Normally this kind of boulder hopping would be fun, but Arielle was soon in tears.  Every step was agony.  We found a cold stream and took some time to ice the knee.  I tried to comfort Arielle by telling her that this was not a long term injury.  My experiences with the same condition had never lasted more than a few days. I’m not sure that my words helped.

Arielle soldiered on up the steep slope to the summit of The Orphan.  It was our 9th mountain of the weekend and we were both ready to be done.  One more to go, we told ourselves.  We could do it.

The steep downhill was agony for Arielle and she would break the silence every once and awhile with a scream of pain.  If this was her coping mechanism, that was fine with me.  Just let it out!

We stopped at another cold stream to ice.  Arielle looked so determined.  I would have been totally okay if she had thrown in the towel after hobbling down The Orphan and called it quits, but she never mentioned stopping.  Her determination was so inspiring.  I thought about all the times that I’ve given up when things have gotten harder than I’d bargained for.



I was apprehensive about going up Big Sister.  Big Sister is not an easy mountain.  It is relentlessly steep with tons of slab and Arielle’s knee was going to hate her. Not only was Arielle moving like a peg-leg, but I was also having my own issues.  My mind was completely spent.  It was like I had used up all of my emotions and now I was reduced to a walking zombie.  If shit happened I didn’t trust myself to make any rational decisions.  I kept these reservations to myself, trusting Vlad and Oleg to make the rational decisions for us.

We followed Vlad and Oleg up the mountain, with Oleg keeping a careful eye on Arielle and acting as the ultimate pacer.  Thunderstorms swirled around us, but Big Sister remained dry.  It felt like we had some sort of higher power watching over us.  Eventually we made the summit, and enjoyed a muted celebration.  We weren’t done until we made it down.  We all knew that the down was going to be ugly, but at least we also knew that every step was leading us closer to the finish line.

I must have fallen 10 or 20 times on our way back.  They were controlled falls, but still … my coordination by this point was completely deteriorated.  I felt stoned and drunk.  I could only imagine how Arielle must have felt.

As we neared the bottom Oleg asked me how I felt about completing this adventure.  The truth was, that I didn’t know.  At the moment I didn’t feel anything.  And to be honest, I rarely feel much of anything (besides relief) when I reach a finish line.  I am so process oriented that I get nearly all of my joy out of the hard work and preparation which goes into eventually (hopefully) succeeding at a goal.  To borrow a quote I recently read on Amelia Boone’s Instagram “If you love the process, the results will follow. And if the results don’t follow, it doesn’t matter because the fulfillment and joy was always in the process itself.”

In the weeks leading up to this event I loved mapping out the route, scouting out the trails with Arielle, figuring out what gear we would need, putting together a team of committed friends, and getting as much vertical as possible into our legs in an attempt to make them unbreakable.  During the SV10, I loved the problem solving Arielle and I had to do as we ran into unexpected road blocks.  I even value the mistakes we made, such as not going back to the campground to get the right equipment or my epic bonk on the first day, because those mistakes are learning experiences for future adventures. I didn’t enjoy seeing Arielle in pain, but I loved seeing her unshakable determination.

After some reflection, I would say that I feel pretty good about this adventure.  It has been a great learning experience which can be used as a stepping stone for other projects.  It is another part of the process in the push towards finding my own personal limits.


The rain began to fall a few minutes before we reached the parking lot.  It was a refreshing way to finish our journey.  Vlad and Oleg went ahead, while
Arielle and I reached the parking lot together.  We were too tired for a  jumping photo, but we did manage a synchronized handstand shot.

Total Distance – 135km

Total Elevation Gain – 12 000m

Total Time – 13hrs + 18hrs + 12hrs = 43hrs of moving time.  65hrs elapsed.  Just a little longer than planned 😉



Thank you to everyone who has supported us throughout this journey.  We could not have done it without you!

  • To the friends who joined us along our journey: Patrick, Ryan, Andrew, Colin, Vlad, Alex and Oleg
  • To our crew who took care of us when we were too tired to take care of ourselves: Matt and Elena
  • To Ian and Susan for supporting us throughout this journey
  • Icebug (shoes)
  • UltrAspire (packs and hydration bladders)
  • Swiftwick (socks and arm sleeves)
  • Veriga (crampons)

 

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Spray Valley 10 – Part II

If you haven’t already read Part I, you can find it here.


2:55am came early on Saturday morning.  Who’s bright idea was this again?

I rolled out of the van and turned on the stove.  Today’s breakfast would consist of Aussie Bites and coffee, as we were too tired to think of cooking anything else.  Besides, Aussie Bites are amazing.


An hour later we rolled into the Sparrowhawk parking lot and found Colin already waiting for us.  How amazing is it that two days in a row we have friends willing to get  up at 2am so that they can join us for a sunrise mountain ascent?!

It was great to have Colin along for the journey.  Colin and Arielle have a similar sense of humour, so they could banter while I just settled into the steady rhythm of a steep power-hike.  I do a lot of solo mountain trips so I’m used to not talking.  Even when I’m with a friend I won’t necessarily say much, I prefer to listen.

The climb up Sparrowhawk went smoothly.  Both Arielle and I were moving well considering the 45km of mountainous terrain we had covered the day before.  As was our theme for the entire weekend, the temperature dropped dramatically as we ascended and we were soon bundled up in all of our layers.  The summit block was covered in clouds, obscuring the views, but as soon as we dropped back down beneath the clouds we were treated to a breathtaking sunrise.

We finished Sparrowhawk right on schedule and feeling optimistic about the day.  It was time to empty the rocks from our shoes and head over to Bogart 🙂



The original plan was to do Bogart and then traverse over to Sparrowhawk from the Sparrowhawk Tarns trail.  We changed that plan when we weren’t able to finish the full route on Friday; deciding that it would be better to hike up the steep trail to the summit of Sparrowhawk first, then traverse over to Bogart and enjoy a cruisey run down the Sparrowhawk Tarns trail.  None of us had ever dropped down to The Tarns from Sparrowhawk before, so this route was a bit of an unknown.  Needless to say, there was some routefinding involved, and we took a typical “shortcut” which wound up extending our run time significantly.  The pace slowed, and I got frustrated.

The mental dialogue going on in my head at this point was not very nice.  If we didn’t pick up the pace there was no way that we could finish 5 peaks on Saturday.  I was in the lead and I tried to hike faster in order to influence the others, but whenever I picked up the pace Colin and Arielle seemed to drift further behind.  I didn’t know how to tell them to hurry up without being a jerk about it.

Just then Colin piped up, “wow, look at how late it is!  I wonder what is taking us so long?”

I couldn’t resist, and tried to word my response nicely.  “Well, we are moving at a rather casual pace …”  I immediately regretted my words. These were my friends, we had a huge mountain ahead of us (the biggest of the entire SV10), and I wanted us to move as a cohesive unit.  Now I was risking driving a wedge between us with my impatience.

Thankfully Colin and Arielle are good sports.  They saw the truth in what I was saying and picked up the pace.  We were able to laugh about it and I was relieved that we could move on without issue.  I should have more faith in our friendships.

When we did finally begin our ascent of Bogart it went very smoothly.  We ascended much quicker and with less effort than our ascent of the previous week.  It felt so good to feel like we were back on track.  Unfortunately the descent off Bogart was not quick; it’s simply impossible to descend Bogart quickly (as much as you might want to).  The rock is too loose for reckless movement, and if you aren’t careful with your foot placement your fun mountain adventure will quickly turn into a search and rescue mission.

We got back to the parking lot in good spirits, but 2hrs behind schedule.  Vlad, Alex and Matt were all there waiting for us.  None of them seemed surprised that we were so late – we had been on an ambitious schedule 🙂



We said goodbye to Colin, and after enjoying a sandwich and a Gatorade we began to run down the High Rockies Trail towards the Lougheed trail head.  It was hot and we both had a bit of a headache.  We found a creek to dunk our heads in and immediately felt better.

The trail up to the Lougheed meadows seemed to have more uphills than normal, but we made good time.  Vlad and Alex had gone up ahead of us and were waiting for us in the meadow with delicious fresh cherries. We were happy and feeling good.

The climb up Lougheed went smoothly, even though we were both definitely starting to feel the effects of fatigue.  Vlad led the way and I enjoyed being able to follow his feet rather than finding my own route.  Arielle and I were stoked to make it to the summit only 10 minutes slower than last time we climbed Lougheed.  Not too bad for our 3rd, 10 000 ft+ peak of the day!

We enjoyed some hot tea and cheese sausages on the summit before heading down.  I had brought a wind shell up with me but had foolishly left my warmer jacket at the bottom of the mountain since it had been so hot in the valley.  I soon found myself shivering on the mountain top. Thankfully Vlad lent me a warm vest and I was soon nice and toasty as we began our descent of the mountain.



Arielle began the descent by running down the mountain in the wrong direction and I followed suit by missing an important cairn 15 minutes later.  In both cases Vlad did a good job of yelling at us to get back on the trail.  Getting off route was a good wake up call for me, it highlighted my fatigue and need to stay alert.  My brain was obviously not operating at 100%.

As we descended Arielle drifted further behind.  This is not typical of her so I knew something was up.  We got down to the meadow and she confessed that her back and ankle were bothering her.  I tried to hide my disappointment, as I worried that she might not be up for climbing Windtower tonight.  My mind was stretched thin and I didn’t have much more positive energy to give her- I felt like I needed to keep it all for myself.  Thankfully the  logical part of my brain was still working and I recognized her symptoms as likely being caused by dehydration.  We refilled her camelbak and she took an electrolyte supplement, as well as an Advil and a Tylenol.  Might as well cover all the bases.

It’s dangerous to take NSAIDs during extreme endurance exercise, so we both agreed that this is the only Advil she would take.  Better to deal with pain that have permanent kidney damage.

Arielle’s pain subsided quickly but my mind was still in a fog.  I tried to express my feelings to Arielle, but I’m not sure that I did a good job.  I just felt empty, and a little dizzy, and all I wanted to do was cry.  I think the attempt to express myself helped, because by the time we got back to the High Rockies Trail I was feeling a little better.  We were both determined to continue on to Windtower.

We reached the HRT, and  found Oleg waiting there with Elena.  They had set up a huge aid station; complete with beer, cheese, homemade chicken noodle soup, coffee, potato chips and banana bread. I wasn’t expecting them, but seeing them was exactly what I needed.  I burst into tears of gratitude, and pulled my hat down low to avoid embarrassing myself.

As soon as I saw the beer I knew it would be the cure for my weird headspace.  Beer during a long run has never failed to make me feel better.  We spent the next 10 minutes sitting and eating and talking.  It was such a great mental reset, I felt like I could do the whole day over again.  We finished our feast, and now it was time to head to Windtower.


Oleg said he would join us for the rest of our adventure.  This was a huge relief for me as I no longer felt like I had to be the leader.  Now I could just follow his feet and he could be in charge!  Arielle was also re-energized and we were able to get up and down Windtower quickly before the sun was fully set.  We finished the day running and singing our way down the trail, excited to “only” have 4 more mountains to climb on Sunday.

Total time: 18:00

Total Distance: 58km

Total Elevation Gain: 5300m