Category Archives: FKT

Not Running Across Alberta

If you followed along on any of my social media feeds, you will know that I did not make it across Alberta.  On the plus side, I did succeed in setting a new personal distance best of 210km.  I started to write a novel of a blog post outlining everything that happened on this adventure, but it was bland.  Instead, I’ll highlight some of my observations.

  1. Dave is superhuman. I am honoured to have been able to join him for just a glimpse of his journey, even if I was only able to keep up for 68km 🙂
  2. It’s hard to quit when it feels like the entire ultra-community is willing you on to succeed.  I was incredibly touched by the amount of support I received, either through social media, text messages or people meeting me on the side of the road.  Thank you for all your support.
  3. When choosing a pace, always listen to your body. Don’t look at your watch. Don’t follow someone else’s pace.  Don’t set arbitrary timelines. The more you can follow your own internal clock, the more successful your adventure will be.
  4. Ice Caps are right up there with beer for magical ultra fuel. Thanks mom, you made my day!
  5. Along the same lines, milk is the ultimate recovery drink.  After my second long day on the road my muscles were in pain and I was having difficulty even lying down to sleep.  Matt gave me a large glass of milk and 30 minutes later the pain was gone!  I was ready to run again.
  6. I have a pretty wonderful partner in crime. Our last 3 wedding anniversaries have been spent staying up all night at Sinister 7.  This year was not much different, as Matt spent the night following behind me in a car as I ran through the night to try to catch Dave in Chestermere.
  7. If you are repeatedly puking, take the time to stop and reset.  Continuing to run depleted will just dig yourself into a deeper hole.  I was puking on the morning of day two for no obvious reason, although I think I was still recovering from the heat on day 1.  We stopped, ate some food and then sat there for 30 minutes to allow the food to digest.  After that, no more puking!  I was able to eat and run again!
  8. The human body is incredibly resilient IF you have the patience to let it adapt.  In 2010 I had a metatarsal stress fracture in my foot which occurred while running a marathon, I thought my body couldn’t handle long distances.  This past week I ran 210km and I got really tired, but suffered no injuries.  This resilience has been built up through years of consistent training and fueling my body with the nutrients it needs.
  9. Know when to call it quits.  After running for 210km, including a 4.5hr stretch through the night, I was exhausted. I needed to regroup and have a nap.  Upon awaking from the nap, Matt and I did the math.  There was no way I could make it to the Saskatchewan border before I had to get back to work.  We decided to cut our losses and head to the woods for some much needed R and R.
  10. Gratitude. These endurance attempts are not a solo project.  I would not be able to chase these dreams without the support of so many people:
    • To Wayne, Trish and Dave.  Thank you so much for letting us tag along.  I’m so sorry we weren’t more helpful.
    • To my sister Ellycia.  Thank you for taking care of Moxie for us while we attempted to this ridiculous stunt.
    • To the staff at the Canmore Hospital.  Thank you for assessing me and giving me the confidence to know that I could continue to push myself without worrying about permanent damage.
    • To Salming, Altra and Spry.  Thank you for your support, without which I would never have even began this journey.

Gear and fuel (because people always ask me about this stuff).

  • Climb On bar for anti-chafing.  I applied this to my feet and other typical problem areas a couple of times a day.  I had no blisters and no chafing, which is amazing because I chafe more than almost anyone I know.
  • Salming Speed 6 for the first 53km.  When we left Lake Louise at 5am it was low light and these shoes are super reflective.
  • Altra Escalantes for the last 157km.  These shoes have a nice, wide toe box and cushioned ride.  They feel like slippers on my feet.
  • Swiftwick Socks – These socks never bunch or slip, are seamless and incredibly durable.  By far my favourite socks.
  • Ultraspire Spry 2.0 vest – This is the lightest hydration vest I own.  It was perfect for holding 1.5L of water, my phone and a few snacks.
  • Smithbilt Outrun Rare hat – I highly recommend wearing this hat on hot or rainy days.  It is very comfortable and you can throw a handful of ice in the top.  The cool water will melt down your head as you run.  Not recommended for winds over 50kph.  A portion of the proceeds go towards the Rare Disease Foundation.
  • Jujubes, Sour Dinos, Timbits (various flavours), Doritos, Iogo drinkable yogurt, Clif Bars, Oreos (various flavours), diluted Gatorade (lemon lime), Tim Horton’s Iced Cappucinos, Miller Genuine Draft, Gu Roctane electrolyte tablets, water, coffee with lots of milk and sugar.  Twice I attempted to eat a sandwich, those instances ended badly.

And now, I will head back to my home in the mountains.

Please follow along as Dave continues to run across Canada at http://www.outrunrare.com

Happy Trails!

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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)

 

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


Spray Valley 10 – Part 1

“What about Sunday?”

I look up at Oleg.  Oleg is a bit of a mountain guru.  If he’s asking this question it means that he’s fairly certain that we won’t finish in two days.

“I hope we aren’t still going on Sunday … but if that’s what it takes … I guess we keep going.”   Famous last words …


It’s Wednesday and we have gathered at my place for dinner and a planning session.  We hash out the logistics, and by the time the evening draws to a close Arielle and I are feeling much better about our weekend adventure.  We have drawn up a tentative schedule, and it looks like we will have support throughout the entire journey.  We could not have asked for a better scenario, and I find myself feeling overwhelmed with gratitude towards this fantastic trail running community.


Thursday evening comes quickly.  I work until 6pm, and it’s well after 7pm by the time we’ve finished dinner and are ready to head out to our campsite for the night.  The air smells of smoke from the nearby forest fires and the sunset is hazy.  Arielle and I are concerned about our lungs – I’m not always the best at managing my asthma and smoke could cause it to flare up badly.  We see some massive storm clouds gathering on the south end of the lake and hope that the rain will wash away the smoke.


That night it stormed violently.  It was so loud that neither Arielle or I were able to sleep. When we woke up at 2:55am on Friday morning the air was smoke-free.  All the pieces were falling into place.

We guzzled down some coffee and drove down to the Buller Pass trailhead for a 4am start.  Patrick and Ryan were already there waiting for us, they had left home at 2:30am to meet us there.  Thanks guys!

At 4:12am we said goodbye to Matt (who would be crewing us all weekend from the van) and then headed up the trail.


That morning was dark and chilly.  I could see my breath in the light of my headlamp and my pack felt heavy. In addition to our extra clothing, we were each carrying 2L of water, a helmet, trekking poles and enough food to last us the next 7 hours.  I started to drink water early – the more I drank the lighter my pack would get. We soon turned off the trail and began the steep bushwhack up to the ridge of Mount Engadine. Patrick picked a good route up through an old forest fire burn scar, and we soon found ourselves picking our way along the base of a cliff, looking for a weakness so that we could gain the ridge.  The slope was very steep – at one point my foot slipped and I caught myself on the rocky slope with my face.  Mmmm, dirt for breakfast.

We gained the ridge and discovered that the temperature was so cold that the rubber on our shoes was frozen.  We had to be careful with every step to not slip; Mount Engadine is considered a difficult scramble, and a fall could be deadly. Some of the rocks were coated in ice and a thin layer of snow frosted the top of the mountain.  We were not expecting winter in July, but here it was!  The sun crested the horizon as we reached the summit and suddenly the early morning was worth it.

1 summit down, 9 to go.


We made a hasty exit off the peak.  We were freezing!  The snow highlighted a bit of a trail down through the scree, and we were able to descend quickly.  We decided to take a different (hopefully quicker) route down via a drainage.  I was feeling good and found myself leading the group with Ryan close behind me. Patrick and Arielle were a little ways back but I tried to make sure to keep them in sight.  Ryan and I scrambled down a little waterfall and then descended a little further so we could empty rocks out of our shoes while we waited for Patrick and Arielle to catch up.

We had turned a corner after descending the waterfall so we didn’t have line of sight to see up the mountain.  We waited for a few more minutes but still Patrick and Arielle did not appear; I realized I had made a mistake.  Arielle has amazing endurance, but she takes awhile to warm up, and she had been struggling to keep pace on the way up the mountain.  Now I had gotten too far ahead and she probably felt totally abandoned.  I felt like a total jerk, and I’m certain she was thinking that as well.

Soon Patrick and Arielle reappeared and we were able to make our way down the rest of the mountain.  They both let me know that I was an asshat … and then they forgave me. Friends again, we ran back down the trail to Buller Pass where Matt was waiting for us at the trail junction with water and snacks.

Total time: 4:20 (10 minutes ahead of schedule)

Total Distance: 9.7km

Total Elevation Gain: 1200m



The route up Buller was uneventful.  There is nothing much to this mountain, except that it’s really steep.  Arielle had finished her warm up and was moving really well; nothing like a 5 hour warm up to get you moving 🙂

Once again the summit was really cold and we hurried off the peak in search of warmer temperatures.  I slipped and fell on some loose rubble, jarring my shoulder and hearing something snap.  After a few deep breaths to manage the pain, the shoulder seemed okay.

The rest of the trip down went smoothly.  We got back to the van so quickly that we found Matt having a nap.  He hadn’t been expecting us for another half hour!

Total time on Buller: 2:45 (30 minutes ahead of schedule)

Total time on the trail: 7:09

Total Distance: 19.1km

Total Elevation Gain: 2250m



Back at the van, we decided to take some extra time to get in some calories and prepare for the long, route ahead.  We each ate a sandwich, drank a Gatorade and changed our shoes.  We had been wearing very lightweight shoes, but now we were headed out on a more remote and rugged, 3 peak loop so we needed something more robust on our feet.  Unfortunately, when Arielle went to change her shoes she discovered that she had put two right shoes in the van (which meant that there were two left shoes back at the campsite).  Rather than lose an hour driving back to the campsite we decided to just continue on with her wearing the light shoes.  This was a mistake.


The 7km run from Buller to Red Ridge was actually more like 10km, I am famous for underestimating distance. We were both a little grouchy at the seemingly endless trail, but grouchiness at this point was expected.

Eventually we got to Red Ridge, and the infamous boulder field.  Red Ridge has amazing views, and I think it would be a popular hike if it wasn’t for the boulder field slog.   The rocks are very loose, and you have to take care with each step or a boulder may suddenly start falling down the mountain, crushing you underneath. We had been up Red Ridge twice before, but now it felt like the mountain was MUCH taller.  We joked that it must be on steroids.

At some point we reached the ridge and were moving along towards the summit when suddenly Arielle yelled that her shoe had busted.  We had gambled on bringing the wrong gear, and now we were paying for it.  I had brought some duct tape along for emergency repairs, but it soon became shredded on the sharp rocks.  Now we really had to put our creativity to the test.  We had several extra buffs on us, so we used two of them to wrap her shoe like a slipper.  It worked like a charm! Buffs have got to be one of the most useful items to bring up a mountain.  I never go up a mountain without one.

Our friend Andrew had climbed up Red Ridge ahead of us so that he could get photos. Now he met us at the top, where he shared his peanut M&Ms and summit bacon.   Mmmm, bacon.  With Arielle’s new shoe/slipper contraption we were able to run/shuffle back down the mountain to Andrew’s car.  Thank goodness Andrew was there for us, or we would have had to find a way to hitchhike back to the campsite!

When we finally got back to the campsite we found Matt hanging out in the van and Arielle was able to reunite her right and left shoes.  We didn’t have enough daylight left to go back out and finish our 3 peak loop, however he did have enough time to go out and scramble Big Sister of the Orphan.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.  Once Arielle had her shoe troubles, I shifted all my focus to her and I stopped eating and drinking.  By the time we got back to the campsite I was in the middle of a big fat bonk.  I started shivering uncontrollably and my stomach turned sour.  I changed into warm clothes, ate some food and tried to recuperate, but I felt like hell.  I worried that I would start puking  my guts out before we got half way up the mountain. Oleg’s voice echoed in the back of my mind.  “Be safe girls.”  “The mountain always wins.”  The decision was made to spend the rest of the day recovering.  We could push hard again on Saturday.

Total time on Red Ridge and the approach trail: 5:50

Total time on the trail: 13:00

Total Distance: 45km

Total Elevation Gain: 3250m



 

Glasgow to Banded Peak – FKT

Before we go off the deep end with the Spray Valley 10, Arielle and I want to test ourselves on some shorter adventures.  Last Saturday we went out to set a new Fastest Known Time on the Glasgow to Banded Peak traverse.  Although many parties have completed this route before, we couldn’t find much information on speed attempts. Most hikers will do the route in 12-14hrs, and the fastest time we could find by a trail runner/scrambler was set by our friend Jamie Junker in just over 8hrs.  We thought that we could do the route in 7hrs if things went smoothly.

We had a few objectives for this adventure:

  • Work out partner logistics.  Arielle and I are going to be working together, pushing ourselves HARD for over 30 hrs during the Spray Valley 10.  How will we get along?  Will we be able to effectively communicate with each other?  The Glasgow to Banded traverse was a perfect testing ground for this.
  • Pace ourselves effectively.  Our goal was to use an eating/hydration strategy which would keep our energy levels steady throughout the day so that we would be able to move at a consistent effort throughout the entire route.
  • Test gear.  We are using some new-to-us gear for the Spray Valley 10.  Would this gear be effective and durable?

The Route

The Glasgow to Banded Peak traverse is a loop which starts and finishes at the Harold Chapman Bridge in the Little Elbow Day Use Area.  You complete the route by summiting Glasgow, Cornwall, Outlaw and Banded Peak and then returning to the bridge.  Depending on the route you take, the traverse will cover up to 35km, with about 2300m of climbing.  Most of the terrain is off-trail and there is very little actual running until you reach the last 10km.

Arielle and I decided to take the shortest route possible, which also meant the most technical route.  This shortened the route to 32km, added some scrambling, and eliminated some bush-whacking.

We began at 7:17am on the west side of the Harold Chapman Bridge. After crossing the bridge we immediately turned right onto a horse trail.  We followed the trail for a couple of kilometres before veering off and angling towards the base of Glasgow.  There is a way to do this almost entirely on trail, but I was a little inaccurate with my navigating so we lost 5-10 minutes bush-whacking through the forest.

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Early start, blinded by the sun.

Once you reach the base of Glasgow the entire route is off-trail until you descend from Banded Peak.  We power-hiked up through the brush and within an hour of our start we had gained the ridge on Glasgow.

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One hour in. We are above treeline but have a long way to go.

The next 4 hours were spent above treeline.  We power-hiked and scrambled our way up Glasgow.  Our friend Andrew met us on the shoulder of the ridge, where he was filming our progress with a drone. Hopefully the footage turns out 🙂

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The climb up Glasgow seems to go on, and on, and on…

I made a second navigation error near the summit of Glasgow, which resulted in some difficult scrambling and maybe 5 minutes of lost time.  Still, the trip was going smoothly and we made it to the top in 2hrs, 20 minutes.  It is certainly possible to make it up there in less than 2hrs if you don’t make any mistakes.

We stopped for a few minutes on Glasgow to put on our gators.  There was still some remnant snow and lots of scree to run on, and we were determined not to waste our time emptying our shoes.  The gators worked great and we didn’t have any wasted shoe time.

We refilled out bladders with snow at the col between Glasgow and Cornwall.  I had nearly finished my 2 litres of water at this time, so the snow which I added to my Camelbak did not melt quickly.  I really should have refilled earlier, but I didn’t realize I was drinking so much.  Both of us were fueling and drinking regularly; which is probably why we felt so good.

There was still a significant amount of snow on Cornwall.  This meant we had to post-hole for about 5-10 minutes, and we also had to take a steeper line than I would have preferred up the scree to avoid further post-holing.  The ascent was an ass-kicker for sure.

From there we flew down the descent towards Outlaw and scrambled up the other side without issue.  The descent from Outlaw was cautious as I babied my recently sprained ankle, but we still made good time and soon we were on to the ascent up our 4th and final mountain.  We were moving steadily and neither of us had any significant energy lulls.  We reached the summit of Banded Peak in 4:35 and briefly wondered if it was possible to go under 6hrs.

The way down Banded Peak is on very rough scree and is not particularly enjoyable.  At one point Arielle dislodged a rock and yelled to warn me. I slipped as I attempted to get out of the way and it nailed me in the lower back/hip.  The rock was a decent size and I yelled in pain.  This was a good learning experience for us.  For future rocks we will just say “left” or “right” to tell our partner where to go to avoid impact.

We descended via the east drainage – glissading most of the way, but accidentally getting cliffed out at one point, forcing us to back track for a few minutes.  The east drainage is probably the toughest descent route for route-finding, but it’s nice because you have very minimal bush-whacking afterwards before you hit the horse-trail which brings you down to the Big Elbow Trail.

We refilled our water, stowed our poles and removed our gators at the base of the drainage.  Now it was Arielle’s turn to lead, as the trail was 100% runnable and she is a much faster runner than I am. I maintained the fastest pace I could without feeling like I was putting my ankle at risk and tried to keep her in sight.  She did an awesome job of pacing.

Once we got onto the flat Elbow Valley Trail I couldn’t match Arielle’s speed, but thankfully she waited for me at the bridge so that we could finish together.  My watch said 2:02pm, 6hrs and 45 minutes.

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2:02pm, 6hr45min.  Two very happy trail runners 🙂

You can see our Strava file here.

We also filmed a bunch of videos!

Glasgow Summit

Cornwall Summit

Cornwall to Outlaw Col

Banded Peak Summit

Want to see what we brought?  Here we break it all down.  The UltrAspire Astral pack holds a lot of stuff!  (sorry about the videography, I promise we will get better!)


A look inside Arielle’s Head:

It was a day of surprises out there. Between happy legs and happy views, I don’t think we could have asked for a better day. Going into this we definitely had some doubts (as explained in our previous post), however when we got out there all doubts left our head. We felt strong, consistent and happy the entire way. Initially uncertain with how we would work together,  it was clear that our differences were put aside and our “strengths” combined forces as the day progressed! Joanna took charge with navigation and led us up the ups.  Then when it came time for the downhills and flats, I took over. With both Joanna and I recovering, playing it smart and finishing strong  was the goal. Keeping each other accountable to our plan, and fuelling  we finished  having some juice left in our legs and look forward to seeing how much time we can knock off in the fall!

A look inside Joanna’s Head:

I’m just so happy that my ankle cooperated 🙂


What’s next?

We will take a look at the route up Rimwall, and I get ready to run Bighorn 100!

Happy Trails!