Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Snowden was a mountain in Wales!

Topping my list of political dislikes by some margin, is a "stupid" Republican party. You know, the one that rejects established science on evolution, demonizes gay marriage, denies anthropogenic climate change, refuses to countenance sensible gun control and laid siege to the liberties enshrined in the constitution regarding a free press and freedom from interference by government through setting up the vast and illegal surveillance machine now adopted wholeheartedly by Obama.

However, coming second on my list of political dislikes is arrogant Democrats and liberals. You know, the ones who wanted to prosecute Bush II for his war crimes and illegal surveillance post-9/11, but who now jump to the defense of the Obama regime for extending these unlawful powers further than any previous administration. Never has expediency triumphed so emphatically over principle.

Obama isn't just a huge disappointment, he's a disaster. Let's be really clear, if the actions of the current US government towards its own people had been carried out by the former Soviet Union or China there would have been an international outrage and calls for sanctions at the UN. It is evidence of how low democracy has sunk that the US surveillance state is now synonymous with the worst excesses of the Stasi. And the irony of the situation is hiding in plain view - a whistle-blower (Snowden) is being accused by the US government of espionage for disclosing to the world the secret spying of the US government on its own people!!! It's the equivalent of a serial burglar calling the police to complain of being robbed.

It's a problem when the nutcase, lunatic Republicans agree so vehemently with Democrats on an issue where they are both dead wrong. No security is worth this level of intrusion. Given the miniscule threat to life of terrorist activity (compared to, say, accidental gun deaths), there is no justification to the scale of surveillance that poses such a fundamental threat to privacy and democracy.

Whatever legacy Obama sought to lay claim, he has miserably failed his most important test. I had hoped for more but am disgusted.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

North Arapaho Peak

On every visit to South Arapaho Peak I have looked longingly at the sharp ridge that connects it to its slightly higher neighbor to the north. It is impossible to take a dog along this ridge because there is some rock climbing and scrambling - very easy - that is impossible for a dog to navigate. Today, after a long day yesterday, I was on my own and my only thought leaving the trail head was whether snow conditions would be favorable. I needn't have worried.
Jasper Peak to the left with Mount Neva center

At this time of year there is still plenty of snow for snowboarders and plenty technical ice climbing available and it was no surprise to see so many cars at the 4th July trail head. Most had been there overnight as ice-climbing requires a start in darkness before the warming sun softens the ice. There was a 34 degree difference between the temperature at home and at the trail head. As I tightened the laces on my running shoes it was 29 degrees F. I wore a long sleeved shirt and a teeshirt but once I got underway it didn't feel too cold.
The huge bulk of South Arapaho Peak with 2 ice climbers at the top of Skywalker Couloir

One advantage of the cold was that the water on the trail was frozen in places and my feet kept dry until I reached the trail junction at the 4th July Mine. Beautiful sunshine warmed my back although it was still below freezing.
Approaching the steep ascent of South Arapaho Peak with North Arapaho to the right

Leaving the Arapaho Pass trail there were some snowy, wet sections before I started to gain altitude and the whistles of noisy alpine marmots were the only thing to disturb the peace. It was a blissful morning, cold, fresh and silent.
Looking across the arching ridge towards North Arapaho - only a half mile away but a tricky route

I hadn't met anyone all morning and when I reached the summit of South Arapaho there was a curious marmot nonchalantly going about its business. I clearly posed no threat, which was understandable given the strenuous nature of the ascent. I looked across the ridge towards North Arapaho and decided it needed to be climbed.
Next to the summit cairn on North Arapaho Peak - Mount Albion is in the background
It was a lot of fun. I passed some ice climbers who had already been out for over 6 hours and I picked my way across the ice ridge and rock. Most of the obstacles are turned to the left and involve loose downclimbing or easy traversing across rock walls. There was never a problem, even in running shoes. Ascending the final buttress to the North Peak I fashioned my way up a steep snow slope and then stepped on to a vertical rock wall which I climbed for 30 feet. It was warm and rough to the touch and it felt precarious to be atop a gaping chasm. But the holds were very good and it felt comforting to be on rock again. When I got to the top I looked across to my left and saw the easier path snaking up a loose gully - but my route was the better line.
View back to South Arapaho from midway along the ridge

There was a snow cap on the summit and it was still frozen so I jogged across to the summit cairn. There were two more ice climbers enjoying the early morning and we chatted for a few minutes. The return was straightforward. I managed to avoid most of the difficulties with traverses and some descents. This would be an awkward place to get caught in a storm and thick cloud.

It was great to get high again and spend almost 90 minutes above 13,000'.

St Vrain Mountain from Peaceful Valley

The Buchanon Pass Trail rises just less than 1000' in 4 miles from the Middle St Vrain Trail Head in Peaceful Valley. The melt water makes for some muddy patches but it is completely runnable and in the early morning sunshine it is extremely pleasant. The Middle St Vrain creek is swollen and the noise of the water is deafening in places. Livvy and I made reasonable, but not exactly quick progress to the junction with the Coney Flats trail and we then headed north west up the St Vrain Glacier trail.
Meadow below Sawtooth on the Buchanon Pass trail

We met no one and the solitude was bliss. We picked our way across the meadow as we left the noisy river and the wildflowers were coming into bloom. I really like the upper reaches of this valley and we began to gain altitude more quickly as we climbed east up the St Vrain Mountain trail. This route is the long way up the mountain. Many times I have taken the shorter approach from Allenstown, but today I wanted to get a good view of the snow conditions from  Mount Audubon up to Longs Peak to help decide when and where to run in the high country.
Elk Tooth and Ogalalla Peak from the St Vrain trail

It was a stiff ascent. This isn't a popular trail and the evidence for this comes in the form of overgrown trees and bushes and sections of trail swept away by winter snow slides. Hard work brought great views and in several places the trees opened up to provide high level views of adjacent peaks.
Spectacular view of Sawtooth just across the valley
It's not a particularly long ascent but in about a mile there is a 1,100' gain in altitude and it is hard work. We crested the rim of the valley and tracked through some dense woodland. The trail was blocked in several places by fallen trees so after another half mile we struck directly up a steep stream gully in a direct route to the summit. It was definitely the best route choice. It was exhausting but also good fun.
Livvy taking a break on the final climb below the summit

As is typical of all mountain summits the ground is extremely rocky and when we emerged onto the summit plateau we picked our way carefully across to the high point. It was cool in the breeze and we rested a few minutes and enjoyed the panorama.
On the summit with Longs Peak in the background

Rather than descend the steep route up the gully I took a line due west aiming to avoid the large snowfields. I knew that this would lead to some bushwhacking once we reached treeline, but is was a more natural line and, as it turned out, a very pleasant one.
A refreshing break on the descent

It was a reasonably quick descent back to the trailhead. We me no one at all on St Vrain mountain, but once back on the Buchanon Pass trail we met many walkers. I am happy we spent most of the day avoiding them.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Pear Lake

The Allenspark trailhead is a cheaper alternative to the fee station at Wild Basin and for the route I was taking today it was also more convenient. I was surprised to see 2 cars parked up when I arrived early and I geared up in a cool breeze under brilliant blue skies.

The first section of the Finch Lake trail was familiar ground. I had no dog today, as they are not allowed in RMNP, and I followed the route I took last year when I ended up aborting my attempt of Mount Alice. The section leaving the trailhead is steeper than it looks and I was soon blowing hard. There were some long level sections that enabled me to catch my breath and I arrived at the 4-way trail junction in reasonable time.

I was trying out a pair of Salomon Speedcross 3 shoes that I bought a while back and although a little high they seemed to fit well and I will certainly keep using them. 2 miles of rising trail brought me to Finch Lake and some large snow patches. Fortunately the trail found its way around them and I ended up at the river outlet bridge in good time. The melt water was raging and as I crossed the footbridge I quickly gained elevation and the noise of the water disappeared.
Chiefs Head, Longs and Meeker Peaks across Wild Basin from Finch Lake trail

The trail had a lot of melting snow water running along and across the path and it was heavy going in places. Climbing up through the wooded hillside on the north bank of the Pear Creek the trail began to dry out and it was warm in the early morning sunshine. There is not a lot to see on this trail because the woodland is so dense - earlier I caught sight of Longs and Meeker Peak and Mount Alice, but this is a claustrophobic trail and there was a lot of lively wildlife.

Approaching 10,500' there was only a quarter mile to Pear Lake and when I crested the last steep climb I ran into some very deep snow drifts with no way around. Thankfully the surface was icy and I was able to skate across the surface without postholing through. I reached the shore of Pear Lake shortly afterwards.
Finch Lake in the early morning sun

There is no such thing as an ugly mountain lake and Pear Lake wasn't going to contradict that statement. I took a 20 minute breather atop a large granite boulder that was warmed by the sun and enjoyed the solitude. No walker, no campers, nothing to disturb the silence except the breeze in the trees and the sound of a distant waterfall supplying the lake inlet.
The exquisite Pear Lake from the outlet stream

I had caught sight of a beaver just before the lake and I could see evidence of its handiwork at the outlet, where a small timber dam was taking shape. Apparently there is fishing at the lake but I wasn't able to see any fish in the crystal clear water. I stretched out a little and jogged the 6 miles back to the trailhead. I met 5 groups of hikers following my tracks to a beautiful mountain lake.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Breaking Records

I've never been a very fast runner and this realization has always been sufficient to keep my ego in check. But I like to measure and compare and if I repeat sections of a run or do a complete run again I like to pore over the details to find out whether I improved and over which sections. Uploading runs to Strava is one of my pleasures in life, but over the last six months I've had precious little to feel good about.
Livvy at the top of Rattlesnake Gulch, Eldorado Canyon

That my achilles tendonitis is on the mend is evidenced by the uptick in my running miles. When the injury hit in December I was in complete agony and in January I only managed 14 miles of gentle walking. February was worse because I repeated the injury and this set me back - I completed one 4 mile walk and it was during this time period that I was told that I might never run again. March was the turnaround because although I was mainly walking I started treatment late in the month and for the first time since the dark days of December I had a reason to feel tentatively optimistic. I walked 32 miles in March. But right at the end of the month I began a course of treatment with Sepe Zandi and everything started to change.
Livvy in Golden Gate Park

I am naturally skeptical, but I was visting RL Smith at InStep in the Table Mesa shopping center and he recommended I visit Sepe. It was the best advice I have been given. Sepe, after some rather agressive treatment, had me light jogging inside a couple of days. In fact, the very next day after my first treatment I was fast walking and jogging around Walker Ranch and finished the 7 miles without any pain. I kept up weekly visits that stretched out to 10 days, but the effect has been transformational. In April, when 60 inches of snow fell in Boulder, I ran for 89 miles with no single run exceeding 8 miles distance. My natural compensation for the tendon led to me favoring my right leg and even when I developed a calf strain Sepe was able to ease out the knots and I recovered faster than I ever have before.
Devil's Backbone

May was a mega running month and I completed 189 miles with most runs being about 10 miles distance but with some stretching to 15 miles. Most of this was lower level running because the snow and cold weather was keeping me out of the high mountains. It just felt fabulous to be on the trails again and as the month progressed I was able to push my speed up a little, and this was the most frustrating part of my recovery. At my age the cadio-vascular system deteriorates quickly when exercise drops. I was having a really hard time churning out times for runs that I had done before. I would typically find myself losing about 90 seconds per mile on my running speed compared to last year and I had poor ability to sustain any uphill running cadence because I would get exhausted and would breathe too hard. When running flatter sections I tried to increase my work rate and just hope that the times would come. Finally, into June, I am seeing some evidence that is happening.
On the summit of Crosier Mountain

In May I set a 30 mile per week running goal and have easily exceeded this every week since. But in the middle of the month I felt that I was making progress only to run White Ranch by the same route two weeks apart and discover that, despite thinking I was pushing myself hard, I ran the second run slower than the first. It was dispiriting. I felt like I was putting in the miles and the effort, but going backwards in performance. I needed to be patient and that isn't my strongest suit. Then things started to turn around. I ran twice in San Francisco and set a couple of personal bests - this was the evidence I had been waiting for because I have run these routes in San Francisco before when I was on very good form.
Wet streets of Amsterdam

In June I then set a couple of personal records on Green Mountain and, on a 94 degree afternoon, came very close to beating my personal best on a 10 mile run at Heil Ranch. Then, this weekend, I set a personal best around Lumpy Ridge and then not only set a personal best on the ascent of Twin Sisters Peak, but broke the course record by over a minute. This is a category 1 climb and it is a real lung-buster. I kept a pretty good pace up the whole ascent and was able to run most of it except for a few steep rocky steps. I then set a personal best from the summit back to the trailhead.

Looking ahead I plan to do fewer miles but more high altitude running. I am playing catch up on my mileage goals of last year, but I have this vague idea that if I can just keep injury free for the rest of the year, I might equal my mileage total of last year, but with three fewer months of running.

And if you live in Boulder, CO or plan visiting in the future, I cannot recommend by new friends - Sepe Zandi and RL Smith enough. Because of them I have gone from thinking I would never run again to getting excited about the plans I have in the high mountains for the rest of this year.