Saturday, August 8, 2015

How to "run" Nick Peak

Calvin and I set off for my final long run before Fat Dog.  Nick Peak would be the culmination of Calvin's summer mountain running training.  It involves about 9 miles of actual trail, 4 miles of steep and loose bushwhack and a few miles of clean and beautiful ridge traversing with scrambling.  As you can see in the description below, it Involves subtle route finding.   This classic McCall peak guards it's secrets carefully and turns away many first time suitors due to its length, rough terrain and deceptive difficulty to find "the way."

The day starts with just over 4 miles in the East Fork of Lake Fork Creek canyon.  Since it was Calvin's tempo day, we warmed up a mile and did the next 3 miles at around 7 minute pace on the undulating terrain and gradual ascent.

At the 4 mile mark, at an old sign post (with no sign), turn right and go cross country through a meadow towards the creek, which you reach in 100 yards or so.  At the creek, angle right slightly and ford the knee deep water aiming for cairns on the opposite shore.  Enter the woods and for the first couple hundred yards, the trail is tricky to follow.  As the trail begins to climb into old growth forest, it becomes wider and obvious to follow, but it tends to have some downed timber on it.

You are now on the Idler Creek Trail.  You will follow this uphill about 1 mile until it comes right up to the creek.  You may cross here, but there is a better crossing just upstream about 30 yards.  Angle upstream as you cross and find the trail on the opposite shore.  Follow this trail briefly, until you reach a granite rock slab on your left.  Ascend that slabby and bushy face.  As you climb, go left each time you hit an alder patch.  These alder trees are impassable, bright green leaved bush/trees that grow facing downhill in tight bunches.

At around 7500 feet, you will pass the last of the alder thickets and can begin moving right slightly and heading toward the old remnants of the trail.  It is not critical to hit the trail, but it may help some and will lead you to the right notch above.  At 7800' you can catch the trail.  It angles slightly left and climbs to 8250+' at Fitsum Summit (remember in Idaho the word "summit" means saddle or pass- not the top of a mountain).

Turn right and ascend the steep ridgeline.  At 8600+', at a false peak, encounter an instrument box of some kind with solar panels on it.  It is about 10 feet high.  Descend slightly and cross some talus, staying on the ridge top.  Climb again through pearly white boulders and grass.

Crazy classic north ridge of Nick Peak.

At about 8900', cross the "Sidewalk" and then head off the ridge to the right, to avoid a false peak with steep rock.  When you view the peak from McCall, this false peak is the left side of the "nick" or gunsight that makes up Nick Peak.  The real peak is the right part of the "nick." Go down off the ridge to the right and drop 100 feet or so and keep heading south towards the true peak.  Scramble up the talus towards the final pitch.  It is guarded by 100 feet of steeper rock that is mostly avoided by walking around on loose rocky ledges.

The "Sidewalk"
However, there are 3 short moves of consequence, that I call the "3 Boulder Problems."  They are very low 5th class climbing, are only about 10 feet high and have ledges below them, so a fall would not likely result in tragedy.  The greater danger is rolling loose rocks down on your partner.  To avoid this, we send one climber up each little boulder problem at a time.  This also allows the lower climber to spot the climber above.
The ledges leading to the first boulder problem.

Top.  2 hrs 11 mins with plenty of goofing around.

We continued north into the Nick Lake basin and swam in that little tarn in the center of the photo.

Nick Lake.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Good times

Fat Dog 120 in just two weeks time. It has been a long and toilsome journey back to health and fitness, but I am thankful for the process as much as the outcome.  I finally feel ready to walk the fine edge between breakdown and breakthrough.  Not sure there is much difference in strategy between 100 and 120.  I guess I will find out.   

Glassing the Buckhorn valley.
Nick Peak

Nick Peak

Matty and I cut that step into the big round in 2013.  Our saw was too small to go all the way, so we spent an hour hacking a step in so you could vault over.  The next year, the Forest Service removed the round. 

Brundage Cat Track 10K

Brandi's 2nd year as RD of the Cat Track 10k.  It grew to over 100 runners.

McCall Trailrunning Classic

Boulder Mtn. with Keith, Jess and Kent.

RD duties under ominous skies.  We made 4 trips up the Ladybug and Jughandle Peaks to get it marked and ready to race.  Three of those trips were under serious threat of lightning.

My friend Keith Lannom finishing his first ultramarathon.

Now that is a racecourse.  (just follow the pink ribbons)

Patrick Butte w/Matty

Patrick Butte lies 8 miles from the road.  It is the peak in the left of photo, but we didn't know which of these peaks was the true summit until we found the summit marker. 

Matty on the finishing gully of Patrick's summit ridge.

Stay Vertical Cross Country Camp

The girls of Lick Wilmerding High School came back for their 3rd year to our cross country camp.  This is a pic from our climb of Bear Pete Mtn near Burgdorf.  This is the top of our new 30k race on September 20th.

Friday, July 3, 2015

An Early Idaho Summer

Summer is in full swing in McCall, and has been for several weeks.  Currently, we are stuck in a continuous stretch in the low 90's.  One day was 97F in town.  This melted out everything pretty early and made June quite productive for getting after it. As usual, my early season is comprised of lots of peak bagging and ridge running.  This gives way to more proper running, once the fitness comes along and the body hardens to the rigors of our brutal trails. 

Today, I connected several obscure and forgotten trails around the French Creek and Little French Creek drainages making a memorable new 25 mile loop.  For the first time in my life, I had a predator react aggressively towards me.  I was moving downhill on a rough trail covered with alder branches.  I was only able to run about 10 minute miles downhill, because my hands were always in front of my face pushing the alders away.  I heard a small rustling just ahead.  I thought it was a squirrel.  I popped into a tiny clearing and came right up to a medium sized black bear.  We both jumped back a bit, startled by the encounter.  My momentum continued to carry me downhill and as I caught a quick look back, the bear was growling and charging.  I hit an opening in the alders with smooth trail and after just a few steps with a surge of adrenaline, the pace went to an all out sprint.  My arms went up to make me bigger and I growled and barked loudly to attempt to intimidate the bear.  I heard her pounding the ground behind me for just a few seconds, then I was gonzo hitting sub 4 pace as I screamed down the trail.  I think the bear only charged maybe 20 yards at most, but I kept hammering a solid mile down into French Creek, which at around 4000' was nearing 100 F today.  I plunged into the icy water and let my heart slow and relax.  I believe I surprised a sow with cub and put her into a tough situation.  Nowhere to go.  The cover was too tight to get out of there with baby, so she held her ground.  I have encountered many bears up close, including those with cubs, and have never seen anything but fear and avoidance from them.  I am grateful to learn from her in her lair, and live to fight another day.  The remainder of the run was uneventful, besides the mild bonk brought on by many hours in the heat and only 400 calories in the belly.  I am beginning to feel my summer groove. 

Pics from our upcoming McCall Trailrunning Classic 10/20/40.

Climbing The Lady Bug Peak.  The Long Valley is below, containing the towns of McCall, Donnelly and Cascade. 
Traverse from The Lady Bug to Jughandle Mountain.  A 1 mile cross country traverse through grass, Lupine and Fireweed.  Ends with a section of talus, then steep trail descending to Louie Lake.

Talus.  Pretty rare in races these days. 
Back down from Jughandle Mountain, crossing the Louie Lake Dam.

BJ Haeck and Matty Tock descending from Buckhorn Summit towards Boulder Lake.  Irene and Karl and their famous pack goats will run an aid station just a quarter mile below this point. 

Scrambling Adventures
Brandi approaching the summit of Rapid Peak 8300'.  This is a great ridge traverse between Kennally Creek Pass and Buckhorn Pass.  Using the trails to these passes and the ridge that connects them makes a fine loop from Boulder Lake.

Nick Peak with Matt, Katie and Brandi.  Sadly, my phone/camera had a clear sticker over its lens, so all shots on this day from my camera were blurry.

Katie Tock on the final summit block of Nick Peak.  Definitely no-fall territory.

Still some snow above 9,000' on Nick Peak.  Probably gone by now.  It was 93-97F this week.

Idaho Batholith Granite.  On the ridge near Beaverdam Peak.

Anatomy of a great elk spot.  You can't tell from this picture, but there are many elk in this area, visible only with binos.  I have been carrying them on most of my ridge running/scrambling adventures.  This little area has everything an elk needs to spend summer through fall rut.  First of all, the meadow is high (7500') and right against the alpine zone above.  I took this photo from a summit at 8600'.  This means it will stay cool.  There is water in that meandering stream which is essential for the spot to hold elk through the summer.  The water also keeps the surrounding grasses green and nutritious.  There are multiple timber stringers running away from the meadow giving the elk multiple escape routes when attacked by wolves and other predators.  The timber is thick enough in the top of the photo to provide shelter from winds and to allow them to bed in the cool shade on hot days.  The smaller ancillary meadows are substantial enough that smaller satellite bulls may even take up residence here and attempt to lure females away from the main center meadow as the dominant herd bulls are exhausted in late-September.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A decade...

Dad.  Old Man. 10 years today you've been gone.  This morning, I was out the door before the sun rose and drove all day to the desert.  I'm going to run until there is no more run left in me.  I'm not sure if I will run to feel something or just go numb. Either way, I'm sure it is a plan you would understand. Time to be on my way. 
Strength and honor, 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

2nd Half of March, 2015

Matty on Cannonball Mountain.
Descending Cannonball into Rapid River with the Salmon River Mountains in the background.
Brandi and Katie.
Hell's Canyon, near Pittsburg Landing.

Hell's Canyon near Suicide Point.  The Snake River boils below, carving the Lower 48's deepest gorge.

Suicide Point.
The Tripod.  Molly, Katie and Brandi.

Lots of critters in this one. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Spring Training

I am finally starting to get out with some regularity.  Hiking and skiing at Brundage, a few shorter runs around McCall and a once-a-week trip to Rapid River, near Riggins, ID.  RR is 40 miles north of McCall, but starts much lower and is quite warm.  I have been focusing my efforts on learning Cannonball Mountain, a 7200' peak perched over the West Fork of Rapid River.  From the Fish Hatchery trailhead, it is a minimum of 6+ miles and over 6000' of vertical gain to the summit.

Near the top of Cannonball Mtn 7200'.  The 7 Devils loom to the West.

Bachelor group of bulls.  They would sprint left to warn a herd of 100+ to flee into the timber.

The slope here is 40 degrees.

Above the Coconut Grove on Cannonball.

I popped up over a ridge to see 50+ elk within 100 yards.  After staring at them for a few minutes, I realized this girl was chowing down just 20 feet away to my right.

A lone cow elk about to drop into the timber below the 7 Devils.

Elk herd in the snow near the trees in the bottom left.
The opening mile of the Cannonball Mtn. Trail.  1200+' per mile.

That is what a 17 mile run should look like.

Skinning and Hiking

Firm snow caused by weeks of sun and high pressure makes a ridge crossing from Brundage to Sergeant's Peak a great afternoon outing.

After seeing this, I went home and made Brandi cut my hair.

Brandi running some morning corduroy at Brundage.

A New Floor!
We have been busy laying a new acacia wood floor for the past several weeks.  We are now 99% done.  The final planks go down as soon as I am done typing this.  

Before you lay a new floor, you must remove the old one.  This would prove to be the crux of the mission.  It took nearly 2 weeks of filthy work before the slate was all gone.  It involved 10 days of crowbars, sledges and chisels, 3 days of jackhammers, and 2 days of angle grinding before the subfloor was clean.  Then, I laid a new layer of 7/16 OSB over the existing subfloor to even it out.

Island in the way of progress?  Car jack it.
Brandi gluing and nailing, gluing and nailing.