Monday, July 18, 2011

Hardrock - Telluride to Chapman

For this post, I stole a few photos from fellow runner Ryan and his lovely pacer Shauna. In their honor, here is one of the awesomest photos of the whole race, IMHO:

This year the race had to be rerouted due to land permission issues. One option was up some scree-covered thing where I heard they were big rocks sliding down during course marking. Another option was up Bridal Veil Basin. I was SO rooting for Bridal Veil! And was very glad when that was the route announced. It was a couple miles longer than the original course, but a lot of it was on trail, no additional elevation gain, and a more gentle climb overall. So, yay for that.

Ann and me, ready to go!

Ann and I walked out of town along the bike path and got to talking, her telling crew stories and me trying to explain the Grouse-to-Ouray overnight ordeal. Eventually my throat started getting scratchy, I guess it wasn't used to all this talking! So I had to ease up on the chatting, which was too bad because I could have gone on and on about our expedition race experiences here. Probably for the best, then, from Ann's perspective!

I think Chris "pick a speed" Twiggs finally passed me for good in here - he started and finished ahead of me but had been behind for a while, now he was looking good again. It rained on us briefly but the afternoon shower didn't last long and we didn't mind getting cooled down before the sun came back out. Local tourists and walkers passed us. I enjoyed the brief touch with humanity before heading back into the wildness of the mountains. We were heading up a popular route toward Bridal Veil Falls (there was even a "bridge" across this "creek":

The water was simply CRASHING down the mountainside, I had never seen Bridal Veil Falls so huge. The other creek up the valley was too big for its creekbed, and it poured over every rock it could reach, way wider than normal. What a sight for an already-beautiful day.

It looks like the house is leaking:

At the switchback below Bridal Veil, we stopped to take in the thundering mist, wow. Here's Ryan at the same spot not long later:

It was great sharing this with Ann, thanks for coming along (and taking pictures)!

We hiked up the road and found the trail leading up along the creek. We briefly saw a guy named Jim from TX who actually remembered me from Primal Quest, that was neat. I wish we could have talked with him more, but my throat wasn't really up for it and he was taking a break with his son (his pacer) at the time so we continued on.

What a beautiful trail - an amazing creek to follow, plus tons of side creeks falling into it after they rushed down the hills from both sides in cascades of waterfalls. I was quite pleased they chose this for the reroute.

Ann was doing great, leading the way and occasionally having to slow down for my plodding pace. She got to experience a few water crossings, and eventually we found some snow fields for her to practice on too.

Ryan at one of the larger crossings:

As we came out into the upper basin, it started to rain again so we put on our jackets. I figured this might not last long, like the previous shower, but I was oh so wrong about that. Not only did the storm continue, but then it turned to hail. All of a sudden we were having trouble walking forward because hail was coming straight at us. OK, that's annoying. Ow, ow, ow.

We found a rock to crouch behind for a bit, but then I noticed that Ann was wearing only a thin Go-Lite jacket. I asked if she knew that it wasn't waterproof? She said that John had given it to her to bring - WHAT? My husband sent my pacer into the mountains with this flimsy thing, when I know he has a couple other better choices in outerwear? It's not like Ann couldn't handle carrying more weight, she was practically bounding up the mountain ahead of me and was certainly strong enough. I told her that John needed to be biffed for this.

We started getting chilled, and decided to try braving the storm. I looked behind us down the trail and saw a runner and pacer making their way along, and I could have sworn it was Ryan and Shauna. It looked like their clothing and their builds, and I thought that Ryan was doing super-awesome to have made up 45 minutes since Ouray.

Meanwhile, Ann and I were struggling forward. Then there was lightning and some rather-loud thunder that happened way too quickly for my liking. We were still in the basin, not too high yet, but I told Ann that we couldn't go any higher with that going on nearby. We hiked until we found another rock, again finding shelter from the wind/hail to wait it out.

We huddled for a while, wondering what we were thinking coming up here without more/better clothing. I should never leave my overmitts behind! Didn't I already know that they weigh nothing and are da bomb? I was glad my jacket at least was waterproof. Ann started shivering so we sat close together and commiserated. She commented that it would have been nice to have working fingers so one of us could capture this moment on film!

The lightning and thunder continued, but seemed to be moving to the east. The sky over Oscar's Pass brightened, and finally we couldn't wait any longer. We had to get moving! It was still blowing rain in our faces, but it was bearable. I monitored the lightning and decided it was safe (enough) to get going, at least in the direction of the pass. And hopefully the storm would clear by the time we got close to it.

We practically ran (well, Ann may not agree with that velocity assessment, but it got my heart rate up), moving as fast as we could to try to get warm again. I wished I had stopped to mix Spiz when I had thought of it, but that had been 10 minutes early. 10 minutes before my scheduled feeding, but also 10 minutes before this damn storm blew in. For now we just had to keep walking.

We were both breathing hard now, following course markings up steep grassy slopes (hey, where did the trail go?), looking ahead to see where we might be going. Finally we crested a hill and I got a good look at the terrain, and then I recognized everything - Wasatch Saddle, the pass to Oscar's road, the alpine lakes, the trail up to CP1 (2002). Now I could explain to Ann how far we had to go. And we could go back to concentrating on moving fast enough to get warm.

And warm up, we did. Except for our feet. They started cold and went to "frozen" with each snow field and mud puddle crossing making them worse. I wanted to knock snow off my shoes but it hurt to try. I kept apologizing to Ann for putting her through all this!

Shauna near the top of the basin:

Finally we reached a traverse on rocks and then a long snowfield over to the saddle itself. The skies were clearing up, looking positively sunny in the next valley, and we were feeling better except for those blasted ice cubes at the ends of our legs. It was rather steep along parts of the snow field, so I gave Ann one of my poles for balance and we made our way across carefully. I tried to tell her that the snow was soft enough that she wouldn't slide far if she fell, but she told me that she was only looking at the footsteps in front of her.

Right at the saddle there were several steep steps up the snow bank, with large rocks in them to help with the traction. Here is Ryan coming up this section:

At the top, Ann and I hugged for joy! What a crazy experience. We started down the rocky "road" on the other side. I wasn't much looking forward to this downhill, but at least we were in the sun and off the snow.

An awesome photo Shauna took of Ryan here (less-than-awesome is trying to get over those rocks with tired legs):

Thank you to Ryan and Shauna for providing some colorful photos of this section! We were a bit shell-shocked at this point and not really thinking about documenting the experience.

Ann and I found a rock to sit on (hmm, I wonder if we can locate one of those somewhere) so we could eat something finally. We were both quite hungry and ready for a little break. Once we got going again our feet eventually regained feeling, thank goodness.

Then there was a snow bank in front of us. It seemed normal, just a few more snow steps. But then it dropped straight down about 10-15 feet to the trail on the other side. What is this? No steps? No easy way down? The tracks in front of us looked like a butt slide. I looked up and down for an alternate solution, because I was NOT keen on sliding down to a rocky landing way up here on the top of a mountain.

Ann behind me said "I think this is the way, it has to be the way," which did a lot to convince me to try it. I started down the slide, trying to slow myself down, but there was no way to avoid the drop at the end. I landed on my feet and didn't feel like I was in danger of falling off the hillside, yay!

I turned around to help Ann, and when she finally got a good look at the situation she was like "Oh!" but she was game to try and she made it down fine too. One more obstacle overcome! The switchbacks took us around and back to the snowfield for one more crossing, still a challenge but nothing close to the excitement of the snow slide.

The rest of the way down, which took a while, involved many switchbacks, lots of rocks, occasional stopping to give our legs and knees a break, and amazement from Ann that anyone would try to build an actual road up here. Yep, it's an F'in mining road, no doubt about it. I wanted to regale Ann with our PQ story from here, but I told her to ask Jason about it instead. My throat issue had kindly taken a backseat to the storm problems, but I didn't want to push it.

Almost to the bottom, sweet! That's a steep one. Very glad we didn't have to go UP it this time. We were so happy to see Jason, and Ann told him she thought Ryan and Shauna were coming down somewhere behind us. My crew also thought they had spotted them through the binoculars:

But that turned out to be a different racer/pacer set, wearing similar clothing to Ryan and Shauna. We were all fooled! Ryan did make it down, obviously, about an hour later.

Ann and I made our way along roads, through woods, past some cars, where are we going? Finally we saw our crew, are we every glad to see you! Congrats, Ann, you made it through a tough section! (and - Hi Duckie!)

Chapman aid station = 34:25 total time, approx 73rd place

Everyone helped me reload the nighttime gear, liquids and Spiz, plus John finally got some drainage out of my right heel blister (much better). My toes were getting a bit sore but nothing that would slow me down too much - I just needed to be careful not to bang them against rocks too many times. It was nice to be sitting for a bit, and then it was time to go.

John was coming with me to the finish, oh happy day!

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