RUFA 2016 – We’re on! Details here.
I have wanting to give the WURL a solid effort for many years. I personally feel that it is one of the most inspiring lines in the Wasatch Mountains. It is clean and non-contrived. Clean in the sense that once the ridge is acquired you simply stay on the ridge for the next ~25 miles never needing to leave the crest by more than 30 feet or so. It is humbling, beautiful, and precisely where I wanted to be on this incredible September day.
My 2015 adventure agenda has turned out to be quite different than originally planned. With several big objectives foiled by 1) an odd recurring respiratory issue and 2) the intense dump of snow in the high-country in June, I’ve had to shift gears a bit from my typical uber planned-out mode into a more ad-lib style. Thankfully the stars aligned to give the WURL a go. This time around I would have folks meet me with food and water rather than making caches. Ben/Bethany/Aida met me at Cardiff Pass, Mindy/Phoebe at the top of the Tram, and Ryan McDermott just below the Pfeifferhorn.
I started at 3:01AM. The quiet march up Ferguson Canyon is a nice time to calibrate for what lies ahead. Given the time of year, the few locals who do head up this canyon had done some much appreciated pruning, resulting in a trail was much easier to follow and not over-grown. Thanks! The quartzite ridge up to Broads Fork Twin Peaks is arguably my favorite part of the entire traverse. I moved through Sunrise and Dromedary efficiently and was then greeted with the most beautiful sunrise as I boulder-hopped my way along the Wasatch Ridge en-route to Monte Cristo.
The Wasatch Ultimate Ridge Linkup or “WURL” is an incredible ridge route circumnavigating Little Cottonwood Canyon in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. The route mainly consists of scrambling, boulder hopping, and a few rugged trails. It is ~36 miles long with ~18kft of elevation gain. Given the recent increase in interest with the route, I’ve created this page in an effort to provide better information about it as well as document successful efforts, worthy attempts, interesting related information, and Fastest-Known-Times (FKTs). Please feel free to comment below so I can make this as accurate as possible.
- We bailed via the Taboose Pass exit and ultimately made it out okay
- Medical issues : I contracted a chest cold in the days prior to our departure which I wasn’t too concerned about. From the beginning, however, all systems were not go. I figured I’d give it a good 24 hours to see if it would turn around. Sadly, my condition worsened to a state where pushing further on such a committing route would not have been safe. Symptom’s : nasty cough w/ lung material coming up, head-ache, and multiple (increasing in temperature) fevers.
- Ty was having a different set of challenges for the day so both of knew that an exit was the right call.
- Yes, we’re bummed, but as Ty says, “there’s no such thing as a bad day in the mountains.”
- We had a pretty awesome “reverse Badwater-esque” exit out to highway 395 from Taboose Canyon. If my fever weren’t enough, the conditions during our exit sealed the deal for some excellent Badwater training (i.e. marching into a fiery furnace)
- I’m reminded, yet again, how much I appreciate my great friend Ty Draney
- I’m also reminded, yet again, of how fortunate I am to be able to explore such beautiful and wild places
It’s finally here! Tomorrow (8/11/2015) morning Ty Draney and I will embark on the John Muir Trail. Below are several resources to track and gauge our progress:
- Online CalTopo map of the route with milestones identified
- Time-table with distances and our initial time estimates
- SPOT GPS tracker
At 6AM on February 28th, 2015 I intend to begin another 24 hour challenge on the west side of Grandeur Peak. I encourage anyone to come join me for what is guaranteed to be a memorable day. Your quads will remind you of it for days (if not weeks)! This is not a race, nor is it an organized event in any fashion. Come and go as you please. Obviously come prepared to take care of yourself just as you would on any other day in the mountains. The Route I’ll be following the route as shown on the Salt Lake County map located at the west side trailhead, which can be found here. Shelter Bob Palais has graciously offered to open his doors to those who come to participate. And, his house could not possibly be in a more ideal location, less than 100 feet from than trail! We’ll have a large pot of soup and basic hot drinks in his garage. If you ask nicely, I’m sure he’d let you store a “drop-bag” there filled with whatever clothing, food, and equipment you decide you need. Food contributions will gladly be set out for other runners/hikers to enjoy. See the map below (red line) to find Bob’s house. Parking So as to not overwhelm the tiny parking lot at the trail-head, I strongly suggest that you park at Eastwood Elementary and walk the 0.5 miles to the trailhead or Bob’s house to drop off anything.
A respiratory infection sadly meant that I wouldn’t be running the event myself. Rather, I ended up serving food and drinks for all the wonderful folks who came out.
If being new parents wasn’t enough to make this the most memorable year of our lives, we threw in a handful of superb adventures, races, and trips to easily secure 2014 year the title of BEST YEAR EVER. Below are some of the highlights:
- Pretty clear focus on learning how to raise a newborn. Mindy proves, yet again, how broad her amazingness is with her seamless adaptation to the role of mother. Truly incredible, it’s an honor to be along for the ride.
- Phoebe summits Grandeur at 4 weeks old.
This write-up is meant to be supplemental to the very thorough post by Luke Nelson.
Short version : On August 16th and 17th, 2014, Luke Nelson and I ran, climbed, and crawled our way to the summits of the nine 12,000’+ peaks in Idaho in a time of 28 hrs 18 min.
Oftentimes big adventures are more about who you’re with than what you’re actually trying to accomplish. When Luke asked me to be part of his Idaho 12ers FKT assault I immediately said yes, partly because it sounded like a cool adventure, but more just because I wanted to get to know Luke better. We were due to tackle something big together.
The objective is obscure, which added to the allure. Off the radar of most trail runners because of the sketchy terrain and logistics involved, and off the radar of most climbers because of the rotten rock and length of time required. Fortunately, Luke and I have climbing in our roots and have both spent inordinate amounts of time shuffling around the mountains. Thus, we seemed well-suited for such an adventure. By the numbers, the record seemed well within reach barring any major errors. Our daily lives prevented us from getting out for much recon, other than an ascent of Hyndman, which I snuck in the day after my wife ran the Standhope 60km the prior weekend. This meant that much of our planning would be via maps, Google Earth, beta from several key locals, and scoping the route while we drove up Highway 93…. This lack of more optimal preparation added a fun element of improbability, stacking the odds against us to some extent.
As I drove out of Moab the scratchy FM signal began to fade. It was time to change the station and settle down for the 4hr drive home, back to Salt Lake City after a quick but fulfilling adventure. An ad on the radio reminded listeners why they should come to this part of Utah. “Moab’s unique combination of beautiful redrock scenery, two national parks, and the allure of the Colorado River has made it one of the top adventure destinations in the West.” Interestingly, no mention of the utterly fantastic mountain range less than 15 miles to the east, the La Sal Mountains!
Getting to know the La Sals better has long been a goal of mine. A linkup of the 12 thousand foot peaks (“12ers”), of which there are 9 with 300′ or more of prominence, seemed like a great excuse. I had mapped the route out several years ago, but the project had remained on the shelf. When Jason Dorais and an army of other strong skimo dudes strung together a south-north route on skis in March my mind started scheming. On Friday (6/20/2014) when Bryon Powell responded to an email telling me that the conditions looked perfect, the decision was made as to what I would be doing on the solstice.
This would be a solo trip, which meant that a shuttle would be tricky. So, I modified the mostly north-to-south linkup and made it a loop, returning via a series of lower trails on the western side of the range to get back to my car. Other than operating at about -1.5dB (i.e. a bit sick) due to a week-long illness, the adventure could not have been more perfect. If you’re into endless talus fields, stunning views, frolicking through aspen trees, and a bit of route finding, I highly recommend this route. It’s ~36 mile and 15kft of up:
For an aerial perspective (via Google Earth), click on the image below:
And, below are some highlight photos from the trip:
“History does repeat itself” explained Buzz, “and it’s not a bad thing! Take for example organized sports like the NFL, NHL, NCAA, etc. Some people today are fanatical about organized sports and fiercely dedicated to ‘their’ teams. It’s the ancient tribe mentality on display” declared Buzz, “a pre-programmed DNA trait some people have where they need to belong to something; the need to defend their tribe. This instinct developed many thousands of years ago, long before our current air-conditioned lifestyles, and manifests itself today in the form of organized sports. This is history repeating itself. As for me, I simply don’t have the tribe gene. I’m genetically different.”
The above is my attempt at capturing a snippet from one of the blurry conversations during the drive home this past Saturday with Ryan and Buzz after another action packed 1.5 day trip to Zion NP. As Buzz continued with his story about our DNA and historical repetition, the reasons for our many trips to Zion started to gel in my mind. Why was it that Buzz never flinched at flying to Utah, renting cars, spending hundreds of dollars on gear and logistical details, and cramming as much as possible into weekends only to go home with scratched up legs, blood stained clothes, and holes in nearly every piece of gear? I estimate he’s done this 3-4 times per year for at least the past 5 years and probably only slightly less frequently for the preceding 35 years. He is either a tremendously committed friend, possessed, a masochist, or a true lover of the desert. Could he be all of these things? Wait, this also sounds like Ryan!
Buzz also explained that we are drawn to people with similar values and motivations… Apparently it wasn’t just Buzz with this strange genetic condition, Ryan and I had it as well… Did we all independently have it beforehand or had the mutation worsening after years of adventure? Why had we all moved things around in our busy lives, yet again, to venture out on another crazy route through the sand, manzanita, cactus, and crumbling sandstone in and around Zion? Why did the thought of seeing a glowing sunrise on the extreme topology make us all giddy? Why did hearing an orchestra of singing desert frogs in a hidden pool seem so special? Why did the hundreds of cuts from prickly desert plants actually make me smile, knowing that I’d feel the trip under the business attire of Monday? Rather than trying to make sense of it all, I’ll share some photos from the trip and hope that one of my faithful blog readers can help answer these questions.
- Friday : The South Creek Circumnavigation. A fantastic route with a bunch of new terrain. Jenny Ridge, East Fork of the Virgin, Transview Mountain, Second Creek, South Mountain, Squirrel Creek, Water Canyon, Canaan Mountain, Sawmill Springs, Eagle Crags. 21.5 hrs of adventure
- Saturday : Tabernacle Dome. Arguably one of the best short scrambles in the Park.
Our ritual anniversary trip had finally arrived and Thursday evening we left SLC bound for Zion National Park, our home away from home. The weather forecast looked incredible: Friday – partly cloudy, ~70s, and breezy; Saturday – rain down low and snow up high; Sunday – sunny and sure to be “alive” after the rain. After years of building a relationship with the Park you can’t help but be drawn to experience it when mother-nature is in all her different moods. After-all, Zion is what it IS only because of the mighty power of wind and water. To visit the park only during clear and sunny conditions would be like only talking to your friends only when they are happy. which would be a fairly shallow relationship. Meaningful relationships involve a deeper understanding and connection.
- Friday : Mindy/Phoebe/Catherine had a nice hike on the Chinle Trail while I did a super linkup from Springdale to Gifford Canyon via Johnson ridge, the Watchman, No Mans Mountain, Stevens Wash and Hepworth Wash. Complicated terrain!
- Saturday : Our family did an awesome hike in the rain up Many Pools canyon. Mindy then ran from the east entrance to Weeping Rock, and I got in an evening run in the rain/snow up Lady Mountain.
- Sunday : Family hike up the West Rim Trail, then I snuck in another jaunt up the Lady before the drive home.
I’ll let the pictures do the talking