Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Summer Recap: High Sierra Trail Running

What do people in the San Francisco Bay area do for a fun, summer getaway's on the weekend?  If you said "go to the Sierra Nevada mountains", you'd be correct!  Since this was my 3rd Summer living in Silicon Valley I figured it was finally time to get up to the mountains and see what all the fuss is about.  Lucky for me a friend owns a nice ski house in Truckee so I packed the Subaru and headed East for a few days of high elevation trail running.

Day 1: late afternoon 5 mile trail run with a view of Donner Lake

Yeah, that view doesn't suck.  Mind you I have been to the Sierras before but it was a long time ago when I was still cross country ski racing.  We came up here (or rather down here from Alaska) to train and race at Tahoe-Donner and Boreal......and it poured rain for a week!  We also got turned back by chain control, bought the wrong sized chains for our rental van and generally wasted time until the highway opened.......but that is another LONG story.

Castle Peak - elevation 9104'

Day 2: trail run up nearby Castle Peak.  Equipped with +Google Glass+GoPro and mini tripod I was fully decked out with photo & video tech........yeah, and water & gels too.  I planned to do a loop but the map only showed an out-n-back trail to the summit 3 miles away.

That's some buffed out trail!

Also on the map I could see where the Pacific Crest Trail crossed the ridge only a mile East of the summit.  Huh, how hard could it be to bush-wack from summit to PCT above the tree line??  To be continued....

Gettin rocky near the summit.

In the meantime the easy run to the summit......did I say "easy"?  I meant "slow" on account of the high elevation and me being NOT acclimated.  Yes, my "slow" 2.8 mile run to the summit took 41 minutes and climbed 1800'.

Success!  Photo from the summit #throughglass. 

I took 10 minutes to shoot some video and pics from the summit before ponding the ridge traverse to the PCT.  Since there was a maze of small trails heading towards the PCT I figured I couldn't have been the only person to bridge this trail-less gap.  Onward!

Yeah, that looks passable......for now.

All was looking good until the ridge narrowed up and was bisected by a series of steep, rocky outcrops - the kind of terrain I wasn't going to attempt by myself and without protection - shit!  The good news was there did appear to be a scree slope below the West side of the ridge that I could get down to.

Yikees!  I'm not going down that!

Once down I hoped to traverse the scree and climb back up to a flatter section of ridge line only a few hundred meters distant.

Yes, this is as steep as it looks.

The scree slope was passable but it was also rough as heck and covered with abrasive rock.  Not good for my lightweight +Salomon Sense Ultra trail shoes or my dainty white collar hands. After a bit of scrambling and taking 20 minutes to cover 1/3 of a mile I finally made it onto a smooth, open & runable ridge line.

Looking back at the open and safe ridge line route from summit to PCT

In spite of the somewhat easy running after my scree slope scramble I still managed to twist my ankle on the "easy" traverse over to the PCT.  I didn't know it at the time, but that would come back to haunt me in a few hours.

The Pacific Crest Trail at Donner Summit

The rest of the run was uneventful.  4 more miles of buffed out high alpine single-track to my car, water, food and dry clothes.  Next stop?  Internet access of course - so I can upload my "move".  9 miles, 2300' of climb & descend, 137 average heart rate, 4.1 mph.

Once back to the house I worked on making a video from the footage I'd captured during the run and waited for my ankle to swell up.  In hindsight I should have stuck that thing into ice water straight away but you know how it is when you're running - no pain!  In the end there was no lasting damage, only a couple days of missed training and a wicked trail running video!


Sharp eyed viewers will notice that I shot all the sequences on the way down Castle Peak and edited it to look like I was running up the mountain.  Enjoy!