Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Granite Peak Montana

What: Granite Peak Montana (State High Point)
Where: Beartooth Absaroka Mountains Montana
When: Aug 25-27, 2011
Who: John and Leonard Zito (Brothers)
Why: John and I backpacked to Avalanche lake and the climbers high camp 5+ years ago...always talked about coming back to climb Granite Peak...so we did.

Granite Peak is the state High Point for Montana...12,899 Feet, successfully summited by approximately 10-20% of climbers annually (reported by Forest Service.) There are several factors that contribute to the low success rate of this adventure...we experienced all of them: 24 miles round trip with 7-8000 feet elevation gain, misquitos/bugs, crazy weather (rain/hail,) and significant exposure while climbing. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE this mountain! Reports of "Granite Peak in a Day" can be mis-leading...people doing this are hard-core and are not typically brining safety gear...and know the route very well.

Granite Peak early morning Summit Day.

Elevation Profile from West Rosebud Trailhead to Tempest Mountain upper climbers camp.

Getting There...with Google Earth

Did my best with Google Earth to show the route. Gives a good approximation of the hike if you follow the red/grey route from West Rosebud trailhead to the upper climbers camp.

West Rosebud Trail head (6,400") to Mystic Lake (7,637"): 3 miles & 1,200" elevation gain.

Mystic Lake (7,637") to Froze to Death Plateau (10,000"): 2.5 miles & 2,500" elevation gain. Known as the "switchbacks from hell"... you definitely earn that elevation gain but trail is in great shape and much better than Mystic Lake to Avalanche!

Froze to Death Plateau (10,000") to Upper Climbers Camp (12,000") 5 miles & 2,000" elevation gain. Lots of bolder fields, swampy/grassy areas with some snow fields.

Upper Climbers Camp (12,000") to Granite Peak Summit (12,899") ... approximately 1000" descent down Tempest before starting up Granite. About 1.5 miles from upper camp to summit.

Day 1: Was able to catch an Allegiant Air flight from Mesa AZ to Billings. John picked me up at the airport 7:30pm and after a short gas station stop we were gearing up at West Rosebud by 9:30pm. We planned to hike into Mystic Lake in the dark...can't get enough of the Beartooths and would be nice to take a little off the top of a difficult Hike for Day 2.

Gear List - Approximately 35lbs per person...including 100oz of H2O per person.
  - 2 person tent, MSR water filter, 1lb of Teriyaki Meat Balls (and misc other food.)
  - 60m climbing rope (necessary for double rappels...would not go shorter), 4 Omega Pacific Link Cams, 6-8 pieces of webbing, Harnesses etc..
  -  Rain coats, few extra socks, and misc gear

 John gearing up.

 Headlamp's ready, 3 miles and 1500" hike to Mystic. Trail was great and easy to follow in the dark. Water sounded nice and temps were in the high 60's...perfect.

Video of hike to Mystic Lake...from truck to campsite in about an hour and a half.
Day 2. Mystic to Tempest Upper Climbing camp

Mystic Lake Morning...Breakfast burrito's, filter water for the camel backs and off to the switchbacks.

 Heading up the switch backs to Froze to Death Plateau.

26+ switch backs...2,500" ... good times and great views.

Reaching the tree line above Mystic Lake.

John crossing one of the rockslide areas. Great trail!

Topped out after the switch backs...approximately 10,000. Air is getting thinner...cool rock cairn with Horse Skull to begin the path across Froze to Death to Tempest Climbers camp.

 Didn't quite sweat it all out during the switch backs...back country bathroom with a great view.

Definitely should have waited for better water...but we were thirsty. MSR filter worked great.

Lots of rock crossings on the plateau. No real trail here...we added at least an hour onto our hike in by staying to low.

Crossing some snow. Wishing these trail runners were gortex!

Froze to Death local residents. We sat down watching them while having lunch. They came right over to us...made for some great pics and videos.

Great shot of the goats...you would have to have been on a few other adventures with the Zito brothers...but John has a strange uncontrollable urge to chase wild life...including moose, geese, deer, and now mountain goats.

Still to low on the Froze to Death Plateau. If you have good views of Avalanche and Mystic lakes, you are too low...but the views are great. Hiking is much harder!

Hail storm on Froze to Death...from Dark clouds to full on storm in about 30 seconds! No cover...just had to put our packs over our head and tough it out. Glad it didn't last more than 10 minutes...some were the size of quarters. Bruises are mostly gone now...a week later.

Made it to the upper climbers camp on Tempest. John and I built this rock cairn 5 years ago...well, we made it about 10 times bigger and added the quartz to the top.

Granite Peak in the back ground...after a long day of hiking and crazy weather...the mountain looked pretty formidable.

John got the tent setup up and dinner started while I filled our camel backs and prepped for tomorrow.

Yes...Costco Teriyaki meatballs and flavored rice. I bet not to many climbers eat this good up here...Thanks again Hoj!

hmmmm...sharing a tent when we both ate 1/2 a pound of meatballs...good thing we were tired!
Day 3. Climbers camp + Granite Peak Summit + back to West Rosebud Trail head + drive back to Billings = very long day! Began at 6:30am...back to Billings at 2:30am.

Climbers trail well marked down to saddle/bivy joining Mt Tempest and Granite Peak.

Definitely a scramble...we glad to start later in the morning when we could see the route well...made it easy to follow.

Heading up the rock slides of Granite...working towards the snow bridge.

More scrambling towards the snow bridge.

Actually taken on the way down...gives a good picture of the ridgeline heading up to the snow bridge. Route/cairns follow closer to the right edge.

Google Earth view of Granite...

Turning the corner and seeing the snow bridge. Took me about 15 minutes of break and Dill Pickle Spitz to gather the nerve to cross this. It is very exposed on both sides...snow was in good condition and is only about 30-50 feet long...pucker factor 9+.

One of many Class 4 scrambles. Roping up on these pitches would take too much time...be prepared to take 10+ hours for summit day. (yes...we were slow and cautious.)

John coming up one of the several "easy" pitches. The exposure could mess with your head...but focus on what you were doing and not looking down alot :) made it much easier.

Once past the snow bridge, there are class 4 scrambles before you see the "key hole" at the summit. The route here becomes pretty obscure. We could not locate the "clase 4"scramble to the summit...ended up going up right under the Key Hole.

Our friends coming down from the Key-Hole. They saw us and to save time, top roped us on this pitch. Saved me an "interesting" lead and we were on the summit before we knew it. Thanks guys!

Geological Survey at the summit.

Definitely worth the trip. Amazing day, incredible views, and great times with my Brother!

Summit pic's.

John on the table rock at the top.

Snow Bridge and Summit Video

Blurry summit pic...but gives you an idea of the exposure you experience on this climb.

Heading back down.

We should have brought helmets. If there are parties ahead/behind you, expect to be dodging some rock fall. Many of the rappel stations have a lot of loose rock near the edges.

We rapp'd 6-7 times on the way back down...to speed things up and "down climb" as little as possible.

Our planned 7 hour summit trip is going on 10 hours now...getting low on water, tired, and the sky is now getting dark. We did get rained on for 10-15 minutes on the way back to camp but actually was nice to cool down.

10 hour summit "morning." Now 11 miles back to the truck... hustling to make the switchbacks by dark...which we did...with about 5 minutes to spare.

We were limping back into the truck by midnight...and back to Billings by 2:30am. Up at 8am and at church by 9am :)

Summary: We had a great time...both pushing out endurance and nerve...if you don't do this type of thing frequently I think it can be a serious challenge. The climb was more exposed and route finding more difficult than I had anticipated. If you have not done this route before, I would highly recommend finding a partner who has. Plan for bad weather, know basic trad climbing/mountaineering, anticipate things to taking longer than you think!

Had a great time Brother! What's next?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

375 Miles - 600km Tombstone Brevet

What: 600km Tombstone Brevet
Where: Casa Grande to Tombstone & Back
When: March 19 & 20
Who: Mike Enfield and I
Description: ...beyond description? But I will try :)

It has been 3 weeks since I finished the this final Brevet in the series of 4...200km, 300km, 400km, and 600km. It was a great ride and adventure, pushed me way past any limits I believed I had, and probably the toughest thing physically I have ever done. It is a strange feeling to have completed these rides...I have thought about this for several years, had countless hours of workouts, cycling, planning, and thinking of these epic rides...and now I have finished them. It is great to have an adventure/challenge on the horizon...it drives me, keeps life exciting/butterfies, and keeps other things in perspective. This has been a great experience and one that I am not sure I will do again...but the further it gets behind me, the more I think I may?

** I must give serious Credit to my "blood brother" Mike Enfield. We have now been on some serious adventures together, shed some blood/pain, and had some great times! Without him leading me through these, navigating, and sharing with me all the details of what it takes to make it though...I seriously doubt I could have done it. Thanks Mike!!

 Yes, a total of 932 miles worth of self supported riding around Southern Arizona and I can now purchase the 4 medals and a schweet jersey! I have officially qualified now to ride the "oldest cycling event in history"...the Paris Brest Paris 1200km in August. I didn't start this series with that as a goal in mind and dont think I will be doing it. It is only held every 4 years though...and you must qualify the year of the event...

Casa Grande Arizona to Tombstone and back...on a bike...lol.

 Elevation Profile for the ride...was approximately 12+ feet of gain over the ride. Not bad at all for a ride this long...but some of those climbs were tougher than any I have ever done.

Ride Statistics....it wasn't pretty, but we got it done!

Last minute instructions from Susan Plonsky regarding the ride...then it is off into the morning darkness.

We got slightly off track for the 600km Tombstone Brevet, leaving our hotel in Eloy a bit late. We got to bed close to midnight and it really felt like I had just closed my eyes before the alarm was waking me up at 4am. We did make it to the start with about 5-10 minutes to spare...got checked in, got our Brevet cards and were ready to roll. The Temperature was about  53 degrees at 5am in Casa Grande so I decided to skip the arm and leg warmers. Once again, I underestimate how much the temperature can change in the desert...about 10-15 miles into the ride it was in the low 40's and once again I am freezing :)

 Yes...from 30 degrees at night to nearly 100 on Sunday afternoon.

About 10 minutes into the ride just outside of the city, I finish a little prayer on my bike asking God to watch over us for the next 2 days on the road. I look down and I have no water bottles! I think what in the world? Why would someone steal my bottles? What is going on? ...turns out in the rush out of the hotel, I forgot to grab them from the fridge in the hotel...in Eloy! Luckily it was only about 1 mile out of the way on the route. We were able to swing by, pick them up and get back on the road. It did suck to loose the main group and I am sure we probably lost 30 minutes because of it...but, this ended up being a 38 hour ride...not to terrible I guess. Another Brevet lesson learned.

Organized the food and supplies for the ride...I try to stay so organized for these events...still can't believe I left my water bottles!

We made it to Marana in great time despite a bit of a head wind and phreaking cold temps...we caught up with quite a few riders there. Pounded down an Egg Salad sandwich, Coconut Milk, and Carrot cake...back on the road.

One of the climbs near Saguaro Park.

Saguaro Park was beautiful as usual and I was feeling really strong. We made it through the hills and rollers there in good time and were turning on Mission road before I knew it. This road about killed me last time...gave me serious doubts with the 2-3% grade for miles and a 20-30 mph head wind...this time, there was very little wind and we pushed right through it. We were in Green Valley (100+ miles) about 7 hours from the start. We stopped at "Tirvetti's" italian restaurant for lunch. They were really friendly and even let us bring out bikes in to keep them safe. Cleaned up a bit and had a great sit down lunch of lasagna, soup, and cake. Then...it took about 45 minutes to get our check completed and back out the door :( We burned probably an hour and 1/2 there...not good for a lunch stop.

Green Valley not looking so green...but still a beautiful little town.

Road to Sonoita

Following the lunch stop, we headed out of Green Valley and on to Sonoita. About 15-20 miles out of town on a long slight climb with rollers, Mike says to take a look behind me. There is Helmet peak off in the distance...shimmering in the heat...looking really long. He said that it is a bit intimidating to see it coming for nearly 20-25 miles after you have practically 280 miles in your legs...foreshadowing...

Yes, this climbed kicked by butt in the extreme...was about 15 miles of climbing with a Grade randomly moving between 3% and 10% at times....definitely harder than any trianing rides I have done. Especially after having put so many miles in prior to it :) I was definitely hurting a bit here! "IT NEVER ALWAYS GETS HARDER! I find that it really is true...and probably convinced myself of it after repeating it 300 times.

A look at part of the climb leading up through the hills to Sonoita.

Grasslands...crested the climb to Sonoita and now heading down into town.

One more climb prior to making it into town...not too bad.

 The Sonoita Inn...we have a room reserved here for a shower and a quick nap on the way back. Would be so great just to check in right now...but we push on to Elign, then the turn around in Tucson...about a 80+ mile round trip.

Elign Arizona...population 10? Susan had a great stop set up here. Cheese sandwiches, soup, cookies and other good stuff. Once again, a Diet Coke with Lime? Man those are good. 

We left Elign pretty quickly and were ready to get the 70 mile roundtrip to Tombstone done. It was now getting dark but we had a slight tailwind and before we knew it we made the right hand turn onto AZ83. It was a pretty fast descent with a few rollers on our way into Tombstone. At this point we did see the lead group heading back to Elign finally...they were probably 3-4 hours ahead of us. It was a little hard to think that they would be done that much sooner than us...but we weren't trying to set any records...just out there to finish all 375 miles and beat the cutoff time of 40 hours.

Sunset heading into Tombstone...was a gorgeous night!

Ahh...scenic Circle K in Tombstone...this was the extent of my first visit to the famous town. Of course, it was dark and getting late...I stole this picture from google maps.

At this point, the temperature had dropped significantly. After riding since 5am, my brain stops firing on all 3 cylinders I think. After eating some warm soup, strawberry milk, snickers bar etc etc...we headed back out into the cold and dark for our return to Elign. About 10 miles out of Tombstone I realize I had forgotten my riding glasses at the gas station! I immediately thought I am not riding back there...a decent little climb back into town and 20 extra miles...forget the glasses! A few minutes after that I stopped some on-coming riders and asked them to look for them...and pick them up if they could. Lucky for me, they were able to find them and get them turned in!!! I didn't get their names but I sure appreciate that!!!

The Super Moon!!! It was incredible! I heard reports that it was more visible than it has been for 18 years! We hardly needed lighting the moon was so bright and clear.

Another picture of it from somewhere on the web.

The temperature at this time continued to go down...by the time we descended back into Elign it was in the high 20's...man that got cold. Once in the stop at Elign we really didn't eat anything...just got our cards signed and headed out for the last 10 miles to the Sonoita Inn...probably some of the longest/coldes miles I have ridden!

We checked into the hotel around 2:00am...they had food out on the table for us along with a little cupbard and refrigerator!!! Ahhh it was great...muffins, crackers, cheese, boiled eggs, juice!!!

Susan had dropped our overnight bags off at the hotel earlier in the day...was great to take a shower, put on clean clothes and get a few hours nap. Not sure when we actually got to bed but the alarm was set for 5:30am...ugghhh....The alarm did go off...but we stayed in bed another 30-40 minutes. Then put on new bike clothes and headed out.

I must say, I was feeling pretty sore and "not-mobile" ... butt was not enjoying getting back on the seat! But after a few miles things started feeling better. Because my sunglasses had not been returned yet, I figured I would take it easy on the huge descent out of Sonoita. After the first hundred yards I couldn't contain myself. I let it go and had a really fun time...despite 40+ mph and lots of tears streaming out of my eyes, Mike and I were making the turn to Green Valley at about the same time.

Heading back to Green Valley....Helmet Peak in the distance? Not sure on this picture.

We stopped at the RoadRunner gas station near Green Valley and had a really good breakfast burrito...eggs, bacon, onions, cheese, potatoes!!! As we approached Helmet peak a pretty good sidewind kicked up. Helmet peak is 2-3% grade for several miles and I was feeling drained but in pretty good shape. I stopped about 1/2 way up for a bio-break...when I got back on my bike and stood up to pedal I had a sharp pain under my left knee cap. It hurt bad enough that I could no longer stand and pedal at all.

Just after this Susan pulled along side us and delivered my sunglasses and refilled out water bottles. Perfect timing!

Alright...80 miles to go and I can't stand up to pedal. This makes it really difficult because I had to stay seated much more than I wanted to. It did get so bad for a while that I thought I may have to quit...but then, as soon as that thought started creeping in...many other thought's pushed it out :) I believed I wasn't doing any permanent damage to my knee so I figured even at my much slower pace I could still finish before the 40 hour cutoff. I gutted it out back to Marana and with 40 miles left my knee did recover quite a bit. We, once again, rode down the never ending, brain numbing, I-10 frontage road to Eloy...made one final stop for drinks and pushed hard into Casa Grande...We finished at 7:02pm, 38 hours after starting the previous day at 5am. Definitely the biggest physical challenge I have ever had and was a great adventure. I loved seeing all that country from my bike and accomplishing something that I have thought about for years. Good times with a good friend!

A picture from our 200km finish...for some reason we didn't really take any at this finish...just got our stuff, turned in our cards and headed to the Cracker Barrel for another Big Boy Country Breakfast!!!

Brevet Lesson's Learned?
- Coconut milk has lots of potassium and electrolytes...but is also a natural laxative :) Mike had to use his "emergency toilet paper" that he had been carrying for 6+ years of long distance riding...and there are not a lot of convenient places to have a "natural" break in Saguaro Park ... LOL.
- Water bottles are important to have when beginning a 380 mile ride! Double/Triple check you have everything before you start.
- Even though it is dark and you have clear lenses in your sunglasses...don't ever set them down...I didn't realize I had forgotten them for at least 10 miles... :(
- There is a battery in my heart rate monitor and cadence sensor :) They don't last forever :) Both died on my during this ride...should have replaced them.