Monday, April 7, 2014

Mar 31 - April 6

3/31/2014
Mon - 5th Flatiron->4th Flatiron->1st Flatiron (2:13, 4000')
          It's been a really long time since I linked up multiple flatirons, so this outing was a real treat. The Fifth Flatiron always seems to be the last one to melt out, and is the most out-of-the-way, so I have markedly fewer ascents of it (this was my 34th summit of the Fifth, compared to nearly 150 on the First), despite its outstanding quality of scrambling. The final arete to the summit is one of the more thrilling positions in the flatirons, in my opinion. I hadn't been on the Fifth since November, so my 15min ascent was far off my sub-9min PR, but it made for a sporty warm-up. The descent down its southern margin was predictably snowy, but I was spared from postholing by the early morning temps before continuing my scrambling on the Fourth Flatiron.
          I have even fewer summits (this was my 21st) of this piece-meal formation, but I still find satisfaction in its variety--the lower piece offers a unique water groove and airy arete, the middle chunk is defined by a low-angle, waterworks chute that opens into an idyllic garden-like space, and the final piece provides a fun offwidth with an unlikely escape on thin face holds. The descent, however, was hideous this time around. Bushwhacking, boulder-hopping and talus-bumbling are all made much more difficult when blanketed in several inches of snow and occasional glare ice.
          When I was finally back on trail, I decided I still had some pep in the legs, so I jogged over to the base of the First Flatiron for a quick scrunble that I now have completely dialed in. Despite officially requiring the most technical and tenuous moves (5.6) of all the Flatiron's east faces, it's also the one I do the most, so I feel very comfortable on the crux sequences. Plus, after nearly 2000' of scrambling, I was optimally warmed-up and accustomed to the slab-mongering these rocks require.
          In the evening, in lieu of a partner for climbing in the gym, I decided to overcome my prejudices and try out some leisurely bouldering. The Sanitas trailhead is a 5min bike from my apartment, and another 5min of uphill hiking delivered me at the North Shelf Traverse, a technically easy 60' of rock wall that allowed me to get a nice pump before watching the sun set with some Melville. With summer coming, I'll hopefully be able to maintain some of my (still meager) climbing fitness I've built this winter by goofing around on boulders after morning 14er missions.

4/1/2014
Tue - 4th Flatiron->Green->2nd Pinnacle (1:34, 3200') + climbing gym
I was tired today. I guess yesterday's 2hr+ outing is still a bit beyond me fitness-wise, because it was all I had to bumble up the rock before marching to the summit of the mountain. I had enough fun on the Fourth yesterday that I was psyched for a reprisal today, but my energy stores had a different mind. On the way down the mountain, I added a little scrambling coda with a 5min ascent of the Amphitheater's Second Pinnacle, via its South Face (the rock comes within feet of the Amphi trail). It's been a while since I've been able to amass enough consistent activity to develop any long-term fatigue; it's satisfying to finally be able to achieve that.

4/2/2014
Wed - Green Mt. (1:34, 3000')
I was hoping for an emergence from the cloud layer with today's ascent, but their reach extended beyond the summit of Green. Even so, my hip was very close to 100% pain-free today.

4/3/2014
Thu - Green Mt. (1:56, 3000') + climbing gym
Today's wet, heavy snow provided surprising purchase for my lugged 110s, but today's real progress came in the afternoon gym session with Joe. My climbing has definitely improved this winter, but I had yet to actually climb a 5.11 from bottom to top (as if gym grades have any bearing in the world of real rock). That changed somewhat unexpectedly today on an 11b with a lot of reachy, balance-y moves requiring opposing forces on big holds. It was surprisingly satisfying. This kind of gym climbing--especially if it's in a corner--definitely seems to be the style that I'm best at. Maybe because when I'm on a rope outside I tend to be climbing dihedrals.

4/4/2014
Fri - Green Mt. (1:51, 3000')
          Running up the Ranger Trail today---okay, who'm I kidding? the unconsolidated snow made for terrible footing and I hiked most of the top half of the mountain---I happened upon a set of bear tracks just past the Greenman Trail junction. At first I thought it was just a particularly large dog, especially since they were overlaying the human shoe-prints on the trail, but shortly after gaining the ridge the tracks diverged from the trail and they were very obviously of the ursine variety. It seems a little early in the spring for bears to start rustling about and emerging from hibernation, but I was surprised at how excited I was to be reminded of the presence of mega-fauna in these seemingly humble hills above town. I've seen lots (literally dozens, over the years) of bears on and around Green Mt, but something about seeing these tracks and not the animal itself--signifying the animal's elusive nature, I suppose--was particularly satisfying.
          I finished reading Moby Dick today as well, and despite it being a book about whale hunting I think it definitely portrays a kind of respect for the sperm whale, which happens to be the absolute largest of the world's mega-fauna. Certainly Melville describes the giant fish in great detail and with an admiration that goes beyond it merely being a lucrative source of lamp oil. I suppose big creatures are humbling in a compelling way, be it bears or whales.

4/5/2014
Sat - Green Mt. (1:38, 3000') + climbing gym
          I biked to Chautauqua today for a run up Gregory Canyon and down Bear Canyon. The fresh snow on the mountain requires an aggressive lug that I'd rather not needlessly burn up on the pavement, hence the brief two-wheeled warm-up and cool-down.
         Today was the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's body being found in his Seattle home. The first album I ever bought was the Nirvana live album On The Muddy Banks of the Wishkah, on cassette tape, back when it was released in 1996. I'm not sure why I purchased this before 1991's seminal Nevermind, but it certainly followed quickly. Along with copies of my sister's Smashing Pumpkins classics Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, this was the balance of my teenage music listening.
          It's interesting to be getting old enough now to be observing what of my generation's music is remaining relevant. On my run this morning it occurred to me that Nevermind (and the best Pumpkins albums) is now as old to me as much of my Dad's favorite music (CSNY, Simon & Garfunkel, etc.---all of which is the music I truly grew up on) was to him when I first started listening to Nirvana and SP in the early '90s. Weird.

4/6/2014
Sun - Green Mt. (1:39, 3000') + climbing gym
          From my apartment window it looked like The First Flatiron still had a few patches of snow and ice on it, so I stuck to the trails again today, biking up to Chautauqua and reversing yesterday's route. With my fingers crossed, I've been able to string together quite a few days of relatively substantial running the past couple of weeks, and this morning I could feel the weight of the accumulated fatigue, which may or may not have been exacerbated by a couple extra beers last night at a Geoff Roes instigated picnic-in-a-snowbank. Alaskans (even transplants) sure have a weird way of having fun. As such, I was content to just pitter-patter up and down the hill, congratulating myself for getting out early enough that the exceedingly muddy Mesa Trail was still stiff with the overnight cold.

Window-seat inspiration, mid-week.
Looking back down Gregory Canyon.
In a cloud. Summit #29 on the year. Gotta be one of my weakest first 100 days of the year ever, in that regard.

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