Monday, July 07, 2014

Climbing Mount Rainier

Fun in Seattle

The Mount Rainier climb was for me combined with a family vacation in Seattle. We took maximum advantage of our time in Seattle, checking out all the local sights - taking a tour of the sound, going up the needle, going to the fish market - experiencing the city;


After a few days in Seattle - it was time to head up to Paradise, the staging area for our climb. This is at 5000 feet and is (usually) a beautiful drive. Unfortunately it was mostly rainy and foggy and we really could not see much on the drive. Here are some pictures from after the climb after it was sunny.


Once we got to Paradise the teams needed to train for alpine and glacial conditions. Besides learning how to work on a rope team we also got to toss ourselves down a steep snowfield and stop ourselves with an ice axe. There are 4 different ways to plunge down the ice field - head first, feet first, belly up, and belly down. The most disconcerting is to throw yourself backward (facing uphill jump backwards head first) - it is also the most fun. We practiced them all on and off rope, by the time we finished on the snow field I felt comfortable with our team ready for the climb.

Climbing to Muir Camp

The plan was to climb to Camp Muir (10,000 ft) and then summit (14,400 ft) the next day. We all underestimated the climb to the camp (nearly 1 mile up) - it was very UP.We trudged through the fog for about 5-6 hours and by the time we saw the camp we were ready to be done. Jeff and I found places in the bunk house at Muir Camp.

Climbing Day

The next morning teams started heading up the mountain at 10 PM, we finally got started up the mountain at 1 AM. Crossing the Cowlitz Glacier was pretty easy and the first real obstacle was Cathedral Rocks. These were just challenging wearing Crampons as there was some technical climbing in the rocks. After the Cathedral Rocks we crossed the Ingraham Glacier where we got our first look at some of the deep Crevasses, though we only had to go over one small one (we avoided the others). At the end of the Ingraham Glacier we started up the most intense part of the climb - Disappointment Cleaver. This mixture of rock and ice is very steep - and goes up for over 1000 feet. It was on the Cleaver I started feeling sick - though I concentrated extremely hard on keeping the progress up the cleaver moving - knowing that there is really no alternative.

At the top of the cleaver I knew I had Acute Mountain Sickness (and so did David - who had me bagged and tagged) - stuffed inside a bivy and tied down to a rock with a member from another team who was also suffering from AMS. This was some time between 4-5 AM.

I stayed there until I started feeling better after the sub came up and then ventured from the Bivy and talked with climbers passing through in both directions (the top of the Cleaver was pretty much grand central station of climbing). Around 10 AM I saw my team heading back down from the summit - there is really no technical climbing after the Cleaver - just snow field - so I could see them a long way out.

The trip back down the Cleaver was quite exciting - down is much more dangerous than up, and we could see the sheer drops and crevasses we did not see in the dark. We also took a slightly exciting route - with a glisade down a hand rope that nearly gave Jeff and Dave a heart attack.

It was still a long way down (hours) - but the more altitude I lost, the better I felt. After reaching Muir - the Muir snow field was a lot of fun going down and we slid on our butts for much of it. I would say Glisade, but that assumes you are under control.

We finally finished and had a large dinner and reminisced about the climb and the adventure. And of course - started planning the next one.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Atomic Adventure Race 2014

It took a while to put together teams for this one, but an odd combination of circumstances with different team mates left 2 3 person teams together for this race. I was racing with Craig Sheriif who joined Junos Reed and me after Jeff Leininger was injured in a race the week before. We would race as Tequila on Tuesday. Julie Ardoin, Joe Deutsch and Dustin would join as a second team - Honey Stinger.

Jeff had rented a cabin, so we would be starting the race well rested and ready to go. Some logistics problems had the initial prelude canceled, so 35 teams were ready to head out on a long bike leg just after 9. We started near the back of the back and by the time we got out of the TA the leaders were completely out of sight. We headed to the forest road out of the TA neighborhood and started the the long climb up to the IMBA bike trails, picking up a couple of easy CP's along the way. As we were biking along Checkpoint Zero passed us on bike, and then were followed by a series of strong bike teams. As it turns out they had missed the short trail that lead out of the TA and had taken a long way around up to Georgia 60, adding about 4-5 miles to their biking.

After about 2 hours of going up we had  bit of downhill that went fast and we started into the bike trails. I had previously biked many of these in the USARA race when it started in Blue Ridge and remembered quite a few of them. Of course that was no help with the navigation here, but it did give me a level of comfort. The course had us doing a huge loop to the west before hitting the TA, we would do the loop to the west after a foot leg. The navigation in this section was challenging, but working with a group of teams we never spent more that a few minutes on any control. Julie was hurting a bit through here, and it was getting quite warm. After about 4 hours Craig was suffering from the heat, and was pushing the edge of heat exhaustion. This turned out to be advantageous though as one of the frequent stops to cool off in the streams allowed us to find CP21 that was misplaced and had not been found by many teams. (Greg would later give teams credit for this control if they had done CP20). The bike leg took us 5 hrs 58 minutes.

We pulled into the Bull Mountain TA tired but ready to head out on the next orienteering leg. We decided to go clockwise (reverse order) as it appeared to have better attack points for most controls. The rainfall also started along this leg. The approach to these was really to find the best attack point, hopefully close to the control and the. Head in . This worked well until CP24 where were attacking from CP25. We were with the Canyoneeros at this point and had a fun little section where we decided to follow the creek, essentially canyoneering. We split up after that and after some fumbling around in the woods we decided to just head south to the trail backstop. We crossed the re-entrant where the control was but did not spend any time looking and never found it. Canyoneeros did essentially the same route but found the control. Overall the foot section took us 6 hrs 58 minutes.

It was tough getting back on the bikes, we had another long bike ride in front of us, and it was now raining. The most challenging control here was 32, located on a saddle. Many teams were looking for this one. Eventually I punched up to the ridge, located a solid 200 meters from the trail where the CP was mapped, and found it. Most teams had given up at this point. That was a high point, we blew by the next control that we heard was easy, and after a half-hearted try to find CP34, we head west on Moss Creek trail. By now it was raining hard and snakes and rattlesnakes were crawling across the trails. Yes, snakes - it was cold, rainy, and "snaky". There was some fun in the rain, as we were biking we came across the Super Frogs who were warily eyeing a swollen creek. Craig decided he would be able to bike across it, and only had to drop when it reached his seat. The rest of us carried our bikes. Super frogs crossed followed us across, but biked faster than us after that at least I think they did. It was hard to see the single track with all the fog and rain, I was leading and could barely see the ground 10 feet in front of the me even with my super light rig.

After we decide to bail on the remainder of the single track, we still had to make it up to the top of the mountain and the next TA. After CP37, this was pretty much a 6k slog up the hill. At this point we were beyond riding, Junos stomach was doing flips, and we simply slowly pushed the bikes upwards. It was foggy with about 20 foot visibility, and raining and miserable. While trekking we all heard the loud sound of a tree cracking. Craig, Junos, and I headed for the opposite side at a full run until we heard the loud crash of the tree falling. It is amazing how quick adrenaline can make you move even when you are exhausted.  It took nearly 2 hours in our condition to make the top where we were able to finally ride into the TA. The total bike leg took us 6 hrs 17 minutes. The fast teams who got to do that section before the rains hit probably enjoyed it a lot - those trails would have been pretty nice before they got muddy.

By now it was raining hard, but we had a big dry u-haul trailer at the TA. The team joined about 5 other teams sleeping and resting in the u-haul (2 hrs and 46 minutes). I was sleepy and passed the time chatting with other teams about the course and how we were tackling the other checkpoints. We entirely skipped the second orienteering, and I gave my map to the Canyoneeros who had somehow lost theirs. After some rest everyone was recovered and we headed out some time after 7. The remaining bike ride was easy and thankfully downhill. The only event was me trying to convince the team we needed to get CP11.

The sun was now out and the rain had stopped. We made quick work of the final bike checkpoints, I had mapped them on a wet map so they were barely visible on my map. Dustin had done a better job of mapping them and navigated this section nicely leading us to the final leg, the paddle.

The paddle leg was pure fun for me. We only had a few mile down the Toccoa, but we going to be able to do the rapid under the Benton-McKay swinging bridge. Craig was steering from the back of the boat and Junos was in the front. I usually sit in the front with Junos in the back when we do whitewater, so it was fun to watch Junos pick the lines. We did not hit that many rocks, and only got stuck a few times. Luckily I had the video camera our for the best ones. I even got out of the boat to film, we were completely out of race mode as we new we could beat the cutoff. The Honey Stingers had surged ahead of us in the water (1 hr 48 min) and were waiting when we finally pulled out of the water (2 hr 21 min).

Full Results at

Dustin also had a great video of the course

And here are some of the teams that were out there

Rib Mountain Racing -

Canyoneros Blog -

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Dixie Conquest 2014

Here is the writeup of the Dixie Conquest that I raced with Jim Gorton and Courtney Spratt. The race was held in Bayard Conservation area near Green Cove Springs. The weather was perfect.

Prolog - We started with Jeff leininger putting us all in a little circle marked with tape and we had to start the race by finding 4 plastic Easter eggs hidden in the bushes. We were pretty fast in finding the eggs and were quickly on to the initial orienteering run. A large group of teams headed out to CP1, due to some really good initial mapping of the bearing and distance on CP4 - we had the lead leaving CP4, but lost it due to missing the trail leading to CP5 - though that only cost us about 30 seconds. We thought we had regained the lead as teams took a wrong turn just after CP6. We did not see them, but Endeavor and Team Jax put a 3 minute lead on us and we were the 3rd team into the TA. 

Paddle 1 - We were in great spirits as we left the TA on bikes and headed for the boats. The first few points were easy and fun and because of the out and back nature we could easily discern the 3 minute lead of both Jax and Endeavor. We also were able to tell where the teams behind us were. None of the lead teams hit 12 before jumping out of the boats to go after the 3 inland controls (13, 14, and 15). We pulled up due east of CP13 and headed west - unfortunately not finding it quickly - so I bailed and we grabbed CP14 and CP15 to the south on foot. Coming back to CP13 we found it easily the second time (not sure how we missed it the first time) - and headed back to the boats. The miss on CP13 cost us more time than I had though, probably 15 minutes total and we were about 15 minutes behind Endeavor and Jax as we got back to the main TA.

Orienteering - We headed out on bikes, our plan was to get CP16 on the way to the orienteering section and then get the remaining bike CP's on the way back. This allowed us to toss our bike shoes in our packs and use trek shoes for the first part of the bike, only switching shoes once after we finished the trek. CP16 was easy - but did require travel on some very wet and unrideable trails. At the Bayard TA - we headed out on foot. It took me a few minutes to realize the north on the map was not the typical straight up - but that did not cost us much time. I think we had the fastest time on this leg, and we really had no issues finding any of the controls, though some of them did require swimming and bushwhacking. If anyone is interested in our approach - let me know. The order of CP's for our team was CP27-28-29-31-32-34-35-33-30. Because CP30 was a bearing and distance I measured it out, found it took us to the edge of the marsh west of CP30 and we headed straight for it. We left CP30 via the road which gave me the chance to plot the bike course on our run back to the TA.

Bike - I had planned the bike course and even done preliminary measurements to find the CP's. We quickly found as we hit CP17 that the scale was not completely accurate. This cost us a few minutes on CP17 and about 10 minutes on CP18, though after CP18 I pretty much had the scale down. We got CP17-18-19 and headed to the east entrance to head to CP21. The trail to CP25 was completely flooded so we bailed to the railroad tracks and rode along the the tracks - bushwhacking back in near CP25. The trail was still under a LOT of water, but got better towards CP22. We continued on to CP22-23-24 and overshot 24 by quite a bit (or it was placed too far north). CP26 was another quick find. Courtney requested that we "hammer" the ride back so we let her set a 23-24 mph pace and simply hung on to the finish line (no real navigation required). We ended up edging out AR Militia, they had left Bayard TA before we passed it - but took a slightly shorter but harder bike route back to the main TA. Dash had led Team Jax to a solid performance to take first.

The results and more write-ups are at

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Myakka Mud Slide - 2014

This one took me a while to get up, but here is a short description of the race. I raced with Jim Gorton and we had a great race. We raced as Tequila on Tuesday

Prolog Map
Prolog - We started with a Prolog Orienteering Course using the map above. We quickly got (in this order) 4, 2, 3, and 5 and completed it in 19 minutes who started out with control 6 which would definitely have been shorter. We did, however get trail for almost the entire prolog so it was  nice warmup run.

We then had about a mile run to the boats, we chose not to get any controls on the way as did the other teams in the lead as they made a lot more sense to get on the return trip.

Paddle Map
Paddle - We put a lot of effort into the paddle leg including a portage from CP14 back to the river that saved us a couple of minutes. We caught up with Endeavor and Endeavor, SWIM, and our team came out of the water within minutes of each other and started on the trek back to the start/finish. We did come out of the water at the Power TA. SWIM and our team tied for fastest paddle times at 1:23.

To/From Paddle
Trek to S/F - Some trail running and a solid bushwack to CP17 and from CP17 to CP18 but us into the TA within seconds of Endeavor. We both ran this in 35 minutes. SWIM took a longer route to CP18, coming in from the north that cost them about 7 minutes.

Bike Leg

Bike Leg- We went full hammer on the bike leg. Some bike troubles slowed Endeavor early and they took a slightly different route choice. We took the exact highlighted route on the map. (also here is a trace of the route) We finished this in 1:33, which the fastest time).

Orienteering - Coming in off the bike first gave us some comfort on attacking the last orienteering leg. I figured it would take us roughly an hour - but we attacked every control conservative taking a counter clockwise route starting with CP6. At first the map scale threw me - but I quickly recovered and we finished this in under an hour to complete the course in just under 5 hours.

Results and Pictures are at


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Pangea Sea 2 Sea 2014

I'll cut right to the chase on this blog posting - and all adventure racers know these situations.

The first legs of the race were tough, but we were still strong and had hit every CP as we trekked into the Alexander Springs TA. The highlights to this point were incredible; the paddle on Rainbow River, the short trek through the Rainbow River Park, The muddy and cold early trek into Silver Springs, the night single track in Santos, What the heck is a Vent (oh that!), all incredible highlights of the race. Everyone who raced know these, for those who did not here is a short synopsis;

Our times on each section are in hours:minutes
* Paddle (2:17)- Moved to Inglis Locks when the initial paddle had conditions that were too windy. Paddle from the locks to the US41 bridge and back.

* Trek (0:56) - Short trek to visit CP's in the park south of Inglis Locks

* Transition to bike (0:10)
* Bike (no time) - Straightforward road ride to KP hole on the Rainbow River
* Transition to paddle (0:09)
* Paddle (0:29 to Rainbow, 0:37 in Rainbow Springs, 1:09 to blue hole) - Beautiful Paddle up to Rainbow River with a short orienteering at Rainbow River State Park, with a huge waterfall! Then back in boats and south to Blue hole south of SR40.

* Transition to bike (0:08)
* Bike (0:20) - Short bike to Pruitt Trailhead
* Transition to trek (0:13)
* Trek (2:26) - Start of the real part of racing and starting to get dark, some details of CP's are below This was from Pruitt to Ross and had some excellent orienteering
* Transition to bike (0:21)
* Bike (9:11) - Ross Prarie trailhead is where we started the first long bike leg - the full single track of Santos, then all the way through Marshall Swamp to the Marshall Swamp trailhead. Very challenging navigation.
Transition to trek(0:38)
Trek (2:46) - From Marshall Swamp an in initially very wet trek through swamp, but ending up beautiful as we hit Silver River early on morning 2
Transition to paddle (0:14 )
Paddle (3:59) - Paddle down Silver River then south on Oklawaha River to Oklawaha prairie.
Transition to bike (0:49 - got new maps)
Bike (5:31) - Tough bike leg through Ocala National Forest finishing up at Farles just east of the Avon Park bombing range, some incredibly sandy trails!
Transition to trek (0:22)
Trek (3:38) - A trek from Farles, primarily along the Florida Trail to CR445 and Alexander Springs.

So here we were arriving into the Alexander Springs TA around 11 PM on night 2. We had some physical challenges up to this point. Junos was having some serious tendonitis in his Achilles tendon and was not able to keep any food down. Joe had some serious swelling in his left wrist that looked like he had broken something. It had been terribly cold the previous evening and it was really cold now. I got the tents that Greg had stashed away for racers and set up the big family tent. Once set up teams that were cold, tired, and sleep deprived started migrating to the tent. I hopped in and got a solid hour of sleep until my own shivering (I had a sleeping bag but no ground pad). I also had done  pretty bad job of setting the tent up delirious and at night.

Some side suggestions at this TA for Pangea - they did a great job, these would have simply made the race a little easier for some of the teams (mostly mid-pack)
(1) Allow teams to choose to do the paddle or trek first. - As cold as it was during the evening sections, getting out on the boats was inviting hypothermia or misery, the ability to trek when it was that cold would be nice
(2) Have a tent set up and ready to go for teams that need rest. - I had a bivvy in my gear bin so setting up for me to sleep was easy. The U-hauls were another sleep option, but their metal floors will have you hypothermic in minutes. Since there is not enough room in most gear bins a tent at the TA is just a nice thing. Luckily they did have one and I really did not mind setting it up, it was just hard to do cold and tired. I slept in it and then gave my sleeping back to another team when we went out on trek.

A really good thing was they had some warm pasta here and that helped us quite a bit.

We opted to completely skip the paddle, which had seemed to be allowing Junos tendonitis to flare up and we headed out on the orienteering. This started out great, we nailed the first 5 controls, but as we approached CP6 on the trek - Junos had to stop (completely). We set him down and allowed him to sleep for a couple of hours at the trail intersection near 6- meanwhile I gave Julie an orienteering lesson so she would understand what I was doing on each control. I think she got a new appreciation for the navigation challenges, especially with the high level of map uncertainty - we spend near 2 hours going over how to get CP6 which was not even 100 yards from where Junos was laying. At this stage it appeared the race was over for us, and it was doubtful we would be able to finish. I felt Junos would be able to bike even though Junos did not.

For any Florida teams that would like navigation lessons, especially in dealing with map uncertainty - let Greg or me know and I will be happy to set up a little training session.

After a couple of hours we were able to get Junos walking and we limped back to the TA (we were able to visit 7 of 20 controls) and started to work out a plan that would get us to the finish line (intact and as a team) - this was going to be pretty tough, Junos could barely walk, and was only able to use on leg for biking. That would be enough and Greg presented an option that would get us home. We skipped the bike to the final paddle and headed straight to the finish line (still 75K away). Along the route we decided that we would go ahead and head to the Highbridge TA - we ran across Mia's Misfits along this section at the Kangaroo at US17 and SR40 they were hurting, but would make it to the finish line.

We headed to High Bridge (a pretty ride) and were passed by Rev3 about 1/4 mile from the TA. We headed down the beach and were passed by Checkpoint Zero about 30 minutes later. 

Here are some orienteering highlights;

We took the limerock road from 484 and attacked this on foot. I used the trail bend dimple on the north blue trail to drop the bikes and attack, I used the trail bend on the southern blue trail to finalize my attack and took a bearing and went to it. Joe had followed another team to it when I spotted it, but he was already there.

This one was incredibly challenging. The southern trail bend and the northern trail bend were both subtle - meaning any measurement off them to create an attack would be challenging. The control was 75m off the trail and the forest had a lot of tall pines and was thick - thus making a dead-on attack crucial. This control took us a solid 30 extra minutes.

This control will be infamous - The plowshare. I first mistakenly took the spot where the trails crossed the road to be the underpass and used this as an attack. However the mapped trail here was NOT what the trail did, and we figured this out after wasting 45 minutes. At this point many teams were giving up on this one - eventually I found it by (1) going out to paved road, (2) using the contours along the road, (3) finding the "old" trail crossing at the road - which I knew was real as there were old signs along it, (4) shooting a bearing from this crossing. The team had been arguing here and I was extremely frustrated at this point - but we did find it.

None of the remaining controls gave us much trouble, we did have a short challenge at CP22 - though once we figured the line thickness of the trail lines obscured some of the detail - we found the vent and solved this.

I had no issues on any other CP's so if anyone wants my strategy on any of the other controls - just post a comment and I'll give my strategy.

Pangea sets another incredible and challenging course - and I truly enjoyed each section - thanks much!

There it is - the entire set of maps for the 2014 Pangea Sea to Sea.

Overview Courtesy of We Blame Pangea
We blame Pangea blog -

Gear Check

I was testing some new gear for this race and have some great recommendations - I have other things I do not recommend, but I love testing gear that works!;

1. Lights - I finally settled in the SecurtiyIng 3800 lumen Cree. Customers have complained about the lack of instructions in the packaging (none) so here it is - charge battery, plug into light, turn it on. This light is just the right bright and runs all night on the battery in #2 here

2. Batteries - I have now tried and tested about 8 battery sets - and here is the one you want sold on Amazon

6600 mAh Replacement Bike Light Battery

These kept my first 3800 lumen light going for 10 solid hours. It does not give you a lot of warning before it goes out, though the LED in the back of the light will turn from green to red about 15 minutes before it dies, though that does not do you much good if it is on your head.

Before a race run them through a few cycles to get a feel for their time with your lights.

3. Bike Map Holder - They finally got it right - just read the Amazon reviews I agree, this is by far the best map holder for navigating on a bike (from AR Navigation Supplies)

Also here is a picture of my pack, left water bottle held Perpetuem, the right one Gatorade, and the bladder held water - I stayed very hydrated which also kept me warm.