Warning: the following words and images will allow you to vicariously see the world with the eyes of Sultan. Read at your own risk. The name Sultan has many meanings, but derives from the peak Sultan Mountain in Silverton, CO!


Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Equatorial Adventures on Antisana, Cotopaxi, and Chimborazo's Whymper Summit.


Thank you Ecuador! I will miss you.....

Achachai, which literally means brrrr in Quetchua (indigenous language of the INCA and the Altiplano region of South America) , was our team name. We were ten climbers from Scotland, South Africa, Canada, and the US. Our goal was to climb to the top of three large mountains in Ecuador, Antisana, Cotopoaxi, and the highest one Chimborazo. Simple, right?

(Team Achachai: Top-Lance Horne, Russell Lamming, David Camp, David Gilliland, Gary Eckard aka Captain Crunch, James Gattoni, Sultan. Bottom-Vivien Blyth, Bob Horton, and Lauren Trescott)
We acclimated by eating steak, chicken, fish, plantains, potatoes, and ceviche in Quito & Papallacta, and eating more huevos, and spaghetti at base camps all over the Altiplano of the country. I ate all my food, usually doused in salsa picante, and some left overs thanks to David Camp, and Lauren Trescott. The food was delicious, perhaps too much. Some people climb to eat, some people eat to climb. We warmed up with a quick day climb up to the top of Rucu Pichincha (15,400 ft.) which had already broken records for many climbers that had only reached the top of Mt. Rainier (14,409 ft.).

Ecuador is very special. One immediately learns of the four regions of this tiny country: the Glapagos Islands, the Pacific coastal region, the Amazon, and the Altiplano (mountains). The Spanish word ecuador literally means equator, which runs right through these lands, making them even more spectacular. It is hard to imagine being on the equator, yet being in subreezing temperatures high up on a glacier. But that is what attracted us, at least me, to this part of the world.


After acclimating for another few days, we head out to Antisana Base Camp. The smallest of the three mountains we would climb, Antisana (18,714 ft.) was still a big challenge. It is littered in crevasses, more so than any other mountain we would set foot on in Ecuador. The weather was a challenge, windy, cold, and freezing rain. I could only think of the name chosen for our climbing team, Achachai, aptly named. Only a few made it to the summit. Being on the equator, I took with me a frozen pineapple to the top. Pina cumbre. Oh, and somehow I became a Seahawks fan whilst at the top?

Two days later, after much needed rest, we began our ascent up the perfectly coned shaped Cotopaxi (19,347 ft.). The mountain is impressive from afar. It's majestic beauty will hold you in awe if the clouds let you peek at her. The most violent historical eruptions of Cotopaxi were in 1744, 1768, 1877, and 1904. its eruptions often produced pyroclastic flows and destructive mud flows (lahars). Some lahars have traveled more than 100 km and reached the Pacific to the west and the Amazon Basin to the east. At the moment, it has been dormant for over 70 years, which is an unusual long interval in its recent history. It is bound to blow its head off soon.

We reached the summit again, in very cold, rain at first, hail, freezing rain, then ice and snow at the summit. At one point I felt like I needed to turn around, but my new friend Estalin said the following "Achachai Chucha Man!" and we kept moving up the mountain. Three of us reached the summit, including David Gilliland, Lauren Trescott. It was Achachai as hell up there. The mountains of Ecuador were patronizing us. We bombed it all the down the mountain. Running on ice and crampons requires new techniques.

After thawing out for a few days, we made our last and final climb, Chimborazo (20,564 ft.), the tallest in Ecuador, and the furthest point from the center of the earth. I wasn't sure I had it in me honestly. Despite being conservative on both previous climbs, I wasn't up for another soggy, cold, freezing cumbre. Where was the equatorial sun? In darkness we started, and again it was raining lightly. I wondered if it would get better or worse, but kept pushing up that hill. "Blaaame it on the night" my phone yelled at me, which was in between one of my three layers-thermal undies, soft shells, and gortex rain gear. I pushed up hill to the rythm of the night. It was a full moon, my inner-coyote growled, I was on the hunt for another summit. The stars began to sing to me, the sky cleared, the purple, then orange, then redness of the light beamed before the sun decided to finally show its face. It would be a good day after all. The same three of us made this summit as well. Oh glorious day. I took the additional two hour round trip journey over to the Whymper summit and stood on top of Ecuador. See science discussion below.

I ended my journey to the equator with a run from Metropolitan Park back to the city of Quito in the rain. Nothing like running in the rain. Reconnect with your ancestral past, go for a run, in the mountains. If you ever want a great meal in Quito, check out Zazu! Achachai Chucha....Glad to be back home!

The Science:
The summit of Mount Everest reaches a higher elevation above sea level, but the summit of Chimborazo is widely reported to be the farthest point on the surface from Earth's center. The summit of the Chimborazo is the fixed point on Earth which has the utmost distance from the center – because of the oblate spheroid shape of the planet Earth which is "thicker" around the Equator than measured around the poles. Chimborazo is one degree south of the Equator and the Earth's diameter at the Equator is greater than at the latitude of Everest 29,029 ft. above sea level, nearly 27.6° north, with sea level also elevated. Despite being 8,465 ft. lower in elevation above sea level, it is 3,967 miles from the Earth's center, 7,113 ft. farther than the summit of Everest (3,965.8 mi) from the Earth's center. However, by the criterion of elevation above sea level, Chimborazo is not even the highest peak of the Andes, that's a right earned to Aconcagua (22,841 ft.).

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Nantahala Adventure Run v2.0

In 2007 a few friends set out for an adventure to run the entire Bartram trail in 4 days.  It was cold, painful, wet, hilly, and long.  The challenge shaped my trail running for years to come.  Along the way I noticed that the Bartram trail met up and partially overlapped with the Appalachian Trail twice.  It formed a ring, or a circular path, the Nantahala Ring. A few seasoned trail runners attempted to complete this run earlier this year dubbed the Nantahala Adventure Run, most finished the 58 mile grueling journey, yet I did not.  I was determined to go back and conquer this trail.

The NAR v2.0 was a success despite iffy weather forecasts, conditions were ideal. Early in the run the humidity was challenging and for a moment, in my sleep deprived daze during the middle of the night, I thought was in Borneo (tropical jungle) and not in the Nantahalas of Western North Carolina. My shoes soaked in my own sweat, and moister was everywhere. Lots of downed trees, and the trail was definitely more overgrown than NAR v1.0 earlier this year.

I started my morning at 2am to get an official 6:15 am start at Appletree. I was moving well early on and caught up to Denise & Wayne going up Cheoah and hiked with them to the summit where I was introduced to the yodeling pickle. From there I descended to the NOC and said hello to Sarah a few miles from the summit on her way up to meet the rest. I paid more attention to my foot placement here as I picked up some speed and didn't want to tumble—tuck and role was all I could think of. The summit was cloudy and cool, however the NOC was sunny and hot. It was packed and children were swimming in the river. The line for food was unjustifiably long, so I filled up my bottles with water and ice, dumped my trash, and didn't look back.  The last time I was here, my mind sucked me into the NOC, and I dropped. I remember it was very hot.

I made my ascent up towards Tellico feeling good about my journey thus far. I wasn't happy about my shoe situation, and felt my feet swell a little more than usual and blisters prematurely arrived into the equation. It took me a while to get to Tellico Gap, but was greeted with a cool ginger ale and some pickles, I am a believer. Thank you Denise!

I kept trotting to Burningtown and made my way up to Wayah, now slightly hobbling on my swollen blistered feet. In my mind I debated whether I would see the sunset over the summit of Cheoah bald, or see a sunset over the waters of Lake Nantahala. I reached the summit at 7pm and took a few moments to soak up the views.  It's really an awesome view from up there, and never gets old. I still had an hour or so of ambient light and made my way down the mountain, slowly.

My mind was solid, my conditioning was better than expected, yet my feet were a mess. Swollen and blistered, now from the top of my toes in addition to the bottom of my feet, I was forced to slow down to a hike when normally I would be happily blasting these trails at insane speeds going down the steep sections. I remember running the Bartram years ago, and this section was day 3 (of a 4 day stage run), and literally remember running so fast down Wayah on a very steep section that when a hiker emerged from no where on a bend in the trail. At that given moment I had a split second decision to make, collide into the hiker and both of us tumble down the mountain, or hurtle them completely Hussain Bolt style. I made the latter choice and during my gizmo days remember reading and average of 178 vertical feet of descent per minute on this section, that my friends I can assure you is descending at a pace that is out of control. I was young and dumb. What a massive contrast that was to my descent on the NAR v2.0. I walked and hobbled down to the road in an unbearably slow and painful 3 hours.

I was broken by the time I reached the road. Had I had a way to drop and get picked up I would have. Absent that option however I kept moving along and told myself to get my shizzle together and get er done! The cabins that dottet the lake were alive and I could hear music, and smell the grills of jovial people enjoying their Saturday night. I was rocking my fenix handheld light and knew that people would notice some stranger walking down the road with a flashlight. One person chose to shine their flashlight on to me, and yelled out some obscenities. I was motivated to move faster.

The  first shop on the left a mile down the asphalt I remember had a water source that I used in 2007, but this time I noticed a lock. It was past 10pm, and no one was around, so I moved along with no water at this point.  I saw the sign that said 4.9 miles to Appletree and I knew I could get this loop completed before midnight.  I was almost wrong by a few minutes. Total time on the trail was 17:53.  My splits below based off of memory.

Appletree start @6:15am
Winding Staircase 2 hrs
Cheoha 5 hrs
NOC 7 hrs
Tellico 10 hrs
Burningtown 11.5 hrs
Wayah 12.75 hrs
Nantahala Lake 15.75 hrs
Appletree Finish 17:53

Needless to say, I might not be joining my weekly Muddy Monday run in charlotte today.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Umstead Marathon 2013 - The year of the Duck

The last time I ran the Umstead Marathon was in 2008. After running the hills on this run yesterday, I now remember why I held off on signing up to run this for 5 years. It's deceivingly harder than what you would expect, and has a mixture of single track, and crushed gravel trails.

This year I toed the line with several old friends that I haven't seen in years. A few Charlotte runners made it out to run and support, and all did very well. I started off too fast as usual, and hung on for a 4:28 finish. I kept my output at a healthy intensity, surly to save some juice for next weekends Graveyard!

This is a fantastic trail marathon that will challenge any runner of any shape, and will surly get your quads pulsating...

Many thanks to all the volunteers and organizers that put this event on every year!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Rattle My Heart 50k

6:16:01 (short)


Roses are red
Violets are blue

Was it so smart?
I rattled my heart
A week before Mitchells start?

Run with gentle force
Drop the hammer on the coarse...

It's really not that far
Will I PR?

Meet new faces, and old
Listen to stories unfold.

Such a sensation
To partake in the Pisgah Nation!

Thanks to all that made this event possible, and a big thank you to Suzanne, Adam, and Lindsey (major congrats to you & Tim on the double trouble) for the aid station!


On the following day, made the traditional hike to the summit a week before Mitchell in several inches of snow and bitter cold.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Mill Stone 50K

5:40:27


On Saturday I ran the inaugural Mill Stone 50K. What a great well run event. Went out fast on the first loop and splashed in the knee high creek, only to numb my feet and legs for the first 30 minutes of the freezing start. Second loop reality set in and I slowed my roll, and opted not to run thru the creek. On the third loop it felt like spring and it warmed up a bit, so I opted to splash the feet again.
Great job to the Rock Hill Striders and thank you to all the volunteers!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

En route to the bottom of the earth...

Boarding my delayed flight to Miami, then off to Santiago, which is when I bypass the volcanic eruption of Copahue volcano while heading to Punta Arenas! From there I head to Antarctica in an Ilyshin 76 jet and land on a frozen landing strip. Thence we board a twin otter plane to the Ellensworth mountain range and land at the base of Vinson Massif to start our expedition.

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Miami airports' international terminals make you feel as if you are in South America already! Love this place, and the people...

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Almost got arrested for carrying turkey jerkey into Santiago. Didn't think of it, but they sure did. Fligt over otherwise was amazing.

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Flight to Punta Arenas was scenic. Saw much of Patagonia by air when it wasn't cloudy. Also met a few Wharton MBA students on their way to leadership training on the island of King George in Antarctica.

Tomorrow debrief with ALE, and the day after fly to the bottom, pending good weather of coarse.