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!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Devils Garden on the MTS - 18 miles

I went out with my rock climbing buddies to Stone mountain on a Sunday afternoon. After running 6 miles on the road (4 because I was headed in the wrong direction) I hit the Mountains to Sea Trail (MTS) to the parkway and back. The climb up to Devils Garden on the Blue Ridge Parkway was steep, about 6 miles each way.

It was hot and I guzzled down the 3 liters I was carrying prematurely, leaving me dry for the last 40 minutes of my trek. I laid in the creek for 10 minutes in the 80+ degree heat. It felt great.

Total ascent for the day was 3600 feet. 12 miles on MTS, 6 miles on road, 18 miles total. Its great to be outdoors!

Assault on Pisgah 27 Mile Loop

The morning started with a 4:40am alarm. I woke up, took a shower, and packed my backpack with hydration and some calories. I was at Adams by 8:00am and we were on the trail by 9:00am. I started with just a hand held bottle because Carol, Andrews wife, volunteered to drive up to the Mt. Pisgah parking lot. I would be able to move a little faster with the lighter load. The first few miles went by quick with several stream crossings. I was wearing a new pair of the Brooks Cascadias, and this was a great way to break them in.

A mile after we started running, a bee stung me. It was very painful at first, but the pain subsided during the day, but never wore off completely. At first I was avoiding some of the small puddles and muddy sections on the trail, I had new shoes on! Adam told me not to worry, that they would be surly wet as we had half a dozen streams to cross, some waist deep. Then I got into the splish splash action, and crossed foot numbing streams. We then began to ascend little Pisgah and took a left on the parkway. By this time I could really feel the heat, and I popped in an electrolyte tablet. I was drenched in sweat as it was humid as all get out. Despite this, the humidity in this area is usually higher. We made it to the summit of Mt. Pisgah in just over 2 hours and snapped a few photos. We then descended and looped our way back to the start.

On our descent we saw a black snake, which appered ready to snap by the time I ran by it. I stopped and pulled out my camera and took a photo of it. This must be the year of the snakes!

After the last stream crossing we all decided to jump into a water hole for a few minutes. This water was extremely cold, and much colder than I thought. I kept my legs submerged in the water, and my hands in the air. When I put my hands in the water I cant feel them anymore! It felt great. I pushed to the finish.

From there we all returned to Adams. I caught and hour or so of rest which was needed, and then headed off to the Camp Rockmont Relay and 24/12 hour solo. I was tempted to run this earlier, but was glad I chose to run up Pisgah and back. Later we enjoyed dinner at Caminos in Black mountain and I had some drip at the dripolator before heading back to Charlotte for the night.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

BMT Fastpack – bailed at 54 miles

The five of us drove down to Springer Mountain, GA. Kevin Lane, Matt Kirk, Carl Laniak, Charlie Roberts and I had planned to run/hike the entire length of the Benton MacKaye Trail. We roundavoued with Josh Wiesner who helped us tremendously with logistics on the ground and on the website (http://runthebmt.wikispaces.com/). He also took photos and video of the first day.

We made it to the summit of Springer just after 10pm on Thursday May 21, 2009. Everyone laid out their sleeping gear and passed out. We got up just after 6am and a few people were starring at my sleeping bag which was an item of luxury for most.

We all took off at 8am and headed North. All of us had planned the entire week off from our lives to tackle this monstrous challenge. Yesterday someone mentioned that there was 70,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain on the BMT. That was news to me, but I was willing to give it a shot. Me and Charlie ran together for the first 20 miles or so. The plan was to average 3 mph, how hard is that right? It’s a lot harder than you think over several days.

At mile 21.4 we both reached a campsite with a side trail for water. Both me and Charlie needed water, I had been without it for almost two miles. The side trail descended steeply and Charlie decided to move on and I went down for some hydration. The water source wasn’t the best, and it was a tiny trickle that was hard to retrieve, but I managed to get some water and filled up what I could only to hike back up the steep trail I just descended.

At mile 25, Payne Gap, I passed Charlie as he would search for water. We later met again near mile 30 where I was refilling my bottle for water at a spring. Charlie never found water at Payne Gap and was hiking dehydrated. He filled up on water and I kept moving along. We both managed to make it to Aska Road at the same time because I made a wrong turn which cost me 20 minutes or so. This was the first check point and it was 7:45pm. I was happy to see a deli ahead which both Charlie and I stepped into. The owner was in a hurry and had already closed down shop, but managed to make me a turkey sandwich. It was there I barrowed his phone to call in (listen to audio). Charlie had planned to hike the entire trail unsupported, so he kept moving along. I stayed behind and gobbled up my turkey, a coke, and an ice cream sandwich.

From there I marched on the asphalt for over 3 miles. The asphalt did a number on my feet and I decided to take a 10 minute break at mile 40 at the Fall Branch Falls side trail. It was dark at this point but the weather was still warm. I took off my shoes and dipped my feet in the cold stream until they were numb. I dried them off, applied some hydropel and kept trucking along.

I had not seen Carl at all and I was wondering how he was doing. Matt, Kevin, and Charlie were all ahead of me so the night hiking began. I was moving slowly, but made my way up to Scroggin Knob which is where I saw Kevin laying on the side of the trail getting some rest. We exchanged hellos and I kept going. Just before Laurel Creek I saw Charlie preparing himself to sleep in his hammock. Just passed the creek I lied down, turned off my headlamp, and rested for half an hour or so. The bugs bothered me, so I got up, filled up my water bottles and thought I could continue for a few more hours or so. After 100 meters I changed my mind and pulled up my bivy and went to sleep, it was 1:30am. A few hours later Charlie rolled by. I decided to stay sleeping until the sun came up. Both Kevin and I were on the trail around the same time and we hiked up to the only shelter the BMT has at mile 50. Kevin was moving a little faster so I stopped to get water and we parted ways.

The trail was amazing. The weather was humid and slightly warmer than I thought it would be. Last night when I slept in the bivy I used my sleeping bag as a pillow as I didn’t need it. Many thoughts ran thru my head, it was an emotional roller coaster. Mentally I began to suffer after mile 50. I had already agreed with myself that I would drop out at mile 108 (webb brothers) and that I needed to hang in there until then. My feet were in pain, but still had some mileage in them. This is where the road march occurred again. For two miles I hiked slowly uphill to Woods trail. Just before reaching Woods trail I sat down on the gravel road, took off my shoes and soaked my poor feet in the cold stream until they were numb. I taped them up, applied hyrdopel, and kept moving uphill to Woods trail.

This is where I met Charlie again. I thought he lost his way, but this wasn’t the case. He explained that he had been sitting there for an hour contemplating dropping. I wasn’t alone! I told Charlie I was in the same boat, and that I wanted out. So we decided to have a hot meal on the gravel road on someone’s driveway and after we ate lunch we would decide. We both had lasagna which tasted delicious.

We hitchhiked a ride to Blue Ridge from a local. From there we made a few phone calls, and eventually my brother Hazem came to the rescue. He is a trooper and a life saver. We retrieved the car from Davenport and made it back to bed in Charlotte by 2am.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Linwood to Boulder 21 Miles - Crowders Mtn.

This past Saturday was my last long run before the BMT at Crowders Mountain. Me and old trail bud Greg Paige ran from Linwood access to the new Boulder ranger station, which has now been open for 3 weeks. It rained on and off, but was very humid. I also tested out my new inov8 22 liter bag which worked out well. My round trip time was just over 5 hours with a total elevation gain of 4,000 feet.

Friday, May 15, 2009


With 6 days left, the start of a grand adventure looms in the horizon. The Benton MacKay Trail stretches 288 miles from Springer Mountain, GA to Davenport gap on the TN/NC boarder. I plan to cross this trail on foot in a week’s time.

My goal will be to move constantly, and try to cover 40 miles a day which will put me at the finish in 7 days. To track my progress, you can visit Run the BMT home page.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Black Mountain Crest Trail 34M

Earlier this week my legs were craving some trails. After traveling to Africa I missed how the NC dirt felt under my feet. I snuck out after work Wed and headed for Crowders and put in a solid 13 miles up rocky top and pinnacle in the rain. The next day Matt contacted me about a possible Black Mountain Crest Trail (BMCT) traverse for Sat. It is these kind of impromptu adventures that usually are the best. Besides, what better way to ease into the Benton MacKaye trail than to get in a solid speed hike on the crest.

I left the home at 5:45am and made the drive up to Marion to pick up Matt. The moon was full, bright, and seemed larger than normal. Both of us were on the trail at 8:30am and began the ascent up Mt. Mitchell from the Black Mountain Campgrounds. I was carrying my pack full with one days worth of food and sleeping gear. On our ascent up the Black Mountain, within the first 15 minutes, Matt’s dog Uwharrie noticed a black snake. The snake was coiled up and ready to snap, so I didn’t get too close but managed a quick photo.

I made it to the summit in 1:54 which is faster than expected. The views from the summit were amazing considering the forecast had called for 50% scattered thunderstorms. While crossing the parking lot coming down from the summit we both noticed the set up for the new viewing tower ceremony.

We then took off on the BMCT and headed towards Mt. Craig, Big Tom, Balsam Cone, Cattail Peak, descended down Potatoe Hill, ran thru Deep Gap and passed the Colberts Ridge trail, hiked up across Deer Mountain, summated Winter Star, went over a few unnamed peaks, Gibbs Mountain, Horse Rock, hung a left around Celo knob and ran down to Bowlens Creek. I could defiantly feel a little tingle in my legs from Wednesdays run up Crowders. On the run down to Bowlens Creek Matt found some ramps (onion like vegetation) and we chewed on them. Be careful; do not attempt this while eating cliff blocks, bad combination. 17 miles from the start of our day I was at Bowlens Creek in 5:49, we were moving well. They weather up until Celo knob was fantastic, then the rain and thunder rolled in on our descent to Bowlens Creek.

The climb back up to Celo wasn’t easy. I was happy to be back up on the ridge, this would be the last point I see Matt until camp. On the return from Winter Star the trail disappeared! I ended up hiking up to the summit which is only 70 meters from the trail and then found my way. Then the climb up Cattail came. My legs were screaming at me and I slowed my roll and made it to the top of Cattail in a cumulative time of 10 hours. The wind had been blowing at speeds of 40-50 mph and the rain was on and off.

I followed Matt’s lead and took the Big Tom trail down and off the ridge where the weather was much calmer. I hung a right on the Buncombe Horse trail which latched up to the MTS trail 3 miles later and hiked down Mitchell back to the campgrounds.

Overall elevation gain based on our estimates is 11,000 feet. The distance was 34 miles round trip and this one took me 12:50 to complete. I ended up head-lamping the last 3 miles into the campgrounds. Later I tested out my Benton MacKaye set up and I determined I still need to tweak it a bit. Happy trails!

I consumed just under 3,000 calories for the day, which is listed below:
  • Pizzeria Combo’s - 910 Calories (recommended by David Horton)
  • Snickers bar - 280 Calories
  • Parrbarr (made in Boone) - 325 Calories
  • Doritos (Buffalo & Ranch) - 280 Calories
  • Ginger Chews (8 pieces) 160 Calories
  • Cliff Blocks (3 packs) 600 Calories
  • Moosilauke Goulash (TrailFoods) - 410 Calories (very tasty!)

    Check out the video of clouds moving in on the crest!