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!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Plaza de Mulas 14,000 feet 26 hours

26 hours after landing in Mendoza, AR I reached Plaza de Mulas at 14,000 feet with my new Erik a Puruvian mountain guide. The weather looks bad for the next 4 days, which makes plans unpredictable up here. Amazingly they have internet at high camp for a hefty fee.

Last night was spent at camp Confluencia, and again, amazingly we had steak for the first night out here. Not soo good for the stomach.

Will keep you posted later.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Colberts Ridge Loop 22M

Early Saturday morning, Greg and I got up and parked at the Colbert's Ridge trail head. We started just after the sun came up. The temperature was just at freezing, but the sun shined down, and as we ascended we warmed up quickly.

It had been a while since I was on the Colbert's Ridge trail, so it was refreshing to experience it again. The leaves made the trail look very different from the last time I was on it.

Within an hour and half we ascended to the Black Mountain Crest Trail, 3000 feet higher than our starting point, and hung a left. This area is know as Deep Gap, from their we began to ascend Potato Hill, and continued climbing up to Cattail Peak. After Cattail, we pushed on to climb up on top of Big Tom, then Mt. Craig, and then finally the summit of Mitchell.

It was certainly a challenge, but the cool crisp air along with the clear sunny views made it natural and the views from the summit were amazing.

From the summit we descended down the infamous Commissary Ridge and hung a left onto the Horse Buncome Trail. We continued onto this trail until we reached a section of road, which we took back to the Colbert's Ridge trail head.

Along the Horse Buncome Trail it felt like spring time. The weather was fantastic, and couldn't have asked for better conditions, with the temperatures reaching 60 degrees for the high. Fresh bear dung was evident, which meant that we wernt alone. We spent 10 minutes enjoying the day at Maple Camp Bald as the views are amazing. We then continued to push and descended down the Maple Camp Ridge until we reached the road.

Afterwards we headed into the small town of Marion to meet up with Matt, who has helped me customize a pack I plan to take with me to the highlands of Argentina. Never failing in the hospitality department, Matt offered some of his mothers homemade pumpkin pie, which I couldn't turn down. It was delicious! Thanks for the pack and pie!

Next week I plan to stand on the roof of the America's. Surely a grand adventure, which I plan to document on this blog.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Working in Florida

I’m down in the Sunshine state for work, and hate that I am at sea level, but I am making the best of it.

Thursday I took the elevator down 20 flights and turned left on the beach running towards the sun coming up. I ran for 20 minutes and turned around and chased my shadow back towards the condo for a 4 mile round trip sunrise run.

Friday I started by taking a right, and chased my shadow again on the cold sand. My feet were practically numb in the sand, but thawed them out in the warm salt water. I ran for 30 minutes this time, and then turned around. I was facing the sun, which was bright, and warmed my body a bit. I negative split this 6 mile run by 3 minutes on this Friday the 13th.

Saturday I had Oz drop me off 10 miles West of the condo. I ran back, all facing the sun while running bare foot. It took me 1:38 to cover the distance, and I had tiny blisters on my toes more than likely from rubbing the moist sand the wrong way. I sat in the hot tub after the run, and enjoyed the sunny Florida weather on my drive back to the foothills of the Carolina's while pondering a 100 mile barefoot panhandel run from Pensacola to Panama City. You interested?

Monday, November 09, 2009

ACONCAGUA – 6,962 Meters

At 6,962 meters (22,841 ft), Cerro (Mt.) Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the Americas, and the highest mountain outside Asia. It is located in the Andes mountain range, in the Argentine province of Mendoza. The summit is located about 5 kilometers from San Juan Province and 15 kilometers from the international border with Chile. It lies 112 km (70 miles) Northwest of the city of Mendoza. Aconcagua is the highest peak in both the Western and Southern Hemispheres. It is one of the Seven Summits.
The camp sites on the normal route are listed below (altitudes are approximate).
  • Puente del Inca, 2,740m (8,990ft): A small village on the main road.
  • Confluencia Camp, 3,380m (11,090ft): A camp site a few hours into the national park.
  • Plaza de Mulas, 4,370m (14,340ft): Base camp, claimed to be the second largest in the world.
  • Camp Canadá, 5,050 metres (16,570 ft): A large ledge overlooking Plaza de Mulas.
  • Camp Alaska, 5,200 metres (17,060 ft): Called 'change of slope' in Spanish, a small site as the slope from Plaza de Mulas to Nido de Cóndores lessens. Not commonly used.
  • Nido de Cóndores, 5,570 metres (18,270 ft): A large plateau with beautiful views. There is usually a park ranger camped here.
  • Camp Berlín, 5,940 metres (19,490 ft): The classic high camp, offering reasonable wind protection.
  • Camp Colera, 5,980 metres (19,620 ft): A larger while slightly more exposed camp situated directly at the north ridge near Camp Berlín, with growing popularity.
  • Several sites possible for camping or bivouac, including Piedras Blancas (~6100m) and Independencia (~6350m), exist above Colera, however seldom used and offering little protection.
    Below is some information about fastest known times on the ascent up Aconcagua.

Although Aconcagua is a massive peak, the normal route is non-technical, and makes conditions ideal for a speed ascent. If you don’t pass out from the lack of oxygen, a good trial runner could technically challenge the current records.

Andinist and Peruvian mountain guide Holmes Pantoja Bayona has made the round trip ascent and descent on the big A in 20 hours 35min. The previous record was held by the well known Argentinean mountain guide Willy Benegas of the North Face Team, who did the same trail in a little more than 23 hours.

Jorge Egocheaga's was claiming a much faster round trip time of 14:05:54. However, that has been called into question on the basis of there being no evidence at all for the claim.

A speed attempt on the Big A can be very dangerous as it is very high altitude. Without proper acclimatization a casual trail run up the Big A would not be a good idea.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Asphalt 13.1 - Trail 18 - Ride 17

This weekend included a half marathon asphalt run, a 18 mile trail run, and a 17 mile bike ride!

I ran my personal best half marathon this past Saturday in 1:37:03. I came in 98th place out of 998 runners, running a 7:25 pace for just over 13 miles. Greg, and I tried to keep up with John for the first 3 miles at a 7 minute pace, but realized quickly that wasn’t going to happen for the entire distance and pulled back. I was jamming to my tunes running on a beautiful bright sunny day that was cool to the point my breath was visible. After six miles or so, I dropped off my gloves with Leah who was riding her mountain bike. Although I ran my best time, I felt as if my pace kept slowing, and I was running a poor race, being passed by more than I thought was acceptable. I haven’t run an official half marathon in a while, and don’t plan to run another one anytime soon, so I pushed as hard as I could to the finish. After the run, we all headed up to Einstein Bagel and grabbed a late breakfast.

After the half, we headed over to Virginia. My family and I planned to ride bikes down the VA Creeper trail. I knew this would be mostly downhill, and would challenge me little. So I planned a 18 mile trail run the morning before our ride so that I could level the playing field between my brothers and I.

I arrived at the Caboose in Damascus, VA and put on what cloths I needed and headed out on the trail at 6:40am. The sun was still hiding, but I could make my way down the well groomed crushed gravel trial. I headed South on the AT, and began to climb steeply. After going up a few switchbacks, I could see the sun rise above Damascus. I headed down the AT and crossed into Tennessee. I kept trucking along until I hung a left on the Backbone Trail. This trail descended steeply all the way to Backbone Rock, a sweet rock formation and appears to be a bridge from Hwy 133 South of Damascus. I climbed over the bridge, and then found my way to the road and headed north for a few hundred yards, and turned right on a gated forest service road.

It was here I was happy I had received local trail running feedback. The locals have painted their own orange blaze on this service road which leads up to the Iron Mountain trail. This trail headed uphill and meandered a few times, and never seemed to end. I heard a constant loud roar. At first I thought it might be a helicopter, but then it just got much louder. A sound I had never heard before, then I thought it might be an ATV, so I quickly moved to the right of the trail not wanting to get run over. Seven dirt bikers roared past me on the trail and flew by. This along with the beauty of the day distracted me. The trail finally hit a T, and I knew to turn left on the Iron Mountain Trail. I was on a jeep road, and saw no blazes however. Had I missed a turn? I knew I had to turn left and head North back into Damascus, so I kept going. I finally decided to come to my senses and stop, and consulted the map. I could not tell if I was truly on the Iron Mountain Trail or not. In the distance, I saw a bright orange object hanging from a tree, and I approached. It was a hunter just hanging out on a tree, literally. I asked him what way the Iron Mountain Trail was. My told me to stay on the ridge, and I would find it. Not wanting to get shot at, I quickly moved away and headed towards the ridge. I finally found a trail, and saw a blaze. Unfortunately it was the wrong color, it was blue and not yellow. I knew I had to head north, so I just kept going. I looked around for the tallest ridge, and I truly felt as if I was on it. Finally I reached a sign that said to Damascus as I passed the Ahistadi campsite. The blue blaze eventually turned into the Yellow blaze and I was happy to see the color change! I descended off of Big Butt Mountain and headed back into Virginia and finally made it to a road which I turned left on. I knew this would be the way to town. I have never seen as many vicious dogs chained to school buses and trailers in my life. I was happy to see they were restrained! I kept moving and finally made it back to my car. I made the loop in 3:50. It was a great way to spend the morning.

We then all hoped into a shuttle and drove to Whitetop Mountain, which is where we started the VA Creeper trail. The ride downhill was about as exciting as this sentence!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Woods Mountain 26M - Hwy 80 to Woodlawn and Back

Another impromptu run was set up. I would drive up to the parkway and Hwy 80, park, and all the way to Woodlawn on the MST. I left the house at 7am, it was raining on my way out. The rain came down hard, and I wondered if I would get poured on in the mountains. Once I reached Marion, the rain stopped, and the sun was smiling.

It was 50 degrees when I started, cool, but sunny and beautiful. I threw in some gloves and arm warmers incase the weather turned. I took off at 9:30am exactly. I could feel the cool, crisp leaves crunching as I ran past the purple, red, yellow, orange, and brown. The colors were still amazing.

I made it to the sharp right turn on Woods Mountain in 1:16. I wasn’t in any hurry, and I not trying to blast it, but I was checking my watch to see how I progressed. This sharp right turn is a good midway point for this section. I knew I would be ahead of our scheduled meet up time of 12 noon. So I took a few photos, and videos.

With all the leaves and color, I somehow got off trail, and took a 15 minute detour. This always seems to happen on this mountain. In the lower elevations, the leaves turned mostly to brown. A few pine needles and having to deal with a little mud mixed it up a bit.

I saw Matt, Lilly, and Uwharrie at 12:10, after running for 2:40. I refilled up my bottles, and downed some calories, and turned back around with Matt. On my return, I knew I would be climbing more up hills, and that this would slow me down. I expected to finish in 6 hours, and set that as my goal.

After reaching Woods Mountain again, I threw on my arm warmers and gloves as a cool chill moved in with overcastted clouds. I was moving slower, but still moving. I made it back to my car in 6:03. Net elevation gain on my watch read 6,300 feet. I was hungry and thirsty, but my legs felt good.

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