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 11, 2011

seven 11's

It was exactly 11 seconds past, 11am, on the 11th month we call November in the year 2011, and I was on a mission to run section 11 of the mountains to sea trail which stretches from NC 181 on the Northwestern section of the Linville Gorge to US-221 just North of Marion, NC.

There were 11 of us, and thirty five miles of trail to cover with over eight thousand feet of elevation gain. This is not your typical Friday morning jog. The elevation gain was plenty, steep, and unmissable while climbing Pinnacle. For those of you that have visited the gorge, the incline (and decline) gradient is unforgiving. Leaves, in some areas a foot or more deep blanketed the trail, making those large rocks, and small boulders attack your ankles by surprise. The sunshine was bright, but the breath was visible for most of the day as temperatures never went north of 45 degrees. Exact location at 11:11:11 on Nov. 11, 2011 was climbing up the backside of Shortoff Mountain.

The expansive views of The Chimney's, a few miles before Shortoff, may have been the highlight of the day.  A massive crater in the earth on the east coast is something that should be experienced by any adventurer out there.

Just past the Shortoff spring,  Tim Weed, passes me.  He took the scenic route up the summit of Table Rock and relished the magnificent views of the day while I pushed forward knowing I would need a bit more time to make it back at a reasonable hour.  We both got carried away and ran towards a structure and a parking area.  I knew immediately we had gone off tail, and yelled out to back track.  Tim has the speed of a gazelle, and and a humbleness that is contagious.  Shortly after our back track, I found myself alone descending deep into the gorge, and finally reaching the Linville River, where I saw Isaiah having lunch.  I knew he would catch up tome, so I opted to cross the river alone (thanks for taking the photo)!

The following climb up Pinnacle was a beast.  Isaiah had caught up to me at this point, and we enjoyed a few moments of calorie intake.  Then off he went in the distance, as I speed hiked the next several miles.  It was another few up and down, crossing the tracks, to finally make it back to US 221.  Finished this one in the dark!

The post run dinner at Jalapenos with friends was a great way to end an amazing day.  Thank you Matt and Lilly for putting on this adventure!

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Every year I look forward to this run, which I consider a must do in the Southeast. It’s a pilgrimage that pays homage to the valley called Ashevags which starts at the summit of Mt. Pisgah and ends at the summit of Mt. Mitchell. Many of my long trail runs, and memories of mountains come from this part of Western North Carolina, which make this run truely special.

The 67 mile journey is all on mountains to sea trail, so you just have to follow the white dot. Easy right? Every year I have run this, it seems I go off trail. The midnight start always guarantees a drowsy sleep walking runner who might not have all cognitive and sensory abilities at normal levels. This year I opted to start earlier, at 6:30pm with Brian, Terry, and Dave P. I missed out on the Friday night festivities, and the midnight start, coupled with longer night running time, but was something I considered as an advantage for me. I needed time on my side, and wanted to finish this years Pitchell.

April, Dave’s wife, was gracious enough to give us the ride up to Pisgah. We all held our breath when we went thru any tunnels, and made it to the Pisgah parking lot just after 6pm. Terry and I lead the hike up to Pisgah. Once we reached the summit, we all looked at each other and pointed at Mitchell. Godspeed.

My watch read 6:33pm. We took off. I was planning to pace myself thru the night and give myself the best chance for a Mitchell summit the next day. Running down Pisgah as the sun began to set and filtered thru the trees on a cool crisp fall day gave me positive energy which I knew would last thru the entire night.

Earlier this day I was up early for a business meeting. I had not slept enough, nor did I put enough sleep time in the bank. Sleeping over 7 hours a night for several night prior to these types of coyote runs (all nighters) builds a reserve. I knew my reserves would be low, so bought a few starbucks coffee drinks to drop on the trail and help keep my eyelids from shutting.

I turned my headlamp on, I was carrying two, and my fenix light after a few miles. The fenix light I knew would be a life saver here, as the technical tree covered trails makes for a tricky slow descent without the proper output of lumens. In 2009 and 2010 I went off trail before reaching the French Broad river, ultimately leading to a DNF at the FOLK Art Center, this year I was determined to stay on trail.

My pace was slow and steady downhill, just what I wanted. I needed to leave some reserve for the last half of this run. I felt stronger than anticipated and mentally my momentum was building. I reached the FAC at 2:18am, in 7:15 from the summit of Pisgah. This in no way is a fast time, but what I was looking for. I was on target, and feeling good. I was cold however, and needed to add more layers for the next part of this journey. I made rookie mistakes here, I fumbled thru gear and food. I left my car discouraged as I could not find my arm warmers, which I considered to be a critical piece of gear considering conditions. I walked past the FOC and ran back to my car to pillage thru my stuff again, still could not find them. I had wasted more than 40 minutes here looking for gear, changing cloths, hydrating and eating.

Onward I told myself. I did not want to stall here again for a third year. I was tired and and sleepy, and my mindset was easily convinced of how ridiculous this adventure really was. I knew Greg Paige would be around on the parkway this morning, and felt comfortable to push on. My pace slowed as I slept walked parts of the trail when my body would refuse to wake up, all while speed hiking. I somehow went off trail here and ended up at someone’s home or cabin. I realized this when I heard loud barking and saw lights on. I turned around and within 10 minutes found the white dot. When I found the trail, in my state of somniacness I was not sure which was to go as the trail was in the middle of a bend. I turned left which at the time seemed to be the best choice. I later learned of my mistake when I saw the road I crossed just passed the FOC. I cursed gently, and turned around again and found my way back to where I originally made my mistake. More than one hour was lost here. I know had I been fully awake, this would not have happened. I have been on this trail many times before.

I kept pushing onward. I pushed past Cravens Gap, and still in a sleep walk state, saw the gallons of water on the trail. Refilled, and kept hiking. I was out of it, and cold. In the darkness and cold, all while in the sleep deprived state I knew finishing this monster would be hard. Just before I reached Bull Gap as I was crossing a road, I saw an suv with lights on. It was 5 or so in the morning, still dark, who would be out here? I walked over and saw Greg roll down the window with a big smile. I knew getting in the car would be a bad idea, but my body just opened the door and I sat in and blasted the heat. I ate a little, caught up on life with Greg for a few minutes and then passed out. It was well over an hour and half later that I woke up…”whhhaaaaat?” I thought to myself.

I thanked Greg, and mustered up the energy to get out of the car in 41 degree temps. As I got back on the trail to my surprise I see MadA crossing the road. He was a bit out of it. We hiked together, and told him a few jokes hoping this would bring up his spirits. I was having a hard time keeping up with him even after resting for almost two hours. I was cold immediately, and never really was able to get my core to warm up properly. As the grade got steeper up Lane Pinnacle, MadA disappeared in the distance. Moments later Uwharrie pulled up besides me. I have run many miles with Uwharrie and it was good to know some of the other fellas were on my tail, perhaps I would move faster with them. The Grand Kirk and Brian K rolled in and we chatted for 4.7 milliseconds. I reached the summit of Lane Pinnacle, which is incredible this early in the morning. The sunshine made the body of water visible from here glisten like the glaciers of the Central Alaskan Range did. I kept moving. Peircy, and Andrew rolled up behind me and passed. I knew I was toast, and would drop out at the next possible chance.

I crawled into the car at Bee Tree Gap, 51 miles away from the summit of Mt. Pisgah and got a ride back to my car. All in all a great adventure, and one day will have to wrap my mind around this one and make it to the summit of Mitchell.

A huge thanks to Greg for helping out here, to April who gave us the ride, Adam who uncountably works hard to pull all the strings together to make this run happen, and to all the volunteers pre and post run whom without this adventure would be exponentially more difficult.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Roan Foliage Marathon

An impromptu adventure came a knockin on my door late Saturday night.  I knew to keep my low mileage on my legs if I wanted a crack at the Pitchell this year, but Im the kinda guy that lives in the moment.

The Carvers Gap parking lot welcomed us at 3am, and we made the asphalt our grounds for a few hours of sleep.  Paul and I were on the trail by 8am to witness the most amazing sunrise on Roan I have seen to date.  Been running there for 6 or so years now, and the weather here is the tricky factor.  The wind was blowing, but temperatures could not have been milder.  With the sun, it was perfect.  The foliage was perfect at this elevation.

I didn't push it, and round tripped the marathon distance in 7:45.  Resting the legs now for Pitchell, which I will be lucky to finish if I can get my head wrapped around it.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Grandfather Mtn. Fire and Ice.

This Sunday a group of new and old friends decided to make the trek up to Grandfather on the profile trail. Not a very challenging hike, but the ladders, and bouldering make this a Disney World for lovers of the trail. Adding to the pizzaz was the wind, ice, and snow only to be contrasted by the holly bush red berries. Fire and Ice.

Traversing up and down the boulders that were covered in ice made for tricky traction, especially with numb fingers covered in liner gloves. But there is something to be said about that cool, crisp winter air that breathes life into the soul.

Post hike, we b-lined it to the Coyote Kitchen. A new Boone favorite for me!  Delicioso!!!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Real Black Mountain Marathon

 "Long after Pangaea divided, periodic episodes of folding and uplift continued to push ancient rock formations to the surface. About 65 million years ago one such geologic event exposed a jagged mass of gneiss and schist that had been buried since the earliest phases of continental movement. Between 39°5’ and 39°7’ north latitude (just northeast of the modern city of Asheville), some of the new mountains formed a fifteen-mile-long semicircle that vaguely resembled a fishhook. The odd formation did not conform to the general southwest-northeast sweep of the Appalachians. Instead, the peaks emerged as a cross range, extending at a sharp angle north and slightly west from the Blue Ridge.

"For tens of millions of years, while nearby mountains on the Appalachian Plateau weathered into rounded hills, the compressed, superhardened rocks in this cross range proved highly resistant to wind and erosion. By the time humans got around to charting the region, it still contained eighteen peaks over 6,300 feet in elevation. Six of those were (and are) among the ten tallest mountains in the Appalachian chain. Just slightly south of the cross range’s midpoint, one especially durable chunk of mica gneiss stood as the highest spot of ground east of the Mississippi River. Because the peaks were covered with thick, dark forests, early white settlers called them the Black Mountains, or simply, the Blacks."

Excerpt from: Mount Mitchell and the Black Mountains: An Environmental History of the Highest Peaks in Eastern America by Timothy Silver

This weekend, a few brave soles made the trek from Bowlens Creek to Cane River Gap, and 27 mile adventure on the fishhook crest called the Black Mountain Crest. An adventure worth documenting!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Denali 27 days and 27 nights

I reached the summit on 7.7.2011 at 5:35pm. Mission accomplished. Thats the short write up. The long write up will take some time.....mean time, see photos below.

Day 1 – Base Camp – 7,200 feet – 6.15.2011:
Day 2 – Base Camp – 7,200 feet – 6.16.2011: 
Day 3 – half Camp – 7,100 feet – 6.17.2011: 
Day 4 – Camp 1 – 7,800 feet – 6.18.2011: 
Day 5 – Camp 1 – 7,800 feet – 6.19.2011: 
Day 6 – Camp 1.5 – 9,500 feet – 6.20.2011: 
Day 7 – Camp 1.5 – 9,500 feet – 6.21.2011:
Day 8 – Camp 2 – 11,200 feet – 6.22.2011: 
Day 9 – Camp 2 – 11,200 feet – 6.23.2011: 
Day 10 – Camp 2 – 11,200 feet – 6.24.2011: 
Day 11 – Windy Corner – 13,000 feet – 6.25.2011:
Day 12 – Camp 3 – 14,200 feet – 6.26.2011:
Day 13 – Camp 3 – 14,200 feet – 6.27.2011: 
Day 14 – Camp 3 – 14,200 feet – 6.28.2011: 
Day 15 – Camp 4 – 17,200 feet – 6.29.2011:
Day 16 – Camp 4 – 17,200 feet – 6.30.2011:
Day 17 – Camp 4 – 17,200 feet – 7.1.2011:
Day 18 – Camp 4 – 17,200 feet – 7.2.2011:
Day 19 – Camp 3 – 14,200 feet – 7.3.2011:
Day 20 – Camp 3 – 14,200 feet – 7.4.2011:
Day 21 – Camp 4 – 17,200 feet – 7.5.2011:
Day 22 – Camp 4 – 17,200 feet – 7.6.2011:
Day 23 – Summit – 20,320 feet – 7.7.2011:
Day 24 – Camp 3 – 14,200 feet – 7.8.2011:
Day 25 – Camp 1 –7,800 feet – 7.9.2011:
Day 26 – Camp 1 – 7,800 feet – 7.10.2011:
Day 27 – Upper Airstrip – 7,400 feet – 7.11.2011: