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!

Monday, April 30, 2012

SCAR part duex

SCAR from Fontana to Davenport
Start time: 7:28pm 4.27.12
Finish time: 8:21pm 4.28.12
Total time: 24:53:53
Difficulty: Hard as hell
Elevation Gain: 18,000+
Mileage: 73 Miles

I was dropped of at Davenport Gap on the AT at the Northeastern boundary of the park.  There was daylight left in the day, and I made it about 5 miles before it became pitch black.  The lights of Gatlinburg illuminated the sky. I once again found myself staring at the moon and thinking about the word lunacy while speed-hiking the AT.  I was focused, and wanted to finish the distance of the SCAR, the smokies challenge adventure run in the opposite direction of my first completion of it in 2009.  I passed all the shelters feeling great, and made my way up to Newfound Gap.

As I approached Icewaters Springs Shelter a few miles before the road, I stumbled in a sleepwalking shuffle when my senses alarmed me and I immediately became hyper alert.  I stopped in my tracks when I saw a large animal cross the trail 70 feet from my position, while simultaneously heard a snort.  I wanted to pinch myself to wake up, but I was awake, and my body was sensing danger.  I began to back up when I heard a growl to my rear.  I feared to shine a light at any animal ahead of my or behind me at this 4th hour of the night, so I moved forward on the trail in a fast walk.  As I passed, I saw fresh bear tracks in the mud, they were unmistakable.  My heart pounded, and I kept moving forward hoping that nothing would follow me, and nothing did.  It was 5:15am when I crossed into Newfound Gap.

I pushed on uphill towards Clingmans Dome.  This may have been the hardest part for me, as I was still in a sleeping stooper and was thoroughly exhausted.  I dreamt of my drop bag which was dropped off for me at Clingmans Dome at 5:30am.  It would take me just under 3 hours to reach Clingmans, depleated, hungrey, and in search of more salt I searched for my drop bag.  High and low, looked to the right, and left.  It was intentionally purple, a Phoenician color of choice, and labeled, but alas, no bag in sight. I had a key to a car that was parked at the parking lot half a mile away.  I thought about walking away from this adventure and calling it a day with 38 miles under my belt.  Whence I got to the car, I ate turkey and cheese, and grabbed an entire chips bag.  I made the call to push thru, so I was off again.

I ran downhill and made my way up and down the ridge, past Silers Bald, and from shelter to shelter passing dozens of thru hikers, the likely culprits of my disappearing drop bag. I dreaded Thunderhead Mountain, and sure enough it was challenging to the point of a slow hike/shuffle.  I pushed on, and made my way to Fontana Damn as it was getting dark finishing at 8:21pm in just under 25 hours.  I was especially happy to have put down another SCAR in the opposite direction only 2 weeks after the Grand Canyon double crossing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Double Crossing in Double Shift

Nine of us made the journey to the land of Abu al-Qurq, more commonly known today as Albuquerque, NM.  It was madA's "birthday" and all of us packed into two cars and drove to Flagstaff for some calories and made it to Mathers Campground before midnight for a freezing temp all out darkness tent setup.

The next morning I fumbled thru my stuff and gathered what I needed to cross the Grand Canyon and back.  I carried food, water, salt, and my camera.  I plan to make a video of my journey whence time allows me to do so.  My mind recently has been occupied by the ridiculousness happening in Syria.  I figured I would try to clear my mind a bit and double cross the canyon.

photo by fenix: eying up the beast
We started at 6:45am, the early group was Fenix, Doug, Dennis, Beth, and I.  We started our journey at the South Kiabob Trail (7,200 feet) and it was cold.  I wore a cycling hat over my billed hat to keep the head toasty.  All of us were as happy as could be, its that sensation when you see something as vast and naturally beautiful as the Grand Canyon.  Some of us had crossed it in the past, and some were seeing it for the first time ever.  What an experience.

We were down to the Colorado river in less than 2 hours and met up with the rest of the yahoos around this time.  Action Jackson, Junkis, madA, and Chilli Cheetah.  These guys are always in a hurry, so I let them pass me up while I shuffled at my own pace and took in the views of the Canyon.  I passed Ribbon Falls, knowing fully well that I would regret it as I did in 2006 when I passed it up.  Had it been a little warmer, it would have been unbearable down there, and I would have convinced myself to splash around in the falls.  But alas, the cool weather made me reason to not get into the water, and I bypassed the falls all together.  It was here that I felt my stomach begin to churn.  Normally I would ignore this and keep running and let my stomach work itself out.  I knew I could think of 20 reasons for not feeling good as my strength of running and conditioning has deteriorated a bit, but I ignored my mind and focused on climbing up to 8,200 to the North Rim.  After passing Cottonwood I pushed on uphill and ran out of water a few hours up.  I wasn't expecting that, because I knew that there was no water up on the North Rim.  I began to eat snow, and put more snow in my running bottles to try and generate some hydration.  Running out of water or getting lost are likely to best way to perish out here.  So I tried to get my mind to focus and ignore the rational arguments being presented to me in my head.  I set a hard cutoff time of 1pm to summit the North Rim.

Dennis, Doug, and Beth passed me about this point, and they reached the North Rim 5 or so minutes before I did.  I was there by 1:05pm, and depleted.  Not really knowing how I would go back and re-trace my path to Phantom Ranch, and back up the longer less steep Bright Angle trail was something I wasn't going to worry about just yet.  I managed a photo up there, and descended down with Beth, Doug, and Dennis.  Fenix and the fast crew were now hours ahead.

Struggling to run even downhill at times, I tried to keep up with the group, but knew I would evenly run my own pace and get this done.  Again, I crossed Cottonwood Camp and let the group go as I hiked much of this section.

photo by beth: awesome photo!

I made it to Phantom Ranch just before 5pm, and I looked at the bright sun angling low in the horizon.  Phantom Ranch is on the North side of the Colorado River and sits at 2,460 feet.  I still had another 9.3 miles to go and 4,300 feet of climbing to get to the South Rim (6,800 feet).  I knew I would be putting in a double shift on this run, and just wanted to make it out before 10pm at this point.  5 hours to the top is a slow shuffle hiking pace.  The sun-setting made for a beautiful journey up to Indian Gardens which is where it got dark.  The rest of the hike was pitch black on very steep sharp drop off switchback trails.  I just didn't want to sleep walk off the side of one of those, so I kept pinching myself until I reunited with the team at the restaurant on the South Rim.  Total time was 15:09 mines.  Amazing adventures, amazing view, with amazing friends.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Underwater Adventures in the Gulf Coast

So it was my first attempt at scuba diving ever, and it took place in the waters of Panama City Beach, FL.  Of course I had to run a few miles just to calm myself down, this happens anytime I am on a trip anywhere, so business as usual.  My brother Ozmin has been hounding me for years to join him on his adventures underwater, and so I heeded to his call. Scuba stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus simply because scuba diving involves using a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (an air tank and 2 stage regulator system) to allow you to breathe air underwater.

I had to go thru what I anticipated being a dull class of learning what I initially thought was as simple as oxygen tanks allowing you to breath under water. My mind wandered until my attention perked when we began discussing atmospheric pressure, and how for every 10 meters of water submersion, your body will experience an additional strain of another atmospheric pressure.  So when under water by 10 meters you have 2 units of atmospheric pressure on your body, most noticeable in your ears and sinus areas, but also in your lungs.  All of which have air in them.  I quickly related the opposite of this to mountaineering, and how thin air acts on the body.  The mix of knowledge enriched the class for me.  The instructor, Todd, was very well informed on scuba diving.  I also checked off on the Nitrox class, which contrary to my initial superficial understanding is more oxygen in the tank, not more nitrogen, the name can be misleading.

This skill set should help me in my adventures to Malaysia this summer when exploring the waters of the Island of Borneo.  Now that I have decompressed from all that pressure, I plan to head off to the Grand Canyon for some running in the snow on the South Rim, down to the Colorado River, and back up to the North Rim snow, only to descend back to the Colorado at Phantom Ranch, send off a few post cards, and then back up to the South Rim for a double crossing attempt.