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!

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.


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


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


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.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

12th Annual ALTAR

Distance: ~30 miles
Trail: Art Loeb on winter solstice
Time: 8:41:04!
Current events: This post was written on Christmas day, and the US govt still appears as if they are falling off the fiscal cliff, the Pope pleas for peace in Syria on Christmas day, and a volcano simmers ready for eruption in middle of Chile in my direct flight path to Antarctica.

The room was pitch black, everyone was silent for a moment, and the glow of a well burnt fireplace crackled in the distance. "The Mayans were right" someone yelled out. Everyone fumbled for their headlamps. The Vance Lodge lost power, certainly due to the stormy winds we were all cautioned about, and heard roaring all the way on my Friday afternoon drive. A strong wind advisory was issued for Friday night until noon Saturday, but the tradition of the ALTAR continues.

I love this run for many reasons: it ends my year, and puts the new running year into perspective, I connect and reconnect with the people of the Pisgah Nation & the Sultonic Tribal Council, enjoy the community we have built over the years, share a meal over baclava, and share a rugged trail on the shortest day of the year. It's a keystone Pisgah Nation run!

That night we heard from Scott & Liz about their amazing 2012 year of running the most hundreds (36), from Adam the father of the Pisgah Nation recapped our year in the making, and Brew Davis highlighted his adventures in Espana and Iceland!

We gathered our shizzel, hoped into a car and ferried over to the start at the river of Davidson. On the drive over a red morning glow illuminated a mountainous background indicating the  clearest skies would be had for our viewing pleasure. Departing a little later than years past, I mobilized my legs at 7:20am.

It was well below freezing, maybe 25 degrees, but I quickly worked up a sweat as I climbed up the Art Loeb trail. Even at lower elevations, I could simultaneously see farther than I have ever before with clear visibility, and hear the rage of the winds blasting. I feared that some of us would fly away on the Black Balsam balds, thus ate three dates and made a prayer that the winds would die down as we climbed high above.

Other than the start, I found myself alone in nature moving forward. My left soleus muscle below my calf started bothering me a few days back and I questioned weather I should even attempt this run. I wasn't going to push myself hard, and wanted to stay healthy, especially for the adventurous to the frozen lands down south. I made sure to pack a headlamp in case I needed to hobble into the darkness.
I ran past many of the miles of trails which I have run many times over in the past, in both directions. This would be my 6th Altar finish. I passed Cedar Rock, filled up a water bottle there, passed the first shelter, and  climbed Pilot Mountain, which never disappoints. At the next shelter I made sure to fill up all my water bottles as it was clear that I would be running in the snow for anything higher above. I feared any of the streams or springs above would be frozen.

I was at the Parkway in 4:47, my average time here is about 5 hours. I climbed above the Parkway wishing I had the same microspikes that helped me summit Mt. Washington only a week ago here. Carefully ascended the icy trail to reach the MST junction in 5:20.

When I finally made it to the balds my prayers were miraculously realized; the winds had died down significantly. I traversed the ridge, soaking up perhaps the clearest and most spectacular views from that vantage point in recent memory. 

The trail appeared to have been flooded and then froze solid where you could have ice skated all the way back to the lodge. I then reached the narrows for another amazing sight on both sides of the ridge and then finally made that left turn to head downhill back to Camp Daniel Boone.
I finished this years run with the most daylight to spare when compared to years past. Much gratitude and many thanks to all the people who put this on, the Kirks, the grand Kirk, and everyone who made this possible! Merry Christmas, Happy holidays, and have an amazing 2013!

Monday, December 10, 2012

PITCHELL 2012 - Amygdala Hijack

Finish Time: 18:24:24
Total Distance: 67 Miles

It was 3:18am and darkness permeated the trail.  My two petzel headlamps and my fenix handheld illuminated the path that I had galloped on all night.  My mind had been tricked, and I was at the Folk Art Center off the Blue Ridge Parkway 34 miles away from the summit of Mt. Pisgah.  The thick white condensation of my breath was even more visible with my triple light beams.  I was happy to be here in six hours and forty minutes.  In past years it too me longer. 

I quickly swallowed two slices of Akropolis pizza and loaded as much food as I could in my one bottle waist strap.  It was cold, but I was soaking wet in sweat, and felt warm.  I knew better this year to take an extra layer along, despite the mind telling me not to do so.  In the 2011 Pitchell, I dropped out at Beetree Gap due to being unprepared for the cold.  So I carried along a bright yellow light down sweater, which worked for me, but will likely not use again under these circumstances.

Just before leaving my car, which doubles as the largest aid station for any runner attempting this monster of a run, I grabbed a cold 9 hour hold triple shot Americano.  I picked it up a few hours before the run.  I guzzled in the caffeine, which jolted my body to keep me awake thus far.  Up until now I was wide awake, running alone since 8:38pm Friday night.

As my previous week winded down, I constantly hit the refresh button on the weather forecast.  I had Pitchell fever.  A night run that goes on throughout the next day from the summit of Mt. Pisgah to Mt. Mitchell has been a keystone run for the Pisgah Nation.  I’ve been running it for seven years, and only once before I had completed it from summit to summit.  That was in 2007, and for the last thirteen miles or so I ran on the parkway, so not a true finish.  This year however, I felt would be a different story.

I made my way to Tim and Lindseys home, where I met her parents and brother.  The whole family was participating one way or another in the Pitchell.  We ate pizza, and made an effort to attain super hydration.  Later Matt, and his parents joined us.  I shuffled thru my aid drops, and organized everything I needed to get this adventure done on my own.  Tim, Matt, and I drove to the Folk Art Center and dropped off my car.  Here I made the mistake of taking all twelve of my aid drops with me in Tim car, not thinking about how the aid drops after the FAC would be dropped.

We made our way to the Hwy 74A South (mile 31) aid drop, Hwy 25 South (mile 26) aid drop, French Broad River Bridge North (mile 26), and dare I say Sleep Gap South (mile 14) aid drop, and just past the Stony Bald Overlook South (mile 6) aid drop.