Winter Camping (taking misery to new heights)

If you’ve ever wanted to do extensive research on hypothermia and frostbite, not to mention crunching the numbers on temperatures, the gear you’re bringing, and the length of exposure, you should probably go winter camping.

If you’ve ever wanted to see icicles grow off of your dog’s coat, you should go winter camping.

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If you’ve ever wanted to restrict your meals to 4 minutes or less because standing still or sitting for longer will freeze you to death, you should go winter camping.

If you’re curious about game trails and very clear large animal prints, or if you’d like to know how easy it is to wake a bear up out of torpor (because their hibernation is SO LIGHT it’s not actually considered hibernation by most scientists), you should go winter camping.

I’m not going to mention going to the bathroom. Or the large frozen blood chunks in the snow. Okay, maybe we’ll talk about one of those. What I’m really not going to talk about is the LYNX tracks.

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So I told you, internet, that I had been fantasizing a lot about Nolan’s 14 and I briefly considered what it might be like to attempt a winter FKT, which as far as I know hasn’t been done. I also had high hopes for several day backcountry snowboarding trips this winter. Mark had some vacation time coming up and I was high off of the very exciting Capitol trip, and I wildly suggested a 3-day foray into winter camping to test the waters. And by waters, I mean several feet of frozen water.

Day one: We didn't hate our lives or the universe yet here

Day one: We didn’t hate our lives or the universe yet here

The day before I managed to use my excellent new knot tying skills and several feet of paracord to attach not one, but TWO sleeping bags to my pack. A nice 15 degree bag and an outrageously heavy outer bag made of flannel, some kind of vinyl or something, and probably filled with lead that I lovingly named BIG MAMA and cursed about 90 times during the trip, except while we were sleeping of course because Big Mama stood between me and death. Packed full of food and in every piece of winter gear I own, we drove 6ish miles west of Aspen on one of many “creek” roads where we parked and headed out into the wild.

And this is what my "pack" looked like.  By the end of the trip, I very strongly considered dumping most of my gear.  Upon arrival to the truck at the end, I dropped everything, laid down on top of it, and cried harder than I have in a very long time.

And this is what my “pack” looked like. By the end of the trip, I very strongly considered dumping most of my gear. Upon arrival to the truck at the end, I dropped everything, laid down on top of it, and cried harder than I have in a very long time.

Lu on her way in, just after we arrived

Lu on her way in, just after we arrived

So there were some foot tracks in just a little ways, the mystery of that is why would you bother to get there and start hiking in only for about 400 feet…but to each his own. What was worse was amongst these tracks was not just a little, but an incredible amount of frozen blood underneath a foot or so of snow. We speculated a bit but not that much…there wasn’t really an answer that’s not terribly disturbing I think.

Lu breaks trail

Lu breaks trail

Hypothermia. The body must maintain 97.7-99.5 degrees Fahrenheit. As the limbs decrease in temperature, heat from the core goes outward to replenish and if the core can’t keep it up from there things start going downhill. There are four stages:

Stage 1: awake and shivering 90-95 degrees
Stage 2: drowsy and not shivering 82-90 degrees
Stage 3: unconscious, not shivering 68-82 degrees
Stage 4: no vital signs less than 68 degrees

1500 people die in the US every year of hypothermia. Then, there’s the other cold related problems, frostbite and frostnip. I don’t really even want to talk about Chillblains. You know a little girl in Sweden was revived after a body temperature of 54 degrees!? Did you see that movie about the mountaineer ice climbers that made the first ascent of some giant mountain in Peru or somewhere and there was an accident and anyway they were out there for a couple days and their skin was made up with all sorts of creepy sores? I’m thinking they were supposed to be Chillblains now that I know about them, and that’s all I have to say about Chillblains.

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I had a pretty interesting moment while climbing through extensive brush in order to fill up Nalgenes from the river (and btw, did you know that backcountry mountain water in the winter is THE MOST refreshing water that exists in the world? true story, it tastes nothing like the bottled water that is claimed to come from mountain springs either) because I realized that if *I* were a bear, I would most definitely hibernate in very thick brush by the river and since bears don’t officially hibernate they can be woken up at the drop of a hat (or by the brush breaking over them). I’m unsure how they can just pop up and attack you, since their body temperature drops to 5 degrees fahrenheit and their heart rate to 8-12 beats per minute. But what’s impressive is that mama bears go under pregnant and pop out cubs during. Also, by some miracle of supposed science their muscles don’t atrophy.

Getting water- a wonderful high point, especially since I wasn't mauled by 5 degree bears

Getting water- a wonderful high point, especially since I wasn’t mauled by 5 degree bears

I’m not really sure what else to say about the fateful trip. You don’t sleep, then after hours of not sleeping you get suddenly warm enough to sleep for 30 minutes and you wake up freezing again. The forecasted high temperature does not apply to the mountains, even if it’s forecasted for the mountains. Even worse, there’s hardly any sun (it’s obscured by MOUNTAINS). Baked beans that were boiling are amazingly cold in less than three minutes. We still don’t know if it’s better or much worse to clear the snow below the tent (don’t worry, before winter’s out I will be able to build a snow cave and I’ll tell you about it). You can’t put up a tent in your giant snow mittens so you have to do it with bare hands and they FREEZE, so bring a second pair of less-warm-but-more-workable gloves. I thought I was a bigger badass for some reason, but the backcountry reminded me what hardcore means. What is miserable suddenly becomes less miserable once you admit you’re miserable.

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Oh- and snow covered mountains and icy rivers are gorgeous and epic.

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Mt Lindsey (will I EVER finish the 28?)

Decisions made in the mountains are so different than in the real world. There’s also something to be said from beginning any endeavor with a “it’s in the bag” mentality.

from the meadow just after the TH

from the meadow just after the TH

After the Capitol attempt, I felt really good about the 28…basically like that chapter was almost closed, and it was just a matter of finalizing it. I knew I wouldn’t head back to the Elks again until I do Av training and buy an ice axe, so I estimated that the official 28th would be Mt. Lindsey. I put it off a couple weeks so that I could go with Mark, and celebrate proper. The day before, we were texting things like “finally finishing the 28th!” “28 is in the bag!” the weather was forecasted to be clear, sunny, high of 42, 10mph winds. Not bad, not bad at all. The round trip was 8.25, all class 2, and aside from some snow and ice it was in pretty good condition.

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We even didn’t plan to leave until 6:30a because we weren’t worried about getting an early start. And we went to Slohi, where the people are very sweet but it takes a very long time for them to make your drinks (do they realize how funny that is?) It was a four hour drive from Denver, there’s a long network of forest service access roads that will be totally impassible come winter. We started off at the TH at like 11am. The hike in was nice. We got mildly lost when the snow blocked a twist in the trail, but we found it again. Arriving at the saddle, the wind picked up. The route seemed obvious, we took a dip down from the ridge on the snowy side and it was a little tricky with the ice but definitely okay. When we got to the point where we could see the gully we’d be ascending, it was very icy and long. We chose to ascend early, climbing the rocks in a rockier, less snowy part and heading to the ridge. I knew there was a ridge route so I thought we’d be able to summit from the ridge. I was route finding.

from the saddle

from the saddle

On the ridge, things were definitely a little dicey. Lu was okay, but I was getting a little worried about her. The wind was picking up quickly, making the climbing feel unsteady. I saw what was ahead and stopped suddenly. Mark caught up and said “I don’t know about this” and I was strangely optimistic. I kicked my foot out on a ledge to the left to see better, and saw what was below me (nothing). It was like a mini version of the knife edge. And on the other side was the crux wall of the ridge route. I was enamored by it, but I couldn’t think of any safe way to get Lu to the other side. The wind was whipping at this point, throwing bits of ice into our eyes (10mph my ass). We decided to head back, and almost immediately regretted taking the ridge back, trying to down climb on the ice. Lu couldn’t find the way that we got down one part and she spent the better part of 5 minutes pacing back and forth and whining, freaking out. She could get down fine, but she just didn’t see the way down. It was terrible, poor girl.

Mark, descending the ridge.  Things were too gnarly to stop and take pictures before now!

Mark, descending the ridge. Things were too gnarly to stop and take pictures before now!

We found a way down from the ridge back to the trail, and headed back out towards the saddle. Arriving at the saddle, we estimated if we should go back and try the route the way we were supposed to, going up the gully. The wind I’d estimate was nearing 50mph, as I could lean into it 45 degrees and be held up. We agreed to call it and headed down the saddle as fast as possible (by that I mean we glissaded on the ice! Or rather, I did). It wouldn’t have been that hard or taken that long to finish it. I’m not actually sure why we gave up and headed back.

Mark and I, over the icy river

Mark and I, over the icy river

It was a nice trip back. I didn’t feel that bad about not summiting, it was a gorgeous day in the mountains. I would like to finish the 28. It’s been an epic journey and now that I’ve done 98% of TWO 28 attempts, it’s going to be nice to call it closed. I’ve talked a lot before about how good I feel in the mountains, how I want to be a better person. How just existing there is enough. Then we go back to the city…it’s enough to make me move out there…

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In other news, I’ve been training for the next adventure. I’m about ready to make it official.

kitchari cleanse (total mindf**k)

So a teacher friend and I decided to start a spending freeze challenge for one month (our rule is that the one exception is produce). We had a couple weeks to prepare for it, I stocked up on food essentials and made a few purchases that I knew I’d need for climbing and SAR training. Like two days before we were scheduled to start, she texts me “I think I’m going to start the spending challenge with a cleanse” and I was like “oh?” [I’ve never cleansed and never wanted to. I have no interest in fasts, particularly]. But, she tells me about it (kitchari is basically rice, mung beans, ayurvedic spices that agree with you, veggies that you digest easily) and I was like “HEY, I can totally do that. And it sounds like a decent idea.” It’s not fasting, you eat as much as you want, except you’re restricted to not eating until after you poo in the morning, and stopping eating 2-3hrs before bed. But it covers all the good food groups, and you drink tea (but not coffee. goddamn it. not coffee.) And I knew it would be good for me to cut sugar and caffeine and flour.

So I was in. For a cleanse. In addition to our spending freeze. Then I also decided I would cleanse from Facebook and Netflix/TV in general.

I don’t know if you’ve cleansed before. But a monodiet gets intense FAST.

Day one: I wanted to eat everything in the entire world but kitchari. But the end of the day, I couldn’t even stomach eating more kitchari.

Day two: I’ve never hated anything in the world like I hate Coriander. I fucking hate coriander. I’d rather die than eat any more coriander.

Day three: me “I’m suddenly tired, like, my eyebrows and fingertips are tired” my friend “ah! I see you’ve reached the detoxing stage. Your energy will come back. In a day or a few.” The most interesting thing about this day was, I became incredibly motivated to get rid of old clothes. I just had this fuck it mentality, I don’t need this shit! This shit either! It all goes!

Day four: things got better. At this point, I was craving things I don’t even want to eat, and never do eat (boxed mac and cheese, what the hell?) Although, by the end of the day I did just stop eating, which was bad. But it was only one night. This led me to eat an entire avocado plain.

Day five: I had to skip a training run because I was too tired. I made banana bread for the weekend intensive backcountry training and I couldn’t even lick my fingers (yeah, I mix things with my hands. so what). Things were a little rough because of those two things. But, overall it wasn’t too bad. By the end of the day, I was eating plain rice because I couldn’t stomach the spices or the beans anymore. Interesting, making the banana bread was a project in health…I adjusted the recipe to make it gluten free and cut nearly all of the sugar out because I was worried I wouldn’t be able to stomach it.

After the cleanse: so I had two full days of backcountry training right after, I brought a bunch of healthy food with me. The interesting thing was, though, that I felt like I should still be eating kitchari. As much as I thought I’d make a big breakfast feast on Saturday morning, I made plain oatmeal and added peanut butter but nothing else. I actually made some kitchari after the weekend was over. Even weirder than wanting to eat kitchari even when I don’t have to is, I feel like I’ve made some progress psychologically about the way that I eat and think about food. I don’t think of myself as someone that emotionally eats but I realize that to a certain extent I do. When I’m tired after a long day of training or teaching, I daydream about the things I’m going to make to eat. Now, I’m planning ahead better and having things already made. I’m making slightly better choices in terms of nourishing my body than what just sounds good. It was a great look into why I do things, and why I think about food the way that I do.

Up next: what is the NEXT ADVENTURE?! It’s a big one, I’m telling you. The biggest of all time.

beast mode/couch mode (the space between?)

On Friday Mark and I ran the Flatirons and the first time up the first Flatiron I was dragging. I have this brilliant theory that I’m good after 4 miles…and in this instance we were tackling badass elevation gain very early, so I could use that as an excuse. But man, do you ever have that run that you just want to stop with every single step. Ugh! Then right at the end it turned, and I beast moded the rest of it. BM is how we do epic shit right? I pride myself on my ability to beast mode elevation gain, in races but more importantly the real world. I get “can’t stop/won’t stop” in my head and just blast right past where I think my edge is. It seems to have environmental factors (and by that I mean COMPETITION), but there has to be some way to trigger it just any time. Right!?

Flatirons are so sleepy you can't even see them

Flatirons are so sleepy you can’t even see them

I was thinking during this run how much I’ve changed. Even from that moment in a spin class I was teaching when I thought about BASELINE (is your baseline sitting on the couch watching Netflix?) and I was already training then. Powering through the mountains has changed everything. Beast mode is now rocking 1000ft gain/mile. But there’s always so far to go.

I scheduled the rest of the 28 fourteeners. It’s pretty surreal; last January 20 seemed like an insane number. A month ago 28 seemed improbable. I’ll finish the remaining Collegiates (and the rest of the Sawatch range) next week. Up next is the Long’s trip. I’ll be riding the 82 miles to the trailhead, running the 14 miles to and from the summit of Long’s Peak, and riding home to Denver, hopefully in less than 20 hours (bagging one peak the long way). Last week of September Mark and I are going back for the Mosquito Range peaks we missed the last time around (due to ice and Luna’s cut foot). Then, it’s Capitol Peak with the boys. Colorado’s most technically difficult fourteener, and the #5 most dangerous (happy birthday to me!).

braking for pull ups on the way to Evergreen on my new bike, Blow

braking for pull ups on the way to Evergreen on my new bike, Blow

Monday was the Columbia ascent 11.5 miles and 4200ft gain
Tuesday off
Wednesday 42 miles on the bike
Thursday 6mi city
Friday 5mi 3000ft gain at the Flatirons
Saturday 15mi bike
Sunday 14mi Mesa Trail (NO BEARS!!!)

new business & rock climbing (or: how to risk your life without risking your life)

I haven’t posted in FOREVER. Why? I was starting a new business.

I’ve been teaching yoga full time for a while and one of the studios I teach at doesn’t match up at all with my values, but I’ve stayed there because my teaching income elsewhere has been too unstable to leave, and also they give me benefits. Which is a long way of saying: FEAR. I’ve definitely (obviously) been thinking a lot these past few months about fear. The short story is-fear is never an acceptable excuse for anything. But we use it all the time.

I had lunch with a teacher friend a couple weeks ago and he told me: “You need to shut that toxic door if you want other, better ones to open.” And he’s right, and I know it. So, I thought hard about how to jump off the cliff and my then I thought-maybe I’ll pet sit again? Back in Michigan I did very successfully for years. So, the past few weeks I’ve been working on this:

http://www.epicdogandcat.com lmk what you think! Or lmk if you find errors!

I’ve also had a bunch of adventures in the past couple weeks (oh there is a backlog of posts and pictures, just you wait!)

Including this one:

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I went rock climbing! A lovely student friend and another teacher showed me what’s up in Boulder Canyon.

Dan & Mark-looking hella badass.

Dan & Mark-looking hella badass.

So here’s what I learned about rock climbing: even though you have a good idea that you’re safe, you have a friend on the other end of the rope that’s going to catch you if you fall (and honestly, it was rock climbing for beginners-not that f*ing far!), still when you make a move that you don’t feel 100% certain about it feels like that uncertainty is risking your life, and you have to choose whether you’re going to go for it or not in a relatively short amount of time. So rad.

As is my pattern, internet friends, I’m hooked and I’ve been all over the internet watching videos. And all over my doorframe trying to do doorframe pull ups (WHOSE FINGERS ARE THAT STRONG! I can’t even believe it’s possible! That is, suffice to say I can do this many: 0. In fact, I’ve asked several friends about this and so far I still haven’t seen anyone do it in person…)

Here’s my favorite videos:

Steph Davis fearlessly free climbs the Diamond

Adorable and brilliant Hazel Lindsay climbs what appears to be totally flat rock-first female British E9 ascent

Galina Parfenov breaks down her training routine-this is when I discovered what ELITE abs looks like

Coming up:

New mountain goal for now-October

24 hours of elevation gain

Training. Training? Training.

Long distance running & Ashtanga (DISCIPLINE)(I don’t have it)

Here are some ways to find out you have no self discipline:

1. You finally choose to pack for your trip instead of getting in the last 9 mile run before
2. The moment you start on a long run, you start justifying why you’ve cut your run short
3. When you get texts, you stop running to respond to them immediately (because, obv, you did not turn your ringer off)
4. You clean your house instead of doing ashtanga primary series. Then, you create yourself a hulu account so you can watch tv instead of doing ashtanga primary series (because you canceled your Netflix account so you’d stop watching tv)
5. When you’re doing ashtanga primary series, you somehow end up working on handstands. This is like if a mouse eats a cookie. Then, you start working on handstand transitions and pretty soon you’re trying to figure out how to footlessly transition out of astavakrasana and you’ve forgotten that you were ever doing primary series in the first place.

Needless to say, I’ve been struggling on both counts. In fact, I haven’t been on a run since I went to Vermont (more on adventures in Vermont to come!), nor have I practice ashtanga primary series. So. Now we get back on the horse.

How do we conquer lack of self discipline? Friends help. I’ve also imposed a new post rule: 1 bagel for every 3 miles. The third bagel really makes the difference between 7 and 9 miles. Actually, this system isn’t a bad idea. Any suggestions on ideas for a post-primary series bribe? I’m going for a long run. With a friend. And bagels!

Week 3: TRAINING (here we go). And! New Goal (it’s a doozy)

Just finished my first post-race training run; 9 miles (sigh). New rule for post run fuel down: 1 bagel for every three miles. Long distance runners get to eat as many bagels as possible (or, as many as they want). It occurred to me before I ran today that now that I’m gearing up for the Leadville Heavy Half, 8 isn’t the goal anymore…8 is the starting point. And we’re heading towards FIFTEEN. (I spelled that out so I could use all capital letters, it’s a shame you can’t get across an all-caps emphasis numerically). Not even just 15…15 miles with 3000 feet elevation gain. Oh-and we’re starting at 10,000 feet…so it’s also at elevation. SIGH. AGAIN. MORE SIGHING.

How do I feel about training? If I could do all of my training on the trails, it would be epic. But I don’t remember the last time I ran 9 or 4 or 2 miles on the road and said “yeah! great run!” because it wasn’t…it was always miserable. Repetitive motion, general boredom, annoyance with cars, playlist problems. All things we don’t need to worry about on the trails.

I mentioned before I’m considering selling my car and buying a nicer bike to do more touring and potentially racing. Well, I was thinking about how I could do more trail running but also not driving. The answer is: I bike to the foothills and run. Very simple. This idea, throughout my morning, grew legs and started running. By the end of my run, the idea is now: I RIDE TO THE MOUNTAINS AND RUN THEM. And I tow Luna in her trailer, because she wants to come to.

How does Lu feel about fourteeners?  Obvious.  She loves them.

How does Lu feel about fourteeners? Obvious. She loves them.

SO. In addition to all of my other goals, and my upcoming races (Vail and Leadville in June), I shall ride to the mountains towing Luna and carrying camping gear and food, and hike fourteeners. First one is Mt. Evans. 60 miles from here. BAM. Now, it’s time for an Epsom salt bath.

How do I feel about Epsom salts?  Obvious.  I love them.

How do I feel about Epsom salts? Obvious. I love them.