Monday, September 22, 2008

Pics from PCT Run

Here are a few pictures from my trek the other weekend from Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass on the Pacific Crest Trail. Joining me were Murray Maitland and Christi Masi.

We enjoyed beatiful weather the whole time, and excellent scenery.

At night, the temperatures dropped into the 50s and a full moon was out, for a perfect night running experience.

Kathy and Lisa had dropped off a car at Stevens Pass for us. By the time we got there, it was a welcome sight.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass on the PCT

I've always wanted to run the Pacific Crest Trail, and when my friend Murray Maitland suggested a 72 mile run last weekend from Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass along the PCT, I jumped on it. Also joining us was his friend Christi Masi.

Our logistics worked out very well. Christi's husband drove us to Snoqualmie Pass on Saturday morning and dropped us off. Meanwhile, my girlfriend Kathy and Murray's wife Lisa drove two cars to Stevens Pass and dropped Lisa's car off for us at the end. Then they went backpacking, not wanting to waste a beautiful full moon weekend.

I brought my Gregory Iso pack, a 100 oz bladder, about 3 pounds of my favorite dehydrated food, a hat, a windshirt, arm warmers, leg warmers, gloves and a puffy jacket. I also brought Aqua Mira (pre-mixed) to treat water, sunglasses, a small amount of sunscreen, TP, a first aid kit, headlamp and handheld light (both with extra batteries), and my camera.

Are goal was to run the PCT in 24 hours, which was a reasonable 3 mph. No rain was forecast, and temperatures were 50 to 75 degrees. The night was particularly nice, with 50 degree weather and a full moon.

I'll update a little more when I get some pictures, but the short report is that we finished the run in 23 hours and 45 minutes, just about what we predicted, and my altimiter watch showed a little over 15,000 feet of gain. We only made one wrong turn in the middle of the night at Hope Lake, heading down a valley for a couple hundred yards, but we quickly realized our mistake. We saw one bear in the early afternoon, but he graciously stepped aside and let us pass unmolested. Scenery was quite spectacular. We stopped for water four times. Water was plentiful enough that we did not have any trouble with staying hydrated. Pictures later.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

SAGE Rogaine -- Savona, BC

My friend Andrew Feucht and I headed up to Savona, BC for the SAGE Rogaine. We have never done a rogaine before and were excited to try our meddle at this 24 hour race. Rogaining (a backronym for "Rugged Outdoor Group Activity Involving Navigation & Endurance") is similar to orienteering meets, but with the following characteristics:

  • It is long, e.g. 24 hours.

  • It is a team sport (2 - 5 people can be on a team)

  • CPs (checkpoints) are assigned point values reflecting distance and technical difficulty

  • Teams must decide what CPs to visit and in what order - route choice is important.

  • The map is a much larger area and much less detailed than an orienteering map.

We received our maps 3 hours before start time in order to have time to plot our course. Never having done this before, we plotted a course that was far too ambitious. We also decided to hit the open area in the day light and the forested area at night where we could follow the roads, which was the opposite of how almost everyone else did it. Apparently, they knew better that roads were mismarked and the forest was quite difficult to navigate at night, as we would find out.

The race started at noon on Saturday under cloudy skies with some sprinkled showers. The forcast was for it to clear up, so we were not too worried about the rain. I wore nylon pants, gaiters, and short sleeved shirt. I brought a wind shirt and a fleece hat as extra clothes. I carried all the food that I needed for 24 hours, as we were thinking of not coming back to the Hash House (perhaps somewhat naively). I also had a 100 oz bladder for water.

At noon, we synchronized our watches with the Race Director, as every minute we were late past noon the following day would cost us 10 point. Then we were off. In my hast, I made an almost immediate map-reading error, but Andrew kept me on course. This was after I told him that it is almost better to just walk to the first CP while you settle in. We decided to jog for as long as we could.

We dispatched several CPs in a reasonable fashion until we got to CP 52. The point value of each CP was its label rounded down to the nearest multiple of 10, so CP 52 was worth 50 points. Other CPs had values between 20 and 100. CP 52 was at the top of the gully on an easily identifiable hill; however, when we got up there, we searched for a half hour and could not find it. We found the gully, but the CP just wasn't there. With heavy hearts, we left. At the end of the race, the RD decided that the CP was sufficiently out of place that they gave anyone who looked the points for it, so we were vindicated in our decision to move on.

Still reeling from CP 52, however, we headed down to a gully that drops off towards the water to get CP 81. When we got there, we found many gullies, and the map was sufficiently large scale that it did not show enought detail. We dropped down the gully in front of us and went a few hundred fee too far down, until we knew that we were too far. We then went up a gully to our right and followed it most of the way back up. Still not finding the CP, we decided to head back up to the road, and ran across the CP a bit higher up than we thought. Adding an extra couple hundred feet of climbing to each CP was going to be a hallmark of our day if we were burly enough to keep it up.

Another CP with which we had trouble was CP 106, which was a long trek over open ground to the corner of the map. When we got there, we realized that we could not really identify which of the hills were the mapped features and which were too small to show up. We had not really kept track of how far we had gone, and we wandered around for another half hour looking for the CP. Eventually, I suggested going on to the next CP to relocate ourselves, as it was along a dried stream and seemed a little bit easier to locate. After going there and finding the next CP, we took a bearing on CP 106 again and then headed back, finding it fairly easily. We promised ourselves to always keep track of paces from now on in order to give us some idea of how far we had gone.

At this point, we both ran out of water.

We still had six more CPs planned before hitting the water station, but now it was late afternoon and all the clouds had burned off with temperatures in the mid 70s. We replanned our route to hit only three of the CPs, then head up a 500 foot hill to the water station. After that, we'd have to come back down the hill and get the other three CPs and get back on track, hopefully before dark. Off we went, hoping we wouldn't lose another half hour trying to locate a missing CP, but everything went smoothly, and we made it to the water station without bonking too badly, although we were pretty seriously dehydrated. We each drank 50 to 60 oz. of water at the water station, then refilled our 100 oz bladders. It was 7 pm, and darkness came promptly at 8pm.

Rehydrated, we started running again, and picked up the other three CPs while there was still light. As darkness came, we settled in for a long, slow slog through the forested section of the map. The first few CPs were not difficult as there were fairly good handrails and attackpoints to reach them. CP105 was on a hilltop, for example, so all we had to do was go up. When we reached CP 83, however, we ran into trouble again.

CP 83 appeared to be only 150 meters off the road with a good attackpoint as the road did a U-turn. We took a bearing and headed into the woods, only to thrash around for a while with no luck. We came back to the road and headed down to where a fence crossed the road, and attacked from there. No luck. We hiked down along the fenceline and then attacked from there. No luck. Perhaps the CP was further into the woods than it appeared on the map. The lack of detail on the map did not help us. We finally gave up and headed to CP 64, which was along a dried stream in a bush filled ravine. Here, we tried to follow the fence to an open area in the forest, but we found lots of small unmarked open areas and had trouble figuring out how far we had gone. We decided to head into the woods to the ravine, but the ravine itself was not well-defined. At one point, we got ourselves completely disoriented so that I thought that North was in the wrong direction. At this point we decided that we should just stick to the CPs near the road. Time to leave.

On our way back to the road, we somehow reoriented ourselves and realized that the clearing to the east of the ravine actually came right against it, and allowed us to walk above the ravine on the east side and shine our flashlight down into it. We quickly found CP64 and our spirits lifted again. We had gone over two hours without finding a single CP.

The next CP, CP42, was also hard. It was in a forest opening right next to the fence next to the road, but the forest opening was actually fifty yards into the forest or so, just beyond flashlight range. After lots of wandering back and forth, we found it.

To get to CP 51, we looked for a small side trail off the road, but we walked back and forth and could not find it. We could not even find the clearing that was marking where the trail left the main road. We thrashed around in the bushes and found an unmarked road that went in the wrong directions, completely confusing us. We switched plans to go for CP71 on top of a nearby hill, so we headed back to the main road to reorient ourselves, then headed into the woods and up 800 feet of climbing to the top. We found it, an hour and a half after our previous one. Nighttime orienteering was really killing our score.

We followed the road to the CP 61, then backtracked to a streambed to head back down it (now from above) to find CP51 which we had skipped. Along the way, we zoned out and somehow made a left turn up another road for a ways before realizing what happened and turning back. This was "stupid hour", but I also blame it on our poor headlamps. I had brought along a fairly weak Petzl Tikka headlamp with dead spare batteries. Luckily I also had a handheld flashlight that was quite strong, but I had turned that off while walking along the road to save batteries, as I didn't think we needed it to hike back a road we had already been on. Needless to say, we were not paying attention and it cost us. Once we finally got to the stream bed, the CP was easy to find, as we only needed to follow the (bush-choked) stream bed down until we hit it.

At this point, we needed more water and were looking forward to some hot soup at the Hash House before psyching ourselves up for the rising sun in a few hours. We dropped back down to the main road again and headed to the Hash House, which was a left turn off the road. This time I had my flashlight out and was paying attention. After the appropriate distance, we saw another road coming in on our right rather than our left, and we realized that we were in the wrong spot. Recovering, we relocated ourselves and found that CP32 was now between us and the Hash House. Off into the woods again, we hit CP 32 and then continued on to the Hash House, pulling in at 5am.

At the Hash House, we had some soup and tried to recover for the morning. We were fairly tired from thrashing through the woods all night with little to show for it (noon-8pm: 1280 pts, 8pm-5am: 480 pts). After a few bowls of soup, refills on water and a sufficiently long break, we headed back out.

I could tell that we were tired because instead of heading straight to CP91, we hiked a road to it, slowly, and the road was twice as far. We needed to shake the torpor from our brains. From CP91 to CP 101 was another straightforward (if slow) trek, although we ran across some more confusing roads. Small roads were now big, big ones were decommissioned, and an extra unmarked road was thrown in. In the daylight, we got less confused by it all, however. To get to CP 82, we had to drop down through the woods to another road and follow it, but we ended up picking up an unmarked road instead. When it T'd into another road, we guessed where we were and followed that road up to the one we were looking for. We found the turnoff onto a smaller path to CP82, but realized this would have been difficult to see in the dark. Our strategy of the previous night of just being able to "follow the roads" had not held up very well, and I can understand why most of the other people headed for the woods during the day. And in the woods, they probably had not run out of water quite as quickly as we had. Live and learn.

From CP 82, we made a killer sidehill traverse for two kilometers along a steep slope to CP104. We tried to contour, and as we got close, we hiked up a couple hundred feet to see if we could see the ridge we were looking for. While we were fairly sure that we were not far enough yet, we threw in a steep climb and descent to/from a beautiful viewpoint to verify what we knew already. We dispatched CP104, but we were definitely moving slowly.

With two and a half hours left, we decided to head home and pick up a few easy CPs on the way back. The 1.5 km down 1000 ft of hills to CP44 took us another 40 minutes, but then we finally got our second wind and started some jogging again. We picked up a couple more CPs on the way to the Hash House, and arriving with still 40 minutes to spare, we ran out to collect CP33 and returned at 11:47am, which was our final finishing time. Total score was 2250. This was enough for us to place 3rd overall, and 1st in Open Men category.


  • It was good to leave a few of the easy CPs near the Hash House to better utilize the last half hour of our race.

  • Expect marked forest roads to be somewhat out of date.

  • You go faster when you stay hydrated

  • Don't use the corner of a clearing as an attack point, as they are much less defined in reality than they are on the 1:4000 map.

  • Bring a good headlamp/light combo

  • Keep track of paces to give you some idea of when you are way to far, if possible.

  • If you cannot find the CP, try coming up with a new strategy. If you run out of strategies, maybe its time to leave.

  • Running in the wrong direction is worse than walking in the right direction

  • Plan to come back to the Hash House once during the night. Never coming back seems too ambitious in retrospect.