Saturday, August 24, 2013

Cutthroat Classic

Ran the Cutthroat Classic in the North Cascades today. The best part of this was it was a family thing, with Holley and Dan also running, and lots of family members over in Winthrop.

Cutthroat is a terrific 11.1 mile run, beginning on the PCT at Rainy Pass, on Highway 20.  The first four or five miles are uphill, about 2000 feet in gain, up to Cutthroat Pass. The second half is mostly downhill, on dry, rocky terrain.

The high pass is absolutely gorgeous, as these pics endeavor to show--though my phone pics never really do justice.  The one above is a panorama effort from the top of the pass. Best to click on it.  Below, my uncle, a mushroomer, found porcini in the parking lot before the race. The rest pretty much speak form themselves.

This race is getting really popular.  It always sells out early.  I understand 400 runners were registered this year. To spread things out, a wave start format is used. The Methow Valley Trails Sports Association does a terrific job--so many volunteers out there to support this event.  More on them at Thanks all!

My effort was about what I expected. A real struggle going up--not enough flex in the legs, and something up with the breathing. Once on top, I was able to run steady enough down. Probably my 6th or 7th finish--this was one of my first trail events. I suppose this is the year of the bee stings. I got stung twice, and Holley and Dan both got stung too.

Great to see friends and familiar faces over there.  Mainly, great to camp out and run with the fam.  We camped in Winthrop on the Methow River. Originally, I was registered for CC this weekend, but I knew I wasn't up for it--this was a winner alternative.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Copper Ridge Loop

The Copper Ridge loop trail is an American classic, tucked right beneath the Canadian border, in the North Cascades National Park.  While I’ve been on parts of this trail a few times before, I never have tried the full loop, until this week.  Far too long on the bucket list, but no more.

My friends Mike and Rich and I ran the loop in a day, starting at about 7:20 AM and finishing sometime before 9 PM.  This made for a long day, indeed, after meeting in Mount Vernon just after 5 AM.  The loop is about 35 miles, give or take, and I understand our technology registered 8800 feet of climbing.  We took our time, in part to enjoy various stops, in part because the trail is sometimes slow, and in part because they waited for slow old me.  Thank you guys!

The day started overcast, with even a bit of a mist.  A clear sky is highly desirable here, to maximize views from the 6000 foot ridge.  We climbed through the mist, eventually reaching the ridge, and then the Copper Ridge Lookout, which is perched at the highest point for miles, amongst a sea of mountain ridges.  We spent a bit of time at the lookout, talking with the Park Ranger and checking out weather meters, the lightning stool and the library.  I’m always a little curious as to the book choices in lookouts.  Are people reading classics or paperbacks?

Wildflowers are still in bloom on the ridge, which doesn’t open until late in the season.  Yet, there are also subtle signs of fall.  Ranger Abby said that this was the first time in three years the ridge trail was completely snow-free, or at least so early, or something like that.  Message:  we picked a good weekend.

The trail past the Lookout took us by a beautiful teardrop called Copper Lake.  The lake is cobalt blue—my camera doesn’t do it justice, with a little peninsula on the far side.  Worthy to camp at some time.  While the trail had a number of backpackers and hikers up to the Lookout, we really didn’t see anyone on the middle 15 miles of the loop.

After Copper Lake, the Ridge meanders through huge white boulder gardens, at a gentle runnable grade, with views of Whatcom Pass, Canada, and a host of other mountains.  Eventually, just before descending, we caught a beautiful peek-a-boo view of Chilliwack Lake (which at first we thought might be Ross), up in Canada.  Then, it was downhill for four or five miles, into the valley.  Hard on my quads.  I think I heard a bear on the way down, but didn’t register this until a few switchbacks down.

Highlight of the day for me:  fording the Chilliwack River and Indian Creek, at the bottom of the ridge.   Sockeye salmon are now running in these crystal clear waters.  The sockeye are the salmon that turn that red and green when they go to spawn and die.  I can’t think of anything quite like these in nature, and it was just amazing after 18 miles of hiking and running, just five miles south of Canada, and pretty far from anyone, to encounter this bit of nature at work.

The Chilliwack Valley trail is relatively flat, with perhaps a slight grade uphill.  The trail is full of ancient, old growth cedars. Additional highlights include as a number of glacier clear creeks, one very jangly suspension bridge, and then the cable car river crossing.  The cable car holds up to five hundred pounds, rides about 30 feet above the river, and is operated by pulling yourself across the river. It's pretty cool, so far in the middle of nowhere.

The final eight or so miles were hard for me, and I walked a lot.  Basically, you climb out of the valley, and then trot down Hannegan Pass.  If I was in better shape, it would’ve went easier, but it’s August, the mountains are open to play, and I was willing to push myself, and so I expected this.  Soon enough, we were all back at the car, and we never needed to use our headlamps.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Easy Pass

Friend Seth and I got out to Easy Pass in the North Cascades this weekend.  We were looking for something with a serving of amazing, and this fit the bill.  I've been here a number of times before, and have blogged about it too. I don't mind going back--it's great to visit familiar places to see how the change of season might affect the view.

Basically, Easy Pass is a 3.5 mile climb up, whereupon on a good day you can get amazing views of the Fischer Basin. and a slough of glaciers.  Larch trees line the ridge of the pass area, and will turn golden in a few months.

Good day--amazing views, with close to empty trails.  The Pass and trail beyond are true wild areas.