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Getting Put in Your Place by Old Man Mountain

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

This post comes from Chris Cloyd, a TMS Ambassador and lover of endurance sports. When Chris isn’t training for his next big run in the mountains or out exploring the Eastern Sierra on bike, he’s managing the Performance Training Center by Julia Mancuso. Watch for more race reports, gear reviews and fun reading from Chris and other Ambassadors of Tahoe Mountain Sports.

Old Men Are Smarter Than You: Getting Put In Our Place by Old Man Mountain

Wisdom is a hell of a lot harder to come by than “smarts”, as I learned this past weekend. “Smarts” (as far as this writer is concerned) can be learned in a classroom or a library, and are observed fairly easily. Wisdom, in my opinion, needs to be learned the hard way – through experience and shortcomings and successes and failures. The burned hand learns best.

This relentless drought in the Tahoe has brought out some interesting coping mechanisms – some of my friends are taking up new sports, some are catching up on reading, some are going surfing on the coast. My friend Steven Benesi and I have resorted to drinking too much coffee, poring over maps, picking out peaks that look interesting, and figuring out ways to run/climb/scramble/posthole our way up to the summit. It’s a rewarding exercise, keeps us in shape, and (fortunately for us) there is no shortage of awesome mountain terrain around our neck of the woods. This past weekend the object of our desire was Old Man Mountain, down outside of Cisco Grove/Emigrant Gap. Many of you will recognize this peak from your drive up 80 from the Bay:

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(Photo: Chris Cloyd)

We decided to start our run from the Lake Spaulding area (off of Highway 20) in an effort to add some good running miles to our approach. The most commonly used approach starts at Eagle Lakes Rd (off of I-80), but that would limit our trail time/running window to just a few miles on a jeep road. Who wants that? Being the extremely intrepid individuals that we are (read: overaggressive and reckless) we added about 7 miles of running to the front and back of our planned route to keep things interesting. For those of you scoring at home, this choice would come back to bite us.

We started out from the trailhead around 9 AM, freshly caffeinated and fueled up. The running was wonderful here, and the singletrack navigated the forest microclimate in style. It’s always so much fun running in the foothills(ish) for a bunch of reasons, but the stark contrast to the granite and alpine terrain up here in the Tahoe Basin is my favorite. We made it to Fordyce Falls with no difficulty – the water is moving down there right now!

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Fordyce Falls (Photo: Chris Cloyd)

From here, things got a little sideways. Due in part to a spur trail that was pseudo-marked and then covered in snow (combined with some amateur navigating/map skills on my part) we found ourselves fjording (Oregon Trail shoutout!) Granite Creek and scaling waterfalls in an attempt to get ourselves back on the correct trail. This consumed some time, but it was well worth our detour to find some pretty awesome waterfalls that aren’t on any of our maps:

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Flexing at the Falls (Photo: Chris Cloyd)

Upon rediscovering the trail, we had to backtrack a bit to rejoin the trail to Eagle Lakes. Some highly pleasurable running followed, and we arrived at Eagle Lakes just an hour or so behind schedule. Of course, this was where we could have started our day, but we chose to be more awesome and add some more to our adventure. After all, it’s all about time spent in the mountains with friends, isn’t it? We filtered some water at one the Eagle Lakes (never leave home without one – I love my Katadyn MyBottle Water Purifier Water Bottle) and got back to work. The next leg of our approach was all on the Fordyce Jeep Trail, which is technically an OHV route. That being said, I can’t believe people drive this thing. It’s a mangled sliver of boulders and pools and ice floes that’s barely navigable on foot. Steven and I actually caught and passed a guy on a dirt bike (yes, with a motor) – that’s how slow the going is on this route. To our surprise, we came across a few guys out with their trucks (and obligatory guns and beer) about 3 miles into this leg of the trail. We kindly asked them to shoot in the other direction until we returned from the mountain. About 3.5 miles in we hit the Fordyce Creek (read: river) crossing, and were stunned to discover about 75 feet of knee-to-hip deep water running across our route. Undeterred, we scrambled up the southern bank and bushwhacked/postholed our way upriver (not pleasant) for an interminable amount of time before coming across a felled tree that served as a natural bridge across the river. We successfully crossed, but this detour really killed our time. We were about 2 hours behind schedule now, and light was going to prove to be an issue. Consider the going was so easy to this point, we were hesitant to commit to headlamp running for any notable amount of time on the back end of our run. Nevertheless, we pressed on.

We reached our designated cross-country departure point, about a quarter mile to the southwest of the foot of Old Man and started on a direct route through the swaths of forest and manzanita. For the uninitiated, manzanita is the horrible plant that basically reaches up, grabs your entire body, slows your pace to a crawl, and is entirely unavoidable in certain patches of the Sierra. It’s probably responsible for the drought, and is probably cancerous, too. Weirdly enough, this experience with manzanita was no different, and we got to within throwing distance of the start of the real ascent to Old Man Mountain’s summit before we decided to call off our bid. It was almost 3 pm by this time, and we were sure to lose daylight on the way down if we pushed on to the top. Having made the decision that we weren’t comfortable with our return route in the dark, we did the only prudent thing we could: we stopped on a nice rock outcropping and made some coffee. Rule #1: Never attempt mountain adventure without a Jetboil, French press, and hand-ground coffee. Any time you can stop in the middle of nowhere (not one sign of human development/civilization was visible from our perch) and enjoy a cup of coffee with friends, you’ve got to do it.

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Ahh, what a great view to be enjoyed with a great cup of coffee! (Photo: Chris Cloyd)

This brings me to Rule #2: Never attempt mountain adventure without a support team – in this case, our loving girlfriends. We contacted them using my Spot Gen3 GPS tracker (an awesome tool that allows you to send pre-drafted messages to a list of contacts at the push of a button even when you don’t have cell service) and kindly asked (begged) them to meet us at the Eagle Lakes interstate exit at 6 PM. This was our contingency plan, and we were thrilled to have had the forethought to develop a retreat plan and organize logistics for exactly this kind of scenario. We finished our coffee, tipped our hats to Old Man, and retreated back down the Fordyce Jeep Trail all the way back to Eagle Lakes and our predetermined extraction point. Fortunately for Steven and I, our girlfriends are the best in the whole world. Not only were able to pick us up, they brought hot tea and cold beer.

Rule #3: Always have contingency plans in place for your mountain adventures, and prepare: the separation is in the preparation.

Rule #4: ALWAYS take your significant other out to dinner and be liberal with massages after he/she saves you from your own belligerent overestimation of your own ability in the mountains.

All in all, we bit off more than we could chew on this day, but we enjoyed a great day in the mountains, nobody was hurt, and we learned a ton.

We’ll be back for you, Old Man, and we’ll be wiser.

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Heading home (Photo: Chris Cloyd)

Après Snow Yoga

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
(Photo: Coral Taylor)

(Photo: Coral Taylor)

This post comes from TMS Ambassador – Coral Taylor, an avid mountain biker, yogi, snowboarder and outdoor enthusiast living in Truckee, CA. Follow @c_ros on Instagram for rad photos of her adventures around Lake Tahoe and beyond. In addition to getting after it on the snow, Coral is also a Team LUNAChix Tahoe Mountain Bike Team Ambassador!

Winter is here! And even though the snow is not, per se, “epic”, it’s still fun to get out there and enjoy it! Whether your sport is snowboarding, skiing, XC skiing, snowshoeing, or backcountry exploring, your body and mind will appreciate some post-effort recovery.

After a day (or even a couple hours) of playing in the snow, I like to incorporate a little bit of yoga to help my muscles relax and to release any tension I might have (from dodging tourists on mountain run, making backcountry decisions, and driving to and fro).

I have found the following yoga poses to be beneficial in stretching the key muscles engaged, as well as improving strength, coordination and proprioception.

Dancer aka Lord of the Dance, Natarajasana

Dancer (7)

(Photo: Coral Taylor)

A modified version of this pose will allow you to stretch the quadriceps, the psoas, and work on your balance, without putting too much strain on your back. This is fun to try in the parking lot, once you have your snow boots on (ski boots NOT recommended due to their low coefficient of friction).

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Windblown in Patagonia

Saturday, December 20th, 2014
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Laguna de Los Tres. Photo: Rachel McCullough

This post comes from Rachel McCullough, an avid hiker, mountain biker, rock climber, yogi, skier and photographer living in Truckee, CA. Follow @rachelmcphotos on Instagram for stunning images of beautiful Sierra scenery. When Rachel isn’t enjoying her free time in the outdoors, she’s teaching skiing at Northstar California or building and marketing websites for her clients at McCullough Web Services.

Who: Rachel and Garrett McCullough
What: Day Hiking Laguna de Los Tres
Where: Patagonia, Argentina
When: November 2014

I was jolted awake as the bus driver careened around another corner. Baggage fell from the overhead bins and slid across the floor. The driver was probably laughing at the tourists scrambling to right everything for about the 10th time on the trip.

As I blinked away the blurriness of 40 hours of travel, I realized it was 9:30pm and still light out. This is November in the southern hemisphere, which is spring! And so my first night in Patagonia began. I say began because 9:30 is dinnertime in Argentina!

As we stepped off the bus, the Andes rose in front of us. They are a sheer wall of rock nested in the snow, rising above the cloudy turquoise river. There stood Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre, as I had seen in so many photos, watching over the small town of El Chaltén. They would be much more elusive over the next few days, shrouded in storm clouds.

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Blitzkrieg: An Assault on 4 High Sierra Peaks in One Day

Friday, December 5th, 2014

This post comes from Chris Cloyd, a TMS Ambassador and lover of endurance sports. When Chris isn’t training for his next big race or out exploring the Eastern Sierra on foot or bike, he’s managing the Performance Training Center by Julia Mancuso. Watch for more race reports, gear reviews and fun reading from Chris and other Ambassadors of Tahoe Mountain Sports.

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A perfect day to bag four peaks!

I’ll always remember this past summer fondly, and with great reverence. This was the season that redefined sport and what is possible (for me) in the mountains. It was an exciting season, and one that I look forward to building on in 2015 and beyond. By far the most ambitious day on my calendar was October 19th, 2014 – a planned single-push assault on Mt. Carrillon, Mt. Russell, Mt. Whitney, and Mt. Muir in one day.

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Hiking Yosemite’s Bermuda Triangle: Tenaya Canyon

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

This post comes from Rachel McCullough, an avid hiker, mountain biker, rock climber, yogi, skier and photographer living in Truckee, CA. Follow @rachelmcphotos on Instagram for stunning images of beautiful Sierra scenery. When Rachel isn’t enjoying the outdoors, she’s teaching skiing at Northstar California or building and marketing websites for her clients at McCullough Web Services.

The emerald pools and gigantic boulders of the Inner Gorge

Who: Rachel, Theresa, Tom, Denis, Mat
What: Tenaya Canyon ascent
Where: Yosemite National Park, CA
When: September, 2014
Gear: Sawyer Point Squeeze Filter,  Altra Lone Peak Trail Running ShoesBlack Diamond Primrose Harness

All photos by Rachel McCullough unless captioned otherwise.

Disclaimer: Hiking/Canyoneering in Tenaya Canyon is dangerous. This blog post is not a recommendation for you to try the route.

There were many reasons NOT to go to Tenaya Canyon. For starters, there is its reputation as the Bermuda Triangle of Yosemite. Then there is the curse that Chief Tenaya invoked when white men killed his son. If you don’t believe in that, there is a Google search results page plastered with stories of helicopter ride exits, as some sort of proof. Not even John Muir escaped unscathed on this 10+ mile journey. He found himself slipping, somersaulting, and then losing consciousness, only to be spared by the dense shrubbery on the route. Then there was the forecast: 40% chance of afternoon thunderstorms.

If all that wasn’t enough, closer to home, Alpine Meadows was charging their snowmaking system as the King Fire scorched tens of thousands of acres less than ten miles away. Facebook lit up with talk of being ready to evacuate. The list goes on. So what possessed me to leave a list of what should be saved with my husband in the event of a fire evacuation and make the six-hour journey to Yosemite?  It was the lure of the remote off-trail experience, the promise of emerald pools, glacier-carved canyon walls, unparalleled views, time with good friends, old and new, and the challenge.

And while we didn’t emerge from Tenaya canyon unscathed, we did emerge having had the adventure of a lifetime. Just not one to be repeated in the same fashion, ever again.

Most people approach Tenaya Canyon from the top as a canyoneering route, rappelling through waterfalls and landing in ice cold pools. Seeing as in my ten years at Lake Tahoe, I’ve only swam in the lake once (gasp), a water-logged adventure didn’t sound appealing, and neither did the toe-crushing slab descents. So, with all of us having a rock climbing background, and in true John Muir form, we decided to go up.

The evening before our planned trip, as I arrived at Olmstead Point, which overlooks Tenaya Canyon, I saw, well, nothing. The King Fire smoke had followed me to Yosemite, and was so thick that the normally prominent Half Dome was invisible. We hoped it would clear before morning and we weren’t disappointed.

We started at Mirror Lake at around 7am, only a half hour behind our planned schedule. Our crew is not known for our timely morning departures (more about that here: http://bit.ly/TuolumneHike).

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Gorgeous Day Hike from Lukens Lake to Tenaya Lake in Tuolomne

Friday, September 12th, 2014

This post comes from Rachel McCullough, an avid hiker, mountain biker, rock climber, yogi, skier and photographer living in Truckee, CA. Follow @rachelmcphotos on Instagram for stunning images of beautiful Sierra scenery. When Rachel isn’t enjoying the outdoors, she’s teaching skiing at Northstar California or building and marketing websites for her clients at McCullough Web Services.

Cathedral Creek canyon

Endless granite on the descent into the canyon of the South Fork of Cathedral Creek

Who: Theresa, Tom, Garrett, Rachel
What: 26 Mile Day Hike
Where: Ten Lakes area, Tuolumne high country, Yosemite National Park
When: A Saturday in August, 2014
Gear: Altra Lone Peak Trail Running Shoes, Nemo Losi 3 Person Tent, PowerPot Charging Package, Sawyer Point Squeeze Filter

All photos by Rachel McCullough unless captioned otherwise.

One day I decided to walk 55 miles. In a day. Not just any 55 miles, but the entire High Sierra Camp loop in Yosemite National Park, with over 8,000 feet in elevation gain and loss. I hadn’t hiked more than 15 miles in a day, but that didn’t seem to matter. So, I did it. And I dragged along my then boyfriend, now husband. Maybe for company, maybe to see if he was crazy enough, maybe to see if he could keep up. And that was my first taste of the yet to be named sport of hiking a lot in one day. [Please tell me in the comments what you think it should be called: long-distance day hiking, ultra day hiking, plain old craziness, a John Muir saunter…?]

I’ve kept it under 45 miles since then, but still get all sorts of looks and questions on these long hikes. “Wait, where are your big backpacks?” “You are going where?” “You mean (put any much closer destination here)?” All you need is a light pack, trail running shoes, and enough water to make it to the next stop. It’s amazing how much you can see and how far you can get without a lot weight, wilderness permits, or advanced planning. I get my gear at Tahoe Mountain Sports. But more on the advanced planning later.

So, that leads me to my most recent hike in Tuolumne, a follow-up to my “Let’s walk from Wawona to the Valley hike” this spring. This one came in at about a marathon distance – 26.6 miles says the map. We started at the Lukens Lake Trailhead and passed through Ten Lakes before arriving at our destination, the Murphy Creek Trailhead. We added a short detour to Grant Lake because 26 miles sounded better than 24 miles.

The crew. I’ve had many adventures with this group: Garrett, my husband, and Tom and Theresa, our good friends who live in Yosemite. As usual, we set our starting time, slept in a bit later than we should have, and then slowly got ready. A group of mostly night owls should not rise before 6 a.m., but we can certainly try! We hit the trail late, around 7:30 a.m., which meant that if we wanted to finish by dark, there would be no dilly-dallying.

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Crew selfie: Tom, Theresa, me, Garrett. Bright-eyed and ready to head out into the crisp morning air. Photo: Garrett McCullough

But, we forgot that we were in a hurry, when just a half-mile in, we arrived at Lukens Lake. It was perfectly still, except for the layer of fog dancing along the surface and then rising before disappearing into the warming morning air. John Muir once said about hiking: “I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike!”  So, we stopped, took our time, then we sauntered along.

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Morning fog rising off of Lukens Lake.

The next gem we found was a slightly nibbled red fir cone, which revealed the brilliant red inside. Two things were amazing about this: none of us had ever seen this before and red firs are apparently named for the color of their bark, not the inside of their cone!

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The inside of a red fir cone!

As the morning passed, (more…)

Canoeing, Fishing (sort of) and Camping at Faucherie Lake

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

This trip report comes from Robyn Embry, a local pro downhill racer living in Kings Beach, California, for the past seven years. She can be found climbing rocks and skiing powder when not enjoying life on two wheels; Fine more from Robyn at http://therobynator.blogspot.com.

faucherie lake camping

Faucherie Lake had been spoken of highly by several friends who spend time there yearly, and we had always thought it would be fun to check it out. It’s hard to get far away from crowds by car on a busy summer weekend, but we took a gamble figuring it was a bit out of the way and the road is quite rough. Looking for a paddle-in campsite is also a good way to avoid the masses, and gave us an advantage over the car campers.

Getting to the lake required 2 ½ hours of bouncing up rock-studded dirt roads. After nearly losing the canoe off the top and fearing the destruction of other key items, we finally reached the lake, intact. Off came the canoe and we began stuffing gear into waterproof dry bags. Though sleeping under the stars is nice, a tent seemed ideal for this trip if we intended to keep mosquitoes away. Inflatable sleeping pads went in as well, which had not been used in at least a few summers since I’ve been too busy with bike racing.

For food and kitchen we went for luxury, packing a cooler full of good eats and hauling along the old 3-burner camp stove. The canoe should still stay afloat, and it would be worth carrying the weight since the paddle to camp is short. It might be ideal to pack lighter for a longer trip on a river or larger lake, bringing a backpacking stove and maybe some dehydrated camp meals, though the advantage of a canoe is being able to carry a fair amount more than would comfortably fit in a backpack. We did, however, pack a water filter instead of lugging in a full jug. After all, we were camping near a pretty decent water source.

campsites faucherie lake

Upon launching the canoe, (more…)

Overnight Trail Running Lake Tahoe – Across Desolation Wilderness

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

This post comes from Chris Cloyd, a TMS Ambassador and lover of endurance sports. When Chris isn’t training for his next big race or out exploring the Eastern Sierra on foot or bike, he’s managing the Performance Training Center by Julia Mancuso. Watch for more race reports, gear reviews and fun reading from Chris and other Ambassadors of Tahoe Mountain Sports.

As I touched on in “Philosophy and Preparation“, this was to be my most ambitious outing to date: a 29-35 mile run (depending on which map/GPS/hearsay you choose to believe), an overnight at Lake Aloha, a summit of two of the highest peaks in Desolation Wilderness (Mt. Price and Pyramid Peak), and an 18-22 mile run to return to the real world. Per usual, I sat down with my maps (the Lake Tahoe Basin Trail Map and the National Geographic 803) and plotted my days (and night), planning every step before I set out. As a good friend once detailed to me: failure to prepare is preparing to fail.

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Chris Cloyd, Trail Runner.

I chose to set out from the Meeks Bay Trailhead (the northernmost entry point into Desolation Wilderness), and was thrilled with the trail from the outset. The Meeks Bay Trailhead gains you access to the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail – a continuous single track from Meeks Bay to Yosemite National Park. Every bit living up to its billing, the trail was in immaculate condition. At the trailhead, you can procure a day permit into Desolation, but I had to obtain an overnight permit from their website (or I could have gone to the Meeks Bay campground). If I may stand on my pedestal for a moment and preach: obtain a permit before overnighting in Desolation. I’m sure you can avoid getting “caught” (you are meandering through the wilderness, after all), but the funds go to supporting trail stewardship and other amenities that we all enjoy, so swallow the $5. Our support goes a long way toward maintaining and providing access to the Wilderness that we all enjoy.

The Tahoe-Yosemite Trail progresses steeply beginning from close to the trailhead all the way up to Lake Genevieve, gaining almost 1,500 in those initial miles. Lake Genevieve is the first of no less than seven lakes that you’ll encounter in your first eight or so miles, and kicks off a beautiful section of scenic running. Of these lakes, I found Stony Ridge Lake to be the most engaging – I was very tempted to pull off the trail and dive in for a swim. That being said, I was on a mission, and had my sights set for Phipps Peak before I stopping for a break. The running continued along these alpine lakes before starting the ascent to Phipp’s Pass. In my planning, I noted that my first day included two very notable mountain passes – Phipp’s Pass and Dick’s Pass – and was prepared for a slog up a number of single track switchbacks. Although not too steep or unrelenting, Phipp’s Pass is indeed worthy of respect and is sure to sap the leg strength of all who choose to ascend it. Upon reaching the pass proper, it’s a short and quick scramble to the top of Phipp’s Peak, and is well worth the effort. I enjoyed some rest and a sandwich at the summit, and admired the expanse of Desolation in a stunning 360 degrees.

“I geared down and buried myself for what seemed like an hour – it was indeed much less, but time has teeth under such scenarios”

Continuing on, I was treated to a blissful descent from Phipp’s Pass toward Middle Velma Lake. I enjoyed this section of running very much, and found a comfortable tempo that helped quiet the mind and brought considerable joy. I chose to stay on the Pacific Crest Trail in order to catch a glimpse of Fontanillis Lake, and that decision was validated in spades. My overnight destination on this day wins the award for my “favorite” lake on this route, but Fontanillis Lake is gorgeous and has a very unique alpine feel to it, framed defiantly by Dick’s Peak and its equally proud neighbors. I stopped here to filter some water and take in the ambiance, gearing up for the next push. Fontanillis has earned an earmark for a future overnight destination, for sure.

Fontanillis precedes the second big climb of the day, Dick’s Lake to Dick’s Pass. Perhaps it was my tempo (maybe a bit too full of ambition for my legs to accommodate), or perhaps it was the miles themselves that preceded it, but this climb hurt my feelings. I geared down and buried myself for what seemed like an hour – it was indeed much less, but time has teeth under such scenarios – and with much labor and more than a little self-deprecation I took the pass with much relief. As though it was placed there with intention, a perfect sitting-stone is perched at the Pass and it concedes a spectacular panorama of much of the Wilderness.

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Chris didn’t take this photo of Desolation. His editor had to pull it from a free image site after accidentally using the original in Round 1.

Descending from Dick’s Pass requires technical running, and was a true test of my reflexes this deep into the day. Cascading down toward Gilmore Lake, I was treated to glimpses of Mt. Tallac and my day’s destination of Lake Aloha, and my spirits were buoyed. Nerves and light were fading, and a reassurance that I was nearing my “finish line” for the day was greatly appreciated.  (more…)

Backpacking Bishop Pass w/ Friends from San Diego & Deuter Packs

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Adam Broderick manages the web content at Tahoe Mountain Sports. When he is not in the office, he tries his best to be in the field doing something awesome.

bishop-pass-lake-reflection

 

Last Thursday night I met four childhood friends from San Diego in Bishop, California. In case you’re unaware, Bishop is like the Gateway to Heaven for outdoor enthusiasts. A geological hotspot lying on the San Andreas Fault, what lies beneath ground is intriguing and unpredictable. If you’re the type who springs for a nice dip in a naturally heated tub, the countless hot springs near Bishop should do you just right. The terrain in this area (think Mammoth Mountain, June Lake, Mono Lake) offers world-class rock climbing, hiking, biking and, in winter, skiing and snowboarding. So, to say my friends were pleasantly surprised with the views they woke up to Friday morning in the high desert above town would be an understatement. That afternoon, after a couple hours of bouldering at a popular climbing zone called the Buttermilks, we made our way to 10,000’+ in Inyo National Forest.

Looking west toward the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountain range from the town of Bishop, or from anywhere along Hwy 395, most would assume only dirt and rocks could survive in such harsh, dry places. But drive up Hwy 168 to 9,000’+ elevation and it gets incredibly green in the high canyons, where creeks flow to and from high alpine lakes full of beautiful, yet oblivious and tasty, trout. We did a two-day, three-night, out-and-back trip from South Lake. The water level at South Lake was disconcerting, but from then on we were happy to find plenty of sources to fill our hiking water reservoirs from, cast fishing rods into, and even send some 30’+ cliff dives into.

 

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I have to give a shout-out to Deuter for supplying the 60+ liter backpacks so my friends from San Diego could carry some extra luxuries and really enjoy themselves out there. They don’t go quite as lightweight as this seasoned backpacker (mind me while I toot my own horn), but they truly impressed me with their abilities to keep moving forward as their bodies fought the altitude change and physical demands before them.

 

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Charges while cooking via USB

 

 

We only ate one fish between the five of us, although Brandon must have caught at least fifteen. We had plenty of dehydrated camping food and other snacks ideal for backpacking, so consuming something wild for the helluvit seemed silly. Still, the guys wanted to cook one up so I went along with it. Plus, I wanted to try charging my phone (set to Airplane Mode, but I still use it as a camera) with the new PowerPot from Power Practical.

 

 

 

 

 

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My BBB (Best Backpacking Buddies – cheesy, I know, but we had fun acting less our age) pose on some of the steeper switchbacks of the hike. This is part of the climb over Bishop Pass; we spent our nights at awesome lakes on either side.

 

 

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A little yoga to get the juices flowing before breakfast.

That’s my favorite jacket for cool-weather camping, my Mountain Hardwear lightweight puffy. It keeps me warm (60 grams of synthetic insulation), packs down small, doubles as a pillow and doesn’t get torn to shreds when I rough it up on rocks. It’s usually too warm as a mid-layer under a ski jacket in the Sierra, but ideal in colder weather than California sees and perfect for three-season backpacking.

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Overnight Trail Running Lake Tahoe – Philosophy and Preparation

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

This post comes from Chris Cloyd, a TMS Ambassador and lover of endurance sports. When Chris isn’t training for his next big race or out exploring the Eastern Sierra on foot or bike, he’s managing the Performance Training Center by Julia Mancuso. Watch for more race reports, gear reviews and fun reading from Chris and other Ambassadors of Tahoe Mountain Sports.

Chris just returned from a wild overnight run through Desolation Wilderness. We thought, You’re going to run through the night? He actually slept out there, but he packed ultralight gear and ran to and from camp, thus making this an ‘overnight run’. Here’s the first half of his adventure, Philosophy and Preparation. We’ll hit you next week with the actual trip report, so stay tuned.

overnight-running-desolation-wilderness

“It’s the best environment for solitary peace of mind that you can find. It’s why we go…” – Chris Cloyd, Mornings On Trail

 

Philosophy and Preparation

Distance running has never seemed all that appealing to me: monotony, pain, and a lack of grand scale (as a road cyclist, the ground you can cover in a single is much greater and, as a result, that undertaking has always taken preference with me). Living at Lake Tahoe, however, has redefined what possibilities exist by way of distance running for me. The bounty of trails and truly world-class wilderness here have swayed me, and the allure of running into the woods and exploring what our world has to offer has overcome me.

I’ve spent the better part of three years building not only the fitness but the wilderness readiness skill set to open up the idea of overnight trail running, unsupported. This is not a new idea – many have done this before me (including my small group of friends that agree this is a good idea) – but it is new to me, and I have taken many pains to progress at my own speed, slowly pushing deeper and deeper into the realm of possibilities this activity has to offer. Please, before you go running into the woods with no plan and just a bottle of water, take the time to build a skill set and game-plan that suits you and your goals.

When I first became interested in overnight trail running, it was a result of reading about fastpacking and the new options that existed therein. I am also exceedingly interested in ultralight alpinism, so the idea of pushing fast-and-light appeals to me. I lack the background at this time to pursue any sort of committed alpinism (and I know this) but I felt as though my background as an endurance athlete would suit pushing fastpacking to the next level. I felt (and continue to feel) that my greatest opportunity to see the Tahoe Basin’s wilderness expanse would be on foot, and that speed and mobility would open up more windows than persistence and time could.

This past weekend I put over a dozen trial runs and experimental pushes to the test before setting out on my most ambitious effort yet. My goals were two committed, long runs and a chain of two of Desolation Wilderness’ tallest peaks (Mt. Price and Pyramid Peak), all solo and unsupported.

In preparation for this trip, I built upon the “packing list” that I’ve developed over the last few months of trials. The “musts”: be light, be small, be sufficient, be reliable. I need my gear on these runs to be light so that my pace in the backcountry isn’t compromised. It needs to be small, so that I don’t have to run with more than an endurance running vest (a pack of more than a dozen or so liters, in my view, would compromise running gait and, as a result, speed and efficiency). My gear must also be sufficient: I need enough calories, water, electrolyte supplement, and clothes to last days and nights on my own. Lastly, I need my gear to be reliable (and this is the most paramount of all of my “musts”). Weight/space savings mean nothing if the gear I’m relying on fails me in the wilderness.

Making the cut:

– an Ultimate Direction Peter Bakwin Adventure Vest. My choice for a “pack”, due to its weight/size and features (bottle holsters, storage volume, ergonomics, etc.).

– a Katadyn Hiker Water Purifier. More reliable than a Steripen (I’m not too enthused about entrusting my life to an abundance of technology in the wilderness) and, to me, more tried-and-true than some other options on the market. I recognize that there are some smaller/lighter options (Sawyer makes a popular product), but for the time being the penalty on space/weight is small enough for me to stick to my guns. I am open to exploring other options in the future, though, and would love to find a new product that improves the experience. Beyond all of this, Katadyn filters make the water taste delicious. I anticipate drinking from shallow creeks, snowmelt pools, etc. when I’m out there, and the last time I swallowed some moss and silt while sipping I ran six miles with a pretty awful taste in my mouth (before I finally managed to cough it up). I’d rather carry a bit more weight than use an alternative (Aqua Mira is the high mark for weight savings in water purification) and tolerate that taste again. Moreover, I feel that if I can’t handle an extra 10-oz or so then my legs aren’t as strong as I think.

– a Grand Trunk ultralight hammock is my solution to the sleep quandary. Light, easy, and effective. I use two pieces of paracord to lash it to two trees, and try and set it tight and low to the ground (mimicking a stable sleeping surface as much as possible).

– a SOL Emergency Bivy. The best insulation for your buck: both in terms of cost and weight/space penalty. I’ll never do another overnight without one.

– thermal socks, long-sleeve top, tights, and gloves. I use winter base layers here, and they serve well to keep you insulated at night. I’ll bring a light beanie in colder temps, but use a running headband for warmer nights.

Sunscreen not only saves you from skin cancer, etc., but it also keeps your hydration regulated and keeps you more efficient while running. If you’re running at elevation (everything we do up here), this is even more important.

– Fuel. This is largely personal, but my friends and I make our choices here largely based on calorie-to-weight ration. A good endurance trail mix, jerky, and small sandwiches (Nutella and almond butter on cinnamon raisin bread is my personal favorite) paired with bars and emergency gels get my vote. I know it seems challenging to do two strenuous days with an overnight in the wilderness with no cooking equipment or normal “meals”, but trust me, it can be done. This barrier was broken for me when reading about multi-day high-alpine climbs done in the mountains with no stove – if those guys and girls can get by without one, I’m pretty sure I can get through a single night in the woods without one.

pyramid-peak-lake-aloha-desolation-wilderness-photography

“Sunscreen not only saves from skin cancer, but keeps hydration regulated and keeps you more efficient while running.”

Electrolyte replacement. This is (along with water purification) the most important part of my pack. I know I can go a day or two without much or any food (although my muscles would hate me), and I know I can survive a cold night, but without water and electrolyte replacement my muscles will shut down and limit my speed to a crawl. This lack of mobility in the wilderness could mean serious harm, or worse, and it’s not a risk I’m into taking. Nuun tablets are my product of choice, and on hot/humid trips I’ll supplement that even more with Saltstick tablets.

– a reliable headlamp. Purely a safety issue – you don’t want to get caught in the dark and not be able to move quickly to an overnight destination.

– MAP. Don’t be reckless and ever go into the wilderness without a map (and I do mean a PAPER MAP, not a .pdf synced to your phone – again, don’t leave your life in the hands of technology in the wilderness). This is the lightest/smallest piece of gear that carries the most benefit, and is a must-have. I recommend the National Geographic maps for topographic and trail detail.

– lighter, fire steel, and tinder/starter paper. If you’re going when the overnight lows get down close to freezing, this can be a lifesaver at best and a pleasant luxury regardless. Fires aren’t permitted everywhere, especially in high fire danger seasons, so be aware of regulations. Don’t be that guy or girl that burns the forest down.

– personal luxuries. Travel toothbrush and toothpaste, cellphone (in a waterproof phone bag for rain readiness, on airplane mode to conserve battery life), mosquito net, and compressible sleeping bag. This is the chapter of today’s entry where all of the weight junkies will crucify me. These items regularly make the cut on my trips, although they’re purely luxury choices. A toothbrush and toothpaste (travel sizes) take up almost no space and weight, and really go a long way to freshen you up in the morning. I bring my cellphone in case of emergencies, and for photography. A bring an ENO Bug Net for my hammock, because mosquitos are prevalent up here in the Tahoe Basin and they LOVE me. This is a humongous space/weight penalty, but it’s worth every once for me – it’s oftentimes the difference between a rejuvenating sleep or a handful of sleepless hours being eaten alive. It may not be for you – make your own decisions on your trips. On colder nights (below 50 degrees or so) I bring my Sea to Summit Spark 2 sleeping bag. It’s extremely light and compresses into very small, packable item. When I’m going out for multiple ambitious days, sleep is critical – it’s when the body can regenerate and support more effort the next day. Weight/space penalties that allow for a better/fuller sleep are worth it, in my view.

 

trail-run-overlooking-desolation-wilderness

“The allure of running into the woods and exploring what our world has to offer has overcome me.”

You may choose to bring more or less on your outings, but I encourage you to experiment. Start slow, with shorter runs and less-committing overnight destinations. Give yourself “outs” if things go wrong. Don’t try and superhero a huge run (or two) the first trip. Consider going with a friend, or run to meet friends who are out backpacking/camping – there safety in numbers and a silly mistake that could cost you while solo is sometimes easily mitigated in groups.

 

Now that you’ve enjoyed the first installment of Chris’s Overnight Trail Running Lake Tahoe, be sure to check back next week for the step-by-step adventure report. And if you haven’t subscribed to the blog, be sure to do do via the link at the top of this page. We’d hate for anyone to miss out on all our great content!

 

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