It was about 4 am when I started stirring and just dozed in and out of sleep for the next hour. I finally got up and felt like I should go for a mountain run instead of running around town. I wanted something in the 6 hour range so I decided to head up to Isolation Peak and Mahana Peak deep in Wild Basin. I rolled out of bed a bit after 5 and cooked a big breakfast of bacon and eggs, which was the first of three mistakes I would make.
While the breakfast was delicious, I really don't know why I thought this would sit well for the 17ish miles and 5,000ish feet of gain I would soon be in pursuit of. I took my time eating, getting ready and was at the Wild Basin Trail head at 6:30. Already realizing my breakfast mistake, I tried to relieve some of the problem so wasn't able to begin the run until 6:37.
The first few miles of this trail are at a wonderful grade and I made quick work of it. I made it to Calypso Cascades in 20 minutes and was at Ouzel Falls only 11 minutes after that. But once I passed Ouzel Falls and made the turn on to the Bluebird Lake trail I began having some pretty bad cramps in my left side. Last year at about this time I had a bout with kidney stones and these cramps were in the exact same spot, just on the opposite side. While not nearly as painful, I was still a little concerned. From here to the top of the burned up ridge, where it flattens out, I just hiked. Once it flattened I tried running again, but the cramps flared back up after just a few seconds of the quicker pace. This happened five or six times, so I gave up and decided to hike for thirty minutes to see if I could get them to settle down for good.
I had been taking my s-caps (sodium & potassium) to help with possible cramping, but these seemed to be different. But after about 10 minutes of hiking I could run slowly again. So I ran for a bit until the steeper section just below Bluebird Lake. It only took crossing one snowfield worth mentioning and a few small switchbacks and I was crossing the outlet to Bluebird Lake heading up toward the shelf above in order to get to Lark Pond, Pipit Lake, Isolation Lake and ultimately Isolation Peak and Mahana Peak.
2 hours after leaving the trail head I was about 100 feet above Bluebird Lake and felt like I was making decent time, despite the cramping issues. But this is where the second mistake of the day occurred. I climbed, what I thought was, too high on the shelf and couldn't find a trail. I figured there would be one around the lakes and the inlet/outlet streams to each one. So, hoping that if I found a runable trail, I bushwhacked through some crumholtz and other varieties of low lying shrubs for about 15 minutes until I did make it down to Lark Pond. No trail. Ok, so I'll just hike along the stream up to Pipit Lake and see how it goes.
Looking up above me, where I just was, I could see that it was a nice tundra walk right toward the upper shelf that holds Isolation Lake. So I got to bushwhack back up the slope, as I angled up into the valley, to regain the tundra. This wasted a lot of time, probably 30 minutes worth. More annoyed than anything, I made it up to Isolation Lake and was ready for the final push to the summit of Isolation, 1,100 feet above.
I wet my bandana, took a deep breath and was off. I was unsure how hard to push in fear that my cramps would come back to haunt me. But, as usual, the higher I got the better I felt. This was definitely the best part of the day for me and I made it from Isolation Lake to the summit in 36 minutes, averaging about 2,000 feet per hour. Not too bad for a slope that steep and loose. And the reward was phenomenal! The views from 13,118 feet into the East Inlet Drainage were absolutely stunning! Not to mention the views in every other direction. After taking a few minutes to soak it in, sign the register and catch my breath, I was heading down the mountain over to Mahana Peak, a short distance to the east.
The descent wasn't as quick as I was hoping as the loose talus/scree mix had to be carefully negotiated. At one point I looked up to see a bighorn ewe on the south summit ridge of Isolation at about 13,000 feet. I thought it was cool to see what was probably the highest bighorn in the park at that moment. I continued the descent and before long I was jogging across the saddle between Isolation and Mahana, where my third, and thankfully final, mistake of the day happened.
I was jogging along flat tundra and my mind began to wonder. I was thinking about whether Rangers get annoyed with people doing runs like this in the park, as they get annoyed in the Grand Canyon with folks doing the R2R2R. I remember thinking, "surely not, it's not that dangerous, what could happen?" When wham! My right foot slammed into a rock breaking my middle toe! My first thoughts were "you stupid idiot, pay attention!" and "okay, okay, I see what you mean!" Luckily it wasn't something worse. I stopped, took a look and besides the bent and blue toe it wasn't too bad. It was a little tender if weight got distributed unevenly on it, but all in all it wasn't too bad. I tried to straighten it, which I think actually worked, did a couple laps around it with duct tape, and just figured I'd hike it in.
As I began the ascent of Mahana Peak, I noticed that it didn't hurt at all to hike uphill and summited the 12,632 foot peak at 10:50, 4 hours and 13 minutes into my day. I was a little upset that I wouldn't make the 6 hour mark and was doubting a 7 hour roundtrip because of my toe. But oh well, the weather was great and I had nowhere to be.
I took my time on the summit, took some photos and relaxed for about 10 minutes before I began the descent down the east ridge. It was fairly uneventful on the higher reaches and I even discovered that running wasn't too painful. So I jogged when the terrain allowed and soon made it to the difficulties of Mahana's east ridge. Basically, if you stay left (north) at any questionable terrain, you will get out of the harder descent routes. However, most everything will go.
I finally made it back to the trail above Ouzel Lake where I doused my shirt and bandana in the cold creek and set my handheld water bottle in the creek for about 10 minutes until it was icy cold! This made all the difference. I planned on trying to run the entire way back and now, optimistically, hoped for a 6:30 round trip time. I downed another GU and one more s-cap and began jogging back up to the flat and burned ridge. I was starting to feel a bit better but the cramps and the toe were definitely talking to me.
I had to walk a few times to let the cramps subside, but other than that I was able to run the entirety of the trail to Ouzel Falls, where the next challenge would be trying to get around the crowds. Most were very accommodating and moved over to let me pass. I had to walk behind a few for a few minutes before they moved and some I finally had to ask if I could squeeze by them. I got a few strange looks and got called "crazy" a number of times for running, but, if I pushed it, I could even break my new 6:30 goal. So I cranked it up a notch and a was back at my car in exactly 6:29, at 1:06 pm. While it was 29 minutes beyond my original goal, I was happy considering my three mistakes of the day.
I feel great today (July 4) except for my little smokie of a toe. But it even feels better. It's a little throbby, but the discoloration has subsided, though I think it's more swollen than before. Oh well, I guess it could have been worse!
All in all a great day in the mountains! Hopefully next time everything will line up and I can avoid some of the stupid mistakes that I made on this little outing!
You can see my photos HERE. Sorry there are no captions, working on getting that fixed.
|until next time...|
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