Sunday, June 30, 2013

Devil's Dome Loop epic - North Cascades, WA

Three weeks ago when I did Desolation Peak I really wanted to do the Devil's Dome Loop, but was worried about the amount of snow and route finding that may be required (especially when alone). Dave and I got in touch after I did Desolation (and he was running the Echo Valley 50m) and summarily put the loop on the calendar. Sweet. Richard, who won Echo Valley and is about to run across Iowa, came along as well (and GregH, rehabbing some PF, joined us for the first section and 3,500' climb). 

In a nutshell, the loop circumnavigates Jack Mountain with half of the trail along Ross Lake and Ruby Creek, and the other half almost all above treeline on Jackita and Devil's ridges. The highest point is just over 6,900' on the summit of Devil's Dome. 

It took us longer than expected because of the route finding and overgrowth/blowdown. August-September will be much better conditions, but it was a great time-on-legs day for all of us.

A few of my pictures (my PhotoShop is not working; when it's fixed I'll stitch some of the panos and hopefully post some pictures from Dave and Richard, as well as their trip reports):

Greg crossing a creek on the way up to the Crater Mountain trail junction.

Devil's Park, heading up to Jackita Ridge.

Central Jackita Ridge; Anacortes crossing in the center background.
Route finding through central Jackita Ridge; Richard's photo.
North Fork Devil's Creek headwaters; cross-country travel from here up to Devil's Ridge; Dave's photo.
Richard (r) and Dave running toward Devil's Pass.

On Devil's Ridge, NE face of Jack Mountain behind.
Leaving the summit of Devil's Dome, looking west; Dave's photo.

Devil's Dome group shot. Thanks Richard!

Action Dave descending from Devil's Dome (I butt-glissaded...); Richard's photo.
On top of Devil's Dome.
Shuffling along the East Bank trail; Richard's photo.
Done....for today.
  • Currently, there still is significant snow in the central and northern portions of Jackita Ridge, especially in the North Fork Devil’s Creek valley (up toward Anacortes crossing). Significant route finding and cross-country travel is required for approximately three miles in this section from the descent into the valley up to regaining the ridge toward Devil's Pass. There is patchy snow earlier, and along Devil's Ridge, but it is not an issue. 
  • There is ample water along every section of trail (longest distance without maybe 4-5 miles from Dry Creek Pass, which has water, down to Ross Lake). 
  • For two miles From Dry Creek Pass toward Ross Lake the trail is very overgrown and there are 10-15 major blowdowns. The last two few miles down to the East Bank trail has only small trees across the trail. There also is overgrowth on the Ruby Creek trail going east from the East Bank trailhead.  
A BIG thank you to the guys for coming out and doing this. It was awesome.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Weekly "speed" effort

Last week I did my first speed workout, something I want to do once a week since I'm not getting much power/sprint training from soccer.

Yesterday I went out on a hard tempo run, run-commuting home from work:

Always forget how hard concrete is on the body...but it felt good to go out and push the pace.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

North Shore running around

After last weekend, it felt good to do a consecutive-weekend long run:

Ran Lynn Loop as a warm up, then up Mountain Highway to Grouse summit, down to the Chalet to watch Seek the Peak finish and meet Darren; we ran down Mountain Highway to the gravel pit and then up Fromme summit (the trail is marked very well, but lots of blowdown and its 60% snow covered), then all the way down Mountain Highway and over Baden Powell and Powerline to Grouse.

Looking across the Fraser Valley from Fromme summit; Mt. Baker (r) and Mt. Shuksan.

Fromme summit with Darren.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Desolation Peak in a day - North Cascades National Park, WA

“So shut up, live, travel, adventure, bless and don't be sorry”

In some ways, having to ford Roland Creek is a blessing: the chilly snowmelt cools down my burning feet, and at the pace I’m moving the squishiness isn’t too bothersome. Just 6.5 more miles back to the trailhead…

Over 40 miles into the day, I’m moving at a slow shuffle, popping jelly beans and washing them down with creek water. My left arch is sore and curling my toes down while I hike the hills actually helps.

Two miles left: a party of backpacking women scoots off the trail to let me pass. They’re either extremely courteous or I look as bad as my body is tired.

Sitting down in the trunk of my car feels weird. For the last 10.5 hours I’ve been on my legs, even when I spent 15 minutes on the summit of Desolation Peak, I realize I never sat down.


After Sun Mountain I was really excited to do some running in the mountains. There is little snowpack compared to an average year and in a few more weeks more high-country routes hopefully will open up.

I had a few other options in the North Cascades I was considering, but without any firsthand trip reports I chose to do a route I knew was essentially snow-free: Desolation Peak (6,102’) via the Ross Lake East Bank Trail.

It’s about 15 miles of mostly flat, rolling terrain from Highway 20 to Lightning Creek and the turnoff for Desolation. Sometimes scenic, but mostly through dense forest, there aren’t too many great views along the trail until you’re all the way on the Desolation trail.

Bring an extra set of quads and calve muscles. After the turnoff it’s an average of 1,000 feet of vertical gain per mile for 4.7 miles. And even knowing that there’s a false summit doesn’t help very much when you crest it, and look up to see the lookout, another 200 vertical feet up.

The summit is cool and windy, and after refilling my hydration bladder with snow I snap a few pictures, eat a bit and start back down.

Panorama from Desolation Peak, from north (r) to south (l), looking west.

Opposite view from above, from north (l) to south (r), looking east.

25 down, 22 to go. 
Finally, when I reach the bottom of Desolation and turn onto the East Bank Trail, I know I’m going to be able to do this.

Before yesterday my longest run was 50k (31 miles). After getting lost early on and mentally beating myself up way more than necessary, I had my doubts. Could I use it as an excuse to quit? Maybe only do 36 miles roundtrip and skip out on summiting Desolation? I hate that I even let myself think those thoughts. I knew what I wanted to do, and as long as I wasn't injured or in danger, I should have been mentally stronger. I hope that’s a lesson I don’t soon forget.    
Even if I simply have to hike the 15 miles from Lightning Creek, I know I can make it. I’m tired; no acute pain, just fatigue.

I pass Rainbow Point and know that if I can keep moving well, I’ll get some good water when I ford Roland and then it’s just a hike over Hidden Hand Pass, a descent and some rolling terrain back to the car.

I’m still moving well. I make it to the bridge over Ruby Creek and hike the ¼ mile up to the car.

Rehydrated and downed some protein recovery drink, followed by ice-cold Mountain Dew from the Newhalem General Store and then Dairy Queen in Sedro-Woolley. Quality, no?
I made the day a bit longer by making silly mistakes: I blew right past the turnoff for the East Bank Trail before Ruby Pasture, and ping pong-ed around for two and a half (!?!?) miles (miles 2.5-5). Then after the Lightning Creek bridge crossing, you need to take the right trail (labeled Hozomeen) for a few hundred yards before reaching another fork; go left on the trail labeled Desolation. Oh well; character building.

It was a fabulous day and I have to say thank you to the groups of people, and two National Park Service rangers, who I met along the trails and were very supportive, giving me great words of encouragement along the way. It was nice to hear that they thought I was doing something cool, as opposed to stupid/crazy/masochistic J .  

Car to summit (includes the three “bonus” miles while lost): 25 miles, 5:29:17
Roundtrip: 47 miles, 10:19:37, 10,100’ total vertical gain (10:36 total time, including the 15 minutes spent on Desolation summit)


There are many streams for water early on. There is only one small stream between Lightning Creek and the Desolation Peak trail. I think it’ll dry up relatively soon, so fill up from the Lightning Campground on the lake before heading to Desolation, just to be safe. There is a bit of patchy snow, and 200 yards of solid snow, below the summit, but it’s soft and melting.

Roland Creek is the only ford, everything else is passable on rocks or logs.


Overall, felt like great training for White River.

Enjoy the trails!