Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Eight Times Around Rainier

Eight Times Around Rainier:
Wandering the Wonderland in Ceaseless Wonder

photo by Ras/UltraPedestrian.comBy Kathy Vaughan

     We awoke in the middle of the trail, the cold pre-dawn chilling us until we stirred fitfully. We were on the descent to the South Mowich River from Golden Lakes. We had hiked through the high alpine meadows and the area around the old patrol cabin in the middle of the night, frost on the boardwalks and puncheon bridges crunching underfoot. The silvered and burned snags stood tall in the distance as we moved towards them, knowing that we would soon be descending towards the Mowich, the wooded switchback trails ahead giving us an opportunity to catch a couple hour nap. 

     Ras and I were on a nighttime stretch during our 94 mile Wonderland Trail run around Mt. Rainer. We had a long weekend open up in the midst of our busy schedule working as weeders for a yard care service on Whidbey Island. Each weekend all summer long, Ras and I had been getting out on adventure runs, either with each other or with other partners. This was an opportunity for us to do something long together. It would be a challenge and I didn’t know if all of my unsupported trail excursions would benefit me on the 20,000+ feet of elevation gain involved in this circumambulation of Rainier, or hinder me because of my sore knees and tight IT bands. I had set out in an attempt to run the Wonderland on the weekend of my 50th birthday, with my friend Lisa. It was quite hot on the trails around the mountain that weekend, and we altered our route to the 40 mile Owyhigh Lakes loop instead. I was crawling along slowly on the climbs in the heat, and may have even been suffering from some heat illness. The Wonderland wasn’t going to work for me that weekend, but this weekend, with the first of the autumn temperatures on the mountain scape, it was seeming more likely.

photo by Ras/

     Ras and I set out from Longmire at 10:33 in the morning on Saturday the 6th of September. We headed out clockwise to tackle the 10,000 feet of elevation gain we would encounter on the more secluded west side of Rainier. We started by climbing towards Rampart Ridge, crossing the glacial waters of Kautz Creek and then onwards towards Pyramid Creek. The going in here was smooth and encouraging. I enjoyed the cooler weather and was prepared with enough layers to take on colder temperatures as they were likely to occur when the sun dropped. I love the fall and spending time in the forest on cool days is an all sensory experience. The damp earth emits a woodsy fragrance that brings me calm and evokes feelings of peace from past trail times. 

     Ras and I each settled into our own thoughts and quietly pushed the climb towards Devil’s Dream Camp and Indian Henry’s Hunting ground beyond. The patrol cabin there was occupied with other people out enjoying the trail, so Ras and I continued on before taking our first sit down break.  We had brought along our leftovers from Pizza Pi all vegan pizzeria in the U district of Seattle.  We used to take our daughter Angela there when she attended the University of Washington. We purposely got enough so that we would have some for the trail, a special way to take in some calories and good memories at the same time. My favorite is Presto Pesto and I shared some slices with Ras, as we sat alongside the trail where it first descends from the high meadows of Indian Henry’s Hunting grounds towards the suspension bridge that spans Tahoma Creek, far below. 

     We got chilled pretty fast and this forced us to get moving on our technical descent to the bridge. The trail was steep and rocky, but also scenic and fun. We got moving and reached the bridge in no time. It was fun to cross and think about my first time, crossing it together with Angela as she was only 7 and needed accompaniment. Ras shot some video on our crossings and we continued on our way, climbing towards Emerald Ridge. Nothing about the Wonderland is easy. There are challenges all along the way. Each seemingly insurmountable challenge I’ve ever experienced on that route has taught me a valuable lesson; has been achievable; has been worth every minute of it. All moments in the raw wild of nature are what is real about life. It’s the moments indoors, eating processed food and being warmed by unnatural heating that are artificial. I thrive in the outdoors. I spend time indoors and even time working in the outdoors, longing for the freedom of the trails. 

photo by Ras/

     Being on the Wonderland and having 94 miles to cover, I was in my element. Any struggles aside, I was in a zone out of which I could not be snapped until I returned to my car, on foot.  I had set out to complete this once already a few weeks back. This time I would cover all the miles, see all the sights, feel all the feels of completing this iconic route in one straight through push.

     Mist rising off of the wet downed old growth created a mystical feel to the surroundings as Ras and I were waking up. We had to get across a couple of separate channels of the braided Mowich Rivers coming off of the glacier on this facing of the mountain. The river was wild and tumultuous; the color of chocolate milk. Ras had tried to build a rock crossing here in the middle of his Rainier Infinity Loop in July. He finally spotted a log crossing with his partner Gavin Woody and got safely across. We didn’t know what to expect this time because of the experience he had earlier in the season. 

photo by Ras/

     Instead, there had been a new bridge built and easy to follow cairns marking the way through the rocky river bed. We got across without issue and soon saw a young couple, also doing the Wonderland in ultrarunner style. They were coming downhill, moving well, and looked like they had been working hard. They may have even looked “too fresh”, and Ras and I surmised their run may have been supported. They might have camped up at Mowich Lake the night before. They may have just been younger, stronger, more fit and rocking it in better style than Ras and I too. Either way, they were friendly. We went on our way, climbing up from the Mowich crossings toward the eponymous lake.

photo by Kathy Vaughan/

       I have done this climb so many times and in a different mode each time. On this occasion I felt pretty strong, although it does always feel relentless. It’s a 3.7 mile climb with a 1,000 foot gain per mile. That’s stiff. I listened to some good music on my mp3 player to distract me. I settled into the switchbacks. Ras and I paused for a few minutes and had a snack. We continued on contouring at first and then climbing gently towards some creek crossings. Onwards, upwards towards Mowich Lake where Ras planned on checking the thru hiker box at the ranger cabin. I had hoped he would find some hand warmers there, or any kind of vegan friendly snack food. We were “thruing” the Wonderland, after all, and it was legit to see what the hiker box might behold. We’ve contributed to these things before.

      I sat at a picnic table, cleaning out and reorganizing my pack, as I watched the comings and goings of the camp area. I felt drowsy and low energy, but looked forward to the 2ish mile climb to Ipsut Pass. Once there, we had a long descent to the confluence of Ipsut Creek and the Carbon River. This was a magically scenic section of trail through thick old growth forest with babbling brooks, gigantic ferns and soft carpets of differing mosses. We could make some good time in here and relax into the day. 

photo by Kathy Vaughan/

     Ras returned with a small baggie of Starbursts, which we divided up evenly. I ate mine right there and threw the little wrappers away while we had access to garbage cans. We got ready and hit the trail once again. The trail left the lakeshore and made its way to the pass where several other parties arrived at the exact same time that we did. We let two guys go ahead of us on the down climb and then we left the scenic over look to descend into the Ipsut Creek drainage. It is one of the most beautiful spots on earth and I love being there. I watched my footing while still taking in the views. There were also berries to eat and Ras dropped behind to graze. I was enjoying trotting along on the steep switchbacks, knowing that the evening’s mileage included climbing the rocky trail along the Carbon Glacier, past Dick Creek Camp, through Moraine Park to the high ridge above Mystic Lake.

photo by Kathy Vaughan/

     The mountain reappeared as the enchanted, wooded meadow of Moraine Park opened into a valley dotted with large erratics. Marmots whistled in the distance. My goal was to reach that ridge above Mystic Lake before the sun sunk and we lost our light. I climbed in earnest, my eyes searching for the ridge after each steep, short switchback. Leading the climb, with Ras just behind me, I got to the sign pointing to the lake .7 miles away, at the high point I’d had in my sights. It felt good to have reached that little goal. I called out in triumph to Ras, but kept on going, trying to run some of this downhill, my headlamp leading the way now. It was an eroded and steep trail for a little way, but then it ended in a sweet little flat meadow leading up to the lake. It then ran alongside the lake. Being here in the dark was absolutely perfect.

photo by Ras/

     After running around a portion of the lake, the trail took us off towards the camp. We stopped so I could get some little rocks out of my shoes and Ras got a couple of pictures from this spot at the alpine lake in the quiet of the night. We got through the camp unnoticed and went on our way to cross White River, another of the glacial river crossings. This one was as smooth as the others had been, a good log crossing in place. Now the trail was cruisy as we meandered along with only gentle climbs, leading to the moraine field section. Going through this exposed section at night felt good, cold drifts of air coming up from the openings between the huge rocks in this glacial wasteland.  There is no shade in here if traveling in the heat of the day during the summer months. Ras and I made good time through this section and then we had another river to cross.

photo by Ras/

     Winthrop Creek at 4,900 feet originates from the second largest glacier on the mountain and is named after Theodore Winthrop, a nineteenth century author. In 1853 he saw the Winthrop Glacier and writes about it in his book “The Canoe and The Saddle”. We crossed the creek via a sturdy log. On the other side, we began a steep climb. We passed a spot where Garda Falls once attracted hikers for camping. It then closed to camping and was a water stop for my family many times. But late one night while running the Mother Mountain Loop with my friends Vivian Doorn and Lisa Eversgerd, we got to this spot, and it no longer existed. I had told them we could stop here and get water before the climb, but it had been obliterated in a land slide. A large tree jam had changed the terrain and it was no longer a parked-out rest stop. It was uninviting, sharp branches poking out and piled up on each other. We had moved on.

     Ras and I did not speak of this as we passed through this time around. It had gotten dark again, another night coming to pass. We were focused on getting to the White River Campground where we planned on taking a nap at the thru-hikers’ camp site. We had some miles to cover before then, but we knew how to get it done. We both had our mp3 players going, giving us something to enjoy listening to as we traveled along the trail through the dark of the night. We were moving towards Granite Creek Camp at 5,730 feet. This was another favorite spot along the trail, because the creek itself is so clean and pure, such a classic example of a mountain stream. My family took a rest day at the group site here when we first took on this trail with Angela at age seven, a big eyed innocent young hiker. She loved meeting other hikers and she got to interact with some at the camp during that hike. We hung out in camp all day, playing at the stream some and washing our clothes in a large ziplock bag.

     But this time, Ras and I crossed the small log foot bridge and moved through yet another of the Wonderland camps stealthily under the night sky. We now had some gentle switchbacks for a couple of miles until reaching the high open landscape of Packtrain Ridge. I had been struggling internally with the effort we were putting out. I was disoriented and slightly out of it when we first got up onto the ridge. There was thick mist in the air and it was hard to see very far in front of us. Ras had taken the lead, feeling good and moving well. I struggled behind him with these feelings of not quite vertigo, but something taking over my whole being, my state of mind and my ability to move very efficiently this late in the night. I really did know this area of the trail quite well. But right now, I could not figure out where we were. We finally reached the intersection where the trail to Skyscraper Peak stretches off towards the sky. Ras said, “Okay, are you ready?” I was in disbelief. I didn’t know if I could even pull off the rest of the mileage to complete the Wonderland, let alone add on this side trip to climb Skyscraper. He said we had decided even just a short while ago that we would climb it. I had no recollection of that and was really surprised that he had planned on doing it. It was midnight, cold, and we were already pressed for enough time to finish and get back to work by nine o’clock Tuesday morning. 

     Unfortunately, this ended up being a turning point for me. I knew I had disappointed Ras by turning down the side trip up Skyscraper. I like the climb too. I too was enjoying making summits each weekend throughout the summer. At this moment though, I felt like adding it onto our 94 mile adventure that was stretching out, was over the top. I also felt pulled to do it and was bummed out I had reacted so strongly to the idea. It did not feel good that we were now moving on, down the trail, in the thick mist, away from the opportunity to pull off that summit. I got teary and even more weary. We dropped down towards Sunrise Camp in the cold basin below us. Ras stayed in the lead. We tried stopping in the lee of an outbuilding at the camp, but the strong wind gusts were still too cold for us to stop for long. We moved on, now on the final three mile stretch towards White River Camp and our nap.

     Finally, we got to the wooded camp. There were restrooms and spigots with running water. We put down one of our Six Moon Designs Gatewood Capes and used the other for a cover. We bundled up in every layer we had with down puffy suits as the top layer. I took off my Altra Lone Peak 3.0 NeoShell Mids, and Ras kept his Lone Peaks on his feet for warmth. I had a blister and wanted to stretch out my feet. It felt good to be out of shoes for a little while. It was 4:30 in the morning. We both fell fast asleep, surrounded by other thru-hikers, unaware of our presence in camp right near them.

     We wanted to wake up and exit the area to begin our final 30 miles, by about 7:30, allowing us three hours of sleep. I woke up first and wondered off to the rest rooms, filling my water bottles on the way back. Ras was still asleep, so I cuddled up beside him and rested just a little longer. We didn’t discuss our plan for the day. I really didn’t know yet what it was. I encouraged him to wake up and move out to the picnic area where we could find a sunny spot to warm up and regroup. We finally moved out there, but were both so tired we would drop off to sleep in the sunshine before making any progress with our trip planning. Could I continue? Did we have enough time? Should we hitchhike back to Longmire from here? Should we pull ourselves together and just get back out on the trail? Would we make it to work on time if we continued? Could we even contact our boss, Mary, from here via our cell phones? 

     After moving from sunny spot to sunny spot for a couple of hours, taking in mouthfuls of my Expedition Espresso Trail Butter pouch to energize myself, we finally argued ourselves into getting started again. Neither of us wanted to give up and we knew we could finish off the mileage. We just didn’t know if we could pick up the pace like we needed to, this deep in.  I had a couple of blisters I needed to tend to before getting started and I’d have to push myself to run more than hike in order to get this thing done. 

photo by Ras/

     We hit the trail leading out of the White River Campground, crossed the White River and ran the rolling trail for several miles before it began the climb along Frying Pan Creek. We moved together quietly. I knew that each time I pushed myself harder than I felt like I could, harder than I wanted to, it would make a difference. This was it. These were the final miles of the Wonderland Trail. Before I knew it, we had reached the high meadows of Summerland and began our trek up the steps towards Panhandle Gap. We were at one of the final cruxes of the route. This climb through snowfields in the cold mist and wind was hard. We couldn’t stop as it was just too cold. We were low on food, stretching out carefully what we had left to last into the night miles. The views were not far reaching. The clouds and thick mists shielded the views from us as we looked out into the distance. We both pushed forward, strong and determined. At the Ohanepecosh River we would take a break and fill our water bottles. Right now we just wanted to move, one foot in front of the other, through this mountainous terrain. 

photo by Kathy Vaughan/

     A few other backpackers meandered through the camp at Indian Bar. They were filtering water, or getting settled into camp, or just relaxing after a day on the trail. We were filtering water and then moving on, an additional 18 miles to go before finishing our weekend route. Nothing is as scenic as Indian Bar. The Ohanepecosh River meanders down from an inactive hanging glacier and babbles through the valley. A stone shelter presides just above the river and the hidden backcountry camp turns off the trail just before it.  Ras and I settled into a spot were a side creek splits off from the main river and it’s easy to get nice clear water here. We shared Honey Stinger Energy Chews and drank ice cold water. We knew we had it now. The Cowlitz Divide lay ahead. This would be challenging, steep little climbs and descents over eight miles or so. Then, before we knew it, we would be running the gentle downhill trail towards Nickle Creek. I was looking forward to passing the intersection of trail where Lisa and I decided to run the Owyhigh Lakes Loop instead of the Wonderland for my 50th, back in August. It was a hard decision and we sat at that spot for a good half hour. I knew it would feel pretty awesome to run through it, on my way to completing the Wonderland this summer after all. 

photo by Kathy Vaughan/

     Ras and I felt great moving through the Cowlitz Divide. We took a couple of short breaks on scenic overlooks, but for the most part, got some quick miles in. We climbed well and had those little summits behind us before we knew it. I recognized the point where the trail begins to descend towards Nickle Creek. I opened up and let loose. I ran well and the miles glided by. We got to the intersection where Olallie Camp cuts off, where Lisa and I had turned. We ran by it and it did feel good. On and on we went at a good pace, running towards Nickle Creek, Box Canyon and then Maple Creek. 

     Somewhere around Maple Creek it all took a turn. Rain began to fall, at first as a drizzle which wasn’t much of an issue for us. It then came on stronger, and finally began pouring with an intensity that grew more mighty with each foot of elevation we gained. The night wore on and on, rain soaking us and only the end in sight pulling us like a magnet ever forward along the dark trail. We both wore our Gatewood Capes and they kept us warm and dry enough, if we kept moving. We could completely tuck underneath it if we needed to make an adjustment with our mp3 players, headlamps or wrappers on our snacks. Ras knew I was running a little low on my food supply, so he had saved a Caramel Honey Stinger Waffle for me. It tasted so good, in this nighttime rain storm, almost 90 miles into the Wonderland.

     Ras shared stories with me about what it was like for he and Gavin at this point in their Rainier Infinity Loop. They finished it at Paradise and thus had to climb an additional 3,000 feet in three miles off of the Wonderland route. They had already summited Rainier twice at this same point we were tackling in the night. Stevens Canyon was wet, slick, steep, but well maintained. A trail crew had been through and cut back all of the thick brush that tends to cover the trail in here. It had been that way when Ras and Gavin came through here. The workers had also repaired a slide in a section prone to giving way, and so we had a safe passage through here as well. 

photo by Kathy Vaughan/

     The climb ended at Reflection Lakes. The trail crosses the Stevens Canyon Highway at a couple of different points, circles the outer edge of Lake Louise and climbs again to reach Reflection Lakes. Then finally, the descent to Longmire begins. Ras and I had a couple of hours to go before our circle around the mountain was complete. We were able to run, albeit slowly, along the Paradise River. The trail had roots and rocks to navigate. They were wet from the deluge, but Ras took the lead here and we were each able to skip through at our own comfortable pace.  

     I could hear the roar of the Nisqually River, the final glacial river crossing. Nicely built log crossings with rails were in place, so getting across all of the channels was easy enough, even in the dark. It seemed now like most of our glacial river crossings had been in the dark. I reflected on how far I had come with these crossings. I once felt so nervous, sometimes crying or jittering with fear as I heard the loud rushing of the silty waters. Now, it was just not a big deal and my body did not send me these same signals.

     From the Nisqually, Cougar Rock Campground is just a short distance away. Car campers can drive up to this campground and hikers can also reserve spots to utilize it during a thru hike of the Wonderland. We quietly ran past the spur trail leading to the campground and continued down the wide path lined in huge firs, cedars and hemlocks. We could see the remains of old wooden water pipes that were once used to transport water in this area. We knew we were getting closer, but we still had just shy of two miles to go. 

     The bright lights of Longmire let us know we were there. I picked up the pace, running the easy final stretch of trail into the well-lit parking lot. It was 3:30 a.m. Ras and I had taken 65 hours to run and hike the Wonderland Trail, unsupported, with autumn temperatures and daylight guiding our way.  We got to our old Subaru wagon and took off our Nathan packs. I climbed into the front seat and reached for my bag of dry clothes I’d been visualizing changing into for many wet hours. Although wet, my feet had been well protected and warm inside my Altra Lone Peak 3.0  NeoShell Mids. My gear was dry inside my Nathan running vest. I felt good inside, having stuck to an ethic of Zero Limits and completed my eighth and fastest circumambulation of Mount Rainier.  

photo by Ras/


1. Nathan VaporShadow (I used the male version belonging to Ras, waiting for the arrival of my female version, the VaporAiress. I have since received two Nathan Ultrarunning packs, designed specifically for women, and used the VaporAiress for a supported 50k. I fell in love with this pack, finding it perfectly designed. It was so comfortable and had all the right pockets in all the right places. It was easy to reach the side zip pouches while still moving. I hardly noticed it for the eight hours I wore it, fresh off the shelf. Ras and I are now new, Nathan brand ambassadors.) 
2. Altra Lone Peak 3.0 NeoShell Mids 
3. Injinji Trail Socks
4. Altra Performance Skirt 
5. Altra tech short sleeve shirt
6. Smartwool mid weight hooded sweater, arm sleeves, knee high ski socks, calf sleeves and neck gaiter
7. Dirty Girl Gaiters
8. Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape
9. Mammut Down Puffy Jacket 850 Fill
10. Mont Bell Down Puffy & synthetic blend pants
11. 3 packets of chemical handwarmers
12. Ziplock baggie of pancreatic enzymes, antacids, ibuprofen, caffeine pills, and ginger chews
13. Ziplock baggie of toilet paper and a moist towlette
14. 4 Honey Stinger Waffles, 1 packet of Honey Stinger Energy Chews, 2 avacado wraps in whole wheat tortillas, a baggie of roasted and salted seaweed snacks, 2 Expedition Expresso Trail Butter pouches, 4 Picky Bars, 4 slices of leftover vegan Presto Pesto pizza from Pizza Pi in Seattle, 1 homemade apricot fruit roll-up, a few peppermint hard candies, 1 package of Mushroom & Herb cous cous, rehydrated with cold water in a plastic ziplock container, a small serving of Ras’ dehydrated rice and beans.
15. Skins brand compression capris
16. The North Face brand heavy winter running tights
17. Mp3 player loaded with lots of Raggae Dancehall mixed tapes, The Martian and Dharma Bums
18. Black Diamond Icon Mountaineering headlamp with extra set of batteries
19. Smartphone, mainly for use as a camera
20. Swix brand cross country ski gloves
21. Fleece and synthetic fur lined ear flap hat   
*Ras carried 2 small chargers for recharging our electronic devices

photo by Kathy Vaughan/

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

MAIL Caloric Burn vs Intake

Mount Adams Infinity Loop
photo by Ras/
Complete Caloric Burn Versus Intake

by Ras Vaughan

I have been fueling based on both dietary fat and stored body fat for almost five years now, since I began training for the inaugural Pigtails Challenge 200 miler early in 2012. (Here's my nutrition and fueling report from Pigtails, May 2012.) I find that fat based fueling helps me achieve a more consistent and sustainable level of performance. In addition, having my body habituated to prioritizing fat metabolization means that I can rely on fueling in part from my body's fat stores, which in turn means that I can carry and eat less food than the math would, at face value, imply. 

I assiduously saved all the wrappers, baggies, and packaging from my various fuels throughout the Mount Adams Infinity Loop. I did this in keeping with my Unsupported ethic of carrying all my supplies and gear from beginning to end, which, to my mind, includes carrying all of my trash until the finish. This also made it easy for me to reconstruct the fuel I consumed during a project by counting up the wrappers and portions of the foods I ingested. 

Below is an accounting of my total calorie intake, as well an estimate of the total calories I burned during my adventure. If anything, the caloric needs estimate is conservative. It only takes into account mileage with an offset for elevation gain. It doesn't take other factors into account that burn more calories to cover the same ground; such as cold temperatures wherein your body burns calories heating itself, or moving against a strong headwind. In all actuality, it's likely I burned a few more calories than I estimate here.

An obvious aberration in my fueling regimen is the SweetTarts. I have only extremely rarely had trouble with queasiness or upset stomach or feeling nauseous during high mileage, multi-day endurance adventures. What DOES sometimes trouble me is simply a lack of appetite. I try to take a "wierd food" of some sort on each adventure, something that tastes completely different and has a distinct texture or unique mouthfeel. This is how I first started taking toasted seaweed on adventures, and it is now a regular part of my fuel kit. I figured tart, chalky, pseudo-fruit flavored lozenges would fit the bill nicely, and they did indeed. 

SweetTarts were one of my favorite treats as a kid, and I still really enjoy them. I had forgotten I had them with me, and was quite stoked when I found them in my pack during the descent from the first summit. I realize, and freely admit, that they have almost no actual food value (or food ingredients), but they are certainly calorie dense. I'm not proud of them being part of my fueling for this adventure, but Kathy and I strive to be as transparent as we can be in recounting our adventures, and sometime that means having to publicly admit to enjoying a box of artificially colored sugar disks. Mea culpa. 


Total calories consumed during Mount Adams Infinity Loop

Trail Butter Expedition Espresso 2.5 x 760 = 1,900 calories
Honey Stinger Waffles 6 x 150 = 900 calories
Picky Bars Smooth Caffeinator 2 x 200 = 400 calories
Peanut Butter Crackers packet 2 x 200 = 400 calories
Honey Stinger Cherry Cola Energy Chews 3 x 160 = 480 calories
Toasted Seaweed Snacks 3 x 30 = 90 calories
SweetTarts throwback box 2 x 780 = 1,560 calories
Instant Rice 1 cup x 390 = 390 calories
Instant Refried Beans 1 cup x 384 = 384 calories
6,504 total calories consumed

Caloric needs for Mount Adams Infinity Loop

6,600 calories = 66 miles x 100 calories per mile
2,000 calories = 20,000 feet (round estimate) elevation gain
                        x 100 calories per 1,000 feet of gain
5,000 calories = 2,000 daily baseline metabolic calories x 2.5 days
13,600 total calories burned

Overall Caloric Burn Versus Intake for Mount Adams Infinity Loop

13,600 total calories burned
6,504 total calories consumed
7,096 calories total caloric debt accrued

photo by Ras/

Sunday, October 9, 2016

MAIL Complete Gear List

Mount Adams Infinity Loop
photo by Ras/
Complete Gear List

by Ras Vaughan

The Mount Adams Infinity Loop was my second foray into the very rarified discipline which Gavin Woody has dubbed "ultraneering". The simplest definition of this would be something along the lines of, "A route of greater distance than a standard marathon which includes terrain which necessitates the use of mountaineering skills, methodology, and/or gear." As often happens, I found myself carrying a pack full of gear for a 56+ hour, 60 mile double summit traverse and circumnavigation of Mount Adams which was substantially smaller and lighter than those being worn by other climbers for a single summit bid. In saying this, I'm not judging the gear choices of others, simply presenting the juxtaposition of techniques. 

What I was attempting, and what fascinates and exhilarates me, is the minimalist, fast and light, alpinist end of the spectrum, as evidenced by the list below. In putting together my kit for an adventure of this sort, I make every effort to avoid carrying things which serve only one purpose. Rather than carrying a number of very specific pieces of gear, I attempt to assemble an extremely flexible and versatile collection of tools and materials that can be configured many different ways to deal with any number of unforeseen circumstances.

Since this project was solo and unsupported, I did end up carrying a couple pounds worth of batteries and chargers for the electronic equipment. Much of this would be unnecessary on a trip for the pure joy of it. I end up carrying extra gear such as a SPOT transponder and GoPro in order to document my efforts and to provide some degree of interactivity for friends, family, and the general public to follow along. This comes with being a public person and a sponsored athlete, as well as an FKT player.


Here's a complete list of all the gear (non-food) I used:

Nathan Journey Fastpack (preproduction test model)
Nathan Insulated 750 ml bottles (qty 2)
Nathan 2 Liter Bladder
Altra NeoShell Lone Peak Mid High insulated, waterproof trail running shoes
Altra Performance Half Zip Long Sleeve Shell 
Altra Everyday Shorts
Montbell synthetic puffy jacket
Western Mountaineering Flash Pant
Sugoi Insulated Running Tights
Injinji Trail 2.0 midweight toe socks
Smartwool midweight socks
Smartwool Arm Warmers
Seven Hills Running Shop shirt by Pearl Izumi
Kahtoola KTS Steel Crampons
Julbo Glacier Glasses
Outdoor Research Expedition gaiters
Black Diamond Polar Icon Headlamp
Black Diamond gloves
Bluewater 48" webbing sling
Camp Corsa Aluminum Ice Axe
Needles 50k buff (gift from Kathy)
REI merino wool liner gloves (didn't use)
Cheap Fleece camo hat bought in a mini mart years ago
Black Diamond Ultra Distance Carbon Z Poles
Duct tape wrapped around each trekking pole, 6 feet x 2 = 12 feet total
Black Diamond Vapor Helmet
SPOT Transponder
REI ultralight 10 liter Drysack
Sony Walkman mp3 player
Asio Altimeter watch
Garmin eTrex 20 gps
GoPro Hero3+ camera
Nokia Lumia 930 smartphone

EC Technology Power Bank 3.7V/22400mAh/82.8Wh charger
Sony walkman 16gb mp3 player

Sea To Summit titanium spork
Ziplock screw top container for soaking dehydrated food
spare OR gaiter for use as a skidplate for seated glissades

550 paracord to rig above mentioned gaiter in place, 3 meters
Energizer Ultimate Lithium AAA batteries (qty 6) for SPOT transponder
Duracell Quantum AA batteries (qty 14) for headlamp and gps
caffeine pills 200mg (qty 15) used 6
ibuprofin pills 200mg (qty 24) used 12
numerous ziplock baggies

Master Amino Acid Pattern supplement (10) used all 10, 
    could have used 90 but didn't have the budget for it

photo by Ras/

Mount Adams Infinity Loop COMPLETE - Only Known Time

Mount Adams Infinity Loop Completed
Only Known Time of 56 hours and 20 minutes

Solo, Unsupported
A Combined Double Summit Traverse And 
Circumambulation Of Mount Adams

Official Start Time - 12:02 PM Saturday, September 24, 2016

Official Finish Time - 08:22 PM Monday, September 26, 2016

Total Distance measured by Garmin eTrex 20 - 60.01 Miles

photo by Gavin Woody / Ultraneering.comby Ras Vaughan

At 12:02 PM on Saturday, September 24th, 2016, I began at the intersection of the Killen Creek Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the High Camp Trail on the north side of Mount Adams. This was a three mile approach from my car, so I did not plan on resupplying in between loops, as this would add a six mile out and back. Therefore, the entire Mount Adams Infinity Loop was unsupported. I didn't place any resupply caches or forage or accept trail magic, I carried all my food and gear from the very beginning to the very end, didn't drop off any trash, and I only refilled my water from natural sources.

I had never before set foot on either the North Cleaver or the South Spur routes, but I had lots of route beta from and other sources. The Class 2 scramble up the North Cleaver was fun and interesting and only got challenging when I accidentally veered off the proper route momentarily. I saw three or four other climbers descending as I was ascending.

Summit Number One, 7:00 PM was very cold and wet due to very high (50+ mph) winds and low clouds enclosing the summit. It was too cold and wet and inhospitable to stop for any reason, be it eating or taking pictures. It was growing dark as I traversed the summit. I was the only person on the summit as the sun began to set, and, consequently, the last person down that day. Once I reached the summit I had a GPS track to follow down the South Spur, although this was unnecessary because of the easy to follow boot track and glissade chutes. I hiked and ran through the night, napping briefly at random intervals. 

I completed the first loop and reached the start/finish Killen Creek/PCT/High Camp Trail intersection at 8:00 AM on Sunday, September 25th. I changed out to my daytime layer, repacked my kit, and began my second assent a little before 9:00 AM. The second climb up the North Cleaver was sunny and warm and uneventful. I saw no other climbers during my ascent, and was frequently following my own footprint from the day before.

graphic by Ras/UltraPedestrian

Summit Number Two, 6:15 PM was much sunnier, far less windy, and triumphant in sentiment. It was much more tolerable, so I was able to shoot a short video and take a few photos. Again I was the only person on the summit, and the last person down that day. A surprising amount of snow had melted since the previous evening, leaving the uppermost slopes bare rock. However, I was still able to glissade for about 2,500 feet of the descent.

Once I reached the Round The Mountain Trail I turned East for a mile or so, and then found a spot to lay down and nap for a couple of hours. I started moving again around 3:30 AM on Monday, September 26th.

Bushwhacking & Route Finding Across The Gap was more fun than I had expected, and easier on a technical level. However it was slow going, and for long sections I was only making a mile or so per hour. I saw a large Black Bear in the Hellroaring basin just after sun up. The next basin north was even slower going, sidehilling across scree and moraine. The creek crossings were easier than I had expected, until I came to the Big Muddy. I got stuck here for more than an hour hiking up and down the creek trying to find a safe rock hop to get to the other side. I eventually succeeded, and after another short bushwhack connected with the Highline Trail, putting the end in sight, figuratively. 

I reached the intersection of the Killen Creek Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the High Camp Trail for the third time at 08:22 PM on Monday, September 26, 2016, to establish an official Only Known Time of 56 hours and 20 minutes for the Mount Adams Infinity Loop.

photo by Ras/
Summit Number Two, self-portrait.

Facebook/Instagram Updates from the trail during  the Mount Adams Infinity Loop:

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