The drop

Some quick notes from the trip last week before life spins up again.

The suck:

  • the climb up to Gem Pass was a sufferfest. Note: Wilderness means no one really maintains the trails, so with livestock everywhere – the trails are trashed. Uphill for miles in what was horse-trodden sand. **Notably different from the John Muir Trail inside Yosemite proper. It’s a like little elven stonemasons have built a granite roadway over the mountains – truly spectacular.
  • The wind. OMFG the wind. It’s not so much sleeping as just waiting for the sun to come up. I didn’t bring any ear plugs, so the wind whipping the tent was constant and kept me awake at night. I learned that no matter the conditions, between 3am and 6am my body shuts down – I slept through the wind at that time. Remainder of the night I was playing a game to try to guess what time it was before I checked my watch… 2am!…NOPE… 9:30pm. OMG. Below Donahue Pass the wind blew sand into my tent all night – I was using a 3 season tent with a rain fly, but a netting roof and sides. I had to keep my mouth closed to avoid the blowing sand. In the morning I had grit in my teeth and sand covered my sleeping back and everything inside the tent. After crossing Koip Pass at 12,500ft, the wind was so strong that I worried I was going to be blown off the mountain… I kept thinking about the weight of the rocks around me and if the wind can’t pick them up, there was no way the wind could pick me up inside my tent. But it was a constant worry.

The highs

  • Very tense and considered go/no-go calculations when crossing Koip Pass. I needed to be at Mono Pass by Friday morning and wasn’t exact on the mileage remaining. I was about 12 miles into the day, it was about 3:30pm. Full risk assessment analysis in about 10 minutes. I concluded that I could manage the wind  (gusts nearly knocking me over around 12,000ft. What I couldn’t manage was wind + a whiteout if it started snowing, or rain for that matter. I decided to go. It was extremely stressful. I was solo and hadn’t seen another human since I left the John Muir Trail and passed into Ansel Adams wilderness. I could feel the wind grow stronger and stronger – when I felt a strong gust coming, I stopped and leaned into my poles with my head down and stopped moving until it was over. Then pushed on. Coming down from the pass I expected the wind to relent – it didn’t. I was traversing high on the ridge over some small glaciers – at one point I saw the trail was eroded, washed away and dropped  over a vertical cliff. I noticed it as I was moving fast and stopped, then jumped it. At another point, the switchback took me to the top of a cliff with maybe 3k drop, with the wind blowing me forward, I jumped down and cut the switchback to avoid getting too close to the edge.
  • To illustrate the mental state I was in late in the day crossing the biggest pass of the trip,  I saw something down in the valley below and thought it was a tent… and thought it was another climber I met back at Donahue Pass… and I thought he was watching me and was going to have some hot food prepared when I got down to the saddle. It comforted me to know that there was someone else there as I was moving through this very technical terrain, exhausted and hungry. When I got to the bottom the tent turned out to be a glacial erratic (a boulder). There was no one there and I wouldn’t see anyone until I got to the Mono Pass trailhead the next day. In retrospect, it’s fascinating to me that I contrived another human to get me through that very stressful moment.
  • The 2 most humbling experiences of the trip however were just being alive in such a beautiful place. The stars at Donahue Pass. I’ll try to describe, but words fail. I could see the Milky Way stretched across the sky, I watched falling stars spark and fade across the sky. I watched planes leaving San Francisco follow a highway in the sky East. I saw satellites orbit the earth. I saw these things with my eyes.
  • After the very stressful climb and descent on Thursday, wind like a gorilla shaking my tent all night near Koip Pass, I awoke before sunrise and boiled water for oatmeal and coffee and saw the sun break the horizon – behind me the sky was black and alight with stars, before me, an orange stripe was illuminating the horizon. In the distance I could see the light reflecting off Mono Lake. The wind stopped and all was still. I sat up in my tent with my sleeping bag draped over my legs, drank my coffee and witnessed the birth of a new day.

Dirtbag climber accomplishments (in no way do I condone or support such behavior :/ )

  • entered the park from Fresno at 2am and never paid the entrance fee
  • poached a shower at Curry Village on my way out (with my .99c Wal-Mart towel…that I left behind)
  • hitchhiked from Mono Pass back to Tuolumne (Sergey the Russian petroleum engineer picked me up — he had flown into LA, rented a convertible and hit Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and was on his way to San Francisco, then back to LA. First time in the United States. “Le grande tour” [wtf is gasoline to a Russian petroleum engineer?? pfft])

Even Norteña music has the drop.

1,000 years

When they were young
the tree said to the rock
I’m going to hug you for a thousand years.


3 days on the John Muir Trail from Tuolumne Meadows, into the Ansel Adams Wilderness, up to the high country and back again.

The hardest part

Is the leaving.

The night before I left to run St Helens my 2 year old grabbed me and screamed, “daddy, please don’t go! Stay!!” I would be more machine if I didn’t consider it a cosmic message sent from the future as a warning. And yet.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight

Leaving for California tomorrow to run and climb in the mountains for a few days; solo dirtbagging.

Maybe laying in a field staring up at the cosmos.
Maybe peak bagging.
Maybe a headphone rave.
Maybe big miles.
Probably all of it.

Betweenness centrality

…is an indicator of a node’s centrality in a network. It is equal to the number of shortest paths from all vertices to all others that pass through that node. A node with high betweenness centrality has large influence to the transfer of items through the network, under the assumption that transfer follows shortest paths.

network hopping (deliberately)
riding a geometric plane
creating a boundary through sheer force of will
a moment seized; the interstitial
to quiet place


Couldn’t sleep last night because my system was still amped from racing.  I ate a little bit for dinner and then crashed early but had trouble falling asleep. My average HR was 174 – Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 10.25.18 AMcompletely red-lined from the start. The finish of the race was so much fun. There was another runner on my heels for most of the race – I could hear him breathing right at my back – when we turned right off of Wildwood trail to Wild Cherry trail, he was literally on my heels. One thing that I’ve enjoyed in these races is running at high speed through technical terrain with other people in your personal space. Something I don’t experience on long solo runs.

There are a few sections of Wild Cherry where the trail has been shored up with 4×4’s along the sides with a packed gravel base; making for a relatively smooth surface. During the first race of the series, I used this section to recover slightly – and I was passed by a few people. Last night I dropped the hammer. In all 3 of those short sections I accelerated on the descent. And the other runner was still at my heels. When we exited the singletrack and turned onto Leif Erikson (fire road) I made the decision that there was no way he was going to pass me in the last quarter mile.  I cut the apex of every turn and stayed in front of him, not giving any runway for him to come around me. I saw the lights, cones and timing clock at the finish – and dropped the hammer again.

My HR spiked to 191 at the finish; a heart rate I haven’t seen since college. I wanted to lay down on the ground and curl up into a little ball, but then found a chair at the Nike demo tent, sat down, stared at the my feet in a haze and stopped my watch. I had no idea my HR could get that high any more – with the standard calc for finding Max HR, I should top out at in the mid 180’s.

As a bonus I won the Petzl headlamp in the raffle!

22nd overall (out of 78)
6th in my age group (out of 16)

An excellent night of racing!

*kudos to the runner pushing me. Thank you!

Portland trail series race #2 from Chris Rivard on Vimeo.

Like a good bonfire

When you do something, you should burn yourself up completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.

– Shunryu Suzuki

Last Friday’s run sucked.

I felt so slow (and was in fact slow), I had a weird pain on the bottom of  my foot, I just wanted to stop… but I didn’t. I got through and finished. It never got any better … and then it was over.  I remembered that things can’t *always* get worse, at some point they have to reverse course – or end.

A concept that I’ve carried with me since swimming competitively in high school was the image of an hourglass. That’s what the pain in hard physical effort is like, the sand falls to the base of the ampoule – the constriction … but then it opens again – this is the passing through – and if you keep at it, you always pass through. Or you stop. No idea if there is a name for that point or not.

Today’s run was on-on. After it from the first step. If you want to run fast; you have to run fast. If you want to do anything really; and do it well, you have to do it well at least some of the time – otherwise you won’t know what “really well” feels like. If you always do something mediocre; you can’t expect to do it better than mediocre at some point in the future – it doesn’t work that way.

I was thinking a lot about how bad I felt on Friday’s run today and the counterintuitive truism that the tough experiences, the ones where you want to roll over and die, the ones that make you question why?… the ones where you feel more like *fleish mit oigen* than an actual human, are actually the experiences that have the most to teach.


Day 9

FT dad duty.

“So what do you guys want to do this weekend?”

“First go to the city and play in the fountain, then have lunch at elephants deli, then go to Mt. Hood and go skiing, then go camping.”


(we hiked up to the snow line last weekend and glissaded near magic mile. And I finally found where Alpine campground was – for some reason I thought it was lower down on T-line road (it’s actually near the top.))

IMG_1229In the 90’s in Portland last Saturday, 70’s at 2100 meters on Mt. Hood.