Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Stein in a Day For more information on my past Stein Trips check out this blog entry from 2013. Background: August 11th, for me and about 180 starters is one of the biggest days of my year and is happening tomorrow at 10am and I still need to eat dinner drive to Lakeview Trailhead and finish preparations for Fat Dog 120. But currently I am in Princeton relaxing with friends enjoying a great meal at Thomosina's and enjoying chatting with old and new runners that are there as well for dinner. This young man, Alex Gibbs, introduces himself and references knowing me from my previous Stein blog. Then onto goes onto say, "hey have you heard they are doing maintenance on the Stein Valley Trail for the next couple of years and that work has started!"...Me, "Really??!!!" The seed is planted.
Fat Dog goes off without a noticeable hitch and Nicola and I are now ready to enjoy the last 3 weeks of her 1st year summer break from Massage Therapy School, which she heads back to on Tuesday September 6th. First we pack and head to the Bugaboo's and get 3 days of good weather. We knock off the classic East Ridge of Bugaboo Spire and leave the range with our tails between our legs as the first snow of the winter happens the same night. Not stoked on the foreseen weather forecasts to be playing in the Rockies (based out of a tent), we drive back home.
After a quick unpack, repack with a plan to go do another alpine adventure in Rogers Pass, we find out the area is closed to small groups because of bears, we repack and head for a 30 hr adventure in a new to us local provincial park. Monashee Provincial park was a great excursion and it's the first time (in a few years) we chat about doing the Stein in a Day.
So we came home from Monashee Provincial Park, I right away got on the computer and started looking for new shoes as my Altra Olympus 2.0 had just seen their last days as I blew the side of my left and right one on this last trip. And at the same time I knew I wanted a different pack for the Stein so that my fuel could be up front on my chest all day. Dave Cressman, answered my late night Facebook message and told me he had the UD Fastpack 20 in my size in stock and would ship it to me. He instructed me to call him in the morning at 10am with CC# and all will be handled. Dave and his Distance Runwear crew knocked it out of the park and at 12:00pm on Monday I was playing with my new pack and new Altra Lone Peak 3.0 that provided same quality service. So the plan was to leave Tuesday am, handle our own car drop, camp in the early evening at the Lizzie Lake Bypass Trailhead (1km up Lizzie Lake FSR), carry all of our needed "Mandatory Gear" (and yes FD120er's even more then your packs weighed), including some 6500 calories each and get our asses back to our other vehicle full of chocolate milk, beer, pizza, another tent with mats and sleeping bags and pillows and drive back the next day retrieve our other car and drive home. All in all it made for about a 55hour round trip.
So the plan was to take advantage of the night being clear knowing that it was supposed to cloud over as the morning broke and possibly rain some. Not the best forecast but it was still supposed to be mild with only a couple mm's of rain and with my previous knowledge of the trail I had very little concern for what the weather might throw at us given the forecast. Given that I feel I know the first 5 hrs and the last 5 hrs very well, we decided to do those sections in the dark and began our adventure at 12:30am. Within the 1st 500m, I impaled my right quad into a sharp branch beside the trail that punctures my leg well enough to leave DNA all over the wood. Ouch. The adventure has already begun!! We continue on and in a couple minutes are down on the washed out logging road and started the march. Thanks to Richard So and the VOC armies that have been out to cut back the alder on this road and make the first 11km's or so a very enjoyable warm-up to our day ahead. We were informed that the last 1.5km to Lizzie Lake was not brushed yet so we put our heads down and knew we were close to the forest at Lizzie Lake. Picking up the trail in the forest at night was fun and we made good time to the Lizzie Cabin where we went quickly inside to fix something. As we left I debated whether I should put on more clothes as I had a a bit of a chill but the next uphill to Arrowhead Lake had me warm in no time. This section is all straight forward in the dark if you know where you are going, otherwise not quite as fast but you could follow a GPS pretty accurately looking at my GPX file versus the PDF map. We are now about 4 hours in and have the toughest spot of navigation coming up even in the day light you need to travel cairn to cairn as the trail tread is very minimal to help lead the way. But just as we lost the trail for the first time the fog, mist, clouds had started to roll into this exposed area making our headlamps pretty useless for finding cairns 100 feet away. So we wondered, me with a sense of direction and an internal voice saying stay left and high. Reading my old trip report today looks like my memory served me correct. This KM was not our fastest but we were able to find Cherry Pip Pass just as the dawn broke the sky. It worked out well putting us about 1 km behind my minds schedule. We continued into the day light traversing the rocky meadow over to Caltha Lake where again we missed the left turn off towards Tundra but soon enough realized our error and just overland traveled to intersect it and continued the climb up to the ridge marking the entrance to the Stein Headwaters and the view down to Tundra Lake, the best blue in the world.
The next section is 10.5km of boulder hopping and ridge walking. It is not quick and when you finally get to the downhill to Stein lake it is not quick either. Constantly looking for the trail and or the faded markers. Eventually once low enough into the forest the trail becomes more obvious but its grade is unrelenting with steep straight down running. Once you hear and see the river you start heading back up river towards the lake and the first cable car crossing of the Stein River. Quickly across and to our first actual planned break of the day to check feet, change socks, have a can of coke and get back at'er. 11hrs 38mins in 38km of ~95km done. Just some 58 kms to go. We had made back 22 mins on my mind goals and were still on pace to get'er done.
Let me back up one second, just before the campsite at the east end of Tundra Lake we stopped to put on more kit as we were going to be exposed for the next several hours on the ridge and better to be warm then cold and wet. The reason we had come to make this attempt was because the trail clearing crews for the 2016 season were to have been done all sections of the Stein by August 24th. The initial km's to Tundra Lake are outside the park boundary but once along the lake shore I started to notice new pulaski work on sidehills and then where we stopped to kit up there was fresh saw dust. I was excited, as I had contacted the senior park ranger for the area but had not had a response nor was there any updates on the BC Parks website as to how the work has/had gone this summer. Anyways the Cairn reconstruction and pulaski work was an awesome sign of what was to come. The descent to Stein lake 3 years ago was brutal once you got to the forest, I swear in this 3km section at least 400 trees were cut and a bunch of trail re-establishment had been done. Great work. So from Stein Lake, you know only have roughly 60km to go down river to get out of the Stein Valley. Well what that doesn't say is that it feels more uphill then downhill getting out of the valley. There is some really nice flat run-able terrain but every km of flat is matched by another km of scree slope ascents and descents, and did I mention the light rain continued most of the day to make the rarely traveled rocks of these trails extra slippery with it black lichen. Painful on the feet, but I would rather climb then descend or run flats so these uphills were reprieve for me. The trail work continued to be noticed and loved as not only had it been cleared of trees across the trail but it had been brushed as well making travel very obvious. From Stein Lake to Cottonwood Camp is roughly 30km and then 30 more km to the end of the trail so these were the natural sections to break the route into.
Not my photo but to get a sense of the cable cars! Getting to Cottonwood Camp takes awhile when you don't want to run the flats but I did my best with Nicola in her role as positivity pacer now to motivate me to move, whether that was walking faster or running cause we should. We made good time through both or proficiency of moving well enough and not wasting anytime. It was about 630pm when we got to Cottonwood, but it was raining, the forest is kind of open so I said lets just carry on till we get to a more protected part of the forest to have our next aid break. So 20mins or so more down the trail we sat for 5-10minutes, ate a PB&J wrap, another can of coke and set off to get this thing done. Not long later with the current weather the headlamps came back on and we continued to plug away at the km's with the next major landmark being the Suspension bridge and the final ~13km to the finish. We moved well through here with a mix of running flats and downhills and power hiking everything else. Before the Suspension bridge there were some fresh downed trees that made us lose the route but we got back on it soon enough and closed out the final km to the Suspension Bridge. We had just over 2hrs to get this final section done. As soon as we got across the bridge we got to the part of the trail that is managed by BC Parks for maintenance and not by the contracting company that had done the rest of the valley. To my/ our disappointment this section still has not seen a brush saw in 8years at least and has not been cut of downed wood so far this year. Instantly I got in a funk and was frustrated by the conditions and was also getting cold and wet again. Nicola suggested putting on my jacket and changing my attitude but I still found the next 7km frustrating with regards to trail marking, trail maintenance, what a pour representation of what lies ahead on the route for people heading the opposite direction. Parks is spending good money to repair the upper trails but the trail that gets you there is in crap shape, what gives. I plan to go back with my saw this fall and change that once I hear back from the senior ranger and am given an ok.
Not my image but giving a sense of why you can't just run along the side of the river. Up and over scree fields is the name of the valley bottom game. Anyways I was starting to smell the barn door but was starting not to want to eat my food and knew with 2 hours to go I needed to keep eating a little at a time and drinking as much as I could. I just kept asking Nicola what time it was and kept trying to push through this section. We lost the trail several times and my patience with outloud bursts of frustration of which were draining on Nicola cause she just wanted me to spend my energy running and not whining. We got the last big climb and descent done at the bottom of the Devils Staircase I gave a whoop and new we only had 3 or so km's to go to wrap this us and we were going to get it done. The next 1.5km were my fastest split of the day with legs that felt great, once we hit Loop Camp and had time in the bank I just shut it down and walked the rest of the way in, coming to the trail head at 12:07am. We had completed this 12 year old goal of mine and the only reason was because of our partnership. We were a great balance of skills all day with me as navigator and Nicola as pacer. Nicola could have crushed the bottom section of the valley hours faster then I traveled it, but she gives me the respect to say she wouldn't have made it to the valley without me finding / knowing the route. \
Anyways, the snow fell last night but if it melts and warms back up I would highly suggest getting after this asap as only more trees will fall in the next 10 years before it gets its next major trail overhaul????..... Gear used by me: UD Fastpack 20L (brand new to me never used it before this, it was amazing) Garbage bag liner for pack Altra Lone Peak 3.0 with Dirty Girl Gaitors (brand new to me never used before this, they were awesome) BD Carbon Poles 2 Liter Bladder 500ml UD SOft Flash Uplink Jacket TNF Waterproof/ seam taped with hood UTMB jacket TNF Windjacket Button up Short Sleeve TNF Better Than Naked Shorts Injinji Sock 3 pairs (1 pair not used) Smartwool 200gr L/S shirt (not used) Buff Mtnhw Cap Mtnhw Windstopper Toque (not used) Sugoi Windmitts (not used) Arcteryx Wind Pants 2xU Compression Tights Fingerless Canadian Tire Bike Gloves Oakley Running Glasses (not used) Petzl Myo (main light with spare batteries) Petzl Tikka (backup) Petzl Elite Iphone 5 / Inreach Goal Zero Spare battery and dual charging cord Polar RC3 GPS watch (needed to be on charger in pack from 10hrs in till the end) Sportshield (used so much I ran out/ need to find something even better, the ring of fire was a little sore at the end) Small first aid Kit fire starter small bear spray bear banger and launcher Bivy bag about 7000 calories worth of food had about 1000 left at the end (ruffles, pb&j wraps, fritos, 2 small cans of coke, nature valley bars, gels, chews and waffles.) 2 tubes of Nuun

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Stein Traverse, 27.5hrs of travel, 52hrs CTC

While it has been some years but here is another story about a tick off my to do list!
In 1999, around this time, I was introduced to the Headwaters of the Stein Valley. I was on a 5 day backpacking trip with my then first year classmates of the Outdoor Recreation Management program at Cap College. We had a great time and I remember that trip clearly with highlights of a small black bear, a larger black bear, and an even larger grizzly bear feeding on the same blueberry patches only 500m or so from our campsite at Caltha lake. The next day we climbed up the ridge above and peered down on Tundra Lake and the Stein Valley proper.
With two failed attempts to cross the entire Stein, due to weather, trail conditions and or a combination with the wrong head space, this route has been left on the back burner since 2005. With one visit since that time to the eastern entrance for a 40km total out and back training run, the whole upper, middle and part of the lower valley were still complete unknowns. In 2009, major natural fires were allowed to burn in the Stein Valley causing major fire damage and in the end major regrowth of weed species and first growth plants in and along the trail. With continuous park funding shortfalls this section of trail is yet to see any maintenance since that time. With this information in the bank and the knowledge from recent crossings that talked of at least 10km of bad bushwhacking, I convinced my girlfriend Nicola to spend her weekend with me knocking off this goal. She accepted, with my one stipulation that she could not whine about the conditions encountered. To keep things simple for ourselves we managed our own car drop leaving North Vancouver at just after 4pm Saturday evening and both driving independent cars to Hope for dinner at Joes, a great little fancy resturant in town. After filling up we continued our drive up the Fraser canyon and into Lytton where we followed the road to Lillooet. Before that however, we needed to catch the short Ferry across the Fraser Rivre to drop a car off at the Stein trailhead. We quickly left the one car and hopped into mine for the next two hours to Lillooet Lake and the Lizzie lake trailhead outside of Pemberton. Arriving at about 1030pm at the Lizzie Lake forest service road I quickly set up our tent and we crawled in for a comfy nights sleep in a 4 man tent. With a great sleep under us we got up around 545am, made breakfast, and taped my feet. We were ready to go at 647am. Off we went walking the 1km of drive-able road as I wasn`t sure to its condition and knew Nicola's car would have a harder time coming back up to get my car at the end. With the washouts on the Lizzie lake road, a bypass trail was made in the last many years. However, it was unneeded as there were two trees down that you could walk across to gain one side of the river, to then cross back over to gain the road above the washout.
Once on the roadway, the trail is obvious but is more like a single track trail now with the jungle encroaching. About 1km after the first washout the bushy alders starting blocking our sight line of the trail so we just put our heads forward and started walking into the jungle. At first it was dry but as our elevation increased we reached the dew point and the bushy forest began to provide us with a cool shower. Soaking wet head to toe is the way I would describe this section and it lasted another 11km all the way to the forest at Lizzie Lake itself. Thank god. No whining. 2hr30min We quickly followed the trail up and away from the lake and towards the Gates of Shangri La. A hanging rock garden that is the entrance to the Lizzie lake cabin and the valley that opens you to the Alpine. 45mins. Some downed timber to crawl around and over but well flagged. After checking out the cabin and the outhouse structures we made our way towards Arrowhead lake and the alpine section of the traverse. We made quick time to arrowhead where we had our first Fizz stop of the day, which involved both Nicola and I drinking 500mls of Fizz to keep up with our water and electrolyte needs. We continued along at a good pace gaining the higher alpine above Arrowhead lake and were upon Heart Lake in no time. Staying left and gaining the ridge above Heart Lake we saw our first 2 people of the trip. They were on a day hike from the Lizzie Lake cabin. We did not cross paths but saw each other from over 1km away. We continued up the ridge before gaining the bench that worked us towards Cherry Pip Pass and Caltha Lake. Following the broken alpine trail cairn to cairn was essential, just stay high and left if you are going to error on this section. Eventually we picked up a more worn path down into Cherry Pip and again are left to follow cairns and traverse towards Caltha lake on a so so trail. Lots of scree hopping and side hilling on meadows. Eventually it flattens out and we headed towards a water source flowing down from above Caltha Lake on route to Tundra Lake. We stopped to fill our bladders. It was around 1pm. We filled and fizzed up, heading up the climb behind Caltha Lake. We gained the vantage that had left its mark 14years earlier. 145pm (7hrs approx into our day)
As we stared down onto Tundra Lake the forecast for sunny skies looked questionable with dark storm clouds rolling by overhead. This is the commitment spot of the trip because once you drop down and around Tundra Lake you are in the middle of nowhere and the terrain is very technical. About 20mins into our decent to Tundra Lake we noticed two people up ahead. They were backpackers and they were in for a 9 day trip across what we were hoping to do in 2. They looked at our 18liter backpacks with jealousy and said, "wow you guys are moving fast". We quickly passed each other and we continued along the Lake. At this point the lake forced us to climb up about 500ft, over a cliffy pump that plummets into the lake. With this out of the way we descended to the ridged area at the end of Tundra lake where most 9 day trippers would camp. We quickly launched into the next section where we worked our way up onto the ridge above stein lake that we would traverse for the next 8kn down to our campsite for the night. Gaining this ridge was a lot of work, error to the left and stay high. Once on the ridge it is evil and goes up and down, up and down, reminding both Nicola and I of a worse version of Skyline I, II finish of Fat Dog. We eventually see the last pump and instead of heading over it we got to traverse it and start the steep descent to the Stein river and eventually lake. This section was steep, the kind of steep that just puts a pounding on your quads and with probably at least 200 trees down made for a lot of up, over and under. The trail was well marked on the descent and we eventually made it to the river but at that point we had to go back uphill and work our way towards the cable car across the river. Upon reaching camp that night at 730, we had been on our feet for 12hr and 45mins and only covered about 35km. We made the decision at that point to only eat one of our two dehydrated dinners, as we were wanting to keep one in case tomorrows 65km or so took longer than expected and had to spend another night on the trail.
That night we put our lightweight camping option to work. This included a one person tent, 2 neo air thermarests and a single MEC rectangular synthetic sleeping bag to use over us as a quilt. It worked like a charm with us sleeping toe to head and head to toe. Waking at about 545am again we were on the trail by 655am with a little foot care, a Probar each for breakfast, and water filling. Quickly we were on our way down the Stein River, we knew that this next section would be nice but soon to come would be the dreaded 10km section of bushwhacking and trail searching. While we made it to the second cable car, we soon started to encounter some bush on the trail but overall not to bad. We were surprised. Continuing along we came across some small sections that were shitty but we just kept pushing on and eventually it got better. What? We haven't gone 10km yet, WTF? Are we just lucky and someone has been in here and done maintenance? Is it going to be like this the rest of the way? I hope so. While eventually after High View camp the trail conditions lived up to their reputation and for the first time of the trip the bushwhacking got a little painful. Branches scratching at your ankles, sticks jutting out poking you in the face, if you kept your head down you would walk into the downed trees hanging above the trail, up and down and over, up down and over, duck. SO many trees down, continually searching for the trail around the next fallen tree, walking down trees like they provide a pathway above the forest floor. Up down and over, up down and over. Bushy trail, back into a clearing,yahoo. This continued on for the next 6hours while we past over two more cable cars, filled water straight from the cleanest forest streams and searched for pieces of flagging or the next trail marker. Many sections were unbelievable spectacular and others were just something in the way of the next view. This section of trail is not a give away with much uphill and downhill and all rather steep. Route finding was easier with 2 sets of eyes then just one and a good sense of when you are off trail is needed, head back to the last known point and re-establish where the dam thing went.
At Cottonwood camp we stopped for one of our longest breaks of the trip about 20mins while I worked on my feet. Blisters on my toes and heels have been an issue for me for the past two years and this trip was no exception. I quickly re-taped what needed to be done, padded up 2 heel blisters with mole foam and we were on our way. Boy it was hot at this point in the day, about 3pm in the afternoon and we had 30km or so left of the trail. As we headed towards Ponderosa Camp, you could hear the rolling Thunder in the distance. At about 415 the first of the rain started to fall, we took shelter under a boulder and waited 10mins for this wave of the storm to pass and then continued. Upon reaching Ponderosa camp we filled water at the creek and just before we left down the trail, I decided to put a stop to our day(10hrs). My feet were sore, my ITB was sore and I really didn't feel like getting soaked on the bushy trail in the rain. So by 515 we were sitting in the tent enjoying the storm outside around us. We ate our last dinner, shared a Camino bar and headed off to bed at about 730pm.
Knowing that we needed to make it to communication by 12pm Tuesday, we were up early and on the trail at 630am. The trail was wet from the storm the night before and we were soaked in minutes of leaving camp. Glad the next stop was the car. 22km we traveled in about 4hr35mins and of which only the last 6km of the trail were in good shape. This was a section of trail familiar to us from our run some years ago but at the slower hiking pace we noticed the Petroglyphs that we had not seen last time. We got to the newly repaired suspension bridge quicker then I thought we would but that just meant we had further left to go from it to the finish then I had thought reading the map the night before. All good, we will get this done. Quietly we walked past 2 sleeping tents in this section and then with 1km to go we passed 3 young men just out for a morning swim in the Stein river. Before we knew it we were in the parking lot cracking a cold beer at 11am in the morning. Its noon somewhere. What a great trip. And a nice tick off the list. I will train to cross this terrain faster but I might go do trail maintenance for about 10years first. Go enjoy this classic piece of BC Wilderness. Happy trails, P

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Blackcomb to Currie - I mean Wedge!!!!!

Here is a picture blog of a ski trip I just completed over the last 4 days with my great friend Todd Anthony and a new friend Kelsey Furk. Good first 2 days into deteriorating snow and weather conditions which forced us to change plans and head out Wedge Creek versus Gravell Creek.

Hope you enjoy.