Lessons from the mountains.

I didn’t expect to be writing another blog so soon. But I have a little free time and something to write about so why not!

The training this week has really turned up a notch, which is great. It feels really nice to be progressing forward systematically.

So keeping with the program last weekend, myself and two other APU lads headed out for a run. The plan was a 3.5-4 hour run along a ridge above some beautiful lakes. I was feeling a little nervous about the run to be honest, it was the first time I’d be on a Over Distance (OD) with one of the guys, Scott. Scott is a running machine and has a reputation for going out on some amazing epics runs. I think his last OD was 40km and 7 hours over 3 peaks so yeah, I was nervous it was going to go from 4 to 8 hours and I’d be left crawling along. I even ate an extra piece of toast for more energy as I rushed out the door to meet Scott and our other companion Eric. We car-pooled together and headed to the base of the ridge to start our run toward Triangle Peak, our guide marker. But before we could run along the ridge we had to hike up it and to my slight dismay Scott went to the front and just casually started running up it, while I laboured behind like a donkey at a grindstone! I think Eric was feeling somewhere between Scott and the Donkey. We got to the top and started heading out along it. After roughly 30 minutes I started to feel a lot better than my original donkey self and started to really enjoy the run. It was spectacular. Eric made a comment early on about how picturesque it was and how if the sides of the hill were just a little steeper it would of made for a wonderful running picture. Us on a knife edge with the trail perched on the top.

Early on in the run we came across a few steep saddles, Scott off in the distance charging down with Eric in the yellow.
Early on in the run we came across a few steep saddles, Scott off in the distance charging down with Eric in the yellow.
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Eric running in yellow as Scott powers up the spine.

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After an hour and a half we started to get deep into the mountains where the ridge slowly starts rising up to meet Triangle peak and everything starts to get a lot rockier and rough. We started to do a lot of free climbing and scampering over rock towers. There was a false peak at one stage, which we started to climb and Scott ever leading took a route to the left, climbing a very steep pitch to the top. I hesitated and Eric overtook me and shouted back down to me that the climb was easy and that he could almost do it without hands. I followed and the climbing was easy and fun. We got to the top for one of the many beautiful views that day. We then headed off the peak and kept running along it.

Enjoying a nice view from a rock ledge
Enjoying a nice view from a rock ledge
Scott, climbing
Scott, climbing
Eric (closer) and Scott looking at the view off the cliffs.
Eric (closer) and Scott looking at the view off the cliffs.
Eric and I climbing and having fun in our power pose. Photo credit Scott Patterson.
Eric and I climbing and having fun in our power pose. Photo credit Scott Patterson.
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The valley that we ran home through
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Getting closer to the lakes.

By this stage I was starting to tire and I’ll admit I was taking the easier routes, sometimes skipping the rock towers and spines that the boys were climbing for a little flatter and gentler terrain. The sides had also become extremely steep, one side of the ridge was now a sheer cliff and the other a very steep pitched slope covered in rough dark red and brown rock. Being quicker on the less rocky ridge I had taken the lead  whereas the boys were clambering over a spine of jagged rock.

I looked back to see where they were just as Eric lost his footing as he overextended himself and slipped. He took one step and then he was airbourne. Legs up, head down. He dropped from the height of the spine down to the level I was running on. He fell between 3-5 metres and slammed into the slope. The slope was so steep he didn’t stop. He then started to roll and tomahawk down the slope through all the rocks till finally he came to a stop face-down around 20 metres below us. Scott and I sprinted down and as we approached he tilted his head, showing he was still conscious and alive. Running to him I wasn’t sure what I was going to find or what condition he was going to be in. For the next 15 minutes we talked to him and tried to asses his injuries. He looked like he had gone through a cheese grater. All his clothes were ripped as well as his skin underneath. We didn’t have mobile service but he was able to stand so eventually we decided to walk him out. He had a bad shoulder and wrist, which he couldn’t move. There was a bad gash on his knee but luckily his knees and ankle joints were still intact and he could weight bear with only minor discomfort.

I stopped to take this after Eric fell. He fell just around the corner from here but you get the picture of what he tumbled through
I stopped to take this after Eric fell. He fell just around the corner from here but you get the picture of what he tumbled through
Eric and Scott walking out.
Eric and Scott walking out slowly. From here it just seems like they are strolling along.

The plan all along was to drop into the valley and then return on a very easy and flat valley trail. The catch was navigating the drop down and the rocky boulder bottom. We were in a section of ridge that was too steep to descend so we backtracked till we found an easier slope and section. We almost made it to the bottom before the slope closed out and became a very narrow canyon with a lot of loose rock and scree. Once down we had to cross the boulder field to the other side and the beckoning flat path.

Climbing down the shoot. Scott whatches out for Eric.
Climbing down the chute. Scott watches out for Eric.
Symphony lake and Eagle lake.
Symphony Lake and Eagle Lake.

In the fall Eric’s bottle had burst apart and we had used Scott’s water to flush the wound so we were also just down to my half bottle and a little bit of food.

At the start Eric was extremely shaky and clearly full of adrenaline and in shock, but as things progressed he settled and impressively toughed it all out. By the time we were a little along the valley trail he just said he wanted this to be as quickly over as possible and broke into a slow jog. I think it helped him get into a zone and he just pushed all the way to the car. Scott took him to the ER because I had to go to a wedding. 3 hours later he was rock free, stitched up and amazingly nothing was broken, something I’m very surprised by. It was just amazing how lucky he had actually been not to dash his skull on a rock in a fall or snap something. I’ll always remember that moment of him falling, head first arms extended just hanging in the air.

It’s a very hard reminder to all of us that the mountains permit you to be on them, they let you climb over them but you always have to respect them. You never conquer them or own them. They just let you in from time to time for a visit. Sometimes they even like to remind you who’s really in charge.

I’m not saying we weren’t respecting the mountains but we weren’t really thinking too much about being careful.

The other interesting problem is that as we get fitter and stronger and can run faster in 2 hours we go deeper and deeper into the mountains and valleys which we all love but which are all more treacherous.

Eric pre fall.
Eric pre fall.

Eric is at home and recovering well.

Always respect the mountains.

 

Train hard, rest easy, live for the moment.

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