Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mt. Lemmon Trail Recon/TTR Santa Catalina Ascent

Caution: Wordy!!! Longest post ever!

The Santa Catalina Ascent is the run from last year during which I lost my camera, so I had no pictures. Lots of pictures this year!

The week before this run, Dallas and I went up in the Catalina Mountains to scout out the condition of some of the trails. Here are a few pics from that little expedition.
Don't we look happy to be among the pines in this one?
Some big trees blown down from the winter snow storms (I am so glad I'm short!):
Lemmon Trail (yes, that's the trail - you can tell from the sign!):
Dueling cameras! Dallas and I taking pictures of each other:
Checking out Aspen trail from Radio Ridge:

At the Fire Lookout Cabin:

Dallas at the Fire Lookout:
Dallas, you are the perfect partner on the trail! Especially, the whole crackup about wearing the helmet (inside joke!) Oh, my gosh, that was hysterical!!!

Lots of snow up there - it was very fun and very beautiful.

Combined, we checked out Butterfly, Sunset, Lower Aspen Draw, and Lemmon trails. Upper Aspen Draw trail was snowed in, so we ran the service road. Blowdowns everywhere!

Okay, on to the Santa Catalina Ascent:

This TTR run goes from Sabino Canyon visitor's center to the top of Mt. Lemmon on trails. Approximately 27-28 miles.

Bob and MaryAlice hosted the run and finally arrived in the Bob Mobile, affectionately known as 'Bubba'. This is one cool ride and the ultimate crewing vehicle, let me tell you.

'Official route': Sabino Canyon tram road to Sabino Canyon trail. Take East Fork trail to Palisades. Palisades trail to Organizational Ridge Rd. Cross Catalina Highway, connect with Butterfly trail. Butterfly trail to Catalina Highway. Cross Catalina Highway, take Sunset trail to Marshall Gulch to Aspen. Once done on Aspen, cross Radio Ridge and take Aspen Draw trail down to the ski lift parking lot.

9 colorful runners started early at 6am (2 not pictured):

Heading up the tram road:

I had a run-in with a very thorny bush on Palisades trail:

Nice views from Palisades trail:

Lots of pink flowers!

Cool rock formations along this trail (balance rock):
On Palisades, I also ran into Ross, who was doing a short hike the opposite direction. He startled me! I was trying to get my iPod turned off. One look at him will tell you why he startled me! :)
Palisades trailhead was the first aid station, which was manned by Bob and MaryAlice with wonderful turkey wraps and hot chicken noodle soup! You guys are the bomb! Here's the aid station: Bob on the left, looking hip, slick and cool and MaryAlice on the right:

They had all kinds of food!!! I also like the peanut butter filled pretzel nibs. Yummy!
Palisades is about 14 miles into the run and it took me almost 4 hours! It is a bit of a climb to get there. The wind had started picking up, so I put on my Arcteryx jacket at this point and never took it off for the rest of the run.
Mark was the first to arrive, but this is where his run ended. He was definitely bummed, but was not feeling good - maybe he went out too fast? I chatted with him for a few minutes and then got myself headed down Organizational Ridge Rd. towards the Butterfly trail.
I couldn't find the Butterfly trailhead after going onto Bigelow trail, and after backtracking 3-4 times, I decided to skip it and took Catalina Highway up instead (short preview on foot of the upcoming Mt. Lemmon marathon!) Bob called it a 'blond moment'.

After getting to Butterfly trailhead via Catalina Highway, I saw that Doug was the first one there at the second aid station. I downed some more turkey wraps and chicken soup and took off with Doug. We crossed the road and started in on Sunset trail, which had its share of downed trees. We then crossed onto Marshall Gulch, which had even more downed trees and was hardly recognizable from the year before. It really looks like a bomb went off up there! We just had so much snow over the winter that in addition to the burned trees from a previous fire coming down so easily, there were many live, uprooted trees across the trail as well. It was crazy!!
Here I am waiting patiently for Doug while he finishes getting lost on Marshall Gulch (he was checking out a side trail that he thought was right - for once, I was right!)

Doug stuck with me until Aspen trail, and I'm super grateful, because I had felt a little lonely for the first 18 miles. Having company in a place that looked like an aftermath of war was nice (okay, a little dramatic, but it is my blog, and I am exercising my right to drama).
On Aspen trail, my pace slowed to a slog from the elevation and excessive downed trees. Doug went on ahead at this point. He later told me that he could still see me from above. Felt good that he was watching over me.

The wind that had been howling since before Palisades trailhead now picked up a feverish pace - 50 mph gusts were expected today and I almost got knocked down twice!

At some point on Aspen, after ducking under/hopping over the 100th downed tree, I thought, this is either crazy or I'm one tough cookie!!! (Both?) But, I felt so strong out there! Both of these pics are the trail. Lots of downed trees right over the trail, one right after another.
After getting up on 'Radio Ridge', I went about 20 feet down Aspen Draw trail, the last stretch of this route. After slipping and sliding on the packed and icy snow, I said, 'Nope!' and went over to and down the service road. After hearing a few of the other tales of runners going down that 1.6 mile stretch of non-existent, slippery snow-covered trail, I'm glad I skipped the ski/glissade event that was Aspen Draw.

At the finish, I had to knock on 'Bubba' to alert everyone I was done - the van was not facing the service road and they didn't see me coming! Bob, MaryAlice, Ross and Ken were waiting inside to take good care of us. You guys are so wonderful!!! It was toasty warm inside. I got a little 'relaxed' after a bit...
Overall, with the tram road, I ran 9 miles on the road and 16 on trails. So, I didn't do the TTR 'official route'.
That's okay. Because I'm doing it again soon enough! Sunday, May 23rd, I'm heading up again with Dallas, Mark and possibly some others. I'll be seeking revenge (or redemption as Ross put it) on Butterfly trail! The snow on Aspen Draw will have melted by then, most likely, so I'll be able to do that trail again, and thus, the 'official route'.

Today's stats:
Total distance: 25 miles
Time: 7 hours 28 minutes
Cumulative elevation gain/(loss): 11,268/(5,754) feet. This is probably a bit overstated - I think it is around 10,000. It is a climb to get up there, though.

Dallas came in after me looking pretty beat up from Aspen Draw. It was good to see him!!
He was so cold, that he was talking, but his lips weren't really moving! I gave him a big hug and we got him into Bubba to warm up. He did the official route, which is about 27-28 miles and is much harder; that's the only reason he came in after me.

Dallas, Doug and I got a ride down the mountain with Ken, although others weren't in yet. 'Bubba' was getting crowded (nobody wanted to hang outside with the cold and wind howling) and we had to take the rides down when we could get one.

As we were headed down in Ken's jeep (thanks Ken for the wonderful heat!) it started to snow. Snow! I was glad I wasn't still out there - a few of us still were.
We had fun rehashing the day on the way down.

Thanks again to MaryAlice, Bob, Ken and Ross for the support! What an experience. I love this group of lunatic fringers in which I've become involved. You guys teach me so much!

As Gene said in his report to the group, 'Long Live TTR!!'
'And I got my heart set on what happens next
I got my eyes wide it's not over yet
We are miracles and we're not alone...
And now after all my searching
After all my questions
I'm gonna call it home...'


1 comment:

Kenley said...

Thank you for sharing your experience here. I enjoyed reading your post and looking at the amazing pics. Sorry you lost your camera. There is always another chance though to capture the moment. Its great to go out with a partner on a trail and see new sites while running. New to your site here. I just got into trail running, and love it. Looking forward to reading your future adventures. Take care. Keep Running!