October 14, 2018
It is that time of year again where Sonya Vasilieff comes down to Las Vegas and we try to accomplish some adventures.
This year our goal — set months ago — was to do the most difficult trail in Zion National Park — Observation Point. Many people think Angel’s Landing it the hardest — it is the most exposed and daring hike, but Mt. Baldy sores above it and features close to 2200 feet in elevation gain in four miles. It tops out at around 6500 feet total. Let that sink in. (Sonya comes from the Seattle area and lives at about 500 feet elevation, so that is a jump for her.) We added in Eric Besserud and met up at our vacation rental in Hurricane, Utah, so that we could get an early start and be in the park before there was no more parking. We enjoyed a wonderful meal at The Stage Coach Grill in La Verkin before settling in to a nights rest.
Upon arrival at the park, we quickly got on the bus to the trail head. Stop number seven on the Zion Shuttle. Just as we approached the stop the driver advised us all to look up at the top of observation point. We did. My head snapped around and I looked at Sonya, who had also just snapped her head around to look at me. She exclaimed: “Oh, we aren’t doing that!” Though I thought the very same thing, I had to push back or I wouldn’t make it a step up that trail, let alone have a chance at the top.
We got off the shuttle, donned our packs, and started. Sonya led the way and Eric hung back with me….the slow one. The trail wasted no time in showing the steepness we were to face the entire way. The trail shares a start with the Weeping Rock trailhead, just go to the right of the interpretive signs instead of left and you will be headed up Observation Point Trail. You begin at 4,394 ft of elevation and a 10% grade. (The maximum permissible grade on most highways in 6%.) I was thinking about Sonya, starting this hike 3,894 feet above the altitude she lives at! I topped out at 5,763 feet for an elevation gain of 1,369 feet in under two miles up. Parts of the trail were 33% grade. At least that is what the profiles I have been able to find reveal.
I passed through so many different beautiful areas — canyons, slots, canopy cover — but I was working overtime and just under two miles I hit a big wall. I bonked. Sonya had left us long ago. I figured she overcame her original statement and just accessed something inside to hunker down and do the work. I told Eric I needed a break and he went on up to catch Sonya. He caught her just below the top. It was nice to have him pushing me to keep going, and I made great progress over my previous, post knee replacement hikes. But only 50 pounds down and not enough training left me with no more gas in the tank and the need to evaluate whether to continue up after a rest or to turn back.
The great Ed Viesturs talked about calculated risks in a presentation I heard him give once. I had to calculate the risk of expending energy to continue up and determine whether I would have enough left to get back down. At this level of steepness getting down was not going to be an easy trot down the trail. I also had to factor in time. In the end, It was clear, I had to go down. Even with that decision, I wasn’t sure that I would get down before the others got to the top, turned down and caught me on the decent.
So I worked my way back down, at times with minute steps and a fear of slipping on the sandy gravel that often times coated the smooth, chiseled rock path. Hiking poles were a saving grace. Other than stepping off trail to allow others passage, I did not take breaks going down. I just kept working. All the while curious about Sonya and Eric. I really wanted Sonya to hit the top. There was no way for me to know if she did. She has been working so hard and expanding her fitness and I thought to top Mt. Baldy would prove to her how strong she really is.
Going down it was very clear just how steep it was. And no surprise why my FitBit reported that I had been in my peak cardiac zone for over two hours! It also stated that I had burned 5,066 calories, been in active minutes for 214 minutes and had taken 16,487 steps. All in all, information to establish a benchmark going forward.
Until next year, we have done it again!
I was at CrossFit Max Effort yesterday as part of my amped up efforts to prepare for my Trek as well as simply to get in shape for the health of it. Because I have not been consistent, it was a tough one. But they always are. I love the feeling of working at maximum output.
It was nice to see owner Zach Forrest after his weekend at the 2011 CrossFit Games where he came in at 12th in the world! That is quite an endorsement for the gym!
The first sign that this was going to be brutal was the buckets of sweat rolling off my face…..during the warm up. Lauren does a good job of getting the muscle groups ready for the impending onslaught of horror. She also gets the joints ready to contort and bend in ways never intended by the gods of sedentary behavior.
When the workout began in earnest, I was apprehensive. Healing up from the blister hike had taken me out for a few weeks and the rounds of scaled Muscle Ups, Sit Ups with 10 pounds on my chest, dead lifts and rows were bound to hit back hard. And they did not disappoint. Lauren scaled me to three rounds. I got the fun I AM GOING TO BLOW CHIPS feeling and the great ROOM IS SPINNING that comes with not being there working out consistently. But in the end, it was great to be back and to know that my schedule will allow me two days a week for the next two months. After that I ramp up to three.
I am the old woman in the room. I love seeing the young people working out so hard to stay in shape and enjoying the toughness of it. I will take a CrossFit Max Effort banner with me to Everest Base Camp to celebrate what they are doing to help me get there.
T minus 8 mo. 3 days to lift off to Everest Trek. Seems like quite a ways off, but truth is, it is right around the corner. Between now and then, I need to:
- Complete my gear aquisition
- Get all shots and meds
- Save money to spend
- Increase aerobic sterength
- Increase leg strength
- Lose big chunk of weight
That is what comes to the top of my head at any rate. And time passes quite quickley when you need it to slow down. That is a proven fact. I have great plans of consistant CrossFit and hiking. But I need to make those plans a reality and not just good intentions or I will find myself at 10,000 feet ready to go and developing a splitting headache, unable to ascend and my dream gone lickity split.
Saturday I go to San Francisco for Scrableganzapalousa. I am pretty dang sure I will not be getting any more fit than I am right now at that event. Likely not going to eat well either. So, here is the plan. I cannot afford to have too many more bumps in the road. Especially bumps I can avoid. August starts when I get back. Next big family event is October when Dad turns 80. That gives me 2 months to string together some consitant, hard effort. So I am publishing that here to let ya’ll know, the heat is ON, baby!
This week has been very hard on my back. For some reason last Saturday it just started hurting on the left lower portion. I took my usual Alleve and rested it. A few days later it felt a little better but the concentrated pain area had shifted to the right. I have stretched and tried to help it work its way out to no real success.
Back in 2004, my weight was about 70 pounds more than it is today. I was sedentary…working at a desk all day and going to law school classes at night. No exercise. My back was so problematic that I could hardly carry my books from my car to class. Trips across parking lots were as if I were a pioneer looking across the vast and open plane to the destination at the edge of the horizon. When I would go to the grocery store, I found myself looking long and hard at the little electric carts…..but for me, I felt that would be giving up.
I graduated law school n 2006. By then I was not working and was studying for the bar. Again. Very sedentary and no core strength to think of. Small tasks were made huge as a result of poor fitness and a “bad” back. I could not walk far. I could not stand for long periods of time. I could not sit long. It was not a good time for me.
Fall of 2007, a friend of mine and I decided that a good way to be sure we stayed in touch would be to do a 5k walk every month. Most of them had a one mile element and that would be a starting point. So, we signed up for the 2007 Candlelighters walk for childhood cancer. The day of the walk, my back ACHED. I took some meds and…well…a bit too much. When we took off, I was hunched over and we were definitely going to only do the one mile. But we missed the 1/2 mile turn around and were over half way through the 5k before we realized it. At one point, I had to tell my friend to stop talking to em for a while because I just had to try to make it through the walk and was hurting too bad. We finished. It was ugly. And we were definitely last.
We signed up for another…and after that another. And more. And soon we even signed up for a 10k in the Valley of Fire. Finally I was moving and doing something besides getting closer to crippled. And I liked it.
I even began spin class! There were setbacks, and my knee ended up requiring surgery. See, I had added golf to the mix too and was doing an awful lot given the weight I was carrying. But days after the surgery was at the 2009 Fatboy 5k. I went and though I could not walk it, I was there while Stacey did. And I was excited to get the leg going and get moving again.
By this time I was walking 5 and 10ks, golfing, and never even looking at the electric cart at the grocery store. Then I started working at my current job, where some co-workers talked about Kayaking. I love the water and had been in the desert about 11 years by that time. So, I decided to give that a whirl and LOVED it.
Got my own kayak and absolutely enjoy every minute of a kayaking day. That added yet another activity in to help improve my health as well as my quality of life. As a result, I have met tons of people with whom I really enjoy hanging out. They all also did something else I never thought I would EVER want to do…..ROCK CLIMBING! So, I got a harness and some climbing shoes and started going to the indoor gym with them. It was really fun and so I started going regularly. It is good for balance and it is also a great time to visit and get some social time in for the week. I don’t climb a lot and really have stopped for now to get some more weight off. But I still go on the outdoor climbs so that I can hike and take pictures of my friends. It is so quiet out on the walls and peaceful. I love the time outside and the wonderful exhaustion that comes with a hard scramble and hike in and out. Today I find my weekends filled with hiking, biking, kayaking, golfing going to rock climbs or anything else that comes up. I bowl on a league for fun and I do CrossFit at CrossFit Max Effort in Las Vegas. I really have so much better a life than I did back when my back determined to limit me. I am writing this today because this week’s back pain reminded me how far this path has taken me. From looking at an electric scooter in the grocery store wondering if, at 45 my life had come to that, to eying Base Camp at Mount Everest at 51.