Saturday, April 19, 2014

RUN to the boulders


The Main Block
I've primarily been focusing my training on running recently due to upcoming challenges I've laid out for myself.  Despite being running focused, the woods are beautiful right now.  The rocks are dry, perfect for climbing and calling my name.  The other day I decided to take advantage of both and go for a run to some local boulders where there's a crash pad stashed, have a session, then run home.  I loaded a small pack with shoes, brushes, chalk pot, and some refreshments for breaks between boulders.  I  took the long way which turned out to be about 45 minutes of road running.  It was at a quick pace considering the gear I was carrying and definitely enough cardio to get my heart rate up.  I pulled out my stashed pad and had an awesome afternoon session revisiting some old classics we established in the early 1990's.  

Here's a video of the classic problem my good friend Matt Johns and I put up called Cheesypoofs - V4.  Enjoy the vast amount of exposed leg... running shorts work well for bouldering (alone)

Cheesypoofs V4
Main Block, right side
The Pyramid
The best thing I can report is that if you watch the video, I stick the lip using my right (bad) shoulder.  Slowly, but surely its getting healthier.  I hope the healing continues and I can once again use my shoulders like I did before they were injured.  Climb High, Run Far...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Altra Lone Peak 1.5 review (400+ miles)

The Lone Peak 1.5
Let me start by saying that I was a HUGE fan of the original Altra Lone Peak 1.0.  I gave them awesome praise in this 600+ mile review last year and was sad to see mine wear out after about 1200 miles.  In short they were durable, comfortable, fast, long distance, trail running shoes.  I was beyond excited to try the latest version, the Lone Peak 1.5.  I thought wow, this amazing new shoe company hit a home run with the first version of this unique trail running shoe.  I'm sure the 1.5 will be an improvment on an already great shoe.  I'm almost late in this review with the new 2.0 coming out later 2014.  The solidity of the original Lone Peaks are what caused a delay in my purchasing of a pair of the Lone Peak 1.5's and this late review.  

Trail Love... Lone Peaks Him ver 1.5, Her ver 1
Here's my thoughts after about 400 miles trail running in the Lone Peak 1.5's.  Out of the box they felt stiff as expected.  The day the UPS man dropped them off at the door, I was like a kid on Christmas morning.  I tore open the box to check out my new kicks.  First thing I noticed upon checking them out was that the stitching on the gussetted tongue was flawed (not sewn) as well as other lining stitching.  I was going to just "go with it", but decided to test the customer service of Altra.  Laura called them up and explained the sewing blems and Altra happily shipped another pair, with an RA# and prepaid shipping to send the flawed pair back.  A+ for customer service Altra.  The new shoes were blem free and I started to put on the miles.  I switched between my new 1.5's and version 1's trying to work the "stiff" out of the new pair.   First thing I noticed is that the 1.5's seem to run smaller than the 1's.  My toes in both new pair of 1.5's seemed to bump the front.  I'd suggest to upsize a 1/2 size for the1.5's if ordering online without trying them on.  Many changes were made to the 1.5's.  Like I said in my review of the 1's, I loved the heel in the original version.  The 1.5's now have a tight, narrow, stiff heel that might appeal to those runners that like their heels locked into place.  I myself prefer my shoes laced to "slip on" and my heels free to roam where they may.  Points lost for the 1.5's in my eyes.  

The new heel cup, a little snug for my liking
The red and black options are fine despite some runners comments I've read.  My real complaint is that the new upper material is weak as shiit!!!  Numerous holes are forming at the hinge point across the instep.  I'm expecting them to rip through and across most of the toe box any day now.  

Upper deterioration after roughly 400 miles, Poor compared to the ver 1



Ready to blow after only 400?
What a major disappointment after the durable and flexible mesh of the Lone Peak 1's.  On a positive note the toe cap issue has been resolved thus saving me the weekly trouble and expense of shoegooing them down.  Thanks again Altra! 


Now this is much better
It's great that the toe cap stays glued to the upper, but sucks that the upper wears out around 500 miles.  Weak compared to the originals.  I've also read the 1.5's drain better...  I never seemed to have problems with the 1's draining?  The new uppers seem to breath less, which is better for cold winter runs, but bad for warmer weather which is most of the year.  The sole pattern was unchanged, but I'm guessing the sole compound is.  I like the lug pattern used on both the 1 and 1.5's.  Oddly enough I've been ripping the lugs off of my 1.5's, something that didn't happen with the black soles on the originals.  

The red lugs are chunking off, not cool
Not sure why, but the colored soles seem weak and inferior.  In a nutshell I Iiked the LP1's quite a bit. Altra addressed some of the problems in the 1's, but still have bugs to work out of the current model. As much as I enjoy Altra shoes, it kinda makes me hesitate on the Lone Peak 2.0's debuting soon.  I'm planning on going for the longstanding 70 mile Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail "double", 140 mile FKT (Fastest Known Time) in June.  I hope my Lone Peaks are up to the challenge and not worn out by then.  I thought my body would be the weakest link and my shoes would be the reliable Altra Lone Peaks I've come to love, but with the quick deterioration, I'm really rethinking which shoes to use come June.  I can train my body better, but can't make my shoes any tougher.  Yikes!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Beginning the long road

The lingering winter kept me fired up about climbing and neglecting running.  Not a bad thing says the climber inside me.  The runner in me that plans to run the LHHT "double" this June is saying what the hell partner, you better get those soft legs a little firmer, and right quick.   Since the first of the year I've only been out running several times.  It was time to get training before it gets too late.  Off to the trails I went to shake out the cobwebs...   Here's a couple highlighted runs from the last couple weeks.

March 15th Victor Sousol and I ran a "Gate to 8" on a windy but pleasant day.  This was my first outing with Victor as well as his first time running on the LHHT.  He's signed up to run the 70 mile Laurel Ultra in June and wanted to check out the opening hills and familiarize himself with Ohiopyle a bit before race day.  He managed to stumble onto my blog and decided to email me to see if I'd like to meet and run with him.  I only had time to run Gate to 8 once that morning, but Victor went on to complete a "Gate to 8X2" for a total 32 miles of Laurel training.

March 25th I turned 42.  I thought it would be fun spending my birthday running my age in miles on the LHHT.  Laura dropped me off at Beam's Rock at 7:00 AM for the start of my run.  
Good morning legs
She provided excellent crewing after meeting me at 7 Springs.  She provided me with the normal food and liquids as well as birthday surprises, delights and plenty of laughs along my run to Ohiopyle.   
First aid stop, Seven Springs Ski resort
Crossing the slopes of Seven Springs.  I met several curious folks here
42 and still spry coming into route 653 trail head
Heading out for the last 11 miles from Maple Summit parking lot
It was a chilly 28, with plenty of firm ice on the trail.  I had some knee issues begin during the descent at mile post 8.  They persistently became worse, slowing movement down within a half of a mile.  Descents especially were slowed to a crawl with me going down backwards a large portion of the time.  Laura met me at mile post 3 with a down coat and some much needed support as I was in serious pain by this point.  I successfully limped into town completing my goal.  
Limping past the overlook at mile 2.7
After 2 days of rest, my knees recovered and have felt fine since.  This run doubled my yearly mileage to this point.  Which I'm sure was the cause of the knee swelling and pain.  Even with my 8 miles of snail pace factored in my average pace came out to be 13:35/mile.  A very fun and memorable birthday.  Thanks sweetie!

March 31st  I ran the LHHT again from 653 trail head to Ohiopyle to see if my knees were just adapting to the rapid increase in mileage on my birthday run.  It had snowed about 6" a couple days prior.  The temps rose above freezing turning that fluffy 6" into a sloppy nasty trail mess.  The air temperature was around 50, but my feet were sopping before I even hit the main trail from the blue blazed access trail.  By the time I hit mile post 18 I was debating calling Laura to have her turn around and pick me back up at 653.   The runner in me refused and I put my nose to the grind and slogged the 18 miles to Ohiopyle with only a few miles being snow free, but muddy none the less.  I surprisingly hit the Gate completing my run in 3:18, without any knee pain.  A reasonable time considering the condition of the trail.

In the Hemlocks, my favorite section
Blazing new trail on the LHHT
Sloppy conditions for running
From whence I came.  Bluebird snow day on the trail
April 1st Laura and I had a wonderful "date" run.  She's planning a birthday run on the 16th.  She's going to run from mile post 30 to Ohiopyle while I provide crew for her as she did for me.  We decided to run from the gate to 5 on the LHHT to avoid the snow still present above 2200'.   We had a wonderful sunny day to run together.  We took a couple breaks to enjoy the weather and nature.  We had several Eastern Phoebe's calling at one break and at another we spotted 8 Ruby-crowned Kinglets flying through the tree tops.  Several Monarch's were moving north along the ridge as well.  Spring is definitely making a showing and we were embracing!  What a great way to spend a few hours with your honey...

Spring has Sprung!  See you on the trails...

Saturday, March 8, 2014

End the season with a new line?

Stopping for a sunrise view of Ohiopyle falls
The alarm went of at 4:45AM.  Laura and I decided that we wanted to finish up the season on an unfinished line we started the other day.  We had everything packed and sitting by the door the night before.  We stopped at the gas station for some petrol and coffee.  Then it was off to Ohiopyle State Park to try to squeeze in one last line before things disappear for the season.  We parked at Lower Meadow and made the short walk uphill to the climbs.  I had the small pig loaded up with just the necessities to get the line equipped and done.  I hesitantly walked over to the edge and peered over to see if the small drip was still attached to the wall.  Surprisingly it was and I set up the line to rap in and place a couple bolts.  It's a reliable line that never forms very thick or wide.  The usual protection at best would be short, custom, stubbies.  I'd top roped this line many year ago and found it to be quite a bit of fun.  Although the climbing isn't that hard, we thought it would be a great addition for the intermediate climbers.  We pondered and decided to add the bolts to make it climbable in any condition, for anyone.  It's about 40' long and is a tough one to grade.  It's pretty easy, but a little technical due to the thin, poorly bonded ice and in your face climbing for about 20' to the exciting top out.  I'm sure it'll be committing for the average WI4 leader despite the bolts.  The photo of me below on the first ascent doesn't do it much justice.   This is such a fun line and I hope everyone enjoys it as much as we did.  It's officially called The Tampon WI3+.  We'll leave you to guess at the meaning!
Nearing the top on the First Ascent of The Tampon WI3+
Laura coming up the sunny, starting pillar.  A better perspective of the steepness
Committing to the thin, quickly melting, smear
The line tops out at the Hemlock tree.  Awesome turf.  Laura Hahn seconding
The sun encroached on the ice, quickly turning it to water as Laura was topping out.  She did a great job seconding the line in the deteriorating conditions.  We packed up and headed down to Lower Meadow to see the local top rope posse of Blaine, Dave and Pete.  They were there enjoying easy sticks on soft ice.  We joined in the fun for a few laps before calling it a day.  Pleased with getting our new line done before it fell off the wall.

 Giving a belay to the local top rope posse, Blaine and Dave climbing
Enjoying laps on Hemlock with old friends
The remains of some of the Upper Meadow lines laying on the ground
So is this the end of ice season?  We think not!  We're going to be the optimists and head out in the morning again to go "BIG GAME HUNTING."  We'll see if we get lucky and have some fat skyscrapers.  Check back tomorrow to see!

On another side note, I managed to stumble across these little drips while out driving around.  It appears to get sun, but is monstrous.  Please excuse the bad photo, it was taken with my phone, through binoculars at over a mile away.  

These lines are somewhere around 200'  Yeahhhhhh....  More SWPA monsters for 
next season.   Looks to be more WI3's ;)



Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tom's Stash of Goodies


        Laura coming up "Center Pillar"

There's this really motivated climber that Laura and I have been climbing with.  Some of you may be lucky enough to know him, but most of you most likely won't.  He's only recently begun ice and mixed climbing with us here in the Laurel Highlands.  He's managed to tick off some rare forming notable climbs in the area.  His name is easy to remember.  It's Tom Thomas.  Most peoples first thoughts are "How is this big guy going to climb ice?"  Then they're utterly amazed when he steps up and sends something most climbers wouldn't consider getting on.  Tom's quite the jovial character who only gets happier when things get harder and more challenging.  He's quick to admit if something is over his head and is a solid guy to climb with.  Ego never gets in this guys way.  To him It's all about having fun regardless of how hard the climbing is.  Tom spent a fair number of days climbing in the Laurel Highlands this season.  Laura and I have been giving him a personal tour of our incredible ice and mixed climbing.  Tom's been climbing for a few years (over 20).  He's been actively searching out ice climbing in some really unlikely areas West of the Laurel Highlands.  He kept telling Laura and I of his many stashes unknown to most.  Large WI3-5 ice climbs, modern mixed, all kinds of "Goodies" right under the noses of many other climbers.  Tom is a very honest guy and I believed him.  This past Tuesday Laura and I made the drive further West in PA to check out a sampling of Tom's hard work.  We met for breakfast then drove a short distant to the parking area for the crag.  A short 3 minute walk had us standing below a short cliffband with plentiful ice drips, flows and pillars.  This area had numerous mixed and ice lines.  Tom put in serious efforts to equip the routes with anchors and bolts where necessary.  Impressive to say the least.  What the area lacked in height was easily made up for in quantity.  We started on Frozen Crackers M4.  It was a nice 15' dead vertical flow that ended at a short rock section and a fun turf topout.  Awesome climb!  Laura was up next and decided to give Frosted Flakes M4 a go despite it's iceless condition.  She onsighted it in proper style finessing her way up the line to the shuts at the overhang.  I tied in and had a really good time climbing The Wild Card M5.  Our last line was Tom going up The Scavanger WI4- in thin conditions. 

Last clip on Frozen Crackers

Topping out

Laura taking a lap on "Frozen Crackers"

      Laura working up "Frosted Flakes"

             Laura on "Frosted Flakes"
Working up through "The Wild Card"
We packed up, hiked back to the car and made a short drive to the next spot.  The next spot was amazing.  It's an ice area that has some FAT 70-80' WI4-5-'s. Extremely easy approach and sooo fat!  Unbelievable nobody has found these other than him.  He's been climbing here for years without seeing anybody.  We were very happy to sample his "Stash of Goodies".  It's a shame the season is ending.  I can't wait to see more of Tom's great work!

Prime lines awaited us
Laura seconding "Center Pillar" WI4
FAT Western PA ice, What a fine day!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Double Date for Winter Storm "Titan"


Me checking out a newly formed, unclimbed line.  Far right flow, I'm bouldering the starting moves.
Called on Account of Security in the forground
What better way to spend a double date than sending sweet lines in SWPA?  We managed just that all whilst enduring winter storm "Titan".  This megastorm (that wasn't) may have had many other climbers quivering in their climbing boots, but not Tom Thomas, and his wife Mariann.  They were happy to brave the storm to join Laura and myself for a "double date" at the local stash.  Tom's been chomping at the bit to sink some picks into the local legends.  Our date went like this...  We met at Valley Dairy in Connellsville for a romantic breakfast of daily specials.  Eggs, meat, and home fries or "little cubed potatoes" as Tom calls them.  Breakfast was awesome as usual and we set off up the ridge for the crag.  We parked and made the hike in.  Upon arrival Tom and Mariann were impressed by the amount of steep ice.
A happy Tom and Mariann
We poked around a bit to scope things out and pick some routes.  Tom and Mariann quickly racked up and got on the ever classic Final Obligation WI5.  Tom was practically buzzing with excitement.  He climbed the line very well and ran it up to the trees for the full experience.  Here's a few photos of Tom enjoying the great conditions.
Tom, all smiles and getting started
Final inspection before committing
The full line of Final Obligation WI5
Mariann on belay, Tom climbing
While Tom and Mariann enjoyed Final Obligation, Laura and I checked out a few lines before deciding to try Big Nasty WI5+.  The line was obviously damaged and rebuilt a bit from the last warm spell.  This only helped the climb live up to its name.  Notoriously funky and usually shotty pro are the norm on this line.  I thought I might be able to pick my way up through safely and tied in for a go.

Starting up Big Nasty
Looked easy enough...
Deep into it and getting worse
Needless to say, I hit my point where protection was too sketchy for me and I bailed...  This shit was spooky regardless what the photos look like.  Tom and Mariann moved onto Called on Account of Security WI4.  It was in the best conditions I think I've ever seen.  While clocking in at the lower end of difficulty for this crag, this climb is surely not to be missed.  Its actually one of my top picks and always a blast!



Mariann in action
Climbing in the fury of  winter storm "Titan"
While Tom and Mariann climbed Called, Laura and I went over and jumped on The Awakening WI5.  It was much skinnier than the last time I'd climbed it, but looked good.  Here's a few photos of me climbing it.
Opening moves of The Awakening

the "crux" section
a few meters to the finish of this gem
Sopping wet and cold from the wet snow that had been falling most of the day, we decided to pack up and make the uphill slog out.  We hiked and were all riding the "climbers high" all the way to the cars.  What an awesome "Double Date" and a great first day for Tom on the undisputed best ice in PA.  Glad you two could join us for some fun.  Keep your fingers crossed for cold temps this week.  We may break our record for the latest day climbed here of March 3rd.  We're looking forward to sampling your mixed stash!