Photo courtesy of Andrew King - D4 Productions

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Virginius and Oscar's Pass

5 more days until the big day - Hard Rock 100, 2008 edition!

It's now Sunday afternoon and the town of Silverton is slowing down from the 4th of July weekend. I came into town on the 4th and turned right back around to my campsite because there was no place to park and the street was filled with people - not cars. Silverton has one of the best fireworks show I have ever seen. I didn't see them this year but a few years back my family and I watched the entire mountain side light up for 30 minutes of nonstop explosions. Good for the town of Silverton because their winter's are so harsh they need the tourists to last the winter. In fact, the coffee shop I'm sitting in "Steam and Steel" (formally Mobius) just barely opened because the previous owner didn't make it through the winter.

So here's what I've been doing the last couple of days: Friday I drove up bird camp road and "attempted" to get to the top of Virginius (1.42). Saturday I took a day off and drove to Durango to relax. Today I drove up to Ophir pass ran down the back side and up to Oscar pass (2.32).

This is why I "attempted" to get to the top of Virginius. This is only the first pitch of three. Since I was alone I didn't want to risk being hurt in such a remote place. I hadn't seen any other tracks so it would be quite some time if I slipped and fell before someone found me. I made it up to the rocky outcropping on the left of the photo but turned around and slide down testing out my crampons.

Here are my crampons. I'm debating whether I should strap them to my Nathan pack. They did slow me down but once I got comfortable sliding down the slope I pretended I was skiing, seemed to work. The snow was soft enough for me to dig in and I made sure I was up there at the same time I think I would be there in the race. The slope is steep and it eerily reminds me of the slope in which I had set an avalanche and broke my femur 20 years ago. Most people might not be spooked but I envision how fast I can go down a slippery slope with nothing to grab onto. Might not be that bad during the race with people around and adrenaline flowing.

Believe it or not there is a jeep road under that snow leading up to Virginius. You can see my tracks dug into the side. It doesn't seem that bad but when I'm in the middle of that slope and look down, I notice it's all funneling into a chute. This side-hilling takes a little practice so I'm glad I got a chance to build my confidence.

This picture is looking up towards Virginius basin. Virginius pass is to the left out of the picture. I put this picture up to show the beauty to entice some of my friends to come check out the San Juans.

This picture is looking up to Oscar's Pass. This is one of the most brutal of climbs about 20 myles into the race. Only a couple of snow fields to traverse and from this vantage point they don't look that bad, do they?

Well, here is one of those snow fields when you're right up next to it. A little bit more daunting, considering the slope.

So you wanna know how much energy an avalanche carries with it? Take a look at this METAL gate twisted up. I couldn't fit the uprooted trees that were lying next to this gate. Pretty impressive!

This picture is taken from the top of Oscar's pass looking back to Grant Swamp Pass. The actual pass is dead center, top of the picture. Remember my last post I put a picture up from the top of Grant Swamp?

And finally, my trustworthy companion - Cooper. This is the place he sits and waits hours on end. I can't tell, does he look mad to you??

So far this week I've put over 50 myles and 10 hours on my legs. I've previewed the course to give me enough confidence to power through those scary places. I said last week before I left Highlands Ranch "the work is done" - that statement was premature. I can honestly say that the work is now done and the outcome of my race is sealed. I have some big expectations but with Hard Rock I just have to take what it gives me because no matter how hard I've trained and how well I've been racing, Hard Rock will chew me up and spit me out in a heart beat. Let my mind wander for just an instance and my race could be over, get behind on calories or fluid and my race could be over - concentration and attention to details is needed for 30 hours straight. Just like Western States is to so many, this is my "Big Dance" of the year.

That's all for this post. I will update again on Wednesday right before the race. Take care all and see you soon!
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