Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mt. Ellen Ascent

Vermont has five peaks that exceed 4000' in height - Mt. Abraham, Mt. Ellen, Killington, Camel's Hump, and Mt. Mansfield. In 2004, while training for Hardrock, I ascended all five of them in one day - a feat that is rarely accomplished, to the best of my knowledge. Last summer, for some reason, I never summited any of those five peaks - the first time since I've lived in Vermont that I didn't do any real hiking in the summer.

A few weeks ago, I did a "double" on the automobile toll road on Mt. Mansfield. The toll road leads to a sub-summit, and because the Long Trail was still closed, I couldn't go to the true summit that day. On Sunday, I did summit Mt. Abraham as part of a mountain training day. So, I decided that for my mid-week runs these last couple weeks of training, I'd try to hit each of the five summits once before Western States. I worked in my office rather than at home yesterday, and Mt. Ellen isn't far off the track on the way home.

Because I needed to work a bit late last night, I didn't get started until 6:30. The shadows were already starting to lengthen and I was going to be on the east side of the Green Mountains. So, I put on a long-sleeve shirt, tied a jacket around my waist, and carried a flashlight "just in case". My quads are sore from Sunday's workout, but I felt OK as I started the ascent. My hike yesterday was up a steep service road to the top of a ski area.

About halfway up, I realized that I had a shot at hitting the summit in under one hour. I have only gone under an hour once in my life and that was in 2004, not long before I ran Hardrock. The climb is 2.65 miles long and gains 2480 vertical feet. For me to summit in less than an hour is work, even when I'm in good shape. So, I started working. Quickly, I was redlining, but I kept on working. At 40 minutes, I knew I was going to be close. At 50 minutes, it looked like I had no chance. At about 50 minutes, I passed below a double black diamond ski run called F.I.S. I was surprised to see two small patches of snow still on that run. This part of the mountain closed at the end of March, and the mountain that stayed open until early May is now completely devoid of snow.

At 50 minutes, I still had to get past the top of this steep ski run and I was now pretty sure I had no chance at an hour. But, I pressed on. As I neared the summit on the Panorama ski trail, I knew it would be close. I had to hit the top of the summit chair and then duck into the trees on the Long Trail for about 100 feet or so to hit the summit. I entered the forest at 59:53. I hit the summit at 1:00:25. I didn't quite make an hour, but this was my second fastest ascent ever, which felt good.

On the way down, I saw a snowshoe hare, now wearing its summer colors. I took a photo, but it was too far away and blended into the background so well that publishing it here would be like finding Waldo. We see them occasionally in the winter when skiing and see their tracks a lot. I don't see them often in the summertime.

On the descent, I was thinking about the great mood I've been in the past few days. I think that I really needed some time alone in the mountains. I can't explain what it is about being in the mountains that makes me feel so peaceful, so alive, and so insignificant all at once. I know that many others share that love of mountains, but it's hard to put into words. I found myself wishing I had a tent and sleeping bag with me, so I could just sleep at the summit for the night. My two climbs in the past few days have been really fun and it's really helped my overall motivation.

I took it easy on the descent, not wanting to trash my quads any more. I never needed the flashlight.

Today, I have a PT appointment - one of three remaining before Western States. Then, I'll do an easy bike ride tonight.

Tomorrow night after work, I'm planning a Mt. Mansfield assault.

1 comment:

David Ray said...

Great! You're definitely sounding positive lately. It's all coming together. :)