In April we awarded four Grants to people undertaking interesting and ambitious projects. How did it go? Some great attempts, some not so great … and none succeeded! But do any of these constitute a real “failure”? Is learning, growing, and exploring a failure or a success? Read on and then tell us what you think.
HUT to HUT – Samuel Jurek – New Hampshire
“The White Mountains Hut Traverse is an extremely rocky and rugged route connecting the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) huts in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.”
Date of Attempt: October 1, 4:40am
Summary: I made it through the halfway point of the route before stopping, staying on record pace to this point (4 of 8 huts).
What stopped you: The main issue was my ambition exceeding my fitness. I believe my mentality and cardiovascular fitness were solid, but the mountains did damage I was inadequately prepared for. I could complain about the 5-15 degree morning, 40-50mph winds, and ice-glazed rock, but the truth is those are normal occurrences, especially for the time of year.
Is the route good?: The route is magnificent. It is challenging to the greatest degree, combining a relative necessity of speed, a respectable distance, and terrain, which to me is rugged, remote, relentless, and honestly frightening at times.
What would be done different: There is a need to continuously keep scouting the route, ensuring the trails are known like ‘the back of my hand’, and spending more time on the higher summits to gain perspective on general weather patterns and knowing when conditions are ideal for faster efforts.
Is there a ‘next’? Without a doubt. This winter will involve much homework and the 2018 summer calendar is dedicated to this.
COLORADO TRAIL UNSUPPORTED – Heather Anderson – Colorado
“My route would follow the well established and challenging 500 mile Colorado Trail end to end.”
Date of Attempt: August 23-28
Summary: I started from Durango, stopped about 213 miles later at Copper Mountain due to injury.
What stopped you? Developed severe Peroneal Tendinities in my left foot.
Is the route any good? Amazingly beautiful. Worth coming back for healthy.
What would be done different? Different pack, different direction, different style.
Is there a ‘next’? Absolutely.
WIND RIVER TRAVERSE – David Anderson – Wyoming
“Summit all of the 43 named peaks along the Continental Divide in the Wind River Range of Wyoming in one continuous push.”
Date of Attempt: August 30 – Sept 18 (20 days!)
Summary: We completed our north to south traverse of the Wind River Range, but only summited 33 out of the 43 intended named peaks along the Continental Divide
What stopped you? Weather. Specifically, an early winter storm that dropped up to a foot of snow in the mountains, then cold conditions and another larger winter storm predicted four days later. We remained healthy, motivated throughout our expedition. It was really disheartening to put so much effort into the traverse and to be stopped by something we had no control over, the weather. But when you take on a challenge in the mountains you have to play by their rules and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Is the route any good? The route is spectacular and offers a unique opportunity to experience not just a few mountains, but an entire mountain range. The route requires a high level of fitness, determination, good route finding ability as well as various mountain skills from glacier travel to technical rock climbing.
What would be done different? The Wind River Traverse took longer than we expected, so we should have brought more food. I lost 17lbs in 20 days and Szu-ting lost 14! Having to ration our food meant that we traveled slower and thus were caught by an early winter storm. Also, the snow and ice travel early in the traverse was more challenging than we anticipated. If we were to do the traverse again starting earlier in the year or bringing more technical equipment for that terrain might be better options.
Is there a ‘next’? Perhaps, but at this point there are many challenges out there to explore. However, I do know several people who might try the Wind River Traverse next year!
Suunto GPS tracking: http://www.movescount.com/members/member1535820-szuting
Images and more info: http://dave-anderson.com/the-sweet-traverse-of-wyoming/
(EDITORS NOTE: David and Szu-ting undertook BY FAR the hardest route of the four – and made it further than anyone else!)
NORMAN’S 13 – Andy Gohlich – California
“Norman’s 13 will connect all thirteen of the 14,000′ peaks in the Sierra Nevada range in one push on foot, north-to-south, following the model of Colorado’s Nolan’s 14 challenge.”
Summary: I summited 5 of the 13 peaks, including the Thunderbolt-Sill Traverse, which is most technical portion of the route.
What stopped you? My attempt turned from a Supported attempt to Unsupported at the last minute due to a weather delay and some scheduling factors with my planned crew that were out of my control. I then had to carry a heavier pack (Fastpack 25 as opposed to my planned AK Mountain Vest), slowing me down, and the altitude weighed more heavily on me than it had in any of my scouting missions. The routefinding was more difficult due to the recent snow on parts of the route. Coming up Sill once night had fallen, I was extremely fatigued and stumbling, and caffeinated gels weren’t doing much for the stumbling. I made the call at that point to bivy for the night just shy of 14,000ft. In the morning, after summiting Sill, I made the difficult decision to bail. I was moving very slowly, was pretty out of it, and the unpleasantly loose “Farquhar Death Chute” on Middle Palisade was up next, so for my safety I decided to bail back to South Lake, where my trip began.
Is the route any good? The Norman’s 13 line is incredibly aesthetic and equally as burly. I was essentially scrambling and climbing for the entirety of the first day before bailing after Sill. It’s no joke – a large percentage of that first section is 4th and low-5th class, requiring constant attention and care, and the off-trail talus slogging is a beast in and of itself.
What would be done different? I would definitely prefer a Supported attempt – I would have been moving much faster and carrying far less gear. Ideally I would have been able to scout the route more extensively as well, but work, life and the record snowpack in the Sierra had different plans.
Is there a ‘next’? Hopefully the numbness in my toes goes away sometime in the next week. I am planning to focus my energy on another attempt of the Norman’s 13 line next year – somebody’s gotta do it!
WHAT DO YOU THINK? What could they have done differently? The gauntlet is down – are you going to give any of these a try?