Week 4, 2013: Conquered by Mount Charleston

Where was I? Oh yeah, the Vegas trip (by the way in the meantime I put a post with my plans for 2013... no comments? Come on, guys, you can do better than that :P). I forgot to mention that on my way back on Saturday, slightly in a hurry and running downhill, at some point I kicked some rock, which sent me flying. Gladly I got away with only a few scratches and bruises.

So I still had whole Monday to do some running. My initial plan was to again go to Lake Mead, though this time to explore its northern shore. I even had a specific location in mind: Valley of Fire. However, when I looked on the map, a certain mountain west from Vegas drew my attention; Mount Charleston.

The more I read about it, the more intrigued I was. While not terribly high, it was the 8th most prominent mountain in the whole US. That suggested an impressive mountain... and a serious workout! Certain site was suggesting to set aside 14 hours for the round trip. At best I'd have half of that. It also said that winter hiking is "not for novices" and that one should expect snow and ice. While not exactly a novice, with only my Five Fingers (didn't have space in the backpack for anything else ;) I hardly qualified as prepared for the trip. And since the day before I spend in the scorching desert sun, the idea of ice 1h drive away seemed very abstract. Long story short: I decided to go.

Parking lot where I started.

The drive was quite pleasant and the mountain looked fairly impressive from afar. I could see that the summit was certainly covered in snow but I was hoping the lowest parts wouldn't be. Wrong. There was plenty of snow even at the base of the mountain. But the sun was shining so without thinking much I set off.

Unfortunately I was silly enough to loose half an hour to look for the trail head (which was right under my nose). Once I was on the correct trail I quickly realized that this is going to be challenging. Snow, ice and steep trail meant that my journey had nothing to do with running; at times I was barely moving.

And the higher I was the more challenging it was becoming. Often I would trudge in deep snow; knee deep at times.

After a bit over 2 hours of this, I realized that there is no way I can make it to the top and come back on time. So I decided to turn back. Never an easy decision, but in this case it was the only reasonable one. I was in the mountains, where it can get dark and cold rather quickly. And it did. Shortly before I reached my car. And trust me: I was damn glad I wasn't up there when it did. Also my downward journey was not very fast, due to all the snow and ice and I ended up on all fours a couple of times, which only added to the bruises from the previous run.

Up in the mountains.

All in all, both days my planning was far from perfect. I'm not complaining much: I kinda enjoyed what I did and I saw some great stuff. But I have the feeling that, with perfect planning, this part of Nevada had more to offer.

Sunset at Baylands Park loop.

After coming back I was extremely tired. It took all my strong will to go for a steady run on Wednesday but once there I even managed to improve my fastest time from December on the loop, finishing it in 35:10. That was a mere 12 seconds improvement but given that my goal, for end of June, is 32:00, 12 seconds is a noticeable step in that direction.

Doing another run on that day was absolutely impossible in my state, so I followed up with an easy run on Thursday. And then nothing more until the weekend. For the weekend I was debating whether to go for a 50k ultra-marathon held close to San Francisco. At first I thought that it was on a very similar route to the Coyote Ridge that I did in December, which was a bit of a put-off. But then I realized that, although in the same region, there wasn't even an overlap between the two courses.

So I wanted to go. But there were two problems. The first was the weather which wasn't very good leading to the weekend, with plenty of rain. The second was my legs. Or feet, to be precise. I was paying the price for pounding on the rocks and ice in Five Fingers.

Gladly, the weather improved and my feet recovered so I went for the race. But that will be a subject of the post coming up shortly :).

(See more photos from: Mount Charleston, Baylands Park loop).


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