Bubble in the desert

A blog I started whilst on a GE "Bubble" assignment in Nevada. I'm back in Cambridge (UK) now but still miss the desert and my friends out there.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Running/fast hiking Job's Peak (10,633ft) from Faye Luther (12 miles & 6,000ft)

Since I've been here I've wanted to go up Job's Peak. I recently heard Dave Adams and Ron Peck talking about having run it and was very keen to try it. Dave kindly obliged, though it was a run and fast hike rather than full on run. I think this is Dave's 5th time up there this year (which is quite something).

Job's is the one on the left. rising nearly 6,000ft from the valley floor.
Job's Peak (on the left)

Although feeling rough from the day's cycling and the heat in general (and from eatin Trader Joes Chile and Lime peanuts to excess) I called Dave Sunday night to confirm my attendance Monday morning. I was relieved to awake feeling ok on Monday.

So, we set off early, with trekking poles and a couple of litres of water and some sports gel things.

I was a bit surprised but pleased that Dave just walked (fast) the first flat section (even that is not easy because of the thick decomposed granite - DG - like sand). We could have run it but no sense getting an injury by starting too hard. Before long, we were climbing and on the relatively flat sections on the way up Dave started to run. This was tougher than he made it look but I'd run over 4 miles along this trail before so I knew what I was in for. We repeated that 4 miles this time in about and hour. I was feeling pretty good about that, since the whole route is just 6 miles to the top. Then Dave said, in an encouraging way, something like, "that's a good time for the first 4 miles and we must have climbed 1,500ft". Only simple maths was needed to figure out that of our 6,000ft total ascent, we had hardly scratched the surface. Dave did point out that all the running was done by this point though, which was some consolation.

The route gets decidely vague from that point up but Dave knew it extremely well (there are some cairns or "ducks" as some locals call them but they are hard to see). We made our way up a rocky stream bed for a while. Over some big rocks, through narrow paths among some tough plants and over some big rocks (always a relief). It was pretty tough from here on up but the hardest part was still to come.

The mountain is thick with DG (decomposed granite) which varies in consistency from sand to animal feed sized chunks. As you put your foot on this stuff, it often slides back as far (or further) than you stepped up. Thank goodness for trekking poles and stubbornness or we'd never have made it.

Dave explained that when it gets tough he tries to walk on the plants (those tough woody ones), since they have the best traction. So I followed with increasingly tired legs, picking out stoney sections to walk on when I could, some of which were not as planted as they seemed.

Dave had a great way of goal setting on the way up with several intermediate places ahead we were heading to. It's a big climb, bigger than anything in the UK by some margin, so the goals we're very helpful. As was Dave's spirit, always cheerful and always moving impossibly fast but cool about waiting for me at times.

As we got to the last goal before the top, "the point at which things flatten out a bit", Dave says, "we're 11 minutes under 3 hours and could probably make it". So, we plodded on faster. I really needed a rest at the last goal place but I was keen to shoot for the 3 hours (I don't think Dave was bothered at all, he's done it in 2:18!). Although things had levelled out it was still pretty hard going to the top, though it was awesome to suddenly see over the other side of the ridge, to walk past the snowline and see all the alpine flowers too. I plodded on with my heart and lungs feeling like they might burst. I was counting my footsteps and trying to equate them with time to keep myself going. In the end, I scrambled up the boulders to the top for a time of 3:06. I have no regrets about the time. I was just happy to sit down, and see the view.

Me on the top of Job's Peak

Above the snow line on July 3rd (Job's Sister and Friel Peaks shown)...
Job's Sister and Friel Peaks

A short break, a photo opportunity, signing the book at the top and then we headed down. Dave asked how long I thought it would take to get back to the boulder 2 miles back. He thought about 35 minutes which seemed impossibly fast but then I saw him start running down. Wow was he moving. From nowhere Dave produced a whole new route down which was so thick with DG that it was like running down a sand dune. It felt almost as easy as skiing. As you landed each footfall it slid, and as it did you just had to lift the other foot (whilst sliding) and repeat, using poles to help your balance and control the speed - it was very effortless after the climb up. Dave really moved down this, clearly having a ball. I could not stay with him at all but was still moving fast enough and really enjoying it too. Not as much of a hard descent as I'd expected.

After a while our stand dune style surface got mixed with some rocks, which made things a bit more entertaining and then more rocks appeared. Dave said we'd not finished yet and pretty soon we found some more soft DG (amid rocks) to hurtle down.

Back at the boulder, we emptied the accumulated DG from our boots (loads of it) and got ready for the 4 miles back to the car. At this point my water was gone but I didn't seem to need much more. I'd done this 4 mile descent before and it's GREAT. On extremely tired legs it was harder but finding a nice path again, with a predominately downhill aspect was really great. Even the short uphill sections seemed a relief so we ran them too (I think they use different leg muscles which we probably glad to get some action after the big downhill).

Back at the car I was glad to retrieve my litre of water and sad to see how quickly I downed it needing more.

I think we were 3:06 to the top from Faye Luther and 1.5-2 hours back. Not bad going but quite hard to imagine how Dave gets up there 40 minutes faster on a good day.

I drank around 4 pints of water (4 lbs) during the run, and then another 4 on getting back. Despite that I still weighed 6lbs less than I did before the start. A tough run! Perhaps not the best tapering for the Death Ride next weekend but I have no regrets (I might on saturday but not now).

I think this is the most extreme thing I have ever done before work. I will never look at Job's Peak quite the same again - because now I own it!

Work, a distant memory somewhere down there...
Looking down to Minden from Job's Peak


At 5:43 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great account of Job's. I hiked it years ago and your description brought back memories. I hung more to the south side going up the rock sildes and down the route you took. 3 hours to the top I want to say.


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