Monday, August 27, 2012

Wonderland Trail in 48 hours?

Location: Wonderland Trail
Distance: 93 miles 
Type: ultra hiking/running
Time required: depends

The Wonderland Trail may be the most brutal yet most rewarding trail I have ever experienced.  The trail circumnavigates Mt. Rainier (14,409 ft) in 93 miles.  To most people, the trail is something you do over a 10-12 day period or over a couple years by splitting it up in segments.  Michael Davidson (avid runner, climber, hiker) said otherwise.  As we passed backpackers carrying heavy 40+ lb loads during our 48 hour adventure, I realized Michael was right; fast and light is the way to go.  

We met at Box Canyon trailhead at 5:56 am, stretched, used the restroom and started hiking at 6:15 am on Friday August 24, 2012.  We moved counter-clockwise and made our way towards Mowich Lake, 46 miles away.  At Mowich Lake, we had a tent, sleeping bag, pad and food waiting for us.

We made it to Mowich Lake that night.  We hiked 46 miles and we saw half the mountain in less than a day!

The following morning we left Mowich Lake and made our way towards Longmire.  The glacier valleys never ended.  Up and over glacier moraine, down into the U-shaped glacier valley.  Up and over another glacier moraine, down into a U-shaped valley.  This went on for over 35 miles until we reached Longmire that evening.

What I wore:
La Sportiva Raptor trail running shoes
Salomon frictionless trail socks
Running shorts with pockets (for power bars)
Lightweight running shirt
Lightweight running cap
Day pack with sturdy waist strap

What I carried:
3-liter camelbak (rarely filled it entirely to reduce weight)
High energy food (high calorie to weight ratio)
    -power bars, granola bars, etc.
    -goldfish (pleasure food)
    -nuun (electrolyte tablets)
Shell pants
Fleece beanie, light fleece gloves
Insulated jacket
Mini first aid kit (aspirin, band-aids, toilet paper, aspercreme)
Ankle brace
Mount Rainier map

Time splits:

Day 1
06:15 am    Leave Box Canyon
09:00 am    Indian Bar
10:00 am    Goat herd encounter above Indian Bar
10:35 am    Panhandle Gap
11:02 am    Summerland (big snack break, water filter break)
01:30 pm    White River (restroom break)
03:30 pm    Frozen Lake (big snack break)
06:45 pm    Mystic Lake
09:00 pm    Carbon River suspension bridge (closed)
11:00 pm    Ipsut campground (water filter break)
01:00 am    Mowich Lake campground
01:30 am    Asleep

Day 2
06:30 am   Awake, stuff faces with bagels, muffins, oatmeal, etc. Stretch, pack, restroom.
07:30 am   Leave Mowich Lake
09:00 am   Mowich Camground
11:40 am   Golden Lakes Campground
02:15 pm   North Puyallop River crossing
04:20 pm   St. Andrews Lake
05:45 pm   South Puyallop River crossing
06:35 pm   Emerald Ridge
07:40 pm   Tahoma Creek suspension bridge
08:45 pm   Indian Henry
11:45 pm   Longmire.....the end of the road for us.  13 miles short of the full loop.

At 11:45 pm we stumbled into Longmire, the first place the trail is even remotely close to a road in about 35 miles! Michael's parents were there waiting for us, ready to feed and encourage us to keep going.  Only 13 miles left we all thought.  Only 13.  Wait, only 13?  13 is a lot.  But it's only 13 miles, we already did 80 miles, what's another 13?  This debate went on in my head for about 10 minutes while the Davidson's tended our wounds and every need.  In the end, the realist inside each of us won the debate.  We decided to throw in the towel and forego perhaps the hardest 6 hours we would ever experience.  Instead I have very little recollection of those 6 hours as I was curled up in the back seat of a car fast asleep.  There is always next year.

Total distance: 80 miles
Total time:  41 hours 30 minutes
Total moving time (approximation):  31 hours
Total elevation gain:  20,000 ft.  (not a typo)

I am going to emphasize the elevation gain of 20,000 ft...

For those of you who have climbed Mt. Timpanogos in Utah....20,000 ft. would be equivalent to climbing Timp 4 times.

For those of you who have climbed Mt. Rainier....20,000 ft is equivalent to climbing Mt. Rainier from its lowest starting point, twice.  

For those of you familiar with Mt. Everest....20,000 ft is equivalent to climbing from base camp to the summit 1.75 times.