Cottonwood Ridge Traverse

Everybody has their ups and downs. I had a whole lot of them the other day (Saturday, July 12,2014). My first UP started at 3:18am.

Jennilyn, my wife has been talking incessantly about doing the W.U.R.L. At the beginning of the year, she expressed her desire to have me join her on the first portion that makes up the Cottonwood Ridge Traverse. She felt like I would really enjoy it and that it would play to my strengths.

At 3:18am we (Jennilyn Eaton, Craig Lloyd, and I) found ourselves jogging from the Ferguson Canyon trailhead, heading up to the Storm Mountain Cirque. Because of W.U.R.L., we had to start there to summit the Broads Fork Twins instead of the usual approaches. Lucky enough, it allowed us to summit Storm Mountain (9,524') and an unnamed peak (10,350') before reaching the BF Twins.

Somewhere along the ridge-line before the BF Twins, we got to see the sunrise. Can it get any prettier?

From Ferguson Canyon to the BF Twins, along this ridge was nice and steep. I couldn't wait to get above 10,000' knowing that most of the climbing would be least the long consistent climbing.

I was elated to stand on the top of the East BF Twin (11,330'). Ever since I moved to Sandy, UT, the Twins have stared me down as I drive up 9,000 South everyday, making me think "I need to summit that." I finally got to conquer it and now when I see it, I think to myself, "I've summited that."

As a gear nerd, I was excited to borrow the Grivel Mago 15 Trail. Ever since it came out I've been itching to see how the single-shoulder running pack would handle. So I put it to the test on this peak-link-up.

The best part of this traverse was looking ahead and behind us. It was amazing to see the terrain we were about to cover and what we already covered. Some of the knife-blade-ridges looked intimidating, along with the steep scrambling sections. But they weren't that bad.

Following a long ridge is kind of easy in at least one aspect, and that is the fact that you always know your path of travel...just stay on the ridge. The only tricky thing was figuring out if we go left or right of some major obstacles like cliffs and pillars.

Running the actual traverse is kind of hard when there is so much of this involved. I'd describe the traverse as a high-altitude-scramble-fest.

At the top of Dromedary (11,107') we had two unnamed peaks before hitting the lat two major peaks (Monte Cristo and Superior). The terrain between Dromedary and Monte Cristo seemed long but was pretty mellow.

For being a rock climber, the scramble up the west face of Monte Cristo was the best part of it all. It provided just enough exposure and vert to make you feel like you were doing something amazing.

At the top of Mount Superior, I felt accomplished. At that point I had summited ~10 peaks in 10 hours, with at least 7 of them being over 11,000'.

The Grivel Mago 15 Trail treated me well on the whole thing. The major benefit of having a single-shoulder pack is that you can quickly swing the pack to your front to access your stuff. Jennilyn and Craig had normal running vests/packs and always hesitated when it was time to get something out of their pack. The single-shoulder pack proved to be very convenient. I carried 2 liters of water, a rain jacket, small first aid kit, energy food, headlamp, thin gloves, sunglasses, and a buff in the Mago. Still had room for more. The pack did well with not bouncing around. I thought my right shoulder would be super sore after the trip was done, with all the weight sitting on one shoulder for so long. Besides a few shot moments along the ridge when my shoulder felt tired, the single-shoulder aspect didn't do any worse than a double-shoulder pack. That myth was least for me and my shoulders. My two critiques for this pack is that it needs a hydration-hose hole. It has the sleeve inside but no hole for the hose to come out. I had to have the hose come out the zipper. Second, the water bottle holder can be a bit flappy when running. It was great having a water bottle up front while speed-hiking and scrambling. While running, I'd advise to take the water bottle out to avoid the flapping effect.

Imlay Canyon Sneak

If a co-worker approached me with a handful of papers saying, "Take a look at this.", I'd probably be concerned that I either did something wrong or they have a project for me to take on.

When this happened to me on a Thursday, my sense of concern turned into confusion when I took the papers and saw that it was a Zion National Park backcountry permit.

Either this guy is inviting me on a trip or he is showing off that he's about to do something super cool.

Seeing the confusion on my face, Christian Weaver explained that it was a permit for Imlay Canyon. "A guy in our group just dropped out. Would you like to fill his spot?"

I had only done two technical slot canyons before in the North Wash of the San Rafael Swell and I had actually been craving to try out any of the canyons in Zion National Park. The last thing I wanted to say was, "no." Thanks to my wife and her willingness to move around her weekend plans, as well as a friend that let me borrow his wetsuit, I was able to accept the invite and head out on a not-so-regular-for-me type of adventure.

There were five of us and we only had a day to get things done. Our objective was to do the Right Sneak variation of Imlay Canyon.

I'll let the photos tell the story:

Photos by Ben Eaton and Christian Weaver.

Lunar Ecstasy

Abraham Shreve and I spent 48 hours aid-climbing the notorious Lunar Ecstasy in Zion National Park, UT.

(click on any photo to start the photos gallery.)

For being my second ever aid route, I found that Lunar Ecstasy was a bit hard for me to bite into. It was right outside of my experience, but well within my reach. I guess there’s never a bad time to raise the bar. Once again we took it slow and ended up sleeping two nights on the wall. I must say, there sure is something amazing about sleeping on a nylon platform that is suspended on the side of a 1,200-foot cliff.

Snowshoeing in Big Cottonwood Canyon

The Salt Lake valley, along with the surrounding canyons and mountains, has been getting dumped on with a ton of snow lately. This always puts me in a good mood. So I decided to take advantage of all the fresh snow by dusting off my snowshoes and taking a morning stroll in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

I originally wanted to try and hike up to Blanche Lake but was unable to even park at the trailhead. The plows had barely touched the canyon road and many of the pullouts had at least a half a foot of snow on them, making parking an issue. So I kept driving up the canyon until I found a plowed pull out. I ended up hiking around on the Days Fork Trail for an hour and was able to capture a couple cool photos.

(I captured this shot after accidentally falling over backwards after I took the photo above.)

The White Rim - Rim To Rim

I'd choose a trail running adventure over a trail race any day.

Back in 2005, as a student at Brigham Young University-Idaho, my wife (Jennilyn) went on a 2 month study abroad program that required that they hike, bike, canyoneer, and canoe in the remote desert areas of Southern Utah. She was able to experience mountain biking the white rim in three days. After each day's ride, she'd lace up her running shoes and clock in some extra miles on her feet. Ever since then, she has always dreamt of running the entire White Rim "Trail".

The first thing I ever heard out of Jennilyn's mouth when I met her was, "Sorry I didn't answer the phone, I was on a 14-mile run." To me, especially at that time in my life, she sounded pretty hardcore. What I didn't know then was that I was only seeing a tiny tip of a ginormous iceberg that had yet to show itself. After 6 years of dreaming about running the White Rim, Jennilyn finally put in our bid for the camping permits needed to tackle her dream and our goal of tackling this notorious desert pathway by foot. 

The White Rim is a 100 mile dirt road that aggressively loops around and below the island mesa top in Utah's Canyonlands National Park. Jennilyn was able to secure our permits and recruit three other runners, a crew cheif/driver, a lead cheerleader, and some mini-cheerleaders to join the two of us. Our initial plan was to run the entire 100 miles in three days, starting at the Shafer Trailhead and finishing on the Mineral Road/Horsetheif Trail where it intersects with the main road. However, we modified our plans a bit and decided to just run from one rim to the other, totalling 80+ miles. We started at the Safer Trailhead and finished at the top of the Mineral Bottom Switchbacks.

Day One started just after sunrise and consisted of running just over 28 miles. After arriving at the Gooseberry Campground, we realized that a nasty wind had arrived and looked like it was going to stay a while. It prevented us from setting up tents, it blew sand in our faces and sleeping bags as we slept, and one of our runners lost their pillow during the night after it was swept away from the torrential breeze.

The wind didn't let up, in fact it got a lot worse and blasted us with gusts of 60 mph the entire time we ran on Day Two. With sand and pebbles pelting us the whole way, we trudged along to the Potato Bottom Campground for a daily total of 35 miles. Luckily, the wind ceased that evening and we slept like babies.

Day three was a delight. The weather was perfect and we only had to run 16 miles to reach the top of the Mineral Bottom Switchbacks. It was a wonderful feeling topping out and knowing that we were done. It was truly an adventure and it was so cool to see Jennilyn living out such a big dream.

Rumor has it that Jennilyn is now thinking of going back and trying to run it in again...but this time within 24 hours.

This is the map that we so colorfully marked up to illustrate to our crew the initial plan. 

The White Rim Runners: David Lynn, Steve Aderholt, Leslie Keener, Jennilyn Eaton, Benjamin Eaton

Our Support Crew. You guys rocked. Thank You!!