Saturday, December 31, 2011

Some of My Favourite Things at this time of year...

Homemade Wreaths for the Doors.

Lights in the Garden.

A Little Christmas Tree

Christmas Flowers, Amaryllis and Paperwhite Narcissus

Lights in the Trees

Holly from the Garden and Candles.

Real Little Trees

And of course running every day! Yes I successfully completed the Marcothon. I ran for at least 25 minutes every day in December. It was toughest early on in the month but once the holiday parties were over things got less hectic and it became easier to fit in the daily run.

This past week Neil and I have both been off and we have enjoyed running together every day. We have done some loops of Hayward Lake and also had some good runs at Buntzen Lake. We will start the New Year with either a run in Golden Ears Park or at Hayward.

In 2011 I completed Dirty Duo 50km, Chuckanutt 50km, Vancouver 100km, KneeKnacker 50km and Frosty Mtn 25km. I also maintained my title as top female in the Bagger Challenge for the 3rd year in a row by climbing 33 Peaks from June to October. Couldn't have done this without Team Dodgy! I think there were a few Club Fat Ass events in there as well throughout the year.

2012 has some big goals like finishing my Master's of Science Degree at Simon Fraser University. I sent my final proposal off tonight for my thesis - now that's a dedicated student working on New Years Eve!

2012 running goals include the Big ones such as West Highland Way 95 miles and Vancouver 100km. And of course the events to get me to the big ones such as Dirty Duo 50km, Chuckanutt 50km, KneeKnacker 50km (if I get in) and the new Squamish 50miler, Whistler 50 miler and many outings with fellow baggers and Team Dodgy!

Next week is the transition week from work to school...yikes!

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Eve - Eve

Well there are a couple of hours left for December 23rd here in Vancouver. The trees (yes 2!) are up and the house is decorated both inside and out. Over here we do the "outside lights" too. Don't worry we don't go tacky - just some nice white lights in a big tree and over the rhododendrons up the drive way.

The gifts are wrapped in time for the family to take them away tomorrow evening. We are having family over for Christmas Eve. I bought Neil a slightly bigger climbing pack that can take a few extra items. ;-) (Don't tell him!) Some of my fellow Baggers may appreciate this gift.

Whew...what a busy time it has been. Thank goodness for the Marcothon! I've been good! Forcing myself to fit in 25 minutes of running every day in December. On the weekends that is no problem as we are out for some longer outings. What is really tough are those wet rainy dark days when you have Christmas parties to attend after work. It makes one be creative at some very early hours or squeeze it in after work and be late for the party. I must say I think it has helped one cope with the busyness at this time of year. I usually run 5 times/week but adding those 2 extra runs on the road,albeit short, is inflicting upon me a few aches and pains. Neil has been trying to run every day as well but has missed a few. He too is noticing the aches from the road.

We are both off until after New Year and plan to run every day but we will have more time to hit the softer trails instead of heading out on the road from home.

Merry Christmas To All!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

West Highland Way 2012!

Confirmation this morning by email that both Neil and I have been accepted into the West Highland Way Race in 2012. This will be Neil's 4th and my 3rd. We have agreed to do the journey together again - something I highly recommend every couple try. I recall in our first year Dario commenting that there were no marriage counsellors on the route!

We actually do quite well together, Neil lets me set the pace and we help each other through those down moments along the journey. The goal is to finish together. One ultra we did together Neil whacked his head on a tree and I really thought I was on my own to the finish line. So you never know what an event will bring!

From January to April I will be taking an education leave from my work to complete my Masters of Science Degree at Simon Fraser University. This will be a focused time of study but also an opportunity for some change to the training patterns. Change is good!

On December 1st we committed to the Marcothon - running for 25 minutes every day through the month of December. So far so good! We even squeezed the 25 minutes in before a Christmas party on Friday night. Saturday Neil, Liza and I had a 2.5 hour run in the Buntzen Lake area. Today we had a shorter run at Hayward Lake so I could attend an annual Christmas Wreath Making party. I used Cedar boughs and Holly from the Holly bushes in our garden. I plan to get up early most days this week to do the 25 minute run in the morning and then will have a few evening runs as well. We are planning on a snow shoe run this Thursday night at Grouse Mountain as the weather looks clear and cold.

We have decided to stay home here in Vancouver for Christmas. We were considering spending Christmas in Scotland but with me preparing for the thesis writing and upcoming courses it all seemed a bit much. We will keep it simple and plan for our WHW trip in June! Exciting!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

It was a stormy, nasty weather week here in Vancouver. High winds, power outages and lots of rain. Friday the skies cleared and the emails started...have you seen the snow on the North Shore Mountains...let's go tonight for a snow shoe! Neil and I were in and so we met Dave and Helen at Grouse on Friday evening. It was cold up top but a beautiful dry evening. There is several feet of snow up there already! Dave led us out on the Snow Shoe Grind to the top of Dam Mountain - a fantastic journey. This is the winter version of the world famous Grouse Grind, the much used lower mountain trail beloved by tourists and locals alike. We were the only ones out there on the snowshoe trails! Doesn't get much better than that. We hope to add a night of snow shoeing at least once a week throughout the winter months.
Today (Saturday) we headed back in to the North Shore for a CFA event called the Seymour Super Fun Run. It was an atrociously wet and miserable morning when we started out. This was the norm for the whole run and I really cannot remember such a wet day on the trails for a long, long time. It was a great to finish at the local coffee shop and warm up with a piping hot cup of java!

Heading out to join the Snow Shoe Grind on Grouse Mountain.

The snow was perfect with a path carved through it.

It was steep at times which was an excellent work out.

Flocking on the trees - so nice!

Dave and I at the Snow Shoe Grind Turnaround. Nice to see the sign to warn us to go back.

The glow of Vancouver below as we head down.

Saturday morning, back to the North Shore for the Seymour Fun Run a CFA event. Craig approaching a little snow.

Me finishing Neds Atomic Dustbin Trail - not my favourite!

Craig - it was so wet. Torrential rain.

Me - in the rain!

Craig and I near the finish - Soaking Wet!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Change of Seasons

Now that Bagging Season is over it allows the opportunity to reflect of good times and wonderful adventures with our bagging buddies! We encountered many difficult moments on the trail that might have required a push or pull from helpful baggers and so it was that we became known amongest ourselves as "Team Dodgy"! Thanks to Dave and Helen for capturing the memories in a T-shirt for Team Dodgy. My Nike Trail Pegasus shoes have seen better days. 33 Peaks with lots of varied weather conditions and trail wear makes them feel like my favourite pair of slippers but with lots of scuffs and "air" holes! Perhaps time for a new pair.

Saturday we participated in Club Fat Ass's Go Deep Trail Run. The weather was cold/wet and snowing at higher elevations. It was great to have another weekend of running not to mention catching up with trail running friends. We went to Buntzen Lake today for another 2 hours of up and down running. It feels good for the mind and soul to build the running miles up again as well as the legs! Looking forward to some longer trail runs over the winter and judging by the early snow fall this past week some snow shoeing outings as well!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Finding our Happy Feet!

A view from Buntzen Lake Power Line trail with many peaks behind that I climbed during the Bagger Challenge.

From left to right: Mt. Seymour, Runner Peak, Mount Elsay, Mount Bishop, Mount Deacon, Mount Presbyter and finally Mount Dickens.

Indian Arm in the distance with the four tops of Dickens.

With the Peak Bagging Season behind us - this weekend, we hit the trails to get back to some longer runs. We have kept up with the shorter week day runs but for the last few months we have had only the longer endurance outings of climbing mountains without the longer runs. So it felt great to be back running longer on the trails! Saturday Neil, Dave, Chad and I went to Buntzen Lake and did a 2 hour 40 minute outing. It was a beautiful fall day, clear skies with cooler temperatures. The maple leaves are covering the trails and the colours are spectacular. We enjoyed the outing so much that Neil and I went back again on Sunday with a slightly modified route to avoid the dog walkers. It worked out to be about 1 hour 45 minutes. So a good introduction back to the running trails and bye bye bagging trails for another year!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Baggers Banquet 2011

The winners of the 2011 Club Fat Ass - Bagger Challenge. Bill Mauer (Overall Champion with the most Peaks - 50), myself (Most Peaks Climbed for the females - 33) and Ken Legge received the Twisted Quaich (for contributing to new route finding this year).

David and Julia hosted the party again this year and did a superb job of making it a great evening. David with the tray of Quaichs.

The cake - a nice steep Peak!

A good time was had by all! Neil and I stayed the night at the Georgia Hotel in Vancouver to celebrate the end of the bagging season. The last few months when we have been home, Saturdays and Sundays have been spent climbing mountains. It was a very different Saturday today. We slept in (instead of getting up at 5am), we went out for breakfast (instead of eating toast in the car), we walked Robson Street(crowded!) and we had our hair cut (we never do this on a Saturday). We had a nice dinner at home and watched the hockey game on TV. I know that it must sound like a very normal way to spend a Saturday but when we have been leaving early and returning home very late the last few weeks - it felt strange. Am I missing the bagging already? - I think so! Time now to build up the long runs over the winter months.

Congratulations to all the Baggers out there!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Final Weekend of Bagging

Neil and I at the top of Deeks Peak.

This past weekend was the final weekend in the Club Fat Ass Bagger Challenge for 2011. On Saturday, we set out with the intention of bagging the peaks Hat, Fat Ass and perhaps Brunswick. We picked Dave up (just the 3 of us baggers again!)It had been raining during the night and the clouds were low and drizzling. No promises of time to Helen - we really were unsure of what the conditions would be.

We parked at Lions Bay at the trail head and made our way to the Brunswick trail head. This was my first time on this trail. I had heard it was steep and yes it was but it was a very nice surface underfoot and many places to put the feet!
On the way up we had an incredible view of Mt. Harvey to our right that showed us the vertical climb we did last weekend. WOW! Good thing I did not look down - Neil kept repeating as we were pulling ourselves up - don't look down!

The air started to cool as we climbed. I was starting to get chilled despite going straight up and working hard. My hands started to feel cold in the gloves and then my feet started to freeze. The trail was now covered in snow and quite slippery. It was OK to go up but I kept thinking that we also had to come down this steep snow covered trail. I stopped and put on another layer, hat and changed to my thicker gloves. We continued on and I soon realized we were going straight up Brunswick as we passed over the Howe Sound Crest trail to go to Hat and Fat Ass. I followed Dave and Neil's lead up and once up I made a hasty retreat down. There was a strong cold wind and the drop offs were severe. I was really unsure of my footing with my feet being so cold. The trip down was a bit slippery as the ground was covered with fresh snow. I was too cold to carry on to Fat Ass and Hat so we just kept going down. Once down I warmed up.

The decision was then made to go on to Depencier Bluffs one of the lower Peaks on Mt. Seymour that we had not yet done.

The trail was full of water and wet bushes but it is a pleasant trip to the bluffs. The weather was quite dense with fog so no views of Vancouver from the bluffs.

On Sunday morning we set out and picked up Dave and then Craig and Liza. We planned to bag Deeks, Windsor and Gotha. The weather was perfect and we managed to do all 3. We were a little off on our time estimates for Helen and arrived back to our car at 8:15. Another long day of bagging!

So that completes the 2011 Bagger Challenge. We returned to many familiar peaks but also had the opportunity to discover some new ones. We had many great laughs on the trails with fellow baggers. Some of the journeys were long and extended into the evening. Sometimes a bit expected other times a bit surprising. The nights were magical as we descended in the dark.

Celebrating Windsor Peak.

Celebrating and holding Craig up on Deeks!

Cold and coming down Brunswick.

Fungi on the trail to the Depencier Bluffs.

Craig and I having a good laugh while taking a lunch break.

Trail Finding!

Trying out the poles! They are helpful most of the time!

Dodgy Moment! Good catch team!

Good technique Craig! - coming off the boulder field from Windsor.

On our way to Gotha.

Craig and I coming out in the dark.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Howe Sound Crest Trail

This weekend saw our usual peak bagging party reduced to 3. Neil, Dave and myself. Maybe the others knew something I didn't. We started at Cypress with a goal of bagging 5 Peaks on the Howe Sound Crest Trail. We told Dave's wife Helen she could expect us at Lions Bay by 5 pm but that we would keep in touch by cell phone.

The first peak was St. Marks where we encountered some icy conditions in shady or North facing slopes. It was a warning for the rest of the day that we could be faced with slippery conditions under foot.

Dave and I at St. Marks Summit.

View down to Howe Sound from St. Marks. You can see a BC Ferry on the Vancouver Island run.

On our way to Unnecessary Mountain we came upon 2 other baggers, Mike Wardas and his friend Al whom we continued to see throughout the day as they too had similar ambitions for the day.
The trail to Unnecessary was pleasant for awhile and then became very steep (don't they all!) Once we reached the summit of Unnecessary we were provided with spectacular views of Howe Sound and the Lions for which we were headed towards.

Neil and I at the top of Unnecessary.

Whose holding who up?

Enjoying my PBJ with the distant Lions in the background.

One of the few signs or trail markings along the route.

The north side of Unnecessary provides a noticeable change in trail difficulty. From here on the trail is much less travelled by the average hiker and contains many challenges. There are a few steep rocky drop offs which fellow baggers have noted to be known as "dodgy".

A dodgy moment - good catch Dave!

Approaching the West Lion.

Mike and Al having a break on top of this large boulder. There is a cache here with emergency supplies. I don't think I have mentioned the spectacular weather. It was perfect (except for the ice) but it is a trade off for bugs/wasps and miserable weather. The skies were clear all day and what turned out to be, night!

As we approached the West Lion the guys were mumbling up ahead about how the conditions on the West Lion would really be quite perfect today for a summit attempt. This instantly recognizable almost vertical sided rock pillar can be seen throughout the Lower Mainland as can it's twin the East Lion similarly impressive but within the greater Vancouver watershed and hence out of bounds to hikers. When we arrived at the West Lion there were many other hikers taking advantage of the dry rock. However, we noticed several people that were frozen on the rock with fear. Many were out of their depth. I found it hard to watch them fearing an accident was looming.

Dave, Neil and Mike decided to go for it. Neil took the camera with him but asked me to take photos on the BlackBerry from my safe view point. I found it very hard to watch them on this technically very difficult peak and could only point and shoot the camera hoping that I had captured the moment.

Neil captured Dave going up.

Dave and Neil working their way back.

Neil working his way out. Yikes!

Dave and Mike before it goes straight up.

Traffic Jam!

Dave in the blue shirt on the way out.

Mike and Dave going up.

Dave and Neil at the top of the West Lion.

View from the top!

View from the top!

Dave encouraging Neil to go for it! They are heading back.

Once all bodies were accounted for at the base of the West Lion we headed out with determination to complete the original planned journey. We were now on our way to James and David Peaks. After the West Lion the trail is much less travelled and was filled with many dodgy moments for the rest of the day.

Dodgy moment - a narrow ledge with no bounce for a kilometer!

The narrow ledge we crossed.

Next was the obligatory boulder field that one encounters on most North Shore Bagging expeditions. The only difference is the size of the boulders, these ranged in size from basket ball to exercise ball. (unlike the Volkswagens we had on Elsay).

Enchanted Lake.

Anytime you see a rope and a chain you know you are in for a dodgy moment! Straight drop offs on both sides. The rope helped us get across, the chain helped get us up the vertical wall once on the other side.

Neil and I at the top of David Peak. We met Mike on his way down, he couldn't find the trail that goes over the top and connects with the Howe Sound Crest Trail. Once up the red shale summit we wandered around for a bit until I spotted the faint exit trail down. There were no markings for a bit and then they appeared which is so reassuring when you see the flagging. It was steep and I took most of it on my butt as it was also icy which made it quite treacherous.

Once off David Peak we met up with Mike and Al again. This is where our day together ended. They headed back to their car at Lions Bay on one of the few exit trails off the Howe Sound Crest trail and we carried on to Harvey Pass/Mount Harvey. Mike cautioned us that we would meet darkness. We were prepared for dark with headlamps and extra clothing. The sky was so clear which would help extend the light for a bit.

A view back to the Lions from Harvey Pass.

I knew the trail went by Mount Harvey and I thought we would have the opportunity to decide if we were going to go up. As we carried on I soon realized we were going up and over Mount Harvey. The sun was starting to go down and we were cold as we made our way through Harvey Pass. Flagging directed us straight up the rock mass of Harvey. Dave led the way, it was steep treacherous climb through a series of vertical chimneys. Thankfully there were hand holds and bushes to grab to get ones self up. It was not easy and took my full concentration to focus on getting myself up and not worrying about or looking at the vertical drop below. Neil had to do a bit of pushing a times to give me that extra up and over. I think we were all concerned about the trail down once on top. Dave did a great job of reminding us that the trail on the other side is the most used route. I knew I probably wouldn't be able to go down what I just came up so I was starting to have the plan in my head of a night on Harvey and a call for help. It was cold, steep and we were running out of daylight.

Great to see we had reached the top - what a relief!

We spent a few minutes celebrating 6 peaks for Dave and Neil, 5 for me!

Neil and I at the top of Harvey - very glad to have made it!

A view from the top over to Hat, Fat Ass and Brunswick.

Sunset on Howe Sound - it was a beautiful sunset but we were concerned about not knowing what was ahead of us in the dark.

A final glimpse of the Lions.

Looks like we found the trail down! Our spirits picked up and all was well.

A beautiful sunset through the trees.

Coat, Hats and gloves on as we descend the final peak into darkness.

In the dark, Dave and I as we descend the steep trail. We got off trail a few times as markers were few.

Neil and I descending into Lions Bay. Once out on the "gravel road" we commented that it felt like a 4 lane highway compared to what we had travelled on all day. We had talked to Helen a few times throughout the evening so she was aware of our location and Estimated Time of Arrival. We started at 8:30 am and reached Lions Bay at 8:30 pm. 12 hours - now that's a full day! We were 3.5 hours off on the original arrival time for Helen. Our car was at Cypress Bowl so she shuffled us there and it was 10:30pm once we arrived home. So 6Peaks for Dave and Neil, 5 for me. What an incredible journey in fantastic conditions that will be hard to match! Thanks guys for the pushes and pulls!

***Footnote: Mike & Al also made it out safely about an hour earlier than we did***