Monday, January 27, 2014

By the Stars

When we turn off our headlamps and crane our necks back we are enveloped by the bright, shining stars backed by the eclipsing emptiness of space. It's beautiful and mesmerizing. And it's simply a random Saturday night with some local Wasatch Mountain Wranglers.

"Wranglers" - the duality of the word is actually comical and yet completely unplanned. Months ago I started the Facebook group the "Wasatch Mountain Wranglers". Its intended purpose was to create a public forum to connect on running plans. I figured it would be easier for the 10 to 15 of us to coordinate plans on there than to email. Now, so many months later the group has crested more than 450 members and has a completely self-sustaining community. The group is filled with wranglers, both those who corral mountains like tame horses and those who lasso their friends into doing their bidding.

Jennilyn was the Wrangler this night. A run we've done a few times now has gone unfinished in Winter - running Tibble Fork to the top of Hidden Peak (the top of Snowbird Ski Resort) and needed to get done. She and a couple of others tried it last week and got scared off by a snow machine making its way down the mountain towards them. Uncertain if they were going to get in trouble or not, they opted to get out of there instead of face potential consequences.

We started our adventure at 9pm on a crisp, but not overly cold night. Tibble Fork Reservoir reflected the surrounding mountains while Box Elder Peak kept vigil over us. Five of us - me, Jennilyn, Scott, Leslie, and Jen made our way up Tibble Fork Rd toward Mineral Basin. Leslie and I fell behind as we scouted out some very obvious mountain lion tracks. The reality of the wildness around us enveloped us like a fog and we continued on in quiet respect. The climb up with quick and easy as we approached the bottom of the lift, Larry's Hole (at least that's what it's called in the Speedgoat 50k).

As we approached it became obvious that there people inside the shack, purposefully managing the snow makers just outside. While the others seemed apprehensive about approaching I took the initiative and walked right up to the building. Two guys came out to greet us, asked where we came from, and were impressed with our Saturday night's activity. I felt comfortable asking them how high we could go and they excitedly told us to "go all the way up". Sweet, Hidden Peak was ours for the taking. We donned our Kahtoola and Hillsound spikes and headed straight up Mineral Basin. The slope was steep, often approaching 45 degrees, but the snow was tracked out and bullet hard, so there was no chance of avalanche, just slipping. We successfully hit the top of Hidden Peak and the warmth of the 'warming room' in exactly 3 hrs. Having the warming room was a real treat and we hung out, snapped a pic, and prepped for going back out into the cold.

A warming room at 11,000 ft. Yep, that's awesome.

The run down wasn't nearly as direct as the way up, it was just too steep. Instead we cruised down the groomer track, only stopping at the steeper sections to pull out garbage bags and slide down the hill on our backsides. One time I got moving so fast that I almost took out Jennilyn and had to pull the bag out from under me so that I could slow myself to stop. Back down on the road out of Mineral Basin Leslie pulled out her sled and started riding it down the snow machine track which acted just like a luge run. Twice she did it, both times riding well over a quarter of a mile. I remember the last time she slid down she spun around just before coming to a stop and seeing them smile on her face was of pure childhood enjoyment. Magic.

We continued down without incident. Jennilyn and I even tried to hide and scare the others, unsuccessfully. We chatted away, fighting off the sleep that was starting to weigh on us. It was now almost 2am, and three of the five of us had already run once before earlier in the day. Ultimately it was one of the best runs of the year. I'm so pleased with the friends I have and can't think of a better way to have spent a Saturday night.


Jennilyn said...

well-written post, capturing the peaceful and playful nature of night runs.

Jen said...

That was an absolutely unforgettable 20 miles with good friends and beautiful surroundings. We're all lucky that we have health and strength and families that support us in our crazy adventures. :-)

I love the definition of Wranglers/wrangling, and what it has become. Great post!

Kendall said...

Good stuff Craig. Looking forward to the next great adventure (and hopefully I'll be there!).

Amiee said...

Way to wrangle up some stars! How do you run with a sled? You guys are seriously my heroes - I can't wait to join you someday!

jun said...

You all are very nice. I had to reread it myself and was shocked at all of my spelling and grammar errors. They are now fixed and I can rest easy.