Ice Climbing Sandstone

Winter sports have always been tough for me.  I love to downhill ski but I don’t get out to do it much.  I love to snowshoe but I don’t own any.  Classic cross country skiing is fun (again, don’t own any) but I’m terrible at skate skiing.  Speaking of skating, I rarely, if ever, do it.  So I don’t cross country or skate ski, I don’t skate at all, and I don’t own snowshoes (yet); what kind of a Minnesotan am I?

I’ve only ever been rock climbing before.  Even though I dislike the cold (and this winter has been abysmal) I’m always looking for different ways to enjoy the great outdoors.

An opportunity to do just that made itself available recently in the form of ice climbing.  I’ve never been ice climbing before and had never known anyone who has done it, but as it turns out, someone I’ve climbed with before has ice climbing experience.  Erik is a manager at Vertical Endeavors, which means that he has approximately 10x more ability than I do and 50x more expertise.

A small group of us headed north to Sandstone to climb on a Saturday morning a number of weeks ago.  Leading up to the day I had been keeping an eye on the bitter cold weather.  I thought it was supposed to be around 20 degrees, and if I layered right and was moving around, I should be warm enough.  Instead, it was closer to 0 degrees.  Suffice to say, I was not layered as well as I could have been, which led to a wicked cold day.  My fingers and toes were so cold I couldn’t feel them after a while, even while I was climbing.  But then again, I’m a big baby when it comes to being cold outside anyways.

When we arrived at Sandstone we walked the narrow snow-packed trail at the top of the ridge to find the best spots to set our ropes.  Since I’m not that experienced at setting top ropes I basically walked around while Erik, Erik, and Bryan did all the work.  Sure I tried to untie a knot for Erik, but, finger dexterity was severely lacking in my choppers, so I played the role of the unhelpful spectator.  Once we set up three different routes we headed back down to the bottom where we spent the rest of the day.

Here’s what I can say about ice climbing for a first timer (from my perspective at least).

1) It’s a lot different than rock climbing.  Ice climbing requires a whole different technique I was not familiar with, and it’s more rigid.  Whereas with rock climbing, technique is certainly involved, but I felt I had more freedom with my body with rock climbing.

2) It’s cold.  And I did not layer appropriately.  My mistake.  My freezing mistake.

3) It’s tiring.  Tiring in a different way than rock climbing because of the emphasis on different and unfamiliar muscles used.

4) It’s a lot of fun.  Although I didn’t entirely know what I was doing and only a fool would say that I was any good at it, I actually had a lot of fun and would recommend it for anyone to try at least once.

5) Sandstone is cool.  There were many more people ice climbing than I would have expected at Sandstone, which has a really cool wall of ice when it’s properly watered.  It was impressive and I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of it before.

Then again, Sandstone hadn’t heard of me before either, and it didn’t seem to care.

 


Adventure Goals for 2013

As 2012 is left behind and a new year begins, I have some goals (lofty in some respects, realistic in others) to have a more adventure filled year than 2012.  The biggest adventure I’ll be having, is that my wife and I are expecting our second son in March.  Nothing on this list will give me more joy than the joy I’ll be experiencing on March 19th (assuming baby #2 is punctual).  With all of these things I aim to accomplish in the new year, they will only happen if I can successfully balance adventure and family.  It’s very important for me to spend quality time with the fam, and adventuring out in the wild while my wife is at home with two kids both under the age of 4 would put me in the running for worst husband of 2013.  So, there needs to be a balance.  As part of that balance, I’m looking to try to have more local adventures.  Things I can do close to the Twin Cities or the rare northern Minnesota trip.  Obviously I’d love to take my wife and sons on all of these excursions, but the boys aren’t old enough for most of them yet.
With that in mind, here are the things I hope to try to do in 2013.

Run a 50 mile Trail Ultramarathon
Last summer I ran my first ultra, the Afton Trail Ultramarathon.  It was a great experience, albeit a very tough and challenging one.  This biggest commitment of this isn’t the race itself, but the time investment the training necessitates.  By my estimation, if I can run 30 miles, what’s another 20?  Right?  Right?  I’ve got my eye on you Superior Trail Race.

Climb at Barn Bluff in Red Wing and Blue Mounds State Park
Taylor’s Falls is great for a Twin Citian such as myself, and there’s still a lot of routes I haven’t done there, but a trip to either Barn Bluff in Red Wing or Blue Mounds our in Luverne would be a lot of fun  I believe Barn Bluff is mostly lead climbing, so…
***Bonus Goal ***
Learn how to lead climb..

Mountain bike Cuyuna Trails
Two falls ago I biked Cuyuna and loved it.  I hope to be able to take another crack at it.
***Bonus Goal ***
Mountain bike way more often than I did in 2012.  After getting a new bike towards the end of 2011, I found it tough find time to hit the trails.  Shame on me.

Paddle the Minnehaha Creek Watershed point to point
This is basically in my backyard so I have no reason not to do it, other than low waters because of a drought and the need for an aluminum canoe.  But other than that I don’t have a good excuse.  It’s pretty meandering and easy from what I understand.  Bonus points if I take my (then) 3-year-old son on his first canoe ride.


Hike section of the Superior Hiking Trail
I love hiking in northern Minnesota, but haven’t been able to hike the SHT for a few years.  Even if I can only get up there for one or two days, it’d be worth it.  I’ve never been up there for the fall foliage….

Run a marathon; either Grandma’s or Twin Cities
I’ve ran a lot of half-marathons and an ultra-marathon  but I haven’t run a regular road marathon since I ran Twin Cities in 2008.  I’d like to run Grandma’s since I’ve never done it – new experience – but Twin Cities is a lot more convenient.

Sleep outside in the backyard with my son
On the eve of his 2nd birthday I set up the tent and we camped outside in our backyard.  Awesome and memorable.  

Birthday camping is the best!

Birthday camping is the best!

Rock climb Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin with my uncle
My uncle who lives in the Northern suburbs of Chicago takes a trip north with a group of guys to climb at Devil’s Lake in Wisconsin.  He has invited my brothers and I on the trip numerous times but the timing has never worked out.  Crossing my fingers for 2013.

Participate in the Hoigaard’s challenge
This is a prime candidate to be the first thing on my list I don’t accomplish.  A friend of mine recently asked me if I was interested in trying to accomplish the Hoigaard’s Challenge.  This includes participating in all three of the following events: The City of Lakes Loppet (XC skiing, Feb. 2-3), The Tri-Loppet (paddle, MTB, trail run, June 23), and the Surly Trail Loppet (trail half-marathon, Sept. 21).  Complete all three and you get a pin.  Neato.  I’ve done the Surly Trail Loppet before and really enjoyed it.  The Tri-Loppet is particularly appealing to me because I’ve thought of doing tris before but I don’t swim a lot (not those distances anyway) and I don’t have a road bike.  I do however enjoy mountain biking quite a bit, so this is right up my alley.  The City of Lakes Loppet however…although it’s something I want  to get into more, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve XC skied in my life.  That’s why if we ever get around to actually signing up, we’d just be participating.  Not competing.  But hey, gotta start somewhere right?

What are your goals for more adventure in 2013?  Leave a comment below.


Little Adventur(er)

When I often dream of my NEXT BIG ADVENTURE I think of some far off exotic locale with beautiful scenery and new challenges, be it physical or logistical.  It also includes making memories that will last a lifetime.  The company you keep on such adventures and the shared experiences is usually the best part of the adventure itself.  During the course of my long break from work over the holidays, I was able to have just that type of adventure…with my son.

Looking for something to do around the Twin Cities with not a lot of time on our hands and something easy we could do indoors, my wife and I took our son to Edinborough Park Playpark in Edina.  My father was in town for Christmas, so it was also nice to bring him out for this little excursion.  Edinborough is madcap mayhem for young kids.  There is a large room with a smooth floor that’s great for carts and tricycles, basketballs and hoop, and an inflatable bouncy room with a slide.

Bouncing Bonanza

Bouncing Bonanza

This is a fun place to let kids go wild and run around, but the real adventure is in the next room where the 37ft. high “Adventure Peak” awaits.  With tons of nooks and crannies and a lot of different types of slides, this is a dream for kids who are adventurous.  My son is only 2.5 years old, so it provided the perfect amount of adventure to discover unexplored rooms and little nooks, courage to try new slides that were fast, long, and curvy, and curiosity about what was around the next corner.  He particularly liked the helicopter/ submarine.

Fin's Adventure Peak

Fin’s Adventure Peak

If you have a young one at home that needs to get out and have a little adventure, this is a close and cheap ($6 for kids, adults free) option during the winter months where getting outside with a toddler is a little more challenging.  Not every adventure has to involve the summit of a far-off distant peak or bombing an new mountain bike trail. Some of the best adventures are the smallest ones, spent with the smallest people.

 

"Let me tell you about my boat."

“Let me tell you about my boat.”


Vertical Endeavors – Minneapolis

Climbing is not something that comes naturally to me, nor would I claim to be great at it.  I’m, just, o.k., but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to get better.  I have dreamed of doing big climbs in far off lands, tackled complex problems while bouldering, and pushed myself past my current limitations.  At the moment however, my abilities are currently limited.  Since climbing outside year round in Minnesota is pretty tough to do, climbing indoors in the next best option.  Enter Vertical Endeavors.

With multiple locations in Minnesota (and one in Illinois) Vertical Endeavors is the premiere rock climbing gym.  A new gym opened about a year ago in Minneapolis and it’s a fantastic space.  It has multiple types of climbing available with 50-60 ft. climbing walls, and a lot bouldering options.  For someone like me who is a relative beginner, it’s awesome to be able to try new things and challenge myself one route at a time (routes and problems are changed often).  The staff is friendly and helpful, and the space itself is warm and inviting, despite that fact that you’re climbing on face rock.

Like

  • Lots of different routes/problems to try.
  • Variety for beginners to more experienced climbers.
  • Clean, kept up well.
  • Good music usually playing while you climb (I’ve never realized how ridiculously soothing it is to climb to classical or jazz music).
  • 10 punch card pass.  These go on sale, and when they do, buy one! If you’re like me and can’t afford a full membership, the punch card is a good way to go.

Don’t Like

  • Catch 22: I like that more people are into climbing, but if you can, avoid busy Saturday or Sunday afternoons when there’s a lot of people there and 2 different birthday parties of 8 11-12 years old going at the same time.  You’ll spend more time standing around than climbing.

Things I Need to Try

  • I’ve never done lead climbing before, this is the perfect place to try.
Off Route

Off Route

Capt. Pete


MTB Trail Review: Chequamegon, Hayward Cluster

Long overdue post.

I spent some time in Turtle Lake, WI this summer for work. Turtle Lake is very, very small and outside of the casino that’s there, there’s not a lot to do in the way of entertainment. So, I decided to bring my mountain bike and see what northern Wisconsin trails I could rustle up.  After leading a workshop one day, I quickly changed and drove over to Hayward, WI check out the Chequamegon trail system. This is a huge network of trails in Northern Wisconsin that has some of the best singletrack trails in the entire state.  Chequamegon is built on and around the storied Birkebeiner ski trails and so there are a number of areas that cross a ski trail.  Now, by the time I actually got there, it was near 6:00 and I had precious little time remaining seeing as how I needed to drive all the way back to Turtle Lake. With that in mind I chose the Hayward cluster of trails since they were the closest.

The Chequamegon trail system has miles and miles worth of quality trails. I probably only scratched the surface on about 10% of trails offered, but still really enjoyed my time. Starting from Mosquito Brook Trail Head, I did portions of the Kakwa trail, Sugarbush trail, and Birkie trail and Plantation trail.  Overall, the trails are well maintained and followed the descriptions in the trail guidepretty much to the letter.  Most of the trails I were on (except for the Birkie trail) were “rolling singletrack, moderately technical”.  Nothing too bad, still a great time.

Single track meets Birkie trails

After getting back to my car I had to find something to eat and settled on finding something local in Hayward.  Luckily for me, I stumbled upon the Angry Minnow  Brew Pub.  The bartender there talked me into getting the Jalapeno Slaw Burger, which – aside from riding trails – was the second best decision I made all day.  The River Pig American Ale and Tre Svend’s Imperial IPA are fantastic as well.  I really wish I had more time to explore the area and try different clusters (and go back to the Angry Minnow).  Guess I have an incentive to go back!

Angry Minnow in Hayward. So Good.

Tracked with my phone, not completely accurate.


Cougar Mountain Trail Run

This post is overdue, but towards the end of June my family packed up and went to Seattle where my uncle and his family lives and we had a family reunion.  At the time I was entering the final few weeks of training before my first ultra trail race, and need to do a few more runs.  I absolutely love to run in new locations, especially if the terrain and vistas are different so I always try to bring running gear with me whenever I travel.

On this trip, I really wanted to run more mountainous trails since the Twin Cities area of Minnesota is pretty flat.  My brother and I were able to sneak away one morning and do exactly that, heading off to Cougar Mountain.

Misty mountains

The day started out as typical Seattle weather with overcast skies and drizzly precipitation.  I had overdressed and wore a long sleeve shirt which proved to be a big mistake.  Although it rains a lot, I worked up quite a sweat throughout the run and wished I had clothing I could take off or ditch.  Despite this, the run was a lot of fun.

Good trails, good times.

There were definitely challenging hills to climb and great single track and wider horse trails to run on.  My brother had never really done trail running before so it was a pleasure to watch him experience the thrill of bombing a hill after putting in the grueling work to get to the top of a hill.  The vegetation in the area is so lush and incredible, the forest seemed so vibrant and alive.

Previously on LOST…

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go quite as far as I wanted because we had to get back to family obligations, but I thoroughly enjoyed the run we did get.  If you’re in the area and are looking for a good run that’s easily accessible from Seattle, this is a great place to check out.


Afton Trail Run Recap

The time for my first ever trail ultra-marathon has come and gone.  It’s been a while since I ran 50k through Afton State Park for the Afton Ultra Trail Run, but I’ve had enough time to process the experience (and certainly enough time to recuperate).

Unfortunately, the morning got off to an inauspicious start since I only got 2.5 hours of sleep the night before.  For whatever reason, I could not sleep (nerves?) the night before the race despite the fact that I got to bed at a decent time.  Since there was no packet pickup prior to the race, I had to be there around 5:30 , it takes me about an hour to get to Afton, so I woke up at 3:30 a.m.  Not ideal.

Cheering section

Upon arrival I was able to pick up my packet and race paraphernalia without a hitch and get my warm up in.  Stupidly, I didn’t take advantage of the Porta Potty and waited until the race director started giving instructions right before the race.  By that time, a long line had formed of people wanting to take care of their “situations” and I was cutting close to making the start of the race.  Luckily, everything worked out in the nick of time.  The start was interesting because after a few pre-race instructions, there’s wasn’t any sort of National Anthem or grand countdown.  It was basically, “Everyone ready? OK, go ahead!”.

At the start of the race, the first small decent got a little crowded while runners were jockeying for position and setting their pace.  This isn’t atypical for a race, but it felt a little different since it was harder to pass people due to trees and there were rocks and roots underfoot.  Shortly after we went down, we went up and were faced with our first hill.

There were a lot of hills, a lot.  So to sum up my basic strategy for the first lap of the 50k, I wanted to run as many hills as I possibly could .  I wasn’t going to make the same mistake I made for the Surly Loppet and kill myself on the hills, but I figured that even barely running would be better than walking early.  For the most part, I was able to stick to this strategy until some of the last few hills of the loop.  On my descents, I wanted to bomb the hill as fast as I could, sometimes at the expense of common sense and without regard for personal safety.  That was actually a lot of fun, although it could be frustrating sometimes when I bombed a hill and a runner in front of me wouldn’t move out of the way.

*by J. Husveth / Critical Connections Ecological Services Inc.

I didn’t really have a specific target for when I wanted to finish due to the fact that this was my first ultra.  Since I had sprained my ankle just over three months prior and my training was screwed up, I just wanted to finish respectably.   About 10 miles in however, I somehow  came to the conclusion that I’d like to finish just under 5:30 if I could.  I was able to finish my first lap at 2.5 hours (which included a three minute pit stop at a pit toilet) and I felt really good about that.  It wasn’t long after that my fortune started to turn.  When I passed the food table at the start of my second lap and went up that first hill again, I immediately decided that I needed to start walking up the steep hills.  Giving it the old college try wasn’t going to be enough and I was feeling  the fatigue pretty good and knew that if I kept trying to force the issue up the hills, it was only going to lead a disastrous conclusion.

*Course Map by J. Husveth / Critical Connections Ecological Services Inc.

Around mile 21 I started to feel cramps in my quads and knew that it was going to be a problem, how much of a problem I could not tell.  To counteract this I feebly tried to eat s as many bananas as I could  and hydrate much more frequently.  By then, however, the damage had already been done.  Mile 24 turned out to be my date with The Wall.  Against the rest of my bodies wishes, my legs were cramping so badly I had no choice but to stop completely for a minute and try to stretch them out.  I got running, slowly, once again and luckily I came to a long descent which leveled out to the flattest part of the entire course for a few miles.  The cramps never completely went away but they did recede enough to the point where I could tuck that association with pain into a closet in my mind and not think about too much.  At some point around mile 27 I had hit a root coming out of the  ground in stride right on my toe and thought for sure I had ripped the toenail off of my big toe.  Ridiculous pain shot up through my leg and every time my right foot hit the ground thereafter was horrible.  On the descents, I had to try to ball my toes up in my shoe as much as possible so I wouldn’t have to stop and walk.

The final homestretch came up and I just didn’t have anything left in the tank to sprint to the finish line, which I always aim to do.  This was the first ruin had ever done where I legitimately had nothing left.  I finished at 5:34 and missed my goal, but, all things considered, I was ok with my time.  As I was greeted by my wife, son, and friends who had come cheer me on, I chatted with them a little and checked on my toe.  Turns out I didn’t lose my toe nail, but it was – and is – a bloody mess underneath.The race was fun and with some adjustments to my training and my food/beverage consumption during the race, I’m positive I could improve my time.  I’ve never cramped as badly as I did during that run and I think I should have carried some S!Caps with me and administered them during  the race.

Into the chute

Exhaustion

For those thinking about trying a race like this in Minnesota, I highly recommend it.  All of the volunteers were FANTASTIC and the fueling stations were all well stocked and really well run.  There aren’t a ton of ultra trail races in Minnesota, but the Afton Tail Race represents itself really well and puts on a great event.


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