Father’s Day on the Incline


I awoke early on Father’s Day for an ascent of the Incline. This steep hiking trail, near Manitou Springs, gains more than 2,000 feet in about a mile up wooden steps and railroad ties. Think of one huge massive set of stairs that rises to the sky. Also think of a set of stairs that is littered with trains of people—especially in the summer.

Even starting at about 7:10 a.m., I was amazed at the crowds—probably a good 200 or so people. Not to mention the summer heat, as this hike faces east and gets the sun very early.

Several years ago, I would never have believed it if you had me how popular this trail would be today. People from all walks of life hike it, from Olympic athletes to tourists from Kansas. There is a whole nerdy record side to it, including who has logged the fastest time, etc. There is even one guy who hiked it 22 times in a row, gaining more than 44,000 feet in the outing—not to mention some really sore knees.

I appreciate the vibe of people motivating others to work out and keep challenging themselves. When Elizabeth and I lived in Colorado Springs, I would try to hike this at least once per month.

However, popularity certainly has a downside, including the difficulty of finding a parking place (you can take a shuttle, but it will add at least an extra 45 minutes on to your outing).

On most summer days, you probably have a better chance of finding a “snipe” or buying a house in Boulder County than you do finding a parking space. Though, this Father’s Day morning I found one in only a few minutes in the $5 section. “Wow, you got really lucky,” a girl told me when I got out of my car.

“I know,” I said.

Dealing with crowds on the way up has its own sets of challenges, especially if you are going for a PR. I’ve probably hiked this thing 20 times, and here are some categories for what I have experienced:

Never See Em Agains. People hike at different speeds on the Incline and of course there are some crazy fast people out there that will pass you so quickly you feel like a Mack truck just blew by you at 70 MPH, leaving you shaking and unsettled. You will not see them again most likely, because by the time you arrive at the top they will be on their way down. At least you can thank them for the small breeze they kicked up, albeit often smelly.

Step to the Siders Some people politely step to the side when you hike up near them to let you pass. This is a very courteous and friendly gesture, but unnecessary as the burden of passing should be on the passer.

Flash in the Panners These are hikers who have stopped to take a break, but when they see you barreling toward them, they quickly step in front of you to keep hiking. Forgetting why they took the break in the first place, they try to keep a pace that is unsustainable and eventually resume the previous position.

Tailgators/Pursuers These hikers, when passed, have their competitiveness incited and put on overdrive and chase you like a mad hornet, occasionally all the way to top of the incline! Though, more often than not, their fate is that of Flash of the Panners and they burn out and fade away quickly like the 90s band Third Eye Blind. Though sometimes entertaining, these hikers can be a real nuisance.

Early Shifters (No See Ums) Wisely, many of the fastest and record-setting Incliners hike in the morning. As I found out today, even 7 a.m. is not early enough for a cool ascent because of the east facing aspect of the hike. You did not see these Spartan athletes, and maybe you never will.

Step Step Panters The Incline is hard. It has never felt easy for me, not even once. And the same is true for a lot of people, who fall into the rhythm of a high altitude mountaineer’s pace, step, step, pant…pant…pant. step, step….pant, pant, pant. While this may seem unnecessary, remember that not everyone who hikes the Incline attempts many athletic endeavors, besides the occasional ascent of the Incline.

On a more serious note, this morning I was thinking a lot about Father’s Day. I am grateful for my dad, as well as my two grandpas (who are both still alive amazingly). My dad’s dad is 93 and does not take any medication! If I am fortunate to have his genes, I could be around for awhile! I also want to say more about my Dad, who is such a great man and a great guy. I would not be half the person I am today without his wisdom, guidance and love. I also am thankful for my brother, who is such a great dad to his daughter and son. I really admire him for that.

This morning, I also thought a lot about my son, Elliott. My wife and I lost him last summer in early July. He was only 7 months old, and was unexpectedly stillborn. I have felt his loss profoundly the past year.

I must admit, I felt a deep sadness for him this morning on Father’s Day. I miss Elliott so much. By now, he would have been nearly a year old and probably would have been hiking the Incline with me (in a baby backpack). He would, no doubt, be making that transition from needy baby to toddler, which seems like such a fun stage when their little personalities become more clear and you can interact with them a lot. I don’t know this by experience, but from what people have told me and the little I have observed with others.

I will be writing more about my son in future posts, as I was so looking forward to being his dad and taking him on adventures.

Regardless, I am so grateful to have been Elliott’s dad. He has helped me understand more about fatherhood, even though it was a brief brush with it for me. Though, here we go again, as my wife is now expecting another baby this summer, too. This time it is a daughter.

Happy Father’s Day everyone. May you honor your dad, grandpas, brothers and sons today. And hopefully you can get out and do some adventures together.

P.S. I did not beat my PR today 🙁


On top of the Incline, still feeling the suffering of the final push to the top. 

Saturday Barr Run


Last weekend my wife and I headed to Colorado Springs, so I decided to go for a Saturday morning adventure up Pike’s Peak.

While I’ve hiked it before, my goal this time was to run it. The night before, I discovered that there is an abundance of snow past the halfway point on Barr Trail (named after Fred Barr, the guy who built in the early 1900s), which would mean a 13-mile trail run gaining 7,500 feet of elevation with a bonus of postholing through huge drifts of snow for the upper half.

I opted for the suffer-lite version of running a bit beyond the halfway point and then back down—which seemed wise in light of the conditions.

The first 3 miles were a steep and mentally taxing way to begin the day. Two other notes of interest: the crowds thin dramatically after you pass the turn for the Incline, and also sometimes Barr Camp will give runners free leftover pancakes 🙂 The run down was a mixed affair—I was grateful to not be climbing uphill but then moments of knee pounding made me reconsider. All in all, it was a good outing.

I am inspired to return. A few friends of mine have done the Ascent Race, and while it definitely sounds like Type 2 Fun, I can’t help but be intrigued. This little venture definitely gave me a taste of what it will be like. See you sometime soon Pike’s Peak, when the snow melts out, my wife has our baby, and I get a little stronger. IMG_3640IMG_3636

Trying the Longmont Tri

1554372_10153673857766996_590566236809592194_nI felt rather relaxed as I waited for my heat to start on the edge of the pool. Donning obnoxiously bright caps, the swimmers churned the waters like a school of piranha—fast and chaotic. “OK” a girl nodded to me and two other swimmers, as we
plunged into the chlorinated waters. The start seemed casual, which was fine by me considering it had been eight years since I had competed in a triathlon.

When I heard about the 35th annual Longmont Sprint Triathlon, I couldn’t resist. Just five minutes from my house, I loved the chance to compete in something local. The race featured a 1/4 mile swim, 12 mile bike ride and 5k run. It sounded perfect for the sub-competitive triathlete.

Interestingly enough, the temperature by 9:00 a.m. was already near 80 degrees and sunny and humid. It reminded me of previous triathlons I competed in—when I lived in Florida. With no mountains, no rock climbing and especially no backcountry skiing nearby in Orlando, I needed a diversion. The most interesting part about Florida triathlons—other than raging humidity and heat—was the open water swim in a murky lake. Alligators swam in the same waters and I hoped I wouldn’t become easy prey if I lingered from the pack.

I felt like anything but prey working my American Crawl Stroke in the Longmont Centenniel pool. The clean and lukewarm waters felt safe—maybe too safe. As I splashed though the water, I tried to hold back. I knew better than to push too hard, as the swim is not my strong suit.

I moved into the transition area at 10:05. When I pulled my bike out of the rack, it collapsed, knocking another competitor’s bike over. It probably cost me a good 20 seconds trying to balance it again (not to mention the fluster factor) before a spectator offered to take care of it. If people win or lose triathlons based on transitions, my race already wasn’t looking good.

The bike portion featured 3 laps around a 4 mile loop, which was decently hilly. Because of my projected swim time, I started in a later heat and was doing a lot more passing than getting passed. Only one rider squeaked by.

The transition from bike to run always feels a bit weird—your legs and lungs are tired, but yet your running muscles are still relatively fresh. I started a bit slow and then eventually settled into a 7:30 pace—not my fastest, but not slow either. The run through cul-de-sacs and sidewalks was rather uneventful, though I mustered pretty good kick to the finish line.

All in all, the race felt pretty good. I always love the race day vibe, which is a sure way to help you perform at speeds you would seldom reach in training. In the end my time was good enough for second place my age group. I was pretty happy with that considering this age group is supposed to be one of the most challenging. The ahead guy ahead of me in my age group beat me pretty handily and got fifth overall. I got 28th place of 230.

In the end, it was a pretty fun morning. It was great to feel the race high and also hobnob with some of the other athletes,   including a guy named Bob who has won the race in previous years. Even though I am juggling too many outdoor interests, maybe I will do more triathlons? At the very least, I’d do this race again in Longmont.  1510452_10153674632646996_8044768889210479529_n

Two and a Half Towers: My Long Awaited Desert Adventure


If you recall, ever since March I have wanted to make a desert trip. But work, family commitments or other adventures (like skiing the Grand) had always taken priority.

That is, until recently.

My buddy, Mike, and I had planned on climbing for a few days in the South Platte over Memorial Day weekend. But then the weather forecast went sour in Colorado—really sour. It seemed every crag in the state—and tri-state area for that matter—held major precipitation in the forecast (chances of at least 80 percent). Except for Moab

And that is how I found myself at the base of Castleton Tower on Friday, May 25, ducking for cover (ironically). A thunderstorm approached nearby and a few drops of rain fell, but the storm never materialized. After an hour of waiting, the dark clouds passed and away we went, up Castleton Tower. This would be my second ascent, though my first up the Kor Ingalls route. What an epic day and epic climb!

IMG_3356Mike leading the third pitch, the off width crux.  


Summit Pic. The summit of Castleton Tower is surprisingly large, about the size of a backyard swimming pool. 
Over the course of the weekend, we racked up quite a few adventures. In our short 2-day window, we tried a few other desert towers, trail run in Arches NP, as well as dined at my favorite Moab Mexican Restaurant. Here was our itinerary:

Friday: Woke up at 4:30 a.m. and drove to Moab. Arrived in Castle Valley about 11 a.m. Rain delay until about 1:30 p.m. Climbed Kor Ingalls Route on Castleton Tower. 4 pitches, 5-9 (though crux feels more like a 10).

Ate at Fiesta Mexicana Restaurant and enjoyed a Super Burrito and one of their House Margaritas—which now cost $10!! Yikes, inflation.

Saturday: Started hiking at about 7:45 a.m. to Sister Superior feature. Climbed first 3 pitches of Jah Man, a 5-10c route. Then another storm threatened, and we bailed. Wind was blowing so hard our ropes went sideways! We were happy to get on the ground and out of the 60 mph winds. Weirdly, the wind was not blowing much when we arrived at the base of the climb.

Climbed one of my favorite climbs at Wall Street: Flakes of Wrath, a super fun 5-9 route with perfect hands in the first part and crux.

Sunday: Climbed a 140-foot tower in Arches National Park called, “Owl Rock.” Surprisingly very fun.

Afterward we speed hiked to Delicate Arch. Then I went for a 7.5 mile trail run around the Devil’s Playground Trail, running by nearly every arch viewing point. Left Moab at 1:00 p.m.


Upper Left: Owl Rock. Upper Right: Mike works out his frustration after the wind foiled

our Jah Man ascent. Lower Left: Tourists abound at Delicate Arch. Lower Right: 

Mike fights his way through the squeeze chimney pitch of Jah Man. 

I have much more to say about this epic trip, but perhaps I will save it for later. All I know is that my wife is having a baby in July and wisdom would say I won’t be making a desert trip for awhile. So glad I got this in!

P.S. Did I mention I love desert adventures? In fact, here are a few different stories I wrote about climbing in the desert, as well as the history of desert climbing:



Spring Couloir Skiing

A few weeks ago (May17), I skied DogLeg Couloir near A Basin Ski Resort with a friend from the UK.  We skied 8 inches of fresh powder on top of melt freeze snowpack. This was during that epic 3 weeks straight of rain in the valley and snow in the mountains. The conditions were quite good with the exception of some old wet slides underneath which made you a little edgy to get too much speed. All in all, a great day. With June around the corner and still tons of snow up high, the spring backcountry ski season is still very much in prime shape!