Victories, challenges, lessons, and changes

It’s approaching two years since my last entry. Ten months passed between my summit and circumnavigation of Mount Rainer and the publishing of that mission’s story. It hasn’t been procrastination which has delayed my writing, but rather an eventful period which has kept me offline. That time has been an adventure full of highs, lows, and changes.

I’ve plotted points along that oscillating curve in two parts. This first begins just before the Rainier mission and ends on New Year’s Eve of 2018. The second part picks up in 2019 — a year full of major life changes. …


Taking on the titan

Beginning Friday, July 20, 2018, I summited and circumnavigated Mount Rainier, thus completing Richard Kresser’s RASH challenge. I was joined by Denzil Jennings, James Campbell, and Scotty Strain for various segments. The summit and circumnavigation were each unsupported. The mission totaled approximately 114 miles and 36,000' of elevation gain and loss. From start to finish, it took 3 days, 2 hours, and 21 minutes; including a generous amount of sleep.

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The summit and circumnavigation routes.

Friends

A key difference between my efforts to summit and circumnavigate Mount Rainier and the rest of the mountains in the RASH was that I wanted to share the experience with friends. Climbing Mount Rainier requires a rope team for a novice like myself to obtain a permit. While I likely could have run the Wonderland Trail in a single push alone, I thought it would be more enjoyable to bring a friend and break the effort into two days so I wouldn’t miss any of the scenery at night. Sharing the awe in real time is far more rewarding than telling the story and hoping it is captured in others’ imaginations. …


Exploring the Brutal Wonders of the Bull of the Woods Wilderness

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Battle Ax from Mount Beachie shortly before sunrise.

On Saturday, June 23, 2018, Scott Martin and I ran The Bull King’s 21. This point-to-point route ascends 19,000' and descends 21,000' over about one hundred kilometers in Oregon’s remote and rugged Bull of the Woods Wilderness. Much of the route is off-trail — following ridge lines across chossy traverses and bushwhacking through thick vegetation. Scott and I established the route with the only known time (OKT) of 30 hours and 32 minutes. This included about seven off-route miles for a total of just over seventy miles.

A Monstrous Challenge Is Born

On Friday, November 10, 2017, Scotty Strain and I attempted a forty-mile route which would have summited three peaks in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness. We were turned back due to early-season, deep snow for which we were not prepared. …


Choosing between the joy of triumph and the wisdom of retreat

On Sunday, May 6, 2018, I ran in the BMO Vancouver Marathon as my Boston Marathon qualifying race. I finished in 3:13:57 — just inside Boston qualifying (BQ) time for my age group. Despite its high points, the race did not go well.

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My layout photo the night before the race. Rather than show off my shoes and outfit, I was focused on my foam rolling gear.

Preface

Last year, I ran a 2:54 unsupported marathon for my work commute — including stops — to see if I could break three hours. It turned out to be less of a challenge than I had anticipated. That fire that burns inside marathoners who chase ever faster PRs had been ignited in me. Around the same time, I started winning local, short trail races. In February, I ran a 1:16:33 track half marathon; and felt like I had withheld some potential in that race. …


Forty isn’t over the hill. It’s over many hills.

My fortieth year was surreal. I ran a hair over 3,600 miles with 400,000' of elevation gain and loss. Having only started this activity less than five years ago, it’s bewildering to think of how far and how fast it’s all happened. I summited and circumnavigated the three mountains guarding the Columbia River, ran my first 100+ mile race, and generally grew as a backcountry athlete. I’ve compiled some highlights from my adventures, each with a few words and photos.

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The Kalalau Trail on the Nā Pali coast, Kauai, Hawaii.

Winter

My fortieth year began with an unusually harsh winter which left a stubborn layer of snow and ice on everything. The snow accumulation would go on to make it difficult to complete long mountain routes until early summer. …


A Departure from Time

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The GPS track.

On Thursday, August 24, 2017, I solo summited and circumnavigated Mt. Adams (Pahto). It was the third and final mountain in my ASH project. I put 22 hours, 47 minutes, and 7 seconds into completing my 51.8 mile route with more than 16,000' elevation gain and loss.

Mt. Adams made me nervous. There is no trail on the east side through the Yakima reservation. It was going to be my first solo climb. Of the three mountains in ASH, this one was the most remote. On St. Helens and Hood, I could use my SPOT to contact search and rescue in the event of an emergency; but they aren’t allowed on tribal land. I would truly be on my own in the wild. It made me nervous, and it made me excited. …


The Adventures of Peter Cottonmouth

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The GPS track from my watch. The final two mile descent down the Ptarmigan Trail is from my SPOT.

On Tuesday, August 8, 2017, I summited and circumnavigated Mount St. Helens. It was the second mountain in my ASH project. The more than thirty-eight mile route with 11,700' elevation gain and loss took 14 hours, 15 minutes, and 46 seconds. Despite being the smallest of the three ASH efforts, St. Helens afforded me the highest highs and lowest lows of any adventure I’ve experienced.

The challenge of crossing “S” out of “ASH” began, and lasted, months before I showed up at Climber’s Bivouac. A permit from the Mount St. Helens Institute is required above 4,800'. By the time I had committed to this project, the permits were sold out. There is a dysfunctional aftermarket web site, purmit.com, …


“It’s supposed to be tough. Otherwise everyone would do it.”

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The GPS track. My watch died around mile 40. The rest is appended from my SPOT data.

On Wednesday, July 19, 2017, I summited Mt. Hood (Wy’east) with my friend Scotty Strain, then continued onto circumnavigate it solo. It was the first mountain in my ASH project. I was one minute shy of the twenty-one hour mark when I visited the Timberline Lodge for the third time that day. The trip was about fifty-two miles with over 15,500' of elevation gain and loss. However, the statistics, the photos, and even this report can’t possibly capture the experience.

Before I set out, I sent Richard Kresser, who pioneered the RASH and inspired this mission, an email with my SPOT share page so he could follow along in real time. He said in his reply, “Get it man, and remember, it’s supposed to be tough. Otherwise everyone would do it.” …


Summit and circumnavigate the Guardians of the Columbia

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Counterclockwise from the top right: Hood / Wy’east, Adams, and St. Helens.

Last year, I ran the Bigfoot 100k. This brought my attention to the Bigfoot 200 mile race. I followed it in real time. Richard Kresser won and set the course record. I had to look this guy up and discovered the RASH. That is mountains Rainier, Adams, St. Helens, and Hood; summited and circumnavigated back-to-back in under one week. It was an astounding feat which he performed just before his exceptional performance at the Bigfoot 200. I was amazed, and more importantly, inspired.

The idea of summiting and circumnavigating a mountain appealed to me. I had a spot of mountaineering experience and had gone around the Timberline Trail. I knew for sure I wanted to at least knock out St. Helens in 2017. Some months went by. I furthered my fitness and backcountry skills and signed up for the Plain 100 miler. I’ll be running it in September. …


On Saturday, October 8, 2016, I ran the Bigfoot 100k race, which is actually more than 110 kilometers or 68.8 miles. Here’s how it went down.

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The course map. 68.8 miles from Elk Pass to Marble Sno-Park on 99.8% single-track trails. 14,877' of elevation gain and 16,285' of loss.

Elk Pass to Norway Pass
11.0 miles, +2,287’/-2,691’

7:44 am. The Bigfoot 100k begins in one minute. We’re starting forty-five minutes late because our buses from the finish line missed a turn and each had to make five thousand point turns on pitch black, narrow forest roads to get us back on track. The delay afforded me close to an hour and a half of something close enough to sleep to make up for the lack of it the night before. Despite an evening of pre-race jitters, I felt calm and conversational at check-in. I snapped out of my power nap just before arriving; feeling alert and energized, but emotionally steady. …

About

Stephen Schieberl

Wilderness athlete, technologist, and family man.

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