Monday, October 27, 2008

Olympia "Mountain"

Mountain is in quotes as it's only 2968'. However if you start from 700' and do a steep climb it's an excellent training hike. Olympia Mountain is in the rear section of Mt. Diablo State Park. It's a much more obscure part of the park and finding the trailhead off Marsh Creek Rd. at all was a challenge.

Not only that, but I was able to address some up the climbing/descending issues I've been having and learned something important. I still don't really like going downhill on dirt - it's pretty dull even when I'm able to descend steep slopes safely and pain free.

I went up the less steep way as I wasn't familiar with the route so I didn't know how ridiculous the trail might get (turned out, it would have been fine.) Even the less steep way was challenging. Ascending this time I didn't push myself into anaerobic gasping but instead stayed at a ground covering but reasonable pace. When I had climbed 1100' I stopped and ate some and that helped avoid any energy depletion or crashing. Then I was able to complete the steep ascent.

My original intention was to go up to North Peak, but once I got to Olympia I realized that it was important for me to figure out how to safely descend and I wanted to do that while I still had some energy, plus I had a dinner commitment. In summer the trails/fireroads in this area are dry and gravely and the footing is treacherous for me (see photo which is looking up a hill). I have slipped and fallen many times to the point where before I found the Micro Spikes that I wouldn't hike in summer.

I had brought my Micro Spikes, and had my new Vasque boots since the Keens are not able to protect my ankles from twists on steep descents, and of course I had my trekking poles (the Black Diamond ones). And since I wasn't exhausted I also had the all important ability to pay close attention to where I was stepping, and to my body position to make sure I wasn't leaning backwards.

It all came together and worked beautifully. I was able to go down trails that I simply would not have been able to. And there were at least two times where I would have twisted an ankle but the Vasques prevented it. The trade off is that there is much less cushioning with the Vasques and my hips are telling me about it (the day after), but that is much better that a screwed up ankle.

So I did it. I have successfully addressed most of the issues that I've been having around hiking save perhaps the important at altitude one. And with all that now taken care of in my mind I've able to see more clearly the real issue. Descending on foot on dirt is really dull. Your goal is usually to climb something and the descent is just what's left over. you're usually tired so it's often the riskiest part of the climb and your head just isn't in it (which makes it more dangerous and more accident prone.)

What makes the descent more interesting? Skiing, biking, glissading, rapelling - maybe paragliding though I've never tried it. Even using snowshoes on snow makes it more fun. Dirt is well, dirt.

So this winter, I'm going to be focusing on learning to be the best skiier I can be and learning backcountry skiing as well. I'm going to be spending a lot of time at Squaw as they have lessons of all levels every hour and there's this small detail of it being an Olympic site so you know the mountain is well regarded.

I'm going to be consulting again with mountaineering trainer Courtnay Schurman of Body Results but I think instead of focusing on trying to summit Shasta I think I want her to help me train for skiing. I'm going to be up visiting my parents in Seattle where she is and I'll meet with her in person.

So this was a surprisingly instructive little training climb as it's helped my get better focused. Of course in a week this may all change but this is something I've been working out in my head for a while now. The niggling problems were bugging me and I'm glad I've come up with solutions that work for me and it's an important lesson for me that unresolved issues drive me up the wall.

I still haven't given up on summiting Shasta, but I think I want to have more skiing skills first. I will also go back to Whitney as I still haven't stood a top it (even though I've done the hardest part of the climb twice now) and that's something I'm willing to suffer a little for. But I'm going to refrain from taking on very many hard Sierra climbs on dirt as I can only tolerate a few obsessions at a time. :)

And yes I did finally find my car. The trails at the start are confusing and not as well marked as I would like.

Oh and I've sure I've done this before but I really need to rant about the Mt. Diablo trail signage. Trails are sign posted like you're driving on the freeway. They're labeled where you going to, not where you are. That's totally confusing. A hiker wants to know if they're in the right place, then the may want to know about directionals. An example is to the left, You are not on North Peak Trail. You are actually on Mt Olympia Trail (see the teeny tiny printing at the top of the sign) and you are headed in the direction of North Peak Trail and you will get there in 1.35 miles. Confusing yes?

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