Ras and Kathy share their adventures, advice, techniques, wins, and fails as they move through the natural world under their own power, fully Animal and full...
Beginning the morning of Monday, September 11, 2017, I will attempt to complete the first ever completely unsupported solo Double Drakensburg Grand Traverse. I will carry all of my food and gear from beginning to end with no resupply and no accompaniment and only take water from natural sources. My goal is to complete the DDGT in ten days.
The Drakensberg Grand Traverse is a route across the main range of the Drakensberg Escarpment from Sentinal Carpark at the north end to Bushman’s Nek in the south. The route crosses back and forth over the border between South Africa and Lesotho, “The Kingdom In The Sky”. The DGT is roughly 220km (137 miles) long with more than 9000 meters (30,000 feet) of elevation gain, although those numbers vary, because it is not a set trail. The standards for the DGT were established in 1999 by Gavin & Lawrie Raubenheimer. In addition to maintaining a purely unsupported ethic of no resupply and no pacers or crew*, the following checkpoints must be achieved:
You can follow my SPOT satellite tracker at:
I will be posting updates throughout the project to my personal Facebook profile and Instagram (although opportunities to do so may be few and far between):
You can also follow the hashtags:
#DoubleDrakensbergGrandTraverse #DDGTOKT #MamaAfrica and
#HominidHomeland as well as #ZeroLimits.
Special Thanks to Altra Running for making this project possible.
Thanks also to Gossamer Gear for their support.
And thanks to Nathan Hydration, Trail Butter, Seven Hills Running Shop, and Honey Stinger.
What a Blessing to be a Biped!
Give Thanks for Life!
What a Blessing to be Alive!
* In January of 2017 Jonathan Newman and Mike van Wyngaard did back-to-back Drakensberg Grand Traverses in 15 days 7 hours 50 minutes, however, their accomplishment would be hard to construe as a Double Drakensberg Grand Traverse, according to the accepted standards. Andrew Porter, holder of the solo FKT, joined them for the return journey, violating a truly unsupported ethic. With all due respect to what they accomplished (and respect is the reason I cite it here), my goal is to complete a true Double Drakensberg Grand Traverse, completely unsupported and in Good Style.
On July 31, 2017 Ras Vaughan and Kyle Pease completed the RAS Traverse establishing an official Only Known Time of 8 days, 1 hour, and 47 minutes.
They began at 9:45 AM on July 23rd at White River Campground in Mount Rainier national Park, summited Rainier via the Emmons Glacier, did an emergency bivouac in the summit crater due to Kyle’s cold fingers, descended the Disappointment Cleaver route the following day, and continued on the Mount Adams via the Wonderland, Laughing Water, and Pacific Crest Trails. At Adams the summited via the North Cleaver and descended the South Spur, then connected via the Round The Mountain Trail to the Boundary Trail to take them to Mount Saint Helens. At St. Helens they summited via the Worm Flows Route and descended Monitor Ridge, reaching the Climber’s Bivouac parking lot at 11:32 AM on July 31st.
They completed the project in fairly good style, adhering to a strict unsupported ethic of carrying all their gear and food from beginning to end and only taking water from natural sources, with the exceptions of Kyle stashing two pickets after the Mount Rainier traverse to pick up later and foraging berries along the way. The project covered more than 180 miles of trail and roads, and accumulated approximately 42,300 feet of elevation gain.
OFFICIAL START 9:45 AM 7/23/17
OFFICIAL FINISH 11:32 AM 7/31/17
OFFICIAL COMPLETED TIME 8 Days, 1 hour, and 47 minutes
View Route on CalTopo
OFFICIAL ONLY KNOWN TIME ATTEMPT ANNOUNCEMENT & YOUTH FUNDRAISER: Beginning the morning of Sunday, July 23rd, 2017, Kyle Pease and I will begin a traverse of the summits of Mount Rainier and Mount Adams and ending with a summit of Mount Saint Helens, all linked on foot completely unsupported, unresupplied, and only taking water from natural sources. The route is approximately 190 miles long with 41,579 feet of elevation gain. We hope to complete this Rainier-Adams-StHelens Traverse in eight days or less, but the main goal is simply to complete it. And in so doing, we are raising money for The Mountaineers Youth Programs, to help more Young People fall in love with the outdoors.
Last year when I was doing my solo Mount Adams Infinity Loop, I had the distinct sensation of Mount Rainier watching me as I ascended the North Cleaver of Adams. Whenever I would turn around and sit for a moment facing north, Rainier would be right there staring me in the face, begging for a linkup. And once on the summit, Mount St. Helens was there to the west. This potential linkup with Rainier and Adams and StHelens was bouncing around in my head for a few weeks before I realized that the first letter of each mountain spelled RAS, so I dubbed it the R-A-S Traverse. From that point on it wasn’t matter of IF I was going to attempt it, but WHEN. And now is the time. I’m joined on this adventure by Kyle Pease, and you can follow our progress here:
We are doing this not just to test our mettle and test the boundaries of Human endurance, but to raise fund for The Mountaineers Youth Programs to help introduce more Young People to the Natural World. Please click the link below and click on the gold CONTRIBUTE button on the right and make a donation. Whether it be $5, $25, or $500 every little bit helps get more kids outside and helps build the foundation for a lifelong love of adventure. Find out more here:
I will be posting updates throughout the project to my personal Facebook profile, the Team UltraPedestrian page, and Instagram:
You can also follow the hashtags #RAStraverse #OPYA and #OurParksYourAdventure as well as #ZeroLimits #RunLonger #TakeLessDoMore #BeTrailReady #Team7hills #HShive #Ultraneering.
Special Thanks to Altra Running and Gossamer Gear for making this project possible!
What a Blessing to be a Biped! Give Thanks for Life!
After 98 days and over 1300 miles on the trail, on June 11th, 2017 Kathy and Ras had to quit their attempts to become the first people to yo-yo the Grand Enchantment Trail. Below is a collection of trail dispatches, photos and video links that document some of the challenges that lead to that decision.
Watch for upcoming blogs on the Altra Running and Gossamer Gear websites documenting more of that amazing adventure.
In the spring of 2018 Kathy and Ras will be releasing a photobook collection of their complete trail dispatches from this adventure entitled 98 Days Of Wind with additional information not made available anywhere else. Sign up for our mailing list at the top of the page to be notified when 98 Days of Wind is available for purchase.
DAY 03 '- Walking the wilds in wonder at the rugged beauty of Creation! This natural arch in Rogers Canyon was just one of a host of wonders, including an amazing amount of delicious water; such an especial Blessing in the desert.
DAY 08 - The best Life isn't one where you sip champagne, but one where you guzzle water.
DAY 13 - WANDERING THE SANTA TERESA MOUNTAINS. Lots of wash-walking, bushwhacking, and route finding in this segment made for slow going. But that's part of the fun of an Only Known Time attempt. And the goal of our yo-yo projects is to experience the trail as completely as possible, so more immersion in the environs only helps us toward our goal.
DAY 29 - Asterisk number one: We made the difficult decision to take the High Country Bypass and High Water Bypass routes around the Mogollon-Baldy trail and the West Fork Gila River.
Climbing up from Alma, NM, we had to ford Mineral Creek numerous times. It was swollen with snow melt and the water was frigid. We had to stop numerous times to make coffee and warm up our painfully cold feet, so much so that we burned through all our stove fuel, which we had been unable to resupply in Alma.
We then climbed out of Mineral Creek up to 9,000 feet, our shoes never fully drying. As we started to climb up the Crest Trail to top out at 10,400ish feet, it began snowing, and it increased as we climbed. With wet shoes and no stove fuel, we decided we needed to take the bypass routes in order not to jeopardize the entire project. So, this will add an asterisk to our OKT, but it's what we had to do to salvage the overall yo-yo attempt while adhering to our feet-on-the-ground ethic.
DAY 33 - "Help me! Please, help me! Please, help me!" Kathy screamed over and over, her hands clutched to her face. We had been hiking our 20th mile of the day, it was nearing midnight, and it had just started to rain. We had just stopped to put on our rain capes and started hiking again when Kathy's steady footfalls were suddenly interrupted with a catch and a whump. Kathy had caught a toe on a rock, her arms and feet had hung up in her cape, she had faceplanted on the side of the trail, and she began screaming in pain and fear as soon as she hit the ground. I ran up to her thinking, incorrectly, that one of her trekking poles had hit her in the face. But understanding dawned as she turned her bloody, spine-studded face up to me and the full horror of what had happened was revealed: she had landed in a prickly pear cactus.
Nothing makes you feel more worthless and powerless than having your favorite person in the world crying out to you for help in fear and pain as you stand there dumbfounded with no idea what to do. Eventually I snapped out of it, pulled her up out of the cactus, sat her down nearby, and pulled the spines nearest her left eye out with my fingers, Kathy still screaming for help the entire time. I don't know how long she cried out like that, but it felt like an eternity.
When I thought the immediate peril to her eye was past, I moved her over a few feet under a Juniper and out of the rain, dug the tweezers out of her pack, and began plucking the cactus spines from her lovely face, reassuring her the entire time that I was there to help her and that she was going to be okay, even as she winced and cried out in pain with each clump of spines I pulled free.
When the pain got to be too much for her, I let her work on her own hand as I removed her rain cape and puffy pants, which were pincushioned with spines and had taken the brunt of it. I took off her waist pack, then removed some spines from her arm, hip, and leg. I covered the spines in Kathy's waist pack and puffy pants with duct tape and bundled up her cape and wrapped it with tape so the spines wouldn't migrate into other pieces of gear or clothing.
Kathy began to get cold, mostly from shock I think, so I got my puffy pants out for her. I removed a few spines from her jacket, but it was otherwise okay. I worked on her face a little more, as we figured out what to do.
We were on a ridge, with no workable tent sites, so I got Kathy ready to hike until we could find a spot to set up for the night. Within a mile I found a suitable spot, set up our tent, and got Kathy out of her clothes and into the tent. Then, with the tweezers, Kathy's reading glasses, and my headlamp on high, I painstakingly removed all the spines I could find from my Beloved's face, arm, hand, hip, and leg. She had also landed on rocks, suffering bruises to her hip and knee, the latter of which causing her much pain during the short hike to our tent site.
About three hours from the time of her fall, Kathy was finally comfortable and calm enough to lay down to sleep. I settled into our shared sleeping bag next to her, thinking how much worse it could have been, and thankful that her eye had been spared. Seeming to read my mind, as we drifted into a traumatized sleep, Kathy said, "I guess it could have been a lot worse. It could have been a Cholla."
DAY 45 - Our food stores held out remarkably well over our 189 mile unresupplied push from Gila Hotsprings to Magdalena, NM. However, a couple of challenging, slow, low-mileage days stretched our caloric resources thin at the end.
With just over 60 miles to go we found ourselves with half a baggy of instant rice and refritos, plus a few small portions of hummus, vegan chili, and potato shreds and flakes, along with two portions of oatmeal each.
Despite our meager 400ish calories per day per person, we were able to grind out three 20 mile days, including a midnight scramble over the high shoulder of North Baldy with the kind of exposure that leaves everything not in your headlamp beam disappearing into a black, indiscernible void. We slept just inside the Cibola National Forest boundary, then hiked the four miles into Magdalena lightheaded and with light packs, fueled by just coffee and perseverance (or, if you prefer, dew and universe juice). I estimate we were each metabolizing a pound of stored fat per day each of those last three days, and when your body is operating in that mode, life takes on a surreal clarity, all the modern illusions of civilization and societal constructs collapsing, movement and hunger starkly highlighting the few fundamentals of existence, like a chalk outline at a crime scene.
Now we are taking a zero day to make up some of our calorie debt and to switch our minds and bodies back out of "imminent threat" mode and allow the more sophisticated aspects of our psychology and physiognomy to reemerge. But I have to admit, I love those ancient moments of simple animal drive to persist. Somehow, when I feel most bestial and most ancient is when I feel most Human, my mind most clear, my heart its stoutest, my goal most clearly defined.
Day 55 - Just as we reached Upper 4th Of July Spring at around 10:30pm it started to rain in earnest. We put our capes on as we were pelted with large drops. I filled one water bladder from the spring-fed trough. As I turned back toward Kathy to fetch the other bladder my headlamp beam swept the trail downhill of us (where we would be continuing on) and it stopped on the dumbfounded face of a young cougar. He stared back at me agape for a moment before he turned a black-tipped tail to me, then scrambled up the rock face beside the trail and peered down at us. The rain had obscured our noise and scent, so we surprized him by being at his water trough. I was unnerving to walk below those rocks, but we saw no more of the big cat.
Day 56 - After hiking a quick seven morning miles we hit Ray's One Stop in Tejique for a few quick calories. We were warned of an approaching snowstorm and offered a place to stay, but we decided to push on. Eight miles later, after numerous brief showers, as we were hiking along the shoulder of NM377, it began to rain in earnest. We stepped into a culvert running under the highway to have a snack and wait out the squall. We then watched the rain turn to snow, and the snow begin to accumulate. We were dry and our gear was dry, so it made no sense to go out into the storm. I jerry-rigged a tent set, and we spent the night in what we came to call Culvert Camp.
Day 57 - We awoke to about a foot of snow on the ground, and more falling, and realized we weren't leaving Culvert Camp anytime soon. I found the local public radio station on the FM band of my mp3 player and heard the forecast of snow tapering off overnight and mostly sunny with highs in the 50s the next day. A full day and second night in Culvert Camp was dry and protected from the wind and snow, but relatively boring. I did some gear repairs and made a stove from two energy drink cans, as well as building two small dikes and a water channel to protect our tent site in case of massive melt during the night.
Day 58 - Bright sunshine awakened us before our alarm and we knew it was time to get heck out of Culvert Camp, as grateful as we were for it. We climbed out of the culvert, up onto the shoulder of the highway, and straight into a 20+ mph headwind which we battled for the next 16 miles. We enjoyed brief respites at the Ten Points General Store a little north of Escabosa, and the Morning Star Market in Ponderosa Pine. From there we pushed on to the Turkey Trot Trailhead and camped in the parking lot, since it was snow free and gravel, which had drained well. A young bowhunter named Andrew, out after turkey, told us it had snowed 14 inches there. A little later a nice guy named Josh (a fellow thruhiker we lived nearby) invited us by for coffee and breakfast the next morning. So many people have been so generous and kind to us.
Day 59 - We awakened to find Andrew had snuck by early in the morning and left us two apples, two bananas, and a giant avocado. We headed toward Tijeras under bright sun.
DAY 67 - Waiting out a sudden snow squall, our heads tucked into our rain cape, pellet snow pummelled us as we hunkered down. We sat out some of the worst of it, but still spent most of the day hiking through snow, wind, and rain. Wild turkeys, Aberts Squirrels, deer, and rabbits were out and about, leaving the hieroglyphs of their tracks in the snow for us to decipher.
DAY 70 - Gobsmacked, William Shatnered, dumbfounded, Whatever you wanna call it, I’m at a loss for words. The last 36 hours have been a mind-bending blend of striving, frailty, achievement, failure, and the humility born of receiving unwarranted kindness.
Beginning Friday morning Kathy and I were attempting to complete a 43 mile push by 11:30AM Saturday in order to pick up two boxes of food and gear from the Lemitar, NM, Post Office during their limited weekend hours. After 27 miles the math was turning against us. We laid down to nap for an hour or two in a small cut at 5:30AM Saturday, mentally making back up plans for missing our parcel pick up.
We woke up and began beating against a brutal headwind, our hearts despairing as we struggled to pound out our final 16 miles. At 11:30 I got a cell signal and was able to call the Lemitar Post Master just as the Post Office was closing. He generously agreed to meet us at 2:00PM with our packages, sacrificing hours of his afternoon to help two thru-hikers who were complete strangers to him.
Then, in the cafe in the Phillips 66 truck stop, as we were organising our food into our packs, a waitress came over and pointed out an older couple who were leaving and told us they had paid our bill for us.
It is humbling and inspiring to be the recipient of such kindnesses, and it makes me proud to be a Human Being.
With all of the negativity and conflict and division portrayed in the media, these experiences remind me that there is a Kind American Heart, and that it is a very real thing, even if it doesn't make headlines.
DAY 89 - Hitting the west end of the middle fork Gila river trail in a downpour, we found a camp of multiple tents and tarps. A friendly man stepped out and offered to let us shelter under one of their tarps. We took refuge from the storm and cooked up some food while chatting with the three leaders of what turned out to be the SUNY Potsdam Wilderness Education Program. They invited us to camp nearby and give an impromptu talk that evening under one of their tarp shelters as the rain pelted it.
DAY 97 - And after almost 100 days of struggle it's becoming difficult to balance the risk of one versus the other.
As a pancreatic disease survivor having had 40% of her pancreas removed, Kathy is more susceptible to dehydration than the average person. Since numerous rain and snow storms have repeatedly delayed us over the last three months, we are now faced with the triple digit temperatures of an Arizona June, and it is taking its toll.
Kathy's performance has been compromised over the last couple of days, and she woke up feeling queasy and low energy this morning. After only 1 1/2 miles we had to stop in the shade to wait out the heat of the day. We plan to nap until evening and then try to move through the cool of the night and make some progress toward Safford, AZ, our next resupply some 64 miles distant. For now, that is our only goal and everything else is up in the air.
We may have to zero in Safford. We may have to abandon our feet-on-the-ground ethic and hitchhike into Morenci before that for rest and recuperation. Or we may have to bail on our entire GET Yo-yo OKT project. I'm worried about Kathy's well-being.
The problem with our quest to find the limits of Human Endurance is that if we succeed in so doing it will feel more like a failure than a success.
DAY 98 - Our grand enchantment trail yo-yo okt attempt is a fail: it's over, finished, kaput; and it's one of the greatest things team ultrapedestrian has ever done. After nearly 100 days of struggle, the math and weather have turned against us so dramatically and definitively that we are left with no option but to call it quits about 40 miles shy of Safford, AZ, and approximately 300 miles short of our goal of Phoenix. Not only has the weather window of Spring slammed shut, but Summer has very suddenly made itself known with debilitating heat, making continued efforts to progress unsustainable. We tried to transition to the graveyard shift to avoid the heat, hiking through the night, but were unable to find a cool enough place to rest during the day, to the point where Kathy accidentally left her sleeping pad unattended in the direct sun for a few minutes AND IT MELTED.
Confirming our decision, when our friend Gary Housholder met up with us at the southwest end of Eagle Creek to surprise us with ice water, juice, soda, tabbouleh, hummus, veggies, apples, and a bevy of other caloric blessings, he also informed us that Mount Graham was on fire and the official GET route was closed by the Forest Service outside of Safford. Whether we wanted to accept it or not, our adventure was over.
We can (and WILL!) torture ourselves with hypotheticals about zero days we should or should not have taken, approaches we may or may not have modified, and other variables we could have potentially varied to complete our journey, but our goal was not simply to arrive at a destination, but to get there via a methodology, an ethic, a standard of comportment that we were unwilling to sacrifice, even if it endangered the entire project.
In mountaineering, this ethic is called Good Style, or Fair Means. This was expressed in our GET Yo-yo OKT attempt in our Feet-On-The-Ground ethic. Yes, if we had hitchhiked into resupply towns we could have saved time, eliminated mileage, and carried much smaller loads; meaning we could have completed the project. But it would have lacked the awkward grace and sublime brutality of covering every inch of our route on foot. To our minds, that OFF trail mileage in a vehicle would have demeaned the hundreds of thousands of footsteps we had invested ON the trail. It would have, very simply, violated our FOTG ethic. And that was never our goal. We set out to do this project in Good Style, and we never sacrificed that, even though it meant failing to reach our intended end point on the map. But Kathy and I, as Team UltraPedestrian, would rather fail according to our highest standards than succeed having sacrificed what is of importance to us. And so, alas, we have failed to complete our GET Yo-yo attempt.
I'm sure many people are wondering, and, no, we are not okay with this. It will haunt us for years to come. It will be a bugaboo prowling the periphery of our psyches for decades. We will never fully accept it. And years from now, when you see us grinding out another implausibly grueling adventure and think to yourselves, "What drives them on?" this fail will be one of the answers. And that is part of what makes it such an amazing investment. It may not have returned the immediate profits for which we had planned and hoped, but we will reap the rewards of this failure far into the future in our Life, in our Love, and in the Grand Adventure that is our time on this planet.
What a Blessing to fall short of an implausibly lofty goal! What a Blessing to be a Biped and a Hominid! What a Blessing to be a Human Being! What a Blessing to be ALIVE!
Ras and KathyVaughan are Team UltraPedestrian. They are fastpackers, ultramarathoners, adventure runners, thru-hikers and mountaineers who are widely recognized as progenitors of the Only Known Time movement. Ras and Kathy write about their adventures at www.UltraPedestrian.com
By Kathy Vaughan
While in the midst of an intense, 1,600+ mile double thru-hike of the Arizona National Scenic Trail, my husband of 20 years, Ras, said he had a crazy idea. He said it as if we weren’t already in the middle of just such a thing. As we were making our way through the challenging and beautiful topography of the AZT, he had realized there were three other desert trails in the U.S. that are also approximately 800 miles long, and that no one had attempted to yo-yo. (“Yo-yo” means thru-hiking a trail once in each direction in a single push, hiking from the beginning to the end, and then back to the beginning, like a yo-yo running out to the end of its string and then returning to its start point.) He said this could essentially become a Desert Yo-yo Grand Slam Only Known Time project, playing out over a number of years. We were in the midst of doing something incredibly difficult that no one had ever done before, and here he was laying an even bigger, harder never-before-done idea at my feet, like a proud cat with a ravaged rodent. Unbeknownst to me, this idea had already taken on a life of its own in his mind, and we were indeed doing this.
Attempting to yo-yo another difficult desert route, let alone three more of them, sounded ludicrous to me at the time. Now, almost a year and a half later, Ras and I are gearing up for phase two of the Desert Yo-yo Grand Slam series, the 770 mile Grand Enchantment Trail. We begin the hike on March 4th (as in the command, march forth!). The trail will take us from the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona to the mountains high above Albuquerque, New Mexico, and back again. We plan to adhere to a strict “feet on the ground” thru-hiker style attempt, meaning we will not hitchhike or accept rides into or out of towns to pick up our resupplies. We will cover every mile on our own two feet, and not set foot in a vehicle from the time we leave Phoenix until the time we return there, victorious. We will accept “trail magic” along the way (unplanned and unsolicited generosity from supporters), but will not have anyone crewing us or meeting us at pre-planned points with support of any kind, emotional or material. Our goal is to accomplish our quest according to a pure Self-Supported ethic.
Most of the projects that Ras and I do together are conceived while already engaged in another one. It makes sense. We are in our element. We are feeling high on life and endorphins. The fresh air and the natural world are filling us up with all the nourishment and sustenance we can handle, both mental and physical. We don’t want to be anywhere else. We have to plan our next adventure to ensure this. This is how it works. Big, Crazy Ideas beget other Big, Crazy Ideas.
Now, just a few days before we hit the trail, Ras and I are busy putting together our twenty-one resupply packages. They are filled to the brim with dehydrated veggie chili & refried beans; rice & potatoes; dried fruits & veggies; dried marinara powder & rice noodles; hummus mix & peanut powder; wasabi peas, chocolate covered espresso beans, and dried soy curls seasoned in a variety of different ways by both Ras and I; oatmeal packets, Honey Stinger Waffles, Expedition Espresso Trail Butter, coffee, hot chocolate, tea, and soups. We have everything we need to fuel the 1,500+ miles we will hike together through Arizona and New Mexico. Putting together these resupply boxes is both daunting and exhilarating. Late last night, Ras was taping together bundles of batteries for our headlamps, loading up our new Mp3 players and making sure we had all the trail beta. I looked at him with my eyes glazed over and said “I still need to bake chocolate chip banana muffins for the road and get my blog posted from my Methow Trails 200k Ski Challenge in January.” Ah, the life of an adventurer. I would only trade it for a life filled with more adventuring.
Our old dog Puzzle and our furry, loveable cat Dodger will stay behind with Ras’ mother. Our belongings will be safe and protected in a storage unit and the guest room of Ras’ mother’s home. Our ultrarunner friend Miguel Moreno, owner of The UltraHouse in Phoenix, will keep our car at his place while we trek to the far reaches of New Mexico and back again to Arizona. My mother will ship our boxes to us for the westbound portion of our hike. An anonymous donor helped us with a few final pieces of important gear. Other friends have offered to meet us on the trail with a warm hello, water, encouragement. An adventure of this magnitude becomes easier with the support of our surrounding community. Ras and I are both grateful for this, knowing that others have helped make a thru-hike of the Grand Enchantment Trail possible for us.
After returning from our last thru-hike yoyo of the Arizona Trail, we worked for fifteen months for a yard care and weeding service to wrap up expenses from that hike and prepare to set out on the trail again for this GET thru-hike yo-yo. Determined to get back out on the trail, we accepted side jobs and sent in proposals for sponsorship funding. Gossamer Gear, Seven Hills Running Shop in Seattle, Honey Stinger and Bogg’s Trail Butter all came through with generous amounts of gear and trail nutrition. Altra Running partnered up with Nathan Sports to provide the crucial support necessary to make this adventure possible, and in so doing made the dreams and ambitions of the second hike in our Desert Yo-yo Grand Slam project a reality. We both feel honored, supported, understood and blessed. Our goal is to inspire others to live their dream, get outside and explore, push beyond perceived physical and mental limitations, and make spending time with those you love a priority. Zero Limits is a mentality and a philosophy we live by and want to spread to others. And thanks to Altra, we have the opportunity to do just that. Give Thanks for Life!
Kathy’s Gear List: Lone Peak 3.0s and NeoShell Mids Nathan Journey FastPack Altra Running Apparel including gaiters, a skort from the new Spring Collection, Altra short sleeve tech shirt, lightweight buff, and the Zoned Heat jacket and tights. Gossamer Gear trekking poles and ¾ length sleeping pad Julbo Zebra lens sunglasses Black Diamond Polar Icon Headlamp Smartwool neck gaiter, arm sleeves and calf sleeves. Injinji toe socks Zensah Seamless Sports Bra, ankle compression sleeves and knee compression sleeve. Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Puffy and Montbell Down Puffy Pants Kahtoola Microspikes Camp Corsa ice axe Burton snowboarding gloves
Journey along with Kathy and Ras as they attempt the first known yo-yo of the Grand Enchantment Trail, and the rest of their Desert Yo-yo Grand Slam, by following them on Facebook and Instagram, and by following the hashtags #GETyoyo #GETit and, of course, #ZeroLimits.
This article originally appeared on the Altra Running blog
The Grand Enchantment Trail is a 770 mile route that runs roughly east and west between Phoenix, AZ, and Albuquerque, NM. ***
Starting the afternoon of March 4th (get it, march forth?) Ras and Kathy, Team UltraPedestrian, will begin our attempt to be the first people to yo-yo the GET. We hope to make it in 70 days or so. We plan to adhere to a strict feet-on-the-ground ethic, self-supported, accepting no rides or hitchhiking.
You can follow our progress on our SPOT transponder at:
And we will be posting updates to our Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube when possible:
Ras and Kathy share their adventures, advice, techniques, wins, and fails as they move through the natural world under their own power, fully Animal and full...
What a Blessing to be a Hominid! Give Thanks for Life!
Ras was interviewed recently by Denny Krahe on the Diz Runs pocast. Get the inside scoop of Ras and Kathy’s next Only Known Time project as well as the nuts and bolts of the UltraPedestrian Ethos at the link below.
Ras Vaughan Thinks of an Impossible Challenge, and Then He Does It!
I had a full week off from my weeding job and the organized annual cross country ski trip in the Methow would begin on Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, Lisa and I would begin tallying kilometers skied, towards accomplishing our 2nd Methow Trails 200k Challenge (skiing 200k of the Methow Trails in a single season). By Saturday night, allowing us five days and four nights, Lisa and I hoped to have this challenge conquered. I devised a plan to drive to the Okanogan Highlands to visit Lisa first, in the small town of Chesaw, on Saturday. This meant an eight hour drive over a mountain pass, and on mostly snowy roads after that, until I reached my friend Lisa’s home, almost at the Canadian border. Near Lisa’s place, Ras and I own a five acre piece of land with a creek and a cabin. Since I was driving over the mountains anyway, I wanted to check in on our place, do some skiing off of the groomed trails, enjoy some time with Lisa in her hand built sauna, and hopefully get in a long run on a snow-plowed country road. Lisa had offered to let me stay in her guest cabin on her garlic farm. She had it heated up and all ready for me, despite the bitter cold weather they had been having. This sounded like the perfect way to turn this whole pre-Rendezvous Huts time, into a winter retreat.
Conditions of Steven’s Pass looked sketchy from reports, so I decided to take the longer but lower, and safer route. I drove off the north end of Whidbey Island and took I-5 south to I-90 and headed east. It would take longer, but it would allow me to take the lower in elevation pass through the Cascades, Snoqualmie. Stevens Pass was more direct but was requiring traction tires while Snoqualmie was bare and dry thanks to it being 1000 feet lower in elevation. Conditions were quite a bit better, although still wintery. I also decided to avoid Blewett Pass and eventually turned north up through Soap Lake and Ephrata. A long, solo drive like this in the winter, was a big mental challenge for me; one I was determined to overcome.
When I finally pulled up at Lisa’s, I could see smoke coming from the sauna chimney. Her husband Jason had been getting the sauna heated up for us already. I stepped out of the car into the shockingly cold air and immediately realized how serious the goal of skiing 200k this coming week was. I reached back into my car and fumbled for gloves, my warmest hat and my down puffy. Any time outside looking for gear in my car was going to be a challenge. I was happy I was as organized as I was.
Lisa led me back to the cabin that farm volunteers and guests use when visiting she and her husband Jason on their organic farm. They grow mostly garlic, but also enough fruit and veggies to preserve and keep them eating their farm food all year round. The small cabin was warm and cozy inside. I was going to enjoy having this space to myself for the next couple of days, and yet also being able to sauna and ski with my Adventure Bestie.
Lisa, Jason, their dog Lucy and I all had a great backcountry ski the following day on the acreage around their home. We spent about four hours skiing through the growth of huge spruce, pine and aspen trees. We skied past a creek with a restoration project in progress. A small black bird called a Dipper was pecking at the frozen banks of the creek. The bird’s presence was a good sign of the habitat being hospitable and offering the nourishment that it needs. That made us all happy.
Back at Lisa and Jason’s, we enjoyed a dinner of Lisa’s homemade veggie curry. We took another sauna at the cord wood structure they built themselves down by the same creek we had skied past earlier in the day. The whole experience was just what my spirit needed. And this was just the beginning of the week.
The following day, Lisa had to work at the small country store about three miles away. I had a hard time deciding whether to run or ski and so I decided to do a route that would incorporate both. I also wanted to visit Lisa at the store later in the day. Jason planned on making us vegan pesto pizza for dinner and I definitely wanted to work up a good appetite for that!
I drove to a pullout on a nearby country road. From here, I could ski and run a loop that would probably take about four hours in the deep snow. I got my Nathan VaporAiress pack loaded up with a few extra layers, some snacks and my Altra FKT’s I’d been wear-testing. The shoes are now on the market and called the King Mountain instead. They have the burliest tread on any shoe of Altras and I’m crushing on them hard right now. The deep snow made the skiing slow in my Fisher OutBounds. I skied through this Grouse Preserve for many winters, when Ras, Angela and I lived in our cabin. My plan today, was to ski through the preserve to the road, where I would cross over to our snowed-in driveway that leads back to the cabin, and change into my running shoes. I would have a couple of miles to run, on snowy country roads, before completing the loop back at my car. I was filled with gratitude that I had the opportunity to ski/run this loop, and was also filled with nostalgia and an appreciation for how far I’ve come with my adventuring. Skiing solo through this preserve land used to be a pretty big deal.
I stopped by the small store to visit with Lisa on my way back to her place. It was fun to experience the rural culture. While Lisa is working, a worn table near the pellet stove becomes a center of Highlands discussions. Her coworker and two other local ladies, one whom I’d known for years, were at the table when I walked in. Geared up with my Zoned Heat jacket and tights, my King Mountain running shoes, and other pieces of warm gear I was still wearing post-loop adventure, I became a curiosity. I answered the questions about all the gear, while ideas of how to put together a shoe drive of some kind in this area danced through my head. I’m still working on this one.
That night, Lisa and I did some baking together and finished packing for our two hour drive to the Methow the following day. It was time for the Rendezvous Ski Hut portion of my getaway to begin. I said good night to Lisa and headed back to the guest cabin for my final night there. I brought all of my gear bags inside to make final preparations and then fell soundly asleep.
The Following day Lisa and I skied up from the Cub Creek Parking Lot with a group of ladies. For many years, I had joined an eclectic group of Okanogan women on a Rendezvous Ski Hut Trip. River Jones had been the first to invite me along on one of these special winter outings. We normally stayed in either the Gardner Hut or the Grizzly Hut, and this year Grizzly it would be. There would be seven of us: Lisa, my adventure bestie from Chesaw, where Ras and I have a cabin on five acres; Melanie, a retired R.N., fun, fit and feisty, who has been on all of the hut trips I’ve been on over the years; Rise, also a retired R.N. who had worked with Mel for years, and brings her guitar to sing soft, soulful tunes in the background while lively lady chatting is going on; Dani, a spirited, young mom of two, a lovely, athletic lady and a good cook; Cassandra, a sweet, soulful mom of a teenage daughter, a grad student and an all- around beautiful & caring woman; and a new friend to me, Erin, a warm gentle healer, easy to be around with deep blue eyes. All of us have partners, so this lady time getaway was very special.
The group of us skied Cougar Bait to Cub Creek, 1.7k & 3k. We took Cow Creek to the Rendezvous Basin for 5.1k. Lisa and I had split off at this point and we continued down the Rendezvous Basin for 2.4k to Grizzly Way for 1.1k to the Grizzly Hut spur trail for .5k. We were staying at Grizzly Hut for three nights and would ski back to the parking lot on Friday. Later, after a wonderful Apple, Squash and Ginger Soup dinner by Dani, Lisa and I went back out into super cold temps, likely below zero, and very strong winds. We took the spur trail and Grizzly Way to Gunn Ranch Road where we skied an out n’ back to the Gunn Ranch parking lot for an additional 11k. We then returned to the hut for some sleep. Our day’s total was 27.7k.
Read Kathy’s entire trip report on our blog at:
The fifth annual UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge is a multi-faceted multi-media adventure blogging contest open to Trailrunners, Fastpackers, Backpackers, and bipeds of all stripes. Entrants may attempt any or all routes on offer. There are no aid stations, no course markings, no start/finish, no lemming lines, no cut offs, no set date; in fact, it's all up to you.
We have 15 total routes on offer for 2017, including all 10 classic UPWC routes, two Mind/Body Challenges (which include a reading assignment in addition to a particularly grueling route), and three new routes for 2017. For each of these 15 routes we will print 100 Finisher’s Patches. After all 100 patches are awarded a route will be closed, whether it takes three months, three years, or three decades for all the patches to be awarded.
Beginning in 2016 an UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge BadAss Of The Year award was instituted to recognize BadAssery above and beyond the normal UPWC level, which is a high bar indeed. The Inaugural UPWC BAOTY was awarded to “Jaunty” John Barrickman, for linking together the La Bohn Traverse route with the Alpine Lakes Grand Tour, in addition to completing the Windy Peak Lollipop and the Double Desolation Mind/Body Challenge route all in a single season.
How to participate in the 2017 UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge:
2. Between the day you sign up and midnight on December 31st, 2017, complete any or all of the routes as well as your trip report, whatever form it may take. Completing a route must include producing content in the form of a trip report, photo album, video, audio recording, artistic rendering, or any other form which reflects your experience of the route and can be posted online via your personal blog and/or the UPWC Facebook Group.
3. Email your proof and documentation, including trip report link and any GPS data to UltraPedestrian@gmail.com with the subject line "2017 UPWC PROOF & DOCUMENTATION" no later than midnight December 31, 2017. (In the near future this step will be replaced by posting your trip report directly to the UPWC website.)
4. In early 2018 a party will be held at Seven Hills Running Shop to wrap up the 2017 event and kick off the 2018 event. Finisher's patches and other awards and swag will be handed out for both the UPWC and UPMBC and the routes for 2018 will be presented.
5. If you are unable to attend the 2017 UPWC Wrap Party/2018 UPWC Kickoff Party, visit UltraPedestrianWildernessChallenge.com for complete results and visit Seven Hills Running Shop in person to pick up your UPWC commemorative finisher's patch. If you live outside the greater Seattle area, arrangements can be made to send you your finisher's patch via U.S. mail.
We strongly encourage all entrants to join the UPWC Facebook Group to ask questions about the routes, gather and share trail beta, connect with other UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge participants, scope out the competition, and keep up to date on the most recent news, information, and general goings on.
Failure to abide by the following may result in a time-based penalty, subtraction of points, and/or disqualification.
All participants must at all times comport themselves in accordance with Federal, State, and Local laws, as well as Leave No Trace backcountry ethics.
Entrants may participate solo or as part of a team. Teams can be independent, unsupported athletes that simply travel together, or team members can mule for one another. But teams will not be allowed to receive any outside support from non-running personnel.
Highly coveted Bonus Points will be awarded by UPWC organizers as they see fit. The value of these Bonus Points is ineffable, and they are generally highly cherished by those awarded them.
Every member of a team must be a registered entrant in the 2017 UPWC. Registration for minors is free.
All participants must submit proof of having completed the route via Spot Transponder, GPS/Garmin/Suunto/DeLorne/Other data, photographic evidence, and/or a convincingly detailed trip report/blog.
If you are submitting your entry for speed based awards you MUST provide SPOT/GPS/GARMIN/SUUNTO/DELORNE/OTHER data as proof.
Everyone who completes a route for the 2017 Ultrapedestrian Wilderness Challenge will be awarded a unique finishers' patch (only available through UPWC participation) for every route they complete. Each route will have a unique patch design of which only 100 will be made. Once those 100 patches are awarded for a route it will be closed.