Withdrawal

My favorite place in the world is the alpine tundra high above the treeline and it seems like forever since I have been there. Definitely feeling the effects of adventure withdrawal 😦 My last summit was Mt. Columbia in the summer of ’16. Since then it has just been one thing after another… Money, injuries, truck repairs, you name it πŸ™‚

Finally though, the settlement for the work injuries and the down payment for a house and a new start in a new town with a new job! With the hardship, problems and bad memories of Woodland Park behind me I was looking forward to exploring my new piece of the Colorado Rockies! But then, the fateful grinding noise from somewhere in the bowels of my truck. Best guess… Throwout bearing or flywheel bearings 😦

Looks like the snowshoes, micro spikes and poles will remain in the closet indefinitely while I wrangle up the funds for yet another repair. No trails within walking distance here, not that I can find anyway.

On the other hand, the economy is finally picking up and I am starting to see a pickup in print sales, my bread and butter when it comes to photography πŸ™‚ Maybe it won’t be so long! Maybe a view like this one from the summit of Mount Elbert will not be so distant after all.

Also my photo lab has added a ton of new products including some that would make for cool Christmas gifts including the latest, yoga mats custom made with one of my images πŸ™‚ just click the print sales button in the menu to bring up my image galleries and once inside a gallery just click your favorite picture to see all the cool products that are available!

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Endurance

This time of year always reminds me of the big endurance races here in Colorado, the Pikes Peak Marathon and the Leadville 100 Mile β€œRace Across the Sky”. Although it has been a long time since I have run the race I know the trials and tribulations of attempting to run 100 miles at an average of 10,000 feet of elevation have permanently changed my mindset regarding what the mind can force the body to accomplish.

Steve & Dad Leadville (wordpress)When my buddy and I were on the descent from our winter summit of Mount Elbert last year, we knew we were nearing the parking lot but it was getting cold and dark and we were really tired from 10 hours of hiking in snow. That’s when your mind starts telling you that you aren’t going to make it, or you are on the wrong trail, or that you didn’t prepare and train enough to accomplish what you are trying to do. He said to me, maybe we should just stop and camp… I’m sure I was just as exhausted and miserable as anyone could be but I said no, we can make it… I said we could go another 50 miles feeling this miserable! Lol, sounds funny but it’s true.

The Leadville 100 is an out and back race from the town of Leadville, Colorado to the ghost town of Winfield at an average of 10,000 feet over three mountain passes including Hope Pass at 12,600 feet. And I can tell you when you summit Hope Pass the second time after 12 hours of running with your legs feeling like two pieces of useless rubber, sick to your stomach and heart feeling like it is going to explode inside your chest, there is no earthly reason why you should believe that you are going to be able to run another 45 miles over two more mountain passes… in the dark.

But somehow all the training, past experience, determination and pure force of will come together to keep you going, just because you can and because you can’t bear the thought of living another year with the specter of failure hanging over your life while you train another twelve long months for another shot at it. And once you stagger across that finish line you are somehow different and the change applies to many aspects of life. Things you thought you would never be able to accomplish become possible. Things that cause others to shrink in fear are small in your mind now. In your chest beats the heart of a champion and no one can ever take that away from you, ever.

The picture is of me and my dad nearing the finish line in Leadville. My dad was a runner too and I always liked having him pace me for the last section from Twin Lakes on into town… He was my life coach when I was growing up and while others might have felt sorry for me and maybe allowed me to give up so close to the finish line I could always count on kind words of encouragement from my dad… Lol… like β€œoh shut up and get going, we’re almost there!”… πŸ™‚ I always liked this picture, not because it is the most scenic or dramatic but because it is the one that shows the sheer magnitude of the race. The mountains in the background towering over the skyline are where the war takes place. Looking back now it is hard to even imagine crossing those mountains twice, but I did and I am a better person for the experience. Good luck and Godspeed to all who are facing the monster this year!

Isaiah 40:31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

 

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items

Turning Point

One of those memories from one year ago popped onto my Facebook today, it was a great memory of a great day, breakfast with my beloved cousin whom I hadn’t seen for too many years to even count. However the good part of that day was overshadowed by the memory of the rest of the day after I received a call from a friend who told me, “Steve, all hell has broken loose here.”, a terrible day in which several lives were irreparably altered, and not for the better. It was also the day that resulted in me having the two dogs that I wasn’t planning on or prepared for by any stretch of the imagination. However as you can imagine, these two beautiful doggies have worked their way into my heart and now they go with me everywhere. One riding shotgun in the passenger seat of my truck and the other standing on the console in the middle making sure there is nothing unusual lodged in my right ear or my mouth and nose πŸ™‚

I had to take a part time job unloading trucks to make ends meet and it is a job that is physically difficult for people 40 years my younger. Unfortunately a few months ago I sustained a serious injury from which I have not been able to recover and is getting worse. Each day at work is a new lesson in pain and fatigue and I am sure I’m not going to be able to endure it much longer. And Son Boy is starting to look so sad when I have to work, like he knows. I hate leaving them behind, hate taking time away from writing and photography. And I have been praying “Please God, don’t make me go back there…”, pleading and begging the Almighty to have mercy on me and my little family of fur babies.

On the upside, the economy must be turning around, my stock photography sales have been picking up substantially. After years of terrible sales I have actually made more selling than I have working in the last few days… and I think that too is a sign that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Also I had a vivid dream the other night of a house in the country… one of those dreams that you just have a feeling is significant, a sign even perhaps. And after a long time of feeling repulsed by writing and out of inspiration for my photography, ideas are starting to come to me and the words are once again flowing onto the page… Every storm has to end and my storm that has washed away a home, a wife to cancer, a family, a career and all my savings and plans for retirement and almost everything but my faith, has lasted a decade.Β  It is a storm that I am hoping will soon be on the other side of the turning point.

“He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.” Psalm 107:29-30

Hiking Mount Massive

The 14,421 foot summit of Mount Massive Colorado was the latest peak to be checked off as done in Ralph’s quest to climb all the 14ers in the state of Colorado. I was glad to be able to participate, completing my sixth 14er on a beautiful Colorado day in the high country. Buddy Bill also joined our little expedition, completing his first 14er in many years. From the looks of his boots, he may have worn the same ones he wore the last time, I think he said 17 years ago πŸ™‚

Untitled-1Well anyway our day started early, 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 23rd at the rendezvous point in Divide, Colorado. It was a warm night in Colorado, even for summertime and I walked out the door in just a short sleeved shirt. No coffee was needed, the adrenaline rush from waking up in the middle of the the night in anticipation of a new adventure is enough of a surge to get out the door! Fortunately though, Ralph brought along a thermos of coffee to keep my heart pumping once the monotony of the two hour road trip in the dark set in. A few minutes later we picked up Bill in Lake George and headed over Wilkerson and into Buena Vista and on to Highway 300 where we turned west to the Halfmoon Road entry into the Mount Elbert / Massive camping areas.Sunrise

Once past the two wheel drive area, the road became pretty rough. I would not recommend driving onto the four wheel drive area without some pretty beefy off road tires. At one point about a half mile from the four wheel drive trailhead we decided to just pull off and hike the remainder of the way to the trailhead on foot. However as morning began to descend upon the forest it became apparent that if we had just gotten over the small rough spot it would have been clear sailing to the parking area at the Half Moon Trailhead.

Massive-SceneryFortunately I had thrown in a sweatshirt at the last minute, because the temp at the trailhead was reading 42 degrees. I always have a wool hat and a pair of gloves in my pack, but it wasn’t quite cold enough to need them. After a quick sign in at the wilderness checkpoint, we were off on the difficult journey to the summit. I initially took the lead, and after about a mile there was a fork in the trail. One way was down and across the creek, away from where we thought the summit should be. The other up over a small rock obstacle that required a short climb onto the main trail towards the summit. After a short debate, we decided on the rocks… going away from the mountain down to the stream didn’t seem right.

The trail soon became steep and rocky. Ralph thought he had read that there were two routes from Half Moon, one steep, the other not as steep but a bit longer. We decided if we were on the easy one we didn’t want to see the difficult one! Minutes turned into hours and the air became thin. Eventually we were getting pretty high, the GPS indicated aboutJoanne.jpg 12,500 feet and although the summit was not yet visible, some interesting features had come into view. There was a saddle on the false summit that looked like it might be the last obstacle to actually being able to see the summit. Below we spotted a young woman carrying two little dogs. We proclaimed that the “girl with the dogs was not going to pass us”. Unfortunately, youth won out and she eventually caught us and left us in the dust, Joanne I think was her name. We let some other youngsters pass as well, just to be polite of course. However that group passed us and promptly sat down on some boulders and we passed them back and never saw the again, at least on the ascent.

Summit.jpgAs we neared the summit, the trail became more crowded. Some people going up, some going down already. As we neared the summit and of course the inevitable onset of “summit fever”, we encountered one group carrying some sort of music device playing some inspiring tunes. Now Bill claims at this point I broke into some sort of thin air induced dance to the music, but there is no record of it on film so I retain plausible deniability πŸ™‚ As we scaled the first hump resembling a summit, the real summit and summit party came into view. Ralph actually ran a few steps toward the summit at this point, but soon discovered that running at 14,400 feet is a poor idea and abandoned the idea of a sprint finish πŸ™‚

_MG_0966-Team.jpgSoon the rocks became too treacherous for me to want to continue with my camera swinging around at my side so I stopped and packed it away along with my trekking pole so that I would have both hands free to scale the rocks. Eventually we all made summit and reconvened at the top. It was a magnificent day so we spent more than an hour at the summit taking pictures of the stunning scenery, eating and drinking, and Ralph even heated up some coffee with his portable burner.

Mountain-GoatEventually we had to start the trip back down the mountain so we packed up and began the painful steep descent. Five hours to the summit, so I estimated three hours back down. Some people still on their ascent mentioned that there were some mountain goats ahead, so I took off my pack and got my camera back out. Also decided at this point to attach my good zoom lens, an F4L 70-200 so as to get the highest quality captures of the elusive four footed climbers. The effort paid off as a small herd of the critters, including a couple of really cute mountain goat toddlers came into view and allowed us to hang with them for a while.Baby-Mountain-Goat.jpg

The descent was brutal… it was hot and there was no relief from the high elevation sun. I knew the trail was rocky from our experience on the ascent, but it seemed all the rockier on the way back down. I can’t tell how many times I stubbed my toe and rolled my ankles on loose rocks. Marmot sightings broke up the arduous journey however, and we even saw a rare white colored marmot who seemed quite curious about the camera. Most of the marmots scampered away when they heard the gyro motor stabilizer in the lens come on, but the white one was fearless and just struck a few poses for me πŸ™‚

MarmotMy estimate of a three hour descent proved fairly accurate, so we were back at the truck by about 3:45 p.m., well ahead of any lightning storms that may have been forming behind the mountain. The Mount Massive summit is one of the most interesting peaks that I’ve seen, and well worth the effort to climb it.Β  For anyone wanting to bag this summit, I recommend first scoping it out on 14ers.com.

IΒ  also recommend plenty of sunscreen, sunglasses, rain gear and some good boots! There were a couple of spots where snow runoff was available, so a filter pump could help reduce your liquids load. Bill doesn’t look too confident about wanting to do another 14er in the near future, but Ralph and I are thinking Mt. Harvard looks like a good possibility for my next Saturday off work in a couple of weeks. Someone once said about these adventures, “You gotta love the pain!”. Perhaps he was right and Bill doesn’t love the pain quite as much as some πŸ™‚ Or maybe after a couple of days he will find he is addicted to the adventure of it all… Stay tuned!

 

Trail Running

It doesn’t seem much like it with 50 degrees and heavy cloud cover, but this time of year always reminds me of the excitement I used to feel when the snow is gone from the mountain passes and the trails become accessible for some serious training. Something must still be stirring in my soul though because I find myself looking at the trail running calendars and trying to run a few steps everyday despite the pain in my lower back. Almost imperceptible, but enough to inspire hope is the slight improvement each day that I am experiencing. Today the run was out of necessity but I was glad for the work that I have recently logged. I was pushing the wheelchair back up the hill from the coffee shop when the wind kicked up and the temperature fell drastically. I knew I’d better hustle to get my chair bound patient to safety before the hail began to fall. Happily we made it and now the rain has begun to fall. I fear the huge drops that are falling herald the dreaded hail that I have been hearing about in the forecast.

She is sleeping and I am thinking about my next Examiner story. Completed are my articles on how and where to train for an ultra for those north of the Denver area as well as those who are training in the Colorado Springs area. Now I think I will turn my attention to the long runs and research the ultra marathon schedule for Colorado’s summer running season. The Leadville 100 is nearest and dearest to my heart as I recall many summers on the trails in the high country of the Collegiate Peaks training with my friends for that great race. The sport has been steadily catching on in my state in the last few years and I have been hearing about new races that are gaining in popularity. With the addition of the new races I wonder if runners still speak of the the Grand Slam of ultra running, completing the Big Four, the Western States 100, Vermont 100, and the Wasatch Front 100 and Leadville Trail 100 mile runs all in one year. Stay tuned as I answer those questions and more. Subscribe to my Examiner account and you will be sure not to miss any updates.