I needed to get in a long training run while we are on vacation in Utah so I started thinking about possibilities a few days in advance. The idea that kept coming back to me was to attempt running to the summit of Maple Mountain from my parent’s house in Springville. I had climbed the mountain a few times years ago and thought it would make excellent training for my upcoming events – if I could survive it. The massive pile of rock and trees dominates the veiw from the south part of Springville and all of Mapleton.
I started running at 10:30 in the morning on a beautiful, but HOT day. It would reach the upper 90’s. I was fully loaded with a 70 oz. Camelbak, food, and gear for the trail. I also took a mirror along at the suggestion of my dad, to see if I could signal them from the top.
The magnitude of the undertaking was staggering to me as I started the run. Like Frodo and Sam approaching Mordor, I avoided eye contact with the summit for fear of being frozen in my tracks. Only stealing the occasional peripheral glance followed by shaking my head at the thought of where I was going.
After a few miles of running on pavement, I welcomed the beginning of the trail. It started out in great shape. Smooth and fast. I tried another camera phone experiment, it’s quite a challenge to run with one eye on the phone and one on the trail. I eventually reached the start of the trail that goes up the back side of the mountain at Whiting Campground and refilled my water supply.
A couple of days prior, my friend Brandon had told me about doing the section from Whiting’s to the lake below the summit as a training run with his dad. He said his fastest time was 1:28. After that conversation, I thought he had to have been mistaken. I knew that section of trail was just under 4 miles. I figured I could crawl on my hands and knees and cover 4 miles in an hour and a half. Little did I realize, that might have been the fastest option. By my calculations, the trail averages close to a 20% grade and is very ROCKY. No switchbacks to break up the climbing, either.
I resolved myself to running the entire thing, though I’m taking extreme poetic license with the term ‘running’ here. It was a slow, hard, slog. I was sweating buckets in the heat, and my achillies tendons felt like they were about 2 inches shorter than they needed to be as my calves strained to keep me up on my toes and hopping over the rocks.
I didn’t look at my watch on the way up, but I knew I had to be well past the hour mark as I approached the area where I thought the lake would be. I kept hoping for a letup in the grade, but only ever got the briefest tease as the trail would kick up higher and steeper around every corner. At one point, I had to just flat out stop for about 30 seconds and hang my head down by my knees and gasp for air. This was as tough as it gets.
After cussing Brandon’s name for the final 10 minutes I crested the final rise and saw the lake ahead. The watch stopped at 1:18. Wow, that was HARD. I felt good about the effort, though and it seemed like I could take another 10 minutes off if I didn’t have a full pack and legs already tired from starting in Springville. With fresh legs and no pack would sub-1 hour be possible?? Maybe next year…
I sucked down a Power Gel at the lake and started up the even steeper trail to the summit. I finally crested the ridge and got an awesome view of the valley. I found an open spot and after a few tries I was able to get a cell connection and called Elizabeth and the kids. They headed down to the corner of the street and we started trying to flash our mirrors at each other. It was tough to pick out where to aim, but after a few minutes they saw me. Once that happened, they were able to zero in on me and hit me fairly consistently. That gave me a target and I was able to hit them as well. It was pretty cool! The kids had a lot of fun with it.
After several hours of running alone, it was nice to have some human contact – however remote. My run down started well, then I slipped just below the ridge and tweaked my ankle trying to catch myself. The hazards of trail running… Nothing too major, but it was tender and sore. I still managed a pretty good run down the rest of the trail, and kept the stumbling and slipping to a minimum. I ran out of water and had a powerful thirst by the time I reached the campground. I filled my Camelbak at the first faucet I came to and had sucked it dry by the time I came to the next one. I filled up one more time and made the final push through the heat to home base. Ended up with 24 miles and 6 1/2 hours of running time.
Here are some more photos.