Wednesday, February 25, 2015


I completed Iron Mountain #1 via Heaton Flat in 9.8 hours. This is within the range of trip reports I read (9-12 hours), but quicker than expected. That isn't necessarily a good thing. I went too hard on the final steep scree/dirt climb and got my heart pounding well past zone 1 (55-75% of max), which is undesirable when trying to develop an aerobic base. Still, I felt good at the summit, with energy to spare for the descent. The last 2,000' of elevation is steep (30-40°), dusty class 3 terrain that calls for full attention and strong quads. I skidded a few times and had one light fall, but maintained a brisk, controlled pace using both trekking poles. A long, easy ascent might be annoying, but you lose less time than it seems because you're able to descend more quickly (and safely) starting out with a greater energy reserve.

Before the hike, I read some pretty intimidating trip reports. Some compared it to Cactus 2 Clouds, and even Mt. Whitney. Come on. C2C is 14 miles of relentless climbing up to 10,800' starting from 500' at the desert floor, then back down 2,500' in 5 miles to the tram. It's the only hike where I've fallen due to sheer exhaustion (a "fatigue fall"). Iron Mountain #1 is 7,200' up 7.5 miles, then back down. That is cabin pressure altitude in commercial airliners, anyone can handle it, and it's a much shorter climb. Whitney is 12-16 hours at a moderate pace and even thinner air at 14k'. The class 3 parts of IM1 are walk-ups with decent shoes, more like class 2+, though maybe it's more frustrating for non-climbers. IM1 isn't a cakewalk but it's a very doable hike for fit individuals. I have to mention though that I was aided by cool, cloudy weather (with light rain in the last hour of the hike). In such arid terrain, warm weather might call for an hour long siesta at the top as a precaution before descending. By most observations, this is almost a desert hike.

Random notes:

I was 50/50 on driving to trailhead the night before and sleeping in my truck, versus sleeping at home and getting up at 5 am to make the 1.5 hour drive there. I did the latter, and am glad for it. The time in the car was enough to eat breakfast (2 egg mcmuffins) and drink a liter of Gatorade (cameling up) before reaching the TH. I only drank 3.2 liters during the actual hike. It also gave enough time let bowels pass, so that I just used the latrine at the TH and never needed to use my trowel. Sleeping at home is *way* more restful, maybe 30% or so for me (6 hours at home is like 9 hours in the truck), and in any case waking up in my truck and getting ready in the morning and eating breakfast still takes time in the parking lot that can be used while driving (don't tell CHP).

I went into this with a 30% chance of rain and no rain jacket. This was a mistake. There was a light but soaking rain for the final 1.5 hours. My wind shell was barely sufficient, but a hood would have been nice. Thankfully it wasn't cold.

During the ascent, I ate 5 gels, 1 energy bar, and 1 packet of energy chews. No trail mix, sandwiches, or anything else, until reaching the top where I took a break and had half a sandwich. This is about $15 in energy snacks over 6 hours, which I consider a reasonable expense given how it seemed to improve my performance. I might consider just eating honey instead of the gels (which are $2 a pop).

I wore my TNF Hedgehogs instead of my Brooks Cascadias, and think I made the right choice. The Hedgehogs have a light TPU shank and fairly rigid heel cup that holds shape well at weird angles.  The Cascadias make more sense for the PCT (where it's apparently the most popular shoe) which is all shallow inclines since it's graded for horses.

Mechanix gloves would have been good for protection on the way down.

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