Scouting a portion of the WURL

The WURL is an awesome traverse of several peaks in the Wasatch Mountains. WURL stands for the Wasatch Ultimate Ridge Linkup.

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Brian was going to try a section on his own. He wanted to get to Catherine’s Pass, which is about 15 miles, or almost half of the WURL. When I texted him and found out he was going to do this, I wanted in. So we made some hasty last minute night before plans. The next day we cached some water at Cardiff Pass, which is about mile 10. We ran up to Superior. I figured with a 5-5:30 am start, we should get to our stash around 1 or 2 in the afternoon. We got there at sundown.

This was a scouting mission of sorts. We wanted to see what the first half of the WURL. We fell short of our goal, only covering about a third, but learned a heck of a lot in the process. And just added to the desire to do the whole course.

Route finding can be really slow. At first, we thought the trail would be obvious. But one wrong turn up a steep, sandy hill made us pay closer attention to the WURL gpx file on my Gaia app. We were able to mostly follow the trail that way after that initial wrong turn. There were a few cairns along the way in the beginning, but then there weren’t any and we just had to figure it out. We got pretty good at looking for footprints and worn in sections. It was comforting knowing that at least someone else had chosen this same path. I just hoped they knew where they were going.

Scrambling over rocks in a boulder field was fun for most of the hike, but towards the end I was over it and just wanted to hike on solid ground. Especially the sections on the ridgeline where there were steep drop offs on either side and some rock climbing was required. I was proud that I wasn’t terribly unnerved by some of the stuff we did. I was afraid that I would be less sharp as the hours went by and I would become careless or tired or over confident and make a mistake. In many sections, a slip or miscalculation could be fatal.

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The main 6000′ ft climb wasn’t too big of a deal. We just trucked along. Finding the trail was the main issue we had. When we reached the first peak, that was somewhat exciting. The views were great. We surveyed the surrounding mountains and Brian tried to identify them by sight. To my eyes, they all looked the same.

As we continued on, there was a pattern: find the next peak, cringe at how far or how daunting a climb it looked like, trudge on, and then summit. With each peak, it became anticlimactic. Only towards the end did we get excited about hitting the actual peak.

At one peak, Monte Cristo I think, we got to what we thought was the summit. It had been a challenging point to get to. We were excited that we didn’t have to climb anymore of that peak. And then we turned around and saw the true peak. Brian was like, “Well, we gotta go tag that peak.” I wasn’t having it and said I didn’t care. But then we realized we HAD to go that way. The direction we had been travelling was now a steep drop off. So we grudgingly started hiking and we were at the top in less than five minutes. I was shocked how quickly we got up. That became a lesson for me. Most of the day, the peaks seemed so far away, or crazy dauntingly vertical. But we would eventually get there, and any of the technical stuff we just took it as we were face to face with it and just methodically kept moving forward. It wasn’t fast, but it was constant. Bottom line, things looked way worse from far away, but upon closer inspection were not that bad.

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I had underestimated how slow we would be moving and so I didn’t have enough water. I had no idea that we would be crawling at one mile per hour for most of the day. I have never run out of water on a run before, so it dogged me mentally. When I realized I wasn’t going to have enough water, I tried to ration it. Fortunately, it wasn’t super hot. I was slightly dehydrated, but it wasn’t terrible. I chewed gum and that at least kept dry mouth at bay. Luckily Brian is a camel and had water to share.

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We also realized that neither of brought warmer clothes for the night time temps. We had anticipated finishing around sunset. In order for us to make it to Catherine’s Pass, we would have had to hike into the night. The thought of being cold, dehydrated and just plain tired of the rocks solidified my desire to throw in the towel once we reached our cache. It was a short run down to the car, and I felt so relieved to be done. We did pretty well considering we didn’t really know the trail and how spur of the moment our planning was. No real injuries to speak of. Brian’s knee was giving him trouble as did mine, but nothing major.

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Some notes for next time:

Gaia app with the GPX file of the WURL. Very handy. Both people should have it. Bring a battery backup for your phone.

Gloves were awesome. My hands were cold in the morning, but only for a bit. The gloves were super useful navigating all the rocks. Most of the time, you were holding or balancing on the rocks with your hands as much as your feet.

Poles were a mixed bag. I felt like I carried them more than I actually used them. And that’s coming from a guy who uses them regularly in races. I think I might not bring them next time.

Gaiters and tall socks are a must. Brian didn’t have gaiters and had a few occasions to stop and remove rocks from his shoes. But that may  have been due to the fact that his shoes had huge holes in them. Regardless, gaiters are a no brainer. as are tall hiking socks. I do not understand trail runners that wear no show socks on the trail.

Bring more water than you think you’ll need. We could have run into more trouble if it had been hotter. If I had run out sooner, it would have been hard to take in any calories without the water to wash it down. Not only would I be dehydrated, I’d be in a deficit of calories. Plan for one minute per mile.

We had a positive attitude and spirit most of the way. My attitude went south towards the end, but Brian was high as a kite. If he had wanted to, he could have continued on and made it to Catherine’s Pass.

Plan is to pick up where we left off and do another section. Hopefully sooner than later.

 

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