Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Triple Crown of Missoula

A couple of years ago for my birthday I set out to do what I dubbed 'the triple crown of Missoula': Mount Sentinel, University Mountain and Mount Jumbo in one fell swoop. It was fun, moderately challenging and above all, local.

Yesterday, eager to establish a new PR, I had another go at it. Feeling in the best shape of my hiking life, it wasn't out of the realm of possibilities!

The Triple Crown of Missoula

The Triple Crown of Missoula. Mount Sentinel's north summit is visible with
the south summit just out of frame on the right. Mount Jumbo's summit
lies just out of frame on the left. 

Start: Van Buren Pedestrian Bridge to the M Trailhead
Next: 'NW Ridge Trail' up Mount Sentinel to north summit, then over to south summit
And then: down to Sentinel/University saddle, then up west ridge of University Mountain to summit
Next: Reverse route back to Sentinel/University saddle, then back up to Sentinel's north summit and down the 'NW Ridge Trail'
Then: back to Van Buren Street, under the interstate up to the Cherry Street Trailhead of Mount Jumbo
And next: up Mount Jumbo's standard 'L Trail' to summit and reverse route back to trailhead
Finally: Cherry Street to Van Buren Street to Van Buren Street Pedestrian Bridge

Summits: Mount Sentinel (north and south summits), University Mountain, Mount Sentinel (north summit) and Mount Jumbo
Vertical ascent: ~5,000 vertical feet
Distance: Unknown
Total elapsed time (car-to-car): 3 hours 13 minutes

Mount Sentinel and University Mountain (1 hour 54 minutes)

I was pleasantly surprised with my performance on every part of the route yesterday, but it was on Mount Sentinel and University Mountain that I was stunned. I felt like a million bucks! My only regret was not taking splits for the ascent portions of the route. I was overly concerned with my overall pace while at the same time not wanting to become a slave to time, so I opted to check splits only at the completion of each stage of the outing.

I hit the M in the 8-minute range and the north summit of Mount Sentinel at around 25 minutes. I enjoyed the cruise - with an ear-to-ear grin - up and over to the south summit before dropping down to the Sentinel/University saddle and up University Mountain. I dropped my pack on the false summit and accelerated up to the true summit of ol' University before reversing the route.

I cruised back up to the north summit of Sentinel and headed back down the ridge trail.

The power-walk over to Mount Jumbo was a treat and a nice break from the steepish downhill of Mount Sentinel's ridge trails.

Mount Jumbo (56 minutes)

As I approached the base of Jumbo, a light rain began to fall. Mixed with an increasing wind, the combination pushed the edge of comfortability in my light long-sleeve top. I felt very strong all the way up.

I hit the L in the 8-10 minute range and proceeded to fly up the switchbacks on the west face. How great it is to be alive!

I finished it off with a strong stride up the relative flats of the rolling summit area. What had been a pleasant steady drizzle turned to something more substantial. After tagging the summit, I donned my rain coat. The skies opened up! It was glorious.

I continued the wet walk down the hill and pulled out my phone at the trailhead to check the time. The screen flashed then went black. Uh oh. As it turns out, excessive water is not good for non-waterproofed electronics. So it goes.

Eager to get dry and warm, I hurried my way back down Cherry Street to Van Buren and back to my car at the foot of the Van Buren Street pedestrian bridge.

In Closing

Success! I checked the time back at my car and was shocked to see that the total elapsed time from car-to-car was 3 hours and 13 minutes. Easily my new PR for the trifecta (although the route choice yesterday was notably shorter, it was still worth celebrating tagging all the summits in a smaller window of time).

I went out yesterday with joy and intentional. The joy came from the celebration of all that is good in life - an amazing wife, awesome new dog-child, a great job, fine health. The intentionality stemmed from the purpose of training: to push myself while preparing for a bigger challenge.

Two weeks from today I will be heading up the Rattlesnake Valley for the Stuart Peak Ultra-Marathon. Yesterday was a great confidence boost to my overall physical and mental fitness for this challenge. Although very different from the relatively steep route of the 'Triple Crown', the idea of heading up and up and up is there and will be a significant part of the challenge. I am ready!

Onward and upward!

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