Monday, August 29, 2011

Kettle Bell Swings and Turkish things!

Tonight was another adventure in my road to recovery: The Kettle Bell.  It all started when I volunteered to help Tim Ferriss with his new book, The Four Hour Body (  It's a NY Times best seller, and worth a look.  While I was not included in the book, Tim did send me 2 free copies just for offering my support.  How's that for a cool guy?  Anyway, the book is chock full of new ideas, experiments, and overall challenges to the status quo.  One thing I noticed is Tim's use of Kettle Bells for several exercises.   I studied the photos for awhile, and pondered being able to do the Turkish Get Up...We'll get to that one, but a little background first.

For the uninitated, a kettle bell is the Russian equivalent of a nautilus workout (and then some), but without all the bells (I couldn't resist) and whistles.  Basically, it  is a cannonball with a handle.  Anyway, it's not so much the tool, but the exercises that get you what you want...a total body workout.   Of course, they are getting popular now, so you'll pay a small fortune for a big hunk of iron if you try to buy them.  My local YMCA decided to buy a set, so I got to play with them for free tonight.

It seems the kettle bell comes in weights as follows: 13.5 lbs., 35 lbs, 53 lbs, etc.  I believe the Russian unit of measure for these things are called "poods".  I don't know much about poods, but I felt pooped when I was done!  OK, apologies to my Russian friends for pooting around with their language and cannonball things.

According to the 4 hour body, many NFL players are now training with kettle bells as well as other professional athletes.  One of the most popular exercises is the Turkish Get Up.  It's a full body exercise that starts you laying on your side and, through a series of moves, you end up standing up with the kettle bell raised over your head.  Yeah right!  It doesn't look easy, but it's not so bad once you get the hang of it.

Before I got to the complex, I figured I would start with the basics....the Kettle Bell Swing.  This exercise starts with lifting the Kettle Bell between your legs from a semi-squatting position and swinging it forward and back until your arms are extended horizontally in front of you.  It looks simple enough, but try it with a 50 lb. weight.  I started with 30 reps using the 35 lb. pooder, and then decided to step up to the 50 lb. bad boy.  I managed to do 3 sets of 10 with the 50, but I had to stop for fear of losing my grip and seeing the thing implode the mirror in front of me.  I'm talking bad karma, 7 years of bad luck, and a hefty bill from the YMCA.  Yes, I thought about turning sideways, but didn't want to send the mighty projectile flying at the ladies next to me.  Even if I didn't lose my grip, I think I would have scared the heck out of them.  Anyway, Tim does something like 75 reps with a 53 lbs. monster bell, so knock yourself out.  I have a long way to go...

Next up was the Turkish Get Up.  The one exercise the NFL combine guru recommends above all exercises.  OK, I'm game.  Turns out, the young female pro golfer, Michelle Wie, used this exercise to recover from injury and get her drive back in order.  She was doing the TGU with a 35 lb. Kettlebell before all was said and done.  "No problem", I thought.  I can handle it.  Well, not so fast.  I decided to "warm-up" with the 13.5 lb. baby bell and did a set of 5 or so on each side.  One thing became obvious, my left side is weaker than my right.  OK, it may not be a big surprise given the accident, but the strange thing is the weakness was in my arm (not my leg).  My left arm got super tired with that wimpy little weight.   After the warm-ups, I tried the 35 lb. pood, and it was not pretty.  I could not lift it over my head with one arm. OK, I'm a wimp!  The other interesting observation was that these exercises are as much cardio as they are weight training.  I was seriously out of breath in the process.

So, now I have a challenge to work on.  I'm not big into weights as you can see from my wimpy arms, but the 9 discrete movements of the TGU seem to really tie everything together.

If you have access to kettle bells, I recommend you give it a try. There are youtube videos available showing the various exercises or go to Tim's website at
If you don't have access to kettle bells, save the money and just try to do the exercises with a regular dumbbell.

In terms of the comeback, I am constantly amazed at the improvements.  It truly is humbling and such a blessing to see how the human body can heal itself.  I'm shocked that I am walking fairly normal most of the time without the shim now.  To top it off, I ran a sub 7:30 mile tonight without any shim in my shoes.   That's called "speedwork" in my world these days :-) 
Only 3 weeks until Reach the Beach!  Can't wait to see my Red Eye Runner teammates!

Have a great week!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Narragansett, RI

Greetings from Narragansett! I love this place! Back when I was in the hospital, my Dad asked me what I wanted to do when I got out. I'm not sure what he meant by the question, but my answer was quite clear. I told him I wanted to rent a place on the water for the entire family to enjoy. You see my parents have a sign in their dining room that reads, "Family is everything". I have the same sign in my house thanks to them. So, enjoying family time together, away from the rat race, was my objective.

During my recovery, I had plenty of time to search the Internet for a waterfront vacation rental. I think I found this place on I wanted a place big enough for both my family and Charlotte's brood, so I ended up getting a 5 bedroom house about a quarter mile from Scarborough State beach in Narragansett. It is perfect!

The week has been relaxing, energizing, and filled with a lot of family bonding. I've had a chance to run a few times, do a little biking, fishing, and Char and I even played tennis this morning. We visited Newport yesterday, and have been at the beach nearly everyday. I now understand why Russ Hammond likes his outdoor shower so much!

There was a time when I couldn't imagine a vacation at the beach, but I knew my girls would not go for a week in the woods. I'm fair skinned, so the sun is not always kind to me. If I don't lather on the sunscreen, I pay dearly. Nevertheless, I have managed to survive relatively unscathed this week. I purchased a Coleman shade canopy which we love. It is the family truckster of shade equipment. I am the envy of all shade lovers on the beach. Get one if you want to avoid the sun gods.

It's been a great week for Char and me to grow closer to each other's family. We figured this would be a good opportunity, and it has gone well. The future is so bright we need to wear shades ;-)

My brother and sister's families arrive soon, so need to sign off.

Running continues to get better. It hurts like heck and is frustrating at times. I will not give up though. I would not have been able to run half the marathons or ultras I've finished if I gave in to all the injuries in the past. This one is no exception. If I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, things will get applies to running as well as life.


All the best,


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Kicking it into gear!

As many of you know, I broke my femur in a 100 foot vertical fall off a cliff while rock climbing in the Gunks 11 months ago.  It's been a long road back to say the least.   For those who know the details of the injury, thank you for your can also skip the next 1-2 paragraphs :-).

As luck would have it, the leg was set with a gap between the bones, and less than stellar medical guidance left me in no better shape after nearly 4 months.  Distraught to say the least, I opted to have one of the two pins, holding the Titanium rod in place, removed in an effort to close the gap and start the healing.  The break was a spiral fracture, so the bottom portion of my leg rotated 7 degrees when the gap closed.   The result was a leg that was shorter than the original...somewhere between 1/8" and 3/8" depending on what you want to believe.  It's been tough for me to come to grips with the situation, and the healing and recovery process has been brutal at times.  

Despite all of it, I have worked hard to get my life back in order.   Over the past few months,  I have been very happy with the progress of my recovery, but it's been a mental game the whole time.   Since the leg was not perfect, I wondered when I would plateau.  Since the pain was there daily, I wondered if it would ever go away.  At times I saw great progress, and at times I would plateau for a period.  Everytime there was a plateau, the question was always, "Is this as good as it's going to get?"  So many people told me of loved ones in similar situations who never fully recovered...those conversations didn't help.  It was like they were giving me the OK to stop working to improve my gait.

The past few days have given me great satisfaction!  At one point a few months ago, I reasoned that a recovery that would allow me to run 4-5 miles at 8 min pace without pain would be enough for me.  It would give me the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and stay fit.  At times, it seemed like it would take a miracle to get to that point.  My first attempts at running were so painful and awkward that I just couldn't get my head around it.  I couldn't connect the dots to get there.  Nevertheless, I just kept working to get as far along as the running gods would allow.

Yesterday, I had my last physical therapy session.  After 5 months, they told me I didn't need them anymore.  They said my walking stride was normal and my strength was greatly improved.  I am forever grateful to the folks at Integrated Rehab Services for everything!  

Today was an even better day because it gave me hope for my running!  I am so close to achieving the goal I can taste it.  By coincidence or fate, the Goat pulled into the parking lot at Reservoir 6 at the same time as me.  We hadn't planned to run together, but I was glad to see him there.  We ran the loop and this time we re-measured it with the GPS.  As it turns out, it is 3.7 miles which is a bit longer than I had been book-keeping.  From the start, my stride felt improved and the pain level was manageable.  The first 2 miles went by quickly at  just under 8 minute/mile pace.  As we continued, I felt the weakness and pain creeping in.  No!!!!  I pressed hard while the Goat talked.  Goat kept encouraging me with reports that we were maintaining a 7:55 average pace.  In the final stretch, we picked up the pace and he said, "This is what it feels like to run a 7 minute mile again."  Nice!  Even if it was only for a brief period, it felt good.  I used to run marathons at a faster pace, and now I can't even imagine a 5K at that pace.  It's OK, I have seen so much progress in such a short time.

The thing that has kept me focused on this recovery has been the 2011 Reach the Beach Relay with the Red Eye Runners.  We've run this race together every year for the past 6 years.  I promised myself I would do everything possible to be there for this year's race.  At times, I doubted whether it was possible.  Tonight I realized I will be ready for the big event one month from now.

To all of you who continue to support me in my recovery, "THANK YOU!"  Your words of encouragement help keep me going.  Once I am convinced that I will not hurt myself by pushing too hard in a race, I will see you out on the trails.  

All the best!


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Running progress report

Could this possibly become a running blog again?  Not sure just yet, but I am working in that direction.

Last week I actually broke the 10 mile mark for total mileage.  Woohoo!  My longest run to date has been 5 miles.  This past weekend the Goat and I did about 5 miles on mixed, but fairly flat terrain.  It was painful for me, but I am progressing in terms of my stride.  It took us about 47.5 minutes, so it wasn't blazing fast.  Goat did say it felt like sub-9 minute pace as he was breathing hard a few times.  I guess the route must be a little longer than I thought.

Anyway, I decided to give it another go last night, and banged out a time of 44 minutes...not bad considering.  The pace was better and stride continues to improve, but the pain in my hips and lower back was fairly intense.  I'm hopeful that it will improve like everything else to date.  It gets difficult to focus and maintain form with the pain, so I really want it to improve soon.

The good news is that I'm fairly certain I will be OK for Reach the Beach.  My stride is smoother on pavement and my pace is decent.  I'm thinking I can hold an 8 minute pace or better on the flats.  Downhills are the toughest as I still don't fully trust the leg.  It may be more mental than physical at this point...just need to work through it.  It's been great having RTB as a goal as it has really kept me focused on the rehab.  I don't think I would have worked nearly as hard without this race as a goal.

I know I still need to post a report on Yosemite, but other priorities are in the way right now.

If anyone knows a good Masters swim coach in the Hartford area, please drop me a line.  I'm looking for one.

Also, I'm thinking of changing the name of the blog to something other than "Ultra Steve".  The name just seems very self-serving, and I really don't want it to be about me as much as it is about life experiences and personal insights with running, climbing, skiing and other activities as a metaphor.  I want the blog to serve a greater community.  Maybe a simple change to "Ultra Life"?

BTW, you think it's too soon to start training for an ultra?  ;-)



Sunday, August 7, 2011

Middle Teton (Part 2) - Summit Bid

OK, the long awaited conclusion to the Middle Teton assault:

After being thwarted by the weather gods on Monday, we did Yellowstone on Tuesday and Hanging Canyon on Wednesday, and then pulled ourselves together for another go at Middle Teton on Thursday.

On Wednesday evening, we went into Jackson to grab a bite to eat and pick up some last minute provisions.  I needed some tie-wraps to make some DIY anti-balling plates for my crampons, flip shades for my glasses, and Goat needed a few things as well.  After getting what we needed at Kmart, we grabbed a quick bite at DQ (it actually wasn't too bad - I had quesadillas).

By the time we got back to camp, I was fading fast.  I was tired and dehydrated from our day in the canyon, but still needed to pack and fix my crampons.  Additionally, we had to put all our gear in the rental car because we had to switch rooms at the Climber's Ranch in the morning.  Ugh!

I patiently worked on my anti-balling plates and hoped it would fix the problem.  I cut plastic panels out of a quart milk jug, trimmed them to fit, poked holes in them, and strapped them onto my crampons with the tie-wraps.  See photo below.  Notice the "nutritional facts" label on the rear plate!  :-)

They actually worked out very well.  I can send more detailed info if anyone is interested.

Anyway, I finally got packed and ready to go, but was drained from the effort.  There was doubt in my mind about my ability to log the mileage, but figured I would see how I felt when we got up at 4AM.
Our plan was to get on the trail by 4:30 as we figured it would be a 8-9 hour effort round-trip.  We wanted to be off the summit before noon to avoid any potential bad weather.

We got up a little before 4, quickly ate breakfast, and jumped in the rental car to drive to the trail head.  Chris had told us that we could save some time hiking in from the Lupine Meadows trailhead, and we wanted every advantage possible.  We got to the trailhead at about 4:40AM.  Goat played around with his GPS gizmo for awhile, so we didn't actually get on the trail until about 4:50.  Woof!  Starting out 20 minutes behind schedule was not great, but we felt like we had some buffer in the plan if things went smoothly.

Goat let me set the pace.  Like most alpine starts, there isn't much talk.  We walked quietly by headlamp and tried to conserve energy while making good time.  I kept up a steady pace at a level I felt we could maintain for the day.  I knew we would slow down when we hit the snow, so tried to make time in this section leading up into Garnett Canyon.  It's about 4.5 miles to the Meadows if I recall, and we got to the first real snow at about 6:45 or so.  We quickly put on our gators and grabbed our ice axes, but knew we could manage without the crampons for awhile.  Note: We were both wearing Salomon light weight goretex hikers which were perfect for this terrain.   We also traveled somewhat light with water for the first section, so stopped for a few minutes to fill our water bottles just below the Meadows.  Goat brought his new ultraviolet light tool to purify the water.  We didn't get sick, so I assumed it worked.  Gotta love technology!

By the time we arrived at the Meadows, it was a hair past 7, and I was pleased with our effort.  We could see a couple of climbers in front of us.  We were making time on them, but had to stop to put on our crampons.  I continued to set the pace up through the steep snow couloir, and we were quickly up past our previous high point.  As exciting as this was for us, I knew we still had a long haul to the top.

We hit a big boulder field at the saddle, and it seemed to go on forever.  Have I mentioned how much I hate boulder fields?  I don't know what it is, but I can't move very quickly in them.  I didn't like them before the accident, and now I REALLY don't like them!

Anyway, we eventually got through it, and made it to the top of the saddle.  The view of Icefloe Lake was fantastic!  This lake is the highest lake in the Tetons, and it is a sight to see.  This picture does not do it justice.

We were at 11,000 feet, and I think it was around 9:30AM.  We had plenty of time to get to the summit, but the task ahead looked intimidating.  There was A LOT OF SNOW!  We could see the obvious path, but seeing it and doing it were two different stories.

Since Goat had limited experience on snow slopes, I took the lead.  I kick-stepped using a combination of french technique and front-pointing...trying to be very deliberate in my movements.  Goat followed suit, and we made it through the first steep section without much trouble.  The question was, "How do we get back down that thing?"  This question would hound me each step of the way to the top.  We had no rope, so we needed to rely on our own abilities to get down the thing.  Gulp!

We saw climbers ahead of us going up another steep snow slope.  To the left was a band of rock.  I assumed the folks in front knew the best approach, so followed their lead.  Halfway up the snow, Goat decided to try the rock.  I was concerned about loose rock, so stayed on the snow.  Besides, I was near the top of the section.

We rested briefly in a rocky spot in between the snow slopes, and Goat said he was continuing up the rock.  The team of 4 plus 1 in front of us did a nice job kicking steps, so I opted for the snow.  It was smooth traveling, but still un-nerving on the snow.  I was worried about Goat and could not see him.  I yelled out, and he said he was fine.  In fact, he was doing better than me.  I was exhausted and fading fast.

I felt like the Tour de France climber who leads the way up the mountain for the team captain.  I was spent, and Goat was getting his second wind.  We got to the narrow gully, and I was pleased that we were near the top.  However, I was stressed from the loose rock and also couldn't stop thinking about how we would get down safely through the snow.

After peeling off our crampons, we made the final push to the summit.  It was great to make it to the top, and Goat surprised me with the CCM flag!  Goat thinks of everything!  Good man!

After a few summit photos,

we found a sunny spot just off the summit to grab a quick bite to eat before attempting the descent.  I was anxious to get down the steep stuff, but knew we needed our energy.  Most accidents happen on the descent, and I didn't want Goat or me to be another statistic.

We passed an older guy coming up as we started our descent.  He read my mind as he said, "I don't know how I'm going to get back down!"  Yeah, I know...

We made quick work of the rock gully, and then put the crampons back on.  Goat was moving faster than me as I was being a bit tentative with my repaired leg.  I wanted to be absolutely sure of every step, and I wasn't fully trusting my new leg/hip.  Goat kept saying how easy the rock was on the ascent, and I decided to give it a try on the descent.  He was right!  There was a well marked trail with fairly solid rock, and I kicked myself for not taking it on the way up.  Lesson learned!

Anyway, I was very happy to get down through that steep section.  Here's a shot of South Teton on the other side of the saddle.  Some folks do both summits in a day, but one was enough for me.

There was one more steep snow section to cross before we got to the saddle.  Goat was nervous about it since there was no way to avoid it.   I was less concerned as I knew we could safely self-arrest in that section without going over a cliff.

As luck would have it, the sun softened the snow enough that we could plunge step all the way down the slope.  No worries whatsoever!

At the saddle, we ran into Andy, a red-bearded gent from Minnesota who we saw near the summit.  We chatted with him a bit, and he decided to join us for the walk back to the Meadows.  He was camped there, and made an early solo effort that morning.

After getting through the dreaded boulder field, we had a blast glissading down the snow slopes.  At one point, I slipped on my butt and just rode it down to the bottom while using my ice axe for braking.  The others followed suit, and we had a grand old time!

Life was great!  We took a break to enjoy the sun and eat some food.  A Marmot must have smelled our food because he came charging and glissading over the snow to come check us out.  It was a hoot watching him.

At the Meadows, we bid farewell to our new friend, Andy, and started the descent of Garnett Canyon.

Before we got too far, Goat had one more surprise.  He wanted to take a picture at Grover's resting place.  No need to get too alarmed...we are talking about a muppet after all!  However, it is also Euroman's trusty companion and superhero sidekick.  Legend has it that Grove I perished in the frigid waters of Garnett Canyon.  The rushing waters were too much for him, and Euroman could not save him.  We built a temporary memorial and took some photos to mark the occasion.  There were a few onlookers who shared in the moment with us.

The descent down to the trailhead was peaceful and satisfying.  My leg was a little sore, but we felt good about our achievement.  It was a team effort, and we were happy with the result.

We drove back to camp, soaked our legs, showered, and ate an early dinner.  I think we were in bed by 8pm or earlier.

Chris, our new friend from camp, came by to see how our trip went.  He was happy we were able to summit, and we chatted for a bit.  He was off early in the morning to meet Ying on the trail, so we said our good-byes and then it was off to bed.

Friday would be our last day in the Tetons and for once we didn't have an agenda.  Hmmm....what would tomorrow bring?   One never knows....


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A glorious night!

What a glorious night it was...!

I was licking my wounds this week after I tried to run around Reservoir 6 with Charlotte Sunday morning.  The loop is a fairly flat 3.5ish miles.  We did the it in 32 minutes, but I was gimpy and sucking wind behind Charlotte the whole way.  My stride was painful and tentative and I was very much disheartened by the effort.  Charlotte ran about 10 paces in front of me most of the way which I found to be incredibly disheartening.  I guess I was moving pretty slow.  There was nothing I could do to close the gap.  I was in full afterburner mode at a 9 minute humbling.  I know she didn't mean to drive me into the ground as she was just doing her best to finish the run.  She was in survival mode as much as I was...just a bit faster.   Her stride looked so effortless and smooth from my vantage point though.  It was humbling for me, but I was also happy to be there.  It was only 10 months ago yesterday that I was in a helicopter on my way to the hospital and wondering if I would live to see this day.

It was a lesson for me though.  There was a time, not too long ago, where I would run out in front of people, and loop back from time to time to see how they were doing, chat a bit, and then open a gap again.  I thought I was running WITH them, but now I know that I was not running with them at all.  I understand it's hard to slow yourself down to run at someone else's pace, and there was a time when I felt I had to hammer the pace to meet my training objectives.  It was always a compromise between running socially vs. training to meet a race objective.  It's also really hard to run slow when you are used to running fast.  I learned a valuable lesson on Sunday.  I suspect most people won't have trouble keeping up with me for the foreseeable future, but I will definitely keep it in mind when the day comes...

Tonight was different.  I went out on the same course by myself.  I went at my pace, and my leg decided to cooperate a little better.  My stride felt good from the start, and the pain level seemed manageable.  I still felt a little off balance, but it was considerably better than my previous effort.  I was blazing along with a 1 minute advantage at the halfway point...woohoo!  My leg started getting tired, the pain was increasing, and my stride started going to hell, but I hung in there.  The wonderful thing about it is that I really felt like a runner again.  This wasn't a gimpy mile on a treadmill or at the track.  I was actually covering some distance without stopping, and my stride felt reasonably intact (albeit a little off kilter).  It was running as far as I was concerned!

I covered the 3.5 mile distance in 30 minutes.  A 2 minute improvement over my previous effort.  It honestly felt like I was going much faster, but it's a start.  I'm less concerned with the time than I am with my form and pain level....and both were much improved tonight.  I'm a happy guy with all things considered.

If you had told me I would be running at this level a few weeks ago, I don't think I would have believed it.  All the hiking on the vacation definitely helped, and even my walking has improved significantly.

Life is grand!  Ain't it?

So many days I doubted the ability to get it all back.  The gap was so large and I didn't see a path to get there.  I'd like to say it was sheer determination and faith that got me to this point, but there were days where I wondered if it was possible.  I often negotiated with God, the Universe, or whoever would listen.  "If I could just get back to "X"..."  You know how the story goes...

I know I'm not there yet, but I am starting to see the possibilities, and it excites me!  The light is starting to appear at the end of the tunnel.  Sure, I walk like a drunk in the morning without the shim in my shoe, but I can live with it if that's the only major issue.  So many people have experienced much worse.  I am very blessed!

Count your blessings and be thankful!  Keep the faith and stay the course!  That's what I keep telling myself!  Good things will happen...just be patient and persistent.

I am planning to get out to some of the local races soon.  It will be great to see some of my running friends again!   Maybe I'll be able to keep up with Char a little better on our next run too ;-)

As my RTB teammate, Rich, says, "May your feet dance across the pavement (or trails)!"



Monday, August 1, 2011

Hanging Canyon/Cube Point Adventure - The Tetons

On Tuesday evening, after a touristy day in Yellowstone, I was itching to get into some real climbing.  Our new friend and bunkmate, Ying, was packing for his 5 day trek across the Teton Crest Trail.  I have to admit I was a little jealous of his impending adventure.  This trek was his big reward to himself for completing his residency in Vascular Surgery at John Hopkins.  Very cool guy.  I was able to give him a few tips on mountaineering, and am still eager to hear how his trip turned out.   Our other roommate, Chris, was planning to meet Ying for a day or 2 on the trail after he finished his bridge game in town on Thursday.   How cool is that...?  These guys didn't know each other more than a couple days, and they were connecting for an adventure.  A little bit of trail magic was happening at the AAC Climbers Camp.  You gotta love it!  I'm gonna miss that place.

After listening to their conversations over a couple days it became apparent to me that Chris had spent some time in the Tetons.  In fact, he had spent the whole summer there as well as parts of previous summers.  He was also a very smart guy.  He was a retired Actuarial and was working part-time on a Phd. in mathematics.   I started asking Chris for some beta on moderate climbs in the lower elevations, and he gave me some ideas.  I got fixated on climbing Cube Point since it seemed easy enough for someone who hadn't really climbed since falling 100 feet and shredding his femur.  OK, the statement may not sound normal to a normal person, but try to see my logic.

It also sounded short enough that we could make it a relatively easy day and still have some time to prep for another assault on Middle Teton.  Chris agreed it sounded like a reasonable plan, but mentioned that Cube Point is hard to find.  I asked if he had climbed it.  Not only had he climbed it, but he guaranteed he could lead us to the start of the climb.  Terrific!  We had plenty of gear and ropes to climb as two parties of two.  I figured I would rope up with Chris and Pam and Goat could team up.  Cool!

As it turns out Pam decided to opt out on the climb in preference to an easier day hike.  So, Goat, Chris, and yours truly, took the boat shuttle across Jenny Lake and started up the trail into Hanging Canyon.

After making our way around some downed trees, we started making progress toward the Ribbon Cascade.  Here's a shot of the very impressive waterfall.

Goat was moving well and the trail was easy to follow.  Before long, however, we hit snowfields.  Woof!  We didn't bring ice axes or crampons!  Damn!

Not to be thwarted, we pressed on with careful kick-stepping through the softening snow.  The slope was not too steep, and we were able to avoid a lot of the snow by skirting the edges.  I broke a long, dead branch in half and gave Goat a piece, so we could use it in the case of a self-arrest situation.

The canyon was beautiful, and the sky was pure blue.  Life was good!  We spotted Cube Point and quickly made our way towards it up in the canyon.  It was a beautiful sight except for one thing.  There was a steep couloir full of snow leading up to the base of the climb.  Double snot wads, Batman!  I thought perhaps it wouldn't look so daunting from up close, so we got as close as possible by clambering up a boulder field.  There was about 30 feet of snow between us and the next rock protrusions and then it got even more interesting.  We waffled back and forth for a bit....I started kick stepping up the slope.  It was going easy enough, but what if I ran into a problem?  Goat was not comfortable with the situation, and I was in no position to risk re-braking my leg.  With an ice axe, I would have gone for it, but the axe was back at the ranch.  We decided to chalk it up as a scouting mission and continue up into Hanging Canyon for more reconnaissance.

We cruised across some snowfields, clambered up some sketchy rock, and delicately stepped along a snow bridge.  As we crested the top of the next ridge, we saw a beautiful sight.  Ramshead lake and Lake of the Crags were sitting right in front of us and right below the Ramshead.  Nice!

We took some time to bask in the sun, check out the views, and grab a bite.  Then, I set up the camera to take a few shots of the three Musketeers.

Note the Ram's head rock feature in the background.

All-in-all it was a great day!  We explored new territory with a new friend and enjoyed the beautiful weather.  We finished early enough to prep for our assault on Middle Teton, and didn't extend ourselves to the point where we tapped into our energy reserves.  We had time to eat, pack, and prep for an early alpine start on Middle Teton.  Goat and I were forever grateful to Chris for sharing the day with us and presented him with a Traprock 50K glass as a token of our appreciation.  Life is, indeed, good!