OP-ED by Columnist: Jason Lakey
Are you low on stoke? Need something to get you out of your seat and you get out there? Looking for inspiration? Read on, this human dynamo will pick your spirits right up in the time it takes to read this feature!
"Yesterday was my birthday - "The Big 4-0". I am very happy to have made it this far - many of my friends have not been so fortunate. Getting older in our culture is often viewed negatively - I believe that being here and now with beauty and love and friends and a capable body for adventure is a blessing. I wanted my 40th birthday to be a midlife celebration not a "midlife crisis". That's why I dreamed up a special 40th birthday challenge for myself:
Coach's BIG 4-0: 40 Pitch / 40 Mile Birthday Mountain Challenge
The goal was to some how get in 40 miles of mountain running and hiking and 40 pitches of rock climbing in the period of my 24 hour long birthday.
I kissed my girl goodbye at the stroke of midnight and started driving to The Rush Creek Trailhead in the inky black darkness. I psyched up with tunes and the last of my coffee and hit the trail at 1 am. Upward I slogged into the dark mountains towards the 12,000 foot Koip Pass. On the way I bonked twice I think from having poor sleep lately (I have been working as an ER nurse on night shifts and sometimes I do not get enough sleep) and I just could not keep my eyes open. I was falling asleep at the wheel.
Twice I had to go into fetal position in the rocks and dirt next to the trail for attempts at gaining energy through little coyote naps. Right before the second nap I chugged one of those weird "5 hour energy rush" gas station legal meth drinks and awoke from the nap seeing double and feeling wobbly on my feet. Soon thereafter, I found myself demoralized, lost, off trail and feeling a bit queasy gnarl. Onward I quested though towards the skyline where I knew Koip pass should be and regained the security of the trail at sunrise.
After 5000 feet of climbing I gained Koip Pass and an epic sunrise vista over Mono Lake. The sunrise lifted my spirit and I picked up speed and energy. 21 miles from where I started moving at 1 a.m. I hit The Tuolumne Meadows. My friends Brent, Andy, Deputy and Mike were waiting there for me for some binge style rock climbing on the granite domes.
They had caffeine pills which helped me get stoked. Brent and I started up The Regular Route on Fairview Dome in a running belay. We passed 5 parties on the route and we even simul climbed past another simul party near the summit. We jogged down and crossed the hwy to Daff Dome where we crushed The West Crack in 1 running belay passing a team on this route as well.
Andy, and Mike joined the team and we all power scrambled to the base of The Northwest Face of Tenaya Peak. We blasted the route in free-solo crazy train style racing up the face together but unroped. So much fun! We ran down to Tenaya Lake where I met with my good bro Deputy. He and I styled The South Crack on Stately Pleasure Dome in a running belay with him doing a superb job of seconding the simul. The last route of the day was a hilarious mostly free solo down climb of The Great White Book.
42 pitches, 21 mountain miles, and 1 Sierra Summit down but I still had 21 miles to go to reverse my route back to The Rush Creek Trailhead. My ultra runner friend Jeff joined the team at this point with my 3 good buddies Brent, Mike and Andy to support me on my 21 mile night shift return and final leg. I would have to shave 40 minutes off my morning's time to reach my goal in under 24 hours.
I set a strong steady pace and never stopped. It was rad to do the reverse trek with the camaraderie of my friends and not on the solo. My 4 good homies rallied behind me back up and over Koip Pass. It was an epic sunset at the pass to match the morning's epic sunrise. Eye of The Tiger blasted from my phone's speaker as we dropped into The Alger Lakes and the setting sun.
At this point my left knee was starting to get sore on the steep descents. (I took a big fall in Yosemite some years back and exploded my left knee cap into 27 pieces - that's another story though) I put it in 4-low and took it slow and steady down the steep pass to the gentle meadows of the Alger Lakes Basin. From there, I picked up my pace through the night with the incredible support of my amigos.
We were hooting and hollering and having so much fun even though we were all feeling the burn. I kept an eye on my watch and paid close attention to my pace and I knew it was gonna be damn close. Down, down,down we plummeted deeper into the canyon. At 11:51 pm, I staggered back to my truck with 9 minutes to spare.
I met my crazy self imposed birthday challenge to run and hike 40 mountain miles and climb 40 pitches of Tuolumne granite in 24 hours on my 40th birthday.
42 pitches (a little over 3000 feet of rock climbing)
42 miles of rugged mountain hiking and trail running
+1 High Sierra Summit (Tenaya Peak)
in 23 hours and 51 minutes on my 40th birthday!
It was a birthday I will never forget, challenging myself in the High Sierra, surrounded by my friends and granite and love and beauty!!!!"
Editor: A very special thank you to Jason for the incredible inspiration. We hope to interview you in the near future.
Op-Ed © Jason Lakey
Images courtesy Jason Lakey
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“The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us. Thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing. The trees wave and the flowers bloom in our bodies as well as our souls, and every bird song, wind song, and tremendous storm song of the rocks in the heart of the mountains is our song, our very own.”
― John Muir
On the Cover:
An Op-Ed by Jason "Coach" Lakey
40 year old goes big for 40 pitches and 40 mountain miles.
Cover Date: July 18th, 2015