Electronics Kit List for the Tour of the Highest Hundred

The electronics gear kit list! Bringing any sort of gear – especially electronic gear, is a fine balance between the convenience of having the resource, and the burdens of carrying it all with you. Doubly so with electronic gear, as it all requires some sort of power source to charge it all up.

Choose wisely.

For the Tour of the Highest Hundred, I brought more electronic gear than on any other ultra racing/FKT trip in my life! It was a lot to manage, but I made all my choices after much deliberation.

Here’s the rundown:

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Fastpacks From Hell: The Crestone Centennial Enchainment!

The Crestones! A highlight of my Highest Hundred trip – the mountains of this group are awesomely steep, the rock is solid, the scrambling: divine. This is truly a Fastpack from Hell-yeah!

Stats:

  • 36.1 Miles
  • 15,200’+ elevation

Total time:

  • 1 day, 17hr, 28min

Seven Centennials summited:

  • Adams
  • Challenger
  • Kit Carson
  • Columbia Point
  • Humboldt
  • Crestone Needle
  • Crestone Peak

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Fastpacks From Hell: The Colorado Sierra Blanca Centennial Enchainment!

Stats:

  • 33.1 Miles
  • 15,085’+ elevation

Total time:

  • 2 days 25min

Six Centennials summited:

  • Ellingwood Point
  • Little Bear Peak
  • Blanca Peak
  • “Huerfano Peak”
  • Mt. Lindsey
  • California Peak

To make the Tour of the Highest Hundred work, my general strategy was to keep the number of separate trailheads I needed to visit by bike as low as possible, while designing my route on foot to tag as many mountains in an area as possible. Transitioning to/from bike-mode/hike-mode and superfluous riding are big time sucks.

One of the largest puzzles is the Sierra Blancas. Even enthusiastic peak baggers will separate this group of mountains into >= two trips:

  • Approaching from the east for Mt. Lindsey and “Huerfano Peak” via the Huerfano/Lily Lake Trailhead
  • Approaching from the west to access Ellingwood Point, Little Bear, and Blanca via Lake Como Road
  • And well, also approaching from the west for California Peak (if the Centennials are part of your goal), which is accessed from an altogether trail head: Zapata Falls.

Three different trips to three different trailheads is a lot of bike riding for six mountains that sit close together. Visiting the eastern trailhead, then the western ones means either crossing a northern mountain pass (Mosca Pass), or going around the entire southern end of the Sierra Blancas (La Veta Pass) – I was willing and needed to do one, but not both.

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Recovering from the Tour of the Highest Hundred

Header image: Argentine Pass just a few days before finishing. I was, it seemed, a bit tired.

It’s been 22 days since I finished the Tour of the Highest Hundred. I’m asked often what recovery looks like for something like this, and when I think I’ll be 100% again.

Let’s step back, and clear up the air. Get rid of any myths about putting yourself through a gauntlet like the Tour of the Highest Hundred: It’s a terribly unhealthy, fool-hearty endeavor to do so much, so fast. You risk the onset of serious overtraining syndrome at best, and completely preventative overuse injuries at worst. The only thing that keeps you from seriously and reputedly causing long-term damage to your health is that you will, in the end, stop doing it and give your mind + body the rest it so terribly requires. This is really true for any ultra distance event. Racing one hundred miles can be done in a day and is pretty horrible for your health – how long do even the most elite runners need to fully recover? Keeping on for 2 months is, I think, a fair bit worse.

Even when grinding myself into the ground, I had the fantasy that if I could just get a good block of rest, then do a little bit of training to polish things up, I could come back to do something else quite amazing: set the FKT for Nolans 14, or something like that. I bumped into Meghan Hicks along with Brendan Leonard and Hilary Oliver in Buena Vista – kind of out of my mind (OK: really out of my mind) and I mentioned this. Meghan’s response? “That’s fucked up“.  It really is wishful thinking, and probably is patently wrong. Sixty days with little rest is a big ask from any body; then asking it after  just a few weeks rest to do something yet again phenomenal is only for the most carefully dreamt dreams.

Training for the New Alpinism describes exactly what I’ve done petty eloquently:

I felt I was smart enough to somewhat temper the problem of overtraining by splitting my tour up into two equal parts. The first half I would take it somewhat more easy,  have more rest days, stay in more hostels. The second half I’d be a bit more cavalier over my daily exertion and cut corners with the amount of sleep I got. I can’t say in any surety this is what I did, or if it was, that it had a good effect. The Tour of the Highest Hundred is just too complex of a challenge to slice things up so roughly.

When I initially finished, what I most experienced was just complete exhaustion. I stayed in bed, mostly and if I tried to push it and stay conscious, I would just fail after a while and find myself sleeping wherever I was –  on the couch, mostly. There were a few days in a row I didn’t leave the house! Sleep quality was shallow and terrible. I knew things were getting better, when I started getting anxiety attacks! Even though they were unpleasant, at least they were a type of emotional other than numbness. This took a week or two to achieve.

Tonight, I sit on my bed, after doing not much of anything today – not much of anything for the past week+. I woke up dizzy, and stayed that way for the entirely of my day, same as yesterday – same as the day before. This really prevents me from doing much of anything other than baseline “being awake” and, “breathing”: no hiking or climbing; no riding bikes or dare I even suggest: running.

Seeing that it’s been three weeks after finishing, this seems a little out of the ordinary to be quite honest. I’m a stubborn bastard with a high pain tolerance, but even I think enough is enough – I should be feeling a whole lot better by now. I’ve taken my vitals and my heart rate and blood pressure reflect that of a fit mid-thirties dude. Sometimes if my blood pressure is too low, I’ll have dizzy spells – same when my already-low heart rate dips even further down. I’m not dehydrated, either. Or if I haven’t eaten in a few hours. I’m fearing the worst I can come up with: some sort of water-borne parasite like Giardia or even Lyme Disease. I may have to go to the doctor for that one. Forced rest, I suppose.

Not that I needed any more motivation for that. On my last day, after summiting the last mountain of my tour, Longs Peak (#105), I managed to slip and sprain/impinge my right ankle in the Boulderfield. Sweet mercy. I hobbled down the last few miles, making the the most direct line I think I’ve ever managed back to the trailhead, but hell if it didn’t hurt to even hobble in the most strange and unusual ways. Hopefully, it’s not also a fracture. Who knows, really, but it’s a little nerve-racking to see my foot still swollen from the trip. To be generous, both feet are swollen, which only shows to prove just how much I kicked my own ass. If I look at the trip holistically, it’s a complete miracle I only sprained an ankle, and when I did, it was 6 hours before I finished the entire tour.

Other than feeling completely zonked mentally from the Giardia-like illness, and being able to only hobble around on one good, yet beat-up foot, I’m doing alright. I’ve gained most of the weight I’ve lost. I haven’t walked more than 100 steps at one time except around a grocery store, but I can ride my bike 10 miles in a day and it doesn’t feel too bad for the foot. Climbing is a different story. My right foot is lacking flexibility, but two months off from hard training kind of feels as if you’re starting from square one. Every time I go train, I feel much more fit than the last time, which is reassuring. Entirely understandable that I’ll have to make up lost ground and gain fitness again. Although I prefer bouldering, I can’t think of anything more destructive to a seriously hurt ankle than to repeatedly fall on it in creative ways as one is to do bouldering.

Only until I can get through this dizziness/lightheadedness issue will I be able to focus on recovering physically. At this point, with this much inactivity, I’ve lost most of the short term adaptations I’ve made being up so high for so long. Instead of thinking I’ve done a super intense training block, it’s better to think I’ve instead gone through a very traumatic event, and I’ll need to start from a fitness level far below where I was even a year ago. It took me three years to feel ready to do the Highest Hundred tour after doing the 14er tour, remember.

To be a bit kinder to my body, I’ve focused, if not forced myself to start a fairly consistent yoga practice, which I feel is doing wonders towards uncrippling my body. My shoulders and hips are opening up again – both get pretty tight cycling, and I doubt hiking/running/backpacking do much good when taken to such extremes. Sleeping on the ground for that long isn’t always for the best, I suppose – I had a few days where my pad would deflate in the middle of the night and I was left on the lumpy ground (I manage to fix the leak after a few tries).

So that’s what I’ve been feeling lately. I’ve tried my best to persevere, but if I’m tardy on getting back to you on our correspondence (or, whatever), I apologize, I’m doing the best I can, and I hope to only get better as time goes on. I bought this ticket and this ain’t my first go-around, so some aprés suffering is just a part of it, which I’ve tried to at least anticipate.

I’ll try checking in after a few more weeks, perhaps I will have interesting news from a doctor’s visit.

 


Tour of the Highest Hundred Completed!

Miracles of Miracles, I managed to complete my Big Project for the year: The Tour of the Highest Hundred! There’s many projects that I’ll be branching off from this summer’s trip, but below are some articles/interviews covering the Tour – I’ll update if/when others are published:

Climbing: Justin Simoni Summits Colorado’s 100 Highest Peaks in 60 Days

 

Adventure Journal: This Guy Just Rode and Climbed Colorado’s 100 Highest Peaks, Self Supported and Non-Stop

REI Co-op Journal: Justin Simoni Summits Colorado’s Highest Hundred Peaks. By Bike.

Bikepacking.com: Interview With The Long Ranger

Men’s Journal: Meet the Colorado Adventure Junkie Who Summited The State’s 100 Highest Peaks in Just 60 Days


Making the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route Even Greater: The Peaks Trail in Summit County, South Park alt. Out of Hartsel

The GDMBR in yellow; alternative in red

Time again to revisit the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route! As the Tour Divide race rolls along and the top riders are flying through Colorado, I’m once again reminded on how much fun this route is, and also some great alternative lines to the official route. My last foray into this topic lead to a major reroute up and over Rollins Pass to the east side of the Divide, then back to the west side on Argentine Pass. That alt. adds major miles, and a whole lot of adventure – it’s pretty audacious!

This time, we’ll keep things a little more straightforward and direct: we’ll get rid of the bike path riding out of Frisco Colorado into Summit County, and do a slightly different line through half of South Park. Let’s check things out!

We’re going to start at the intersection of Highway 9 and East Main Street in Frisco, CO. From here, the official route basically follows the bike path out of Frisco, and into Breckenridge. But, there’s a fairly fun single track trail that also gets you to Breckenridge!

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My Sleep System for the Tour of the Highest Hundred

Update: The Ultimate Direction FK Bivy and FK Tarp are now available on the UD website!

Disclaimer right away: much of the gear I’m showing has been provided by me from the companies that produce them, and many of the links to their product pages to purchase the gear are affiliate links.

To my surprise, people seem curious in the gear I use that comprises my sleep system. I’ll be describing my current setup that I’ll be using for the Tour of the Highest Hundred, a two-month bikepacking and peak bagging adventure. Like everything, it’s a constantly evolving kit, that changes depending on weather, seasons, geographic location/environment, and conditions. There’s no One True Sleep System. My own sleep system is constrained by some pretty crazy requirements:

Season

I’ll be out from ~July 15th to ~September 15th, mostly in the Colorado high country and sleeping at an elevation from around 6,000′ above sea level to well, let’s say 12,000′ if I’m feeling frisky. I’m expecting temperatures at night from around 50 degrees F to well below freezing and foul weather including wind, rain, sleet, snow, grauple, and everything in between. Mostly though, I’ll be hoping for clear, calm nights, and the occasional monster thunderstorm. My sleep system has to protect me 100% from precipitation of all the forms listed. Even one night exposed to a freezing rain could be dangerous.

Environment

For the most part, I’ll be sleeping at trailheads of the Centennials, around 6,000′ – 10,000′, well below treeline in the subalpine forest. I’ll have ample opportunity to find enough flat ground to at least put my sleeping bag down. In rarer circumstances, I’ll be camping above treeline, around 12,000′, so I’ll need a system that doesn’t rely on using something like a tree to set up my shelter.

Vibe

For lack of a better term, my sleep system really just needs to keep me sheltered from any weather and to be warm enough – it’s not going to be a basecamp for weeks on end as I lay siege on a mountain, or a place to whoo a ladyfriend – or even to play an extended game of cards well into the night. I need it to be easy to set up and take down without a lot of fuss, and flexible enough to work in different environments. I don’t want to take a lot of time to find the perfect spot – I want to get there, set things up within minutes, throw some food in my mouth, and pass out underneath it.

The Fundamental Parts: Tarp/Bivy/Bag/Pad

My sleep system is comprised of these four parts that, when put together, can keep me relatively comfortable in all the extreme cases I can think of. What’s even better, is that each one is really optional, so I can make decisions on just what I want to set up, given my current circumstances.

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Podcast: Justin Simoni – The Ultra-Endurance Artist @ Mountain & Prairie

Justin Simoni – The Ultra-Endurance Artist

I joined Ed Roberson earlier this week after we bumped into each other running in Chautauqua. Ed runs an interesting and diverse podcast called Mountain & Prairie and invited me to do an episode which I agreed to.

Ed loved how our interview went and I hope you do, too. Give it a listen yourself, and thanks again to Ed for having me on.