At 6am I leave the gate of Baldy village Ranger Station heading up Bear Creek trail. The lactic builds up in my quads immediately as the steep switchbacks waste no time leading up and away from town through the forested canyon. I catch the sun coming over Telegraph peak to the east at the top of the severe Bear Flat switchbacks. I divert off trail to the West Baldy having seen only one other person on the trail. After a breather I head for Baldy proper. It's one of those windy days where the air whips across the ridge line having risen from thousands of feet below. If you stay ten feet away from the edge you can escape the worst of it but I'm careful that a sudden gust doesn't steal my hat.

On the way down the scree fields lots of folks are making their way up and down. I avoid most of them hopping and sliding around on the rocks doing my best to maintain balance but also keep a fluid pace. With all the climbing in this route I know that the only time I can make up is in the descent. At the saddle with rim of the world trail I divert left up to Harwood peak with it's weather surveillance robot. On the way down to the notch I encounter a lot of runners. Many on the way up. Impressed by this increase in popularity of mountain running I refill my 2 liter pack at the water fountain and begin the climb to Thunder Peak. A jet ski is stranded on the slopes near the top of the chair lift, anchored to the rocks like a ship on dry land. Telegraph peak is one of my favorites. It's so rocky and sits so prominently that the views are unbeatable.

The fatigue of the first five peaks begins to set in as I continue toward the third T. I meet a guy who says I am doing great and that it encourages him. I also meet a girl who asks how far I've come. It's always nice getting to share that you are on a bit of an adventure. I find a water bottle on the way down to icehouse saddle (aargh). I grab the trash and begin the climb to Cucamonga. A little ways up the switchbacks past the big horn saddle I meet a woman asking how far it is to the summit. I try to encourage her but she is skeptical of my mileage estimation. It's not like Ive climbed this peak 10 times or anything! O well. Hope she made it.

After cucamonga I head further east towards a lesser known 8660' peak called Etiwanda. It's quite a descent to approach the peak and after a little trouble determining which one it is I climb a rocky false summit. O well extra miles! Then I get the real thing. I climb back over the Cucamonga ridge and drop back down to bighorn saddle. I get out my headphones for the off-trail climb to Big Horn peak. This is a frustrating, steep ridge that climbs almost 1000' in less than a mile to an anticlimactic peak(in my opinion) I dont spend long, wanting to get on to the final push.By this time Im running out of water. I know I can ration and make it to the peak, but I dont know if the springs in icehouse canyon are flowing which means I may have a long thirsty trek back to the village.

We train in difficult conditions to be emotionally prepared for the onslaught of difficulty. The world doesn't go the way you want it, so instead of trying to change it, which is our usual mode of operation, we must teach ourselves to be flexible and always smile. After summiting Ontario I do my best to roll down through icehouse and down highway 2. The springs are flowing but pretty low so I decide not to risk it. I arrive on the other side of the ranger station gate after 10hrs feeling humbled by these mountains but lucky to have enjoyed so much of them. The great part of this course is that you can see all ten peaks from most places on it.

10 PEAKS, 52k +12,000'

Gps of route:


Crippling Obsession & Benefits of Mediocrity

The customary rattle and clang of my rickety rav4 bounces along forest route 2E18, balanced on a thin line between a machine capable of self-locomotion and a heap of lifeless metal. As the route climbs steadily it rounds the eastern slopes and ridges of Sugarloaf Mountain near Big Bear. Views of the desert floor stretching to the horizon thousands of feet below draw a stark contrast to the alpine forest and oft snow-capped peaks nearby. Stopping for the tenth time to check the photocopied sheet of hand drawn maps marking remote ‘yellow-post’ campsites doesn’t reassure me that I haven’t already passed site #57. The everlasting possibility that it may be around the next bend keeps me inching my way further into the wilderness.

Approaching a saddle at 8500’ the single lane track intersects another fire-road. The campsite is supposed to be off to the left and although this road is not marked on the map it seems diligent to confirm it is not the place. The road quickly deteriorates into loose scree and scraggly brush whistling as it encroaches, scraping the side of the car. It’s the kind of road that a non-4wd vehicle has no business navigating but one of those situations where, once you’ve invested in a bad plan, you keep on investing because to self-arrest is to waste all of that effort already paid. Three quarters of a mile down, at the bottom of the steep rocky descent, the road is closed off to vehicles. There is a meadow fed by Wilhorse spring which is probably not the site but a heavenly place to camp regardless.

The green pasture, the serenading chirps of countless birds, the lack of any traffic noise all descends on me a little riotously. After a moment of withdrawal and panic I settle in to my primitive existence. As breathing slows, the senses flow. The sun sets and a vast star scape scatters above the silhouettes of towering pines. The next morning, having depleted what little water I brought with me, I trek down to the spring to fill up some bottles. After a slow morning of repacking I warm up the engine and decide to give the road a go. The first section near camp is flat but rocky with a deep trench running diagonally which prevents me from gaining speed before hitting the next most steep section, a visibly crumbling slope of ‘golf-ball’ to ‘bowling-ball’ sized boulders and other loose debris. There’s only a few inches to maneuver on each side.

The car stutters as I try to keep the momentum going. Then it lurches and tumbles up onto the slope eventually swerving side to side and grinding loudly as the wheels kick out loose gravel and eventually spin into soft sand beneath. I reverse down the hill. Shaky, I examine the scene of the crime on foot. Then try my approach again angling to the right up the hill a bit. This only causes the loose sand on the hill to collapse as the front wheels slide down laterally getting stuck in a new depression. After reversing and trying again my attempts seem to be getting worse and probably making the road worse too. I stand there for a while listening intently wondering what to do. A distant hum turns out to be nothing more than a plane. In fact, looking up I can see unreachable jetliners heading for LA. I keep an ear out for any passing cars on the parallel fire road 100 meters above me. 0-3 cars drive this traverse on a weekend day.

An adequate answer for the smartass that asks why I brought my measly vehicle out here escapes me as I begin clearing the biggest loosest rocks from the road. I try to drive it again and this doesn’t help a bit. I get out and stand there panting. I clear a few more rocks on the lower section hoping to get a better run up. But when revving the engine the wheels just spin despite the flatter terrain. Akin to riding a bike up a hill covered in coconuts. Stressing out doesn’t help. A chill followed by a warm burning courses through my spine as I realize how STUCK DOWN HERE I am. I'm resigned to trying again despite feeling increasingly helpless. After clearing as much of the loose gravel as I can in the worst areas I give it a little gas and the wheels kick and spin but then miraculously catch and bobble an inch or two ahead then catch and lurch forward a foot swiveling to one side before grinding up a couple feet till they finally spin to a halt.

Cleared patches and brake rocks still in place.

This time, having made it past the original ‘difficult’ portion I throw on the parking break and jump out. Placing big rocks behind each wheel to keep them from rolling back I dig out all the sand and pebbles around the tires. Ankle deep in dirt and rocks, desperation grows. Rest before the next go. It’s difficult even to climb into the car because it’s situated at such a steep angle. It seems the whole thing may just slide backwards at any moment. I unload everything that has any significant weight, jump back in and start it up. I let the car ‘rest’ back on the supporting boulders then accelerate forward till the wheels spin. I repeat this process rhythmically rocking until the wheels finally bounce forward out of the old troughs. It’s going, it’s going? it’s going! Hang on, keep the gas even, don't let head smash into window. The road levels off before curving and rounding another treacherously steep loose area with big misshapen rocks. Somehow I manage to get through on my first try and finally reaching the intersection with the other road I pull the car into some shade and shut it off.

It takes a moment for the shock to lift and the fact that I have actually excavated myself to sink in. Relief washes over me. Silly how it feels like a new lease on life. As I trudge up and down the hill with sleeping bags and camera gear dangling from my limbs I consider how illustrative this experience is. In these moments the great analogy is about the empowerment of overcoming obstacles in all walks of life. But something else teases me. The idea that anyone can experience enlightenment by defeating long odds, but to become a master of any endeavor you must encounter and overcome those particular obstacles time and time again. We train endlessly so that we can sharpen our ability to do this. So that it becomes second nature and doesn’t require conscious effort. If I wanted to become an off-road champion(which I am sure that I don’t) after just narrowly managing to navigate the ascent and escape the ravine I should turn around and drive right back down to the bottom of the hill! This is where many endurance athletes get into dangerous water. By realigning perceptions to view challenges as training, we forget the benefits of paying attention to fear and discomfort. Namely that these intuitions keep us ‘safe’ or sometimes ‘healthy’. If I had listened to the part of me that didn’t want to risk going down an unmarked road which clearly became increasingly difficult, I might have spared myself the panic and potential hazard of getting stranded. Then again one might argue that if we always lived like this we may never come across the unmapped meadows that lie just around the next bend...



We don't often allow ourselves to sit and do nothing. Despite our increasingly sedentary lifestyles we are 'going' at 90mph more than ever. Arguably most of us are doing things that don't amount to much like checking Instagram 90% of the time, but to our brains we might as well be hunting our dinner.

My initial curiosity with acupuncture came from a sticky running injury (plantar fasciitis) which I have been battling (on and off) for over two years rendering me with the desperate willingness to try anything that could remotely help. I had all but given up on running, resorting to walking a mile on 'good' days. At first I assumed that, living in LA, I just drive to much which didn't letting my right foot recover. So I bought a bike to avoid running errands in the car and wallah I was back on the move. Pretty soon I was taking 40 mile rides and my calves were so tight I could hear people commenting on them in Trader Joe's. That seemed to aggravate my PF(the tight calves, not the complements) so I quit biking. Actually my bike was stolen so I didn't have a choice. This lit a fire for me to fix this once and for all. I threw everything I could think of at it... night splints, orthotics, rollers of every shape and kind, A R T massages, chamomile to relax the muscles and fish oil to reduce inflammation(not at the same time).

So I explain this saga as well as the stabbing pain in my foot and tightness in my achilles/calf to the acupuncturist who has a Phd in eastern medicine. After conversing a bit he swabs a couple areas on the lower leg and sticks just three needles in my leg the first time, sometimes adding one on recurring visits. They aren't deep and most of them go in painlessly, but the muscles on the inside of my heal are super sore given all the nerves in the feet. I flinch every time one of those is tapped in. Then he places electronic pulse massager pads over the painful areas and leaves me in the dimly lit room for 45 minutes with this meditative trance-inducing ohm music playing over the buildings intercom/stereo system. On his way out of the room he always says, "lets have you rest".

Okay, so here I am trying to figure out the best way to be a patient of this holistic medicine. I immediately realize that it's better to leave the phone in the car if I'm to resist the urge of taking pictures of the needles sticking out of my leg. After decidedly placing my phone as far away as possible I begin to relax. Pretty soon I find myself breathing in time with the music and almost falling asleep. Thoughts about the day float in and out of my mind but mostly I'm imagining the pain melting away like butter in a pan. Im imagining oxygen flowing through my veins to my whole body. Im suddenly struck by the thought that the needles' ability to heal me is completely controlled by me. And even if they don't physically/scientifically change my nerves and muscles, it's beneficial taking this time to release the stress that is built up by never letting my mind just be. If my insurance covered meditation rooms I would pay the copay just to use them! but wait, i know what you're thinking, I can do this on my own can't I? While it's the permission of a doctor telling you to rest that expels the anxiety pervading the rest of life (potentially because it's what our parents used to do?), there's no reason we can't learn to set aside that time each day or at least once a week for some golden concentrated nothingness. We'd probably be better mentally prepared to take on the world.

The doctor comes back after my time is up and takes out the needles which have numbed up. The one in my foot doesn't hurt when he pulls it out. Of course this is just one element of proper recovery, and wether it's the deadening of the nerves or the care of a medical practitioner or the meditative time spent zen-ing out I feel that it helps. In any case...

✓ tried acupuncture


Harmony in the Details

Exercise is good for you.

Exercise is bad for you.

Running makes you smarter.

Running shrinks your brain.

Scientific news at best has it's limits and is at worst completely frustrating. Reading through the sources of scientific journals where these sound bites are derived may seem pointless for the layman. If you have the patience to bore through the terminology keeping an eye out for the broad strokes you generally find that the science often proves a single common sense principle... moderation and balance. There are far fewer good things and bad things than we tend to perceive. Just because a particular vitamin is essential for life doesn't mean that taking (ample) amounts of it extracted into a pill will be better for the body. Timothy Ferris followed a similar principle in his 4 hour body self experiments attempting to find just the right amount of input to get the desired results from his body, believing that any more was unnecessary and potentially harmful. In this article about free radicals and antioxidants it mentions both the purpose of free radicals and the damage they can do when out of control. So there is a benefit to taking antioxidants but you don't want your body to stop producing them. The same way you don't want to completely wipe out your gut microbes with antibiotics if you can help it. They are there for a reason.

A running injury that has plagued me for the last year+ seems to be a similar imbalance. Friends and family shrug and nod as if to say yea of course every runner gets injured cause it's hard on your body and that's what the doctors have said all along. I was admittedly one of those Born to Run folks who believe that we are all natural runners, and injury is just us not taking care of our bodies. Running on pavement in 'technologically' advanced shoes that are supposed to make you a better runner, whatever that means. Maybe everyone else was right and I should go back to eating spaghetti and hitting the gym when I can bear it. Start complaining about my age and lack of time over my third beer. There's still this breeze that beckons me to start over. While I have a bent towards the extreme and am attracted to purism there's work to be done to fix the imbalance that's hurting my foot and get back to doing what makes me the happiest - moving over the land. All the time remembering to care for my body as much as I enjoy forgetting that it's there.

The Transeurope Footrace Project

Long Distance Running and Knee Osteoarthritis

Adverse Cardiovascular Effects from Excessive Endurance Exercise



I wake in the early hours, my body relaxed and ready. I crawl out of the tent quietly and find the wind has died down for the first time since we drove up through the forest to camp above tree line two days ago. The quiet calm now draped over the land buoyed my spirit like a warm blanket while a bright sliver of moon cast silvery shadows. I find my way to the wooden outhouse fitted with a flushing toilet.

Twenty minutes later Steve(my brother) and I are dressed and leaving the campsite behind. Lights from Kisumu, miles away on the valley floor shimmer at us as we follow the marshy trail up into the star dappled sky. Dew from swamp-grass lining the trail brushes our legs. We move swiftly trying to keep our feet dry, wanting to make good use of our early departure. Dropping down and climbing out of yet another marshy ravine through landscape reminiscent of the vertical bog on MacKinders route, we stop briefly to remove wind jackets and pants. We knew how silly we would look in bare running garb whilst every other person on the mountain had boots, poles, packs and other 'proper' hiking gear. We just hoped we weren't fools for attempting an alpine approach to this 16,000' peak circuit.

View of the peaks as we approach from the North

As the sky reveals an approaching dawn we cross laterally into a large valley, between two 'ribs' of the mountain, which the trail follows. The dark Goliath rock formations atop those ribs cast titanic shadows across the valley letting us know that we have entered a different scale of a place. We stop to fill our packs with water from a stream just before passing by the teams sleeping in Shiptons hut, a camp where people typically stay the night before summiting the next day. Above this the real climb through scree fields begins. The trail is difficult to pick out amongst the rocks. Somehow every time you turn around it seems that you have missed the main route and are following at best goat trails which criss-cross it.

Scree slope, Batian and Nelion towering in the background

The shear scale of the mountain rising out of a land that rolls forever away into the distance begins to sink in as the hint of altitude begins it's subtle advancement. I'm struggling to catch my breath, getting aggravated at the unsure footing and my inability to keep pace. The sun is already scorching despite the bitter wind that whips up from the south.

Steve analyzing best route to the summit

We've crossed onto the ridge that runs east up to point Lenana. 2000 feet below on the other side, Harris tarn glistens it's emerald green waters inviting us to take a swim and relax on it's inviting shores. We cross an icy patch of snow which quickly reminds us that the environment is becoming increasingly hostile. Stark jagged spires stand silhouetted against a deep blue sky above us. My chest pounds as we bolder steadily up the west side to arrive at the summit.

Looking south from summit towards Chogoria route

We stay for long enough to soak in the 360 view. Far below the wispy vapors of infant clouds rise on turbulent winds channeling up the walls of the valleys gaining mass as they rise. To the south we can see the gorge that runs beside Chogoria route, to the north on the far side of Lewis glacier the peaks of Batian and Nelion rise sharply towering above 5000m. We can make out a red spec climbing up the face, a climber on his way to the top. As we descend along the eastern ridge towards the MacKinders route we loose the trail but some guides resting near Austrian hut call to us and point the way.

Summit glee, a long ways yet to go

We take off down the eastern scree slope haphazardly as any effort to brake causes immediate skidding. The better time we make here the more we increase our chances of completing the circuit before weather moves in. We refill our packs for the second time when we reach the bottom of MacKinder's valley where a river takes glacier melt away from the peaks.

We installed filters in our packs and drank from mountain streams

We follow the trail down this valley till we can see MacKinders hut and smell the kerosine stoves preparing stews for the guided expeditions. Just before reaching camp we follow a branch of the trail which climbs up the south side of the valley. I find myself involuntarily stopping to rest too often. The sun feels like it is microwaving us, it's rays somehow magnified by the whispy cloud cover brewing above. We check the map multiple times as we pass between Hut tarn and Nanyuki tarn. Confident of our route around the north side of Batian and Nelion we push on into a dense fog. We scramble across black ledges built for giants. Up and over scree covered ridges running off the peaks then back down across more ledges.

Climbing towards the peak circuit trail, MacKinders hut in background.

My head feels as though it has a stake running straight through it. The physical manifestation of this sheer pain forces me to squint my eyes and reach for something to hang to. The world around me dims and brightens, spins and shakes. We climb up towards Hausberg col, a sandy slope where every step forward slides your foot back to where it started. Progress seems impossible like running on a hamster wheel while someone hits you on the head with a hammer. Eventually somehow, I hear Steve ahead saying it's close. The ground begins to level off and sure enough we stammer across the top. I want to sit and weep and sleep but my legs know better. They simply continue over the far side and begin descending into the high bogs above Shipton's hut. We lose our route than find it again multiple times passing through a misty marsh with astute Senecio keniodendron growing around us.

Descending the far side of Hausberg Col

Shipton's is now bustling with activity. Porters and cooks are washing vegetables, setting up tables, and preparing accommodations for the tourists who will arrive here later in the day. They will stay a night or two before climbing to Lenana. We pass a group of them on the trail below camp. One of the guides who knew about our attempt, was curious whether we were successful. The group congratulated us and shook our hands as we passed. It doesn't matter to me if no one in the world knows what we set out to do, but it felt nice that someone was genuinely excited for us to accomplish our goal.

Steve descending to Shipton's, Batian and Nelion in background

Back down on the trail we ascended earlier in the day my headache begins to substantially subside. The clouds turn into heavy mist and we stop to put on jackets. Guides and tourists marching solemnly through the highlands gaze curiously up at us from under their gortex hoods when we run by, ready to be done with it all.

Mist turns to light rain as we reach the final miles

Winding back through the marsh my mind wanders over and over how far we've come from the initial brainstorm of an idea to actually completing the run! It was hard to imagine anything being so satisfying and surprising. Like finding out you have an extra holiday you weren't expecting. But I know that some kind of stubborn confidence got us there and pushed us through. When your perceived chances of success are very narrow and the work necessary to achieve that success is great, motivation doesn't well up inside you. Sometimes all you can do is tell yourself it can be done, and start making steps in the right direction. As my dad likes to say, "it's never too late to plan ahead."

Old Moses to Mt Kenya circuit route
41k +7875' 7:53:33