Monday, August 12, 2013

Decisively Dirtbag: Vol 1 Footwear Repair

*Please read to the bottom as I have updated this post after trying out the regular shoes* 9/15/13

I consider myself to be a pretty resourceful and thrifty person. These attributes have been honed as a result of the dirtbag lifestyle. As I have been living day to day and going through the rigors of life on the road I have realized that there are certain lessons learned that I would like to share. As a result I plan to do little installments on how to make ends meet. Give me a toothpick and a chewed up wad of bubble gum and I will give you a can opener. Modern day MacGyver but instead of the flowing man mane think bitching beard.

After summiting Huron Peak today I have 30 rocks to my climbing cairn. I would say notches in something but there isn't much wood around over 14,000 feet. With that many miles and vertical feet my shoes have all but started to implode. Any sane person would have already retired my one pair of trail shoes and truth be told I almost wrote them off as well. With two gaping holes and a chunk torn out of the sole in one shoe alone I made my hiking boots the primary pair. Alas, existing minor damage quickly exacerbates into full blown carnage while hiking for hours on end on a daily basis. As I quickly approached the point of no return with my footwear I decided it was time to resurrect. Below are the before surgery photos.

I had seen and heard of Shoe Goo but never used the product personally. I was down to try just about anything that was cheap and readily available so I picked some up at the local hardware store and went to town. After two seconds of looking around on the ground I found a handy dandy applicator.

This stuff is potent. They say to use in a well ventilated area, listen to that advice. Otherwise you're going to be baking out whatever room you're in like the bad kid in class back in 7th grade. Clean out all the nooks and crannies of what is getting glued together, you don't want to be sealing in any rocks and debris. This also makes for cleaner surfaces for the glue to work with. Next, you don't want to put gratuitous amounts on in one setting. Apply thin coats that dry faster. You can make multiple layers to build up thickness and strength.

I did this to help save the sides from grazing rocks while stepping down. I was beginning to shave off the leather and had a couple of decent gouges. It's not pretty, but this is dirtbag footwear 101. Next, I addressed the major concerns one at a time.

Be sure to weight your work down so the seams of the tear will bond together properly. I put this paper towel here so the goo wouldn't stick and dry to the rock. Here in the Colorado with low humidity and near perfect daytime curing temperatures these thin layers dried very quickly.

My state of the art drying station

The toes of the boots required a bit more TLC while fixing. I managed to groundscore this wire from a trailhead parking lot. Hell yeah.

And after several passes with the goo and sufficient drying time your gear will look like this.

I repaired the large tear on the toe of my trail shoes with a patch of pants material salvaged from my blown out pair of Mountain Khakis. I would have salvaged them as well but they were too far gone for my sewing skills. I knew they would come in handy.

I used the boots today and everything held together just fine. Only the test of time will really tell though.

*UPDATE* 9/15/13 - The tests of time have been told at this point. My regular trail shoes got kicked aside after this attempt to salvage them. There were several unpleasant pressure points due to the location of the necessary repairs. I knew that this was a risk but like I mentioned earlier, it was trying this or the trashcan. In hindsight the application over the spot where the tread was torn off would have been fine. Also, I have used the smallest sized zip ties on fabric holes and tears at the seams on a similar pair of Merrels I owned in the past. With that particular repair I never got any pressure points and the shoes lasted for several months after that. I salvaged the shoe laces to use for my food bag string and then promptly sent them off to that great big dumpster in the sky.

My boots have held up rather well after the goo. It certainly breathed some new life into them after all. After hiking every day and having the boots exposed to the extra UV light at elevation the goo started to flake and peel off. It started first on the sides and then moved in towards the more critical parts on the toes. Monsoon season came about and ended up being an unusually longer and wetter one compared to my past summers in Colorado. The goo packs a powerful punch to the nostrils and there was no way I was going to try and apply this stuff and then have the boots hanging out in the car with me when I'm ducking out of the rain. The first application lasted around 3 weeks. I put some more on but it pretty much laughed its way off after a couple of wet, mucky days. My boots are sad ghosts of their former selves. Floppy bits of shoe goo are hanging off with mismatched laces and they are still wet from two days ago with trail juices undoubtedly starting to ferment inside. My feet are sad some days after miles of hiking but the home stretch is in sight and these guys will carry me across the finish line. The moral of this story is that even when you think equipment is done for you can still get resourceful and creative and keep on trucking.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Leadville and Sherman 7/1 - 7/3/13

I need to backpeddle from the end of my previous post just a bit. Leadville is certainly a mountain oddity in it's own right and deserves a little limelight. It is as close to the original wild west that you can find in an existing city. It is an old mining town that never fully succumbed to the faster pace of today's modern era. I spent a very good amount of time working there with my previous job and grew to understand and gain a healthy appreciation for it. There is a myriad of unique individuals and characters that call Leadville home. If you live there it is because that town is exactly what you were looking for. To live at 10,200 feet you have to be a bit odd yourself. With this in mind the architecture reflects the eccentricities that you will find in its populace. There are old mine shacks, victorian style houses, and modern construction to be found all sitting next to one another. What really sets this area apart from the rest though is the abundance of mining ruins that are speckled throughout the town and especially on the outskirts. In my ramblings all around the city and surrounding area I certainly learned where to look. After burning myself out climbing 4 peaks in one day I wanted to get out somewhere and just take it easy. With this in mind I headed up to the hills above Leadville where the only structures around are at least a century old. I found a good spot to park and was able to catch the departure of the sun as it cruised out of sight.

I didn't make a fuss about staying up, I was dead tired. I made a nest in the back of the wagon and promptly passed out. I was in no hurry at all and woke up only when the sun wouldn't let me sleep any longer. I remember this morning in particular because it was the first time that I used my camp stove. Fortunately enough I had been gifted a nice dual fuel campstove from a client in Alma months before. I had an unfair bias against it because I had used it in haste once before and never learned its subtleties. Little did I know at the time how I would grow to rely on it after many days of use. I made some breakfast and it was by far the best I had had in a long time. If cooking's best ingredient is hunger, I had it in spades. The novelty of being out in the cut and frying up some bacon and eggs didn't get by me and I took my time cooking and eating. Nualla was very interested but no such luck.

I spent the majority of the day trying to write entries for this blog but I usually have a difficult time maintaining the proper focus to make worthwhile entries. I've never been accused of having ADD but you would certainly think so if you saw me trying to take care of something that needed getting done. I will do just about anything else in lieu of the task at hand. Hours went by and both Nualla and I spent more time watching a little critter next to the car digging around in the dirt than actually writing. You can only sit in any one spot for so long though and I wanted to explore the surrounding area.

Nualla liked a nice shady spot when we weren't in the car.
Not much exploring found us near an old run down shack.

With some tasteful graffiti...

After a sufficient amount of time killed wandering around and trying to write it started getting into the late afternoon. As if on cue Mother Nature told me that I had overstayed my welcome and mosquitoes came out of the woodwork and descended on me. I took it as a sign to once again grace civilization with our presence and went to the grocery store to stock up a bit and hang out. On the way back down into town though I stopped to take a couple of quick pictures of some of the more prominent ruins.

In typical fashion I drug my feet getting my act together and finding my way to the trailhead. I only started making moves in that direction after the sun had set. It just wouldn't be climbing a 14er for me if there wasn't some second guessing in the dark involved. I eventually knew I was in the general vicinity but still managed some back and forth maneuvering up and down the road. I decided against stressing too much about being RIGHT at the trailhead and instead found a decent area on the side of the road to park for the night. When I awoke in the morning I was greeted by this sign near the car.
I must be close
Worried about Nualla's paws I had purchased a particularly spendy pair of dog booties in the hopes of sparing her pads any more abuse from the trails. She cooperated well enough with me trying to put them on, but not without protest. 

Do not want.
I tried my best to get them on there. As much as she had a learning curve getting around with them on I had one as well trying to keep them on. Two or three times she lost one while tearing around back and forth along the trail. Luckily enough she only managed to fling one off on the trail itself and not in some scruffy thicket. She got her legs underneath her right as I finally figured out exactly how tight to put them on. After burning more daylight than necessary we made our way from the Mount Sherman trailhead through the valley towards the summit.

We didn't get far before seeing some new and unique flora.

As with all summits a climb was inevitable and soon we were greeted with a steep and steady ascent towards the saddle between Mount Sherman and White Ridge. Once at the saddle there were nice views of the backside from the traditional Sherman approach and also from the Iowa Gulch side. 

Once at the saddle it was only a matter of bearing down and trudging up the meandering trail through the scree to the summit. At the top I was treated to a nice view of Leadville, Turquoise Lake, and Mount Massive.

Just past the summit lie two twin peaks with almost identical elevations, Gemini Peaks. They are on the list of Colorado's highest 100 peaks and were irresistably close so they got climbed as well. I always seem to remember exactly how close "close" is when I'm halfway to the next summit. Even though it might not look like it's far it still seems like a minor undertaking. Once down from the summit of Sherman I had to cross a rocky expanse lined with fragile tundra. As tempting as it might be to simply tromp across the flat surface you must remain mindful of where you are. This fragile ecosystem can only barely survive the harsh elements and short growing season normally. Throw a couple of indifferent steps in the mix and you are well on your way to just rocks rather than tundra. While crossing such areas I make it a point to only step on rocks.

Gemini Peaks on the way down from Sherman
Closer up, bearing an uncanny resemblance to other things
Crossing the tundra
More flowers dotting around
North Gemini

I had grown a bit worried about the increasing clouds and boogied on back down the trail. I took off Nualla's new kicks for the descent too. The shoes are nice but it's almost a Catch 22 with how tight I have to keep them in order to stay on. She was happy to have her feet emancipated. As I grew nearer to the car and we got back in the valley I paid closer attention to the cliff bands above. Without having to watch for stray dog shoes on the trail I was able appreciate the span of geologic time laying before me. It is humbling to look at something that is a window into millions of years. These cliffs have seen many seasons with many more yet to come.

I had made plans with my buddy Jesse to start chipping away at the Collegiate Peaks in the Sawatch Range. With Sherman bagged I hit the road south towards Buena Vista (pronounced Byoona Vihsta - or Byoony to locals). We were going to start on Mount Yale first in an attempt to climb for five consecutive days. I made my way to the trailhead and found a nice quiet parking lot to hang out in for the night. There was the sound of rushing water nearby that was pleasant to the ears. I made my way through the rocks and trees to the source of the noise, Denny Creek. Fed mostly by snowmelt the water is clear and cold, almost painful to your hand if left in for too long.

With darkness descending I readied for the day ahead. 

Goodnight from 10,000 feet.