The 2016 8,000 Meter ChallengePosted by by Adventure 16 | 10.01.2016
Since 2014, I have participated with the Adventure 16 team three times in the Mark Fulton 8000 Meter Challenge (MC). In my rookie year, I finished Mt Baldy in 2 hours that is an outstanding time especially in order to complete all 3 peaks. During the drive down the winding Baldy road and heading over to San Gorgonio, I got intensely carsick that lasted for the next several hours. As I began my hike up via Vivian Creek to the San Gorgonio summit, I vomited multiple times. I thought summiting any mountain would be impossible. However, I was miraculously cured with some medicinal herbs from a friend. Thereafter, I was able to summit San Gorgonio and San Jacinto thus finishing my 8000 MC rookie year in about 20 hours.
Now as an A16 alumnus, I considered signing up for the 2016 8000 MC. However, I wanted to do something different. I decided to experience the challenge from the sidelines and support a new class of A16er rookies and veterans who would take on the three highest SoCal peaks. Kyle Moran, another former A16er 8000 MC participant, joined me as we took the role of shuttle drivers, support crew, and all around cheerleaders.
On the day of the race Kyle and I woke up at 4 a.m. to rally the team. After we saw the team off, we fell asleep for a brief nap. Immediately after waking up we were startled by Hugh, an A16 rookie team member. He was crossing the Baldy finish line way faster than we had expected. He was in 5th place! We instantly knew that Hugh was going to kill this year’s challenge. Shortly after Hugh arrived, another A16er participant, Emilio, crossed the Baldy finish gate. Since Emilio was driving, he and Hugh carpooled to the next mountain, San Gorgonio. As the rest of the team crossed the Baldy finish gate, Kyle or I would shuttle A16 team members over to the trailhead at San Gorgonio. As I drove down Baldy road to San Gorgonio, the team rested their legs as well as ate and drank like animals (luckily this time no vomiting).
Mt. San Gorgonio is by far the longest leg and must enduring part of the race, aka the ENDURANCE BEAST. So while Kyle and I waited in the parking lot, we relaxed, had a couple cold ones, down a few hot dogs all the while thinking to myself “I’m sooo glad I’m not doing this”. Shortly thereafter Hugh walks up. He finished San Gorgonio in a staggeringly fast time. However, he was left without a ride. At this point Kyle and I made the joint decision to dedicate a single car to Hugh and try to aid him in getting the best result. So, I quickly jumped in my car and shuttled Hugh to the last mountain, San Jacinto.
At the Tramway San Jacinto Ranger Station, A16er John Mead and friends organized a kitchen to offer all challengers some much needed hot and salty soup. My thought again was, “I am so glad I’m not doing this”. The soup kitchen crew shared their 8000 MC moniker, “your pain is our pleasure”. For the first time, I relaxed and watched the challengers pass by the kitchen on their way to their last summit. I enjoyed serving soup to four A16ers who made the last tram up to hike the final peak. With enough daylight, Hugh ran up and down from the summit to the soup kitchen. I checked him in as the overall 5th finisher, the fastest A16er in 8MC history and a Kiwi finisher. Seconds later, Emilio ran up to beat the tram down time that he and I had done the previous year. As darkness fell, I checked in many challengers but no sign from our last two. I didn’t feel obligated to stay awake all night, so I went to sleep with the hope that our team members will make it down safely. When I woke up the next morning, I found out that our last two finishers came in around 1 a.m. in exactly 20 hours! The same time when I first did the race!
Later that morning, we all joyfully celebrated breakfast beers at the Tramway overlook of Palm Springs. What a great event, what a great group of people, and how inspiring to watch them (even those who didn’t finish) to push their limits and give all that they could. However, I’m so glad I didn’t have to do it!