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rstoddard24
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Joined: 30 Dec 2016
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rstoddard24
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BBQWingz
PostMon Apr 01, 2019 7:16 pm 
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Olympic Coast UPWC Route

March 30-31, 2019

New FKT – 16:42

Dave Swoish and Ryan Stoddard

Ryan’s Strava link; Dave’s Strava link

Summary:
Dave and I left from Shi Shi TH at noon on Saturday, running south and arriving at Oil City TH at 4:42am for a new fastest time of 16:42. Our strategy involved using the lowest tide cycle to make all crossings from Point of Arches to Cape Johnson in a single low tide, then use the next mid-low tide in the early morning to make Diamond Rock Crossing. This plan involved two crossings at ~2ft above recommended level but they went smooth for us. Read on to learn more (I included many details perhaps only interesting to those attempting the route):

The Route
Washington has ~60 miles of protected wilderness coastline on the Olympic Coast from Shi Shi Beach in the North to Oil City in the South. To quote Adventures Northwest magazine: "This epic coastline can be hiked in three separate traverses...With some logistical heroics you could do the whole thing in one glorious shot." In 2014, Heather Anderson proposed the entire section as an Ultrapedestrian Wilderness Challenge Route and it has since been completed by a dozen or so runners. Most have been blocked by at least 1 high tide and thus completion times in the 24-30hr range are typical. This route isn’t your ordinary 60 mile trail run – actually less than 5% of the route is nice running trail. The route is mostly beach running – and although there is some firm sand to be found for nice running, more often there is soft sand, mushy sand, pebbles/gravel, medium rocks, boulders, or kelp and algae covered tidelands. There are also some overland trails to bypass some impassible cliffy headlands – accessing these trails often requires using ropes and ladders to climb eroding bluffs, and then the trails themselves are notoriously muddy. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the route is timing the tides – many of the headland crossings have no passable overland routes and require a low tide to cross on the beach. Trying to blaze your own overland route thru bushes and cliffs is not a great option – previous FKT holder (John Barrickman – 18:00) did just this to bypass Diamond Rock; he is vague on the details but says he “could have died” and this was the “worst decision of his life”.

I was intrigued due to the unique timing elements of this route and because it is a nice long route that can be completed at any time while mountain adventure routes are still under feet of snow. Dave and I matched schedules on this weekend which had an OK but not perfect tide pattern – we had only 1 low-low tide (1.2’ min) to work with, and the other was just a mid-low tide (going down to 3.7’ min). Also, the low-low tide occurred in the afternoon, which meant leaving at noon and doing the entire South coast in the dark.

North Beach
We left Seattle after work Fri, camping along the way at Lyre River campground. Kristin and Kelli came along for the adventure, there were down to help us out with the car shuttle and then get in a 20mi training run themselves in the Hoh rainforest while we did our thing (thanks so much you two!!!) Saturday we fueled up at Café by the Bay in Sekiu while making final preparations, then we were dropped off at Shi Shi in time for our casual noon start time

Awesome Breakfast!
Awesome Breakfast!
looking fresh
looking fresh
Dave's kit. So much candy!
Dave's kit. So much candy!

The North section is very exciting because there is some time pressure. Point of Arches requires 4.5’ tide then at mile 27.7 Cape Johnson requires a 4’ tide. Our schedule required us to average very close to 4mph to make it past Cape Johnson in time. The strategy was to run ~6 mph on sand and then just move efficiently through the rocky sections that were impossible to run.

The trail to Shi Shi beach was some of the best trail running on the route. We got to the beach and the excitement hit. What a day to be alive! Wild coast ahead with fresh ocean breeze – today is going to be a good day. The Point of Arches crossing and Will point overland trail are kinda slow, but other than that the first 10 miles are fast. Hard sand and good running – stretch out the legs and put some miles behind you while you still can!

trail to Shi Shi
trail to Shi Shi
stoked to be at the beach
stoked to be at the beach
get a move on while you still can
get a move on while you still can
Point of Arches crossing
Point of Arches crossing

The Ozette river crossing was refreshing, then the next section until Cape Alava has slow rocks and gives a nice preview of whats to come wink.gif The real fun begins at Yellow Banks – the section between Yellow Banks and Ceder creek is about 6 miles of straight rocks. Doing all the rock hopping made this feel more like a mountain run than I was expecting wink.gif We just kept moving and arrived at Ceder creek at still above 4mph average!

Ozette River ford
Ozette River ford
one of the optional overland crossings cut off some distance
one of the optional overland crossings cut off some distance
Makah Ranger station
Makah Ranger station
some tidelands
some tidelands
lots of random beach crap
lots of random beach crap
some of the "medium rocks"
some of the "medium rocks"
sometimes there were choices for which type of rocks
sometimes there were choices for which type of rocks
tidelands
tidelands
"trail running"
"trail running"

The next section was probably the highlight – the sun was getting low and the beauty of the coast was incredible. We made the Cape Johnson crossing at 6:39pm (47 min to spare!) and took a lot of photos! Cape Johnson area to Hole in the Wall is also slow travel, but only about a 3mi section. After hole in the wall is a pebbly beach – we ran it but it was laborious and slow. Right before Rialto we ran into a rave! Complete with huge speakers, DJ, lights, and about 20 people ha. I was happy to make it to Rialto before headlamp time - we took a longer break where I ate half of my burrito.

finally on sand again
finally on sand again
refilling water at Ceder Creek
refilling water at Ceder Creek
Cape Johnson in sight!
Cape Johnson in sight!
Hole in the Wall
Hole in the Wall

South Section
The route includes a ~9mi road section to connect Rialto TH with Third Beach TH using the bridge over the unfordable Quillayute River. I was not looking forward to this section (no shoulder and fast cars) but we kept the pace casual and it was fine. Many of the previous route completers mentioned stopping for burgers at the Three Rivers Resort, but this was not an option for us since we passed at 9:15pm and they were closed.
The South coast has a different character than the North. The beaches are predominantly easy travel, and they are separated by impassible headlands with long overland trails. Early on we met some dude who was high on something. Shouting with no headlamp on, just enjoying some solo time on the coast. Dave is less awkward than I and chatted with the high dude, told him we were headed to Oil City and the high dude said he was rooting for us!

The sky had cleared, stars were out, and the night was completely still except the rhythmic crashing of the waves. Occasionally we passed some backpackers relaxing by their fires who probably thought we were weird. We weren’t in a hurry at this point – maintaining 4 mph would put us at Diamond Rock at 2am, which was 1 hour before the earliest we wanted to attempt a crossing. We walked some of the beaches and all of the uphills on the overland trails.

The South coast is actually pretty easy to travel at night, just need to find the overland trails, and I had previously loaded waypoints for them on Gaia. We did get turned around at the first Goodman creek crossing (falls creek) – there was a huge blowdown on the opposite shore and it took us awhile to find the trail again (probably lost 15 min).

typical South section overland trail entrance/exit
typical South section overland trail entrance/exit

The first question mark for us was the 4’ “Nameless point” crossing between Scott’s Bluff and Strawberry point. Brad (holder of the Only Known Time for the Olympic Coast yo-yo) told us that he doesn’t remember this headland at all and thinks we would be fine to pass during high tide. Looking at the satellite image (during planning), I did find a rock that seemed that it could cause a short pinch point at some high tide level, and I added a waypoint. We crossed this section at 11:43pm when the tide was ~6.5’ and it was super easy. There definitely was a short pinch point, but I think it could have been passible even with ~2’ higher water level (so basically at any normal tide level). This is very interesting since some of the North coast crossings seemed tight even at recommended crossings – 4.5’ seemed to be an appropriate limit for Point of Arches, and we crossed Hole in the Wall at a little below recommended 5’ and still had to time the waves to make a crossing on rocks above the water level.

Diamond Rock was always the biggest question mark for us. Everybody who has hiked along the coast said this was a tight section, and we would be crossing in darkness at 3-4am after running almost 60mi. The map says 2’ required but that is not possible for us, we only have a mid-low tide with 3.7’ minimum tide, and the next 2’ tide isn’t until 3pm Sunday. Brad said he thought we could make it at 4’ tide. On the satellite image, it seemed that there was one rock creating the 2’ pinch point (I added a waypoint) and then after that there was just a tight coast section without a specific pinch point. We finished the Hoh head overland trail (which seemed like it took forever) at 3:20am and took a break to eat some snacks and collect ourselves before attempting the Diamond Rock crossing. Our excitement grew as we crossed Jefferson Cove – our headlamps reflected on the cliffy shadows ahead, with the waves crashing as we ventured on into the unknown. Since the tide minimum was at 4:23am, we knew up until this point we could always turn back if things weren’t going well. Sure enough, my 2’ pinch point waypoint marked the tightest crossing point along the route. The rocks were underwater when the waves broke but above in between waves. We timed the waves and stayed dry. We crossed probably at 3.9’, and I think much higher would have been tricky. Even if you are willing the get your feet wet – if the rocks you need are underwater it is basically impossible to see where to go and you can get in a bad situation.

The rest of the Diamond rock crossing was slow but there were not really any other tight sections at this water level. We overshot the exit trail somehow (super confusing here – I was using Hoh mouth as a backstop but the delta has a weird formation). We ran the final 0.6mi to the TH and finished at 4:42am for a new fastest time!

What a wild coastline we have.
Thanks Dave for such a great time, for a safe trip, and for sharing snacks!!
Huge thanks to Kelli and Kristin for help with the Car shuttle and everything else!
Also thanks to Brad for all of the beta
photo credit to Dave for all of the good photos

Stats:
~59mi, ~3700’
16:42

Other useful info:

Check out caltopo map for route planning and if you want to download waypoints or our track. I also included some of the prominent water locations (really water is pretty plentiful on the route)

Check out the ayvri scene which you can see our pace for different sections

The NPS deliberately withholds specific tide information so folks will buy the Custom Correct maps. This really bugs me – I think it should be publically available. I bought the maps just for planning, not intending to use for navigation. Here are the photos of the maps you can use for planning (download and zoom in):


We also used Brad’s tide planning worksheet – find a link in files on the UPWC Facebook page

This route is interesting because better fitness won’t necessarily get you a faster time – faster runners would likely just find themselves waiting at Diamond rock. I think the time could be pushed down to 16hrs using our similar strategy, but starting a little later in the tide cycle (giving yourself even more time pressure to pass Cape Johnson) then being ready at the Diamond rock pinch point when it is good to cross. Going much below 16 hours would be tricky I think without dicey crossings.
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iron
getting old



Joined: 10 Aug 2008
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iron
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getting old
PostMon Apr 01, 2019 8:41 pm 
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awesome!

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man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?

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awilsondc
Scramblin' Fool



Joined: 03 Apr 2016
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awilsondc
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Scramblin' Fool
PostMon Apr 01, 2019 8:47 pm 
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rocker.gif Pretty incredible fellas... hats off to you!  Thanks for the write up.  Keep being fast.   agree.gif
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Jake Robinson
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Jake Robinson
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PostMon Apr 01, 2019 8:59 pm 
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Congrats guys! Love your discussion of all the logistics/planning, very helpful info for anyone wanting to try this route. Great photos too!
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Matt Lemke
High on the Outdoors



Joined: 15 Jul 2010
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Matt Lemke
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High on the Outdoors
PostMon Apr 01, 2019 9:15 pm 
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Now that's one cool objective! Nice work guys.

Strava looks like an interesting site... never seen it before

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The Pacific coast to the Great Plains = my playground!!!
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See my website at:
http://www.lemkeclimbs.com
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