Randall Nordfors stood on the 9,131-foot summit of Mount Shuksan, a grin on his face, his right index finger up, his left thumb pointing to snow-covered Mount Baker behind him.
One mountain down. One more to go. It was Saturday, Aug. 13, nearly 10 hours into the 48-year-old Kirkland resident's feat of endurance.
His goal: Bicycle from the Bellingham waterfront up to Heather Meadows Visitor Center. Summit Shuksan and Baker. Bicycle back down to sea level at Bellingham.
He did it. All in one epic push that lasted 33 hours and 29 minutes - with no sleep.
"I really, really enjoy it. It doesn't get much more complicated than that," said Nordfors, a computer programmer, of what motivated him.
Nordfors accomplished his feat within the 34-hour deadline he set for himself.
"I felt that the most I'd want to endure would be 36 hours, so that left me a two-hour buffer in case there were major delays along the way," he explained.
Among the 15 volunteers who helped him last weekend, and the four hired helpers, was his brother Ken Strunk, a Seattle resident.
"I think he's a lunatic," Strunk said with a laugh. "He enjoys pushing his body to the limit. He's an athlete that enjoys the challenge and endorphin rush."
In all, he would ride 103 miles, climb two mountains, plus run or hike 23 miles.
SEA TO SUMMIT
Nordfors' most recent journey from sea to summit and back again can be traced back to July 2008, when he completed a similar "human-powered" adventure.
That was when he biked 81 miles from Olympia to Paradise at Mount Rainier National Park, summited 14,000-foot Rainier, came back down and then pedaled back to Olympia - in less than 20 hours.
Best he knew, and others that Nordfors asked, no one else had managed such a feat.
His reason for mountain summits that actually begin at sea level?
"I like to climb mountains from sea level because that's where I think of mountains as starting," he said.
After that epic bike-climb, Nordfors started to think about other places in the region with similar features - "fairly remote but fairly accessible mountain access from the water," he said.
"Of course, I thought of Mount Baker," Nordfors said.
And with Mount Shuksan nearby, he wondered: "Could I actually do a double summit and do a bike ride?"
What followed in the ensuing years was meticulous planning - from gear, food and hydration to visiting and mapping out the routes - and numerous training sessions that topped out at 15 hours.
"He's extremely dedicated. He trains harder than anyone," said Liam O'Sullivan, a Seattle mountain guide who graduated from Western Washington University.
O'Sullivan, the guide for Nordfors when he pushed for Rainier, also noted Nordfors' obsessive approach to planning every detail.
"You can't underestimate how hard he works to prepare for these things," O'Sullivan said.
But for those who might think it so, O'Sullivan said Nordfors' quests shouldn't be seen as eccentric.
"I think we find meaning in challenging ourselves, focusing on a goal and experiencing that with other people," he explained. "Some people do that by doing a triathlon, some people do it by going on a simple hike or walk."
For Nordfors, who used to cycle competitively as an amateur racer, the challenge was in an adventure even bigger than Olympia to Rainier and back.
And one of his own making.
"I'm not aware of anyone else ever attempting to do what I did," Nordfors said. "This was an endeavor of my own design, and was not part of a competition or sponsored by a charity."
His feat of endurance began Saturday, Aug. 13, at 5 a.m., when he got on his bicycle at the bottom of F Street on the waterfront.
He pedaled up to Heather Meadows - traveling about 58 miles in three hours and 33 minutes. Normally, he would ride about 1 or 2 miles per hour faster on the last eight miles uphill, Nordfors said, but he was "saving some in the tank for the remaining 30 hours of my journey."
From there he hiked to the Lake Ann trailhead on his way to Fisher Chimneys and the summit of Shuksan, which he reached about 2:45 p.m.
Then he retraced his steps, dropping back down to Heather Meadows, before heading back up to Camp Kiser, the base camp for those ascending the difficult side, or the Park Glacier route, on Mount Baker.
At base camp, Nordfors was greeted by six volunteers who hiked seven miles in from their cars to cheer him on and bring in food and all new climbing gear for the Baker climb.
He reached the 10,781-foot summit of Mount Baker at 8 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 14.
The Mount Baker ascent on that route presented its challenges, one of which came in the form of a bergschrund - a type of crevasse.
"It's this big one that stretches all the way across, near the top of the mountain. It's always there and it always poses a threat to being able to pass it," Nordfors said. "It was not only scary but it also was nerve-wracking for me because we could've failed at that point."
But the professional mountain guides he hired through Pro Guiding Service to keep him safe found a way for him to pass the bergschrund, he said.
Another challenge during the Baker portion was the thick fog that rolled in, obscuring the full moon and making route-finding difficult, until they climbed above the cloud cover.
From Baker's summit, Nordfors descended via the Coleman-Deming route, then changed into running shoes and ran down to the Heliotrope trailhead, where he jumped on one of the four bicycles - a mountain bike - he brought for the journey and pedaled to Glacier.
From there, he switched to a road bike, rode hard back down the Mount Baker Highway and ended at F Street.
It was about 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon.
Friends and family were waiting for him. There were high fives.
"I was feeling pretty euphoric for a time," Nordfors said.
Two hours later - and at the end of one very long adventure - Nordfors fell asleep, in the car on the way home.