High in Colorado

High in Colorado
Photo: Mandy Lea Photo

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Week(s) in Review: February 11-17 and February 4-10

Week in Review: February 11-17

Monday, February 11th
AM—6 Miles—1:03—1,400’—Laguna Capri
I started out at a very mellow pace. Eventually I caught up with my friends Chris and Utaw hiking and Chris started to run alongside me. I decided to run a little harder to see how long he could hang out, which was fun. When I turned onto the trail for Laguna Capri I picked up the pace a bit as well and started knocking out some ~6:30 min/mile pace. Pretty casual on the way back down due to an obscene amount of people on the trail.

Tuesday, February 12th
PM—14 Miles—2:45—4,000’—Mirador Loma del Plieque Tumbado
Legs felt pretty good today at the ascent. I stopped by the park ranger station to make sure I was getting on the correct trail. The ranger said I was and that it would take 4 hours one-way. When I told her it would take less than 3 hours roundtrip she gave me the requisite you’re-full-of-shit look that I’ve come to expect from park rangers anywhere. I love this look because upon my return I always get the well-I’ll-be-damned-I-guess-you-were-telling-the-truth look. Once I hit the main climb to the Mirador I couldn’t really do anything but power hike to the top due to frigid, high winds and freezing rain/snow. It was strangely warm on the summit of the Mirador considering how cold it was on the way up there. Not really any good views today due to snow in the “high” country.

Wednesday, February 13th   
PM—6 Miles—1:39—2,600’—Local Trails to Cordon de los Condores
More exploring of the local trails that fruit & veggie girl told me about. Found another climb up to the top of Cordon de los Condores. In all, I did three big ascents. Everything was at a slow and steady pace since it was cold and rainy.

Thursday, February 14th
PM—13 Miles—2:18—2,100’—Fitz Roy Trail, Transition Trail, Laguna Torre
Nice run. Bad weather. Windy, cold, rainy, and just generally unpleasant. There were several times during the run that I contemplated pushing on towards Laguna de los Tres. Just about the time this though crept into my mind the wind and rain would pick up significantly and change my mind. Fortunately for me this happened right at the trail junction where I had to decide whether to push on to Laguna de los Tres or veer onto the Transition Trail to Laguna Torre. So I took the Transition Trail. Probably pissed off a few hikers today by passing them on the berm of the trail, but they wouldn’t get out of the way no matter how many times I said “permiso.” So, they had it coming. Trail etiquette is something that just doesn’t seem to exist in South America…

Friday, February 15th
AM—5 Miles—1:11—1,000’—Local Trails to Cordon de los Condores
Decided to take it easy today with the crappy weather. The climb up to Cordon de los Condores was just power hiking for 75% of the way due to slippery conditions with the drizzle coming down. About halfway through my stomach fell apart and I had to walk a good portion of the return trip.

Saturday, February 16th           
PM—18 Miles—5:49—5,700’—Loma del Pligue Tumbado, Paso de las Agachonas, Laguna Toro Trail
I got the idea for this outing by studying the topo map of the area with the intent of finding some sweet traverses that would get me away from the masses. My legs felt pretty crappy from the moment I started the first ascent. So it was a bit of a struggle for the first few hours until I reached the Mirado Loma del Pligue Tumbado where I began the ridgeline traverse. As expected, the traverse took a lot longer than it really should have due to route finding. There are several opportunities to begin descending early before the pass. Who knows if these would be better routes? I was patient and hung around the ridge until I actually reached the pass, which allowed for a rather smooth descent for the first half or so. Eventually I reached a super steep scree slope traverse, which just sucked (probably because there was a 20-feet drop off into a shallow stream waiting for me if I lost balance and rolled downhill). Without-a-doubt, the worst part of the day was the 2+ hour bushwhack through dense forest to connect with the main trail between El Chalten and Laguna Toro. After the bushwhack I was ready to put the next 8 miles behind me and get back to town for a beer.  

Sunday, February 17th
PM—10 Miles—1:45—2,000’—Loma del Pligue Tumbado Trail and Mirador Aguilas
My body was pretty sore and tired after yesterday so I decided to take it pretty easy today. I headed up the same trail as yesterday towards the Loma del Pligue Tumbado, but stopped about 3 miles short of the Mirador at the junction with the trail that goes to Laguna Toro. I didn’t really feel like doing another 2,000+ feet of climbing today especially with a frigid wind that I was unprepared to handle. After running back down to the ranger station I decided to see if my tired legs could handle a little more climbing. So I headed up to Mirador Aguilas, a short 1.5-mile segment with 800 feet or so of vertical. My legs felt surprisingly good on this climb so I just cruised on up and spent 10 minutes or so admiring the panorama of Cerro Solo, Cerro Torre, and the Fitz Roy massif. Of course, I forgot my camera on the day that they are all visible at the same time...

Time—16hours 30minutes
Elevation Gain— 18,800 feet

This was really just my second week of true running in a long time, but it felt great. I can tell that my progress is coming along pretty quick. I only added about 12 more miles onto my weekly total from last week, but in those 12 miles I covered another 8,300 feet of vertical more than last week.

I’m planning at least one, but possibly two more hard weeks of running in El Chalten before moving onto Puerto Natales, Chile in preparation for running the Torres del Paine circuit. My preliminary plan is the hike/run the circuit in 2-5 days as a scouting trip before heading out to cover the entire 120-130 km in (hopefully) less than 20 hours. The current speed record is something around 17 hours 37 minutes, I think. I managed to sneak enough Vi Fuel through customs to get me through this big run and possibly the shorter 54-kilometer Dientes de Navarino circuit further south. We’ll see…

Week in Review: February 4-10

Monday, February 4th
PM—12 Miles—2:01—1,650’—Laguna Torre in El Chalten, Argentina
Nice and easy little “welcome to El Chalten” run. Pretty amazing view of Laguna Torre with Cerro Torre in the backdrop.

Tuesday, February 5th  
PM—5 Miles—0:45—450’—Chorillo del Salto in El Chalten, Argentina
Flat run along a gravel road for most of the way. Cruiser singletrack for the last ¼ of the way ending at an amazing 15-meter high waterfall. Bit of a dark and gloomy day.

Wednesday, February 6th   
AM—5 Miles—0:52—450’—Chorillo del Salto
Beautiful, sunny morning, which added significantly to the aesthetic appeal of the waterfall. Very relaxed early morning run.

Thursday, February 7th   
PM—15 Miles—3:27—3,500’—Laguna de los Tres in El Chalten, Argentina
The run started with a moderate climb for the first 2-3 miles before mellowing out to rolling terrain for the next few miles. The final 1.5 miles or so was a steep, lose climb cluttered with loads of hikers, which made for slow going uphill and even slower going downhill so as not to tackle an unsuspecting hiker and knock them down the hill.

Friday, February 8th   
AM—6 Miles—1:22—1,300’—Chorillo del Salto
Tough run to the waterfall in some brutal winds. I took a trail to the top of the waterfall then followed the river for a mile or so before bushwhacking/scrambling my way to connect with the Fitz Roy trails. I ran the Fitz Roy trail back to the campground in town.

Saturday, February 9th          
PM—14 Miles—2:52—2,150’—Laguna Capri, Bushwack to Transition Trail, Laguna Torre
I noticed a little trail on the map that connects Laguna Capri with the Transition Trail between the Fitz Roy trails and the Laguna Torre Trail. So I decided to take it. I’m not really sure if I was on the correct trail, but it turned into a nasty bushwhack in places. When I finally reached a distinguishing landmark I realized that I was much farther ahead than anticipated. Seems that I somehow made my way onto the Transition Trail without realizing. I held a reasonable pace on the runnable terrain and felt pretty good throughout the day.

Sunday, February 10th   
AM—3 Miles—1:11—1,000’—Local Trails to Cordon de los Condores
My legs were sore so I decided to keep it short and simple today. The cute girl at the fruit and veggie store told me about a local trail to the top of Cordon de los Condores so I figured I would check it out. Turns out the trail is steep as shit. I mean STEEP. At the top there are some great views of El Chalten with Cerro Solo, Cerro Torre, and the Fitz Roy massif all in the background. Well worth the effort.

Time—12hours 31minutes
Elevation Gain— 10,500 feet

After spending four days or so in transition from Bariloche to El Chalten I was ecstatic to be greeted with what I assume is unusual weather for the area. Most of my runs were done in shorts and without a shirt, which I figured was odd based on stories I heard regarding the horrendous winds, rains, etc. This was my first week of any significant running since the middle of November. So, naturally I took things pretty easy. Yes, I had quite a few outings while in Bariloche, but none of them really included much sustained running. In Bariloche I would run for maybe 20-30 minutes, scramble in the mountains for a few hours, and then run another 20-30 minutes. This was extremely fun, but didn’t really allow me to make any significant gains in fitness. Regardless, I think the time in Bariloche was a great way to break my “winter hibernation” period without over-doing anything.

In one week I’ve already covered a significant amount of the major trails in El Chalten and even started exploring some local trails and doing a bit of bushwhacking to connect trails. It seems to me that you would have to be a bit of an idiot to get lost here with all of the recognizable summits and terrain that allow for getting your bearing.

I’m definitely looking forward to the next few weeks here as I gain the fitness needed to tackle the ~120-130 kilometer Torres del Paine circuit and “W” route. 

Fitz Roy massif

Laguna Torre with Cerro Torre in the Background
Chorillo del Salto on a cool, crisp morning. Photo doctored up a bit in SnapSeed.

Fitz Roy massif with Laguna de los Tres in the foreground. Bluest water I've ever seen in my life...

View of El Chalten and the Fitz Roy massif from the Cordon de los Condores

View from near Loma del Pligue Tumbado on a crappy weather day with poor visibility

View from near Loma del Pligue Tumbado on a crappy weather day with great visibility

Paso de las Agachonas shortly before 2+ hour of bushwhacking commenced. Wearing almost all of the warm running clothing I brought with me in this photo.