High in Colorado

High in Colorado
Photo: Mandy Lea Photo

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Week in Review: June 10-16 -- Life Above Treeline

Monday, June 10th
AM—8 Miles—2:41—3,200’—Grays (14,270’)
David Ponak and I both had tight schedules today. So, we decided to head up Grays and decide on the summit if we had time for Torreys as well. We didn’t. Once I realized that we were taking the trail that connects the saddle to the main Grays Trail I decided to take a direct route straight up through a snow field to the summit of Grays, which was a fun little addition to the usual easy Grays ascent. Legs felt like crap the entire day after taking the last week almost entirely off due to my ankle injury. Casual descent as I babied my ankle the entire way down

Tuesday, June 11th
OFF—Acupuncture, recovery, and preparing for the high country

Wednesday, June 12th
AM—9 Miles—2:34—4,300’—Mt  Elbert (14,433’)
I met with Mike Ambrose and his roommate Ryan with the intent of linking Elbert and Massive together. After a super casual ascent that topped us out in 1:30 Mike and I realized that we didn’t have enough in the tank for Massive. So, we joined a large group of hikers in a quick Harlem Shake video on the summit of Elbert and then headed back down. Mike and Ryan flew while I crawled on my bum ankle. Mike bottomed out in 2:09, which has me excited at our prospects of breaking two hours in the very near future (once I get my ankle healed up). I know we can cut a huge chunk of time off the ascent. 

Thursday, June 13th
AM—10 Miles—4:16—7,350’—Belford (14,197’), Oxford (14,153’), Belford, Pecks Peak (13,270’)
Pretty frigid winds up in the mountains this morning. I put on my base layer and my wind shell about halfway up the ascent of Belford and kept them both on until I got back to the Missouri Gulch trail. The climb up Belford seemed to be an infinite amount of switchbacks that couldn’t end soon enough. The out-and-back to Oxford provided a nice little section of runnable terrain at high elevation. Gerry Roach recommends Pecks Peak as an “extra credit” summit for Belford and says the descent is down steep grassy slopes. Well, maybe there’s grass somewhere, but I sure as hell didn’t find it. My descent was down steep scree, talus, and boulder fields. The extra credit probably added at least an hour (likely more) to my descent versus just going down Belford. Oh well…

Friday, June 14th
AM1—8 Miles—2:20—3,400’—Huron (14,003’)
Started around 5:30 AM with the intent of getting down quickly to go bag Missouri. The climb up was easy, but frigidly cold. I sat on the summit for about 20 minutes taking in the views before pussyfooting along the descent. The smooth, gentle switchbacks below treeline have me eager to get back on this mountain and bomb the descent.
AM2—10 Miles—3:44—4,500’—Missouri Mountain Bailout
Pretty late (10 AM?) start. By the time I reached the ridgeline I was beginning to see some dark clouds. Lightening is probably the thing I’m most scared of in the mountains. So, I bailed on the ascent. I’ll get it next time. 

Saturday, June 15th
AM1—10 Miles—2:49—3,800’—Torreys (14,267’) and Grays (14,270’)
I figured that my 9 AM run with Deb being so close to Grays and Torreys had to be for a reason. That reason was likely so that I could camp near the trailhead and bag Grays and Torreys real quick in the morning before joining her. So I did. I decided to head to the saddle first to summit Torreys and then see if I had time for Grays. I passed a group of three guys from Omaha right before reaching the saddle. Even moving as slow as I was, I was up and down Torreys and up Grays before they were up Torreys. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to comprehend easy 14ers like these being an all-day affair. I made my own way down the face of Grays without ever really being on trail—some scree, talus, snow, the usual. Then once I rejoined the main Grays trail I ran somewhat quickly on a descent for the first time in weeks. Ankle is still a little shaky and swollen, though.
AM2—7 Miles—1:57—1,900’—Grays Trail to Base of the Mountain
Deb and I met at the visitor’s center in Georgetown before heading out for a run. The Protrails website said the trailhead for Herman Lake was north of I-70 on the Bakerville exit. All we found there were some private roads and a bum sleeping in his truck. So we decided to just head up the Grays trail and see how far her un-acclimated lungs, my spent legs, and a late start would allow us to go. We got to the base of the main climb up Grays and noticed some clouds that didn’t make either one of us terribly comfortable. So we turned around. Nice, conversational pace and great company for a run.
PM—3 Miles—1:17—2,000’—Mount Sherman (14,036’)
After some coffee and pizza in Georgetown Deb headed back towards Boulder and I headed up to Alma for more coffee. I spent a few hours in an awesome little coffee shop waiting on some clouds to pass over and determining whether or not to attack Sherman tonight or in the morning. I got to the upper trailhead a little before 7:30 PM and couldn’t help but notice how incredibly close the summit was. Of course, I changed real quick and started heading up on tired legs. Pretty sure I wasn’t really on a trail since I just crawled up a somewhat steep scree slope on all fours until I reached the ridge. From the ridge the rest of the push to the summit was a breeze. The descent was a bi-polar’ish mix of steep glissades down snow slopes (happy!) followed by boulder/talus hopping (ugh…). 

Sunday, June 16th
AM—7 Miles—2:29—3,500’—Decalibron
I had intended on a 5 AM start, but didn’t get around to the run until 7:30 AM or so. If I had to guess, I would say the moonshine I drank last night with some nearby campers played some part in this. Regardless, I did the loop, albeit really slow. The trips to Lincoln and Bross were pretty awesome. I loved the continuous running above 13k feet. With gloomy clouds, thunder, and possible lightening I headed down the most direct line from Bross I could find—a steep scree slope that soon turned into snow for most of the remainder of the descent. Glissading is always fun.
Democrat (14,148’)
Cameron (14,238’)
Lincoln (14,286’)
Bross (14,172’)
PM—3 Miles—0:38—800’—2nd/3rd Flatirons Loop
The drive from Alma back to Boulder was horrendously long as all of the weekend warriors headed back to the big city for another week of work. My legs felt tight and lacked the energy needed to get up Green Mountain. So, I just ran around the Flarirons access trails for a bit to loosen up my legs and called it a day.

Time—24hours 50minutes
Elevation Gain—34.750  feet                                                               

Not too shabby for my first week back from rolling my ankle. The ankle is still a little swollen and weak. So, I’ve been taking the descents at a pace just above walking. As a result, all of my times from this week are fairly pedestrian-like. I can’t wait to get out in the mountains with a healthy body and really start pushing myself. It’s pretty amazing how fast the acclimation process can happen. I’m already finding life above treeline to be fairly comfortable. 

I’ve already summited 12 different 14ers in essentially one week of running. This has me pretty excited about the prospects of actually ascending every Colorado 14er this summer. Hopefully I can keep up the progress. The San Juans are next on the list and I hope to have them all summited by mid-July. We’ll see…

One thing that I keep forgetting is that I have the Black Hills 100 Miler in ten days. While I’m not entirely sure how being above treeline and running 14ers will help in this, I am fairly confident the amount of time I’ve spent on my feet and a few weeks of ~35k feet of vert will have my endurance and strength where they need to be. The only question will be my running fitness. Strange enough, the more committed I get to my 14er quest the less I find myself caring about the Black Hills run and the more focused I am on the Telluride Mountain run (and getting up to 14k feet). 

Life is so much better above treeline…

Getting in touch with nature or something like that. (Photo: David Ponak)

Evening summit of Mt Sherman

It's amazing up much more energy you get on an ascent when you see these guys. Unfortunately, we saw him on our descent. So it didn't really do much good.

Glissade (if you can call it that) down Grays on a bum ankle. Not graceful at all. (Photo: David Ponak)

Taking a more direct route to the summit of Grays. (Photo: David Ponak)

Early morning summit of Torreys. Started at 5:30 AM.

Missouri Mountain

Action shots on Mt Elbert. (Photo: Mike Ambrose)


Another shot of my direct route up Grays. Look about mid-way up and there's a dot in the middle of the snow. That's me. (Photo: David Ponak)


  1. Heckuva week Kendrick. Seems like you have really turned a page.

  2. Thanks, GZ. I'm pretty committed to my goal of bagging all of the Colorado 14ers this summer. This current week will certainly seem to be a let down to the casual observer, but keep in mind that I am tapering for a 100 miler :) When I get back from South Dakota it's "game on" in the Juan's. Let me know if you're ever interested in getting a little high.