High in Colorado

High in Colorado
Photo: Mandy Lea Photo

Monday, February 3, 2014

Week in Review: January 27-February 2—An Easy Week Playing in the Snow

Monday, January 27th
AM—8 Miles—2:51—2,600’—Green Mountain
I couldn’t resists getting out early and trying to be first tracks up the hill this morning. I started heading up around 6:15 or so and was pleased to discover that I was breaking trail all the way from the Chautauqua parking lot to the summit of Green. The middle route seemed to be the obvious choice since the back side would likely be an icy death trap disguised by a dusting of fresh powder. My new Saucony Goretex whatever-you-call-them’s handled great on the somewhat slick terrain and kept my feet reasonably dry in the ankle+ deep powder. I kept looking behind me worrying that Tony would come blasting by and steal my opportunity at first tracks to the summit. Fortunately, that never happened. I took the descent pretty easy and still managed to bust my ass a time or two. It’s always hard to beat the tranquility of the snow-covered mountains. 

Tuesday, January 28th
AM—9 Miles—2:29—2,800’—Green Mountain
I was up around 5AM today and debated suiting up for an early start up the hill. Instead, I waited around hoping that David would message me saying he wanted to get out for a run today. Eventually he did. So we got a late ~7:30’ish start up the frontside of Green (we still had first tracks). Conditions never really seemed that cold on the ascent, but at the summit I removed my gloves for a few minutes and my hands were frozen. We cruised at a comfortable pace down Bear Canyon through ankle-deep snow before picking up the pace a little on the Mesa Trail back to Chautauqua. I’m pretty sure we saw a trail crew out with some sort of snow removal device grooming the Mesa Trail. Must be so the trophy wives don’t’ ruin their new pair of Uggs? I think I’m starting to get a good understanding of my winter gear and layering methods. I’ve been pretty surprised at how little you really need to wear to stay warm in cold weather. 

PM—5 Miles—0:45—350’—Gunbarrel Ranch Trails
Lately it seems that all my legs want to do is move. Even when I’m physically exhausted my legs have restless tendencies. I crashed at Chris and Kari’s place out in Gunbarrel the past few nights and decided to finally utilize the nearby Open Space trails. After a mile run on roads I reached the trails and ran around for a few miles enjoying the sunset-behind-the-mountains backdrop the entire time. 

Wednesday, January 29th
AM—7 Miles—1:36—2,150’—Flagstaff Mountain and Flatirons Loop
I started up towards the NE Ridge route to Green Mountain. The climb up from Chautauqua was a chore with loads of people and some short stretches of unpacked snow. Before I reached the 1st/2nd Flatiron access trail I began overheating pretty bad. So I skipped the access trail and ran the Flatirons loop back to Chautauqua for a quick bathroom break and disposal of clothing layers. The NCAR weather station reported a temperature of 39F (yay!) with a wind chill of 7F (shit!) when I started my run. I mistakenly dressed for the wind chill rather than the absolute temperature. The problem with this was that I was rarely in the wind. I headed back up the hill with just a long-sleeve merino shirt that has some wind protection on the front and my running tights. This proved to still be too much. So, at the top of Gregory Canyon I decided to just head over to the summit of Flagstaff via Ute and back on Rangview. Then I descended Gregory again before opening up the pace a little back to the Taco. I was able to sneak in some sub-5 minute mile pace on this ~½ mile stretch. With the exception of this short burst of speed the rest of the day was slow and easy.

Thursday, January 30th
AM—9 Miles—2:23—4,200’—Green Mountain and Bear Peak
I woke up this morning with my entire body feeling pretty stiff. That can likely be attributed to sleeping the past three nights on a hardwood floor with only a sleeping bag and tiny pillow to provide some sense of comfort. So, I went to Trident to enjoy my morning coffee and give my body a chance to loosen up. Luckily, I received a call from Jeff inviting me on a trip up Green plus a little more. From Chautauqua we headed up the NE Ridge; my calves burning for a large portion of the steep ascent. Once the grade mellowed out a bit on the ridge the burning subsided and keeping up with JV was slightly less strenuous. We hit the summit of Green in around 0:52, I think. Without wasting much time, we began the descent towards Bear Canyon via the nostalgic route. Here we parted ways: JV would continue up/down Green a few more times and I would head up Bear. The climb up Bear went fairly smooth with me never really exerting too much. The merino long-sleeve shirt and mid-weight jacket I had on proved to be overkill for the day. So, I was attempting not to sweat my ass off on the climb. I topped out on the summit in 1:39, which had me hopeful of breaking 2:20 for the loop. Conditions on Fern were nearly perfect with just a few bulletproof ice patches that made me question my Microspike confidence level. Regardless, I still cruised down the snow-covered steepness at a decent pace until reaching the Mesa Trail. Here I decided to open up the pace a bit and chase that 2:20 time, but without any luck. The last climb just south of Skunk Canyon brought me to a hike before I was able to cruise back to Chautauqua for a 2:23 time on the loop. Based on how crappy my legs felt on the initial climb I’m rather pleased with how the day ended. It’s always nice to get out for a day in the mountains with Jeff, too. 

Friday, January 31st
AM—8 Miles—3:19—2,600’—Green Mountain
Broke trail all the way to the summit. The snow was always a few inches above my ankles and sometimes up to my knees. I decided to wear my nearly-knee-high OR gaiters to test them out and was a bit glad I did. It took me a little over two hours to reach the summit versus yesterday’s full loop of Green and Bear taking 2:23. On the way down I passed a few people who thanked me for breaking trail. They seemed to be enjoying it. Thoroughly exhausted afterward. 

Saturday, February 1st
AM1—5 Miles—1:16—1,050’—Mesa Trail
Met Kristen for an easy out and back on the Mesa Trail to a little below the split off for Bear Canyon. It felt nice to get out for a flat and easy run for once. My legs probably thanked me. 

AM2—2 Miles—0:17—450’—Flatirons Access Loop
After parting ways with Kristen I decided I wanted to sneak in one last climb before heading to The Sun for Stout Month. So I just did an easy jog up from Chautauqua towards the Flatirons access trails, looped around towards Mesa Trail, and jogged back down into Chautauqua. 

Sunday, February 2nd
AM—8 Miles—2:42—3,300’—Bear Peak
Headed out towards Fern from Chautauqua. Originally, I wanted to hit Bear, SoBo, Bear (again), and possibly Green if I felt up for it. Between Chautauqua and the Nebelhorn saddle I went through several iterations of my clothing layers—none of which seemed comfortable. From the trailhead I started with two layers and some liner gloves, but soon gave into the cold by putting on my third layer and I-mean-business gloves. Then I hit Fern Canyon and was starting to overheat. So back to two layers with everything unzipped and no gloves. At the saddle a fiercely cold wind presented itself causing me to put on everything I had. I was pretty comfortable from the ankles up for the rest of the day. However, my feet were soaking wet and frozen solid. I’m beginning to think the Goretex on my Saucony whatever-you-call-thems is not up to par. Sitting on the summit of Bear with frozen feet I decided to head back down Fern Canyon and call it a day. The conditions on Fern were perfect for a fun descent.

Time— 17 hours 44 minutes
Elevation Gain— 19,500 feet

I decided to tone things down a notch or two this week in an effort to provide my body some needed rest. Still a fun week with all the fresh snow. 

Being in South America last winter almost made me forget how much I actually enjoy getting out in the cold, snowy, and windy weather to slog up the mountains. I tend to like the misery inflicted by cold, windy weather. It really makes you feel like you earned every mile, every foot of ascent. Nothing seems to come easy when battling these conditions—and that’s why I like doing it. 

These past few weeks I’ve been acquiring new winter running/mountaineering gear and taking it out for test runs in the hills around Boulder. Through trial-and-error I’m starting to hone in on a layering system that seems to keep me adequately warm without much overheating. I admit, I still have some figuring out to do, but I’m better off now than I was a few weeks ago. 

More and more I’m becoming a firm believer that you do get what you pay for when it comes to gear. I remember my first winter running in Boulder with a bunch of cheap Wal-Mart clothes…For a run in single digit temperatures I would wear 2-3 lower body layers, 4-6 upper body layers, 3 pairs of socks, 2-3 pairs of gloves, and a hat. I could barely move with all that crap on. 

Now, in the same conditions, I get by with a single lower body layer (in addition to a pair of briefs with wind protection on the front), usually 2 upper body layers (sometimes add one more wind shell), a pair of socks, a pair of gloves, and a Buff wrap. 

Obviously, summer is still my preference. It’s hard to top being able to summit 14ers with nothing but shoes, shorts, sunglasses, and a wind shell tucked in your shorts. I think the preparation and numerous layers of clothing necessary during winter outings helps me appreciate the relative simplicity of summer ascents. 

After starting 2014 with a vicious cold it seems that I’m getting things going in the right direction. January was a pretty good month after about six weeks of relative inactivity. Here’s a comparison of January 2014 versus January 2013. This is followed by my local Boulder mountain summits for the month. 

January Totals (versus January 2013):
-Miles: 219 (versus 131)
-Hours: 63:00 (versus 54:04)
-Vertical: 72,650 feet (versus 34,600 feet)
-Vertical per Mile: 332 feet/mile (versus 264 feet/mile)

January Summits (Lifetime Summits):
-Green Mountain:15 (126 Lifetime)
-Bear Peak: 5 (22 Lifetime)
-South Boulder Peak: 1 (10 Lifetime)
-Flagstaff Mountain: 5 (134 Lifetime)
-Mount Sanitas: 1 (20 Lifetime)
-Other:1 (Horsetooth Peak near Mt Meeker)

A cold haze breaking apart to reveal the sun

Breaking trail up Green Mountain

Running through snow-covered trees

That magical part of the day when the sun illuminates the snow-dusted mountains

Heading up Green Mountain with snow still falling

Breaking trail up Green Mountain with snow over my knees in places

Remembering Patagonia with a typical Argentinean meal: milanesa, empanadas, chimichurri, and Quilmes

Enduring the cold winds heading up Bear Peak

View of Bear Peak from the Mesa Trail

Taking in the sunset with a flat run in Gunbarrel

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