Week in Review: August 11-17
Monday, August 11th
AM—9 Miles—3:03—4,500’—Mount Royal, Mount Victoria, Peak One, Peak Two, and Peak One
I woke up in the Frisco Park & Ride lot this morning feeling pretty crappy. All signs pointed towards a rest day, which would be best executed with an easy trip up Mount Royal. After reaching the summit of Royal I noticed that my legs felt considerably better. So, I ventured up Mount Victoria. Obviously, I had to continue on towards the summit of Peak One since it was right there. I spent a considerable amount of time on the summit chatting with a couple of cute girls. Eventually, I decided to mosey over to Peak Two, which turned out to be much closer than it looked. I made the round trip from Peak One to Peak Two in about 26 minutes. After some more lounging around on the summit of Peak One I finally started trotting back down to the Taco. This turned out to be a fun little day that has me ready to run the Ten Mile Traverse sometime this summer, hopefully.
|View of Peak Two from Summit of Peak One|
|Looking down on Frisco from Peak One's summit|
|Heading up Peak One|
Tuesday, August 12th
AM—7 Miles—1:54—3,300’—Quandary Peak (14,265’)
Easy effort up-and-down the standard East Slopes route. I think I topped out in about 1:07 with almost entirely power hiking above treeline. Pretty mellow descent since I don’t really like flying down the talus on Quandary that much.
Wednesday, August 13th
AM—12.5 Miles—3:41—5,900’—Kelso Mountain (13,184’), Torreys Peak (14,267’), and Grays Peak (14,270’)
About 52 weeks ago my buddy Peter inadvertently began a project of summiting Grays and Torreys once a week, every week for a year. Today was his 52nd trip up the two peaks and he invited me to tag along. We were both still pretty fatigued from our Nolan’s attempt less than a week ago. So, we set out at a mellow pace; stopping to catch our breath every now-and-then. Our line took us from Bakerville, up the road a ways, and straight up the ridge to Kelso Mountain. From the top of Kelso Mountain we followed Kelso Ridge down about 900’ to the saddle before riding the ridge straight up to the summit of Torreys. After a brief photo opp on the summit we trotted down to the Grays-Torreys saddle and began the last grunt of the day up to Grays. Even with tired legs the day seemed to go by quickly. The fluidity of the line was quite appealing to me—one continuous ridge beginning with the ascent of Kelso Mountain and continuing all the way to the summit of Grays. Another great day up high in Colorado. Congrats to Peter for completing 52 weeks of ascents!
|Heading up Kelso Mountain, looking at Torreys|
Thursday, August 14th
AM—2.5 Miles—1:27—1,800’—2nd Flatiron (x2)
Couple of easy laps on the 2nd Flatiron. I think I even hiked up every step of the way. Both laps were somewhere in the ridiculously slow range of ~17 minutes.
Friday, August 15th
AM—3 Miles—2:45—2,200’—1st and 3rd Flatirons
After chatting with Peter Bakwin a while last night at Sherpa’s we decided to get out early in the morning for some fun in the Flatirons. I told Peter that I’d never been up the 1st or 3rd so he offered to be my tour guide. I brought along some rock shoes (tucked away in my UD AK vest) and a chalk bag just in case anything looked too dicey, but I never used either. One thing we wouldn’t be bringing along was a rope—they’re overrated anyways. With the short approach under our belts we began our scramble up the Direct East Face route of the 1st—rated 5.6, I think. The first pitch definitely had my attention since it is rather thin and basically just friction climbing on some water-polished rock. About halfway up the first pitch Peter made that comment that if I was going to use my rock shoes at all today this is the pitch where I should have them on. Oops…My re-soled 110’s seemed to be offering up enough purchase. The scrambling on the first seemed to be a rather sustained difficulty with little stretches of relief here-and-there. I think there were probably a handful of moves that I had to think about for a minute or two, but once I figured them out they were surprisingly straightforward. Peter is a great guide for instances like this since he seems to know when to let you figure things out on your own and when to give you little pieces of advice for getting through a section. The combination of more sustained climbing difficulty and it being my first time on the route led to it taking about 45 minutes to reach the summit. With a little practice maybe I’ll get close to Peter’s ~15 minute ascents. The downclimb on the 1st was pretty easy with most of it being doable in a crab walk versus facing into the rock. We made our way over to the base of the 3rd via the access trails and promptly scurried passed a couple of parties getting roped up for the ascent. Ascending the 3rd was a breeze after warming up on the 1st. To me, the route seemed to be a combination of the exposure of the 1st with the easiness of scrambling of the 2nd’s Freeway route. Around the second or third pitch we passed a roped up group and exchanged words in passing. When Peter and I hit the summit the lead climber of that group was probably less than halfway up the pitch. The last pitch was a little thin and more of what I would actually consider slabby, but I didn’t really notice it until downclimbing. Peter and I made our way from the summit of the 1st to the summit of the 3rd in about 42 minutes. We made our way back to solid ground via the Southwest Chimney route—some super easy 5.4 climbing that’s fairly vertical and has some noticeable exposure. Just don’t fall, right? It really wasn’t bad at all. Once down, we just trotted back to Chautauqua ready to take on the day.
|Peter leading the way up the 1st|
|My first solo of the 1st|
|Looking towards the 4th and 5th from the summit of the 3rd|
|1st and 2nd from summit of the 3rd|
Saturday, August 16th
AM—13.5 Miles—2:58—7,800’—Pikes Peak Ascent (89th Overall out of 1,683)
Overall, I would say that I kept the effort on the low-to-medium end in anticipation of Dave running like a bat out of hell at Leadville tonight. I ran pretty hard on the roads to get ahead of the slower people before entering the trails and then I just kind of hung behind people during the initial miles of Barr Trail. Many times the people in front of me would be “running” while I was staying on their heels with a power hike. The only other stretch where I ran somewhat hard was the rolling hills leading up to Barr Camp, but even then I was conversational. I think I was hovering around 7:30-8:30 pace during this stretch. From Barr Camp to treeline I got behind an Italian woman and ran really easy before finally sneaking around her. From treeline to the summit I think I power hiked 75% of the way due to the trail being deep, loose gravel that sucked for running. It’s not likely that I’ll actually pay to run this race again anytime soon, but I might be back later this summer/fall to give a solid effort up to the summit. We’ll see…
PM—24 Miles—4:32—2,500’—Leadville Trail 100 Pacing for Dave Mackey
I ran into Dave Mackey last week after the 10k run that is part of the Leadman series. After chatting for a bit about the upcoming 100 mile run and finding out he didn’t have a pacer I offered my pacing services. A few days later Dave texted me and said he’d take me up on the offer…
So, after making my way up Pikes Peak in 2:58 this morning I got on the first shuttle bus back to Manitou Springs. I was hoping to indulge in 1,000’s of calories at the post-race lunch, but they seemed to be trying to redefine “skimpy” with their meal portions. I was treated to one slice of Domino’s pizza, about eight grapes, a kid-sized handful of potato chips, and a tiny cookie. The two breweries that were there serving beer proved to be significantly more generous with their servings. I think I got more post-race calories from beer than from food. Regardless, I rushed to the Taco and began the 2+ hour drive to Twin Lakes in hopes of beating Dave there.
At Twin Lakes I ran into some friends who informed me that Dave looked like shit coming through the aid station—I think he was in 50’something place. So, I began mentally preparing for a long night. When Bob Africa came through he told me he had at least a four mile gap on Dave. I decided to use this time to grab some food at the BBQ truck in town. When I made my way back to the aid station several people told me that I missed Dave and he came through the aid station hauling ass only eight minutes behind Bob. Shit!
I think Dave had made his way up to 16th place or so at Twin Lakes inbound. So, I headed to the Outward Bound aid station around mile 76, where I found Dave’s wife. We waited patiently for Dave to come rolling into the aid station. Eventually, we saw a lone runner that we sort of thought could be Dave, but at the same time sort of thought it was someone else. Once he was about 30 yards from the aid station we realized that it was Dave—now in 11th place. I quickly snagged his bottles, asked what he wanted in them, and got to work with my pacing duties.
Dave parted ways with his wife and son we took off. I quickly explained how I missed him at Twin Lakes and was pleased to hear him say that he wouldn’t have wanted me to start pacing there anyways. Dave was feeling strong coming through Twin Lakes and preferred to run alone. I was pretty chatty the first five minutes or so before Dave said that he preferred silence for a while. He proceeded to have a 5-10 minute coughing fit, which eventually subsided.
We disposed of the paved road leading to Powerline rather quickly; hovering between 9-11 minute pace. Once we began ascending Powerline our pace was primarily a power hike with occasional bursts of trotting after hitting a false summit. The highlight of Powerline was definitely an older man about halfway up handing out water and cans of Coke. I took him up on his offer of a Coke not really knowing that it would pretty much be the only calories and/or fluid I would ingest for the duration of my pacing.
At the top of Powerline I stopped to top off a few bottles while Dave continued on down the jeep road. It probably took me around five minutes to catch up to Dave even though I was running near 7-minute pace in pursuit. As we descended, I couldn’t help but be impressed at how fast Dave was moving 80’ish miles into the day. Shortly after beginning the descent we came up on the 10th place runner. I said to Dave, “You’re getting ready to break into the top 10.” To which he responded, “I’m going to be in 5th by the time we get to the finish.” I was equally pleased and terrified to hear this. Pleased because I knew Dave was running hard and feeling good. Terrified because I knew Dave was running hard and feeling good.
We picked off a few more runners on the road before we veered onto the trail circling Turquoise Lake. About five minutes before the trail Dave asked me to break out the headlamps. This proved to be easier said than done. I spent the next five minutes running down the somewhat rocky jeep road at sub-8 pace, while fumbling around five bottles, emptying the contents of my AK vest, and digging out the two headlamps buried at the bottom. I got the headlamps out, caught up to Dave, and got one of the lamps in his hand just before reaching the turnoff for the trail. The lights were immediately needed on the trail due to the thick forests blocking out all of the remaining daylight. I gave Dave my 200 lumen Black Diamond Ion lamp, while I used the 90 lumen BD Spot (I think that’s the name of it?).
I don’t really run at night that much—mainly because I’m terrified of mountain lions. The last few times I’ve run at night have been with my 200 lumen light. So, following Dave around the lake at night wasn’t an entirely joyful experience. Combining the dust that Dave kicked up with my dinky 90 lumen light made for pretty shitty visibility. This was compounded every ten minutes or so by Dave asking for Vitargo or a gel. He would simply stick his hand back like a relay runner waiting for the baton and I would place a bottle or gel in it. Of course, this required me to get right on his heels, which meant I couldn’t see any upcoming rocks or roots in the trail. Somehow I only tripped up a few times during these exchanges, but never actually fell.
During my pacing I juggled five bottles of Vitargo (none of which I drank from since I was saving everything for Dave) and I had several gels and Shot Bloks readily available in the front pouch of my UD AK vest (again, none of which I consumed). The only calories/fluids I consumed were the can of Coke from the old man on Powerline and a cup of flat Coke at Mayqueen because Dave actually stopped at the aid station for a few minutes versus flying through it. After refilling his bottles I had a spare minute to down the Coke. As we neared the end of our Turquoise Lake loop I began tripping more frequently. Dehydration and calorie deficiency from both Pikes Ascent and my pacing up to this point were starting to hit me pretty hard making the simple act of picking up my feet while running seem almost impossible. After numerous trips and recoveries I finally tripped and fell to the ground; popping the top off a bottle and covering myself with Vitargo. That shit sure is sticky…
Dave continued to pick off a few more runners around the lake. Some runners were still moving well, while others were completely wrecked, sitting on the side of the trail with head in hands. Near the end of Turquoise Lake I think we passed Dave’s campsite and saw his wife and kids. Dave stopped for a few quick hugs and quickly returned to the trails like an animal. I could tell that the quick visit with his family put a little pep in his step—not that he really needed any more pep.
About two miles from the finish Dave was starting to put a gap on me heading up the Boulevard. I guess that running 22 hard miles (without any calories/water other than a little Coke) after running up Pikes in the morning (and never really replenishing afterward) was starting to take its toll on me. I couldn’t hang on any longer as Dave knocked out sub-9 minute miles heading uphill into the finish. I used all of my energy to catch back up with Dave, handed him the last bottle that had any liquid in it, and told him I’d see him at the finish. With that, I started walking and threw up in my mouth a time or two…
Dave ended up climbing from 11th place when I picked him up at Outward Bound to 5th place by the finish—the exact spot he said he’d finish a few hours earlier when we passed 10th place. I’m just glad I held on as long as I did and got to front row seats to the show. The man is an animal…
Sunday, August 17th
OFF—Planning a big day tomorrow. Figured I could use a little rest.
Time—20 hours 24 minutes
Elevation Gain—28,000 feet
Week in Review: August 4-10
Monday, August 4th
OFF—My legs were still pretty sore from the race yesterday. So, I took the day off and drank a few beers…
Tuesday, August 5th
AM—6 Miles—1:10—1,350’—Fowler, Goshawk, and Climbers Access Trail
Easy run with David Ponak to shake out my legs from Sunday’s race…
Wednesday, August 6th
OFF—Decided on another rest day before attempting Nolan’s. Can’t hurt anything, right?
Thursday, August 7th
PM—56 Miles—26:58—21,000’—Nolan’s 14 Attempt (Massive, Elbert, La Plata, Huron, Missouri)
Wow! Such as massive line. Humbling experience, for sure. Peter and I bailed after summiting Missouri Mountain. Our Summit and trailhead splits are below. I’ll do a little write-up soon…
Mount Massive Summit—2:28
South Halfmoon Creek Trailhead—4:01
Mount Elbert Summit—6:40
La Plata Trailhead—9:44
La Plata Peak Summit—12:48
Winfield—15:04 (Arrival) and 17:41 (Departure)
Huron Peak Summit—20:01
Missouri Mountain Summit—24:30
Missouri Gulch Trailhead (Bailout Point)—26:58
|Sunrise on La Plata--Happy Birthday to me|
|Peter on summit of Massive|
Friday, August 8th
Still doing Nolan’s…Happy Birthday to me!
Saturday, August 9th
AM—3.5 Miles—0:56—450’—Nature Trails near Fish Hatchery
Really easy day. My right knee still hurt while going uphill and my glutes felt horrible on anything remotely downhill.
Sunday, August 10th
AM—9 Miles—2:16—4,300’—Mount Elbert (14,433’)
After running the first 1-2 miles I fell into a painful power hike up to the summit. My right knee still hurt pretty bad during any uphill hiking. Uphill running is fine, but for some reason hiking just kills me. Right below treeline I ran into Donald on his way down and chatted for a few minutes. I reached the summit in a comfortable 1:29 before spending about 45 minutes or so lingering around and talking to some hikers. Shortly after leaving the summit I decided on a mostly off-trail descent until I reached treeline. There was a rather obscene amount of people on the trails today so I figured just staying off-trail would make both me and the others more comfortable. Most people tend to get nervous when they see a half-naked, homeless looking guy running full speed down the mountain at them. I can’t say that I blame them…I kept a mellow pace once I got below treeline for a 47 minute descent. It was a pleasant surprise to have my legs feel somewhat decent today.
Time—31 hours 21 minutes
Elevation Gain—27,100 feet
Week in Review: July 28—August 3rd
Monday, July 28th
AM—26 Miles—7:51—7,200’—Mount Massive (14,421’) and Bailout on Mount Elbert
Really easy effort all morning. I wore a loaded Osprey Rev 6 pack and used trekking poles to simulate a Nolan’s effort. I left from Fish Hatchery to head up the East Ridge of Massive. After a few minutes on the summit I began my descent to North Halfmoon TH via the Southwest Slopes route. I made it to treeline on Elbert’s West Face before some early storms persuaded me not to begin the 3,000’ of ascent in about a mile. So, I returned to Halfmoon Road, ran it for a few miles, and joined the Colorado Trail at the Massive Trailhead. From the CT to Fish Hatchery I ran a little harder than my anticipated Nolan’s pace. The day was long, but maintaining an easy effort all day left my body feeling great when it was all said and done.
|Sweet inversion layer this morning|
|View of Elbert while descending Massive|
Tuesday, July 29th
AM—8.5 Miles—1:14—1,200’—Hagerman Pass
Easy road run up to Hagerman Pass. I felt like a mellow day today.
Wednesday, July 30th
AM—9.5 Miles—3:12—4,300’—La Plata Peak (14,336’)
I wanted to go up/down the south side descent route for Elbert, but I couldn’t find the Echo Canyon Trailhead. So, I opted for an easy day on the standard route of La Plata. I headed out with a full pack and my whooping sticks for a Nolan’s trial run. It was a really foggy day, which made for essentially zero visibility from the summit. Mellow descent. I officially met Bob Sweeny just below the ridgeline.
|Driving through Twin Lakes the night before|
|Pretty crappy visibility and frigid temps this morning|
Thursday, July 31st
AM—14 Miles—4:40—3,700’—Capitol Peak Bailout
Luke and I decided to try bagging Capitol Peak as part of our taper leading into Sunday’s race. He set out on his bike from the apartment around 4:30am towards the trailhead. I drove there. Near the beginning of the dirt road there was a downed tree blocking the road, which I proceeded to drive over in four-wheel drive—no way I was running up 3+ miles of road to the trailhead. The Ditch Trail was its usual mix of mud and cow crap until we reached the end of the public grazing area. From the Capitol-Daly Ridge we decided to try skirting around below the K2 summit versus dropping all the way down into the boulder field. After fumbling around for a little bit we decided to bail on the summit since our progress was terribly slow. We spent thirty minutes or so hanging around Capitol Lake and chatting with a few guys who day hiked to the lake. Our return to the trailhead was pretty mellow.
|Photo shoot around Capitol Lake after bailing|
|Luke heading up Capitol-Daly saddle|
Friday, August 1st
AM—10 Miles—3:25—3,550’—Buckskin Pass and Point 13,039’
Easy power hike up to Buckskin Pass where I decided to head over to Point 13,039’. There are unnamed 13ers on both sides of Buckskin Pass with Point 13,039’ being the most exciting looking. The peak was a bit of a choss pile—no surprise given it’s in the Elks Range—but not too bad of a climb. The last twenty feet or so to the summit provides a few high 4th/low 5th Class moves, which add a little enjoyment to any otherwise un-memorable peak. Easy descent back to the Taco. I kept the effort really low all day to kick off my taper leading into the race this Sunday.
|View from summit of Point 13,039'|
Saturday, August 2nd
PM—3 Miles—0:22—100’—Aspen Bike Paths
Just enjoying a solid one day taper before Power of Four 50k tomorrow.
Sunday, August 3rd
AM—31 Miles—5:27—10,000’—Aspen Power of Four 50k (8th Place Overall)
I came into this race with a decent amount of volume in the six previous days—70 miles, 20k feet, and over 20 hours of time-on-feet. So, I wasn’t really sure how my body would respond once the race started.
Fortunately, this race begins with short, steep section that separates the pack rather quickly. Once I got a little distance between me and the mid-pack I fell into a moderate pace for the rest of the climb. I reached the top of this initial five-mile ascent in 1:08 before topping off my water bottle and leaning into the five miles of jeep road descent. This section sort of sucked since it seems I’ve lost a little of the speed I acquired earlier on in the winter/spring. Regardless, I knocked this section out in about 0:34.
After five miles of jeep road descending I was ready for the next ascent—about 1,800’ over two’ish miles. I was surprised with how much of this climb proved to be quite runnable. I topped out in around 0:34 and was promptly greeted with another jeep road descent—goddamnit…
In about 0:33 I was finished with the 4.6 mile descent and about halfway through the race—elapsed time 2:52. From here on the course was super runnable. None of the climbs seemed to be much steeper than your average douche grade. I think I was somewhere around 12th place at the halfway point and soon after the aid station I passed a runner or two.
This 8.75 mile section of primarily ascent (with about a 1.25 mile descent in the middle) was a perfect running grade and allowed me to pick off a few more runners up ahead. The last descent into Snowmass began around mile 25 or so, which happened to be where my only low patch began. From mile 25 to 28’ish I was having a hard time descending much faster than 10-11 minutes/mile on the moderately technical terrain. I also kept snagging my toes on rocks and roots, which was frustrating as hell. A couple of hikers likely thought I was crazy when I shouted “pick up your f*cking feet!” as loud as possible.
With about three miles to go I encountered my only question regarding course markings. I spent about two minutes trying to figure out whether the course continued on a jeep road or veered onto the trail that split off from the side of the road. Once I figured things out I looked up to see the 9th place runner behind me. There was no way in hell I was going to let this guy catch me. Turns out that seeing him behind me gave me the push I needed to get out of my little low spell and start running somewhat hard again.
I ended up running the last three miles in an even twenty minutes, which was enough to hold onto 8th place overall—5:27 total time. I’m pretty pleased with this considering my almost total absence of a taper. My legs responded when and where I needed them and I was able to clock some reasonably quick miles in the later stages of the race. I think what I’m most happy with is being able to run all of the uphill sections in the second half of the race at a strong pace. If I do this race again next year and actually taper for more than one day I’d likely set my sights on breaking five hours. Who knows?
Time—26 hours 16 minutes
Elevation Gain—30,050 feet
Week in Review: July 21-27
Monday, July 21st
AM—2 Miles—0:59—1,850’—Black Canyon of the Gunnison
I decided it was finally time to stop in and see what the Black Canyon is all about. From the visitors center I took a short (0.75 mile) and steep (1,850’ of descent) route down to the Gunnison River at the bottom of the canyon. I got down the loose trail in about 23 minutes. At the bottom, I couldn’t resist a little swim in the river. After exploring the short sections of trail along the river I started making my way back up. After 32 minutes I was sitting on the tailgate of the Taco chugging water. Not a bad start to the day.
Tuesday, July 22nd
AM—9 Miles—2:33—4,300’—Mount Yale (14,196’)
Up/down the Southwest Slopes from Denny Creek. My legs felt decent, but I decided to take it easy today. I ended up topping out in 1:33 before hanging on the summit for almost fifty minutes—it was a glorious day up high! I eventually decided that coffee sounded great and began making my way back at a leisurely pace.
Wednesday, July 23rd
AM—14 Miles—4:45—7,400’—Missouri Mountain (14,067’), Mount Belford (14,197’), Mount Oxford (14153’), Mount Belford (Again)
From the Missouri Gulch TH, up Missouri’s Northwest Ridge, back to where the trail drops off the ridge, straight down the grassy slopes, straight up Belford’s West Shoulder, standard out-and-back to Oxford, another summit of Belford, and down Belford’s Northwest Ridge back to Missouri Gulch TH.
I was basically just scouting the Nolan’s route from Missouri to Oxford. I never really felt like I pushed too hard today (especially on the Belford descent). After descending Missouri I decided on the shorter, steeper ascent of Belford’s West Shoulder versus going to Elkhead Pass and joining Trail 1454 to the summit. I think this shaves off about a mile, but results in about a 1,500’ ascent of Belford in roughly a mile. The way I figure, if it’s steep enough for me to hike then it might as well be super steep and direct. The jaunt out to Oxford was pretty easy, but the return trip to Belford was taxing. Seemed like it took too much energy to get back up there. I descended Belford’s standard route, which sucks. It’s a bunch of tight, steep switchbacks that are pretty bald and provide horrible footing for a quick descent. So, I took it really easy. Once I got back to the Missouri Gulch Trail I picked up the pace slightly for the rest of the run back home. My footwork was pretty spot-on for all of the technical portions below treeline. During the day I ended up eating a gel before dropping off Missouri’s ridge and another gel on the summit of Oxford. Seemed sufficient.
Splits: Missouri (1:49), Belford (2:53), Oxford (3:21), Belford (3:50), Trailhead (4:45)
|Just got down from Missouri. Getting ready to head up Belford|
|Heading down Belford|
Thursday, July 24th
AM—16 Miles—4:27—5,000’—Mount Massive (14,421’)
I started from Fish Hatchery with the intent of ascending via the East Ridge. After a few miles of easy running on the Highline Trail I randomly picked a spot to begin barging towards treeline. I think I bailed off the Highline a tad too early since I was considerably east of the ridge. My mind was a bit rusty (I’ve only been up Massive once), which led me to mistake the summit at the top of the East Ridge for North Massive. Oops. With that in mind I started making my way towards the slope to the climbers left. This, of course, ended up being the standard East Slopes route. Again, oops. I was already pretty much committed to the East Slope—unless I wanted to lose a considerable amount of elevation making my way to the East Ridge. I didn’t. As a consolation prize I noticed a little rib in between the East Ridge and East Slope, which provided plenty of boulder hopping with a short section of easy 4th Class (easily bypassed if you’re not up for it) en route to the summit. My original plan was to descend to the North Halfmoon Creek Trailhead, run a few miles of roads to the Mount Massive Trailhead, and make my way back to Fish Hatchery via the Colorado Trail. I was already pretty spent and it looked like some storms were rolling in early. So, I descended via the same little rib and then joined the East Slopes route back to the CT. I think fatigue from yesterday’s vert was still lingering around in my legs.
Friday, July 25th
AM—10 Miles—3:27—4,500’—Mount Elbert (14,433’)
From the North Elbert TH. I started off with 2.5 miles of flat running to the South Half Moon Creek TH. After splashing through Half Moon Creek I made my way up another 2.5 miles of mostly mellow jeep roads. As Roach often says, “the introduction is now over.” From here, it’s a 3,000’ climb up the West Face in about a mile. Yes, it’s steep. However, it’s not as bad as it might sound to most people. I tend to prefer this type of direct ascent versus the never-ending meandering of constant (mostly un-runnable) switchbacks. After talking to Tony it seems that I veered off the road a little too late, which explains the amount of effort it took to actually gain the ridge. Once on the ridge I was able to just put my nose in the dirt and grind out the ascent. To the surprise of many a casual hiker, this route goes directly to the summit. I always enjoy the perplexed look people have when I randomly come up to the summit from some off-trail route. From the moment I left the jeep road to the summit took me about 1:04—I’ll take it. Given the fact that I hit the trails a little later than the typical hiker I was able to see the ridiculous amount of people who had left the parking lot this morning. My original plan was to have a quick descent down the standard Northeast Ridge; I even brought along my headphones to stick in my ears so that I could pretend I didn’t hear people when they tried to ask me questions. But I had no desire to see that many people. Rather than endure this, I decided to descend via the North-Northeast Ridge—a route that sees essentially no traffic. This ended up being a great idea! I was able to make it from the summit to the parking lot without seeing a single other person. It’s great when you can get up/down a crowded mountain and only see people on the summit.
|My ascent path is the ridge coming up the right side of the peak and the descent is the ridge the photo is taken from.|
|Rise and shine in the back of the Taco|
Saturday, July 26th
AM—10 Miles—5:33—5,500’—La Plata Peak (14,336’) and East La Plata (14,180’)
Up via Ellingwood Ridge, down via the standard Northwest Ridge. Roach says that this exact route has 4,800’ of gain, which means that I did a lot of up-and-down action on the ridge. I was supposed to meet Donald for the route, but after waiting for 30 minutes I decided to take off for a super mellow effort on tired legs. I would later find out that he got a flat tire en route to the trailhead.
The split-off for Ellingwood is easy to find and the trail even remains well-defined for a mile or more. However, a tremendous amount of downed trees eventually caused me to lose the trail. So I started charging towards treeline via a shitty, loose talus slope that doubled as an aspen grove. After a few hundred vertical feet of this I crossed paths with a trail and joined it. I didn’t really stay on the trail long since I could see the ridge looming overhead.
After 1,400 vertical feet of shitty talus I was finally on the lower end of the ridge—only two miles left to get to the summit! Around the first tower of the ridge I passed a group of four guys making their way—I didn’t really want to know what time they started because I assumed they would say 3am or earlier.
To keep this ridge’s difficulty at Class 3 one must constantly drop significantly below the actual ridgeline. Being fully comfortable up to moderate 5th Class climbing in my trail runners caused me to charge up quite a few sections of 5.easy climbing on the ridge crest versus dropping below it. This was all fine and dandy until I hit the high point and looked down the other side, which more-often-than-not was a vertical wall. Inevitably, I would have to back track and down climb a ways to bypass these obstacles. And so it went. Maybe this ridge would be easier for someone who is uncomfortable on more difficult terrain than 3rd Class since they wouldn’t be tempted to stay near the crest?
About halfway through, I encountered the low-light of the day. I was cruising along on a narrow ledge—paying more attention to my footing than any obstacles in front—and nailed my shoulder on a rock partially blocking the ledge. This caused me to fall off the ledge until my shin nailed another rock, which kept me from continuing down the mountain. Now I have a 4-inch gash in my right shin accompanied by a considerable amount of swelling.
With most of the ridgeline out of the way I was still faced with a steep climb up to East La Plata. I’d like to say this was enjoyable, but I was ready to be done with loose talus slopes for the day. A couple passed me around this point; they were descending the ridge even though it was already 10:45am and the afternoon storms would be rolling in VERY soon.
From the summit of East La Plata to the summit of La Plata was the most enjoyable section of the ridge, by far. I was able to stay on the ridge crest for almost the entire stretch and enjoyed some 4th Class terrain here-and-there. I remember doing this section last year and dropping way below crest because I was uncomfortable with the difficulty. It’s amazing how things change once you gain a little confidence climbing.
Almost immediately upon reaching the La Plata summit I reached for my wind shell and gloves. I started getting pelted with graupel at this time as well. I looked back at the ridge and noticed that the group I passed at the beginning of the day was less than halfway across the ridge—those poor bastards. Less than five minutes on the summit was more than enough. My descent was triggered by a random hiker asking, “Is that electricity that’s making your hair stick straight up?” And with that, I was heading downhill…Once below treeline I walked the rest of the way back to the Taco. My shin had started swelling and the pounding descent was beginning to hurt a little.
|View of Ellingwood Ridge leading to the summit of La Plata|
|Big gash in my leg from falling on Ellingwood Ridge. This is about three weeks after it happened.|
Sunday, July 27th
AM—8.5 Miles—3:32—3,550’—Mount Princeton Scouting
I set off from the Colorado Trail just off Cottonwood Pass Road with no idea where the hell to really go. After a mile or so of running I came to a clearing showcasing a ridgeline that appeared to head towards Princeton. So, I set my sights on this and started looking for opportunities to veer off trail towards it. I eventually came across a cairn on the side of the trail that seemed a bit out of place given how well-defined the trail was. I assumed this was a reminder to someone that this was the spot to head up to the ridge. So, I did. The terrain was steep, but relatively benign as far as bushwhacking goes. Once on the ridge, I followed it to treeline and continued up to the low point above treeline. From here I caught glimpse of Princeton and realized that I took the wrong route—I probably had close to two miles of ridge to traverse with several prominent notches to bypass. If I weren’t still noticeably dehydrated from yesterday I might have pushed on to the summit. Instead, I turned around and made my way back to the CT; walking every step of the way back to the Taco since my bruised shin didn’t like the downhill running.
Time—25 hours 20 minutes
Elevation Gain—32,100 feet