2:58:49 RT (1:53:24 ascent)
165 avg. HR (169 avg. HR for the ascent split)
13:27 min/mile pace
Partners: Brandon Fuller, Sean O'Day
3rd ascent of Princeton
242nd 14er ascent
Having worked several holidays, including the 4th of July, I have some PTO to burn and decided to take Wednesday off to go run a 14er for some long overdue Pikes “training”. It had been nearly 11 months since I have been to 14k (or above 8,500 ft.) and have only had 2 casual trips above 13k in June, so I was eager to get up there and see how I felt pushing myself a bit. I knew Brandon was in Leadville for the week, so I asked him to join and he was game. I also sent Sean an invite and he quickly signed on as well.
I left Louisville at 6:51pm and it took me exactly 2 hours to get to Brandon’s house in Leadville. It was raining and storming most of the way, but I did not care as I was so excited to be heading to the mountains and was enjoying listening and laughing to Adam Carolla podcasts. I always get a kick out of leaving the house when it is 80 degrees or more and in less than an hour drive, it is 46 degrees and raining. As much as I enjoy camping, it was comforting to know that I did not have to find a campsite and set up my tent in the dark. Brandon provided excellent accommodations and I slept like a rock on the brand new bed they got the day before.
I was up a little after 5am and we were out the door a bit before 6 for the ~45 minute drive to the TH. We started at 7:01 from the lower trailhead at 8,900 ft., running up the relatively gradual dirt road. Although a conservative start was my intent, my HR felt high and I was slow to find a good groove. After about a half mile, I met Sean as he was descending from his bivy at ~11,000 feet near the radio towers and he jogged with me for a bit, as we exchanged pleasantries, but I was sucking wind a bit and not much into conversation at the time, so he soon opted to wait up for Brandon and warm up for a bit.
After about a mile and a half, I felt as though I was settling into a good rhythm and was completely enjoying the perfect morning and the solitude. I passed Sean’s Jeep a little ways above the radio towers and tossed one of my hand bottles to grab on the return trip. I was amazed at how quickly the valley dropped away below me and what seemed like a significant challenge on the drive in, was becoming absolute nirvana.
Treeline and the immediate turn onto the trail came quickly and I passed two groups of 4 (maybe 6 in the first group?) in quick succession, heading for the summit and got the usual reactions one normally gets from others when running a 14er (awe, disgust, bewilderment, envy, pity). From the junction to the summit, it was just me and I settled in for the long ascending traverse below Tigger Peak and up to the Tigger/Princeton saddle. I made good progress across the talus, always scanning ahead for the most efficient line (but perhaps not always finding it).
The final 800 feet or so was a bit of a slog. I felt decent, but the cumulative effort and altitude were definitely taking it out of me, so I just took it somewhat mellow, saving some in the tank for the long descent. Once on the summit, I was surprised to see a group of 6 or so women huddled in the rock shelter and two other guys who had been on the summit since before sunrise to take pictures. I swallowed a gel as I took a few pictures and was soon on my way.
I descended at a quick, but cautious pace on the uppermost section of mountain, as it is steep and the trail is ill defined with a good bit of loose rock and scree. I passed Sean a few minutes into my descent, then Brandon closer to the saddle. Once below the saddle, the trail improved a bit and I upped the pace accordingly.
Feeling rock solid and as if my feet could do no wrong, I kept the tempo high along the rocky and very technical descending traverse, completely in the zone and could not have felt happier or more alive. Once beyond the technical challenges, I continued to up the pace until I was seeing pretty consistent mid 6 minute mile pace on the watch. My goal was to run the round trip in under 3 hours, but frequent checks of the watch were telling me it was going to be quite close, but my pace or mindset never wavered. Below the towers, my watch said I had 20 minutes to cover 3 miles to achieve my goal and was sure I could do it. I never felt like I was pushing, but was just comfortably flowing, almost as though I were on wheels and sprinted into the lot at 2:58:49. I felt really pumped, but then soon reminded myself that Pikes is twice the distance and I still have a good bit of training to put in if I hope to do well.
I hung out at the car for a bit, eating, drinking and lounging in the shade as I waited for Brandon and Sean to finish. Once they arrived, we chatted for a while and then went out to lunch in Buena Vista.
This was an all time great day in the mountains, a solid run on a perfect day with good friends and no crowds.
Radio Towers at 11k: 38:11
Turn off of road to single track at treeline: 59:40
Back to road: 2:27
Back to towers: 2:37(38?)
About to get into the talus traverse.
Antero from the saddle.
Looks like just minutes to go from the saddle, but was more like 15 or so (I think)
Antero from the summit
Looking West at point 13,971 (debated going to get it)
Tigger on the left, Princeton way back there to right of center
Zoom shot of summit.
Brandon finishing up