Monday, December 8, 2014

Monday, 12/08/14 Random Peak Hunting

Thursday, while on my way to run my usual Green/Bear/SoBo/Green circuit, I made an in car decision to go attempt Scar Top, starting from where the Eldo Road turns to dirt.  I have been eyeing Scar Top and a few summits to the SW of Eldorado Springs for some time, yet had done very minimal research, just a quick glance at Google earth really.  I was not sure if I would have the time to summit before I had to pick up the girls from school, as I had no idea what the distance was, but most importantly, did not know what the terrain would really be like.  I ran into Eldo on the Fowler Trail, over toward the visitor center and stayed on the south side of the creek.  I knew there was a side drainage that came in from the southwest, but it ended up being a bit further upstream from the center than I remembered seeing on Google earth.  Initially there is a road, but this is just to access a major water pipeline and ended after just a minute or two.  Above the pipeline, it was nearly 3 miles of hopping boulders through the flood ravaged box canyon.  The flood was a benefit, in that it cleared out all of the brush, yet simultaneously somewhat of a detriment, as it meant a lot of loose rock and fallen trees.  Progress was slow, but this valley was amazing, as there were quite a few newly formed emerald pools, a fair bit of moss, small waterfalls and was neat to witness the power of the floods.

It took me almost 90 minutes to travel the ~4.5 miles to the train tracks and from there, my view was a bit obscured and I was not sure where the summit of Scar Top was.  I ran the tracks eastbound for 2 or 3 minutes to get a better view and saw some summits still high above (turns out it was Crescent and Jack's).  I still debated it, but they looked further away than I had anticipated and the terrain was bushy and rugged.  I decided to err on the side of prudence and turn back.

The route I had in my mind on Thursday

Actual route on Thursday (with an added side trip on the return to check out the recently re-opened Rattlesnake Gulch Trail)

On Saturday, Homie and I had a few hours in the morning to get out, so we headed to Coal Creek Canyon to climb Crescent Mountain and Jack's Peak, maybe Scar Top if we had time.  We made quick work of the bushwhack up Crescent, then over to Jack's, but Scar Top looked a bit too distant (not that far, but a significant drop to the saddle and some complicated terrain).  We both decided it would be best to not chance being late getting home and then spent some time on Jack's Peak now that we were not in a hurry.

I think my next plan of attack for Scar Top will be from Walker one day soon.  Also looking to hike/run Thorondin and Star in the near future as well.

View of Coal Creek Peak from Crescent (Homie and I climbed Coal Creek a few years ago)

Cool view of Eldorado Mountain

Homie signing in

Unusual perspective of Green, SoBo and Bear from Crescent

Indian Peaks and Lucho's neighborhood in there somewhere.

Scar Top from Jack's, tantalizingly close, but maybe a bit too much to fit into our limited time frame.

View from Jack's toward Green, SoBo, Bear, Eldo (this is where I would have ended up on Thursday had I decided to keep going up).

Homie checking in on the Hardrock 100 lottery

Monday, December 1, 2014

Sunday, 11/30/2014 One Thousandth Recorded Ascent of Green Mountain

Perhaps a bit anticlimactic, as I had 100 or more ascents of Green Mountain prior to when I began keeping track on December 1st, 2004, but 1,000 sounded like a good round number over 10 years and cause to celebrate.  At the very least, a good excuse to get a group of great friends together for a run on my favorite hill.

Back in October, since we have shared quite a few summits together, Tony and I had discussed the possibility of coordinating our official 1,000 summits of Green milestone, as he was coincidentally only 20-25 behind me at the time and was hopeful that he would catch up in a month or two (normally easy for him to do), but a nagging and recurring shin injury prevented him from closing that gap.  Without really trying and sooner than anticipated, I found myself easily within range of reaching 1,000 in an even 10 years, which sounded good to me and so I reluctantly decided to plan for Nov. 30th.  Ridiculous I know, but since I am no math wiz, these even numbers would make it really easy for me to do the calculations in my head (1,000/10 = 100) ;).  Hopefully I can join Tony for his 1,000th in the next month or two as his shin improves.

When I started keeping track back in 2004, it was primarily to record vertical gain, my fastest times on various routes, different peaks, the mileage I was putting on test shoes, etc...  and was all in an Excel spreadsheet.  I never thought of reaching 1,000 on any peak.  I could go back and get exact numbers (though I don't feel like it), but from 2004-2010, I would typically only run Green between 50-80 times per year, mostly in the Spring, Fall and Winter.  This was mainly because more often than not, we were off to the high mountains for grander adventures.

But, in 2010, we had twins and our opportunities to get to the high country became drastically reduced and thus I ended up doing more running/hiking/adventuring locally.  My usual yearly count then ended up being 150-180 and the total was quickly growing.  Though I often visit the other nearby peaks, I keep coming back to Green, mainly, it fits perfectly into my schedule, when on most days, I only have about an hour.  I guess I could do 2 laps on Sanitas in that time, but I am not a fan of the crowds there and Sanitas quickly feels repetitive.  Bear Peak is awesome, but the added 10-15 or so minutes required is often out of the question for me when I already feel as though I am stretching my limits being out selfishly running.  SoBo is great too, but that takes even longer, especially with the added driving, recent trail re-routes and flood damage in Shadow Canyon.

No matter how many times I get out on Green Mountain, I miraculously never get sick of it and it remains one of my favorite peaks.  Every trip is a new adventure and it never ceases to amaze me how many various routes I can dream up and how much adventure can be found on this peak, only a mile or two from town.  It can feel remarkably and deceptively remote at times.  I have come to know each and every rock and log step in the trail (and now ladder rungs), notice when my right foot steps on a certain rock or log that I am out of sync vs. stepping in the same spot with my left.  I enjoy the consistency, observing changes, tangibly monitoring my fitness on given routes, knowing where to expect ice, lingering snow, water, mud, animals, seeing familiar faces, etc...

Not sure if now I'll work on adding another 1,000 (probably), or check other peak counts and push toward 1,000 in other places.  Most likely though, as is the case with all of my running and outdoor adventures, it will all just come along naturally and without a plan.

Some random highlights, memorable moments or thoughts of note over those years in no particular order (and I am forgetting or omitting many):

  • Getting out there and sharing the trails with great friends, sister, father, mother, mother in law, my wife Allison, my dog Sierra and now slowly introducing my daughters to the trails.  
  • Running Green the day after my daughters were born and feeling as though I were floating on air with the biggest smile on my face, wanting to tell the World about my good fortune.  I happened to bump into Aaron Kennard near the summit and I could not help but to talk his ear off about it.  I did not PR that day, but I was very close and it felt like nothing.
  • Summiting in any weather, be it -15 degrees, 100+ degrees, hurricane force winds, blizzards, night, rain, 1,000 year floods, etc....  Lightning is usually the only meteorological deterrent.
  • Carrying my twin daughters up and down the mountain, either both at once, or individually.  It was quite the circus act carrying them both, as well as managing the dog.
  • Exploring random routes on the mountain, either planned or on a whim.  Flatiron climbs, scrambles, remote ridgelines, chossy hillsides, boulderfields, poison ivy/oak, bush choked ravines, caves, tunnels, arches, getting lost, getting cliffed out, backtracking and making a game straight lining it to the summit.
  • Joining Homie for his last 3 of 10 laps in a day on Green Mountain.
  • Running the trails after the floods last year and having the trails entirely to myself.  Parking away from trailheads, wearing earthy colors, never wearing headphones, always on the lookout, staying off trail when necessary, tracking footprints, stealth evading, close calls, exploring washouts start to finish.  It was somewhat disappointing when the trails reopened in an odd sort of way.  
  • Not being able to summit, bailing 2/3 of the way up after a blizzard and a few consecutive snowstorms in January 2007.  The snow was just too deep and even with 30" snowshoes, progress was frustratingly slow and tedious.  Not to mention, I carried my skis with me, but chickened out on skiing back down.
  • Quick changes in weather, inversions, being above the clouds, sunrises, sunsets.
  • Wildlife.  Bears, rattlesnakes, bullsnakes, deer, grouse, fox, owls, eagles, falcons.  I have yet to see a mountain lion, but have tracked them and have been tracked by them.
  • Setting a variety of PRs on the hill, up, down, up and down.
  • Hill intervals with George.
  • Botching a leap off the summit block and being rudely reminded of how hard and unforgiving rocks are.
Some photos from celebratory summit #1,000.  All photos by George Zack, unless otherwise noted.

Pausing to regroup on the ascent.  Andrew and Aron.

Aron and I

The true summit, that Joe contends was heli-lifted there.  Not a "proper" summit, like Bear.

Joe snapping a photo of me.

With a polaroid no less.

(Joe Grant photo)

Clockwise from left:  Aron, me, Homie, Joe, Tony, Andrew, Bruce

We had the pleasure of experiencing an amazing inversion and were above the clouds.

The following two photos I lifted from BoCo Ranger on Twitter, the first from the area near Walker looking toward Eldo.

From Sugarloaf you can see Green just barely peeking above the clouds, center left, then Bear and SoBo in the direct center.

Tailgating afterwards.  Since I am one of two grown men on the planet who does not drink beer (along with Homie), George decided to bring me kid cereal instead to celebrate.

It was cold afterwards, but the storytelling and banter was too fun to pass up.  Especially Joe, he is as good at telling stories in person as in his writing.

The change in weather on this day was incredible.  I had originally dressed in shorts, as it was ~55 degrees as I was preparing to run, but literally in the span of a half hour, the temperature dropped 30 degrees.  It was a good bit warmer above ~7,000 feet and much better in the sun above the clouds.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Saturday, 10/25/14 Monster Dash

After last year's starting line debacle (poor information from the race crew) Amelie and Isabelle were eager to go back again to make right.  This year, we signed up for the medium distance, 1/2 mile out and back course (vs. the 1 block Spooky Sprint last year).  In all honesty, their main motivation was the opportunity to get dressed up as Snow White and Cinderella and parade around the streets of Louisville, but once we were there, they really seemed to be into the idea of the race.

It was really fun to lead them along and see them gut it out, surging past one another, then either blowing up, or just being courteous to wait up for each other.  There may have even been some seeds of rivalry mixed in there as well.

They said they want to race Pikes with dad next, but I had to explain they have another 12 years to wait on that one.  Plenty of time to train!

Miraculously, no pre-race trips to the potty, unlike myself, who ends up there 4 or 5 times beforehand.

"Good luck sis!"

 We bumped into their twin friends, Neve and Meadow.

Pacing themselves, being careful to not go out too fast.

Isabelle getting a gap.

Isabelle looking a little worked

A final surge, all downhill now!

The final sprint for the line (was a tie).

Proud of their accomplishment.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Thursday, 09/04/14 Buchanan/Pawnee Loop

26.02 miles
7,334 vert.
6:26:44 (including ~20-25 minutes of stops)

This loop has been on my radar for a number of years and despite it being so close, for some odd reason I had not yet got around to it until today.  On Tuesday, I realized that there might be a possibility of me getting a day pass on Thursday, which also happened to coincide with a good weather forecast.  Once everything was in line, I sent out a handful of invites, but not surprisingly, nobody was able to join, it being so last minute and on a Thursday.  I did not mind though, as much as I would have enjoyed some good company, I was equally excited about doing this on my own and enjoying the almost guaranteed solitude (solitude was right, as I saw not a single person from lower Audubon Trail 20 minutes in, until I got to Pawnee Pass 5 hours in).

I started from the Long Lake parking lot at 6:33am and it was surprisingly warm and calm, sunny and in the low 50's.  I had waffled over the previous day as to what my intentions were for this run, whether to push hard for a fast time, or run it casually, take a lot of photos and perhaps add on Sawtooth and Crater Lake.  I could not decide on either and ultimately decided to just get out there and run and take the day as it came (it ended up being a very moderate run, cruising mostly and never really pushing).

I started off feeling quite good, most of it simply from being fresh and enthusiastic about the day to come, yet I was careful to not push too hard, as I knew pacing would be key to get through this challenging 26 miles.  It was such a great feeling to be cruising along in the warm morning sunlight, seemingly having the entire Indian Peaks Wilderness to myself.

Route finding was quite simple, with the only exception being the Coney Flats area, where there is a network of trails and dirt roads, but with some tips from friends and familiarizing myself with the area via maps and GPS tracks ahead of time, it ended up being really simple.

I pretty much felt good for the first 2.5-3 hours, but then went through a series of bad patches, nothing too serious, but I was not feeling particularly springy on the ascent of the Cascade Trail and pretty much just gave into enjoying the scenery, side trips to the many waterfalls and picture taking.  My stomach was not all that great and even on this not too crazy long run, I was getting pretty sick of gels and shot bloks.  Several times, I spent 3-5 minutes just sitting and drinking water, hoping my stomach would settle, which it eventually did a little.  

Then a surprise foot issue arose.  I wore my Hoka Stinsons (a new pair that I had only used twice thus far for short distances) and for some reason they really worked their way loose on the 6 miles descent of Buchanan Pass, so I stopped to re-tie them, but I think I went a bit too tight, as the outside edge of my right 5th metatarsal ended up hurting.  I have also had a recurring plantar wart in the same spot, so I was not sure what was going on.  I tried to tough it out for a bit, hoping it would go away, but then began an extended series of stops to tie/re-tie my shoes, take them off and feel inside, rub my foot, wrap the area with band aids.  Ultimately, the band aids, combined with keeping my right shoe really loose alleviated the pain, but a big loose Hoka is not all that stable and made for awkward running/hiking.

Though I had given in to any real time goals, I was a bit frustrated to take so many time wasting stops and was now just eager to get over the final climb of Pawnee Pass, but this was no small feat.  With some accumulated fatigue and a not so great stomach, this ended up being a real grind and never seemed to end.  Since I typically favor steep technical terrain, I figured this section would play to my strengths, but I ended up slowly slogging the entire way up, often stopping to try and figure out how on earth the trail would work it's way through the steep talus and cliff bands.

Once on the pass, I was quite relieved and eager to finish off the remaining 5 miles of familiar, mostly all downhill trail.  My energy returned a bit, but I was not feeling all that coordinated through the rocky, technical sections and was preoccupied with not rolling my loose Hoka.

Overall though, this is a top notch, scenic, challenging, interesting, uncrowded run that is quite a blast, I highly recommend it.  I had a very enjoyable run despite my minor issues along the way and being pretty worked over at the end.  It did not disappoint and lived up to expectations.

Wearing shoes that I had not put many miles in might have not been the best idea (though I was confident, as I never had an issue with my previous Stinsons) and I think my fitness/endurance is not quite where I would like to think it is.  I have really slacked off after Pikes Peak and it showed on this run.  This is a tough loop and I was pretty worked afterwards.


Mt. Audubon TH - 5:36
Audubon Jct. - 28
Coney Flats - 1:01
Buchanan Pass - 1:59
Cascade Jct. - 3:06
Crater Jct. - 3:59
Pawnee Pass - 5:29
Lake Isabelle - 6:04
Finish Long Lake TH - 6:26:44

Looking North toward Longs early in the run

Typical terrain descending to Coney Flats.  The trail was somewhat overgrown in spots.

Coney Flats, looking up toward Sawtooth and Buchanan Pass just to the right.

Decent scenery and I spooked a few moose through this section.

Sawtooth and Buchanan Pass on the right

Buchanan Pass

Looking West in the direction I am heading, dropping 3,000 vertical in 6 miles (most of the drop was in the first half)

An massive avalanche completely decimated the trail for a few hundred yards and required a bit of picking through to get across.

One of many waterfalls along the Cascade Trail.  I took probably 200 pictures on the day, but I think I unwittingly had my camera on an odd setting for much of the run and this is the only half decent waterfall shot).

Surprisingly, there were still some decent lingering patches of wildflowers.

Looking down at Pawnee Lake

Looking up at Pawnee Pass.  Seems impossible that the trail can go there.

But it does.

Looking back down the West side of Pawnee Pass.

Finally on the pass.

Looking toward Little Pawnee and Audubon

Just 5 miles to go down to those lakes.