Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Mount Flora Trifecta: Colorado Mines Peak, Mount Flora, and Breckenridge Peak

The Mount Flora Trifecta: Colorado Mines Peak, Mount Flora, and Breckenridge Peak

One of the easier mountain trail runs found near Colorado's front range is the Mount Flora run from Berthoud Pass. At 3.6 miles and only 2,200 feet of elevation gain, this is a popular one for trail runners to test out their mountain lungs. 

On top of Colorado Mines Peak thinking about the next two...

However, when doing this run, it makes more sense to go for the full trifecta - Colorado Mines Peak, Mount Flora, and Breckenridge Peak. The run starts out fairly straight forward - park at the top of Berthoud Pass and run the closed road that leads to the top of Colorado Mines Peak (12,497 feet). After around 1.5 miles you will reach the top. Enjoy the views and the sound of the wind howling through the various antenna and scientific instruments around you. 

On Mount Flora... a little windy today...

From here, run down the ridge to your east to reconnect with the main Mount Flora trail. Run this trail as it winds along the ridge for another 1.5 miles to the top of Mount Flora (13,146 feet). Spectacular views await! 

View from Mount Flora of Colorado Mines Peak (Peak 1) and Breckenridge Peak (Peak 3)

Now, for the final peak to complete the trifecta. Run back along the trail like you are heading back to the car, but at the first saddle encountered on your WAY BACK (not the lowest point which is where Colorado Mines Peak meets the trail), drop off the south side onto the saddle between the ridge and Breckenridge Peak. Run this ridge keeping slightly left(west) as you wind your way up to the top of the stand-along Breckenridge Peak (12,889 feet). 

Tara running back before Breckenridge Peak...

From here, you retrace your steps back to the Mount Flora trail, and then cruz down the casual 2 miles back to your car at Berthoud Pass. All in all, this is an excellent trail run in the mountains, with some climbing but also some really nice stretches of rolling terrain. On this day it took us 2 hours and 35 minutes to do all three peaks car-to-car. 

Tara on Breckenridge Peak, Mount Flora is in the far right out of the picture...

The numbers for those who care....

Beginning Elevation: ~11,000 feet 
High Point: 13,146 feet 
Total climbing and descending: ~ 4,000 feet 
Mileage: 10 miles round trip 
Other People Factor: moderate. 
Time: 2-4 hours depending on how often you stop to enjoy the views... 

Running back; Mount Flora (Peak 2) is in the background... 

And of course, flowers!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mountain Running the Vasquez Mountains: The Grand Loop

Mountain Running the Vasquez Mountains: The Grand Loop

Running mountain loops is always one of my favorite ways to spend time in the mountains. In Colorado we are blessed with the ability to string together several peaks in one go, often via nice mellow ridges that afford spectacular runs in wild country. The Vasquez Mountains Grand Loop is just that. With hardly any traffic, spectacular views, and lots of open tundra running the Vasquez Mountains Grand Loop is always a pleasure. The best part is that the biggest climb of the day is the one you do first, after that there are only a few sections of minor elevation gain, with lots of rolling ridge country to run across.

Tara on the steep beginning section...

Park at the winter trail head for Jones Pass (in the summer, you can drive up the Jones Pass road, but that is not what we are doing). From here, there is a trail heading due north that switchbacks up the southern slopes of an unnamed 12,900 foot peak. After a couple switchbacks and right at treeline, you head off trail and go straight up. This is the steepest part of the mountain run, and is more like a speed hike from hell. Keep going as you gain close to 1,000 feet in elevation until you reach the unnamed 12,900 foot summit. From here, just a quick ridge run away is Vasquez Peak (12,947) to the north. You can see Berthoud Pass to the east. From Vasquez Peak head due west as you drop way down to a saddle where you will cross the Continental Divide Trail. This is the steepest descent of the entire route. Rest, and then head due west on the ridge as you cross over Point 12,316 and eventually hit Mount Nystrom (12,652). From here, you can begin to finally see the finish line. Head due south along the ridge and towards Jones Pass. Cross over Point 12,673 and then the final Bobtail Peak (12,803). From here, jump down and cruz back on the road for about 2 miles until you reach your car (and hopefully a nice stashed beer).

On Peak 1 (12,900) looking at Vasquez Peak (Peak 2)

This is a spectacular loop that connects almost all of the peaks in the Vasquez Mountains. Hardly anyone runs these peaks, let alone the entire loop, so you are sure to have the entire adventure to yourself. The flowers on these slopes are some of the best in the State, and the views of the Grand Valley, Gore Range, Indian Peaks, and beyond are worth every step. On this trip it took us 3 hours and 57 minutes.

Looking at Peaks 3 (Mt. Nystrom) and Peak 4 - route in red dots...

The numbers for those who care....
Beginning Elevation: ~10,100 feet 
High Point: 12,947 feet 
Total climbing and descending: ~ 6,000 feet 
Mileage: ~12 miles 
Other People Factor: minimal; I've done this run over a dozen times and have only encountered 3 parties on it (on a Sunday no less). 
Time: 3.5-6 hours depending on how often you stop to enjoy the views...

Monday, July 5, 2010

Heartbeat Mountain via Rogers Pass and Heart Lake

Heartbeat Mountain via Rogers Pass And Heart Lake to Rollins Pass and Forest Lakes: Alternative High Lonesome Loop

One of my favorite mountain trail runs near Boulder is the Heart Lake/Rogers Pass run. Starting at the Moffat Tunnel/East Portal, the run consists of 5 miles of shaded single-track that gently climbs along the south fork of South Boulder Creek. After passing Rogers Pass Lake and then Heart Lake, the final climb up to Rogers Pass is well worth it as the views from the Continental Divide always bring a sense of awe and wonder. However, this is only a 10 mile out-and-back, and if you want to tack on a little more, you can continue your run north along the Divide to Heartbeat Mountain. Not many people go here, so you are almost guaranteed a solo peak ascent.

Tara cruzen... 

If you want to do even a little more, just keep going north on the Continental Divide over several more "bumps" until you reach Rollins Pass. From here, you can drop onto the Rollins Pass Road, run it back down until you get to the first big U-turn. Here you will encounter the Forest Lakes Trail. Jump on this and take it back down as it passes Forest Lakes and then winds south, eventually connecting with your original trail about 1.5 miles from the Tunnel. A sweet loop that allows you to spend a good amount of time up high, and the bonus is that you are likely to see only a few people at the trail heads. This run is very similar to the popular High Lonesome Loop, but without any of the people. We ran this loop last week and I encountered only 4 people (2 parties)! Try that on the High Lonesome!

The "self-portrait" on Heartbeat Mountain

The numbers for those who care.... 

Beginning Elevation: ~9,200 feet 
High Point: ~12,200 feet 
Total climbing and descending: ~ 7,500 feet 
Mileage: ~18 miles roundtrip from the Moffat Tunnel 
Other People Factor: moderate to minimal 
Time: 3 - 6 hours depending on how often you stop to enjoy the views...
Just run the Divide up and over the "bumps"....

And of course, flowers...