Sunday, June 29, 2014

Snow In The Mountains

Snow In The Mountains

The plan for yesterday was to attempt a long high traverse, but with mother nature throwing in overnight snow, that was quickly ditched. Instead, I tried to salvage the day with some miles and vert. on the local hill. I don't get to count this time towards my G & T Challenge since I already did it this week - nonetheless, the wind and snow and people made it a fun outing. Up Kelso, down then up G & T, then down and over and up Baker Mnt. and then down. 21 miles and 8,700' gain in 5:56.

 A fair bit of fresh snow.

 Remnants of a massive avalanche in upper Grizzly Gulch

Friday, June 27, 2014

Ruby Creek Traverse - Engelmann, Robeson, Bard, Parnassus, And Woods Peaks

Ruby Creek Traverse - Engelmann, Robeson, Bard, Parnassus, and Woods Peaks

Got up and ran the Ruby Creek Traverse this morning. I wanted to put in a hard, semi-long effort and see what time I could get on the traverse. It involves running up from the URAD mine area just outside of Jones Pass up and over Engelmann Peak (13,362'), Robeson Peak (13,140'), Bard Peak (13,641'), Mount Parnassus (13,574') and Woods Mountain (12,940'). Only the first and last mile of the loop are on any trail, the rest is either bushwhacking or running tundra and ridges. I've done this loop a couple times, and it is always spectacular as you circle around the Ruby Creek basin going from one peak to the other. Unlike many other locations in the Colorado mountains (namely 14ers), hardly anyone does these peaks and I did not see a single person all morning. From the pull out right near the "Danger, Avalanche" sign, run up the rugged old mining road for about a mile to a small clearing. From here, turn east and begin the big march straight up Engelmann's western slopes to gain it's northwestern ridge. Once on Englemann's summit, you can see the entire traverse. Continue south, making the significant drop down and over to Robeson, then onward to Bard Peak where you have spectacular views of all of the surrounding peaks, including G & T and beyond. The ridge from Bard to Parnassus is fun, with a few scrambling sections, as it drops and then climbs to the summit. From Parnassus there is a big drop down to Woods Mountain, before angling north again and tagging a final unnamed 12,700' point. From here, you drop almost straight down, gaining an old mining road that is fairly hard to follow. I ran into a bit of snow here, and had to do some postholing and wallowing through willows and soggy marsh land to make it through the basin and onto the eastern side of the creek. From here, it is a bomb of a run back down to the car. The loop is 11.78 miles and 6,430' of gain, which I completed in 3:19:27. A solid time, although when the snow all melts it might go a bit faster.

 I time the loop from the sign...
 Gained 1,000' by running up this hard snow avalanche shoot to Engelmann.
 Straight up the slope to gain the ridge.
 Summit of Engelmann, with Robeson, Bard, and Parnassus (on the right) in the background.

 Looking over from Bard to Parnassus - just follow the ridge.
 Looking back from Woods at the Traverse, with Engelmann on the far left and Parnassus out of the photo on the right.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Continental Divide Tempos And G & T 45

Continental Divide Tempos and G & T 45

With the mountain season full underway, I sometimes worry about losing any of the very little speed I might have gained from over the winter. Most mountain runs involve some running, but they also involve a lot of power hiking, scrambling, etc., and although the lungs get a solid workout, the leg turnover is rarely worked. In a small effort to work on this a bit I went up and ran Stanley Mountain and then a section of the Continental Divide that is fairly flat/rolling at 12,000'. I also wanted to see how my recovery was from last week's 24,000' of vertical. Parking at the winter lot for Jones Pass, I took the trail as it switchbacks up across from the Henderson Mine. This trail is not heavily used, and there was a fair bit of snowbank crossing, log hopping, and the like until it wound it's way over to Stanley's west face. From there you go straight up on tundra to the summit, at which point you are greeted with the open alpine plateau that makes up the Divide in this area. From there I ran over to Berthoud Pass and back, attempting to push out 7 minute miles for 6 miles. This section of trail has a great open, alpine feel to it, and with no one around, I imagined running on the moon or some remote tundra in the arctic.

 Looking over at the Ruby Creek Traverse.

So far the leg turnover seems to be holding steady, although it is really hard to say. I've been trying to do one track/fartlek run a week, which is always brutal but extremely satisfying. I was happy with my :55 /  8 mile home run this morning after yesterday's G & T. Time will tell...

Revisited some of my old problems on the "Dark Side" last week as well. This one is a fun V6 that moves left to right before topping out. It is amazing that after not touching any of the holds for 4 years, I was able to instantly remember all of the moves - body-mind-muscle memory is really powerful.

Ran G & T 45 yesterday morning before work. The accessibility of this run, as well as it's overall length and vertical gain make it really attractive. Knowing that you can tag two 14er summits and be back in town before 10:00am make this run one of the best training runs around. Summer is in full swing, and although I prefer to run alternative routes, this morning since I was lacking time I ran the regular route in 3:30. I met a Swiss man on top of Grays and took some photos of him - he did Longs and Bierdstat last year, and this year G & T. No one on the way up, but a herd of people were making their way when I was coming down. I have had a lot of thoughts about these two peaks now that I've done them through fall, winter, spring, and into summer. The change in environment, the amount of people, etc. have been rolling through my head. Hopefully I can articulate them some and put them down here soon.

 Still one decent snowfield you have to cross that you would not want to slip on...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

G & T +++ 44 And The Massive-Elbert Loop

G & T +++ 44 and the Massive-Elbert Loop

Earlier this week I ran my 44th G & T. Now that the bigger routes have opened up, I went for the full Stevens Gulch Traverse. This is a killer loop, beginning with the "Full Kelso" up and over Kelso Mountain (13,164'), then Torreys (14,267'), over to Grays (14,270'), then along the ridge to Edwards (13,850'), McClellan (13,587'), and finally Ganley (12,902') before descending straight back down to close the loop. The loop comes in at 15.5 miles and 7,567' of gain, which may not seem like a ton. However, 85% of the entire loop is off-trail, above 12,000', includes sections of class 2/3, some navigation skills, and a bit of bushwhacking. What I really like about it is that you are in a high-alpine world all to yourself; I only encountered people on Torreys and Grays, the rest was solo running. I tried to look around on the internet for a FKT or some fast times, but only could find a couple trip reports on 14ers forums (here and here), both of which did not include the full loop and were both over 8 hours. I ran the full loop car-to-car in 5:08 with stops for photos and to shake out the shoes - just fast enough to make it back down to town for work.

 Going up Kelso's northeast ridge looking at Torreys and Grizzly Gulch.
 The Full Kelso.
 From Edwards looking at the rest of the traverse. You drop down just out of the photo on the far left.

Yesterday Tara and I drove up and I ran the Mt. Massive (14,421') and Mt. Elbert (14,433') loop. This is a classic mountain loop that takes you up and over Mt. Massive, down its backside, over to Elbert, up its backside, and then down back to the car. Start at the N. Mt. Elbert parking lot and run the road over to the Mt. Massive trailhead. Run up the East Slopes trail of Massive to the top, then drop down the backside down the Southwest Slopes route. I had to go off route and add a bit of traversing here because of some hard snow, and then I stopped to help some people ascending the route find their way. From the bottom of the Southwest slopes route, run down the road a bit and then turn onto FS 110J. This is an old mining road that takes you up the backside of Elbert. There are two creek crossing, and with all of the run-off the water was above my knees. Cruz up the road until you see a small zen-like cairn and then turn up and get onto the direct west ridge of Elbert. There is a goat trail going all the way to the top. This whole section was killer, with massive views and relief. I had been solo the whole time, but when I popped over onto the summit of Elbert, I ran into about 50 people or so. It was really weird, as my mind frame had been in a quiet, mountain zone and then all of a sudden there were tons of people, dogs, etc. From the top of Elbert, cruz down the Northeast Ridge route and back to your car to close the loop. The full loop is 21 miles and 9,200' of gain. I ran it in 6:45 with stops on each summit (5 min. each), a shake out of the shoes, and a couple stops to talk with a few people.

 Looking down the backside of Massive - I just came down this since the upper trail section was still covered in a hard snow - I got back on the trail down in the grass
 Looking up at what I came down...

 This is the second creek crossing going up to the backside of Elbert.
 Looking down at Elbert's West Ridge.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

G & T 43, Congressional Circuit, Training, New Races

G & T 43, Congressional Circuit, Training, New Races

Ran up G & T again yesterday. Now that the winter is over, it is time to hit up alternative routes to make it a bit more fun and to add to the challenge (but not take away). I've climbed Grays and Torreys from every direction and by every route, but one of my favorites I call "The Full Kelso." The route involves parking down at Bakersville (as part of my G & T challenge, all attempts have to start there or from another distant trailhead - the summer trailhead would make it too easy) and running up the road past the Stevens/Grizzly split. Continue up the Grays' road past the old mining cabin, and then immediately after taking the old closed mining road on the right across the creek and ascending the northeast ridge of Kelso Mountain (13,164'). The northeast ridge of Kelso is such a pleasure, providing spectacular views of Kelso's north face and Grizzly gulch, as well as Torrey's northeast face. There is a goat trail going up it, and with a few sections of class 2/3 it provides a fun way to hit up the peaks without encountering any people. From the top of Kelso, run down the west ridge of Kelso to the Kelso ridge saddle between Kelso and Torreys. From here, run up the Kelso Ridge of Torreys straight to the top. The run via this route is 6,500' of gain in 7 miles. Then tag Grays and head back down. With the snow melting, times are getting faster, and I ran this route in 4:08 rt with plenty of time for photos and a quick emptying of the shoes. I never really pushed, and despite the crazy wind, the run felt really solid - I got back to the car feeling very fresh. I guess the winter slogs might have paid off.

 Kelso's Northeast Ridge - you get on it via the far left of the photo.
 No hope for dry shoes - just pick a line and go - no reason to waste time looking for a bridge up or down stream.

Most of the line from I-70 to the top of Torreys.

Earlier I had re-run the Congressional Circuit from the previous week. I wanted to see if my time was any good, or if it was soft. I was able to do the 5 peaks in 3:05 and change at a fairly solid effort, so I think my time is OK, but I'm sure it can be beaten. I was planning on going all the way to Bard, but had to get back for work.

Speaking of the Congressional Circuit, there is a new 50K ultra that will go right near it. The Devil on the Divide looks to be a great run. I know the course really well, having run all of it (but never as it will be in the race). It will be one of the harder and more spectacular races in the state. It is on September 6, the same date as another new race, which also sounds cool. The Hermit Pass Marathon, out of Westcliffe. I'm running the Kite Lake Triple-Triple the following weekend, so I don't know how smart it will be to do either of these this year, plus I'm planning on a project attempt in late August, but it's nice to see some more mountain races being created.

This morning I did a nice shake out run at Bear Creek. I forgot how much this system of trails rolls, and I wandered around for 15 miles and 2,000'. I was happy to not really feel yesterday's G&T+, and really had a good time enjoying all of the wildflowers, shady and overgrown nooks and seasonal creeks. I found a bunch of unmarked trails that seem like they can be interlinked in various ways for some really solid miles.

 Nice view of Bergen Peak and Elk Meadow