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.

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