It’s been a short and wild summer. I spent the majority of my weekends in the high country, which means regularly getting up at 3-4am on non-workdays. I have loved every single adventure and was even getting used to the early morning wake up calls, though I can definitely feel the accumulation of sleep deprivation. I climbed a few 14ers, a few 13ers, ran a couple of iconic loops and segments, ran my first hard af 50k, ran my first extremely runnable 50 miler, had a lot of ups, a few downs and feel like I took advantage of the summer to the best of my capacity.
Last weekend, I acknowledged the coming of the fall, and it’s coming fast, with the second annual Skyline Traverse Season Kickoff Run. This Boulder classic is 17-20 miles, depending on your preferred method of descending Sanitas, with vertical gains of just over 6000′. I ran nine of them last season – September to May – as the winter weather was very accommodating. This run hits the five major peaks along the Boulder skyline – if you run it in my preferred direction, South to North, you’ll hit South Boulder Peak, Bear Peak, Green, Flagstaff and Sanitas. I hadn’t done it since just before my first race in May and I’m looking forward to many more of these over the coming months.
June Stats: 176 Miles // 33759′ Vert
Race Golden Gate Dirty 30 – 50K // 7500′
Mount Yale “We’ll definitely see goats,” he said “there are always goats on Yale.” … Even though we didn’t see any goats, at 14,196, this 14er instantly became one of my favorites – out of only 8 – to date. It follows my favorite sequence – the first third is forested, rocky trail, followed by open meadows full of lush green shrubs and wildflowers, finished off by a big-ass boulder field that is just a little scarier than the last one I climbed. It takes me all season to be able to run up high, so it was pure hiking on the way up and fun, runnable and jumpable downhill for the bottom two thirds of the trail. There was the threat of rain, but we decided to go anyway. We always time it so that we’re off the peak well before noon at the height of thunderstorm season. In the last few miles, it started to sprinkle, finishing off the hike/run in a refreshing mist. I’d definitely do this one again.
South Arapaho Peak I hit this 13er a few times this season. It’s SO beautiful and only 17 miles and one hour from Boulder. The sheer quantity of marmots and pikas on this trail make it worth the multiple trips. If you’re lucky, you might see a pika scurry across the trail with a bouquet of tiny grasses and wildflowers in its mouth. I did! Again, this trail starts out forested. After a brief bramble through the the willows the trail opens up to fields of wildflowers that might make this avid musical-hater want to sing The Sound of Music…. and that says a lot. The lakes that dot the landscape are quite beautiful and if I could stop going for Arapaho, I bet I could discover some other gorgeous lakes and peaks in this area of the Indian Peaks Wilderness.
July Stats: 143 Miles // 28472′ Vert
Race: Mount Hood 50 Mile
Decalibron For July 4th, we decided to tag four 14ers in 7 miles doing this loop – Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln and Bross. Though technically it’s not “legal” to climb Bross, you’ll find no shortage of hikers headed up and down this scree monster. For what it’s worth, it is NOT advisable for two adult humans to sleep in the back of a Subaru with the seats folded “flat” at a trail head where 100 other people are “sleeping”. Though it is totally comfortable enough to eat Pad Thai and play Head’s Up. So after a cumulative 3 hours of disturbed sleep, my friend Michele and I began our peak-bagging with Mount Democrat.
This whole loop has a whole lot of loose rock, boulder fields and more loose rock. There was some nice runnable stuff between Cameron and Lincoln and then again between Lincoln and Bross. We got a solid 1.75 miles of running in – but at 13,000 feet, that counts as about 17.
It’s interesting to see the contrast between what the mountains that have been left alone look like compared to those that have been mined. I’ll admit that any mountain inspires awe and humility in me, but it’s indeed sad to see a mountain that’s been pillaged for its wares. I’m sure I’ve consumed those wares and that I’ve contributed to the problem, but it’s sad feeling that’s difficult to describe. It’s kind of like seeing the greats fall – like seeing someone who was once at the top of their game tumble into madness, but they don’t know they’ve gone mad and carry on as though they live forever thinking it’s 1923 before the talkie came along and they could no longer find work… It’s stunning none the less to wake up and be surrounded by giants.
Hope Pass How cool to be able to travel along a section of the iconic Leadville 100. I was still hobbling with my wizard sticks due to the last seven miles of my 50 miler, but man was this gorgeous. I’m not sure what else to say.
August stats: 165 Miles 28394′ Vert
High Lonesome Loop This is my current favorite, although it’s somewhat impossible to have just one. The reason I claim high lonesome as my current favorite is not because of its stunning beauty or for the fact that it covers varying terrain, though both are true. It’s because I have not lived up to my potential yet on this trail. Held back by injury and fatigue, I tried twice and finished once, slogging up and hobbling down. It’s beautiful, runnable and challenging with lots of opportunity for solitude and freedom. I can’t stop thinking about doing it again and I’ll keep coming back to it – because there’s beauty and room to grow.
Pawnee Pass Stunning. The day I went up this it was cold and threatening rain and snow. It’s pretty runable from the Long Lake trail head in the Brainard Lake Recreational Area of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Alas, I was dedicated to hiking this with a friend and have plans to do the Pawnee-Buchanan loop this month and will report back, assuming we don’t get sidelined by some jacked up weather.