Halfmoon Lakes – Mt Massive Wilderness

Sunshine! Unusual to be grateful for something so abundant in a state like CO, but, with the “monsoon” season still raging in the high country, it was nice to be above 12,000 ft not getting rained on! I had passed this particular split in the trail on the southwest approach to Mt Massive summit several times this summer and thought nothing of it really. Well, somedays it is better to pass up the summit for a series of high country lakes, the Halfmoon Lakes in this case on the western slopes of Massive.

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Poking through tree line the views looking southwest

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Exploring around some house size boulders!

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Wading at 12,000 ft

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Looking back at the climb I passed up while reclining in a bed of wildflowers

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Lower North Half Moon Lake in B&W

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Until next season….

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Silverton Alpine 50k

The San Juan mountains beckoned for the second time in a month. As beautiful as they are, I hope to see them not shrouded by clouds one of these day. After pacing the Leadville Trail 100 last week, I was inspired to enter a race. The Silverton Alpine 50k takes place on a section of the Alpine Loop Back Country Byway between the cities of Silverton, Lake City and Ouray. These sorts of expeditions for me are usually an excuse to take pictures more than anything else. But with it being a smaller race and having been motivated by the Leadville weekend, I decided to leave the camera and just run as hard as I could.

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Leila and I represented the Rocky Mountain Runners contingent. She posted a 5:04 for a win and a new course record. I lumbered in with a 5:23 which I was very happy with. Next time, I’ll carry a camera!

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Hiking the CDT

The mountains are humbling. I guess that about sums up this trip. Oh and they are also very beautiful….but with a pack on the CDT, you really have to earn those moments. These were taken on the CDT heading south from Spring Brook Pass down to Cataract Lake. What was supposed to be a 6 day point to point turned into a 3+ day out and back due to the very soggy conditions last week. That entire time was spent between 11,000 – 13,000 feet in some very exposed areas. Enough of my babble……these will speak for themselves.

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Pawnee – Buchanan Pass Loop

Once a year is not often enough to take on the epic Pawnee-Buchanan Loop, but that seems to be my timing. This was the first attempt in the clockwise direction and it was a different experience entirely.DSCN1739

We had a nice group of 12 runners charging up the first steep climb towards Pawnee Pass.

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And then back down into the valley.

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The western slope is incredibly verdant.

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The water falls were numerous and gushing.

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5 hours later we started the climb towards Buchanan Pass.

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There is plenty of time left this year to try this one again!

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Silver Rush 50 – Leadville, CO

The decision to enter the Silver Rush 50 was last minute and somewhat casual for me as opposed to my only other 50 mile race last year which I agonized over for weeks. I really can’t explain the decision to take this on other than I felt ready…..that’s it. I had been running at higher elevations with The Rocky Mountain Runners for many of the prior weeks….but all that was done just because we all of love to run. I have also managed to climb 5 fourteeners in the last 6 weeks so I think that helped the confidence. Whatever it was, I am just grateful to have my health dialed in to the degree that I can run for 50 miles with 6,000 feet of climbing in 8:59:41.

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Five of us from the Rocky Mountain Runners ran this event and everyone had a great day. Ryan, Neeraj and I broke 9 hours. Mike who ran on some tired legs broke 10 hours. Then of course there is Leila who won the women’s race and set a new course record two weeks after the Western States 100 where I paced her. Many other RMR showed up to support and cheer for us which I think everyone is grateful for……especially me because I am stealing several of their pictures as I was not carrying a camera.

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This is the first race I have ever listed to music. I think the music was inspiring because I ran an 11 minute negative split over the second half and really had that “Eye of the Tiger” feeling coming home.

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As I was crossing the finish line, they announced the wrong name. No matter. Just happy to have this one in the bag under 9 hours. So….about that 100 mile race…….

Western States 100

Life can unfold in interesting ways if you let it. I stumbled upon an opportunity to  pace the Western States 100 for Leila.  Of course I am going to do it!  I considered it a privilege to participate. The course has 18,000 ft of gain and 22,000 ft of loss in remote sections of the Sierra Nevada beginning in Squaw Valley and ending at Placer HS in Auburn CA.

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This blog is mainly for single track pictures but because of the remoteness of the course, the challenges in driving to the aid stations, and the excessive heat, I don’t have many on course shots. I also felt is was the responsible thing to do as a pacer to stay hydrated and rested so that I could be there 100% from mile 78 to the finish.

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Looking at the first climb out of Squaw Valley towards the Escarpment on Friday afternoon.

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Gordy Ainsleigh, the guy who decided to turn a horse race into a foot race 40 years ago speaking at the pre-race meeting.

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5:00am the next day, the runners were off and Nick and I (The Pacers) didn’t see Leila until Bath Road at mile 60.

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Nick and Leila ready to pull out of Foresthill at mile 62.

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This is the Chucky River crossing at mile 78.

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At around 9pm, #15 was called up on a radio to the Far Side aid station as being “In the River”. Somewhere down in the darkness, is Leila and Nick trudging through the water.

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The next six hours we moved very steadily between aid stations. There were five of them total before the finish. Lots of good memories during that stretch seared into the mind….meadows and stars mostly…. Then the finish in 21:59:26 for 9th place amongst women. Amazing…and still smiling!

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The top 10 women finishers at the awards later that same day.

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And the most exclusive trail running award there is……Congratulations Leila. Incredible work out there!

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Mt Massive and Elbert Weekend

Wrapping up work by 2pm Friday and driving directly to the Highlands is becoming a habit and I am starting to understand those who have long been habituated in this way. I am a bit of a late comer to it all. I headed back up to Leadville this weekend. I remember driving through Leadville the first time on my way to Buena Vista area and being thoroughly unimpressed by the look of this ramshackle town from the comfort of my car…but…..the place does grow on you. It is certainly authentic. The two challenges of the weekend were to be Elbert (far left) and Massive. Daunting but impressive.

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Michael and Malory joined on Saturday for a jaunt up Massive from Elbert Creek CG. They both kicked some ass at the recent Steamboat Marathon.

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Quick Team Massive photo after breaking tree line before the real fun began. Yes in case you are wondering….those are new Transition lenses and I am trying to make them cool again…..Oh, they were never cool to begin with? Yikes.

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The colors are just starting to pop!

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Beautiful Leadville :) nestled in the valley on the right with Turquoise Lake.

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Making the final push to the summit….I mean the false summit and the false summit and the final false summit…… :)

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Aspen Valley in the background on the summit. Massive has a lot of character up top.

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So what do you do after a morning of running….have a Nutella sandwich washed back with a PBR and take a nap in a hammock…..then run again in the afternoon. Leila joined up with Michael and I for a run up the Powerline section of the Leadville 100 course. These two have both earned a buckle for finishing in less than25 hours. Impressive. I am pacing this year and was glad to be able to see this section of the course during the day…..

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Powerline during the day….the next time I am back here it will most likely be 2am as a pacer and quite cold…..

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We headed up Elbert the next day and had this view of the west slope of Massive……

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Leila in the lead who is heading out to Wester States 100 next weekend…..I am stoked to be her pacer! What a privilege.

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Elbert is a non technical but really steep and slick……glad I had a hiking pole.

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All smiles after snacking on some much needed bacon jerky….or was it the Views from the highest point in Colorado :)

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Mt Evans and Bierstadt Weekend

So the plan was to run Mt Evans Ascent Saturday which is a 14.5 mile road race with 4,000+ feet of gain summiting Mt Evans at 14,264ft, drive over to Guanella Pass Campground and hope for an open walk up, meet a friend driving up form Boulder and “run” Mt Bierstadt at 14,060 on Sunday from Guanella Pass with a bit of add on of the South Park Trail afterwards. It all came together. I ran the Ascent last year and left Boulder at 4am to make the 7:30am start. This year, I opted for the car camp option near Echo Lake on Friday night so I could enjoy a leisurely cup of joe in the am instead of navigating I-70. I was rewarded with a nice sunset on Echo Lake Friday. Thanks to the duck!

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View from the start area to the summit….

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Not alot in the way of pics coming up Evans because I was trying for a sub 2:40 which gets you a special Mt Evans rock award . I just slipped in under the time limit at 2:36. The interesting part (for me at least) is that I was chatting with Bryan, who I just met, before the race and we ended up passing each other multiple times all the way to the summit and both finished 13th in our age group. Bryan is from MO so it pretty damn impressive that he shows up and earns a rock of his own.

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There were a few furry creatures waiting for us at the summit.

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And some spectacular views…good to see so much snow.

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I was lucky to find this little camp site next to a babbling brook.

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Mike drove up from Boulder and he spent his Father’s Day and I spent my birthday “running” Bierstadt.

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I don’t yet have the skills to tackle this class 3 knife edge between Bierstadt and Evans…

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Looking west towards Sante Fe Peak below the summit.

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Nice way to spend your birthday! And I think aside from spending it with his family on Father’s Day (they were out of town), Mike probaply wouldn’t rather be any where else.

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Legendary Leadville

There have already been two really good posts about this weekend in Leadville by Silke and Mike but I’ll add a few of my own pictures and thoughts to the mix. Since moving here not too long ago, this was the weekend I was able to put the Colorado experience together, mountains, camping and running for a glorious weekend. I didn’t bother to keep track of all the mileage and climbing but it was around 50 miles and 5,000 feet of gain. More importantly, the time was spent on the Colorado and Continental Divide trails with friends. One of the runs is below.

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First on the camping…..no, I had never camped before this weekend…(gulp)….now that admission is out of the way :) Second, I was the only person in camp with all brand new shiny gear! I managed too spend a couple of (comfortable) nights under the starry skies in my new tent. I purchased the floor model from Neptune so this baby has got too have plenty of good mojo to deal out over the next decade I hope :) Friday afternoon, I arrived in camp first and decide to set out on a solo circumnavigation of Twin Lakes below the summit of Mt Elbert, Colorado’s highest peak.

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The entire circumnavigation was filled with scenes like this…

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And of course this…..

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About half way around the loop, I stumbled across the Historic Interlacken resort which was a Victorian era mountain retreat. There is a complex of restored buildings here for rent for your next special occasion….weddings, graduations, bar mitzvah and the like….provided you are willing to hike in. No motor access allowed :)

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Continuing on the loop, I finally reached the end of my journey at Lake Creek after which a simple crossing would lead me to the camp ground about .5 mile away.

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I don’t have a picture of it, but I was surprised to find the creek was a raging white water torrent descending from the highlands due to the spring melt. If you have seen Into the Wild, I kinda felt a little bit like Christopher McCandless must have. I could practically see the camp from where I was but there was no way of getting there so it was time to buck up a bit and head back the way I came. I arrived back in camp just in time to see the rest of the crew heading into town for dinner. I had about enough energy to setup camp, have a few beers and listen to the Dead for a few hours. We all reassembled the next morning for a fine mountain run.

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Thanked the beaver for creating this fine little lake….

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And thanked whoever came up with the idea of swimming in a placid mountain lake after a trail run while sipping some cold ones in the sun shine. Brilliant!

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And what would a day on the trails be without a hot mountain pizza pie.

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Followed by another day running amongst the aspens…

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From Sea to Summit…..

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It does not get any better…..

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Lumpy Ridge Loop – Rocky Mountain NP

It seems like the summer trail running season is finally here. Time to chase the melting snow line as it recedes towards the Continental Divide. We headed out to the Lumpy Ridge Loop in RMNP on one of those perfect CO days. I think the route is best run clockwise because of the stunning views that slap you in the face after you drop down below Gem Lake for the last mile. We added on the spur to Bridal Veil Falls and Balanced Rock which resulted in a 16 miler with about 2,500 ft of gain.

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Steady climbing from the TH to about 9,200 feet. That was the highpoint.

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Came across what I think are Calypso Bulbosa wild orchids.

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Bridal Veil Falls. I wonder who comes up with these names?

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The Balanced Rock of Colorado. I had no idea we had one of these. Take that Utah!

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Gem Lake. We mocked you before we saw you :( Oh how wrong we were. I stood in there for 2 minutes before my feet went numb.

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Time to bring it home. Luv those downs.

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Gyros, philly cheese steaks and some roasted corn await. Let’s roll.

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