Flattop Mountain – Rocky Mountain NP

Today was one of those classic BlueBird sky Colorado Crisp fall runs. Elk bugling, yellow aspen, the first layer of snow in the upper elevations and comfortably cool running temperatures. We started from the Hollowell Park trailhead which I was told by my more well informed running friends is a better place to start than the overcrowded Bear Lake or Bierstadt Lake trail heads. They were correct. This was a 15 mile out and back with 4,100ft of gain. Garmin router here.

The only thing missing from this photo are the sounds of elk in heat “bugling” away and the sound reverberating off of the mountains. Longs Peak in the distance. I was there several weeks ago.

The single track on the way up the first several miles was very runnable and soft.

A group rest stop overlooking Bear Lake I believe looking towards Longs Peak.

Breaking through the tree line opens up the views and brings you closer to the first snow pack of the season at 11,500ft.

Pushing the last 1000 or so feet to the top through about an inch of snow. Micro spikes would have been nice at this point. Adding another light layer was all that was needed. The cold felt great after the long dry hot summer.

Back on the Continental Divide for maybe the last time in 2012 at 12,300 ft on the Bighorn Flats. With a trip planned back to OH next weekend, it likely will be my last alpine run…but not my last alpine adventure (snow shoes and skis are being added to the gear this year. Yes, I live in CO and have never down hill skied).

The fun part is the way back down with better light and different views. Without the micro-spikes, it was slow going

I think this is my favorite shot of the day. Longs ahead and I think Blue Lake below. By this time of day, the sun had lit up the west face of Longs.

As you can see here

I believe this is Bear Lake below viewed from about 10,000 ft. I bumped into a group a high school age kids hiking at this point dressed in gym shoes, cotton T-shirts and jeans on their way to the Divide. Perhaps I sounded a bit too parental when I told them they weren’t dressed right and to be safe and not do anything stupid. Oh well. At least I don’t regret not saying anything.

And there were views like this all over to be seen on the way back.

Another picture perfect day in RMNP.

Longs Peak Rocky Mountan NP and the Flagstaff Fire Aftermath

With the sumitting of Longs Peak today, I have wrapped up the most intense and fun period of running/hiking training in my life. 95 miles and 31,800ft of gain in 9 days. It included group runs at Pikes Peak and Longs Peak, a solo of Sanitas and Bear and pre-dawn runs of Green Mountain with Silke and Ryan. (By the way, Silke just WON the Aspen Backcountry Marathon today and Ryan starts the Transalpine-Run in Europe next week.)

Eight of us took the traditional route to the summit of Longs known as the Keyhole route starting from Longs Peak Trailhead. This was a 14.4 mile out and back with 5,300 ft of gain and a fair bit of scrambling on all fours. Garmin route here.

The weather could not have been better. Clear skies and a great early morning glow lit up the east face of Longs. We are heading towards the summit on the right.

This is the approach to the Keyhole through the “Boulder Field” on the north side of Longs. This is about a mile of picking your way through car size to house size boulders.

Looking back on the Boulder Field just below the climb to the Keyhole where the real fun will start.

The final few yards to the Keyhole on the right. On a windy day, I imagine the wind blowing through this hole could be ferocious as it faces directly west to incoming weather. The trip beyond the Keyhole requires the right gear, strong legs and some internal fortitude. Not having been here before, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

This is the view to the west standing in the Keyhole with McHenrys Peak and I believe Pagoda Mtn.

The last mile to the summit is marked by these yellow bullseye’s. This was the most technical terrain I have been on and I forgot I even had a camera until we reached the summit because I was so focused on the footing and hand holds.

This is looking back from the summit at the final climb. There are two of these steep climbs after coming out of the Keyhole. At one point, someone yelled “rock” and I turned around to find a softball size stone coming right at  me. Not sure how I managed to catch it but no harm was done.

It does not get any better than this on Longs. No breeze, warm and on top of the world.

This is looking south towards the Indian Peaks and James Peak Wilderness area where I have spent most of the summer running looking at Longs. Nice to reverse the view.

What else can I say?


I also went up on Bear Peak this weekend for the first time since the Flagstaff Fire. Just putting these out there for people to see the devastation that almost climbed over the ridge and into Boulder. Most of these are looking west towards South Boulder Peak.

Rocky Mount NP – Bluebird Lake

Today’s run wrapped up my last week of preparation prior to taking on the Mt Werner 50K next weekend. This last week I racked up 63.5 miles and 17,800 ft of gain and am going with a one week taper. We’ll see how smart that is come race day. I typically use a two week taper, but that has been for road racing. My legs recover so much quicker coming off of the trails.

The run today took us form the Wild Basin Trail Head up to Bluebird Lake mostly along the Bluebird Lake trail plus a small section on the Thunder Lake trail. Garmin route here:


Mt Meeker (13.9K) in the foreground and Longs Peak (14.2K) in the background. These are on the bucket list for another day.

This is what is left of a 20 year old burn near Ouzel Lake about half way to Bluebird Lake. It was a bit of an apocalyptic looking landscape. The destination is Ouzel Peak way in the distance.

After burn picture #1.

Thought this was a cool looking form. After burn #2.

After burn #3. Moving on from the apocalypse…

Pushing towards the upper reaches to the shore of Bluebird. Not too many weeks of this left.

This is Bluebird which feeds Ouzel Falls. There are actually two other lakes up there accessible off-trail. Junco and Pipit Lake. We turned around here.

The water clarity was incredible.

On the way back down, I noticed this little grove that I had run right by on the way up. These are Colorado Columbine. Time to rest.

This concludes another version of Deep Thoughts by Matt Wiencek ๐Ÿ˜‰

Lawn Lake Rocky Mountain NP – Dam Break Anniversary (Almost)

July 15 1982 at 6am (30 years plus one week ago) the Lawn Lake Dam failed releasing 220 million gallons of water in one minute. Yikes! The alluvian fan is still visible from the Fall River entrance to RMNP. This is where Ed, Alfred and myself started on a run to Lawn Lake and beyond to Crystal Lake. It was about a 16 mile round trip with 3,500 ft of gain a bit northwest of Estes Park. A really nice runnable uphill grade. Garmin route here:


Some of the 30 year old debris pile six miles from the dam break.

You can see how much of the original stream bed washed away here. On to the real scenery.

Law Lake in the distance with considerably more beach front property visible.

Heading up the single track to Lawn lake. Ed is in the lead.

Rest stop at Lawn Lake. Crystal Lake is at the ridge you can see just above our heads about 1.5 miles away. The trip between the two lakes was the most scenic section.

Apparently Llama are great pack animals. I thought I was stepping around horse manure on the way up!

Approaching the shore line of Crystal Lake and our turn around point for the day. Saving the best for last on this run.

Right after this was taken I did a double back somersault with a clean landing into the icy water from that ledge. I wish they would have taken a picture. You’ll have to take my word for it ๐Ÿ˜‰

And a credit to Alfred for this last one.