Friday, September 30, 2011

September Summary

The totals for September:
118 miles, 4.6 vertical miles

The breakdown:
8 trail runs, 84 miles, 3.8 vertical miles, 22 hours
2 road runs, 13mi, 0.1vm, 2hrs
2 track workouts, 10mi, 0vm, 2hrs
2 treadmill workouts, 11mi, 0.7vm, 2hrs
9 weight lifting, 9 hrs
16 rest days

I took 12 straight rest days in the early part of the month due to a bad cold, easily making these my lowest monthly totals all year.  I can't remember the last time I took this many days off in a row, but I felt like crap and had no need to rush back into it.  It definitely gave me a renewed vigor as soon as I stepped foot on a trail again.

I love this time of year, except for the late sunrise.  Only 2 of my runs all month involved daylight.  Hopefully, I'll get up for some more alpine scrambling and peak bagging before it gets buried in the white stuff.  I've also got to get out to some of the great foliage areas (i.e. Flowers Road/White Pine) which are peaking right about now.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Nightfall on the Wild Basin

I had the rare opportunity for a late afternoon/evening adventure in the beautiful Wild Basin of Rocky Mountain National Park.  I took off from the Wild Basin trailhead at 5pm Saturday with the goal up getting up high enough to take in some sights and scout some future peak routes before dark.

I was not accustomed to the crowded trailhead and steady stream of hikers, mostly families heading up to (or back from) the Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls.  I normally tend to be the first one to a trailhead in the morning.  However, the crowds thinned quickly as I opted to head up toward the Lion Lakes.  The last person I saw was at the trail split for Lion or Thunder Lakes at 4 miles from the trailhead.  It was then just me, the beautiful mountains, and the dwindling daylight.

Staring at Chiefs Head Peak on the final piece of singletrack approaching Lion Lake #1.
After passing by Lion Lake #1, the largest of the Lion Lakes right at timberline and 6 miles from the trailhead, there was no more real trail to follow.  I had some thoughts of trying to obtain the North Ridge and loop around the summit of Chiefs Head, but I think that route would be better approached from Sandbeach Lake and Mount Orton.  There is also a very nice trail up to Sandbeach Lake that I hiked several years ago and would love to get back to.  What was really gaining most of my attention, though, was the awesome looking peak of Mount Alice.

Mount Alice as seen from Lion Lake #1.
I meandered a bit, taking in all of the scenery and slowly gaining some altitude up toward Lion Lake #2 while passing by some really cool waterfalls.  I then thought it would be nice to hit the pass between Alice and Chiefs Head in time to catch the sunset.

Waterfalls draining from Lion Lake #2.

As I continued to climb and the sun continued to set, I admired the late evening hues reflecting off Chiefs Head and was even more captivated by the spectacular face of Mount Alice.  I had made my way onto a ridge to the west of the lakes that allowed for a nice route to the pass with a mix of stable boulder fields and soft tundra.

Last bit of sunlight on Chiefs Head.

Mount Alice.

A nice ridge approach to the pass.

I reached the pass (8 miles from the trailhead) shortly after sunset, but still had a pretty sweet view of the red sky to the West.  There were also nice views of McHenry's Peak and I could make out the Spearhead poking up over the horizon to the East.  Chiefs Head was still obstructing any views of Pagoda or Longs.

Looking West from the Continental Divide.

McHenry's Peak (another of many great 13ers in the Park).

The conditions on the pass were perfect and pretty amazing for late September.  No wind and I had yet to put anything on over my t-shirt.  Just a week ago there were winter conditions up here and several inches of snow.  I broke out my headlamp and a long sleeve shirt and toyed with the idea of still summiting Alice.  It turns out to be a fairly technical route getting Alice from this side, at least as far as I could tell from my headlamp.  I scurried up a little ways in the dark, but thought better to come back another time.  I played it safe and returned my same route and was back at the trailhead at 10pm.

I didn't even mention the nice colors from the aspens down nearer the trailhead as Fall is in full swing.  Without a doubt, there are lots of great adventures to be had in the Wild Basin.  I think a traverse of all the peaks surrounding this basin would be pretty epic, but of course there are also many great options for breaking it into a few smaller loops/traverses as well.

Tonight's run/hike/scramble:
16.48 miles, 4247 feet climbed, GPS data here

Monday, September 5, 2011

Mount Meeker

Five hours to cover 10 miles?  Yes, that is the kind of "running" I like to do this time of year!  A summit of the 13,911 foot Mount Meeker in Rocky Mountain National Park and some high alpine exploring from there.

As expected, a full parking lot at 4:30am at the Longs Peak Ranger Station trailhead.  Meeker's sister peak (Longs) gets all the attention because it is above the magic number of 14K feet, but I think the Meeker summit, with some serious exposure, offers even more of a thrill.  I passed a steady stream of hikers as I ran up to the Chasm Lake trail junction.  Then I headed toward Chasm Lake and was alone for the next 4 hours.  I hit the Loft route just at first light.  This route takes you straight up the gut between Longs and Meeker until reaching the saddle (Loft) between the two summits.  I was surprised that none of the Longs Peak seekers were opting for this route this morning.

Straight up from here to the Loft.
After reaching the Loft it is a right turn for Longs or a left turn for Meeker for a pretty quick summit either way.  I think I could have set a new Longs climb record for myself if I was heading there today, but that wasn't my destination.

Longs Peak from the Loft.

The summit of Meeker is really 2 summits separated by an exhilirating "knife's edge" between the two.  I passed over both summits and decided to try descending via the Northeast ridge, just skirting the 1000 foot dropoff cliffs to my left.

Cliff face along the Northeast Ridge.

Nice view of the Loft route from Meeker's Northeast Ridge.

After passing the cliffs, I tried peeling off the north side of the ridge back toward Chasm and was greeted with neverending loose scree all the way down.  I actually think descending down toward Wild Basin and picking up a trail down there would make for a sweet loop (and a lot easier descent of Meeker).  It would just require a few miles of roads to get between trailheads (or a shuttle).

The view of Wild Basin from the Meeker summit.

I hit the valley quite a ways below Chasm Lake and just below treeline.  I then bushwhacked my way over another ridge to get back to the Longs Peak trail and was finally running again back to the trailhead.  This kind of stuff is just too fun!

Today's adventure: 10.34 miles, 4891 feet climbed, GPS data here

Thursday, September 1, 2011

August Summary

The totals for this month:
172 miles, 6.5 vertical miles

14 trail runs, 158 miles, 6.5 vertical, 33 hours
2 road runs, 5 miles, 0.5 hours
2 track workouts, 9 miles, 1.5 hours
9 weight lifting workouts, 9 hours
13 rest days

No more races planned for 2011.  It is just time to climb mountains and explore trails.  The next couple of months are the best time of the year to play in the Colorado mountains.