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Thursday, July 19, 2012

No Reservations: Adventures in the High Country

YES!  Two posts in two days!  Feels good to catch up :)  It may be a short bit before I can put my Hardrock pacing/crewing experience into words that make sense and that can convey the sheer level of stupid awesomeness that was occurring there.  So, I decided to go ahead and write a much easier post.

This blog has a fever and the only cure is more pictures!

I will not apologize for that one.  

Today's photo adventure is all about the art of getting (up) high.  Colorado has no shortage of high peaks and hidden gems and we've worked hard to squeeze as much of it in as we possibly can.  After more than a month spent training and sleeping well over 8,000 feet (and over 10,000 feet a few nights!) I feel like I'm finally getting my high altitude wings :)  Still plenty of heavy breathing, but that's about it.  The running is getting better and better and the views simply can't be beat.  Here's a sampling of some of our higher Colorado adventures...

Mt. Elbert - 14,433 ft. (highest point in CO!)
Geof outside the campground, with Mt. Elbert in the background..."we're comin' for you Señor Elbert!"

At the trailhead!

Climbing up, to the tune of 4,000 feet in less than 4 miles in a complete meteorological fog, but at least it wasn't raining :)

Great view, huh?

The top, at last!  It was windy and cold up there and the view was lacking, but the achievement was awesome.  We were on top of Colorado!

The view from the top

Summit shot

You can't see it in this picture, but trust me, Twin Lakes is just below and was fully visible for like 5 seconds.  The next morning we checked out of Leadville and made our way further west to...

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park...not so high, but so cool

And that's about it.  We got outta there as the storm began to rage...and headed for Ouray!

Ouray, CO - Geof is not high here, but the swings were fun :)

The Ouray Brewery treated us kindly as we warmed our souls with brews and chocolate.  Camping at the 4Js Campground in town was awesome and allowed us to walk to our swings :)  The next morning we broke down camp and went for a little hike with Gretchen (who also happened to camp at the same place, unbeknownst to any of us beforehand!)...

Bear Creek Trail - Ouray, CO (doing some recon on the Hardrock 100 course with Gretchen)

Great little 5 mile + hike along the Bear Creek section of the HR100.  Lots of exposed stuff, lots of slate, lots of sounding like we were walking on broken plates, lots of old mines, lots of wildflowers, lots of muscular quads, and lots of laughs and fun :)  We worked up an appetite and decided to dine in Silverton, our final destination!

Handlebars was the only place in town that could handle a bunch like this...Gretchen, Geof and I housed some serious grub and Meghan just watched in disgusted awe ;)  We also simultaneously plotted out the next day's adventure...

Handies Peak - 14,048 ft. (highest point on the Hardrock course!)

Meghan guided Geof and I up to the highest point of the Hardrock course, and another 14er: Handies Peak!  We left bright and early to make the short drive to Grouse Gulch and began the long, steep climb.  It was a 'handy' little 4,500 ft. of vertical gain in less than 6 miles, including the climb back out of American Basin.  Awesome.  

Heading up to the pass, the sun was beginning to rise above the mountains!

At the pass, finally!  Fricking amazing views.  And now we needed to plunge down into American Basin and then scramble up to Handies

American Pass Chicks

And we made it!

I said this many times over the last couple weeks..."This place actually exists!!"  Holy eff.  The view from Handies is something to behold

Chicks chillin' at the top, snacking on delicious runner snacks.  Like Gu.  Mmmm.

Hematite Gulch - 12,600ish ft. - Silverton, CO

So since Meghan is just too much fun, we schemed another little adventure for the following day.  Gross right?  I love my life.  This time, Bryon joined us, and, teamed with Meghan, they sufficiently schooled Geof and I on the art of uphill running...(and who are we kidding, they schooled us on downhilling, too)...

Geof hung with the dynamic duo for a couple switchbacks, but then it was clear they were much more motivated by free beer ;)  

I think that road below is the way to Cunningham Gulch, the final aid station of HR100

Our goal for the day, Hematite Lake!  Gorgeous and totally f'real, complete with a little island in the middle.  A nice little 3,000 ft. of vertical gain in 2.5 miles.  Awesome.  Again.

Bryon was in a picture-taking kind of mood so we played around and he snapped away...

Geof and I looking natural, frolicking in the wildflowers
Photo credit: Bryon Powell

Oooo, interesting things :)  I think it was a mine shaft
Photo credit: Bryon Powell

Now, in order to cross this wobbly path onto the island, one must stick their butt as far up in the air as physically possible.  Follow me.
Photo credit: Bryon Powell

Skiing down the scree!
Photo credit: Bryon Powell

Photo credit: Bryon Powell

Kendall Mountain (Benchmark) - 13,066 ft. - Silverton, CO

Skip ahead a few days (don't worry, my Hardrock 100 pacer report is forthcoming, but it deserves its very own post) and before we headed out of Silverton we wanted to do a "classic" run.  Kendall Mountain is right in town and easy to get to.  You can actually drive it most of the way up if you have a high clearance vehicle, but those of us only slightly more adventurous just run it :)  It's just shy of 4,000 ft. of vertical gain in what ended up being about 5.9 miles for us (though other sources claim it to be as much as 7 miles one way).  The majority of the way up is a wide, rocky 4WD road that winds around and switchbacks its way up the mountainside.  Then there's a few hundred feet of scrambling to the top.  The weather was sketchy from the start, but held up until about halfway up, when it began to come down in buckets, complete with hail.  But, no thunder so we pushed on.  It cleared after not too long, but we kept the rain jackets on as it was a touch chilly.

It's a gorgeous hike/run up and the run down was awesomely fun.

Almost to the top...

Kendall: done.

A curious little chipmunk

Hello down there!  Silverton down below

Colorado is crazy beautiful if you haven't already gathered that :)  And we just can't get enough of the high country!  This summer rocks.

Paige, out.


Meghan said...

Hearts alive, hearts alive! The fun we had... Thank you for all of those good times!

David Ray said...

"I want to go to there." Sigh. Really beautiful.

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