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Showing posts from July, 2017

Never Summer 100 kilometre race

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Where to begin? The lovely name, maybe, Never Summer 100 kilometres. I'm a 'never summer' person, always chasing a winter somewhere, so the race had my name all over it. I knew it was going to be hard and I suspected it was going to be awe inspiringly beautiful. I love a loop course. 
Even though I read the info on the website carefully I was caught unawares by just how difficult and just how beautiful it was. But I had come here for beauty and I had done the training; I kept reminding myself that I had done the training.
Not that I was able to train for the specific demands of this high altitude, midsummer Colorado race in the Australian winter, living at sea level, with a distinct shortage of talus, snow and mountains near my house. Downed trees are unusual at home. Bog dries out. Shade is plentiful. But you prepare as best you can.
In running well over six hundred kilometres in a six week period before I left for the US I had already outdone any previous burst of training …

Mt Sherman

I got up early for my hike up Mt Sherman, left the hotel before 6am and was parked at 7am. In between I drove 11 miles on the worst dirt road of this trip, it was horrible and scary with so many obstacles sticking up and loose rocks.
The first part of the hike was on the continuation of this same road, and with so many mountains ahead of me I didn't know which was Mt Sherman, and as it turned out none of them were. It was freezing cold and this is the first hike I've done where I wore my fleece right from the start and only took it off half an hour before I finished. The road passed several derelict mining buildings and climbed steadily. I was already above the tree line and there was plenty of patchy snow.
Once I left the road there were two snowfields to cross and then a long section of talus and dirt leading up onto a ridge. It was bitterly cold on the ridge with a strong wind but sometimes the trail went below the ridge and that was great as it was protected. The condition o…

Mt Belford fourteener

I thought about hiking Mt Belford in the Collegiate range several times but the weather hadn't cooperated. Today it was sunny and clear in Gunnison so I took the plunge and drove the hundred or so miles to the Missouri Gulch trailhead near Buena Vista. On the way I had to stop unexpectedly for a herd of cows to cross the road. 
The road to the trailhead was, of course, a dirt road and the last four miles were very rough. I'm sick of these dirt roads, and the ones I dare to drive on are regarded as the better ones. The trailhead car park was, of course, busy and I think I was the last person for today to embark on this hike.
The hike started in forest around ten thousand feet and climbed sharply right from the gun. There were a couple of creek crossings (on logs) and then after a while I came out of the forest into the Missouri Gulch which was lovely. It was a broad valley with the creek running through the middle and green mountain slopes all around, isolated conifers dotting th…

Crested Butte

Grin and Bear It 9.7 mile trail race yesterday at Crested Butte. It was on the Green Lake Trail and I did wonder why I was paying $30 to do a trail painfully (running) when I could have done the same trail at my leisure for free, and the race only started at 9 so I was going to get rather hot out there.
However, it was a fun trail if rather hard work and there was an abundance of food for runners at the finish. The trail started in forest, after a nasty climb up from the race start line and although mostly uphill, there were a few undulations. There was only one really steep pitch in the stretch before the 2.5 mile aid station, but I found running quite uncomfortable. I tried to run as much as I could but my breathing became a problem quite soon. I persevered but had to do a fair bit of walking.
After the aid station the trail was intermittently across meadows and on open hillsides, my perfect kind of trail. There was a big mountain right there and it was all very beautiful under the bl…

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Very odd day for weather. I drove a long way from Gunnison to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River and did a hot hike above the canyon. Not long after I got back to Gunnison it was pouring rain and ten degrees colder.
The drive out to the canyon was almost as impressive as the canyon itself, with several reservoirs, mountains everywhere - many with buttes and high craggy rock faces. But it took a long time and what with six miles of dirt road at the end, I was glad to arrive. I had chosen to go to the north rim and it was pretty quiet there. 
I set out on the trail up Green Mountain, stopping at the cutely named Exclamation Point lookout on the way. This was my first chance to see what makes this place special: the amazing steep, high canyon walls and tiny ribbon of river at the base. I was surprised at the absence of guard rails or warning signs, because the drop off was sudden.
The trail didn't allow for any more views into the canyon and it was a bit of a slog in the heat. There…

Trail run in Salida

The weather again wasn't promising this morning so I decided against doing any hiking and hung around for breakfast at the hotel (in Salida) and went for a trail run, about 16 kilometres on a mountain bike trail. I could drive to a starting point which was in the middle of the trail and run an out and back in two directions. Altitude around 9,000 feet.
The trail was below Methodist Mountain and went through a mixture of scrubby dry gullies and light pine forest. The going wasn't too bad, it was an undulating and winding trail, and every time I thought I couldn't keep running uphill any longer the trail would dip down for a while. So I was able to run pretty much the whole way, stopping a few times for bikes to go past and seeing several runners. I ran ten kilometres in the first direction, then stopped at the car to refill my water bottle and ran six kilometres in the other direction.
There was a view over Salida almost all the way, but the best views were on the first secti…

Mt Elbert

This morning the weather looked overcast and windy but I had already decided that today was the day for going up Mt Elbert, at 14,433 feet Colorado's highest peak and the second highest peak in the main part of the USA. I had to drive almost back to Leadville from Buena Vista, where I was staying, and then took a dirt road to the trailhead, fortunately the road was in pretty good condition. The main part of the car park was full at my 8am arrival but I got a spot on a stony patch of ground nearby.
This trail makes a far greater elevation gain than the trails up the other fourteeners I've already done, over four thousand feet in four and a half miles. I started in dense forest of spruce, ascending immediately at a fair rate. There were a couple of trail junctions which, amazingly in my experience so far of Colorado, were signed, and the first landmark was a view down over Emerald Lake, well hidden in the forest. I could already see the trail was going to be very busy. I came out…

Leadville Silver Rush 50 Mile race

This was a hard race. Hard. A fifty mile out and back run all above 10,000 feet altitude under the hot Colorado sun. Basically the route involved two hard climbs on the way out and the same on the way home. In between were numerous ascents and descents, too many to count. The race blurb billed the event as 'all runnable' and that would technically be correct, were it not for the altitude putting paid to most people' aspirations. 

They threw us in the deep end right off the start line with an ascent of the very steep (but short) Dutch Henri hill. I had practised walking up this hill a couple of times the previous day and I was glad of that as I knew just how slowly to take it so my heart rate wouldn't go sky high. I couldn't see the point of starting with a climb like that, to get you off kilter right at the beginning.
The early miles were not very exciting, a fairly gentle climb through forest in the cool morning. It seemed a long way to the first aid station at seve…

Several more fourteeners

Another good long hike today. I'd heard about a loop you could do involving summitting four fourteeners (Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln and Bross) in one hike but I wasn't sure I wanted to do something that long. I decided to head out and play it by ear, doing one fourteener at a time and making a decision about the next one on the fly. So I located the dirt road leading to the trailhead from Alma. It was in pretty bad condition and I wasn't sure I should be driving on it in my rental car but I did anyway. About five miles in a road worker stopped me and said I should soon park as they were doing road works and the road was closed further up. This left me with about a two kilometre walk to the trailhead.
The trailhead was by a lovely lake, Kite Lake, snow on one shore reflecting in the water. The trailhead was busy. I embarked on the climb up Mt Democrat, my first peak. I hoped it wouldn't be as steep as Quandary. It climbed fairly steeply at first, already above the tree l…

Mt Quandary

Fabulous hike up Mt Quandary, my second fourteener of the trip. After a false start when I parked in the wrong place, I was on the way up this strenuous trail. It started in fir forest, quite steep and right from the beginning I had problems with my breathing. The start was above 12,000 feet. Soon this settled down and I felt good again. After not that much climbing the trail came out into a meadow before returning briefly into the forest. I took advantage of the trees to make a pit stop and I was later very glad of that! 
Emerging from the forest at the tree line I had my first real view of the peak. It didn't look that distant, or steep either, but I realised that appearances could be deceptive. There were mild switchbacks and then the more serious ascent began. This was steep and a lot of loose dirt and small rocks. I realised pretty soon that it was a long way to the top. I could only see one section of the trail at a time but with every new section that came into view there ap…

Breckenridge trail race

Today I did the Breckenridge Independence Day 10 km trail race. It was only 4 degrees when I arrived in Breck at 6.30am but the day was clear and still. This was a big race with 400 people but was conducted in a very low key fashion. I parked right by the start line and it was so cold I stayed in my car until the start.
We began with a street out and back, obviously to make up the distance, and then started out on what was to become a huge climb. We went into the forest and ran on single track with many rough patches: tree roots and small rocks made for some treacherous footing. I couldn't take in the views because I was afraid of tripping and had to look down almost all the time. We were climbing in a long line and it was hard to pass other runners, but occasionally I just had to skip past someone, risking falling off the trail in the process. 
The climbing was on a twisting route with lots of switchbacks. The sound of all our combined loud breathing was something quite amazing tha…