Rob Rives, a gentleman and a scholar, an inspiration and companion, finally made his way out west. It was the first time we'd seen each other since our run across Rhode Island, and this summer he heard me rant and rave about the sights to be seen and the routes to endure out here in the high rockies. Unfortunately, in the past couple of months my ventures above the trees have been limited in comparison to what they were during the summer. Rob's presence was enough to revitalize the euphoric feelings I had above the trees this summer, and leave me itching for more, despite the onset of winter conditions.
In the first few days after returning from the Pacific Northwest, I was pretty drained from travel and awkward nights of "sleeping", and didn't get out much at all. I wanted to make sure Rob had an experience that embodied as much as possible of what it is to be a mountain runner in the Rockies, so off we went.
Friday we headed to Mount Elbert, Colorado's highest peak. Its often slandered (I have done so myself) as being a bit of a trivial 14er, a cakewalk, some may say. But I've realized it's all in the approach you take. Thus, we decided to ascend the South Elbert trail, which is certainly the easiest route in ideal conditions, and run the ridge about 13,800 ft to the South Elbert Summit and descend the Black Cloud Trail to Hwy 82. We arrived at the summit, slowed by a fair amount of snow, in a little over two hours, and then trudged across the ridge and poured down the descent in a little under two. We arrived at the Black Cloud trailhead only to find that our shuttle had not yet arrived. We decided to run the road a couple of miles to meet the wonderful duo of Melissa and Carolyn at Willis Gulch. Upon arrival at the car, we discover they had not yet completed their snowy trek up Hope Pass, so we ran up towards them. We reconvened and returned to the car marking the end of a day of about 15 miles and 6,000 ft of vertical gain in a little over 5 hours.
|No human loves the mountains as much as this dog...|
|Summit Shot, atop 14,433 ft|
|He moved a lot stronger than he looks in this photo...|
|Ellingwood Ridge leading up La Plata beckons...|
Sunday we sought Mt. Belford and Oxford (14,197 and14,153, respectively). On the drive to the Clear Creek Valley, we talked of changing plans due to the excessive clouds and evident snow, but Luna insisted we pursue our original goal. We started up the switchbacks, slogging through the inches and inches of snow. It took nearly an hour to reach the split for the trail up Belford, which is over 20 minutes longer than the same trail has taken me in snow-free conditions- a testament to how much snow changes one's pace. We started up despite the wind and sub-zero temperatures. We waded through snow up past our shins at times, and battled wind that threatened to blow us off our feet. We turned out backs to the wind and crouched to evade the onslaught of snowflakes that aimed to pierce every bit of our exposed skin (Luna would dash between our legs to do the same). We drove on and on, abandoning the trail's switchbacks in an effort to avoid wading through deep snow. With Belford's summit within about 500 vertical feet and maybe 20 minutes of climbing, my fingers and Rob's toes demanded it was due time to begin our descent. And so we did. Defeated, but not discouraged, we ran back down from whence we came feeling completely delighted with having waved the white flag against the mountain and the elements.
|Luna rolling in the snow on a frozen creek.|
|Approaching treeline, and the brunt of the wind.|
|Yep, thats the trail|
|Nearly blown down the mountain|
|Belford gets a glimpse of sun, taunting us from above.|
|The beautiful basin with Missouri (14,074 ft) hidden by the clouds|
|Graced by the sun's presence on the way back down.|
I'm not intimidated, just adjusting. I will come out of the winter stronger than ever, no doubt.
Thanks for reading, here's the week:
30 miles, 9 hours, 11,000 ft