Monday, July 21, 2014

Four Passes Loop

John and I were excited to have the chance to tackle the Four Passes Loop near Aspen, around the Maroon Bells.  We have heard great things and we were ready for a long day on the trails.

Starting out at Maroon Lake - immediately awed by the scenery and the Maroon Bells on the horizon:

Trail through the aspens:

Crater Lake and a closer look at the mountains:

Climbing up to our first pass (West Maroon), John was excited to find some Trader Joe's chocolate covered almonds in our food stash:

Looking back the way we had come:

Yes, we like this stuff a lot!

I had a smile on my face most of the day, especially when finding fields of wildflowers:

South-facing view on our way to the 2nd pass (Frigid Air Pass - fun name):

You don't have to climb straight up this snow slope at the top of the pass, but it makes for more interesting photos:

Another look back:

And forward to the next huge valley with the Bells watching over it:

What a beautiful day too.  There were brief rain showers several times, but they were more of the cooling variety instead of the soaking kind.

The long green wall along the valley:

Coming down the valley, we found a large "step" in the terrain that made a nice overlook:

And a big waterfall, yay!

This bit of water was coming out from underground:

Columbines  :)

We would have gone rather faster except I couldn't resist taking a ton of photos...

Starting up the long climb to pass #3 (Trail Rider):

John got inspired (or tired of waiting for me) to get out his phone and start taking his own pictures:

A small lake on the way to the pass:

Taking it all in:

John is fast...

...and patient:

His point of view:

Snowmass Lake - another amazing bunch of scenery:

John trying to help me feel taller next to some tree-looking bushes:

A few snow patches on the way down toward the lake:

Almost makes me wish we had a packraft with us:

Excellent trail for running around the lake:

A little posing, especially since we were happy to have a bridge for this creek crossing.  That didn't happen most of the time on this loop, i.e. we got to train with wet feet for much of the day.

If this were a rogaine we'd probably have a checkpoint on the other side of the beaver dam.

The trail up to pass #4 (Buckskin) to complete the loop:

Hello Mr/s. Marmot!

Snowmass Mountain on the horizon - I finally see how it got that name:

The final pass and a Maroon Bell across the way:

John hanging out with (holding up?) the cornice:

One last creek crossing, this one passable with dry feet:

John having fun with his camera phone:

For even more John fun/silliness, check out this video that he took:

One last look at the beautiful mountains...

What an awesome day!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hardrock - Silverton to Cunningham and back

After catching a couple hours of sleep in Silverton, I managed to get on my feet in time to see Killian Jornet crush the previous course record.  He came dancing into Silverton in 22 hours 41 minutes, amazing!!  I was lucky to get to listen to some of the interview questions and watch the media surrounding him:

Time to get going up to the Grouse aid station.  Kelly (Ryan's girlfriend) and I got there with only a few minutes to spare before Ryan showed up.  He did great on the hike over Engineer Pass!  That massage in Ouray was a miracle cure.

Putting on sunscreen for day 2:

John looks a little loopy after staying up all night.  Happily, Kelly and Ryan look good for the start of the next section of the course, a climb up and over Handies Peak:

Go Kelly and Ryan!

Pretty early morning light in the mountains:

Starting up the trail... we wouldn't see them again until dark:

Back in town, we caught Ted coming to the finish, yay Ted!

Nice job:

Darcy coming in for the win on the women's side:

I started up a hike along the course backward from the finish, following it over Dives-Little Giant pass to the final aid station (Cunningham).  It was an afternoon of beautiful scenery:

Also cheering on runners heading to the finish - go go go!

I enjoyed taking pictures all the way up and over the pass:

It's John Sharp!  Doing great John!  Getting some help from his pacer, Gina, with getting rocks out of his shoes:

John seems just a little tired:

Pretty lake on the way to the pass:

A cairn and columbines:

A cloud briefly rolling through...

The last challenging descent for the runners:

Beautiful evening lighting:

The other side of the pass:

Runners just about the finish the last climb:

Go Betsy!

Watching our friend Jeff climbing up from Cunningham:

Hi Jeff!  Doing great!

I headed down to the aid station and took a nap while John watched for Ryan and Kelly.  John woke me up when they arrived and I got ready to pace Ryan on the final section of the course.  Ryan was still climbing well, so we made it to the top with no issue.  Ryan told me he was seeing things that weren't actually there, and he was happy to tell me about them (always entertaining).  Rolls of toilet paper, a dumpster, a big fish, a longhorn, some trash, a polka-dot purse.  My favorite was when he walked up to a cairn and stood staring at it.  I asked what he saw, and his reply was, "A pile of rocks."

The downhill trail was tricky, especially because Ryan's feet were hurting.  They hurt worse when he kicked rocks, so he was trying to avoid that but it was difficult.  We took it slow down the upper section.  Once we found the road he picked up the pace and we made good time down to the creek crossing.  One last long, long trail to go!  Finally we popped out at the ski area, made short work of the roads through town, and reached the Hardrock rock:

Congratulations Ryan and all Hardrock finishers!  You are inspirational!