Tag Archives: adventure

Jimmy Keen Survival Club – The 2018 Ute 100

The race began at 3am in a dirt field on the south side of the La Sal mountains.  I didn’t bother with breakfast and fueled on coffee instead.  I think I was still half asleep as we began our slow jog down the gravel road.  The road transitioned into a jeep trail and finally into rocky, somewhat overgrown single-track.  We were climbing, the grade got steeper and the slow jog became a power-hike.  I love long, sustained climbs so I settled into my rhythm and soon found that I had passed all of my nearest competitors. The narrow trail switchbacked down a slope before climbing back up through open meadows.  The sun rose, and I could feel my body come alive as the mountain valley came into view.

At 14.8 miles there was a short out-and-back section along a jeep road to reach the Medicine Lakes aid station. I thought there were a few ladies ahead of me, but as I ran into the aid station the volunteers informed me that I was in first. I hate being chased so I wasn’t particularly happy to hear this. I didn’t want to be in a racing mindset this early in a 100, but I tried to convince myself to relax and just do my thing.  Normally I don’t eat much from aid stations, but as I was leaving a piece of bacon called out to me.  I couldn’t resist.  I walked back up the road savouring the delicious saltiness and congratulating myself on such a tasty choice of snack.

I had just started to jog back up the jeep road when I projectile vomited mid-stride.  I looked around to see if anyone was watching, but no one had seen me.  I puke in nearly every ultra I run, so I’m not sure why I was so self-conscious about it.  I puked again and decided that maybe I should walk instead of run.  I’m not sure what brought on the nausea, I can’t imagine that a single piece of bacon would cause such havoc, so I think it was the altitude. I formed a strategy, I would stick to pure sugar, and eat only in very small amounts until I got back down below 9000ft. As these thoughts were forming in my head, the 2nd place lady came running down the road towards me, big smile on her face. We high-fived as I turned off the jeep trail onto some cruisey single-track.

The next section of the course should have been fast, and it took all of my self-control to dial back the effort and allow my stomach to settle down.   I fully expected the 2nd place girl to pass me at any moment, I didn’t feel like I could move much slower and she hadn’t been far behind, but she never appeared.  I ran past herds of cows and a cowboy with his sheep dogs.  The dogs were clearly having the time of their lives and I found myself smiling as I hiked along the rocky trail.  Despite the puking, I was loving the wildness of this race.

When I reached the Utah Trust aid station (26.4 miles) I was in good spirits.  I may not have been able to eat much, but my legs were working fine and I was doing what I loved.  I filled a soft-flask with ginger ale and began to hike up the gravel road.  The next 6 miles were run entirely on gravel road, but we still had mountain views and I was grateful for the opportunity to run a bit.  My stomach was settling down and I even managed to swallow a chocolate gel.

At mile 32.4 we were able to access our crew for the first time.  Matt was waiting for me and I sat down and sipped on some ginger ale while doing a full shoe/sock change.  I had been running in my preferred shoes (Icebug Oribis) which have great traction, but very little cushion.  I needed to switch into more cushioned shoes (Salming Trail 5s) as I was about to head up the very rocky trails of 12,200ft Mann’s Peak.

The next section of course was some of the most scenic of the entire race. The alpine meadows were filled with flowers, the birds were singing and the butterflies were putting on a show.  I was in my element and loving every minute of it. Even when the trail became steep and my body seemed to be moving through molasses, I was loving the adventure.  Not wanting another vomit session, I was careful not to overeat or overexert myself.  I crested the ridge to discover the Beastie Boys playing on a ghetto blaster and I took a moment to soak in the views.  What an incredible day!

The descent off Mann’s Peak is not really a trail, it’s really just a bunch of ankle busting rubble.  I took my time, feeling like I was on one of my scrambling adventures back home.  The trail became more defined and the last few miles to the aid station were very runnable.  As I ran into Warner Lake signs lined the trail. “We. Love. You Jimmy.”  I knew I was coming up to the Jimmy Keen section of the trail and I wondered what was so special about it.

At the aid station I enjoyed a Freezie and prepared for the heat by putting on a cap with ice under it.  The course had not been too hot up to this point so neither Matt nor I were too concerned about heat.  We neglected to put on cooling sleeves and I didn’t bother with any ice down my bra.  I’m not sure what I was thinking, I knew the forecast was for 100 degrees in the valley …

After Warner Lake the trail drops down towards Moab on the Hazzard County trail.  This is where my love for the course reached an all-time high. The trail was super fun with just the right mix of technical and cruisey bits.  The views of the valley were expansive, showing off the red rocks of Moab in all their glory.  I was on the highest of highs, and I was about to come crashing down to the lowest of lows.

Hazzard County connected with Jimmy Keen and the trail flattened out.  I began to notice the heat, but I wasn’t too worried; the water drop aid station was only a few miles ahead.  By the time I reached the water drop I was feeling pretty warm. I soaked my head with sponges and enjoyed a Freezie before the 9 mile stretch to the next crewed aid station.

Jimmy Keen is the most runnable trail on the Ute 100 course. It is nearly flat, smooth, and has almost no shade of any kind.  It would be a great trail to run on for a sunrise run but I do not recommend running it in the heat of a mid-summer day.  As I shuffled along I recognized that I was likely running too much for the heat, so I slowed to a walk.  I am not a good at walking slowly, and I think I was walking too fast because I could slowly feel my internal temperature heating up.  I sipped on water, but it was hot and made me want to gag.  I tried to move slower as the heat nausea gradually set in.

Baking in the hot sun, I began to vomit.  I lost track of how many times I puked.  Puking turned to dry heaves as my stomach completely emptied.  My hot water was repulsive.  I nibbled on a Cheeto, it seemed okay but I couldn’t bring myself to eat another one.  I sat down under a bush in an attempt to cool off.  It didn’t seem to help much so I got up and walked a bit further before sitting down again in a small patch of shade. More vomiting.  I wondered if I could just stay here until sunset. Miner’s aid station was visible 3 miles away, but I wasn’t sure how I would get there. Several guys passed me, all of them suffering as well.  An aid station volunteer came walking down the trail with some bottles of Gatorade.  I had a few sips, it was hot but better than my disgusting water.

Somehow, I made it to Miner’s aid station where Matt was waiting anxiously for me.  They had ice there and I was able to cool my body temperature down while Matt served me the most delicious ice-cold milk.  I stayed for 90 minutes; drinking cold milk, ramen noodles, a little beer, anything that would stay down.  The medic let me lay down in her air-conditioned car and I watched as lady after lady came and went.  It was okay. This race was no longer about winning, I just needed to finish. I thought about quitting, but I was at Leo’s aid station and as such I wasn’t allowed to quit.

When I finally left Miner’s aid station I did not want to continue, but there was nothing else to be done.  I was still nauseous, and I wasn’t sure if I could emotionally handle another puke session.  The sun set as I slowly made my way around the 6 mile loop. With the cooler temperatures my spirits gradually lifted.  I decided that even if I wasn’t going to be competitive, I could at least finish this race in style. It was time for the tequila shot-ski.

Back at Miner’s I had a cup of ramen with the most delicious bone broth I’ve ever tasted in my life. We got out the shot-ski and celebrated the ridiculousness that is ultrarunning. I chowed down a couple of Rocky Road Oreos and began the long hike back to the Hazzard County aid station.

While I was running on the sandy Jimmy Keen and Miner’s Basin trails I had switched back to my very comfortable, but minimally cushioned shoes.  I was still wearing those shoes during my hike back up to Hazzard County, and this was a mistake.  The trail was extremely rocky and my feet were taking a beating.  There was nothing I could do about it so I told myself to suck it up, I could change shoes once I got to the aid station.

I got to the aid station but Matt was nowhere to be found.  I sat down, had a cup of noodles and some hashbrowns, but still no Matt.  It didn’t make sense to wait any longer, so I got back on the trail.  The forest was filled with the sounds of herds of cattle, their eyes shining out at me from the abyss.  It was more than a little terrifying, and I made an adrenaline-fueled push to the Trans La Sal aid station.

When I got to the aid station I was informed that I was first lady.  How was this possible???  I had long ago given up on competing and I was solely focused on just making it to the finish line.  I didn’t want to be 1st, I didn’t want to race at all, I wanted to just be. Matt urged me to hurry in and out of the aid station to maintain my position, but I just didn’t have any competitive spirit left.  We changed my shoes; my sore feet had swollen and putting on my cushioned shoes felt very tight.  I could feel every seam pressing against my feet and I had a feeling this race was going to end with a hobble.

The 2nd placed lady, Amber, arrived while I was sitting at the aid station and we left the aid station together.  I decided I wanted company, and Amber and her pacer were gracious enough to let me tag along for the next hour or so.  They were super cool ladies and I hoped we could maybe push each other to faster times.  Sadly, Amber was feeling super nauseous so I went ahead as her pace slowed.

I arrived at La Sal Pass in 1st place and feeling like a complete imposter.  I had spent so much of the day puking and sitting on my ass.  I did not deserve to be here in this position.  I decided to practice some self-sabotage and hung out at the aid station to allow the trailing ladies to catch up.  I don’t really understand what was going on in my head at this time.  I had 16 miles left, I should have been pushing to the finish!

Amber arrived, and then the 3rd place lady, Lee.  Lee left the aid station first so I figured I should probably get my butt moving as well.  My feet were very sore and I could barely manage a shuffle, but I was moving forward.  10 minutes later Amber passed me with her pacer. She had managed a rally puke and was moving super well!  I cheered her down the trail.

I hobbled along as the sun rose, stopping once to try to tape my feet but it did not seem to help.

I puked.

I puked again.

I had no explanation or solution for the puking so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.  The last climb of the race was super steep, but my feet didn’t hurt on the uphill so I actually kind of enjoyed it.    The final descent can only be described as slow.  I was so sore, I could not run a step.  The sun rose higher and it got hotter.  I did not want to suffer through another scorcher, I needed to get to the finish line. I knew there was one last water drop before the end, but it was nowhere to be seen.  In my sleep-deprived state I thought the last water drop was 14 miles from the finish.  As time went by and the drop failed to appear I became panicked. My feet were so sore!  How could I still have more than 14 miles to go?!

When I saw the white tent of the water drop I breathed a deep sigh of relief, and then when I saw the sign that said 3.25 miles to the finish my eyes swelled with tears.  3 miles.  I could do that!  I had my music playing so I told myself I just needed to walk for 15 more songs, 5 songs per mile.

Worried about how long I was taking, Matt had driven up the road to see where I was.  I told him I was fine and he went back to the finish line to let them know I was on my way in.  My friend Leo ran up the road and paced me for the last mile.  It was nice to see a friendly face, but then he mentioned that there was a runner coming up behind me and that I had to run.  This was the last think I wanted to hear and my feet screamed at me with every step, but his scare tactic worked. I managed to shuffle the final 100 metres to the finish line.

Final stats – 159kms, 6100m, 31 hours, 3rd female. Tired and sore, but thankful for the opportunity to experience this beautiful part of the world.

 

What did I learn?

  • Altitude messes with race nutrition.  If I make it into Hardrock I need to hire a sports dietician.
  • I suck at heat.  I’m at the point now, where I think I will actively avoid races with a reputation for being hot.
  • My feet seem to be growing.  A couple of years ago I was wearing size 8 shoes, now I ‘m moving up to 9.5.
  • I don’t know how to move slowly.  In the first half of the course, I tried to move slowly to allow for digestion but I don’t think I ever really slowed down enough.  I got a little food down, but I always felt nauseous.  Later, when I was on the hottest part of the course, I tried to move slowly so that I wouldn’t overheat. I definitely didn’t slow down enough, as I was a total disaster by the time I got to the aid station.

 

Thank you:

  • To all of the race course volunteers, you put a smile on my face even when I wasn’t feeling it.  The hashbrowns, bone broth, grilled cheese sandwiches, ramen noodles and everything else I ate was delicious!
  • To Sean, The Ute was a true adventure and I loved (nearly) every step of the course.  I am truly looking forward to watching this race evolve, and I may even come back one day when the pain isn’t so fresh.
  • To Leo, thanks for the endless supply of Oreos and liquor.  And thank you for being a friendly face to drag me out of my self-pity.
  • To Matt, for being the ultimate crew.  I’m not sure I could have reached that finish line without you.
  • To Spry, thank you for all of your support.  I will be back to get more shoes, as it appears my feet have grown 🙂
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Sphincter Level 5 – Mount French

I’m not really into writing trip reports.  There is tons of info already on the internet if you take the time to look for it, and I’m always happy to share a GPX track if someone requests it.  That being said, I go a lot of places where I don’t really recommend other people to go.  I end up off route and bushwhacking on most of my solo trips.  It’s rare that I finish a trip where I don’t have at least a few cuts and bruises.  I don’t feel the need to inflict those wounds on other people.

Today I will make an exception to this rule.  I had such a good time on Mount French that I feel the need to share my joy.  This was easily one of my favourite mountain outings ever!

(Small caveat here, I went through a bit of a mountain withdrawal while I was working on my road running, my joy at being back in the mountains is definitely exaggerated right now.)


One week out from my Trans-Alberta adventure, I wasn’t sure if a big scrambling trip up Mount French was a good idea.  However, I had been eyeing this mountain for 3 years and if I was serious about it I likely wouldn’t have a better opportunity: the weather was perfect, the trip was being lead by experienced peakbagger Brandon Boulier, and we would be moving at a hiking pace so it shouldn’t be too intense.

I messaged my friend Philippe who always seems to be up for crazy adventures and he agreed to tag along.  Brandon brought along Sheena, another scrambler, which made our party a team of 4.  We arrived at the Burstall Pass trailhead at 5:30am, just as the sun was rising.  The views were already breathtaking.

20180715_054651

The trail up to French glacier was recently maintained, with fresh flagging and much of the deadfall cleared.  It made for a very pleasant walk in the crisp morning air. 2 hours into our hike we had reached the toe of the French glacier.

The snow was frozen hard and I’m a chicken so I immediately put on my microspikes.  Brandon is more confident that I and he was able to hike up without spikes and no issues.  The views opened up as we climbed up to the pass and when we crested the top I was blown away by what we saw!  The Haig glacier had been groomed for cross country skiing and there were about 20 skiers out for their morning workout.  I knew this facility existed, but seeing it in person was a whole new experience.  I would highly recommend  this hike to anyone who cares to put in the effort, just make sure you get there early before the snow gets slushy so that you can see the skiers. I promise you won’t regret it!

 

Now comes the part of the trip which I would not recommend to most individuals.  This route has a lot of hazards, and is only appropriate for experienced scramblers.

After ogling the skiers for a few minutes we began our ascent of Mount French.  The slope is very steep and loose, so we had to be careful not to kick rocks on each other.  The scree up to the summit ridge is horrible.  We did not find a good line and there was a lot of treadmilling going on.  At one point Sheena wondered if she was even moving at all.

Just as our frustration level with the scree was reaching a maximum, we crested the summit ridge and all of our effort was worth it for that view!

The summit ridge is narrow and very exposed at times.  The rock is loose and you must be careful to always push into the mountain instead of pulling on the rocks.  Route finding is very simple, in most cases you only have one choice for where to go.  The entire ridge is over 3000m, and I have not been in the mountains as much as usual.  I could feel that my heart rate was much higher than normal, but it’s hard to say if that was due to the altitude, or just adrenaline from the exposure.

I felt surprisingly comfortable for most of the scramble.  Everything appeared worse than it was.  My least favourite section was not the narrow ridges, but rather a loose, narrow ledge we had to walk along.  I felt like someone should come up here with a broom and sweep all the loose rocks off.

The final challenge during our summit ascent was a short chimney.  We weren’t sure if it would be filled in with snow and ice, so we were happy to discover that you could ascend it by climbing on dry rock.

After snacks and photos on the summit block we made our way back. We were elated to have successfully navigated the ridge, but a little apprehensive about having to do it all over again in reverse.  The return trip on the ridge proved to be a little tougher – exposed downclimbs are always scarier than exposed upclimbs – but we all managed by taking it very slowly.

The scree route down was much easier, and the rest of the trip was just a very nice walk down through the valley.  It was a hot day, and the mosquitoes were out in force so we did not lollygag. 12 hours after we started we were back in the parking lot, sunburnt and high on life.

It will be hard to top this trip, and I enjoyed it so much that I am pretty sure I will do it again.  Maybe as a point to point trail run via Turbine Canyon, just to keep things fresh.  Who wants to come with me?

Happy Trails!

Magic

“Whatever you can do,

Or think you can, begin it.

Boldness has power, and genius,

And magic in it.”  ~Goethe~


 

In life, it is rare to fully commit to anything. We are taught that it is wise to always have a backup plan; that an all-or-nothing approach is rash.  Perhaps this is true, but I think this approach also misses out on the magic.  Dave’s record attempt is bold and full of magic, and I aim to capture a piece of that with my run across Alberta.

 


Running takes a lot of time.  When I’m not running, such as during a taper, I often find myself with more free time than I know what to do with. It can make me anxious and grouchy. I dislike tapering so much than I often just don’t do it.

Going into the run across Alberta, there’s no question that I need to taper.  My last training block left me feeling completely spent, often spending the first few minutes of the day limping around the house until my ankles had loosened up enough for me to walk normally. Likewise, the first few kilometres of any run had me feeling like an elephant lumbering along the asphalt. I am nothing if not stubborn so I kept pushing on. Now that the taper is here, I am happy to take a break from lumbering and spend a week hibernating.

Sadly I’m not a bear, so it quickly became evident that hibernating for an entire week was not a viable option.   To fill my non-sleeping, non-running void I decided to go to the library and get some books.  During my taper I have read:

  • Running on Empty, the story of Marshall Ulrich’s trans-America record attempt
  • North, Jenny and Scott Jurek’s account of setting the Appalachian Trail FKT, and
  • The Perfect Mile, an historical novel about the rush to break the 4 minute mile.

Each book contains fascinating narratives about the strength of the human spirit and the physical limits of endurance.  The characters went after impossibly bold goals without reserve.  Not all of them succeeded, but each runner gave themselves 100% to the task and saw it through to the end.  I dare you to read these books and not be inspired.

At this time next week I will be going after a big, bold goal.  I don’t know that I can do it, but I think I can.  I am chasing the magic.

 

What’s up with all the road running???

Pushing my limits. Stepping out of my comfort zone.  Getting comfortable with failure … or maybe just reframing how I view failure. These are things I’ve been working on for a few years now.  Last year was characterized by some of my biggest successes and most spectacular failures (or learning experiences as I prefer to call them).  It was exciting, and it made me want to test my boundaries in new ways.  Maybe I could fail even more spectacularly!  Or maybe I would discover that I am stronger than I ever dreamed possible. 

 

This summer Dave Proctor will be exploring the limits of human endurance by running across Canada on foot, setting a world record in the process.  His goal is to complete the crossing in 66 days, averaging 108km/day, and raising a million dollars for rare disease.  I’ve always been enamoured by the idea of running across Canada (Terry Fox was my childhood hero), so I immediately wanted to be involved in some way with his record attempt.  I mentioned to Dave that I would love to join him for a portion of the run and he suggested that I run across Alberta with him.  That way I could run with him AND get a record for the fastest (female) crossing of Alberta.  At first, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of running across the flat Prairie from Calgary to the Saskatchewan border, I wanted to join him for a more mountainous leg, but gradually the idea took hold.  What better way to challenge myself? This was an opportunity to redefine myself as a runner and learn about myself as a human being.  Sure, I can hike up hills all day long, but did I have the mental fortitude to keep my feet moving, one step in front of the other on the endlessly flat prairie?  I decided that I wanted to find out.   

 

Running across Alberta with Dave means I will be running 550km in 5 days. This is far beyond anything I have ever attempted.  I’m not sure that it is even within my physical capabilities, but there is only one way to find out.  I have been training and testing myself to see where my breaking point is.  I started out this fall by joining my friend Leo for a circumnavigation of the city bike paths (see Strava).  I reasoned that if I finished the run and I wasn’t completely destroyed, then the trans-Alberta attempt may be possible. The run was not entirely smooth, but it wasn’t terrible. Some cold weather moved in during the afternoon, my asthma acted up a bit, and I started to feel sorry for myself.  Luckily, I was saved by a couple of angels named Rich and Kristy who fed me hot soup, cheeseburgers and Timbits.  The soup soothed my lungs and the calories fueled my legs.  I finished that run feeling strong! 

 

My goal for the last several months has been to slowly increase my road miles and decrease my trail time.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature has had other plans.  This has been one of the snowiest, coldest winters on record.  It seems like every time I try to go out for a road run, the paths are snow and ice covered.   It makes me wonder why I don’t just go trail running.  On top of that, my asthma has been very bad in the cold weather.  I can handle low intensity hiking or xc skiing, but running in the cold just destroys me.  A couple of months ago I gave up the fight against Mother Nature and decided to just go with the flow. If the weather and conditions weren’t conducive to long road runs, I would simply ski, hike or snowshoe instead.  When I made this shift in attitude it was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.  I went back to spending lots of time on my feet (not necessarily running) and I felt like my endurance began to build back up. 

 

Over the last few weeks Spring has made a few appearances.  The trails are still very snowy, but the city paths are mostly cleared of snow and ice, and the temperature is warm enough to breathe.  I have started to introduce some longer adventures and I’ve really enjoyed them.  A month ago, we xc skied 50km and followed that up with a couple of laps of Moose Mountain Road.  Three weekends ago I did a 10hr snowshoe followed by a 31 km road run.  Then, when we were hit by yet another snow storm, I joined Dave and Tristan for a treadmill marathon.  Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would run a marathon on a treadmill, and yet there I was, running on a treadmill AND enjoying myself!  Last weekend I endured 4.5 hours of snowy trails on Saturday, followed by 50km on the road on Sunday, accompanied by my friend Philippe. I was feeling pretty stiff by the end of the road run, but we maintained our pace and my recovery seems to be okay. Having never trained for anything like this in the past, I’m not sure where I will want to cap my volume at, but I plan to listen to my body and back off when I need to.  I also plan to continue to incorporate trails/mountains into my training; at least one mountain and one trail run per week will keep me a happy camper 🙂 

 

Hydration and fueling with lots of calories will be key for the trans-Alberta attempt.  My focus for the long runs is to drink regularly and eat as much food as possible without getting nauseous.  I’m also trying to increase the variety of what I eat.  Things that work really well include: Timbits, Reese’s peanut butter cups, Mars bars, peanut butter and banana wraps, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, Honey Stinger waffles, rice noodle wraps with soy sauce, Sour Dinos, Oreos, pudding, and every flavour Jelly Beans. I also think potato pancakes may be a good item to add the mix.  What food do you like to eat while you run?  I’m interested in easily digested carbs that won’t melt. 

 

That’s it for now. Expect a few posts about some very long runs in the next couple of months. 

 

Happy Trails! 

Before I Forget – Colorado!

I don’t feel the need to do a 2017 year in review, but I do have a lot of awesome 2017 memories that are slowly fading away.  I want to take the time to record these experiences before they are completely lost.

ColoRADo

It’s hard to believe I haven’t written anything about our Colorado trip on my blog.  It’s time to rectify that situation. I lost my photos from Colorado when I destroyed my phone, so this blog post is all I have left other than the photos I uploaded to Strava.  Thank God for Strava 🙂

Matt, Moxie and I drove down in our Toyota Sienna minivan (aka Lucy), which we have converted into a camper van.  Out of our 2.5wk road trip, we only spent one night in a hotel.  The rest of the trip was spent exploring the National Forest.

Our first majour stop in Colorado was in the Crested Butte area.  The landscape in this area is stunning and Matt and I had lots of “wow” moments.  Unfortunately there was still a lot of snow hanging around so we weren’t able to find a spot to camp higher up in the mountains.  There were a few areas where our poor van almost got stuck in the snow as we explored up and down random gravel roads, trying to find a good spot to spend the night.  Eventually we settled on a camping spot along Cement Creek.  It was very hot out, so it was nice to camp next to a cold, raging stream. The next day we bushwhacked up to the top of the mountain we were camped on.  The offline map I had downloaded told me the mountain’s name was Double-Top.

Our first Colorado summit, and first time over 12 000ft!

Strava


I noticed a high mountain lake on the map which appeared to have a road going to it.  Naturally, I suggested that we head there for our next camping spot.  After 20km of gravel road we finally reached the lake.  It was hot and I was looking forward to a swim, but when we walked over to investigate the lake we found it was filled with thousands of giant, mutant tadpole looking things.  Needless to say, I decided to forgo the swim.

The next day I woke up early and ventured out to the closest mountain, labelled Baldy Mountain on my map.  There was a LOT of snow and the trail was completely obscured. Thankfully the snow had a thick crust, if I walked carefully I did not break through.  Eventually I found my way out of the forest to a mountain pass.   Here, the snow had melted and I was walking through a river of melt-water.  I could see Mount Baldy high up to my right so I power-hiked up a steep, mostly snow-covered slope.  The summit of Baldy is connected via a ridge to several other summits.  I had hoped to traverse the ridge but I was worried about the sun softening the snow.  My hike had begun at 6am so there was still tons of daylight left, but if the snow softened my trip back to the campsite would be nearly impossible.  I reluctantly turned around.

Strava


Matt and I spent the rest of the day driving towards Telluride.  As we approached the San Juan mountains one peak rose above the rest.  It seemed to be calling to me. I looked on my map – it was called Mount Sneffels.  I told Matt I was going to climb it and he replied, “of course you are!”

We never actually made it to Telluride.  Instead, we found an interesting gravel road and followed it up to the Blue Lakes trailhead.  Matt maneuvered the Lucy off-road to an awesome campsite next to a creek.  This was our first time camping with neighbours, but our neighbours were awesome!  The dad was a mountain enthusiast himself and he told me what to expect for my hike up Mount Sneffels.  I was concerned about possible avalanche risk but he didn’t seem to think that would be an issue.

I set out at sunrise the next day on the Blue Lakes trail.  The trail was very well-maintained and it wasn’t long before I found myself at Blue Lakes – a popular camping and hiking destination.  From the lakes I continued up to a high mountain pass. The trail was obscured by snow at times, but the route seemed pretty straightforward. I caught up to a Colorado native who was also headed up to the summit and asked him if he minded if I tagged along.

We climbed the rest of the way up together – across an awkward boulder-field, up a snow-choked couloir, and along some exposed slab to the summit.  I had planned for this trip to take me all-day, but it was actually super-straightforward with no majour issues.  The view at the top was spectacular and we spent some time taking photos before heading down.

I ran down ahead of my new found friend.  The snow in the couloir was super fun and I couldn’t resist a little glissading.  Unknown to me, Matt and Moxie had hiked up to Blue Lakes while I was up on the mountain.  I missed them on the way down and spent quite a bit of time back at the camp napping in the hammock before they got back.  I had expected the trip to take 12 hours, but I had been gone for less than 8.

This was my first time climbing over 14 000ft and it was one of the highlights of our trip.

Strava


The summit view on Sneffels had awakened my imagination.  From up there I could see several other 14ers and I wanted to see if we could get to them without an off-road vehicle.  We left our Blue Lakes campsite and headed towards Ouray. We were both really tired and filthy so we decided to find a cheap hotel.  Eventually we found a hotel in our price range ($50/night) and we enjoyed a nice evening in town.  Ouray is one of the most beautiful towns I have ever visited.  Set in a deep valley, the sunset lit up the surrounding mountain cliffs in brilliant shades of pink.  This is definitely a town we will come back to.

The next day we drove out to Silverton. What a tiny town!  I loved it! It was cool to see all of the old rocks from past Hardrocks and imagine myself possibly running that race one day.  We spent the day exploring roads not meant for a minivan. We pushed Lucy to her limits, scaring ourselves sh*tless at times.  Eventually we settled on an awesome campsite next to the creek and not far from town. We were camped across from a mountain ridge and after reviewing my topo map I made plans to run the ridge and tag as many peaks as I could the next day.

My ridge running day was much easier than I had anticipated.  I discovered a trail up the nearest mountain and so I was able to summit without any bushwhacking.  The only problem was that I had apparently left my brain back at the campsite.  I had bags of Oreos, Sour Dinos and Starburst with me.  I left my bag of Oreos on the first peak, Sour Dinos on the second and Starburst on the 3rd.  I am embarrassed to admit to so much littering. I tried to make up for it on the rest of the trip by picking up every bit of litter I saw.

My ridge running route was excellent, but due to my excessive littering I decided to head back to the van after my 4th peak. I was out of food and I still had a long way back.  My original plan had been to follow the jeep road back to the campsite, however the jeep traffic looked to be out of control, so I opted to bushwhack down an alternate route. Not for the last time, I discovered that Colorado bushwhacking is not that fun.  There are thorns on the bushes!  Oh well, I survived and eventually made it back down to where Matt and Moxie were waiting for me.

Strava


From Silverton we went for a long drive to Lake City.  I really wanted to check out Handies Peak and run on part of the Hardrock course.  We scouted around, Matt did some fly fishing, and we found another great camping spot.  After freaking ourselves out with the Jeep roads in the Silverton area, we decided that I would run the road to Handies Peak instead of attempting to drive there.  It turns out the road to Handies peak is fine for a minivan, but I didn’t mind the extra running.  It was early and the Jeeps weren’t out yet.  I kept the pace really easy as I was planning to summit 3 14ers in a day, and I wasn’t sure how my legs were going to hold up – turns out my legs were fine.  The trail up to Handies Peak was beautiful and I especially enjoyed the meadow, which was filled with marmots and wildflowers.  After reaching the summit I ran back down the trail and across the valley to the Sunrise and Redcloud trail.  This trail was not as lush as the Handies Peak trail, but I loved the arid landscape and red rocks. When I reached the col which lead to the summit I looked over to the other side for a possible alternate descent route.  There weren’t any obvious hazards, and the drainage led almost directly back to our campsite.  I wasn’t looking forward to running back along the busy Jeep road, maybe this would be a better option.  I still hadn’t learned …

Sunrise and Redcloud are two 14 000ft peaks connected by a 1 mile ridge.  I had the trail to myself, and I enjoyed dancing along the red shale while soaking in the views.  Unfortunately my trip off the col and into the drainage was not so smooth.  Before dropping down I studied the terrain carefully and examined my topo map.  It looked like I could get cliffed out at the confluence of two drainages, and I needed to do a lot of side traversing to get over to a rib and avoid getting sucked into steep terrain.  It’s amazing how even when you know better, you still make the same mistakes.  I did not enjoy the side traversing and so I allowed myself to get sucked into the confluence. I didn’t get cliffed out, but I did have a very awkward descent and I spent a lot of time battling some very aggressive, thorny bushes.

Eventually I made it back to the campsite, dusty and a little bloody, but otherwise in good shape. I was on schedule but Matt wasn’t there.  I looked around, he had thoughtfully left out a chair and Gatorade, so I made myself comfortable.  My adventure had covered over 45km and had taken 12 hours, so I was happy to relax 🙂  Matt showed up 30 minutes later, after getting some supplies in town.  Wanting to explore other areas in Colorado, we had a brief discussion about where to go next.  We decided on Colorado Springs, so I jumped in the van and off we went.

Strava


The next day we spent some time exploring the Garden of the Gods, which is very neat, and attempted to visit Pikes Peak so that Matt could summit a 14er.  Unfortunately we don’t have much patience for tourist attractions, and when we discovered a long line up of cars coupled with a $50USD toll rate we bailed on that idea.

The Colorado Springs traffic was a nightmare and we spent the next few hours lamenting our decision to leave the San Juans.  Eventually we made it up to Boulder where we breathed a sigh of relief to escape the big city.  The drive up through the mountains out of Boulder was nice, but there weren’t any places to camp so we just kept driving.  We drove through lots of defunct mining operations and Central City, the craziest town I’ve ever seen!  Central City is entirely composed of casinos and marijuana dispensaries.  There doesn’t appear to be anyone that actually lives there, and we wondered if there were any patrons in the casinos.  I feel like the town must be some kind of massive money laundering scheme.

We kept driving and found a beautiful campsite near Jones Pass. The next morning we went for a family hike up to the pass.  There were tons of marmots and Moxie had a blast.  There was too much snow to reach the summit of the pass, but we made it pretty close.  It was a good farewell to Colorado.

Strava


Matt was eager to get back home so we packed up the van after our hike and drove north to Wyoming.  That evening we found a beautiful campsite just outside of the National Parks and I went for a sunset run up to the nearest pass.  On my way back I discovered very large, very fresh grizzly tracks headed in the same direction as me. I slowed to a walk, not wanting to catch up to the bear.  Wyoming is so wild!  I think it’s my favourite state.

Strava


The next day we braved the tourists and visited Yellowstone National Park.  I had always wanted to visit Yellowstone and now we were finally here!  The hot springs were cool, and I am sure we would have been totally awed by them had we not been to Iceland last year.  As it was, we were suitably impressed but I couldn’t help comparing them to last year’s adventures.  In Yellowstone there are hordes of people everywhere and boardwalks to prevent you from getting too close to the hot pools.  In Iceland there are also hordes of people, but it’s very easy to get off the beaten track and you can easily find hot springs with no people around.  There are no boardwalks to keep you safe, you could jump right into the boiling water/mud pits if you were so inclined.

As we exited the park there were really cool rock formations formed by mineral deposits from the hot springs.  I would have loved to explore this area but the parking was full, so we continued to drive north to Montana.


After some creative navigation, we found a camping spot near Boulder, Montana.  This was one of our favourite campsites of the whole trip!  The forest was filled with piles of massive boulders that seemed to materialize out of nowhere.  We spent the evening doing forest parkour, scrambling up, down and around the giant, granite rocks.   I think we could spend a week there and not get bored.  Alas, it was time to go home and the next day we drove back to Canada.


See you again in 2018 Colorado, and this time I will back up my photos!

Happy Trails!