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Archive for August, 2013

It had been too long since I’d done a proper scramble in the high peaks, but both Pete and I were getting over a week of sickness and we needed something not too long. Looking through Cooper’s “Colorado Scrambles” guide we decided on a hike and scramble to the “summit” of Little Matterhorn.

Bear Lake is a perennially crowded parking lot in Rocky Mountain National Park, but at 7:30am there were still plenty of spaces. The hike towards Odessa Lake allowed us to warm up and catch up on the last month. Before long we were headed off on an unmarked trail to Grace Falls, passing a group of 3 also bound for Little Matterhorn. From the falls we started the ugly part of the climb, a traversing ascent up a slope of unstable talus. The route we took definitely wasn’t optimal and required us to drop some hard won elevation as we tried to contour closer to our goal.

The climb up to the ridge from the point of the photo above was much more pleasant. The blocks where more stable and easier to scramble upon. Finally we hit the ridge and started in on the real joy.

Our initial attempt to stay on the ridge crest was quickly quashed and we detoured to the north side of the ridge to find a less extreme passage.

At the next notch we got back on the crest and mostly stayed there to the end.

The “summit” of this un-ranked peak is a step down from the ridge and involves the trickiest climbing of the day. To get down we squeezed through a chimney without packs. On the return trip we followed a crack system with great handholds but plenty of exposure.

A little worried about what the weather could bring, we hurried back along the ridge and then down the more stable blocks. Scouting the terrain from above we picked a lower line that had us traverse through the worst of the loose slopes to the grassy edges for an easier descent.

Once back at the falls it was an easy walk downhill to end a great hike and scramble.

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Tara and I volunteered to help crew and pace Chris at his first 100 mile ultramarathon, the Leadville 100. The race started at 4am from the town of Leadville, an event we missed as we were still sleeping in another mountain town over the divide then. We easily found the Pipeline crew access point (2 miles north of the Half Pipe aid station – no crew allowed there) and met Brad and others crewing for Chris and soon our runner showed up.

He was in and out pretty quickly and our group packed up to head to the 40 mile point of the race at the town of Twin Lakes. There we setup on the edge of town with the gear we could haul to the site from a mile or so out of town, which was the closest we could park.

Chris came in looking good prior to the big climb up and over Hope Pass to the halfway point of the race.

He was a little disappointed that we didn’t have any of his pre-cooked tortellini for him saying “But I always eat tortellini when I climb over passes.”

Prepped with various non-tortellini foods, Skratch labs drink mix, clean socks and freshly bandaged blisters he headed out in good spirits.

Pacers are allowed for the second half of this race and Brad had already selected the soul-crushing climb back over Hope Pass from 50-60 miles to pace. Now that we were all gathered I organized the other pacers for the remaining 40 miles – Kristoffer, Tara, myself, Erin, and Michelle. Since I hadn’t really run in nearly 2 months since severely spraining my ankle I was hoping to get off with a small segment to pace. Due to the way schedules shook out, I ended up with the 10 mile leg between Outward Bound and May Queen aid stations that would involve a 2,000 foot climb up Powerline to Sugarloaf Pass. At least coming 3/4ths of the way into the race I figured Chris wouldn’t be moving too fast.

Brad, Tara and I quickly left Twin Lakes to drive around to Winfield not realizing what a traffic mess the roads around Winfield would be. With 2.5 miles still to drive to the aid station it was looking like we’d never get there in time to meet and pace Chris. So Brad and I loaded up a couple backpacks with food (including tortellini this time), clothes and water, plus Brad’s own gear to pace, and set out on a forced march up the dirt road. Tara eventually parked the car off the road and hiked in to join us as well. Chris came in looking a little worn out but Brad’s company soon brought him around and he passed many people going up Hope Pass on the return trip and threatened to outrun Brad. Tara and I scored a ride back down the 2.5 miles of road to our car then drove around to Twin Lakes, ate a bit of dinner and were soon surprised by an early arrival of Chris and a worn out Brad. Kristoffer took over pacing for the next 12 miles and the rest of us scattered to Pipeline or other more comfortable places to nap through the night.

At Pipeline I concentrated on eating and staying hydrated knowing my pacing leg was coming up and tried to catch a little sleep in the field as runners came through to meet their crews. Chris arrived feeling sluggish (the downhills were hurting him by now) and dehydrated. Tara had the next 3.5 miles to pace and force liquids on him while I drove ahead to Outward Bound and got ready to “run”.

Tara had done her job well and Chris had consumed 20 oz or so of water in the hour jog and hike to Outward Bound. There we put him in a chair with his legs up, got him to drink some broth and eat a bit of real food while he started to come around a bit more. In fact, by the time we left the aid station he was fairly chatty and I was able to keep up a conversation on ultras and other adventures as we motored up the steep and sandy Powerline trail to Sugarloaf Pass. Chris was able to eat and drink through this segment and even run some of the flats and gentle downhills on the way into May Queen. There Erin took over pacing and Tara and I fought to get out of the mess of a parking situation and tired crew members. We barely located and reached the Tabor boat ramp by the time Chris hiked the 6 miles there to give him his last opportunity to switch layers and access his gear. Michelle took him the final 6 miles into town for a ~28.5 hour 100 miler. As much as Tara and I would have loved to be there at the finish, we were simply too exhausted after pacing all night and found an empty gravel parking lot to throw some sleeping bags down and sleep for 3 hours as dawn arrived.

Chris’s performance was inspiring and motivating – I’d be lying if there wasn’t an ember in me now burning to train for another ultra next year.

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