Mount Evans is the highest peak in a massif known historically as the Chicago Peaks. The cirques around Mount Evans are the deepest cirques in the Colorado Rockies.The bottoms of many of these contain tarns, the most notable being Chicago Lakes and Summit Lake.
ECHO LAKE: start point 10,580 feet elevation
So I decided, just last night, to respond to a posting from DTR (Denver Trail Runners) notifying all who were interested that one of the members was going to be heading out to Echo Lake to run for about 3hrs towards the summit of Mt. Evans, one of Colorado's many "Fourteeners" at 0630. I typed out, "Will be there." and sent it before I had a chance to change my mind. I had never climbed Mt. Evans, nor drove it for that matter, but always thought about it. Now was my chance to finally attempt to run my first fourteener.
I was a little apprehensive meeting "P.", some guy I didn't know and being secluded with him for 3+ hrs in the backcountry but took a few things into considerations, called cowboy to talk it over with him, had a back up plan if he turned out to be a creepy "Chester", and started to get my pack ready. I tucked into bed and set my alarm for 0530, damn that is insanely early for a third-shifter.
I didn't sleep well at all and had very guilty feelings about Argos. Cowboy and I discussed the importance of getting my "game face" on and leaving Argos behind so he wouldn't distract me from my training. I do find that when I run with the pup big distances that I tend to take more breaks than normal to make sure he is taken care of, watered, rested, etc. I do not want to hurt the poor little dude and give him heat stroke or something. So, with a guilt-ridden conscience amplified by his whining and begging as I slung my stuffed pack over my shoulders, I closed the door behind me and took one last look at his pathetic eyes crying out at me. I hardly ever go on runs without him anymore and it hurt deep [sob]...Ok pathetic, I know, but I love that furry boy so.
Fifteen short minutes later I was at the Wooly Mammoth Park-N-Ride Lot for our "meet-up". P. said there was going to be one more guy and a girl coming along. However, when the other guy showed up, but no girl, I took a look at both guys, assessed my situation, and chuckled to myself. Cowboy was on the phone as I told him my situation. "What's your backup plan?" he asked me, assuming I was going to bail being the solo girl in the group. "Eh, don't worry about it, no backup needed" was all I left him with.
They were really no threat: I may be small but I can be feisty.
We carpooled to the trailhead at Echo Lake. It was a beautiful lake with just a few people already hanging around the water edge fishing. We synched our watches, tightened our shoes, locked onto satellites, and headed off down the trail.
It was quite forested and damp. At 0745 it was a bit chilly to start but we all knew it would just be a matter of time until the sun crested over the mountains and chased away the cold. After passing the reservoir, we hit the official trailhead to the summit of Mt. Evans.
the trail was steep but the views were a nice distraction from the burning legs and lungs
A few times I had to look around real good because I felt for sure there was a black bear lurking in these woods. I was sure of it!
Half a mile or so of pure fun-loving trail mud! It was here that I found out how true my assessment of the "boys" were: "K." the second guy, started a full blown tantrum about wanting to turn around because he might get his feet wet and muddy. REALLY?! I nearly choked on my own saliva when I heard his whining.
Me: "Are you [f-bomb] serious?" I asked, not really believing what I was hearing.
K: "I don't do mud" he said in a voice not unlike a two year old with his arms crossed and lip pouted out.
Me: "You seriously cannot be afraid of a little wet feet. We carpooled in one car (I drove) and we aren't turning back over a little mud. Stop being a pansy and cut the whining. Let's move, come on."
We had had a friendly jabbing at the beginning of the run near Echo Lake about how I had sworn off roads because I felt they were utterly put-a-bullet-in-my-brain boring and how trails were my mecca, my therapist. He couldn't understand my feelings on trails as he was all about roads and speed. Whatever, to each his own, I agree to disagree. Well, now I understood where all this whining was coming from...he was a roadie at heart. A roadie that didn't "do" mud.
Regardless of his heavy resistance, I navigated him playfully through the mud to the other side and we entered Chicago Lakes area. Sourpuss was still grumpy but P. and I did what we needed to and ignored him.
"Chicago Lakes" an upper and lower lake were both breathtaking. The lower lake has a waterfall cascading down the back. We saw a handful of tents scattered and tucked away on ledges with hikers just waking, standing on boulders enjoying their coffee. It was a fantastic feeling and view. I would love to come back here and camp with Cowboy one day.
lower Chicago Lake
hike up to upper Chicago Lake
I can't believe I didn't get picture from here to the Summit Lake as it was the most brutal and time consuming climb of the whole trip. Maybe because I was focusing on breathing and not plummeting to my quick death off the side of the steep mountain? I don't know but as it was I didn't take a single picture until we made it to Summit Lake.
It was slow going and my body was detesting the altitude. Legs burning, lungs feeling like they weren't filling adequately, and heart rate pumping hard trying to be efficient with the little oxygen they were permitted. My body felt it alright. I felt a little funny for a few minutes and stopped to rest. I don't know the actually feeling, just "funny". It cleared after a short rest then it was back hand on knee to hoist myself up to the next step. Whew!
Summit Lake (couldn't someone have told me to fix my shirt?) approximately 13,000 feet elevation.
P. and I wanted to continue the last 2 miles to the actual summit of Mt. Evans but Sourpuss wanted to turn around. He had a flight to catch and wanted to get back early. Oh well, ya gotta chose your battles I guess. I won the mud run and decided to give up the summit for sake of Sourpuss's plane. P. and I turned back around and headed our steep descent back to the car with "K" trailing behind.
All in all, it was an amazing adventure/journey and a mighty good run. 3hrs 40 min. and almost 12 miles. Legs, butt, and back are all feeling it right now so I can pat myself on the back for a training day well done. I plan on heading back this week to the Summit Lake (hopefully with Cowboy) to climb to the top and summit Mt. Evans. It's not cheating is it if I just continue my hike from where I left off, or do the rules say I have to start back at Echo Lake again??