Thursday, March 10, 2011

Fun at Altitude

This past weekend I met up with my friends Stephanie (New Hampshire), Tracey, and Scott (both from North Carolina) in Keystone. I arrived late on Friday in time to lounge around in front of the condo's fireplace and catch up on old times. We tucked in with plans for a good long snowshoe in the morning on a nearby trail. When I asked where we were going to go, the girls told me about a trail near Keystone that "only charged $11 per person for their groomed trails." What?! Let's regroup on this, I said, nobody pays to snowshoe.


Unless you're from out of state and don't know any better...

I unfolded my newly purchased map of the area and together we scoped out a new trail. I had no intention of ever paying to hike back country, that was just ridiculous to me. Our first few picks were on the "overzealous" meter. All of us were huge endurance athletes- or pain pushers. A great quote from a book I'm in the midst of:

"It wasn't just the racing they loved; it was the thrill of exploring the brave new world of their own bodies"- Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

In one odd way or another each of us girls met the other outside of the US while running a multi-day endurance race (Scott was the newbie, a friend of Tracey's yet proved to be just as cool as us girls). Eventually the three of us met up for a 50 mile run in the Grand Canyon last year (Rim2Rim2Rim),

and now, here in the mountains of Colorado, we were together again. It was great. I've seriously never met more hard-core kick ass yet hilariously fun girls than these two.

After choosing a few trails that were 16 miles+ each I had to remind all that although I was always up for the challenge, the "average" snowshoer tends to hike about a mile and hour. Add our complete and utter awesomeness into the equation and we probably could do 2 maaaybe 3 mph. Subtract the fact that three out of the four individuals were near sea-levelers and not used to the altitude.

We finally chose a trail just west of Keystone that appeared to be about a 10ish mile loop that connected to the Colorado Trail. A good deal of elevation but we packed well with extra layers, food, and water. The one thing we all forgot: a GPS or a compass. Knocked into the realization of how much I rely on my GPS, I was humbled and slightly humiliated that I was not a better orienteer. I have done a few adventure races and felt very proficient with the orienteering part, although that has been a few years back and my skills were dusty. Confident that at least if one of us gets lost we would have great company, we decided to forge ahead and just play it somewhat smart. 

We hit the trailhead and I called Cowboy to give him the general area we were snowshoeing at and about how long we should be out. I normally call or text coordinates but this time it was just vague trailhead names and directions. We headed out in great spirits. It was a little chilly to start but within a quarter of a mile we were all stripping off layers and goofing around.

Then we started to climb...a big climb and we were breaking brand new trail.

I had quite the advantage with my MSR Lightening Ascent shoes. The others had rentals (Atlas and another brand) that were running snowshoes- short and narrow. I floated on top of the snow (for the most part) where my friends struggled a bit, falling into the waist deep snow frequently.
no, she isn't kneeling


 Luckily all got a good laugh out of the fiasco instead of getting frustrated, although I blame the good mood on the amazing peanut butter and honey on toasted english muffins that Tracey put together that morning. Scott had thrown in some sliced sausage and cheeses in a baggie to munch on too. Yum! That powered us up the hill.

We plowed, huffed, and puffed our way to the top and then decided to turn around and descend before we got lost. A few more giggles:

We only missed the "trail" once at the very end but headed over to a ridge to look down trying to locate the car. We saw it down below and had the bright idea to "just head down the ridge and create our own path!" Three steps off the ridge and we all started sinking down to our chests in snow. It was hilariously slow and fun- we all agreed we laughed the most on that small stretch just to get to the stinkin' car.

Steph had fallen almost chest deep into the snow. Scott was trying to pull her out when you can see him all of a sudden fall through. Then Tracey slides in and down behind him. It was a mess.

We made it back, piled in and cranked on the heat. What a great adventure with some awesome buddies. We estimated between 8-10 miles hiked over 5hrs. We noshed well that night and headed to bed early!

"...this ninety-five-year-old man came hiking twenty-five miles over the mountain. Know why he could do it? Because no one every told him he couldn’t. No one ever told him he oughta be off dying somewhere in an old age home. You live up to your own expectations..." Born To Run by Christopher McDougall


mtnrunner2 said...

Looks like a blast. And tough -- breaking trail in deep snow is HARD.

The Grand Canyon is on the to-do list (assuming I bother to even leave my home state), possibly R2R2R.

The Colorado Trail is some great running. Copper to Searle Pass is pretty awesome for example.

SuzRocks said...

Be nice to the sea-levelers... I came back to CO in Feb for a hut trip. Flew in, and 2 hours later we're at 10k feet. I was DYING.... Thankfully, I was skiing in and not snowshoeing- a little less effort involved.

Can't wait till I move back!