Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mt. Evans- Finally Conquered

If you've been following my blog for awhile you might recall a post from last year, leaving a personal bone to pick with Mt. Evans. Left unconquered and un-summited, I had vowed to come back and finish that beast.

Well, Sunday proved to be the day to do it. Shortly after summiting Pike's Peak I emailed MtnRunner2 asking if he was up for it, knowing full well he wouldn't be able to resist. Muaahaahaa! Sure enough he replied the affirmative and we set plans for an adventure in just under two weeks.

We set off at 0530 for the hour long ride up to Echo Lake. On our way up the winding back road to the lake, we came around a sharp corner to see a doe standing in the middle of the road with two teeny tiny bambi fawns underneath her. They were both bucking their heads up into her belly to nurse. They stood there nursing from their momma as we came to a soft halt (cursing the fact that both of us left our cameras in the back of the car) to watch them. They startled and trotted off to the side of the road, the little ones bobbing their heads and ears twitching as they stared at us curiously. They were way too little to realize humans meant danger. It was a great start to our morning.

As we stepped out from the car at Echo Lake a cool dampness hit our exposed skin. A family of campers were huddled in hoodies and gloves around a Coleman stove. We both smiled as we set off onto Chicago Lakes Trail knowing it was perfect running weather!

We warmed up immediately, though both of us commented nearly at the same time how we felt sluggish with heavy legs. I just couldn't get into a groove. We still pressed forward, admiring the beauty of the morning around us.

Passed Chicago Lakes and headed up to Summit Lake. There were a couple of tenters around here just waking up and having their morning coffee. Mtnrunner2 and I both chatted about how camping along Chicago Lakes would be the perfect spot.

 Looking back down upon Chicago Lakes.

 Mountain Goats!!! (babies too)

We curved right (around the goats) and came upon Summit Lake. Summit Lake parking lot was buzzing with activity unloading hikers and bikers from cars. M. mentioned that the Colorado Initiative built a trail just down the road so we decided to opt out of the Mt. Evans trail (starting to swarm with hikers) and head up the road a bit. 

I'll never admit this out loud, but that flat(ish) road felt so good to my legs and feet. As a runner who had caught the trail bug a few years ago I had completely sworn off all running which involved pavement (except for the few triathlons I participated in a year). I hated road with a passion- not only did it hurt my body from head to toe but it was excruciatingly b-o-r-i-n-g. 

With the strenuous beastly climb of Chicago Lakes Trail, however, the road was singing a sweet, sweet tune to me that day. I almost had a change of heart. Almost.

***A good friend and trainer of mine often reminisces his painful ascent up Mt. Evans road as the hardest run he's ever done. We have this friendly teasing timed competition going on. Not to make light of his hard work and kick ass time up the mountain, however..... "T." Get off the road and onto trail and then you can call yourself a badass:) These are two way different animals***

We swerved off the road and headed up the C.I. Trail. Now the real fun began. This shit was steep and rocky. My quads were protesting immensely. 

 Almost to the true summit. 

At this point we were cresting over the ridge onto the Summit parking lot. Needless to say we received more than a handful of strange looks in our running garb and water bottles. M. stated he would've been rich if he had been paid for every time he was asked what he was training for (most people asked "Leadville"?) When we shook our heads and said, "No, just for the fun of it." People scrunched their noses in disbelief and distain gasping, "YOU ARE SO CRAZY."

 Remains of the Crest House.

Crest House 1950 (a fire gutted the insides)

 Summit Success!

Besides the typical rapid heart rate and breathing, I had no other issues with the altitude. However there is one mystery in which I cannot figure out. I handed my camera to a young man in a group of people to take my picture (M was off taking another couple's picture). After the man snapped a couple of pictures of me we got to talking and joking around. As M. rejoined me, I waved at the group, took a step back towards the trail, and realized I forgot to get my camera back from him. I headed back to the group and then noticed I had my camera tucked back into the little pouch of my chest pack right where it belongs. 

I had no recollection of taking my camera back from this guy or putting it in my pouch. None. Try as I might I couldn't squeeze even a flash of memory of this event. There was a big stark white blank where this memory should have been. Seriously it was kind of freaky. I talked to M about it and we both chalked it up to altitude. 

With that, we headed back down. Our intense climb up resulted in a part slide, part scree-ski down. It was literally like skiing. Turn and slide to the right, turn and slide to the left, repeat. It was a little slow going just for the sake of safety. At one point my shoe got caught mid-slide between two rocks and my body (minus my right foot) pitched forward. An adrenaline surge rushed through my body as I lurched forward until I felt the sharp tug of my shoe pinning me back down into place. I took a few breaths, re-righted myself, unstuck my foot, and let the adrenaline drain out from my muscles as I contemplated my near disaster. Granted not as stellar and epic as a fall off the sheer side of a mountain, but this would've been nasty and I could've guaranteed at least a little blood shed.  Once my heart returned back out of my throat to it's rightful place in my chest, I slowly picked my way back down to safer and smoother running ground. 

Cowboy decided to meet us (with the pup of course!) at Summit Lake on our way back down. He was our impromptu aid station and we were thrilled. We both had just run out of water and were discussing treating some water at the lake for a refill. Cowboy pulled out the 7 gallon spare water jug we keep in our car for emergencies and helpfully filled our bottles. Then we stood around and snacked on power bars, pb&j, and a Tanka bar. Argos was in hog heaven as he was positively sure that Cowboy had brought him here to run with us. Without a doubt he whinnied and pranced, sharp happy barks and tongue hanging out the side in a goofy grin. Poor guy. He moaned, shivered, and whined as he saw M and I take off without him. My heart sank.

Cowboy ended up letting him play in and around Summit Lake then brought him down to Echo Lake (where he would meet up with us) to run free for a bit. Argos was pooped by the time we met back up with him. Hindsight I probably could've taken him down with me at Summit but was afraid of having to keep him leashed to me at the still treacherous rocky downhill part to Chicago Lakes. He would've easily  maneuvered it, but I have found going downhill with a large excited leashed dog usually leads to me trying not to fall.

And people ask us why we choose to do this for fun? Times like that I wish I could just hand them a handful of my trail pics like this one.

We made it down in no time and it felt good again to open up on the downhills and cruise. I popped in some tunes and hopped like a kid over roots, ruts, and boulders. Mud splashed up on my legs and I even played in some snow. It was pure childish fun and I loved it. 

We had a large climb at the end of the trail back up to the Echo Lake campground. I was still giddy with play when I came upon a guy crouched down posing with his dog on a rock outcrop as a couple of his friends snapped a picture of him. He was just about to stand up when I said, "wait wait, one more!" and ran up beside him, slung my arm around him, and posed goofy as his buddy said, "got it!" and snapped another pic. I ran off waving as the group of them laughed and cheered. It is fun to be stupid silly some days. Maybe they'll delete the pic of this odd stinky girl who invaded their picture, but maybe they'll keep it and laugh about it years later. This crazy runner girl who made them laugh. 

M and I rounded the sidewalk of Echo Lake and finally reached Cowboy. High fives and grins all around. We were sweaty, stinky, muddy, out of breath, and still having a great time. I was ecstatic that I had finally FINALLY summited Mt. Evans and had some great company doing it. Although we both agreed that we felt sluggish throughout the run and our times could've been better, we relished in the beauty of the massive mountain, of the early morning start, and the fact that we were out sweating up a storm on a fabulous trail run. Thanks M for sharing today with me and getting my legs burnin'! Check out his post on the day here- his pictures are amazing.

I believe this is an 'Aspen Daisy'. LOVE IT!

Ya know. There's an old acquaintance of mine who moved here about 2 years ago. She hates Colorado. Hates it. I don't get it.

I really truly just don't get it.


Momp said...

I'm glad you conquered it Thea! Those are beautiful pictures and as always I love reading of your adventures.

mtnrunner2 said...

Thanks for the company, that was a blast. And good to meet the Cowboy. Glad you got a 14er summit out of the deal!

Fun seeing how we each photograph and report the same run.

And I had no idea the summit structure had windows at one time. Too bad it hasn't been rebuilt yet, that would be nice on a cold or wet day.