LCW and Longs Peak


Crossing 'The Narrows' on the Keyhole Route (photo by Eric Lee)

With only five weeks left until the Hardrock 100, I still sit in the precarious position of being 2nd on the first timer wait list, so close, but no certainty of getting in. The only thing I can control is to keep training, and with five weeks to go I had an ambitious training plan for the week, 90miles and 30k ft of gain. The week started off well, with runs of Green Mt, Flagstaff Mt, Bear Pk and Mt Sanitas, 38miles and 11k ft of gain. Saturday’s plan was to hit the Lost Creek Wilderness for a big loop of approximately 36miles and 9-10k ft of gain. The trails and mountains in the Lost Creek Wilderness are a true hidden gem amongst a sea of 14ers, big name trails (ie Colorado Trail) and popular mountain towns (Leadville, Aspen, Ourey, Telluride…). The trails are smooth crushed granite, soft pine dirt with some rocks thrown in for good measure. The peaks top out over 12000ft and are dotted with giant granite towers and boulders bigger than a modern house.

As I cruised around the high elevation flanks Bison and McCurdy Peaks I was reminded of why I head into the mountains in the first place; thin clear mountain air, expansive views of the snow capped Sawatch Mts and complete solitude. I bombed down the smooth single track through Hankins Gulch and turned up Goose Creek for the hot slow ascent. As I made my way up the McCurdy Park trail, approximately 24 miles into my day, my energy waned a bit as I’d misplanned my food during my sleepy morning departure. As the trail undulated through the pine and aspen forest amongst the massive granite domes my pace slowed, and I was soon reduced to a hike. The next several miles seemed to drag on, but as I’ve learned oh so many times, strength is built through adversity, so on I went. I finally reached McCurdy Park and was able to slow jog my way back to the Bison Peak Saddle, at last only 5miles of downhill to car. This gave me a little boost of energy and I was able to run the whole way down, finishing off my big Lost Creek loop after 38.5miles/117000ft gain/10h42min. The day had turned out to be bigger than expected, and while the time wasn’t quite as fast as I’d hoped for, it was a solid training day on some beautiful trails, through my favorite early season mountain range.

Eric cruising through LCW (Photo credit: Eric Lee)

Sunday was to be an ‘easy’ day of sorts, meaning not a whole lot of running, but a steady hike to get in some additional elevation and miles. At the ungodly hour of 4:10am we left Boulder headed for the Longs Peak TH. It was already warming when we hit the trail at 549a bound for the standard Keyhole route. My legs were a bit sluggish as we started uphill, but I finally managed to shake off some of that fatigue and move at a steady clip. We reached the Keyhole around 8:30am, strapped on our crampons, unsheathed our axes and set off for the summit of Longs. The entire route from the Keyhole to the summit was solid snow, so we made careful, but methodical progress across some exposed and steep terrain, topping out on the summit of Longs Peak under clear skies with only a slight breeze. Longs in June is a spectacular climb that usually entails mountaineering and snow travel skills in addition to the usual high altitude and spectacular views. It is one of rare occasions where a person can bask in the warm sun atop Longs and not share the summit with 50-100 others. We made our way back down the way we’d come, returning to the trailhead approximately 9hours after leaving, by no means a speed record, but a nice casual day on the mountain.

This brought my weekly total to 87.7miles and 27600ft of elevation gain, my biggest week of the year. And while I was a bit tired come Sunday’s jaunt up Longs I was still feeling alright considering the pounding my body has taken over the past 3 weeks. Still waiting for that email from Dale asking if I want to join the 2013 Hardrock 100, only time will tell if all my training can be put to some good use. Special thanks to my sponsors Hind clothing and VFuel for keeping me going through the tough days. Run fast, run healthy, but mostly run happy.

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