Back to Mt. Bierstadt and Mt. Evans

 

The start of the Bierstadt Trail

The start of the Bierstadt Trail

Last weekend my wife, brother-in-law, and I had an unsuccessful attempt at summitting Mt. Evans–we got turned back by bad weather (blog post).  I decided to return on my own and try again.

This time I started with the shorter trip up Mt. Bierstadt (from Guenella Pass) to make sure I could get in at least one summit before the regular afternoon thunderstorms moved in.  I made it to the top of Bierstadt in about 1.5 hours and hung out at the summit for about 10 minutes.  I contemplated traversing to Evans via the Sawtooth but decided I wasn’t quite brave enough for that yet.

Instead, I headed back down Bierstsadt trail for a bit and then made the cut over to Evans below the Sawtooth.  I ended up cutting over earlier than I had intended and ended up in a pretty steep drainage. I had to scramble down for a while but it was nothing too dangerous. The ‘valley’ (valley? I don’t know all my mountain terms yet) between Bierstadt and Evans on the north side was pretty amazing.  There were a few small ponds full of crystal clear runoff and the entire area was covered in lush green grass.

Eventually, I joined the trail up to the saddle between Mt. Spalding and Mt. Evans (the same trail that I’d done with Lindsey and Brandon the week before). I made pretty good time up the steep climb and then navigated the rocky terrain to the Mt. Evans summit. I hung around there for maybe 15 minutes and then headed back to the car.  There were threatening clouds all around for most of the afternoon but none of them ever resulted in any weather.  It was overall a great day on the mountains.  Two days later and my legs are still pretty damn sore.

Totals:

Distance: 12.65 miles

Time: 7 hours and 36 minutes

Elevation Gained: 6,755ft

Mt. Evans Summit Attempt

I’ve been wanting to get some more 14er summits in for a while now (I’ve climbed Pikes Peak numerous times but no other 14ers yet). I decided that I’d try to get Mt. Evans and Mt Bierstadt in one day.  My plan was to start from Guenella Pass, climb Bierstadt rather quickly, see how I felt, and then head over to climb Evans (not via the Sawtooth–I’m not that brave yet).

Upon mentioning this to Lindsey, she decided that she’d drive up with me and hang out at the trailhead while I made the climbs. Over the course of the week she decided that she wanted to try one of the climbs too and my brother-in-law Brandon wanted to come and try a climb as well. So we’d do Bierstadt together, they’d return to the car, and I’d head up Evans while they waited.

We left Colorado Springs around 4:30am and arrived at the Guenella Pass trailhead around 6:30 or 7:00am. We headed up Bierstadt trail but it was like a highway at rush hour, I was amazed at how many people we making the climb that day. We decided to try Evans first to avoid the crowds (almost no one was making that climb that we could see).

We veered off the Bierstad trail and through the ‘wetlands’ at the base of the peaks. This involved trying to bushwhack and avoid ankle deep mud for about a mile. Our feet were soaked by the time we made it to dry land.

Here we started our ascent of the drainage that would lead us to the saddle between Mt. Spalding and Mt. Evans. It was pretty steep and we took small breaks every 50 yards or so. Once we exited the drainage we headed towards Evans across the rocky terrain (now well above treeline).

There were thunderstorms scheduled for after about 1pm so I figured we’d be able to avoid those no problem and I was keeping a constant eye on the incoming clouds. None seemed to serious, but as can happen in the Rocky Mountains in summer, that changed incredibly quickly. Within 5 minutes or so the peaks surrounding us were getting dumped on and taking sporadic lightning strikes. There were a few rock outcroppings and we headed for one and took shelter the best we could (it wasn’t ideal but it worked).

We were quickly getting hailed on (though the rocks blocked most of it). Luckily the lightning wasn’t too severe and there was only one strike that was about 1/4 of a mile from us. We hunkered down under the rocks for about 30 minutes.




At that point we decided that it was probably safest to head back down the mountain than to continue on to the summit. We waited for a break in the storm and then hurried down (spreading out along the way so that, in case of a strike, it didn’t get all of us). After about 10 minutes of descent, the weather cleared and it was blue skies all the way back to the car.

If I had been by myself I would have been pretty upset that I didn’t get a summit but, since Lindsey and Brandon were there too, it was just a good day in the mountains with family (aside from the storm). In retrospect, we could have gotten the summit after the storm broke and made it back to the car without any other weather, but we didn’t know that at the time and I’m satisfied that we made the best decision we could with what information we had at the time.

After getting back home and doing some reading, I learned that being under the tallest rock outcropping on the mountain during a lightning storm isn’t the safest place to be. Luckily the lightning wasn’t too bad and we were mainly seeking shelter from the hail. Next time we’ll make a different decision (heading down as soon as the storm broke was probably the best thing to do since we ended up heading down anyway).

My First Mountain Bike Race

Two months ago I got a ridiculous deal on a mountain bike at an REI garage sale that I couldn’t pass up. I’ve been riding about 3 times per week since then–mixing it up with my running. I discovered a local race and decided to give it a try.

The race was 3 laps of an appx. 3 mile loop through Palmer Park. I had ridden the loop a few times before but in the reverse direction. It was around 90 degrees at start time.

Mountain biking has 4 categories of riding based on skill level: Cat 3, Cat 2, Cat 1, & Pro (Cat 3 being the least skilled). I definitely signed up for Cat 3 (which proved to be a good decision).

The race started off great. I was holding my own in the middle of the pack. But, when we hit the first real climb it was pretty much all over. Seemingly everyone flew by me and I was left huffing and puffing up the trail–definitely a different kind of fitness than I’m used to. Due to the heat and  the amount of water I was drinking to try to avoid dehydration, I was on the edge of vomiting for the first 1.5 laps. Oh well I’m used to that from ultra-running.

I spent the entire race near the very back of the pack struggling up the climbs and going as fast as I could on the downhills. I was absolutely exhausted after 1 lap and powered through the final 2. My total time was 1:11. The next person in my category and age group finished about 7 minutes ahead of me and the winner of my cat/age group finished 14 minutes ahead. Pretty amazing.

Despite my dismal performance, I had an absolute blast! The series races again in Palmer Park on July 10th. I think I’ll have to try it again.

Pikes Peak (via Crags Route)

finally got up into the mountains for a decent climb for the first time this summer.  I decided to try the Crags route of Pikes Peak for the first time. I’ve climbed the Peak many times before but always via Barr Trail.

I left the house around 5:15am and got to the trail head around 6:15am.  The first part of the trail was pretty uneventful. It got interesting just above treeline where things get pretty damn steep for a bit. This was my first time at altitude this year but I did pretty well.  Things then relatively leveled off for the rest of the way until the final pitch which was still pretty covered in snow but I was able to boulder around to avoid most of the snow. There were a few other snow crossings along the way but nothing major.  I got to the summit around 9:30am and made it back to the car around 12:30pm. The weather was almost perfect the entire way–just ridiculously windy at the top but that’s normal.  Overall, a great day!

Vasque Pendulum – Initial Thoughts

vasque-pendulum

I had been waiting for these shoes for months since first hearing about them on iRunFar.com. The expected release date came and went and I still couldn’t find them anywhere. FINALLY, they showed up on a few internet retailers almost exactly the same time as my birthday so I asked for a pair and got them. Their price on Zappos is $109.99. Pretty decent/standard for trail runners. I have about 15 miles on them now and here are my initial thoughts:

The Vasque Mindbenders (review) have been my go-to shoe for the past couple of years. I absolutely love them. Their only real shortcoming is weight–they’re pretty damn heavy (but they do offer tank-like protection).

The first thing I did was put both shoes on the scale. My size 11.5 weighed in at 14.30 ounces for the (well-used) Mindbender and 12.15 for the new Pendulum. A difference of 2.15 ounces. That’s pretty significant especially when you’re talking about a 50K or 100 mile race.

weighing the vasque mindbender and pendulum

Next I hit the trails and, much to my delight, the Pendulums felt almost exactly like the Mindbenders except lighter. That’s what I was hoping for. The most noticeable change is in the upper. The more minimal upper feels more free and I noticed that it feels less restrictive around the ankle (pic). It maintains the super wide toe box that I LOVE. In fact, it feel slightly wider than the Mindbender if that’s even possible. The tongue is extremely thin and short. I’m not totally sold on the tongue yet; there was one time when I needed to pull on the tongue as it had started slipping toward my toes and I couldn’t grab it because it was so short. But, that was one time and that issue will probably disappear once I get them broken in.

Those are my initial thoughts. I’ll post updates as I get some more mileage on them.

The hot shoe that seems to be competing with the Pendulum is the New Balance MT1210 (Leadville). They weigh almost exactly the same. I’d love to get my hands on a pair of them to compare side-by-side. We’ll see.