Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Boxing Day Bear Peak Summit

One of the great pleasures of the last twelve months for me has been the number of new friends that I have made from running. Some of those friends are in different states like South Dakota, Nebraska, and California. And many of those of friends are right here in town, including several that live within a few short miles. One friend (Nico) that I made lives in Boulder and is a trail running fanatic. He messaged me a few weeks ago and asked me to come to Boulder and enjoy some of their great trails. Being a suburb guy, I like to take as many opportunities as I can to get out and see my native state, so naturally I accept.  And I brought another new running friend, Greg, for our first run together.

Our original plan was to do somewhere between 18 and 20 miles and hit both Bear Peak and Green Mountain. Unfortunately, both Greg and I were a little unprepared for the conditions, the difficulty of the trails, and the time commitment (at least in my case). We didn't get far before we figured out that it we would have to cut this short and see Green Mountain another day.

This is the view from the Shanahan Ridge Trail Head. From the trail head we began south so that we could head through Shadow Canyon and then summit Bear Peak from behind. 

The first 2 miles were pretty slow trail running as we approached Shadow Canyon. The running was slow, but we were moving.  However, the wind was whipping at more than 20 MPH with gusts easily above 30 MPH. After a few miles we started climbing. It was more than 2,000 feet of climbing to get to Bear Peak over a 2 mile stretch. Denver and Boulder were hit with a huge snow storm last week, thus there is a ton of snow on the trails. That obviously made things difficult! Below is a picture of Nico as we were less than a half mile to the summit. Not long after I took this photo, we ran out of trail. We had to make our own through fresh snow that was up to waist deep in places. We stopped to look at these tracks and use our expert wilderness experience to determine what type of animal it was. The consensus was that it was probably a mountain lion.

Just before we got to the summit, we had climb on all fours like bears up the remaining section through fresh powder. Then we found a little bit of remaining trail at the top.  Here is a photo of Greg at the summit of Bear Peak looking to the West. I was trying to capture the depth of the snow to get a sense for the conditions.

Nico took these photos of the two of us. Again, you can see how deep and fresh the snow was.



Here we are overlooking the Boulder area from the peak.  

This is a photo looking West toward the mountains. I believe that is Long's Peak off in the distance.

Another photo looking West (and perhaps a bit South) from the summit.

The actual summit of the peak was at the top of a small rock field. We didn't climb the rocks, so I guess we didn't technically summit. But there is one person (in the photo) that did.

Another summit photo, this one looking Southeast toward my neck of the woods (Castle Rock).

Before we left the summit, Nico asked us if we wanted to go the short way (a very steep 3 miles) or the long way (5 miles), which was supposed to be a "mellower" grade and more runnable. We decided to go the long way since we were already cutting out Green Mountain. The long way turned out to be long indeed. But I am not sure I would have wanted to see the "steeper" direction! The first mile down off the summit was pretty steep and snowy. Getting down was a combination of trail running and skiing. You could literally angle yourself and just slide down the mountain. It was actually kind of fun and easier than it sounds because you could rely on the snow to break your fall and brace any impact. The downside was that it was difficult to find a real trail and see any obstacles that might exist.

From the summit we headed down the Bear Peak West Ridge and then returned down to the car via Bear Canyon. At one point, Greg remarked that he wasn't having much fun. His quads were a little burned up from the climb and then the steep descent. Personally I really enjoyed the descent. Once we made our way onto Bear Canyon Trail, the grade subsided and the running picked up. Greg got a little more peppy at that point.

Here is a photo of a little bridge we crossed along Bear Canyon Creek.

And one last photo that Nico took of Greg and I running through Bear Canyon.


In the end we had a ton of fun, but it was extremely challenging. I was mostly comfortable with the exception of the peak where the wind was extremely intense. My feet got a little wet after nearly 4 hours. (But the screw shoes did a great job!) I should have been prepared with more liquids as well. While this type of activity is not running in the sense that a marathoner would train, it was very intense exercise. The combination of climbing, changing from hiking to running, and limited nutrition were all good experience for Greg and I and our LT100 training.  And it is good cross training for the legs! Perhaps most importantly, where else do you get so see such beauty? We are so fortunate to live in this wonderful state. I sometimes feel like I take it for granted.

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