High Lonesome Loop

Indian Peaks Wilderness, 16 miles.

Several of my colleagues are preparing for the Pikes Peak races, something I feel I know something about. They’re all promising runners and are all legitimately faster than I, but I hold the edge in mountain experience. Accordingly, I announced we were having a CASA Trail Running Series and dragged them out to give them some idea what they’re in for.

Headed toward Jasper Lake; feet still dry.

First up, Kyle and Greg, get introduced to the 15-mile High Lonesome Loop (aka, the Hessie Loop) in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Things went well enough for the first five miles and we set a good mountain pace up to Jasper Lake. From there, the snow began in earnest, even this late in the season. We spent longer than I liked slipping and sliding and losing our way on the way to Devil’s Thumb Lake. The weather wasn’t looking all that great, but we decided to push up to the Divide and make the call there.

Kyle ascends the tricky snowfield while Greg waits his turn below.

The climb up to the Divide, as expected, was grueling. Unexpectedly, a large cornice blocked the last 50′ of trail and we had to resort to some rather exposed, moderate-angle snow climbing on hard neve. In proper boots, with a hiking pole or axe, this would be trivial, but in soft trail shoes with nothing but our hands for protection (above a substantial couloir), it was a little dicey.

Finally on the Divide, things looked a little gloomy, but we weren’t keen on heading back down the snow slope. We hustled across 2.5 miles of glorious tundra with good views to the west before dropping down the King Lake valley just shy of Rollings Pass. Below tree line, the snow started up once again, but with gravity on our sides, we glissaded through and hammered along at a great rate. The snow quit as we dropped lower and it started to get hot. Everyone was pretty chipped by the time we made it back to the TH at the 5 hour mark.

Kyle and Greg did really well and clearly had a great time. Not bad for a first CASA Trailrunning event. 16 miles in 5-ish hours.

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