Season Finale

Mt. Alice’s imposing northeast face.

My Night Run friends were headed out to do a big run in the mountains and I couldn’t go. Sadness!  The weekly Boulder Trail Runners Night Run (Wednesdays at 8:30, check your local Yahoo Group emailing) is my main social life these days, so I was excited to see my pals getting out and going big in the mountains (some for the first time).  But then plans changed and I could go.  Hooray!  One last hurrah in the mountains before winter kicks in. One last chance to salvage something from a scattered summer season.

The plan was to run the 18-mile loop up Mt. Alice (13,310′) via the Hourglass Ridge in Wild Basin, Rocky Mountain National Park which I ran with Eric and Clem ten years ago.  That time, it took six hours.  We figured maybe seven this time if we stopped to take a lot of pictures.  Hmmm.

Normally a 6am start would not be this dark right?  Normally there isn’t already a dusting of snow on the high peaks in mid-September, or am I remembering things wrong? Somehow, without me noticing it, summer is apparently over.   Normally it doesn’t hurt so much to climb the rocky trail up toward the Lion Lakes and up the talus-and-tundra ramp to the Continental Divide.

It clearly wasn’t summer anymore up high, but it wasn’t as bad as we’d thought.  The 3rd-class Hourglass Ridge was a non-issue, though the inch of snow on the steep slabs and talus above that made the ascent tougher than it should have been.  Fortunately the bulk of Mt. Alice shielded us from most of the wind and the 800′ climb was actually pretty hot.

Night Runners at altitude in the daylight.

The summit views were incredible and the snow mostly went away, but we were hit by the full force of the south-westerly wind.  We’d taken five hours to ascend (compared to 3.5 back in 2007) and were definitely pretty tired.  Switching to down-hill legs, we trotted down the felsenmere and tundra for 1.4 miles to the welcome shelter of Boulder Grand Pass.  Then it was some scree skiing down to Lake of Many Winds, back onto a trail, and down the steep drops to Thunder Lake.

As usual, the last six miles was not terribly fun, but at least we could hustle along at a good rate feeling smug and satisfied.  From the summit down, we took closer to four hours than the 2.5 I’d logged before. Again, we had the extenuating circumstances of Kate being nauseous (new territory for her) and me doing my best Superman impression into a small creek.

Foliage isn’t much (yet?) this year, but these two trees were doing their level best.

I must have been in incredible shape back in 2007… or else old age and a scattered summer have taken me down a few notches.  What a glorious season finale!  Ben, Matt, and I are seasoned mountain runners, but it was really great to take Steve out for his second proper mountain run and stalwart Kate out for her first!  Even if the whole endeavor was a lot harder than I remember, the views and scenery was even better!  It’s a great way to finish off 2017’s mountain running season!

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