Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Bells are giving me a Headache

Running the Maroon Bells
The Maroon Bells, and some kid taking a photo

Maroon Bells Four Pass Loop: 28 miles, 7500', high point 12,460 ft.

“Ain’t life funny. Last night I was swearing I’d never do again what I did yesterday. Now today I can’t wait to do it again.” -- Lance Armstrong (a day after completing the Four Passes Loop)

Ever since reading about the Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop last year I couldn't get it out of my brain, so I stuck it on the "must do" list for the summer along with many other goals that surprisingly seem to be getting ticked off. The Maroon Bells are a set of dual 14,000' summits outside Aspen Colorado. Not confusingly, the route tackles 4 independent passes that allows a circumnavigation of the peaks. The 4 passes are, in counterclockwise order, Buckskin, Trailrider, Frigid Air, and West Maroon.  Annie and I set out to meet good old Nater at the trailhead last Friday night in hopes for a solid run Saturday.

The route

We found ourselves sleeping in the Hyundai in the "day use only" parking lot starting about 12:30 am as the "overnight use" parking was full and we refused to pay $10 to enter during normal hours. This is of course chancing a $100 ticket for illegal camping, but such is our principles.

Annie had sprained her ankle the previous week doing a loop in the Tetons, and despite us hoping it would be good to go it wasn't, so Nater and I went at it as a duo.( Luckily Annie made it up to Buckskin pass alone so her trip was not in vain).  Nate is always in good shape, despite living at sea level and not getting out as much as he'd like. But he did bag Longs last week so he was ready. We took off and it took 1.5 hours to get to pass 1, Buckskin. Nate would like me to point out that he beat me up every pass on the loop, to which my reply is, " i was taking pictures for my wife who couldn't be there".  The previous TR's weren't kidding, this area is like Disneyland. Hoards of backpackers out doing the loop over a week or so, with quite a few IADers as well. I am not used to seeing so many other stupid people attempting the same things we do, so I felt comforted despite my self esteem dwindling as most of them went zinging past me as I huffed up the passes.We descended off the pass and enjoyed helping two lost girls reunite with one another in a joyful reunion akin to the return of the prodigal son. Frankly we were heroes.

Team green shoes. Nate took off his blue jacket so he wasn't entirely dressed in one color. 

 Pass 2 came and went as we discussed religion and the gorgeous view over Snowmass Lake.
Worthy of our attention

Nate running off Trailrider

Descending into Fravert Basin

 Pass 3 was the hardest of the day, as we could see it from a long ways away and it never seemed to get closer. We both failed to successfully jump a stream(see video) so we got our feet wet, and I started developing a massive headache, to which I attribute to altitude, the previous 30 miles I ran that week, and sheer lack of fitness. We slumped it up to the top of 3 and took a break. We asked a woman to take our picture and she said no. Luckily her husband obliged.

Conga line of backpackers coming down off Frigid Air

Enjoying ourselves. You can see my stream wound on my right leg. Gushing. Life threatening

Pass 4 had reasonable access to the throngs of dayhikers so it was jammed packed up there and I felt like a pansy as I could barely crawl my butt up to the top. By now the headache was overcoming my sense of balance and will power. I let Nate bomb ahead back down the 6 miles to the trailhead without me as I was forced to walk to prevent my head from exploding. Nate finished in 8:15 and me 8:45 or so. Not my best running day, but magnificent views and by far the best scenery you could ask for in a run.

Down off Frigid Air.

Nate managed to capture my delirium on top of pass 4
Sunday we took a break and went to church at the Aspen branch consisting of 8 locals and 20 visitors, and then did a 7 mile hike up to Cathedral lake.

Monday we did some fun climbing up at Independence Pass at the Lower Grotto Wall  near where we were camping. Highlights were Cryogenics, One for the Road, and Twin Cracks, along with an awesome finger crack I found at our campground which I have no idea anything about other than I did it. Likely 11a.

Cool finger crack

Lower Grotto Wall

Tues/Wednesday we gathered up our duct tape and volleyball kneepads to get our kneebars on at Rifle. We decided Rifle is like the Maple Canyon of Colorado, as it is a very narrow canyon with walls on both sides with easy access, tons of fixed draws, and shloads of hardmen and women rallying 13a's off as warmups. We did some 5.10's and 5.11's, and got shut down on some 5.12's. Overall really fun place, but most of the stuff in our grade range was as polished as Wayne Newtons botox stricken face since the easy stuff gets lapped like a hundred times a day as warm ups and cool downs. (think Illusions at Fucoidal, only worse) So I might not be back until I can hike 13a. (the next life) The climbing there is very blocky, with lots of slanting ledges and sidepulls. Pumpy. Not a pocket in sight.

Feline, 4 star 11b. Can you tell where the route is?

Classic Rifle approach. A nearby sign says, "no belaying from road". 
Another great trip visiting cool Colorado. 

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