Thursday, August 18, 2011

Countdown to Leadville: Unnamed 13500

Unnamed 13500 from Independence Pass
? Miles, 1400 ft gain

Very happy to be in Leadville, staying in a wonderful house just a couple blocks from the race.

I guess I could, and maybe should, lie around and not move, but after doing some work this morning at the coffee shop, I got restless and headed up to Independence Pass. Besides great views, I hoped that a little time above 12000 feet with some mild exercise would increase acclimatization.

I knew there were some easy and obvious trails at the top, and a hunk of rock to the north of the road that looked particularly inviting, looking no more than a half hour walk away and several hundred feet up (I am very bad at estimating . I pushed it steadily until near the top, when I met a friendly couple from Kansas, Andy and Deb. There, I stopped to chat and took their picture. I was clearly feeling the elevation, but grateful to have had a mile headstart living in Fort Collins. Andy was a few months returned from Afghanistan, and I promptly thanked him for his service and welcomed him back home and to Colorado.

I headed up to the top and enjoyed new views to the north, and a fun bit of exposure if you hang on the North edge. An alpine lake lies below: I could have guessed its name by pure luck, since "Blue Lake" is the most common unimaginative name around here. As these things go, though, there was an obvious higher chunk of rock just a short stroll to the west, so I headed that way as well, tracing the Continental Divide. There was a small summit marker here but no log. A more impressive, prominent peak lies further to the West: this is Twining Peak, and would have to wait for another day. The saddle looked to be at least 300 feet lower (and it is), so I declared my position a satisfactory summit of some sort.

I headed back along the ridge and saw Andy and Deb hanging out, and offered to take some pictures for them up there. We chatted some more, I told them how much easier it is when you get used to it and that it's certainly hard coming from sea level. They were originally just heading up to see some snow and decided to go for the top -- good for them! Eventually I disclosed the upcoming race and then the distance. Andy was graciously excited for me and said it was the first time he met an ultramarathoner, so that was a fun compliment. They told me about some trails and events they recommended out in Arkansas (a new state for me which I'd like to visit), and that there GPS had us up at 13400. Whoops, underestimated that one.

We headed down, and I told them about watermelon snow (which I was unable to smell), pointed out La Plata Peak, ptarmigans, marmots, and pikas, before heading down in a light better-not-trip jog. Near the bottom, I met Rick (?) from Dallas, who had a race shirt on. I accosted him (and his pacer, "CC"): "Shouldn't you be at home with your feet up?" He was out for a bit of elevation as well, though he's been here for a week. I'll be excited to see them on Saturday as well.

I checked the map when I got home to learn that Unnamed 13500 is a legitimate 13er, 255th highest in Colorado. That makes it a "tri" for the people working on climbing the highest 300 peaks in the state. So I have a head start on that. Assuming I finish this weekend, "Unnamed Runner #417", I'll recommend this as a mellow altitude hike to check out on race week.


I headed back to the house and then learned about early packet pickup, so I hopped on a bike for a short ride down there. Met a few folks there and participated in a brief research study. Now I have a green bracelet on my wrist that ain't comin' off until Sunday morning.


Then made a quick batch of couscous and rode over to Brandon's house. I definitely appreciated the hospitality and camaraderie over there, it'll be even more fun to recognize faces and see everybody run a strong race this weekend.

Go time!


  1. I'm calling for a "breakout performance". No pressure. Have a great day in the mountains!

  2. Rob, good luck at Pikes!
    Thanks on Leadville, but it's a place that seems tough on 1st-timers (at that race) I'll focus on not doing anything stupid early and go from there!

  3. I hope you have a great day (and night) out there. You certainly have the ability and the level head to endure and deal with the crazy stuff 100 miles can throw at you.

    Lost Man off 82 is also a nice hike/run. I think that was pre-blog for me so I don't have any report, but the north end with the lakes is a nice scenic stretch.