Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Frisco to Breckenridge sans voiture

The plan was to set off at 4am but waking up at 3.30 there was an almighty thunderstorm going on outside so I waited and waited until 6am when it finally all stopped. I was out the door by 6.30 but did think it may be a little late to get the full traverse in but thought I would see how it all panned out.

On Peak 1 looking back down to where it all began
So it all starts with a pretty steep plod up to Peak 1 at just over 12'000ft. The trail was nice and passing the abandoned Masontown mining district was a pretty cool sight. I arrived at the summit in around an hour and 15mins and out in front of me I could see the rest of a long day ahead. The views all round were amazing. Back down to Lake Dillon and ahead to the final peak along the ridge. Peak 10.

Looking at Peak 2
Peak 1 to 2 was a mix of very easy scrambling and trails. Once at Peak 2 I could see the crux of the route. Peak 2 to Peak 4. Peak 4 was still far away but in between is a long ridge with some very interesting scrambling and some full on climbing moves. It gradually got a bit trickier and trickier until I hit a section called the Dragons Back. Now on other peoples blogs I had read how exposed this was but I was a bit of a prat and thought this was people exaggerating. I was wrong. Some of it was horrendously exposed. Okay the actual climbing never went higher than French 5a but in running shoes on some wet rock and with shear drops on each side I admit it was a bit intimidating. I was full on concentrating here , one slip and your gone for sure. I really don't want to make it sound too epic as I said the moves were not that difficult but in this situation with the massive drops each side it did require 100% concentration. Sometimes it was proper Au Cheval across the spine for a good few minutes. Once off the Dragons Back it was still a lot of scrambling to Peak 4 , nothing quite like the start of it but still enough to be fun and require care. Finally on the summit of Peak 4 it was time for a breather.

On Peak 2 looking at 3 and 4. Dragons Back starts
from the first lowest point along the ridgeline
From peak 4 onwards the whole route completely changes from scrambling to big wide meadows and the climbing over. I was excited to run this. However the ground was absolute rubbish for running. The rocks were super slick and the grass was wet. Normally I can descend pretty well but here I took one bad fall and cut my leg and then 2 minutes after that came very very close to smacking my face off of a rock if it were not for my hip hitting the ground first and slowing me so I could put a hand out. It would have been nasty. Anyway I made my way onwards constantly checking the skies. It was pretty windy when I was hitting the other summits and pretty cold but then dropping off of them it became warm again.

Somewhere on the Dragons back
Starting to get interesting
I wasn't that tired by this point but I wasn't exactly fresh. I like to try and go on as little food as possible sometimes (not all the time) in prep for a race. Today I only had two cereal bars at 7am and a gel halfway along the ridge. I just kept getting over the summits and making my way forwards. I reached Peak 8 after a pretty hellish slog up to it and sat there for a rest. Clouds were still building over Peaks 9 and 10 but after a good rest I continued to Peak 9 as escaping from here down to Breckenridge is pretty easily done but long. So after plodding along , up and up I finally got to the last summit. I didn't hang around long as it was looking a bit ropey in the skies so it was time to descend.

After Peak 4 it was all kinda like this
The descent was pretty horrible. It's a piste/dirt road that winds it way down forever! It has massive long switchbacks all the way down. From about halfway I decided the best option was a straight line and just flew down the fields towards town. It was a 1300m descent and felt like it! By the time I hit the road in Breckenridge my legs were pretty done. It was straight into the nearest shop for a bottle of Mtn Dew.

I think this was from Peak 8 looking back.
Peak 1 is the furthest one along the ridge in the shade.
The route ended up being just under 3000m of climbing and a total of 30km. From Peak 1 to Peak 10 the route never drops below 12'000ft with the last two summits over 13,000ft. I completed it in 5hrs 56mins. Guidebook time to hike it is 10-15hrs but it is usually done by runners from anything between 4hrs 18mins(Anton Krupricka) to 8hrs. I was chuffed too bits with my time but to be totally honest I didn't think the whole route was that amazing , I still think my favourite ridge run is the A'Chir ridge on Arran in Scotland but it is a lot shorter and not as technical. Anyway the views here cannot be beaten and THE climbing section was great if a little terrifying for the odd second or two but after the fun parts I found the terrain a little boring and repetitive. Especially the final hike and descent on the dirt road. I did see some trails during my descent but was a bit reluctant to take any of them as I had no idea where they were going and didn't really fancy a 10 mile detour plus I couldn't be arsed getting my map out of my bag so I stuck to the road.

Bloody roads
It is definitely worth doing once for sure. It was great to have the whole thing to myself. I just love to be up in the Mountains. I just felt some of the terrain was quite hard to run on. I don't mean the scrambling sections obviously but the wide open meadows were not just simple grass slopes. There was rocks hidden everywhere and time and time again I came close to going over my ankle if I started to push. This all probably sounds pathetic I know.

Breckenridge. Peak 10 is up high slightly left with the snow patch
Even if you just do the fun section to Peak 4 then you can head straight down from there with a pretty long forest run to the road but it would still be worth it. It is still an awesome training day though. I say it time and time again for Ultras speed is not vital for people like me but long Mountain days on rough terrain is. Throw in the altitude of today’s trip and it goes down as one of my best training run/hike/climbs of this trip so far. Yeah it really wasn't that far if I am being honest. 30km on the road is done in around 3hrs or less but add in the technical terrain and constant climbs and descents and it is a great work out for Ultras. Even if it is done in 10hrs.

On my way to the fun part. I wasn't smiling this much
at a lot of it.
It's now time to go grab a lovely Colorado ale and then I head back to Leadville for a few days to do some more sections of the course with Kim and I think we are going to get another 14'er done. Then it will be an easy week as next weekend is pacing and crewing time on the LT100.

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