Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sunday Longs Peak/Storm Pass Trail Run

I was contemplating a run on the Pawnee/Buchanan Pass loop on Sunday, but that was a little too much considering my runs of the prior two days. I had considered running a loop near Longs Peak a while back, and decided to revisit that option.

I started at the East Longs Peak trailhead, which was crazy crowded by the time I got there. I parked about halfway down the access road.

The plan was to run over Granite Pass, and then do some sort of long run back to the car after that.

I ran up the now-familiar trail up towards Chasm Lake or Longs, depending on which choice you make. The views of the east face of Longs Peak are always impressive:

I opted for the trail up to Granite Pass. If you were to summit Longs, this is the way you would go:

Instead, I headed over the other side of Granite Pass, into uncharted territory, as I had never been to this area of the park. The descent was daunting:

The trail on this side of the pass was badly eroded, and above treeline it was little more than a rocky gully. I don't recommend it as a "run", since it it is more of a walk. Looking over towards the popular Bear Lake area of the park, which I visited as a child on vacation:

The descent from Granite Pass is significant. Many, many switchbacks, down, down, down.

After a while you encounter the Boulder Brook trail, which is well-marked by a wooden sign, but appears to be but a game trail down into the woods. At this point I had to make a decision as to whether I would extend the loop over to Bear Lake, or descend straight down and then head back. I decided I didn't have enough nutrition to support an extra 7 miles, so I headed down the Boulder Brook trail.

The first part was somewhat open and hot, and not really what I expected. When you hear "brook" you tend to think wooded and cool. At first, it was neither. However, towards, the end, this trail proved better than I could have hoped for, gradually turning into a wooded descent alongside cascades.

I stopped to filter some water along the way.

There was a steep green section on pine needles that was like a black diamond ski run on powder, except it was for running. What a blast. So much fun to run down this.

Damn, that was a beautiful trail!

At the bottom, there was an exquisitely-signed 4-way intersection in the middle of the woods, and I turned up towards Storm Pass. It was as if you put a traffic light in the forest, and you had to wait your turn to go, even though there was nobody else around for miles and miles.

I had no idea what lay in store for me on the Storm Pass Trail. It turned out to be a very gradual, long uphill. Below is the view from one of the ridges, as I'm wondering where the pass was.

As it turned out, it was off to the right, far uphill.

Which was somewhat disconcerting, considering the darkest clouds were in that direction.

There were elk wandering around in the woods. I heard a loud tree "crack"! like when I saw moose at Rainbow Lakes, but I correctly guessed that moose would not be up so high in the forest, that bears would find no food up here, and that deer could not break a branch that large. Sure enough, there were elk hiding in the trees on either side of the trail.

But lightning was my worry. Luckily, skies were cloudy but placid, and there were merely showers.

At Storm Pass there were a couple of kids who had climbed a tree to "hide" from their family, and who asked me to promise to not reveal their secret. I agreed. I passed their parents a few hundred yards downhill, and affirmed "yeah, they are up there", smiling.

The last few miles to the trailhead skirted the campground, where I heard counselors on megaphones exhorting teams participating in unknown group activities towards victory. Memories of 5th-grade camp drifted in, as I struggled to maintain focus on the run.

Finally I blew through the last part of the trail, out of the parking lot, and ran the fastest pace of the outing on my way down to my car on the paved road. Everyone's a hero running downhill...

Distance was 17.41 miles, time 5:24 (moving 4:49), elevation gain/loss 4,660 feet, avg. pace 18:39 (moving 16:36), and best pace 5:01.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like a great run and the pictures are very good, as usual. Coincidently my wife and I will be in the park later this month (on vacation from PA) and the Boulder Brook Trail is a planned hike for us.