Tues - 6.5 miles intervals. First cemetery workout of the season. Workout was: mile, 2x800, mile, 2x800. I guess I had misread the workout email and was mentally ready for 2x800, mile, 2x800, Upon hearing about the extra mile, I raised my concerns (whined) and the compromise was reached to run the first mile easy as a demo of the cemetery loop for people who hadn't done it before. This was a nice way to ease back into things. Felt a bit off in the stomach (too much coffee) for most of this and ended up having to watch the sausage-fest sprint on the last 100 meters of the last rep from off the back of the pack. Good group to work with this morning - six of us at approximately the same pace, including Hinterberg, Chris Mc and some CSU triathlon guys. Splits: 6:53, 2:35, 2:37, 5:21, 2:39, 2:40.
Weds - 6.5 miles (1,600') easy. Horsetooth north summit via north gap. Kinda tired again.
Thurs - AM: 10 miles (1,400') hill tempo. Good group for this morning's HTH5MO@B workout: Mike, Slush, Pete, Celeste and Sarah. Out in 42:30, then back in 30:03: my second fastest return ever, I think. Up the North Dam mile in 7:04, then 6:07, 6:27, 5:27, 4:57. Looking back on my records, miles 1,2,4&5 were run right on PR pace, with the middle, gut-check third mile 50 seconds slower. That's a mental fortitude thing more than anything else. It's easy to take your foot off on that grinding uphill mile when you know it's pretty much all downhill after that. That said, it should be noted that the PR came with a hefty tailwind and that third mile is probably where a northerly wind benefits most ... but still.
PM: 7 miles (1,700') moderate. Put in a moderate effort on Towers in the dark. Tired and slow. Up in 35:13.
Fri - 6 miles (1,600') easy. Horsetooth north summit via north gap. Straight up and down the rock trail with summit variation. Caught the last few rays of a gorgeous fall day.
Sat - 12 miles (6,300') baggery. McGregor Mountain (10,486'), Dark Mountain (10,859'), The Needles (10,068') with Burch and Wesir. These are certainly not A-list Rocky Mountain National Park peaks; in fact, they're only reason for getting any traffic whatsoever, I'm sure, is that they're named and people like to go about climbing all named peaks in the park. Nonetheless, they certainly have their virtues (warts and all). Primary among those virtues are steep slopes which will leave you feeling nicely cream-crackered at the end of your outing.
McGregor Mountain was probably the most challenging ascent of the morning, but at the same time the one with the most hidden surprises. Leaving the Lumpy Ridge trail at approximately 8,600 feet for the eastern slopes of McGregor, it was immediately evident that we would be dealing with significant deadfall, which is always a major pain in the arse. However, for much of our route there were big slabby clearings where on a dry day much of the deadfall could have been circumvented. Unfortunately for us, the heavily mossed rock had already been hit by wet snow and was exceptionally slick, so we were forced to play on the sides of the rock or tip toe exceptionally carefully on less steep sections, where there were good cracks or where there was some vegetation. All of us remarked on how much fun this route would have been in the summer with dry rock, but today it wasn't to be. Ultimately we muscled our way through the mess and found the flat McGregor summit. We had a semi-socked in day, so views weren't great, but we caught glimpses of the Mummies and Lumpy rocks formations. The descent to Black Canyon Creek was equally as torturous as the ascent, but once we crossed the creek and started up the slopes of Dark Mountain, we were gratified to find a much sparser and younger canopy with significantly less deadfall. The 1,800 feet up the mountain was gruntworthy, but straightforward. Good views again from the nice rock outcropping on the summit and then it was east off the mountain towards The Needles, the high point on Lumpy Ridge.
Coming off the eastern slopes of Dark Mtn was a pleasure. The terrain was largely clear enough to be runnable, which ensured that we were able to make quick work of the route down to Cow Creek at 9,200 feet. From the valley we were able to make out the western ridgeline of The Needles (home to the massive Sundance Buttress) and picked a line straight up the hillside. We topped out on the blustery westernmost needle and quickly realized that we needed to be on the easternmost and highest one. This involved a scramble down to the saddle and a quick reascent. The wind was blowing pretty hard by this point, and we'd already been out for longer than expected, so we made the executive decision to forego a full Lumpy ridge traverse to tag Gem Peak and instead snuck down the gulley between the highest needle and Sundance Buttress, which is home to a crude climbers trail. We made quick work of the descent, and before we knew it we were back out in the McGregor pasture stripping layers in the now-beating sun for the jog back to the car.
|Sundance to the left with Needle high point to the right. The day cleared up nicely once we were essentially done with the outing.|
|Looking east from the top of The Needles, with Gem peak barely visible in the distance.|
|Burch topping out on The Needles.|
|McGregor Mountain with false Needle summit in foreground.|
|Dark Mountain from the western slopes of The Needles|
|Wesir pondering life with the middle and westernmost needle beckoning.|
|A semi-socked in view of the northern slopes of McGregor Mtn from the slopes of Dark Mtn. All those white patches are massive slabs. There is some classic slab climbing on the southern side of the mountain too.|
|Wesir and Burch make their way up the cleaner Dark Mountain. McGregor Mtn (behind Wesir in the photo above) was a deadfall nightmare.|
Total: 60.5 miles (14,100')
A couple of workouts, four Horsetooth summits and three LoJ summits. That's pretty much the routine right now.