Friday, October 3, 2014

Four-Pass Loop

TransRockies was such an epic experience that it's hard at this point to think of something bigger than that. While I actually did it, it is also hard to believe I did and it's hard to think of doing anything like it again. 

That said, the hubby and I tried to find an epic adventure for Labor Day weekend. He mentioned climbing Snowmass, a 14er. But after all my uphill struggles during TRR I just could not wrap my head around going up a 14er. Thankfully, we have a few other items on our bucket list and one of them is the Four-Pass Loop in the Maroon Bells Wilderness. 

Not sure why the Four-Pass loop sounded better than the 14er... Let me elaborate. The Four-Pass Loop is a 27 mile loop around the Maroon Bells. To complete the loop, you have to go over 4 mountain passes. Needless to say, you go over 12,000ft for each one of them. Why did I think a 27-mile loop with 10,000ft of gain would be easier than going for a 9 mile, 4,500ft of gain hike to summit a 14er? Not sure. Maybe TRR has officially made me dumber. Although I truly believe the Four-Pass loop is more attractive to me (a runner) than summitting all 14ers. 
4-Pass Elevation Profile... Not the easiest run!
Anyway... I hadn't run since TRR and I wasn't sure I was ready but was willing to give it a shot. The day before I went for a run in Avon and I felt okay. It was only 3 miles and on pavement, but I figured that was a good warm up. Silly me. 

We left the condo at 3am and arrived at the trailhead by 5am. It was chilly, but we wore our warm running gear, grabbed a headlamp and off we go. We didn't really get a view of the Bells early on as it was still pretty dark, but it looked like a gorgeous setting, and while running along the lake, Chuck took a wrong turn. I didn't appreciate it and while it only added probably 1/4 or a 1/2 a mile, I was already cranky at the fact that he made us bush whack a little bit. We found the trail and kept going. 

Early morning views of the Bells from Crater Lake
We arrived to the second lake and we decided to do the loop clockwise so we were headed towards West Maroon Pass. The trail was muddy and it was hard to get moving fast. At that point, Chuck and I had completely different ideas on how to do this. He was aiming for a sub 7h30m finish, while I was aiming to just finish. He's the sprinter in the family, I'm the endurance one. My approach was hike the ups, run the downs and take it easy at the beginning. He wanted to go all out the whole time. We argued... I cried. 

Getting high in the Maroon Bells Wilderness
This is the deal, I know my limits. And when I push on mile 5 of a 27 mile HARD loop, I know I will NOT make it. And it was especially scary once we were past the first pass, as we would be entering true backcountry and if one of us had lost it out there, it'd be a true challenge to come back. He asked I pushed as hard as I did at TRR, and I tried to explain that a steady hike was EXACTLY how I approached a lot of the big climbs at TRR. And now that TRR was over, my legs were slightly more exhausted than the usual... I literally didn't have more in me. I get where he's coming from too... he's more competitive and he had not run TRR and was on fresh legs. I came to the conclusion that we should not do this together and that he should continue and I'd turn back to wait for him at the lake. That wasn't an option for him. He wanted to turn around then and there... I suggested we at least tag the first mountain pass. We continued on without really talking to each other... sigh

We summited the first pass and took some pictures. The views on the other side were wonderful and definitely made me think of pushing through, but I knew it was a bad idea. At that point, Chuck and I were on better terms. We ran back down and it was a much faster and mellow approach. We had a better time. Once back at the lakes, we saw hundreds of tourists taking pictures of the lakes and the Bells. It is truly a wonderful area. 

West Maroon Pass Summit shot
VIews from the top of W. Maroon
So that was that. A failed attempt at the Four-Pass. It was too soon after TRR and we failed to communicate our goals. The section we did was gorgeous, although not as gorgeous as some of the pictures of the sections that are farther back... but we've decided we'll go back to finish it off, although now, we have a more realistic goal of sub-9hours. 

Family shot at Crater Lake on the way back. 

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