Matt Mahoney's 2004 Colorado Vacation (Part 2)

After my failed attempt on the Needles, I drove to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park near Montrose. The place is awesome! I drove the south rim road and hiked out to almost all the overlooks, probably 8 miles total. I camped that night, and the next morning (June 28) I got a permit from the visitors center and hiked to the bottom of the canyon (from 8200 ft to 6600 ft) and back up. The trail is very rough and includes an 80 ft chain at one point. The climb took 52 minutes down and 52 minutes up, not including some time spent walking along the river. There are campsites at the bottom, and lots of poison ivy. I met one backpacker who had spent the night at the bottom.

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

Afterwards, I drove back to the Leadville Hostel to stay until the marathon on July 3 for $15/night. I took the next day off, then climbed Huron on June 30. There were 3 older men at the hostel who were climbing it too, but they said they would be slow (1000 ft/hr) so I slept in for a couple hours and told them I would meet them on the mountain.

My van wouldn't make it over the 1.8 miles of rough road from Winfield to the trailhead so I hiked it, starting at 8:52 AM and reaching the trailhead at 9:22 AM. It was overcast, damp, and drizzly. I met the other climbers near the 14,003 ft summit (11:18 AM), where it was snowing with about 2 inches on the ground.

Typical summer weather on Mt. Huron.

We came down together at an easy pace to the 4WD trailhead at 1:00 PM, discussing whether it would be faster to drive or run the jeep road. I ran back to my van in about 17 minutes, beating both 4WD trucks.

The next day (July 1), I climbed La Plata (14,336 ft) in better weather by Ellingwood ridge, a long class 3 route. Actually it is 90% class 2+ or less, but the other 10% will occupy half your time. I started from the Lake Creek trailhead at 7:00 AM, reached the summit at 2:46 PM, and returned via the easy NW ridge trail route at 4:50 PM. Although Roach describes Ellingwood Ridge as a classic route, it is not very popular. I did not see any sign of a trail once on the ridge, nor did I see a single hiker, cairn, or human footprint on the route. (I did see mountain goat and marmot tracks in the snow). The best route is mostly 50-100 ft below the top of the ridge on the left side.

La Plata from Ellingwood Ridge.

Typical terrain on Ellingwood Ridge.

Summit self photo. Ellingwood ridge is on the left.

The next day (July 2) was an off day. On July 3 I ran the Leadville marathon in 5:22:47. This was 51st place out of 216 finishers. The winning time was 3:44. The race starts in Leadville at 10,200 ft, climbs to Mosquito Pass at 13,100 ft, and returns on dirt roads and trails. It is not steady uphill. There is about 5000 ft of climb. I was happy with my time since my previous best time was 6:18 about a week before the 2001 Hardrock 100, which I ran in 45:00. Maybe I am in better shape. I drove to Silverton for the 10K tomorrow and camped at South Mineral.

July 4. I ran the 10K in 55:15. I did not expect to run fast at 9300-9800 ft, but I was still worried, because I have run this in 48 minutes before. There were about 100 runners. The winner was Greg Feucht in 42:40. He has a 5K PR of 15:10.

After the race there was a parade. I went to watch, but I ended up marching in it with about 30 other Hardrock runners. That night was a great fireworks show. I got a bed at the Silverton Hostel for $15/night until the race.

July 5. There was a course change to Hardrock between Maggie and Cunningham Gulch. I hiked the section with Bill Thomas starting from Cunningham (about 11000 ft) over Stoney Pass to Maggie (about 11,500) and back, following the flags that had already been placed. It took 3 hours over and 2:45 back for the 12 mile round trip. The new route was designed to avoid the easy road descent into Cunningham. It crosses Stoney Pass the "wrong" way, perpendicular to the road, descending to the pass and climbing out over two 13,000 ft. humps.

July 6. I climbed Sneffels (14,150 ft) with Greg Feucht. It was his first fourteener, and he needed acclimation to pace his sister Andrea at Hardrock in 3 days. We started at 12:08 PM from the end of the 2WD at mile 4.6 on Camp Bird Rd and hiked up about 5 miles of jeep road to Yankee Boy basin and trail to Blue Lakes Pass at 2:20 PM to start the class 3 climb up the SW ridge.

Mt. Sneffels. We ascended the SW ridge on the left and descended the SE ridge and scree on the right.

Greg Feucht on the Sneffels SW ridge.

Me and Greg on Sneffels.

We summitted at 3:40 PM and descended the class 2+ SE ridge to the scree saddle. Once at the trailhead at 5:04 PM, we ran all the way back to the van at 5:44 PM.

July 7. Hardrock is in 2 days, so I forced myself to rest. I went to the 3 hour long course briefing at the Miner's Union Hall. Of course there are no longer any miners, much less a union.

July 8. Hardrock is tomorrow, but I simply cannot rest for 2 days. at 8:45 AM I climbed to the shrine, then kept going straight up the hill to the west ridge of Anvil Mountain to a hump at 11,300 ft and found a trail headed north. At the first saddle, I turned right and bushwacked down the drainage expecting to come out near the shrine, but instead found myself 2 miles north of Silverton, crossing Cement Creek 4 times and getting on route 110 back to town about 11:30 AM. I thought I was late for the mandatory pre-race meeting at 11 AM but it actually started at noon so all was OK. Afterwards I played basketball for a couple of hours with Hal Winton, who was hoping to be the oldest Hardrock finisher at age 73. Then I went to Outdoor World to buy some gaiters.

The Shrine of the Mines above Silverton.

Back to Part 1, Pikes Peak, Meeker Ridge, Elbert, Windom

Next: Part 3, Hardrock 100.

Return to Matt Mahoney's Home Page.