Mt.Evans Winter Summit
Last year I did a running adventure on Mt.Evans. My knee was smarting pretty bad at the time so I turned around at mile 7, and the boys went all the way to 9.5 before turning around at the lake. I knew, ever since that trip, that one day I wanted to run all the way up to the top. Mt.Evans is what we who live in Colorado call a 14er. It’s a peak who’s summit is 14,000 feet elevation or higher. We have 52-54 of these in Colorado, depending on which list you believe. I have been up 9 of them and none in the winter.
Mt.Evans is one of 2 Co 14ers with a road all the way to the top. I have ridden my bike to the top of Evans, but never run, or walked, for that matter. Saturday I was going for it. I convinced PIC to come some of the way with me since she had a three hour run to do, and at the last minute I convinced Dave to come all the way with me. He said “I haven’t done anything crazy in awhile”. Hang out with Sonja on a regular basis and you’ll get roped into something crazy! Here we are, leaving the parking lot at the Mt. Evans toll booth (closed for the season).
My plan was to run all the way up Mt.Evans. I thought it was 11 miles to the top, and then Dave told me he looked it up and it was 14.7. Humm, let’s just ignore that fact for a little while. The first three miles of the road have the most snow because they are in the shady tree line. The road has been closed for several months now and those first 3 are painful as your calves adjust to the hillage and you get warmed up.
At about 3 miles you turn a corner and there is the glorious sun shining upon you, with the most amazing views. Suddenly, you feel very happy to be alive, and very happy to be healthy and on the mountain. It’s an Ah-Hah moment and all three of us couldn’t help but get a little giddy.
You wind your way around, and when the road is in the sun you have no snow to deal with. It’s runnable, although the effect of the altitude really starts to hit. There are no guard rails on the Mt.Evans road so at times you feel like you are running on the edge of the world. It was so clear, and so crisp.
The views are spectacular, as we wound our way up up up. We didn’t see anyone out there, just some bighorn sheep (in the same place I saw them last year and pointed them out in my video). We ran together most the time, and always within close sight. One person would stop for some reason, the others would go ahead and we rotated around like that for awhile.
Too soon, just before mile 7, it came time for PIC to turn back. She’s got a marathon in January and she was being diligent towards that goal (something I’ve just got to break her of…hahahaha). We took some parting shots. Behind us is the summit of Mt.Evans.
And then off PIC went, back down the mountian
As we ran towards the lake, passing the 9 mile mark we encountered some crazy wind. We hunkered down and just persevered. You would never know it’s windy by this shot. Also, I didn’t notice that it looks like a rainbow threw up on me. That’s kinda my style…I match, by not matching.
I had been munchin’ on Sport Beans all along but as we got through the 2.5 hour mark I was craving a little more substance. Justin’s Nut Butter to the rescue. 200 calories of honey almond butter bliss. I have a mouthful of it here, shut me up for awhile too.
Dave and I were having an absolute blast and both felt really good. After the lake, around mile 10 the wind was just whipping across the road and it was gorgeous. This also marked the point, mile 10 (on the first switchback) where we realized that it was not 11 to the top, but indeed we had 5 more miles of up up up. We were both feeling great, and were game for it.
We wound our way up through switchback after switchback. Back (headwind) and forth (tailwind). We hit a rhythm together and would run in unison without a spoken word. Dave is a great adventure partner, he never complains, he always sees the beauty in things, and when the work needs to be done, he just settles in and does it.
At mile 12 we hit a road block. We had been navigating the switchbacks, but boom, we we encountered a wall of snow. Not knowing what the other side looked like, we opted for a little rock climb instead. That was fun!
Through the last 5 miles we would alternate “run to the next pole, walk to the next pole”. The running sections felt like intervals on the track. The legs were just loaded and in pain. Then we would walk and they were immediately fine. Walk run walk run. The last 2 miles, we walked. Fast, but walked. The altitude was just crazy, and it was cold, and windy. We arrived at the parking lot at the top, threw on all our down layers, and made the short rock climb up to the summit block. The view was phenominal.
We spent 30 minutes or so at the top, and were able to pick out tons of 14ers: Longs Peak, Pikes Peak, Beirstadt, Greys, Torreys, Harvard, Columbia, Lincoln, Democrat, Bross, and Holy Cross. Wow! We were both hesitant to head back down, but alas, it was time to get a move on.
Instead of the switchbacks we off-roaded and rock-hopped our way straight dawn, saving like 3 miles of running. Once we hit the bottom switchback it was pure running all the way home. We ran into one guy on skiis skinning up to the lake at about 7 miles from the car. He was enjoying himself, but rather hung over as well. Ha Ha!
The last few miles you are always ready to see the parking lot, and before we knew it we were back down to the car. We couldn’t help but be happy to be done and pleased with a fantastic day. 27.4 miles round trip in just a little over 7 hours. 4,000 ft of elevation climb or so. I can now say that I’ve bagged my 10th Colorado 14er (I have 2 in CA, 1 in WA). PIC’s car was gone which meant she was safe. We changed clothes and headed home, with silly grins plastered all over our faces.