It's prime time for running in the high country and an attempt at the Four Pass Loop in Aspen was on tap this weekend. This classic and bucket list loop around the Maroon Bells consists of 27 miles, 8000' of climbing, and going up and over four 12,000+ passes. It's most commonly known for being a 3+ day backpacking trip, but for adventurous trail runners, the challenge is to try to run it in a day.
|My watch died just below W. Maroon Pass, so I drew in the remaining route.
I ran the Buchanan-Pawnee Pass (only 2 passes) a few weeks ago and declared it to be the most beautiful run I've ever done. Well, that one has quickly been knocked down to #2 on that list. There just aren't enough words to describe what you see during the Four Pass Loop. My partners in crime were Patrick, Kieran, Scott, and Jaime. A few nice folks from Aspen/Carbondale also met up with us, but they were fast from the start and weren't seen again until we finished. Yes, we finished it! I arrived back at the parking lot with Jaime right at 7 hours and 9 minutes.
|Almost ready for our 6:20am departure.
|And we're off. There were about 15 photographers waiting for the sunrise on the lake's edge. They all turned around and stared trying to figure out why nine people would be running towards the Bells.
|The smooth trail around the lake quickly turned into this.
|Biggest climb of the day - heading up to Buckskin Pass.
|PG running the only downhill stretch before the pass.
|You're going to see A LOT of flower pictures. And none of them will do any justice to how vibrant they were.
|The 14er neighbor to the Maroon Bells - Pyramid Peak.
|From atop Buckskin Pass (12,462') . Looking north towards Snowmass Peak, Mtn, and Lake. Pass #2 - Trail Rider Pass sits just below Snowmass Peak.
|Jaime bombing the downhill from Buckskin.
|Scott rounding the corner with Snowmass Peak and Hagerman Peak right off his shoulder.
|Snowmass Lake! The most beautiful mountain lake I've seen in Colorado.
|During this stretch, there was no running while looking at the lake.
|I think I came across every color of Indian Paintbrush.
|Our last view of Snowmass Lake from Trail Rider Pass (12,420'). I can't wait to go back and camp there someday.
|From atop Trail Rider Pass looking down the Lead King basin..
|After a gnarly steep descent from Trail Rider (left center), Kieran's enjoying a stretch of smooth singletrack.
|Shortly after this shot, we stopped to filter some water from a creek. All was well until a scene from a horror movie unfolded. It was death by horsefly bites. We were swarmed.
|The only creek crossing where you couldn't avoid getting wet. Well, Patrick managed to get only half a shoe wet? How?
|Not sure where Frigid Air Pass was. Had to go up and to the left of the mountain straight ahead.
|An unnamed waterfall was impressive to stumble upon.
|The trail continue to climb up to the right of the falls.
|Entering the Fravert Basin.
|Patrick is carrying a full bag of trash. Some backpackers dropped it in the middle of the trail. The only negative of the day - taking turns hauling trash for 12 miles!
|Just a few flowers in the basin.
|Look at this. Now look at the picture below.
|The Fravert Basin. It's ALL wildflowers!
|The backside of South Maroon Peak.
|Frigid Air Pass (12,415') and our new, shirtless friend Rocky. If you get the chance, ask one of the runners about our encounter.
|One more dip and climb to go. I mentioned to a few at this point that I would've been okay if this was only a three pass loop.
|Where we came from and where we're going.
|The flowers were still pretty, but our pace was not.
|A close, but distant W. Maroon Pass.
|A few hundred feet away from the "quadruple bypass."
|From atop W Maroon Pass (12,500'). The home stretch straight ahead and to the left.
|Trying to catch a sprinting Jaime. Somebody needed to remind him that he'd already run 23 miles! The last sunny shot before the rain and bb-sized hail started to fly.
|Last looks at the Bells.
Post-run found us at Boogie's Diner in Aspen for a burger and beer. After inhaling our food, we all looked like we needed a nap. Instead, we faced the next endurance event - the three hour drive back to Denver.