Saturday, August 30, 2014

The High Lonesome Loop

Ever since Cory and I moved to Colorado in 2012, we have been trying to finish a 15 mile loop up near Nederland. I've heard the loop referred to as the High Lonesome Loop or the Hessie Loop before, but essentially the "official" route starts at the Hessie TH at the bridge by the last legal parking spot, goes up the Devil's Thumb trail via Devil's Thumb bypass, cuts across the ridge on the High Lonesome trail, and heads back down to Hessie on the King Lake trail. There's a pretty speedy FKT on the route, with the fastest men's time coming in at 2:10.

The first time we tried the route was in 2012 when Cory's sister, Kristen, was visiting. We told Kristen that it would be a tough 14+ mile run and to bring more than she normally would. Back then she just ran roads and her "normal" for a 14 mile run was to go empty handed. She thought she was prepared by bringing 2 or 3 gels, but inevitably we had to turn around 5 miles in because everyone was running out of food. Cory was upset and wouldn't even smile for a picture.

Attempt in 2012... turned around at Jasper Lake

Then, this June, we tried again. About 3.5 miles up Devil's thumb bypass, we got snowed in. It was impossible to tell where the trail went and it started to rain on us. We were bummed, but there was no way it was going to happen on that day.

Too snowy (June 2014)

Too rainy (June 2014)

We realized that we needed to start taking this loop more seriously if we actually wanted to get it done. We decided to make a purchase that is going to make every trail adventure more comfortable and cost effective. We got a Tepui rooftop tent for our car! Now we can sleep like babies on a 2.5 inch foam mattress in the comfort of a four season tent on top of our car. Best purchase we've ever made. On it's maiden voyage we decided to camp 20 minutes from the Hessie TH so we could get an earlier start. Even though it was a windy night with temps below 40 degrees, we woke up well rested and ready for adventure.

When we started the next morning we could tell it was going to be a chilly, windy day, but we were determined to finish the loop no matter what. We were far more prepared than we needed to be bringing at least 8 gels a piece, a water filter, a paper map, a map on my phone, and lots of layers. It was about 3/4 of a mile from our car to the bridge where I officially started the watch. We moved steadily, but didn't go too fast. It was going to be my longest run after coming back from a three week break due to tendonitis.

Wild flowers near Jasper Lake 

Getting to treeline

El Pulgar del Diablo

You can't really see them but there are people on that saddle

They don't call it High Lonesome for nothing

When we got to the top of the ridge it was really windy. Far windier than it was at the Leadville marathon where they said there were 35+ mph winds. When I pulled out my phone to take some pictures my map blew away! It was gone before I could even see what direction it went. It was bitterly cold on top of the ridge so we just tried to power through. After about three miles of hoping that we were on the right trail, we finally saw King Lake below us.

The Last few steps to the top

 Cold at the saddle

Cory running the ridge

Descending the King Lake trail

Water break

After getting below the lakes some clouds started to roll in and we stopped for about 10 minutes to filter some water.  After that I bonked and took 3 gels in 30 minutes. My stomach bothered me the whole way down so we weren't breaking any land speed records. When we made it back to the bridge my Garmin had 4:18 elapsed, 14.86 miles traveled, and over 3,300 feet gained. After changing at the car we saw a guy finishing up his run. He said he thought the wind was too bad for an attempt and had to turn around before the ridge. Even though we didn't have a very fast time, knowing that other people turned around made me feel pretty bad ass.

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