View north from Hope Pass in Colorado


Runtrails' Home Page




More Photos

Appalachian Trail Journal



CT trail marker


Map from the Colorado Trail Foundation's poster.






Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
Previous          Journal Topics by Date            Next
Today's miles: 12.8                                Cumulative miles: 322.6
         Approx. elevation gain: 3,600 feet           Bonus Miles: 0               
"The hanging glacial valley at 11,000 feet in the Tenmile Range supports a
huge colony of pikas. You are more likely to hear first, then see, these
tiny creatures of the rock slides. The uninitiated may confuse their alarm calls
with marmots, who are also numerous in these high cirques. Marmots make
a high-pitched whistle, whereas the pika call is shrill bark - 'eeek'."
- The Colorado Trail Guidebook, 7th Edition, p. 88


They're right. There are numerous pikas and marmots among the rocks in the tundra in this section and all the others along the Colorado Trail.

Both species are cute and furry. Marmots are considerably larger and easier to spot sitting on rocks before they scurry for safety from the two- and four-legged "predators" passing by on the trail.

Before I started on the Colorado Trail, I was hoping Jim would be able to run more of the segments with me. We could run opposite directions and crew ourselves with one vehicle. I had heard the CT had better running surfaces than the Appalachian Trail, which would give Jim some good training runs as he prepared for the Leadville Trail 100-miler.

Well, we didn't realize how far apart or how rough the roads would be to reach many of the trailheads! Although Jim did some out-and-back runs or loops incorporating the CT in the Silverton area, until today we've never done the "you go north and I'll go south" routine.

I had so much fun on Segment 8 two days ago that I wanted to share the gorgeous views with Jim in the area north of Leadville. He's been training so much on the Leadville course that I thought maybe he would welcome some variety.

I got the bright idea last night that he could do the next segment "with" me. Segment 8 is too long this close to the race (it's better to go into an ultra rested and raring to go, not tired from too much training), so I recommended he do Segment 7 instead. It's "only" about thirteen miles (how long could that take?) but gets up to a lofty 12,500 feet, almost the same elevation as Hope Pass.

To my surprise, he agreed!

Since Jim is usually faster than I am, it was his job to get the truck at the end near the Frisco trailhead and run some errands there (fuel, groceries, supplies) before picking me up back at Copper Mountain Ski Resort.

It ended up taking us both over five hours to complete the distance, but that included 10-20-minute stops for each of us at the high point to relax and admire the views, water stops for the dogs, lots of photos (me!), a couple phone calls, and other short breaks. Because of the errands Jim ran, I finished about twenty minutes before he arrived to pick me up. That wasn't a problem. There was shade, a soft pine-needle "seat," and Jim brought me a chocolate milkshake!

It doesn't get much better than that.

We must have ESP because I was thinking about ice cream all the way down the last mountain to the end.

(Right over the edge, eh?)

The sun was pretty hot by the time I crossed Tenmile Creek and reached the lower elevation at the ski resort (9,800 feet).

I don't think Jim has brought me ice cream on the Colorado Trail before this because there just aren't very many towns near the trailheads like there are along the Appalachian Trail. I loved it last summer when he'd bring me some ice cream at the end of a long, hot day.

I savored this milkshake just as much.


The weather was perfect all day, which was good because we got a late start this morning and could have run into storms on the ridges in the middle of the run. Jim did a Twin Lakes-Hope Pass-Twin Lakes run yesterday and was tired enough to sleep "late" this morning. At 6AM, neither of us sprang out of bed like we usually do when the alarm goes off.

Finally I got up, went outside in my PJs to see what the sky looked like, and returned with the good/bad news: I could see lots of stars. That meant we didn't have bad weather as an excuse to bag it for today!

Once we got on the trail, we were glad we did the run today. We both enjoyed this segment, despite all the signs of "civilization" along the way. It's not as much of a wilderness experience as Segment 8. I hope Jim will get to see that one next year.

About 7:45 AM I dropped Jim and Cody off at the Copper Mountain trailhead on Hwy. 91 near the I-70 interchange and they went northbound on the CT. I drove about thirteen paved miles (easy access!) to the Goldhill trailhead south of Frisco on Hwy. 9, parked, and headed southbound with Tater at 8:10 AM.

I liked these signs at the Goldhill trailhead, although the "13.8 miles" to Copper Mountain made me do a double-take. The guidebook says 12.8. Our GPS recorded 13.1 (Jim carried it since he was going "backwards").

Oh, well. Close enough.

Tater did a four-hour run recently on the Leadville course, so I figured she could handle this segment. She did fine for a ten-year-old Lab with arthritis and hip dysplasia. What an "animal!"



Segment 7 has a fair amount of elevation gain and loss either direction for "only" thirteen miles. It also has some of the steepest sections of trail I've seen so far on the CT. This is my 19th of 28 segments.

There is more elevation gain going southbound, as I did, but the major climb is less steep that way. I had an easier, longer ascent to the high point and a steeper descent at the end. Jim had the opposite: a steeper initial ascent to the high point and a longer, more gradual descent. There was another shorter ascent/descent near the Goldhill end, too.

Southbound I had about 3,600 feet uphill total in the first eight miles (9,200 feet to 12,500 feet, plus another shorter climb and descent) and about 3,000 feet down in the last five miles (12,500 feet to 9,800 feet). The descent was fairly steep in places but runnable the entire way down.

Going northbound, Jim went from 9,800 feet at Copper Mountain to 12,500 feet on the top of Peak 6 in the Tenmile Range in five miles. Parts of that climb are fairly steep, by CT standards.

Then he had a more gradual descent over the last eight miles. He also felt the heat in the last three or four miles as he got to lower elevations near the Goldhill trailhead.

Fortunately, most of the trail on either side of the Tenmile Range below treeline remains in trees. The only open areas are for about four and a half miles in the tundra.

Segment 7 has mostly runnable trail surfaces except for a mile on the eastern side of ridge (in the third mile) and for half a mile on the ridge across Peak 6. That was rockier than most of the other ridges I've seen on the CT. In some places there is no obvious trail; you follow cairns. That was OK with both of us because we weren't running up there anyway. There was too much to see!

If you're going southbound, this segment contours along the the eastern ridges of Peaks 3, 4, and 5 in the Tenmile Range for two miles or more, then crosses over Peak 6 and follows its western ridge for another couple of miles. All of this is above timberline.

On the eastern ridges, the views are very nice of Dillion Reservoir and the valley containing the touristy town of Breckenridge.

The next two shots are farther west as I headed toward the high point:


On the western ridge, you can see south to the remaining peaks in the Tenmile Range, Mt. Quandary (a 14er), Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive near Leadville, and the Hwy. 91 valley down to some colorful tailings ponds;

west to the Copper Mountain ski resort, the I-70 corridor, and over to Mount of the Holy Cross and the Sawatch Range;

and north to the Gore and Williams mountain ranges.

I had fun sitting at the top of Peak 6 and picking out the trails and dirt roads I'd run through the Copper Mountain resort two days ago. I wasn't sure which creek drainage I went up, but I think I found the ridges across the tundra from Searle to Kokomo passes.

And I could see the crevices on Holy Cross where the snowy cross would be in the spring. The view from Peak 6 was farther away than in Segment 8, but I could see it more clearly today. I believe it's the mountain to the far right in the photo below with the long, vertical crevice:

Our camera doesn't have a very powerful zoom lens; that's the best detail I could get from so far away.

It was very interesting to see essentially the same things I saw in the distance two days ago, but from a new vantage point. The trail arcs from its east-west direction in Segment 7 to a more north-south direction in Segments 8 and beyond, so I could see more of the areas I've already covered to the south from Peak 6 than from most other high ridges. You can't do that as much along the 150 miles between the Sawatch Range to Marshall Pass because that section is more linear.

It was cool to be able to pick out all these landmarks, but I personally preferred the wilderness views from the tundra in Segment 8. I didn't see signs of civilization like freeways and towns from those ridges, only endless mountains and deep valleys.


Jim and I met about halfway through the course because he had a tougher climb to the high point than I did (he got a 25-minute head start). He'd already passed over the ridges and I had just gotten up to the tundra. He was coming down a steep part of the trail that switch-backed from a saddle down to a rocky area where I was admiring my first good view of the Dillon Reservoir.


He must have whispered to Cody, "There's Mommy!" because suddenly Cody tore cross-country down the steep hill toward Tater and me, almost knocking me over! (Trust me, it's steeper than the photo looks.) It took Jim another minute or two via the switchbacks to reach us.

It was great to see each other and compare notes on what each of us could expect in the remaining sections we would be running. I wish we could have done more segments "together" like this.

The next photo shows the view back down to this spot as Tater and I climbed up toward the saddle:

There was plenty of water on the trail today for the dogs. They each carried water, but needed it from their packs only once or twice.

The next two photos show a couple of the creeks on the eastern side of the trail. In the first, we had to cross over a long, rustic bridge with some of the cross-logs missing (at the far end) that had decayed. It was quaint but did the job!

This pretty creek was about five miles in, closer to the treeline:

We didn't cross that one until we were close to its headwaters farther up the valley.


I didn't see any other trail users today, although there was plenty of evidence of bike and horse traffic on the Frisco side of the trail where the grades aren't as steep. Following are three photos from that side with my first views of the Tenmile Range ahead of me:

There are some beaver ponds about three miles up the trail:

This is a pretty valley full of flowers about a quarter mile before the tundra:

Above treeline and on the western (Copper Mountain) side of the Tenmile Range, the trail is steeper and would be difficult to ride, especially on a bike. Although there is no mandatory detour for bikes in this section, an alternate route is recommended in the guidebook. I don't think this segment would be too bad on a horse.

To our surprise, the one person Jim saw on the trail today was a woman from Switzerland who ran the Leadville Trail 100-miler two years ago when we were here last! What are the odds? She's not here for the race this time, just vacationing in the area and was out for a little hike today on the Frisco side of this segment.

Jim frequently sees other LT100 runners on training runs on the course, but I've "run into" only four or five other ultra runners on the CT so far.


Nineteen segments down, nine to go! The five from Mt. Shavano to Eddiesville will have to wait until next year because they are too far away now. I'll try to do as many of the remaining four northern ones as I can before we leave Colorado for an O'Neil sibling visit in Illinois soon after Jim's race.

Meanwhile, we're going to be busy the next few days volunteering for the LT100 bike race. My next report will another "volunteer perspective" from that race. The jobs we're doing won't be as tiring as what we did at Hardrock. They are fun because most of the volunteers are LT100 runners who are out here early acclimating for their race. By the time our race rolls around (so to speak), most of the cyclists are long gone. That's OK, because plenty of Leadville residents, non-racing runners, and other generous folks volunteer year after year at the run and they do a fantastic job taking care of the runners.

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

Previous       Next

Send an e-mail message to Sue & Jim  

2006 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil