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
              CLEAR LAKE RUN & CLIMB              
ADVENTURE  \ad-ven-chure\ n.  1. a risky undertaking
2. a remarkable and exciting experience
- your standard dictionary again


Remember back on Monday when I showed you the photos I took up at Clear Lake? I mentioned that we were curious about what interesting scenery might lie on the other side of the rock walls of Grant and Lookout Mountains. There was a grassy slope up to a pass that looked difficult but possible to climb . . . maybe we could do that some day!?

Well, this was the day. It had been raining for two solid days and we had cabin fever.

I bagged a run on Segment 27 of the CT today because it has five miles of tundra above tree line that would be dangerous to run and hike during a storm. We went back to sleep for a while, then putzed around all morning, waiting for some sunshine.

Ah, there it is! Around noon, the sun came out.

Well, for a while, anyway. There were still a lot more clouds than sun, but I needed to get OUT. I suggested it might be a good time to walk that four miles up the road to the lake, maybe hike to the pass, and run back down to our truck, which we parked on South Mineral Creek Road below the bumpy road to the lake.

Jim was game, so we were off on another little adventure sans the dogs. We knew there wouldn't be much water on that road and we didn't want to bother with their packs. Turns out there was a lot of water running along the side of the road from all the rain we got, but by the time we realized that, it was too late to go back and get the dogs.

I think they would have enjoyed our little foray!

We wanted "hill training," and we got it, in spades. Our GPS registered 9,896 feet elevation at the beginning of the road, 11,996 feet at the lake, and 12,622 feet at the pass. (Yes, we did go up it!)

It was 4.4 miles to the lake and another  6/10ths of a mile up to the pass. Do the math: 2,766 feet up, 2,766 feet down. That's a good workout in ten miles, especially at altitude. That's the highest we've been on this trip so far.

Then consider that we did 626 feet up in only 6/10ths of a mile. That's steep. We were using our hands to climb part of it. We guess the top third was at a 60-65 degree angle.

It was worth the effort!

Let's start from the beginning . . .

We parked the truck next to the creek on the left and began walking up the side road you can see going off to the right in the photo above. The clouds appeared less threatening than earlier in the day.

We started off in birch trees and went through at least three eco-zones on our way to the top.

There was no running uphill. It's hard enough for us to walk at a steady pace at these altitudes.

Before long, I found several new kinds of flowers I hadn't seen on the trails so far. This one is Fireweed:

This is Yellow Bell:

Here is Yarrow with it's distinctive asparagus-like foliage:

And finally, one I've never seen before, this interesting eggplant-colored Whipple's Penstemon:

The flowers became more profuse as we got above tree line:

This is the entrance to the old Burbank mine. We saw it on the way up and down the road Monday but didn't stop then. Again, I swear that I didn't doctor the colors in this photo! It really is that orange.

As we approached the large cirque with the lake, we could see more clouds filling the sky but we focused on the green slope ahead and to the right that we planned to ascend within the next hour:

Clear Creek ran down the mountain to our left, into the valley from which we'd climbed:

Getting closer now, we could see our route to the saddle between the mountains more clearly:

It was really the only place we could climb up; everything else was too rocky. As you can see, the clouds were moving in over the ridge.

I got side-tracked by an interesting mirror reflection of rock, snow, water, and flowers along the creek:

There were three vehicles parked at the lake. Several folks were either fishing or admiring the awesome scenery. I wondered if anyone saw us approach the climb or watched as we crept up to the pass. If so, they probably thought we were nuts!

Hmmm . . . it didn't look this steep from the bottom:

What looked like jeep tracks from below soon petered out. They were gravelly and difficult to climb anyway - we just slid in the mud and scree. We ascended the bottom half of the slope fairly straight, stepping up and over the clumps of grass and flowers to get solid footing. We had to stop to breathe about every 30 feet. I was pleased that I could keep up with Jim all the way to the top.

As the slope became steeper and steeper, we started zig-zagging a little to make it easier to climb. The next photo shows how steep it became closer to the top:

About a hundred feet from the top, it began sleeting. We helped each other get out Marmot jackets out of our packs so we didn't get soaked. It was also getting windy and cloudy. We couldn't find any rocks to sit under, so we kept on going.

We made it!

And oh, what a grand vista we had, even in the sleet and fog:

There was quite a large basin down below, to the north:

These are other photos from the ridge as we walked west:


I wish we could have stayed on the pass longer, but we were afraid the storm might get worse. At that point, there had been no thunder or lightning. We didn't want to take any more risk than we were already taking, so we headed back down farther to the west but still within the "green" zone. It looked less steep than the way we'd gone up, but I don't think, in retrospect, that it was.

Jim got down faster than me because his knees and ankles are stronger. I like to bomb down smooth trails, but there was no trail here, just rocky clumps of grasses and flowers. I did a combination of zig-zag hops, careful steps, butt-sliding, and going down sideways to protect my knees. It was still much faster than the ascent!

The sky looks even worse as we headed back down the road, but we didn't get very wet on the way back. We were able to run much of the last four miles to the truck. You know you're not altitude acclimated when you have to catch your breath occasionally downhill!

I took this photo of white Cow Parsnip and low clouds on the Clear Lake Road about halfway down:

Even though we're already tired of all the rain, we have to admit that the clouds are pretty cool on wet days!

Next up: CT Segment 27 and MORE rain.

"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