"Albert Camus wrote that the only serious question is whether to kill yourself or not."

Leadville Day 2 – Mt. Elbert

Ugh. 5:30 AM. So much for my 4 AM start.

I couldn’t sleep for shit last night. First of all, it was hot. I can’t sleep when I’m hot, and it was too much. I woke up (well, got up) at 9 PM and dug the fan out of the closet… but on the lowest setting the thing sounds like the SR-71 Blackbird. On high setting I think it actually caused the house to lean slightly away from the direction of the fan, and broke several panes of glass because of the shaking. Needless to say, I couldn’t sleep through that kind of racket.

I also had horrible stuffy nose and headache, and my lower legs were aching like a sofonabitch. I resorted to taking a couple of Tylenol (thins the blood? Helps with altitude sickness?) and finally fell asleep. I thought of setting my alarm, but I’ll be damned if I’m setting my alarm while I’m on a 2 month summer vacation.

Completely unrelated photo of my new antique 18th century Key keychain. Rad.

In the end, I woke up still at a reasonable hour. The dog came and shoved her nose into my face, so I got up, got dressed in running gear, packed some water, and we headed off. We drove to Half Moon campground, which is the starting point of the trail for both Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive. A significant portion of the drive there is actually part of the Leadville Trail 100 Run (hereinafter LTR100) which is on roads. I missed the turnoff where the run goes up to Half Pipe Aid station, but basically there’s about 3 miles on paved roads. Easy to follow the route there. I’ll hopefully be feeling good at that point on the first pass, at about the marathon distance! Yikes! (And probably not so good on the way back, at the 75 mile mark, haha.)

Trail head for the Mt. Elbert section of the CDT.

The forest road to the trail head was a washboardy mother, but we got there. The trail started off really nice and easy, and it was freezing cold out (literally, the truck said -1 C!) We had a great time hiking, and I felt reasonably good. Tona was haulin’ ass, but I didn’t let her off leash because I’m paranoid she’s going to chase a porcupine. She has the common sense of a 16 year old (almost exactly, come to think of it… 2.5 dog years x 7 man/dog = 17.4 human years, AKA teenager … no offence to any teenagers reading this) and I don’t know what she’d do if she caught one, but my guess is “get her ass quilled to death”.

Doggy butt-hole is my view for most of our leashed hikes. You get used to it.

After a very short while, the trail cuts off of the Continental Divide Trail and heads up and right towards Mt. Elbert summit. Here it’s still very runnable. It gets a bit steeper, but you could run up the entire thing, to the treeline, if you weren’t an oxygen deprived weakling like myself. At the treeline we stopped for water and sunscreen, and headed up into thinner air!

A short water break at the first “false” treeline.

The post-treeline trail is actually very nice. Pretty steep, and I was sucking wind, but runnable both up and down (for a better man than I).

A long way to go…

It gets steep just before the first false-summit, but then is probably runnable again right to the top. It was freaking windy, and I was freezing cold whenever the wind picked up.

Some snow next to the trail. Twin Lakes in the background, I think.

In the sun, out of the wind, it was hot. The top was actually a bit disappointing, so we hung out for a bit and took some photos.

The view from the top is … a little bland.

Tona played with someone’s little Geocache toy they left behind, and then it was time to descend.

One man’s “geocache” is another man’s garbage (mine) and another man’s dog toy (Tona’s).

Now, the hike up, I should say, left me suffering. Damn, that air was thin (or I am out of shape and a wuss.) I was taking it slow, and doing lots of panting. The dog was doing ok, chasing gophers and squirrels and stuff. I wasn’t pushing it super hard, but it certainly was not easy. I’ll have to look at my Garmin data to see what my Heart Rate was…

Feel free to pretend it’s hard!

But the way down was awesome! We almost ran the entire way down. Everyone was asking “how far to the top?” and I would tell them. Tona and I were just loving the descent, her off running in the grass hoping to drum up a squirrel, me just panting my way down the dirt. We saw a big fearless gopher.

“Hey, so, is that dog on a leash?” “Actually, no.” “Shit.”

We made it to the treeline finally. It was getting really hot, and I was worried about the dog. We had almost no water left, and then she refused the last of it, so we had to get all the way down (about 5 or 6 more km) before we found water. It was getting really hot and dusty, and I always get stressed when the dog is running in the sun.

The trail is just perfect for running down (or up?) almost the entire way.

Anyway, so we trotted off. The trail through the woods is perfect for running, and we made great time. And I don’t know what the hell got into the dog, but she was killing it! She was totally in the zone. We slowed down a couple times, but in general she just led the way, and I ran on behind her. She didn’t slow down for anything, and I seriously wondered if she’d lost her mind to heat stroke and was just running like a crazy person. But I let her set the pace, and her tail, the joy-meter, was still at Maximum Joy, so whatever.

As we got down to the trail junction of the CDT, she was just motoring still, and I’m ashamed to admit: she was outrunning me. What the hell! I came this: –>| |<– close to asking her to slow down! Man, she was running the uphills and I was having a hard time keeping up. Damn, for a malamute in brutal sun, she sure was making good time. I was giving myself the pep talk, like “Born to Run told you that humans were only good at one thing and that’s running in the heat, now goddamnit man, don’t let our species down and lose to this furry bitch!”

Finally the trail got a bit steeper (downwards) and she slowed down, and next thing you know, we are at the little forest stream availing ourselves of some ice cold water before walking the last few hundred meters to the truck.

A well deserved water break. She was a machine! Her neurokinetics were off the charts!

All in all we did 16 km, in about 4:30. We got down in about 1 hour, easily. The total hike up to the peak and back was, according to my maps, just about 4,300 ft of elevation (up to 14,433 ft!), over 7.5 km (I had about 8 on the Garmin). The hard part of the LTR100 course is Hope’s pass, which is 3,500 ft of climbing over about the same distance. So easier! But, needs to be done twice, and after running 80 km! Anyway, I’m feeling better about it now that I know how Mt. Elbert was. I just need to get out there and do it in a faster time. I should be able to get out every week at least once.

Garmin route from Mt. Elbert.

We saw some due running up just as we were finishing, and he seemed the business… He ran like a bad robot impersonation of a human, but I have no doubt he was as fit as they come.

“Good luck, robot warrior from the future!”

After our hike, I retrieved my beloved hat from the ranger station, and then we crashed hard at home. I had a headache (altitude?) and slept until 2 PM. Then we did some dog walking, and some reading. I went out for Chinese food (Leadville Chinese food!) and had me some spicy Szechuan shrimp, and some Cha Siu Bau. Not quite to my standards, but good. I’ll check out the burrito place next.

Afterwards I went to a cool sports consignment store, and found a book called “Fixing Your Feet“, all about blisters, mostly, which I wanted anyway. $5, total steal. I also bought my first sticker for the Explorer, a little “Pb” (get it?) sticker. I know it’s cheesy but the money goes to the SPCA.

The rest of the day was spent writing and reading, and here we are. Tomorrow I am thinking I might see if I can run the “Powerline” section of the course, with Tona. I believe I can find the trail easy enough… I’m getting my internet hooked up tomorrow as well, so that will be good. I’ll actually be able to put this stuff online!

Ok, well it’s 8 PM so it’s time for me to try to sleep again. It’s colder today, so hopefully it goes a bit smoother.

Mitch out.


  1. g/f

    Maximum Joy! Glad she kicked your butt. It’s about time. 🙂

    • Mitch

      Well, once we live in a cold enough climate it’ll be game over for me. I have no doubt she’ll do 50 km easy in the real cold.

  2. Fast Eddie

    Awesome! good first taste of the altitude…and you lived to blog about it. 189bpm!?!


  3. SKArunner

    Let’s hangout before the night run tomorrow. Morning?

  4. Robyn

    I think it would be more appropriate to compare your dog to a teenage boy.

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