Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Coyote Las Vegas

After last year's Coyote Moab--and continuing with the theme of changing venues annually--Chris and I decided that the next "C4P" would be in Vegas.  About 25 of us came, ran, played, and partied this year.  The only bummer of the weekend was being unable to do Mt. Charleston due to the amount of snow--we opted for an extra day at Red Rocks instead.
Some highlights:

~ Thursday's sunset hike/run up Turtlehead Peak, elev. 6323 ft.  Almost made it down by closing time!

~ Friday's (11/11/11) run on the Bootleg Canyon trails in Boulder City.  Must have been the Vegas, good-intentions-out-the-window effect:  not one ultrarunner did more than 20 miles.  Indeed, this one turned out to be a more laid-back C4P in terms of mileage.

~ Seeing Barry Manilow (yes, Barry Manilow) at the Paris!  Among others, he "sang" (??--more likely lip synced) Daybreak, I Write the Songs, This One's For You, Mandy, and Copacabana.  Freaking awesome!

~ Mustaches.  What happens in Vegas...

~ Saturday's loop in stunningly colorful Red Rock Canyon, 20'ish miles for the "long" folks.

~ Riding in Karen and Pat's Mustang convertible rental with the top down and the heat on full blast.

~ Soaking and drinking in the Tuscany's hot tub.

~ An Elvis sighting.
~ Bowling at Gold Coast Casino.  This place was HUGE--70 lanes!  At around 10 p.m. they turned off the big lights and turned on the black lights and the hip hop'in DJ.  Cool.

~ Watching Chris B. and Allen get down.  Those two can DANCE.

~ The Sunday 6 a.m. group run down the Strip, led by "Elvis."  We even got a couple of drunks to run with us for a bit.
Fun times!  After a hot tub brainstorming session, plans are already in the works for next year's event.  Hmm...  where will it be???
(Photos 2, 4, 5 by Tetsuro O., #3 by Mike E.)
Many more photos by Tetsuro here, here, and here.
And Chad Brackelsberg's video...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cajun Coyote Ultras

We had so much fun in the Louisiana swamplands last December that we're going back for a second running of the Cajun Coyote Ultras.  This year's events will take place over the December 3-4 weekend at Chicot State Park in Ville Platte.  New this year is the 100 miler (check out that belt buckle, eh?!) as well as the 100 km. and 20 mile distances.  Much more info on the website.

The course is a slightly rolling loop of 20 miles, almost entirely singletrack, around Lake Chicot.  Think Rocky Racoon but perhaps a little bit slower...  to say, if your only 100 mile experience is that of tougher events, you could definitely PR here.  And the course is beautiful to boot.  No 'gators were spotted last year, but at night you will see and hear lots of armadillos.  Including the start/finish area, there are four aid stations staffed by the usual Coyote Crazies offering up the usual - and, uh, not so usual - fare.  (I'm going to politick for fresh cracklins.)   Entry also gets the runner a spiff Patagonia Cap 2 long-sleeve zip in a choice of colors.  Click on the "melange" tab on the website.

My original plan was to work this year's event, but now I'm reconsidering...  that buckle is looking mighty tempting!

Click here to read my last year's Top 10.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Vermont 50k in 10 Photos

Yesterday Chris and I "ran" the Vermont 50k entirely together.  We stopped in Bradford for lunch and coffee - and some impromptu cider pressing - on the drive down Saturday afternoon.  Chris is obviously amazed by cider technology.
For the first time ever in a "race," I toted the camera and filled a memory card.  Just enjoying the day, the miles, and the beautiful scenery was a joy.
We had lots of time to chat with the locals...

And hang out at aid stations.  This was Margaritaville, a blatant misnomer since there were no margaritas and no 'villes.  Boo!

They did have rum-rats though.
The race was huge this year, with something like 700 mtn. bikers and 550 runners!  The course is a mix of dirt road and trail.  Early on there were some nice quiet moments where we enjoyed virtual solitude on the trail.
Then there were other sections where the cluster**** factor was pretty high.  This race has grown so much in popularity since its humble beginnings in 1993.  The event has always been both a running and mountain biking race and is the major fundraiser for Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports.  Everyone was very cordial and friendly, but the constant back-and-forth was annoying at times to both runner and biker.  Of course, this was more of a factor for the 50k runner vs. the 50m.  (And if I do this race again, it will probably be the mtn. bike race vs. the run.)
More chatting with the locals...
Chris's favorite moment of the day was coming across a woman in the middle of the woods with a cooler full of beer... and she was sharing!  Trail magic!  Trail magic!  It was a very warm day for late September (low 80s!) so the beer was awesome.
Mt. Ascutney.  The end in sight!  Sort of.  There were still a few miles of mud, ups 'n downs, helping a biker who'd badly crashed, and slogging through the last three miles.
I have run the VT 50 miler 11 times, biked it twice, and now done the 50k and have never felt better at the finish.  Running with my honey rocks.  :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Great North Woods Trifecta

Back in lovely Vermont visiting my folks, I had the opportunity to string together some seriously rewarding trail mileage in the North Country of New Hampshire and Maine over the past three days.  Uninspired by the thought of doing some of the same old peaks, loops and traverses in the White Mountains, this time I decided do something a little different and stay north of US Route 2, where the trails tend to be even more rugged and where solitude is guaranteed.

Day 1:
The first, "warmup" leg was on Sunday, the 18th - New Hampshire's Kilkenny Ridge, a lightly traveled 25-mile traverse of the entire range from the town of Jefferson to South Lake Recreation Area.  En route, the trail passes over or very near a total of 11 summits, including two 4000 footers, Mts. Waumbek and Cabot.  My last full Kilkenny traverse was in the late 1990s, although a small group of us had made a solid attempt at a north-to-south traverse last January.  We were thwarted - as anticipated actually - by deep, unbroken snow a little shy of 2/3 the way through, at which point we bailed out to the York Pond Fish Hatchery.  Save for Mt. Cabot, very few people venture into the Kilkenny in winter, so it made for a challenging but gorgeous snowshoe through a stunningly beautiful winter wonderland.

The terrain on Sunday was, as expected, rather unimproved, rough and muddy (reminiscent of the Long Trail last summer), with many blowdowns and frequent signs of moose... though, alas, no sightings.  After depositing me at the Starr King trailhead in Jefferson, Chris drove around to the Fish Hatchery and joined me for the inner loop over Cabot, The Bulge and The Horn.  (Chris's 4000 footer count is now up to 10; of course, he couldn't care less if he ever finishes...)  The Horn is reached via a 3/10 mile spur trail, and I believe I last stood atop it 13-14 years ago.  A cool summit indeed. At Unknown Pond we split up, Chris descending back to the car, me continuing on to South Lake.  The leaves are just starting to change color here in northern New England, and the yellows were particularly beautiful on this day.  I'd encountered only eight hikers to this point and  met only two more on the way out, backpackers carrying HUGE packs...  like ~70 lbs. huge. Confused and awed, I inquired as to their itinerary.  "We have until Friday to do the entire trail."  Wow.  Upon reaching South Lake, it was evident that the road was already gated for the year (??!!), as the parking lot - on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in September (??!!) - was completely empty and the place was deserted.  Oh well, what's another mile to the gate.  Chris's timing was perfect - he had arrived only minutes before and had started walking up the road to meet me.  We retired to, in order - Dunky Donuts, Mr. Pizza, and finally, Altopia.
Atop Mt. Cabot with the funnest and funniest person I know.
Halfway through the Kilkenny traverse, I came up with the bright idea (?) of a "Great North Woods Trifecta."  The Grafton Loop in western Maine has been on my New England bucket list for a couple of years, and the Mahoosuc Traverse, part of the Appalachian Trail, lies in between, so... the "logical" thing seemed to do all three.  "Great North Woods" is what the New Hampshire Dept. of Tourism has dubbed the northern part of the state. Voila! A silly name for a crazy adventure.

Day 2:
We began the 30-mile Mahoosuc traverse the next day, Monday, just before daybreak at the Centennial/AT trailhead, "we" being myself and my good pal Al.  As with the Kilkenny, I had done the one-day Mahoosuc traverse a couple of times before but never in the south-to-north direction save for my AT thru-hike, when I schlepped a very heavy and full backpack and required 2+ days for the traverse. For those who have never been there, the Mahoosucs are extremely rugged and slow and include the notorious "most difficult mile of the Appalachian Trail," Mahoosuc Notch. Going in the southbound direction, the final ~10 miles tend to drag at the end of a long, gnarly day so I was curious as to how the Gorham-to-Grafton Notch direction would play out, with Mahoosuc Notch, Mahoosuc Arm, and Old Speck to negotiate at the end of the day. The early miles with Al seemed to pass quickly with nonstop conversation and laughter.  We parted ways at Dream Lake as Al descended the Peabody Brook Trail.  I was on my own from there.

No apologies, the Mahoosucs are a range deserving of hyperbole:   Gorgeous! Spectacular! Awesome!  I love this place, so diverse and unlike any other area of the Whites, with its extensive views, boggy "tundra" and nary a road crossing.  The icing on the cake this day was perfect late summer weather, and the only other hikers out on a Monday this time of year were AT thru- and section hikers. Yippee!  Up and over Mt. Success I went, up 'n down, up 'n down, arriving at the NH/ME border and its "Welcome to Maine - The Way Life Should Be" sign, stumbling through Carlo Col, climbing the crazy little "via ferrata" on Goose Eye, slippin 'n slidin up 'n down North Peak, and finally taking a short break at Full Goose Shelter.  I flipped open the register and cracked up at some of the entries.  A sampling:

     "Welcome to Maine - the way trails SHOULDN'T be."
     "One mile in TWO HOURS?  What the...?!"
     "Oh...  I'm bleeding."
     "I wanna go back to New Hampshire."
     "New Hampshire is for pussies."

But I couldn't hang around for long because it was time to descend into the abyss and negotiate Mahoosuc Notch, a car- and house-sized boulder-filled defile, full of deep holes, a hidden water course, and ice sometimes lasting through the summer (though none seen this day).  Requiring the use of upper body muscles as well as balance and flexibility, the Notch is a virtual jungle gym for big kids.  It is *wicked fun*!!!  Thirty-eight minutes of acrobatics later, I was through.  Mahoosuc Arm wasn't nearly as bad as I'd remembered; carrying approximately 35 lbs. less compared to my thru-hike made a big difference!  At Speck Pond I stopped to chat with five thru-hikers (dang but they looked happy) before heading up Old Speck and then down to Hwy. 26 where Chris waited, pleased to finish before having to pull out the headlamp.

(BTW, I ultimately enjoyed doing the Mahoosuc Traverse in the northbound direction because it seemed the last few miles didn't drag on and on.)  We hit the Sunday River Brewery for a very yummy and satisfying dinner.  I'd contemplated taking some ibuprofen but decided on a pint of Black Bear Porter instead.
A smooth section of trail
Day 3:
Tuesday's forecast wasn't exactly appealing:  90% chance of showers with temps in the 50s.  But I was already there and wasn't about to throw in the towel so easily.  Mainly a woods walk, at times also reminiscent of the Long Trail, the Grafton Loop was constructed just a few years ago.  It is 38.6 miles in length.  I went clockwise and started on the southern end so as to be generally climbing for the first segment and generally descending for the second part.  After two very light and brief showers around 8 a.m., I crossed what was the highlight of the day for me - a mountain called Sunday River Whitecap.  Views encompassed 360 degrees, and the surrounding undercast gave the impression of water, the hill and mountaintops virtual islands in a sea.  Truly spectacular, it ranks as one of my favorite mountaintops in New England.  From there, the trail continued north and back up to Old Speck, from whence I descended the same gnarly 3 1/2 miles back to Grafton Notch as the previous day.  This was my one and only aid station - and potential bailout point - of the day.  While confirming whether I was willing to commit myself to the remaining 21 miles with no bailout options (this trail is remote!), Chris served soup, potato chips, cookies, and DD's coffee.  I still felt great and since it hadn't been raining, decided to go for it. 
Pausing for a photo op at Grafton Notch before heading out for the final segment.

With its steep and wet rock, the Baldpates seemed more daunting than I'd remembered; then again, it had been some years since I'd last climbed these peaks.  After carefully negotiating the tricky terrain and summiting both 'pates, I located the Grafton Loop turnoff on top of East Baldpate and started down the comparatively gushy, needly trail.  Wow, all of a sudden it felt like I was walking on Spenco insoles.  About 2 1/2 miles from the summit, I encountered the Blowdown Patch from Hell and lost about 25 minutes trying to find the correct route.  A bit rattled but finally back on course and jacked up on adrenaline, I made quick work of Lightning Ledge and, a few miles later, Long Mountain.  With about a dozen miles to go, three backpackers raised eyebrows when I confirmed that yes, I was going all the way to the highway that night.  They were the only other hikers I encountered on the non-AT portion of the Grafton Loop.

The segment between Long and Puzzle Mountains is kind of a woodsy blur because, having never been on this trail, I was pushing to make it to the top of ledgy Puzzle before being benighted.  Even with good lights, it can be difficult to locate the trail on an open, ledgy peak in the dark, especially if there is a misty fog, especially if one has never before set foot on said mountain!  Additionally, the fact that the mountain is named "Puzzle" didn't give me warm fuzzies either.  Ultimately there was only one confusing area, where I resorted to going from LED headlamp to Big Girl Flashlight and shortly found the correct route.  About five minutes later, I heard Fun Guy calling my name.  Yay, Chris had hiked up to meet me!  The final three miles went quickly, each of us sharing stories of our day's adventures; his involved Errol NH, the Moose Cave, and Screw Auger Falls and were especially titillating.  And then... it was over.  Three days, three awesome trails, 93 total miles.

(Think I'll be sweeping the VT 50k.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A New Addition: EARL !!

We experienced some cat drama this summer when a feral cat delivered four kittens in the crawl space under the house.  Mama cat became very protective and aggressive, terrorizing our three outside kitties (ferals that I have caught and gotten altered) to the extent that, sadly, I had to trap her and call animal control.  There are way too many feral cats in our town -- grrr!  We heard not a peep out of the kittens, and various friends, neighbors and even an exterminator (!) assured me that the kittens were most likely dead, but...  a part of me  wasn't totally convinced.  Three whole days later, I finally heard a faint "mew," and my neighbor Joe (he is small in size) crawled under the house and pulled out one... two... three... FOUR dirty, flea infested, starving, pathetic little 3-4 week old kittens!  (Note to self:  Always listen to one's own intuition!)
(Post feeding, pre bath)
I rushed to PetSmart and bought kitten formula and a couple of bottles -- Chris and I bottle fed the little furballs, he much better at it than I.  They had gone three whole days without eating/drinking.  We were amazed that they had managed to survive.  Next, it was bathtime.  Our animal lover neighbor Bonnie brought over some Dawn dish detergent which apparently is the stuff to use (?).   I washed them one by one and was shocked at the amount of fleas, dirt and dried blood (from the fleas) coming off the poor things.
Thankfully, Bonnie agreed to keep the kittens while we were out of town (as in, most of the time!).  What a great neighbor!  The kittens were thriving and eating/drinking on their own within a few short days.
Bonnie fell in love with the gray 'n white one ("Peanut") and -- yay! -- found a home for the white ("Queen Wilhelmina") and one of the black 'n white ones ("Speeder").  Fillmore, our only indoor kitty, was NOT pleased by the invasion.
We asked everyone we know... and asked 'n begged 'n pleaded... to no avail.  No one wanted "Earl," but we were not about to bring him to the shelter, where he would probably be euthanized.  Anyway, he was starting to grow on us.
A few more days of being together...
...with Earl trying his hardest to win us over.
The paper recycling box, a favorite play area...
Files are pretty fun too...
Cats are amazing:  they immediately took to the SuperScratcher...  thankfully, the litter box as well.
And Earl succeeded in winning our hearts... unquestionably.
He's staying!  

Monday, September 5, 2011

Five Days in the Range of Light

Chris and I spent 5 blissful days last week backpacking in the southwestern Sierras.  While we live in California, it seems we don't spend nearly enough time in our "local" high peaks so we have vowed to make it into these beautiful mountains more frequently.  We have both done the John Muir Trail, the High Sierra Trail, the Evolution Valley Loop, and a bit in Yosemite, but that is just a sampling of what is available in the Sierras!  With no clear destination or goals this trip, we simply loaded the packs up with 5 days of food plus all the usual stuff, procured the requisite permit (with what ultimately turned out to be a rather bogus itinerary), and set off from the Wolverton Trailhead in Sequoia National Park.
Our first night's campsite was at Hamilton Lakes.  Since it is on the High Sierra Trail, we had both been there before, but I'd forgotten exactly HOW impressive was the trail to/from there, blasted into miles of rock and even tunneled at one point!  A bold deer and her twin fawns passed through the campsite a few times.  On her final pass, undoubtedly attracted to the salt deposits, she grabbed Chris's shorts which were drying on a branch.  She dropped 'em after I chased her down.  :)
Below, Hamilton Lake campsite.  That's a food storage box on the right.  Most heavier used campsites in the Sierras have them although backpackers are still supposed to have bear-resistant food cans as well.  (We brought our Bearikade cannister.)
The next morning we made our way up to Kaweah Gap and were suprised to find this amount of ice and snow still on the higher lakes and trails.
Queen of a very small snowfield...
At Kaweah Gap we gazed down into the spectacular Nine Lakes Basin vowing to someday do some cross-country exploring here.
At Big Arroyo we decided to diverge from the HST and head into new territory.  We'd intended to hike farther, but upon seeing the first of the Little Five Lakes, we were captivated by the beauty and solitude of the lake and the perfect campsite to be had.  We ended up spending a good chunk of the afternoon reading our books and sunning ourselves on rocks.  :)
The view near our campsite...
On Day 3 we decided to do a little cross-country route from Big Five Lakes back to Little Five Lakes Basin.  The area was loaded with awesome bristlecone pines, and the lakes were incredibly beautiful and clear, with trout visible just below the surface.
One of the Big Five Lakes...
...and the descent back to Little Five Lakes Basin.  This was an easy off-trail route of a little over a mile.
Approaching Black Rock Pass, we met our second hiker in two whole days.  (Apparently the week before Labor Day is the time to be out here.)  The view from Black Rock Pass rivals anything we have seen anywhere else in the Sierras so far.  Of course, a photo cannot do it justice!  From top to bottom, that's Columbine, Cyclamen, and Spring Lakes.  Just beautiful.
From Black Rock Pass, we had a long descent to our night's destination near Pinto Lake.  Unfortunately, the camera took a little dip during a slippery stream ford, so our photos end here!
Day 4's route brought us back down to the elevation of the giant sequoias, and we went through a lovely grove just filled with the monsters!  The trail through this section was smooth and serpentine; we kept thinking how much fun it would be to run.  A short climb brought us full circle to Bearpaw Meadow which we'd passed on Day 1.  We set up camp about a mile below Bearpaw and settled in.  As a 3 foot rattler passed near the campsite -- and then didn't seem to be in a hurry to leave -- I insisted we move the tent to a different campsite a few yards away.  (I like snakes, but I don't LIKE snakes.)
On the final day, which was the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, we had just 10 miles to hike out.  Whereas we'd seen just a handful of hikers the previous 4 days, this day we must have passed over 100 hiking in for the weekend.  Time to go home!  We'd had a blast, really enjoying this mellow hike, staying flexible and covering only about 100 km. total.  And, being the Sierras, the weather was perfect.  We can't wait to go back...!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Colorado 14er Fini

Snowmass Mtn., August 1996
On July 22 I completed what turned out to be a project lasting almost two decades, that of climbing all of Colorado's ranked peaks over 14,000 feet.  Using Gerry Roach's Colorado's Fourteeners, from Hikes to Climbs almost exclusively, I picked away at the list over the years, initially not attempting to climb them all.   My 14er quest was inexorably tied to running the Hardrock 100.  Were it not for the annual Tour de San Juans, I likely would never have climbed all the 14ers.  This post is on the long side, but it covers 54 peaks and 18 years! 
My first 14er was Quandary Peak in 1993.  Mostly a mountain biking trip to Moab, Telluride, and Crested Butte, Mike and I threw in a hike up Quandary, one of the easiest 14ers, on our way back to Denver's Stapleton International Airport (before DIA even!).  Thrilled to have reached a new elevation PR by around 8,000 feet on this easier peak, I had absolutely no aspirations of climbing them all, especially after reading some of Roach's intimidating route descriptions:  "A fall here would be fatal."  "The rock is loose, rotten, and dangerous."  "Some parties choose to rope up here."  And other scary stuff like that.
Quandary Peak - my first 14er (1993)
In 1996 I ran the Leadville 100 for the first and only time.  Hiker friends Andy and Tom joined me on some acclimatization hikes and introduced me to my first Class 3 peaks:  Longs, Snowmass, and Kelso Ridge on Torreys.  Perhaps a brief description of classification is in order.  A recent issue of Backpacker magazine offered the following explanation:
Class 1:  Walking easily navigable trails
Class 2:  Hiking cross-country across rough terrain, occasionally using hands for balance
Class 3:  Scrambling steep terrain (roughly 35 degrees and higher), using hands for support
Class 4:  Simple climbing (think ladder) with potentially significant exposure.  A fall would result in serious injury or even death; many parties use a rope to belay the toughest sections.
Class 5:  Technical rock climbing requiring a rope and safety hardware
As with gear and tech talk, classification of routes can be overanalyzed, discussed and argued ad nauseum.  Ultimately what became patently clear to me is that the classification of the route was a general guideline and didn't mean much until I was actually ON the route.  To say, I've been freaked out on Class 2+ and felt totally comfortable on Class 4.  Also, the more I was "exposed to exposure," the more comfortable I was with it.
Kelso Ridge freaked me out back in 1996.  On the more exposed sections I remember my legs shaking uncontrollably, coincident with my stomach churning uncomfortably.  Just as I thought I would certainly throw up, we skittered across the last narrow catwalk and stood atop Torrey's summit, huge smiles all around.   Encountering mountain goats on the descent of Grays Peak was the icing on the cake.
Descending Grays Peak and encountering my first mountain goats (1996)
We also bagged the foursome of Democrat, Lincoln, Bross, and Cameron that summer, along with Longs Peak, a repeat of Quandary, and a one-day Snowmass epic.  Since it is well over 20 miles round trip, most people do Snowmass as an overnighter, but Tom and I somehow talked Andy into starting very early and doing it as a dayhike.  I remember our argument going something like "We'll actually expend less energy because we won't have to carry in all that gear" (tents, sleeping bags, pads, food, stove, etc.).  Andy finally gave in, and Snowmass ended up being one of my favorite 14ers.  In a bookstore a few days later, the three of us cracked up when we read in another guidebook something along the lines of  "Only the hiking gods and goddesses attempt Snowmass in a day." 
A hiking goddess??  (Hah!)
Again I waited three years before returning to Colorado in 1999.  This time it was for my first crack at the Hardrock 100 and the first of many ascents of Handies Peak -- the HRH course goes right over the summit.  Since I spent most of the pre-race days acclimatizing on the course, the only other 14ers I climbed that year were Sunshine and Redcloud.  Hardrock went well:   I finished 2nd woman, top 10, and broke the previous women's course record by 5 hours.
I returned to Silverton the following year.  Unlike today's entry process with its huge number of applicants, this was back in the good 'ol days of Hardrock, when nearly everyone who applied and qualified got in.  That year -- some solo, some with friends -- I climbed Sherman, Massive, La Plata, Huron, Shavano, Tabeguache, San Luis, and Colorado's highest peak, Mt. Elbert.  A friend and I also reclimbed Democrat, Lincoln, Bross, and Cameron.  At Hardrock I struggled through some very rough patches but prevailed in the end:  I was first woman!
Marmot sighting #4,327
Alas, any Hardrock fun came to an abrupt end in 2001 as I DNF'd at Grouse Gulch after barfing my way up Engineer Pass, the one and only time in over 100 ultras that this has ever happened.   However, it was another good year for picking away at the 14ers as I stood atop the remaining Sawatch (and the crazy Nolan's 14 [RIP]) peaks:  Missouri, Oxford, Belford, Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, Antero, and Holy Cross, as well as Uncompahgre in the San Juans and Challenger Peak in the Sangres.  A fast approaching storm prevented the traverse from Challenger to Kit Carson that year, and I also got turned back on Ellingwood/Blanca after hiking all the way up the horrible Lake Como Road on a hot day -- ugh.  No worries, the mountains weren't going anywhere in my lifetime.
Chicago Basin (2006)
Four years passed before I decided to give Hardrock another shot.  With successful hikes of Bierstadt, Evans, and Pikes Peak, the Front Range was now complete.  Memorable were sightings of a nude male hiker on Bierstadt (!) and a requisite mountain goat and her kid on Evans -- apparently not seeing goats on Evans is the exception.  Pikes Peak was a blast:  I did the "marathon," the entire Barr Trail up and down from Manitou Springs, and enjoyed a freshly made donut on the summit before running back down the easy 13-mile trail.  I finished off acclimatizing for the race by climbing Wetterhorn (marmot PR on the approach) and Sneffels back in the San Juans.  One unfortunate memory of Sneffels was meeting a trio from Texas -- two guys and a teenage boy -- on the final Class 2+ snow-filled chute to the summit, the boy visibly scared.  I passed the group again on my way down, they making very slow progress.  Laughing out loud, I did a controlled glissade about 1000 feet down the mountain.  It wasn't until the next day that I learned the teenager had taken a terrible fall in the upper chute, sustaining compound fractures of his femur and requiring a complicated rescue and helicopter ride out.  As for Hardrock, I had a great time that year and was thrilled to win for a second time.  :)
Some peak... somewhere
Back for my fifth and final Hardrock 100 in 2006, I'd allowed myself to think that maybe, just maybe, I could climb all but the hardest of 14ers.  That year I schlepped my overnight gear back up the horrible Lake Como Road and, with enough time to do so, successfully climbed Ellingwood and Blanca.  I decided to go as far as I was comfortable on Little Bear, my first Class 4 peak (!), but before I knew it, was standing on the summit.  It seemed easy!  Little Bear is one of those peaks with a lot of loose rock, but since I was the only person on the peak that day, rockfall was not of huge concern.  I did repeats of Grays, Torreys, Elbert and Holy Cross that year, literally running off the latter due to some sneaky weather accompanied by a scary degree of electricity.  I heard a strange pinging, sort of a "zzzzztt..." sound and the hair sticking out from underneath my hat was standing on end!  Still early in the season and without an ice ax, a half-hearted Capitol attempt was thwarted at Daly Saddle:  there was just too much steep snow.  However, with growing confidence for climbing the harder peaks, I backpacked to South Colony Lakes and nabbed Humboldt and Crestone Peak.  Alas, mental fatigue prevented getting Crestone Needle safely on this day, so a straggler was left behind.  My Hardrock run royally sucked this year and I DNF'd at Grouse Gulch, but I "redeemed" myself by thru-hiking the entire fantastic 480-mile Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango in 14 days.  That year's Colorado trip finally came to a close with a three-day backpack into Chicago Basin, dodging mountain goats as pesky as squirrels and summitting Windom, Sunlight, and Eolus.
Capitol attempt (2006)
Atop Humboldt w/Crestone Needle and Peak in background

Taking the DandSNGR to Needleton

Chicago Basin Welcoming Committee
By August 2009 I had climbed Denali (most of it) as well as Rainier, Hood, Granite and Gannett Peaks, the high points of Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Wyoming respectively.  To say, I did some pretty gnarly, scrambly sh*t, making the rest of the Colorado 14ers now seem reasonably attainable.  Since Chris wasn't keen on anything beyond Class 2, I tackled the notoriously "loose and rotten" Elk Range mostly solo, Chris accompanying me on some of the approaches.  First up was Castle and Conundrum, the easiest of the Elks.  They, however, weren't going to give up their summits so easily.  We were about halfway up Castle when a torrential downpour forced us to postpone the summits until the next day.  I wasn't so sure about Capitol.  What I'd read -- and, stupidly, You-Tubed (yikes) -- had me pretty sketched out, but I took the same "I'll see how far I can get" approach that I'd taken on Little Bear 3 years earlier.  Chris and I were almost to Capitol Lake when we came across a dead cow... with FIVE bears surrounding it.  THAT was scary but not as scary as traversing "K2" and straddling the infamous Capitol Knife Edge.  I met about a half dozen climbers that day, including one being short roped by his Aspen guide!  (How much did that cost?? I wondered...)  After the Knife Edge, it wasn't so bad...  although, of course, I still had to go back down the same way! 
Capitol Peak in early morning light (2009)
Capitol peak summit register!  (That's sunscreen embedded in my ring.)
Next up were Pyramid and the Maroon Bells which I did separately.  All three peaks were indeed loose and rotten, but I took it slow and found the best and safest ways to go.  The mountain goats on Pyramid and Maroon were unbelievable as they nonchalantly hopped from exposed rock to exposed rock.
Maroon Peak (2009)
The Pharaoh of Pyramid (2009)
I finished off the 2009 trip in the Sangre de Cristo Range by reclimbing Challenger and finally making it across the awesome "Kit Carson Avenue" and up to the summit of Kit Carson.  Repeatedly weathered out atop Challenger Peak, it took four tries to finally get Kit Carson!

Chris and I had attempted to get to the Mt. Lindsey trailhead a few years previously, but our 2WD vehicle couldn't quite make it up the long, very wet and rutted-out road.  In July 2011 the road was in better condition, and we were able to make it all the way to the 2WD trailhead, where we set up camp for the next two nights.  As with many 14ers, Lindsey seemed more difficult than advertised:  the route I took was definitely not Class 2+  (I think the earth has moved quite a bit since Gerry Roach last climbed Mt. Lindsey), but I made it to the top, the only one to do so that day.  (On my descent I crossed paths with a woman and her husband, both surprised by the difficulty of the peak and, disappointed, that they opted to turn around.)   I tagged the summit of easy Huerfano Peak on the way back down and the next day climbed California Peak, both peaks being Centennial 13ers.  (A wise sage once advised *Leave no Stragglers* and since I may end up attempting Colorado's 100 Highest eventually...).  Crestone Needle the next day was a blast!  Doing the peak as a day hike via South Colony 2WD Trailhead, I got a very early start and was lucky enough to hook up with three very enjoyable and funny guys from Arkansas.  Together, the four of us found the correct route both up and down (people often get screwed up on the Needle's descent), nervously laughing at the "death falls" surrounding us as we clambered up the conglomerate knobsThe summit was spectacular, and we were greeted by a fat marmot yogi'ing for handouts.

All that was left were the Wilsons, the Mt. and the Peak, and they proved to be the most technical of all the 14ers for me.  Chip, a running friend from back East who now lives in the Four Corners area, agreed to accompany me.  We got a 4 a.m. start and made it all the way to Navajo Lake by headlamp.  With significant exposure and constant use of handholds on the final stretch, Wilson Peak was fun but a tad sketchy to me, but it was only a warmup for Mt. Wilson, the latter being very steep and very, very loose.  Probably two out of every three rocks moved under our feet, and I couldn't shake the feeling that the whole mountain was going to come down!  After what seemed like a long, long time, diverting around a steep snowfield and picking our way up through the rocks, we finally made it to the gnarly summit ridge.  I was a little taken aback by what we had to climb over to get there -- a couple of extreme Class 4 moves with significant exposure, where a slip would really ruin the day -- but Chip talked me over them.  And just like that, I was done!

A compulsive peakbagger, of course, is never really done climbing mountains.  There will always be more mountains to climb and different seasons in which to climb the same mountains.  Colorado alone has more 13,000 foot mountains than I will ever have the time or inclination to climb; however, I did pick up the Roaches' Colorado Thirteener book, sooo...