A long weekend in Leadville, Colorado

Tracy and I are just coming back from a long weekend in Colorado. Leadville is an old mining town that is located over 10k feet in elevation. In the late 19th century, the town was booming with the mines and it was in contention with Denver over who would be the state capitol.

In most years, our friend Eddie leases a house in downtown Leadville. This year, he leased it for the month of July. We arrived very late on Thursday night to Eddie’s rental on 2nd street. 2nd street used to be State street which had 64 saloons and was considered the “red-light” district during the mining rush. Now Eddie has a 3 bedroom rental from the turn of the century.

As always, Eddie was incredibility hospitable – food already bought, towels laid out, etc… basically all the comforts of home. We slept in the following day and had a decent night’s sleep considering we just came from sea level to over 10k feet elevation. After some coffee and treats, we headed up a dirt road to the trail head to Mt. Sherman. The mountain is basically a pile of scree and rock, but towers to 14,035 feet.   The climb is about 2000 feet, but being less than 24 hours acclimatized, it was tough going. Below are a few pictures of us on Mt Sherman.

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The following morning, I got up with the birds and was at Mt. Elbert’s trailhead by 5:30am. My goal for the day was to summit Mt. Massive and then meet Tracy to summit Mt. Elbert which is about 6 miles away. The round trip to Mt. Massive to Mt. Elbert’s trailhead is about 14 miles with over 4k feet of climb.   My hike to the approach of Mt. Massive started fine. I made the cut-off to the summit trail in one hour, which was right on time. I climbed through the trees to tree line (about 12k feet) in the following hour and started the long approach which is through a col that is covered by summer grass and flowers. I felt great and there was minimal snow so I was able to reach the summit by 9am which was only 15 minutes longer than I thought.

After 10 min or so to eat and relax, I started running down. I came across 3 guys and one of them was wearing a Tejas Trails shirt which is one of the racing companies we run with (I had a Tejas shirt on also). Turns out it was Brandon who is in a whole different speed league than I am. He said they were also heading to Elbert afterwards so I was certain they would pass me on the way. The decent was fairly decent, I ran a lot of it but had calf cramps so I stopped and stretched often. I made it back to the car at 11:15am to find a note from Tracy saying she started up at 10:10am – I’d never catch her when she was fresh and an hour ahead. After a water refills, eating something, and a bio break, I was on the Elbert trail by 11:30am.

The trail was relatively flat for the first mile, which worried me since Elbert is higher than Massive (by less than 10ft) but a couple miles shorter. After mile 1, I hit the steepness I was worried about. It was slow going, one foot in front of the other. Once I broke tree line (12k ft), I could see the false summit (real summit was ½ mile past), which was depressing since I could also see the line of people coming and going and it looked a long ways off. I pressed on, one step after another.   I would stop every five minutes or so for a breather and try and stay hydrated.   After what seemed eternity, I crested the false summit to only see the ½ mile to go also had 500 more feet of elevation gain. My spirits were lifted when my phone rang to talk to Tracy who had been on the summit for 1.5 hours already. I pushed on and 20 minutes later, I collapsed behind some rocks to enjoy the view of the continental divide.

We hung out on top for 20 min or so.  Just as we were leaving Brandon and his buddy reached the summit.  We “mall walked” and ran most of the way down and made it down at 5pm.  All together, I did almost 25 miles and 9000 feet of climbing – time for a drink.   It was an incredible weekend and we can’t thank Eddie enough for inviting us.

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