Sunday, September 2, 2012

Rollins Pass to Rogers Pass from East Portal

I undertook to do today what I ducked out of two weeks ago and complete the long, rough ridge line from Rollins Pass, south to Rogers Pass. The short, clockwise version I ended up doing recently was both frustrating and disappointing given the mapping errors for the Arapaho Lakes trail. There would be no mistakes today. I arrived at East Portal just as the first shards of sunlight illuminated the Moffatt Tunnel and was met with a cold, stiff wind and a temperature of 50 degrees - probably around 40 degrees with wind chill. I was glad I brought a long sleeved shirt and Livvy and I set off with the wind buffeting us around. Up high we could see thick cloud cover hanging over the ridge and James Peak was completely obscured from view. The early morning sun was having a hard time breaking through cloud cover and I felt the cold as we ascended to the Forest Lakes trail junction after 1.3 miles.

I knew that following comments about Lance Armstrong on Twitter would make me annoyed. One of the characteristics of a person declaring themself a "fan" is that they suspend objectivity, but even so, not seeing the duplicitous behavior of their hero, indeed, the lengths some are prepared to go to justify the unjustifiable, are difficult to fathom. It seems that in the spirited defense of the indefensible, we currently have a long list of denialism - the theory of evolution, the holocaust, climate change, President Obama's citizenship, and now Lance Armstrong's doping.

A cursory examination of the rationalization of Armstrong's behavior tends to see reasons for supporting him on a number of fronts - that others have it in for him (the persecution apology), that others were also doping (the moral equivalence apology), that it happened a long time ago and the prosecution currently serves no purpose (the "let him get away with it" apology). Each of these kneejerk responses is interlaced with comments, such as "no one can ever say whether he is guilty", or "this is no way to be treating a sporting hero". As someone who cheered Armstrong on to each of his Tour de France victories the fall from grace exemplified by his capitulation in the face of overwhelming evidence is tragic. I wish it weren't true, but Armstrong is a cheat and a liar. As his fans (as witnessed on Twitter) put themselves through contradictory contortions of the truth in a feeble defense of their hero, the Emperor clearly has no clothes. While I wish his foundation continued success the Armstrong name has been tarnished. I only wish he could be prosecuted criminally given the level of deceit involved, his hubris notwithstanding.

Livvy and I passed the lower Forest Lake as early sunshine penetrated the cloud cover and joined the long Rollins Pass road after 4.25 miles. We ran this section in reverse a few weeks ago and, with a stiff headwind, I knew it was going to be a long slog.

The route takes the obvious rising trail and then climbs over the tunnel visible on the sky line. The wind battered us from all sides. It was extremely cold and deafening. Occasional lulls would quickly warm us, but these were brief and infrequent.

The wind tore through us as we contoured above the tunnel overlooking Yankee Doodle Lake ringed by a lower section of the Rollins Pass road.

It was difficult to breathe running up to Rollins Pass at 11,600 feet altitude, but we saw this magnificent view of Betty Lake (Bob Lake is just visible a little higher) which was our destination last weekend.

We reached Rollins Pass proper after 2 hours. 7.75 miles of continuous ascent in a cold head wind had taken its toll. The route to Rogers Pass followed the long, undulating ridge line from the left across the sky line. There was no trail and this was going to be 5 long miles of rough and rocky ground with a gale blowing from the west (hitting us from the right). Annoyingly it was still a headwind...would we get no respite? In the photo above, James Peak is still shrouded in cloud cover - our route would take the crest of the ridge above the cliff line immediately below James Peak. It seemed a long way away. We jogged along Rollins Pass road for about a mile and then struck a rising line across the shoulder of the Divide aiming to contour at around 12,100 feet and take out some of the annoying undulations in the ridge line. I am pretty good at contouring, but 5 miles on an uneven slope is rough on the ankles, at least at my age.

After 3.5 miles we arrived at the final ridge line overlooking Iceberg Lakes. Only faint social trails serve these lakes and they are rarely visited - a much better trail goes to Crater Lakes (immediately to the left of where this photo is taken). The cloud was starting to build up and the wind wasn't easing at all. This was one of the coldest sections on the route - my temperature gauge showed 34 degrees air temperature and windchill would be below freezing. It certainly felt like it.

I was finding it difficult to run with any consistency. The ground was rough and the wind was knocking us both around. My foot rarely landed where I intended and I was lucky on a few occasions not to roll over my ankle or crack my knee on rocks. Livvy was amazing as she skipped across huge boulders, but we both needed a break and some fuel - I just couldn't stop at this altitude, I had to drop below Rogers Pass. The photo above shows the Rogers Pass trail coming up from Rollins Pass road. We would join this at the obvious shoulder for the final mile to the top of Rogers Pass.

The last section to Rogers Pass was level and as we turned towards the east the wind, at long last, came from behind my right shoulder and we were able to run a little quicker. Back in June we ascended the Rogers Pass trail and took the obvious line up to James Peak - that was a great run...better than this one...and I'll try and do this again before the snows come.

Just below Rogers Pass the wind stopped and this spectacular view of Heart Lake came into view. The East Portal is visible in the valley over 5 miles away. I think this section of Rogers Pass is one of my favorite sections of trail - extremely steep and technical, with severe drops. A slip off the trail here would have very serious consequences. We threw caution to the non-existent wind and hared down the steepest sections in quick time. It was exhilarating, and after 13.5 miles of hard running it was downhill all the way back to the trail head.

We passed a couple of parties coming up from Rogers Lake and aimed to stop for a break on the north shore.

Some campers on the hillside had this huge dog off leash that wouldn't stop barking. Livvy had a few nervous glances to make sure it was keeping its distance and then enjoyed a dip in the lake. After the cold wind and low temperatures I was back in a tee shirt enjoying the warmth of the sun.

I felt wiped out when I got back to the car. Livvy drank a little and just as we were setting off a train come through the tunnel. It was a huge coal train about 2 miles long and I knew this would delay us at the rail crossings heading back to Nederland. It was good to be back in civilization. Can't wait to check the idiocy on Twitter.

4,000 feet of ascent in just under 18 miles.

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