Monday, July 22, 2013

Grandeur Peak

While taking a trip to Utah last week, I decided to hustle my way up to the top of Grandeur Peak, using the steeper trail from the west.  Eric has generously encouraged me to call this activity "running."

I decided to hit the trail before dawn, figuring that nobody would be around to see this slow East Coaster make his way up the mountain.  But as I got out of my car and got my bearings, a couple of trucks pulled up, and some guys jumped out, started their watches, and began running toward the trail.  There was no chance I'd be keeping up.

I nearly did turn my activity into a real run, though, when I missed the Grandeur Peak trailhead and just kept jogging along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail.  After about five minutes, it hit me that this wasn't what a 29% grade was supposed to feel like.  I turned around and found my way to the single track trail that went straight up that mountain.

Within 1/2 mile I was huffing and puffing pretty hard.  I looked at my watch and found I was only 800 feet.  2,500 more feet to go.  I decided if I was going to make it to the top, I'd better stop and take more pictures along the way.  Luckily, 2013 has been an unusually wet year for Utah, and the trailside was covered in green and flowers, so I had plenty of opportunity.

A half mile from the the top, I spotted the two dudes who had beat me out the gate, now tearing down the trail toward me.  I stepped off the trail to let them pass, and they stepped off at the same time to let me pass.  "I don't like to let strangers see my fall on face," one of them offered.  "That's why I came alone," I countered.

Still closer to the top, I heard a click-click behind me, and turned around to see a guy speeding to toward me using mountaineering poles.  How long he had been following me, I had no idea.  I was grateful to take yet another break and let him pass.  I would see him again on his way down.

Other than some amazing views, the top of the peak was pretty unremarkable.  I lingered for a while, looking at Salt Lake City from a kilometer up, then turned back down the trail.

Coming back down didn't take much energy.  It was all about coordination, trying not to fall while letting gravity do the rest.  I did fall once (not on my face, luckily) but that's because I was trying to take a drink of water while running, instead flailing my arms around to the sides like a maniac.  Of course, I also took more pictures on the way down.

Other than the steep grade, the trail was not overly technical.  It had its rocky moments, and was grown over with scrub oak in a few place.  My Brooks Cascadias did a great job of biting into the loose trail and keeping me from sliding down the trail.   Impressively, I didn't see even the tiniest piece of trash on this popular trail.  We in the East could take a lesson from Utah.  (Now, if only Utahns would learn the meaning of switchbacks...)

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