Monday, May 09, 2011

Nick's Crosier Mountain Triple-Bagger

I wondered, in last week's post about Pete's Greyrock Six Pack, what awesome running adventure he would dream up next. Well, I didn't have to wait long before the answer came, and not from Pete: this time, Nick was the impetus behind the Crosier Mountain Triple-Bagger, a three-part run using all three Crosier Mountain trailheads.

I didn't have time to summit all three trails, so I planned a Crosier Mountain "Double" instead, summiting from the Garden Gate and Rainbow trailheads, sadly depriving myself of the fun of the trail up from the Glen Haven trailhead. I and 12 other trail-running crazies from the Fort Collins Trailrunners met early Saturday morning at the Garden Gate trailhead, and by 5:40, we were off! The group spread out according to pace, but one cool aspect of the triple-summiting was that on certain sections, runners' paths crossed, so I was rarely alone on the trail.

The Garden Gate segment is the longest, at about five miles, but the scenery changes so often that you hardly notice the miles go by. The trail starts with a few short switchbacks up a meadow, then a few more switchbacks in a forest, and then flattens out a bit in a meadow before climbing again. At about 2.5 miles, you reach a really cool area with lots of boulders and rock formations, followed by a short downhill section before the final climb up Crosier Peak. Near the top, I fell into step with Brian, and talking about the upcoming Bighorn 50-mile race, which we're both running in a few weeks, the time flew by and we soon found ourselves at this sign, which marks the three-way split between the summit trail, the Garden Gate Trail, and the trail that descends toward the Glen Haven and Rainbow trailheads:
This sign, and a cairn at the side of the trail, mark the spot where you turn left to summit.
From this point, it's about 1/2 mile to the top, and fairly steep the whole way. Summiting together, Brian and I took in the awesome view:

The summit, at 9,250 feet, isn't all that high, but it offers an impressive vista of higher peaks. Panning left to right, you can see Mt. Meeker, Longs Peak, Storm Peak, McHenrys Peak, Thatchtop, Taylor Peak, Otis Peak, Hallett Peak, Flattop Mountain, Stones Peak, Sundance Mountain, Mt. Chiquita, Ypsilon, Fairchild, Mummy Peak, Hagues, Dunraven, and Stormy Peak. We were really lucky that it was such a clear day. Brian and I also snapped a photo of ourselves "looking totally epic" at the top, but alas, it and three or four other photos I'd taken on the way up seem to have been deleted when my camera slipped from my hands later on, partway down the Rainbow trail.

The trail descending toward the Rainbow trailhead is a wide road through fairly dense forest, and it felt great to cruise downhill after all that climbing.
Pasque flowers lined the trail.
Descending toward the Rainbow trailhead, I crossed paths with Nick, Sam, and Scott as they climbed back up toward the summit. I also met up with Chris, who was just starting his run from the Rainbow trailhead. I tagged the parking lot at Rainbow, then headed back up to the Crosier summit, crossing paths with Brian and Alex A., who were not far behind me (and who both managed to finish the triple-bagger -- way to stick it out, gentlemen!)

Heading back up toward the summit, a beautiful dusky grouse crossed paths with me a couple times. This climb was steeper, but much shorter than the Garden Gate ascent, and somehow felt a lot easier. The sun came out and before long I was back at the three-way intersection to Crosier's summit. Here, I started to feel the effects of all the morning's climbing; this last half-mile push to the top definitely felt tougher the second time around! I met Chris, who was coming down from the summit. It's amazing how a few encouraging words exchanged between runners can help you push to the top!

I snapped a final summit pic & headed back to the parking lot.
That's Fairchild, Mummy, Hague's, Rowe, & Dunraven peaks that you see just off my left ear.

It was an awesome, awesome morning. Thanks, everyone, especially Nick, who managed to finish his "Crosier Triple Bagger" not long after I finished my double. I'll definitely make this a springtime tradition, and plan to do the full triple next year.
Here's my run profile for the double:

Pete put together this elevation profile of the triple, re-posted on Nick's blog. Very cool!

See you on the trail!
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