– Four Pass Loop-
August 20th I got up just before 5am to catch a flight to Grand Junction for a 3 day “photo camp” event with Trail Runner Magazine. I had purposely scheduled an early flight so I could get in early enough to run the epic “four pass loop”. The four pass loop circumnavigates the Maroon Bells over 27 miles traveling over 4 high alpine passes and climbing around 8,000ft of vertical in the process. I have backpacked this loop once by myself in the fall and another time for a bachelor party trip. I would agree with many others that this is one of the “best” loop hikes in Colorado. After 7 hours of flying and driving I was on a one-way bus ride to start a go at the legendary loop. Currently Ricky Gates holds the FKT for this loop set last August in a time of 4:35 traveling in a counterclockwise direction with Anton owning the second fastest time of 4:47.
I was a bit tired from the traveling and less than acclimated for the 12K foot passes living in Missoula (3,200ft elevation), but I was more concerned with having fun and getting a great run in. I started at 3pm knowing I would finish just before dark (hopefully) and have to catch a ride 9 miles back to my car as the buses stop running at 5pm. Over the first pass I was just ahead of Ricky’s FKT split and just a couple minutes off at Snowmass Lake, but after that my climbing strength was not there and I wasn’t interested in making the day’s run a race effort outing. I felt very slow and challenged, probably due to the altitude and a lot of good training the week before, on the climbs, but super fast and springy on the down hills. It rained on and off for my entire run making footing less than great, but I enjoyed the cool damn weather and the clouds were high enough that the views were still awesome. On the last descent I pushed a bit harder thinking about beating Tony’s time, but things got technical and muddy and I didn’t think it was worth a bad fall. I finished the loop in 4:49 minutes just 2ish minutes behind Tony’s time for a great long run effort. I ran for a few additional miles before catching a ride with some ladies finishing a late hike.
I had the great opportunity to participate in Trail Runner Magazine’s first annual “Photo Camp”. This camp is for aspiring photographers to hone in their trail running photo skills with some help from a number of great photographers in the beautiful mountains near Paonia Colorado. For 3 nights and 3 days we found great places to photograph and Jen, several Trail Runner Mag employees and I ran back and forth while campers got great shots. Jen and I also did some work with Scott who was doing some video work for Hoka. It was both hard work and great fun, I got to meet some really awesome people who love the outdoors, photography and running on trails. Trail Runner Magazine is an amazing organization, I was very impressed with how many employees were on site and how cool they all were. I would recommend this camp to any photographer looking to improve their skills. I look forward to doing this event next year.
There is now a world championship circuit for 100K+ trail runners. Most points scored at 3 of these following events will be crowned champion:
January 19 – Vibram Hong Kong 100
March 1 – The North Face Transgrancaria (Spain)
March 15 – Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon (New Zealand)
April 5 – Marathon des Sables (Morocco)
April 26 – Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji (Japan)
June 28 – Western States 100 (USA)
June 28 – The North Face Lavaredo Ultra Trail (Italy)
August 29 – The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (France/Italy/Switzerland)
What do I think? I’ve run Tarawera and really enjoyed that race and unless I win the Hardrock lottery I plan on doing Western or Lavaredo and UTMB. There is always room for improvement, especially considering it is brand new. The tour is obviously dominated by TNF and Vibram, but there are some other races that might join. More exposure and competitiveness can be a good thing for the sport. I need to get a good RRR 100 in as I am certainly lacking in the 100K and longer distance race experience or credibility. I certainly didn’t get a personal invite for the free travel, entry and lodging for the tour!