Sunday, June 27, 2010

Boulder Skyline Traverse - by Moonlight

Time: 4:15ish
Distance: 14.25 miles
Effort: Moderate
Body: Good
Weather: Warm & Humid (for Colorado)

The call went out from JP over a week ago for a full-moon run of the Boulder Skyline Traverse, a route that typically starts at the South Mesa trailhead then heads up and over Boulder's five major peaks, South Boulder, Bear, Green, Flagstaff and Sanitas.   

After a good bit of back and forth and some hand-wringing over the late afternoon storm front that moved through, the plan was finally set. All comers were to meet at Tim L.'s place up on Shanahan Ridge and we'd run from there.

After a final check online of the progress of the Western States 100 Endurance Run,  a group of seven of us headed out around 7:45 p.m. with Tim leading the way south on a series of neighborhood trails to the connection with the Big Bluestem Trail.  Here the climbing began as we made our way to the Mesa Cut-off and eventually to Shadow Canyon.

As the trail turned steep, the group broke up into smaller groups and the climbing began. Paul took off and made quick work of the innumerable step-ups leading up to the saddle between Bear and SoBo Peaks. Jeff, GZ and I quickly formed up and fell into a steady power-hike until just below the saddle where we began jogging again.

The group reformed at the summit of SoBo and out came the smart phones to check in on the progress of Western States. A couple of Twitter users were providing regular updates on the progress of the front runners. Local runners Tony K. and Nick C. were running up front and all of were eager for info on their progress.

As we prepared to descend back to the saddle, the headlamps came out and down we went.  We made quick work of the climb up to Bear, again checked on WS100 progress and headed down the backside of Bear and headed over to Green.

The views down on the night lights of Boulder from the top of Green was serene. We got the news atop Green that Tony had come in second at the WS100 and Nick C., after an epic duel with Kilian Journet had come in fourth. We cruised down to the four-way and descended Ranger and regrouped at the ranger cottage. 

Next up was Flagstaff Mountain. We skirted the true summit on the Ute Trail before hanging a right and descending down to Eben G. Fine park via the Flagstaff and Valley View Trails. It was on the Flagstaff Trail where we finally got our first unobstructed view of the near-full moon. It wasn't quite high enough in the sky, nor bright enough, to run by, but it was beautiful. 

Bythe time we hit Eben G. Fine, it was about 11:30 p.m. The plan had been to run up Sanitas as the evening's capstone, but there was a unanimous consensus to bag the last of peak and head home. There was still, though, one last hill to climb...the Red Rocks hump.

GZ, Jeff, Paul and I set off at a good pace. I'd been feeling good the last four miles or so and wanted to finish on a strong hill surge. Fortunately, everyone else seemed to feel similarly. GZ set a strong pace up the final climb and we topped the hill together with Jeff and Paul right with us.

We jogged down the last hill, picked up the rest of the crew and hopped in the cars and returned to the run's start to head our separate ways.

That was a great night of running. I haven't ever run that long at night. I really enjoyed experiencing familiar trails in a whole new light...or lack of light. And, it was great meeting up with such a great group of runners. 

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