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Hiking Hope Pass

August 17, 2015

It’s mid-August which means that things are about to get really real up in Leadville. In honor of the bunch of badasses that are getting ready to take on the beast that is the Leadville Trail 100 run, here is a write up about a little run (that term may be a bit generous …) I did last summer on Hope Pass. Good luck to all the runners racing next weekend and congrats to those who raced the bike a few days ago! 

One weekend last summer I found myself up in the mountains and in need of a long run. I was training for Imogene Pass (which never happened due to a slew of injuries) and wanted to do something long, hard, and high. Being somewhat of an ultrarunning groupie, I decided that I’d go check out Hope Pass. And that I’d take my furry dog with me.

For those of you that aren’t ultra running fangirls, I’ll tell you that Hope Pass is the crux of the infamous Leadville Trail 100 run. It comes smack dab in the middle of the day, when storms are rolling in and runners are getting tired, and as far as I can tell it’s 20 miles of hell. Runners hit the Twin Lakes aid station at around 40 miles into the race, climb to the sky, top out at 12,600 feet, and cruise down a steep and slippery hill to the ghost town of Winfield and the turnaround point at Mile 50.

And then they repeat the whole thing in the other direction.

Sounds hard, right? It is.

I had been wanting to get up there for a while to see what the buzz was about and with a long run on the schedule, I figured it was a perfect time to do it. On the advice of a friend who has done this thing a few times, I started on the Winfield side. The furry dog and I made quick work of the easy, gently rolling section of the Continental Divide Trail that leads to the base of the climb. And then the trail turned skyward and the real hike began.

It was hard, you guys. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but this thing was freaking steep. And if it was kicking my butt on fresh legs (um, it was), I can’t imagine doing it 50+ miles into a 100-mile race. The people that do this for real? They have my utmost respect.

While I was huffing and puffing my way to the top, the Spotty dog was running laps around me. She was doing the infuriating and endearing thing that dogs (and sometimes husbands) do, where they run ahead and look back at you like well, aren’t you coming? I was coming, just not at her pace.

We reached the top of the pass, where it was cold and windy, took a few shots, and headed back down the trail. We made quick and easy work of the top section but slowed considerably near the bottom where things got steep and rocky. By the time we hit the road to Winfield, we were both ready to be done. I was beat and the furry dog had blisters forming on her pads from the hot rocks (this was a hike I wished I had brought booties for). We were beat.

The thought that was stuck in my mind the entire time we were out was that I can’t even imagine doing this twice in the middle of a hundred mile race.

Leadville, for me, is a bucket list race. It’s the race that would easily be my answer if you asked me “If you could finish one stupidly hard event in your life, what would it be?”. I’m not an ultrarunner. Most days I’m barely a runner at all. I’m painfully slow and tend to get injured if I so much as look at my running shoes. My body and heart love the bike more … but there’s just something about Leadville.

Good luck this weekend to all the LT100 racers. You’re all a special kind of crazy!


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