Hope Pass is, by far, the most intense 21 mile run I have ever done. But the scenery and the knowledge gained by running this section was well worth the stiff legs and a few scrapes and bruises...
The day started out like most others, with various birds notifying me that it was 5:30 AM. Usually I would be able to ignore these miniature alarm clocks, but today one of them decided to make the top of my tent a stage. I made several attempts to scare the bird away by shaking the tent, all to no avail.
So, hopping out of my sleeping bag, I quickly put on shorts and shoes, and went to my car to find the large package of blueberry muffins I had bought the day before. After three of those and a few bottles of water, I made the drive from halfmoon campground to twin lakes, where I would start my journey.
I was a bit worried about how I would perform due to the harsh nature of the terrain. Over 21 miles, the elevation gain totals approximately 5800 feet. But since I wasn't feeling sore, and I had plenty of fuel for the day, I didn't foresee any big problems occurring.
I started out from the parking lot across from the tiny town of Twin Lakes. With my makeshift course map, generously provided by Anton Krupicka, I felt pretty confident in being able to navigate this section with ease. I was wrong. Within 20 minutes, I was lost in a creek bed looking for the next section of trail. After another 20 minutes, I found that the trail was hidden by some brush, but was more or less directly in front of me the entire time. Sometimes things are so simple they become extremely difficult.
Once through the plains surrounding Twin Lakes, you begin a fairly steep climb that does not wane until Hope Pass at 12,600. The view at this point is spectacular since you basically get two gorgeous views, both being framed by the peaks to your right and left. Here is a URL of the view of Leadville from Hope Pass. I would have put it on the blog but it wouldn't upload for some reason. From this point, if you look back you can see basically everything you have just run.
As Anton had warned me the day before, this was the point where your legs take a real beating. He was right. In the span of about 4 miles, you descend 3000 vertical feet of elevation. At the end of the descent I noticed I was pretty low on water. Thankfully, the town of Winfield was only 2.5 miles away. Upon arrival I knew I was in trouble. Winfield, unbeknownst to me, was a mining town that once held a population of 1500. Unfortunately, the town did not prosper much after the gold rush in the early 1900's. This left me with a choice of either dehydrating myself further, or taking a chance with the stream and giardia. Luckily a kind woman noticed my plight and waved me over to take the rest of her bottle of treated water. After a few minutes of talking and learning about the town's history, I was off to Twin Lakes. I had one last look at probably the most beautiful scenery I've seen while out here, and then made my way down the hill to find my car.