Tuesday, August 1, 2017

West Elks

I'm getting quite close to my trip, and I had a bit of a set-back.  Or maybe that's not really the right word for it—my friend and hiking companion had to bow out just recently.  My original plan had been to go to the Wind Rivers in August.  I changed it to the Maroon Bells Four Pass Loop, in part to accommodate him.  So, when he bowed out, my first thought was... can I go back to my original plan?

I think the answer there has to be no; it's too soon; today is already August 1st.

But it is causing me to second guess.  As much as the 4-passer looks great, it's also very popular, and I'm afraid of the crowds.  Probably once you get past Maroon Lake itself, it's not so bad, but the leaf season, especially on the weekends, is crazy.  According to everything I've read, anyway.  Also; the Four Pass Loop has quite a bit of elevation gain, and honestly—I didn't do nearly as good a job getting in shape as I'd hoped to.  With my friend hiking with me to push me, I'd probably have been fine, but I'm second-guessing if I want to do a loop that's so difficult now.  With the Four Pass Loop, I gain nearly 3,000 feet in under five miles right off the bat... ouch!  Then I drop and regain again another 1,600 over the next five miles, and then drop and regain again another 2,100 feet over the next seven miles.  Then I finally stay relatively high for a little while before dropping back to my starting point, but the next elevation gain on this loop is over 7,500 feet.  I have to admit; I'm a little intimidated by that!

So, I have another loop that I've come up with nearby in the West Elks, near the Castles (I'd still do my Castles spur too) that is about the same mileage, but only about half the elevation gain—mostly because the trailhead starts a bit higher, leaving less that needs to be done by foot.  But also because it just doesn't go quite as high.  The four pass loop has four passes over 12,000 feet, after all.

So, I've now got a slightly less intense alternative.  I'm considering it, because I'm worried that I'm over-confident in my ability to really do the four passes without being miserably out of breath and with my legs feeling like jelly.

(Maybe I should quit typing now and go take a walk, by the way.)

So I don't know yet what I'll do.  I mean, heck—I can decide at literally the last minute if I want to.  They're really close together, after all.  But I like the fact that I have options.  Although maybe it's not a good thing, as it encourages me to not push myself.  I do have plenty of time to tackle the Four Pass Loop, after all.  At only 25 miles long, I could do as little as averaging five miles a day and still be fine.  Not that I want to be that slow.  On the other hand, if I'm really fast, I could do both loops, in theory.