Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Rito Alto Four Pass Loop

I first heard about the Rito Alto Four Pass loop from an REI hiking app on my phone.  $100 and I had been exploring the Sangres outside of Westcliffe this summer, and this seemed like a great loop to do.  We finally got after it this past weekend.

We left the Springs on Friday at 5:30PM and got to the Comanche/Venable trailhead about two hours later.  The sun was setting, so we were only able to hike about half a mile to meet up with the Rainbow Trail before we had to set up camp.  Very chill night with a fire and a few PBRs.

Next morning we were up around 6AM and on the trail by seven.  You follow the Rainbow Trail for about four miles until you come to Hermit Pass road.

Hermit Pass Road is definitely a road, if not one most people would take their vehicle on.  But it's easy to follow if you're hiking.  On a beautiful Saturday aftenooon we saw three other vehicles, a Jeep Wrangler and two other go-kart looking things.  Not very busy at all.

We were right at treeline around 11:30AM and there were some ominous clouds up higher, so we decided to break for lunch.  Ate some Mountain House grub, I think my first meal of dehydrated food since my Army days.

The standard for this loop is beautiful views no matter what direction you look.  A few more on our way up to the high point of the hike, Hermit Pass:

Here is $100 arriving at the top of the pass:

At the top of Hermit Pass you jump some big rocks placed there to prevent vehicles from going any farther.  The trail is fairly obvious as you drop in elevation pretty quickly.

After a mile or so of downhill, the trail kind of peters out and you need to do some cross country for another mile.  Not difficult, as you can see the pass you need to get to.

Somewhere between Hermit Pass and Eureka Pass is the second pass of this hike.  It's not far after Hermit, and it's fairly insignificant as I didn't even think about it until heading up to Eureka.

After a 16 mile day, over 8.5 hours, on pretty rough trail, we were all beat and staring up at the last pass, Venable Pass.  We had hoped to make it to Venable Lake to camp, but we knew that would mean another two hours of hiking just to set up camp in the dark.  So we decided to call it a day around 5PM.

I have been stalking Ted M on his blog as he and his wife have spent a lot of time in the Sangres, and when he is not trying to crush some KOM he does some more leisurely stuff, and he always has what he calls "happy hour" before turning in for the night.  Not my usual happy hour of seeing how much booze I can consume between 5PM and 6PM, but a nice relaxing end to the day.  We had our own happy hour as we brewed some coffee and had a few sips of whiskey.  And a tiny bit of fireball.  You can see our tent in these pics.

Sunday morning was another late-ish start (I'm usually up before 5AM on weekdays, here we slept past 6AM each day) and we headed up Venable Pass.  Took us just under an hour.

From Venable Pass it's roughly six miles back to the trailhead on easy to follow trail.  The trail intersects with the Comanche trail and we thought about taking that to add a few miles, but we decided not to press our luck.

Stopped for coffee and jerky at the last of three Venable Lakes.

A few waterfalls on the way back.  First a smaller one:

 This is the trail the last five or so miles of the loop.  Very easy to follow:

Venable falls.  Awesome place and this picture does not do it justice.

Overall this was a great hike I'd put up against most of the other more famous hikes in Colorado.  23.5 miles total, most of it at or above treeline.  We spent two nights outside, giving us a good chance to start figuring out what to carry for the Colorado Trail.  My pack was pushing 40 pounds when we started, and $100's was over 30.  The dog carried her own food the entire way, three pints of dog food per day plus various treats.  Would like to cut our pack weight down by five pounds each, gives me something to work on this winter.

The two days we took was fun, though that 16 mile day was pretty big for us.  Getting out there a bit earlier on Friday to get a few more miles in would have made things much easier.  Once I'm rich and famous and don't have to worry about a job I think the perfect schedule would be to camp towards treeline on Hermit Road, then below Eureka Pass, then at Venable Lake.

It would also be a great loop to run, though I would say it will take you longer than you think.  My guess is that it would take me a good eight hours of my usual not-walking-but-not-pushing-too-hard ultra pace.  Lots of water along the loop, but damn if you get into trouble out there between Hermit Pass and Venable Lake it's going to be tough to get help.  We did not see a single person on that part of the hike.  Although I did notice that with verizon I had good service for almost all of the entire loop.

No brewery in Westcliffe to celebrate at, so we hit Florence Brewing on the way home for some well deserved beers.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

bike commute 59/CityRock 44

Good day on the bike.  Early ride over to CityRock before heading to the office.  Then a nice lap around Red Rock Canyon in the evening.

Hit 1400 miles running on the year yesterday.  Will go over 2000 miles on the bike next time I ride.

Monday, August 28, 2017

run commute 42

First run since Pikes.  Four miles to work, five miles home.  Very easy.

Also took the dog on a nice hike after work.  We explored some of the Garden we don't go to often, then ended up at the Buffalo Bicycle Lodge for a few brews.  2.3 miles.


Back from the Sangres and we had an excellent hike.  I'll post more stuff on that when I get time.  24 miles over two days.  The dog had the time of her life.

I spent quite a few long weekends down in Houston during my Texas time and still have a lot of friends down there.  So I'm pretty sad seeing all the flood pics.  Except for this one:

A friend who just crashed at my house last week was riding her bike on I-10, which is closed to traffic as a lot of it is under water, saw these guys playing beer pong.  Luckily she lives in one of the higher portions of Houston, the Heights, and her house hasn't been flooded.  Her husband has been out in his canoe moving folks from their houses to safer land.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Rito Alto Loop or bust!

Heading down to Westcliffe to try to hike the Rito Alto Four Pass Loop.  Want to explore the area, and just as importantly we want to start getting out shit together for the Colorado Trail in '18.  Will leave the trailhead around 7PM on Friday and do a short hike before setting up camp, then do a big day on Saturday before crashing, then another few miles on Sunday morning.  23ish miles total.

The dog is super excited!


Great trip down to Salida on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Ate some Moonlight, visited Benson's, The Vic, Elevation, and Soulcraft, saw a pretty brutal fight outside of the Vic, and rode Monarch Crest.  Good times!

Thursday, August 24, 2017


I have listened to every show Gov't Mule has played this year, but nothing beats seeing them live.  So I sure wasn't going to miss them at Red Rocks.  Especially with Yonder opening up.  Such a great show!

Mule crushed it and was definitely the highlight of the evening, but I thought it was cool when Yonder covered Wild Side.

Monday, August 21, 2017


Well, it sure went a lot better than last year!

Fairly happy with my weekend given the fact that I haven't been feeling right since BTMR.  3:29:40 for the Ascent, 5:45:23 for the Marathon.

Worked hard all day on the Ascent, pretty much found a groove from the start that kept me right on the line of going as fast as I could without blowing up.  Same with the ascent on the Marathon, which I got in 3:37.  Only portion of the Marathon I wasn't happy with was from the top down to Barr Camp.  Perhaps remembering last year, I was way too cautious.  Did that portion in 69 minutes.  Knew I would have to get serious after Barr if I wanted to break six hours, so I really crushed it from there.  Barr Camp to the finish in just under an hour.

I always think of myself as an uphill guy and almost proudly talk of how much I suck on the downhill.  But in reality, I had the 87th best marathon ascent, and the 83rd best descent on the day, even with the lackluster first half of the downhill.

Will definitely be back next year.  We are planning on finishing up our Colorado Trail hike as close to race weekend as possible.  Want to see how I do with two months of zero running but tons of weighted, high altitude mountain hiking.

$100 finished the Ascent in 5:16.  She does not share my plans for next year.

Melissa M got this pic of me finishing on Saturday.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

run commute 40/Denver

Quick 4.2 miles to work on Tuesday.  Coming home I decided to explore Sondermann Park.  Really digging that place.  School must be starting soon as I saw the Coronado XC team out there doing hill repeats.

Spent Friday and Saturday night up in Denver.  On Colfax.  Did the Velorama thing on Friday and a Colfax Pub Crawl on Saturday.  Accomplished a bucket list goal when I closed down Sancho's on Friday and opened Nob Hill at 8AM on Saturday.  Two new breweries, the Denver Beer Co. 6th anniversary, and a ton of dive bars.  Good times!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

run commute 39

Swamped with all kinds of BS this week, but I did run to work on Monday.  Still hungover, even for the run home.  4.2 miles there, 4.0 miles home.

While I was trolling Colfax, $100 went down to Front Range BBQ on Saturday to preview the Dirty Bourbon River Show, who is also playing the Zion Music Fest we will be attending in late September.  And she ended up bringing the entire band home.  Seriously, they needed a place to stay, and they stayed at our house Saturday night.  The polaroid even made their insta page.

They left two CDs and two joints to say thanks.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Colorado Classic

Had a great day on Thursday as I bailed on work to watch the big bike race come to town.  After a solid 13 mile run in the morning I went over to the top of Ridge Road in the Garden for a few laps.  Then I went down to Front Range BBQ for a few more laps.  Then Benny's.  Then I met $100 at the race festival downtown, which unfortunately was a failure due to very heavy rain.