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Cameron Cone & Snowy Green Mt.10/27/2011

The route on Cameron Cone.

Yesterday I finally made it up one of the more prominent peaks in the Colorado/Manitou Springs area.  One of the things I really enjoy about Boulder is its triumvirate of legitimate backyard summits.  Green Mountain, Bear Peak and South Boulder Peak all rise authoritatively and abruptly from the edge of town for close to three thousand vertical feet and each has an appropriately direct route up its eastern aspect.

On the other hand, in Colorado Springs, although there is the staggeringly obvious and commanding summit of Pikes Peak, it’s not exactly a run-up-it-before-work type of mountain (because I enjoy sleeping, 2-2h30 outings are the longest I will consistently log before 9am on a weekday).  There are several 2000′-3000′ climbs to be enjoyed in the area, but none of them have the obvious destination of a true mountain summit at the top: the top of the Incline is still about 700 vertical feet below the awkward and seldom-visited summit of 9250′ Rocky Mountain; Barr Trail offers the logical turn-around points of either No Name Creek (8800′) or Barr Camp (10,200′), but neither have expansive 360 degree views; Longs Ranch Road does no more than crest the saddle between the uninspiring Mount Manitou and the aforementioned Rocky Mountain; Jones Park (9100′) is stuck in an aspen grove with higher peaks rising all around; finally, one can climb High Drive to 8300′ Buckhorn Mountain (as I have done hundreds of times), and while the views are great, it hardly feels like a real summit as the Captain Jacks trail continues climbing far above this ridge.

Cameron Cone, however, breaks all aspects of this frustrating local pattern.  At 10,707′ it towers nearly 4500′ above downtown Manitou Springs and the standard route takes less than five miles to ascend that vert (to get from a ~6500′ trailhead to 10,700′ anywhere else in the region requires almost eight miles of trail).  The main problems are that this “standard route”– despite being surprisingly well-developed with remarkably nice tread at least 80% of the way — is not a Forest Service-sanctioned trail and the very beginning of the route is rather inconveniently blocked by the Cog Railway tracks at the base of Englemann Canyon (the same canyon from where the Barr Trail embarks). Nevertheless, my trip up the Cone yesterday revealed it to be just about everything I could want in a daily summit type of mountain.  I can guarantee that its path sees little to no traffic at all in the winter, though, so there would almost certainly be a ton of trail-breaking if one were to turn this peak into his or her daily vigil, but I think it would be worth it.

Typical tread below 8200′ Gog/Magog Ridge.
Gog.
The Cone with 2000′ down and 2500′ of vert still to go.
Trail becomes rougher closer to the summit, but marked by ribbon.
Martin on Cam’s summit.

And then, of course, it snowed last night.  Quite a lot.  This morning’s trip up and down Green Mountain was particularly enjoyable as a result.  There seemed to be almost three times as much snow on the summit as what was on Boulder’s streets, but this just made the downhill that much more enjoyable, and maybe my first completely pain-free running descent in the last nine months.  Of course, biking back home with slush spraying everywhere was a little less euphoric.

35 responses to “Cameron Cone & Snowy Green Mt.”

  1. David says:

    Awesome, thanks for sharing the pics!

    Any thoughts 2012 race schedule?

  2. mtnrunner2 says:

    “Winter” has finally come to the Front Range. Of course the snow will probably melt by next week.

    I was Googling like mad last year trying to learn more about that mountain (Cameron) because of the cascades of bright orange rock on the northern ridge, i.e. Sheep Mountain. Never did learn much, which I thought was amazing because the color is pretty striking from the Barr Trail. Looks like some sweet running trail, versus the beautiful but crowded Barr.

  3. One thing no one can take from you is your authentic yearning for the mountains. I swear though, from your adventures it seems as though you never sleep let alone find solace in it. Beautiful snaps as always. I appreciate the stills of the trail surfaces, it enables us all to live through your lens. Much appreciated. Great to hear about that pain-free ascent. Keep it up.

  4. Those rocks are something out of this world. Waiting for the winter in Finland to experience more challenging environment and weather to fill my blog with cruelsome action pics. And laughing on top of it.

  5. The pics are incredible, thanks for posting them. Allows for us east coasters to see true vertical, albeit captured on a camera tucked in your waistband, nonetheless still magnifying. Had a question: love the fact you bike to and from places (even in snow apparently), but how far is it to and from the trailheads you bike to? Do you ever account for that in your training? Perhaps it helps give you some cross training, I don’t know. Just curious as to how many miles you are logging with real transportation I guess. Thanks,
    Kevin

  6. Jason says:

    What do you do to keep your toes warm in the snow? Microspikes especially seem to make my toes go numb pretty quick.

  7. avalodesign says:

    A friend and I battled our way up this route today and found the going difficult due to snow cover the majority of the way. We broke trail all day and carefully found our way up despite rarely knowing where exactly the trail was beneath the snow (5-10 inches deep). How this could be a daily running vigil (especially in the winter), and one which is completed before 9:30am is beyond me. Much of the grades are steep, perhaps 40-50 degrees. Can anyone run the entire route up and down?

  8. Anton says:

    David – My 2012 race schedule all depends on when I can get completely healthy, but the early summer focus will be either Hardrock or Western States, depending on the lottery. If no HR, then I’ll probably focus on early season MUC races leading up to WS. Second half of the summer I’d like to focus on Pikes Peak Marathon and Wasatch, but Wasatch also depends on a lottery. If no Wasatch, I’ve thought about giving Nolan’s 14 a serious shot in early September. Finally, I’m hoping to get over to Le Grand Raid Reunion (La Diagonale de Fous) in October. Also, if no HR, considering Angeles Crest in July. So, lots of possibilities bouncing around in my head.

    Kevin – The trailhead I usually bike to (for Green) is just a little over a mile away, and while it’s all uphill, I don’t really factor it into my “training”. I live literally two blocks from trails, but they take a more gradual route to Green’s summit; occasionally I’ll bike to the TH for Bear Peak, which is ~4mi away. My office on campus is ~2.5mi away and along with going to the grocery store or running errands around town I probably usually hit about 10mi/day of biking. But, it’s all pretty casual commuter style and I hardly think of it as “training”.

    Jason – I wear socks. I don’t usually have too much of a problem with cold toes.

    Avalodesign – I’m sure Cameron is much more difficult in the snow, but there definitely weren’t any 40-50 degree slopes on the route I took! There MIGHT have been some 40 PERCENT grades near the summit, the last couple hundred feet of vert, but they were short-lived. I can imagine route-finding would be tough in the snow–part of the fun for me in the mountains is getting to know a place well enough that I learn every twist and turn in the route. That would be the goal for me on Cameron if I ever moved back to Manitou. I think running every step of Cameron in the snow would be quite difficult, but it’s definitely possible in dry conditions. Like I said, the last couple hundred feet are pretty steep and I’m sure I could hike them about as fast as anyone could attempt running them anyways. I’m not fixated on being able to run every step of a route–I like finding the most efficient mode of bipedal travel to get me to the summit and think there is value and satisfaction in simply becoming proficient on mountain terrain, no matter what style that takes.

  9. AshleyD says:

    Love the bike in the snow! Awesome

  10. Tony…my friend and I were geezering up the icy Green trail when you and your cohorts blew by us, then encountered you again on your descent when you exchanged greetings with a buddy (“Shouldn’t be runing today…”), which is where I learned your name and deal. I was fairly dressed for the day, inc. microspikes and windblock jacket, but you guys seem to shun foot traction or hypothermia protection. Is it youth and peak fitness (I’m 70 and a year round chronic trail /back country mountain rat) that makes you impervious to the elements and missteps? I like your Lieh Tzu quote. I’m a Taoist trekker. Best of luck in your cruising!

  11. mtnrunner2 says:

    >Microspikes… my toes go numb

    Jason – Can’t speak for Tony, but I’d try 1/2″ longer in the shoes and wool socks (medium-weight like SmartWool Street Hikers, not the really thick ones). Your toes will thank you on downhills too.

  12. Anton, thanks for clarifying “PERCENT”, that was what I meant. We probably lost the trail and ended up scrambling some terrain which would have been avoidable if we knew/could find the trail – plus, I don’t have a built in slope-ometer. The ribbons were a great help near the top.

    Now you’ve really tweaked my brain. Thinking that it is humanly possible to run up and down Cameron’s Cone is intimidating to me. I’ve been pleased w/myself for running around Waldo w/o walking or starting at Red Rock Open Space and nearly making the top of Sec 16 w/o walking. This gives me a better appreciation for what it is mountain runners really can do, and I’m sure it is only a small sliver of what events like Western States throw at participants – amazing.

    Thanks for the blog and the intense inspiration. I’m going to make running up Cameron’s Cone a training goal next spring/summer. – Brian

  13. Bruce Downs says:

    Do you have your actual route posted? Like other Colo Spgs trail runners, I know the Manitou trails well, but not Cameron Cone. I’d love to use your route as a guide and give it a shot.

  14. Love the pics. Thanks for posting them. Also loved your thoughts about just liking being around like minded people. Even though I am no where near the same place as you are in my running life, I still have the same thoughts. It’s fun just to gather with other runners and do what we love together.

  15. Nick Johnson says:

    I’m looking to conquering this peak sometime soon….would you be willing to share your gpx/kmz track?

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