Sunday, July 29, 2012

Care to hike Aspen Mountain with me?

I’m glad we got to the Ute trail early – it’s going to be a warm one! Did you bring a water bottle? Great. Camelbak? Even better! You brought some trail mix too? Not a bad idea - we’re going to need some energy, this hike is exhausting! We begin with The Ute Trail. Ascending over 1000 vertical feet in approximately one mile means we’re going to be climbing some steep switchbacks. Watch your footing as this well defined trail has some uneven sections, although for the most part there is good grip under foot. We start by climbing through some low bushes and almost instantly we’re out of breath. Don’t forget our starting elevation is 7,908 feet above sea level, meaning workouts here in Aspen are much tougher than you might think! Soon enough we get some respite in the shade of pine trees. Start sipping that water – once you’re thirsty it’s already too late to maintain proper hydration. Let’s take our time given we’ve got a long way to go! Ute rock marks approximately one third of the hike completed. This is a great rest stop and is the usual turnaround for those seeking a quick workout - you’ll see a lot of locals hiking the Ute trail as it can conveniently be completed on a lunch break. How about that view? From Independence pass all the way down valley, perched high above the downtown core, you can really begin to appreciate how snugly our little town is tucked into these mountains! Onwards and upwards! This next section is tough, with further switchbacks through the trees. You can begin to make out some of the extreme terrain that’s on offer for skiers & snowboarders during the winter season. We emerge from the trees onto a ski run known as Jackpot and begin our climb up onto Gent’s Ridge. A little respite comes in the form of a relatively flat dirt service road, but this won’t last long. As we pass the chairlift affectionately known as “The Couch” for its slow speeds – as in, sit down and make yourself comfortable, this might take a while! - the service road becomes steeper. The good news is we’re two thirds done! Now is not a bad time to stop for a quick snack to regain some energy. Keep those fluids up too, and don’t forget to admire the views back toward the valley floor! The last third of this hike is relentless. The legs are tired and the lungs are hurting, but you can sense you’re almost there! When you reach another dirt road crossing your path, the temptation is to make a turn and enjoy some flatter terrain. We’re not going down that road, though. We’re going to take the single track right in front of us that continues directly up the hill! Soon enough we begin to see the Frisbee Golf Course and people that have ridden the Silver Queen Gondola to the top – which means they have walked down to this point! We can’t be too far away now! Sure enough, there it is! The Sundeck! We’ve made it to the top of Aspen Mountain – an elevation gain of 3304 vertical feet over approximately 3 miles! Less than two hours is a commendable time - Congratulations! Let’s soak in the views, enjoy some lunch and take a free gondola ride back down into town. Can you believe you hiked all the way up here? Enjoy that afternoon nap – you earned it!

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