Monday, July 25, 2011

Devils Bedstead and Beyond: Summer Finally Arrives in the High Country

As was general across the mountain west this year, summer took a long time to arrive here in Sun Valley.  The dreary spring gave new energy to the snow gods who were able to hold on to the high country well beyond their usual reign. And while we runners have not necessarily been patient, we've endured a long long wait to visit those trails we've been longing for since last October.

The last ten days or so, it seems we've finally been released - into the wild.

Trail-level view, Fourth of July Lake
And it's been amazing.  Though there are still a few lonesome ridges and shadowed basins above 11,000 ft holding on to some deep snow, the vast majority of routes have opened up, bringing with it that great sense of urgency to run as much, to climb as much as one possibly can before things turn again in early fall. 

Last weekend, I started things off with some fantastic running in the White Cloud Mountains around Fourth of July Lake.  Though I've been in Sun Valley for a while now, I'd never run in this range, and it was nothing short of spectacular - challenging terrain, amazing landscapes, and a lot of sustained high elevation routes.
Looking down on Fourth of July Lake from Ants Basin overlook.

Gang of Four in front of Devils Bedstead West
This past weekend my wife and I made the trek up to Devils Bedstead West (DBW) in the Pioneer Mountains.  The Pioneers dominate the landscape in the Sun Valley area, and are the source of much pointing and yearning: "I want to go to the top of that!"  And that is just what I've felt about DBW since last fall, when AJW, Mike Stevens, Brad Mitchell, and I had our photo taken in front of it at the tail end of their epic "Pioneer High Line" run.

At 11,051 feet, DBW isn't monstrous, but it's pretty tall for Idaho, and the trip to the top has a great mix of soft, wooded singletrack, talus, unparalleled views, and just enough hairball scrambling to remind you how much you love life.

Maxing out my meager scrambling skills on the knife-edge crux
Looking down on Kane Lake from the top.
Family fun.
Finishing off this opening session of summer, I hit the Bald Mountain Trail last night around 7:45pm.  The trail is five miles of runnable singletrack that climbs about 3,200 feet to the top of the Sun Valley ski hill (Baldy).  This time of year it can be overrun with locals and tourists alike and can make for some frustrating running, but the sustained, measured climbing makes it a go-to training and fitness test.

Beginning at the tail end of Sunday night after the down-mountain lifts had closed, I had the hill all to myself, and it became a very special outing.  The 90 degree day cooled quickly in the north slope shadow; I felt really strong, and as the sun began to set the mountain came alive with colors and with animals like I'd never seen before on Baldy.  I thought of a recent Verlyn Klinkenborg piece in the New York Times ("One Fine Day") that perfectly described what things felt like.  He writes about a beautiful summer day on his farm where: "Either everything was sentient along with me, or we were all sharing a vital insentience."

Even for life on the trail it was a rare moment - one of those times that reminds us why we run, why we venture into the wild, and particularly why we do them both together.  

A rare moment in a short season.   Time to stop writing and uncover the next one. 

1 comment:

Gretchen said...

Sweet! Just getting caught up on some of your blog posts.

It's been a short season around here, too - I'm still waiting for the best trails to open! But meanwhile, there is plenty of moderate-elevation beauty to entertain.

Hope your summer finds you time for plenty more mountain running adventures!