Sunday, September 26, 2010

Comanche Wilderness Loop

The day's loop (in red): 23 miles, 4,500'. Click to enlarge. Map from

Got up to Pingree Park with Pete yesterday morning for a little more recon on our proposed Comanche 50 mile race route. We have an amazing loop just about figured out that looks like it will come in at around 51 miles with a touch over 10,600' of climb and a high point in the low 11,000' range. This race will happen next year, if the Forest Service is willing, but probably as a very low-key test run with a small group. If all goes well, and assuming we can get the necessary permits, we'll look to put the race on for real in 2012.

Current thinking on the 'Comanche Peaks 50' (not the loop described in the video below, which would involve running in RMNP: Problematic with regards to permitting).

Anyway, the loop yesterday was counterclockwise from the Beaver Creek trailhead: Fish Creek - Little Beaver Creek - Flowers - Browns Lake - Beaver Creek for approximately 23 miles and 4,500' of climb. The opening stretch on the two creek-side trails were about as mellow and pleasant as is possible in the higher mountains out here. Fish Creek descended about 1,000' over 5 miles, before hooking into Little Beaver Creek which then ascended a symmetrical 5 miles at about the same grade largely under cover of trees. Both creeks were flowing well, and the beavers clearly are very active out here among the pine and aspen, with pond after pond as we ascended to the aptly named Beaver Park.

One of many beaver ponds on Little Beaver Creek.

Looking back down the Little Beaver Creek valley.

Once to Beaver Park - an open meadow with a couple of large beaver ponds - there is a four-way intersection with the Flowers trail, which we took southwest up the only aggressive climb of the day. The Flowers trail from Beaver Park ascends about 2,500 feet over three or four miles on loose doubletrack. While it was all runnable, I was definitely still feeling some pretty good leg fatigue from Wasatch.

Above Beaver Park.

At about 10,800' there is a small plateau with a cairn marking a side trail to the site of a WWII B-17 crash. I took the time to check out the wreckage before proceeding up to timberline and the two to three mile stretch of ridge running to the Browns Lake intersection. This was the high point of the loop with the ridge rolling between 11,200' and 11,500'.

WWII B-17 Wreck
Cairn showing the way to B-17 site.

From the north side of the valley, Comanche Peak dominates the views to the south. Mummy Pass and a couple of Mummy peaks were also impressive to the southeast, but the vista was definitely all Comanche.


The trail from Flowers dropped a sharp 800' to the Browns Lake cirque, which was thoroughly majestic. This would be a supremely beautiful spot to camp and hang out for a couple of days, but I shot straight through, following the trail that dissected Browns Lake and the smaller Timberline Lake. Sometimes I wish I would take a little more time to enjoy these panoramas, but that's the trade off with trail running, especially the trail running I do, which generally involves maximizing moving time within the time windows I have.

After rolling by the lakes, the trail plummeted another 800 feet or so on steep, loose singletrack to Comanche Reservoir where it intersected the Beaver Creek trail, which taken east completed the loop on a net-downhill, but rolling six mile stretch back to the Beaver Creek trailhead.

This time last year, we'd already had our first snowfall, however this year so far fall has been most pleasant. Fingers crossed for a few more beautiful fall weekends that will allow for a final scout up around Signal Mountain, which is the only section of the proposed Comanche 50 route that is a bit uncertain.


  1. Brilliant notion to stage a 50-miler up your way. Looks like a beautiful place to play.

  2. mmmm... looks tasty. what time of the year are you thinking of running it?

  3. Patrick - late summer for sure as the snow tends to linger up there. We wouldn't want to step on Steamboat's toes, and certainly don't want to get mixed up with the Pikes/Leadville feeding frenzy, so possibly split the two and do it Labor Day. The other option would be to hold it three or four weeks out from Leadville as an alternative to the Silver Rush 50, which from what I understand is not the most inspired of courses.

    We'd be looking to go pretty old school on this - keeping the price and frills low, but nailing the important things: well-marked course, adequate support and a kick-ass BBQ at the finish.

  4. GZ- you're in, but you (and all other guinea pigs) will have to sign a no-bitchin' waiver.

  5. No bitchin ... agreed. I will bring some home brew.

  6. it up there, but never got a chance to check out Brown's Lake. Great loop! Let me know about test runs and other help I can provide when I can get up there. Looking forward to it. Although I was happy enough with the Silver Rush course, I like the late July suggestion better than Labor Day (more camping traffic up there, good 3-day wknd to get out of Front Range).

    Looks awesome!

  7. X_______Patrick Garcia____ I want in.

  8. Oh, and there are a number of folks who would like another option to Silver Rush, 5 miles of single-track in 50 is not good enough, not to mention the course is actually 46 miles.

  9. This is a little off-topic, but speaking of Fat Ass, the Front Range reaallly needs a legit one of those following the classic ultra format. Fat Ass = 50K or 50mi sometime in January (right around New Years) that is so low-key it requires neither permits nor entry fee. Just a (maybe marked) course where a bunch of like-minded individuals get together to run roughly in tandem at possibly a little bit quicker than training pace, maaaaaybe an unofficial aid station or two, and usually followed by a potluck. Very much like the BBMM except in January and longer.

    Boulder's OSMP isn't a very good spot for it because of all the regulations, but I could see something very worthwhile happening either up in the Horsetooth area or definitely down in the Springs with just a very little organization and some committment from the trail community. Enough of the COS trails definitely stay runnable year-round that we could find 31mi no problem.

    But, I agree Nick, an actual legitimate 50 miler up there would be cool, too. Doing it the same weekend as Silver Rush would step on the new North Fork 50's toes, too, though.

  10. Tony - a run with friends in the 50k range at Horsetooth would be very easy to put together (and mark). A 50 miler would also be plausible by adding an out and back to Loveland on the Bluesky trail. Start and finish at my front door. Open to ideas in the Springs too.

  11. This race would be incredible! Love the area, it's close to home, and would provide a great race option for whenever you decide to put it on. Would love to get in on the test run, but would be on the slow side of things (11:00+ish), so don't know if that would fit into the test run crowd... either way, I look forward to seeing what this becomes. If you needed help at an aid station or something, I'd be down for that too... And love the direction you seem to be taking it... low frills, but a focus on the important things we look for... well marked, interesting course, good support, etc...

  12. One could also probably put together a 50K course in White Ranch Open Space near Golden. There used to be a 27.5 mile "marathon" called the Danielesque Trail Marathon there. Would be nice to have something long(ish) and informal to keep the motivation up in the dead o' winter.

    Didn't make it to the North Fork 50/50K this year, but I know the course well. Would be nice not to step on the toes of that nascent Front Range race. Has the makings of a great and regular event.

  13. Hi Nick,

    This sounds like a very cool race. I would be very interested in either 'racing' in the test race or helping with support. Also, I own a marketing firm in Fort Collins and would be interested in sponsoring the race and/or donating a web site.

    Let me know how I can help.

    Andy Leach

  14. Michael - I think for the test run, it will be important to have runners of all abilities so we can address possible kinks that might emerge at the front, middle or back of the field, so no worries on that. Thanks for the enthusiasm.

    And Yes, it really would be a great location for a race with some high ridge options, some cool climbs/descents, decent aid access and killer views. In addition, there are amenities out there with CSU, who hopefully we would be able to work with, plus almost unlimited camping options.

    Jim/Tony - Hmm, was not aware of the North Fork race. Once we figure out from the FS if this is even plausible, then I guess we'll start taking a serious look at the calendar.

    On January options, I guess we'll be in the hands of the weather gods to an extent, so it'll be good to have a couple of options with regards to snow conditions, although I'm sure we'll all be dealing with much the same stuff.

    Andy - I didn't realize you were in Fort Collins. I've used your website numerous times for trail and route beta - most notably on the Mummy Traverse. Good stuff. Thanks for the offer. Will definitely get back to you if we get the go-ahead from the FS.

  15. Regarding the winter 50k FA, another good option would be a double loop of Matthew Winters/Green mountain (not that Green Mountain) in Morrison.

    Maybe we should plan a little impromptu series to keep the motivation up throughout the winter months. I have never ran in the Ft. Collins area and only scratched the surface of the springs.


  16. I reckon we're all jumping the gun, but clearly you've tapped into some excitement at the prospect of a FoCo-area 50!

    I'm liking Tony/Todd G.'s idea of an informal Front Range winter series of 50K runs. Dec. - Jan. - Feb - CO Springs - Denver - FoCo.

  17. Todd/Jim - yeah, wheels are already in motion up here on a Horseooth 50kFA.

    The FoCo-area ultra is now looking like it might be a 100k (not too many of those around), but we're still tooling around with route ideas.

  18. I think we should have a series just for the sake of trash talking through the winter months. I am happy to do something down in the Front Range although I think Nov/Dec/Jan would be better since most everyone will be up in Moab in Feb.

  19. I was wondering when the last Danielesque Trail Run was held. Daniel was my brother. Peace, Debra