Pawnee-Buchanan Pass Loop

Not to be confused with the Buchanan-Pawnee Pass Loop. Another direction means another adventure entirely. A group of 5 of us decided to give this loop a go clockwise this time: hitting up Pawnee Pass first, then Buchanan Pass and finishing it off with the final nameless 1500′ climb around Mt Audubon.

The view from Lake Isabelle was spectacular, as always, but missing a certain… lake! Apparently they drained the water to fill some of the watersheds down below. Our end-of-summer drought is taking its toll.

Even the top of Pawnee Pass was a dismal shade of burnt orange:

Nevertheless, we enjoyed the clear skies and rocky descent down the western side of Pawnee:

I was pleased to actually be able to run without getting blown over and with a clear view of everything around me! Somehow that made this time around much easier (and more pleasant albeit a bit more ‘ordinary’) than last time

I love the dramatic shadow of the shark-tooth ridgeline of Pawnee Peak and Pawnee Pass looking down on, well, Pawnee Lake, of course!

Here’s that view of the western cirque leading up to Pawnee Pass that we couldn’t see last time we were heading up this way. Gorgeous!

The descent from 12,500′ to 8,800′ and then the ascent back up to 11,900′ (and then back down to 9,800′ back up to 11,400′ and back down to 10,500′) was uneventful (no Scott Jurek sighting this time) but super enjoyable. It was quiet and peaceful and I loved spending these hours immersed in the mountains. Here’s one final look westward before we crested Buchanan Pass and finished off the final 10 miles on the eastern side.

It’s not a proper day in the high country without some high country cloud drama:

In the end, the 27 mile loop rounded out to about 30 miles and the expected 7.5 hours turned into more like 9.5 as we ran back to check-up on some runners who were either lagging behind or who took a wrong turn. It’s a reminder of how hard mountain running can be and the importance of not running alone. Thankfully everyone persevered, no one complained and the only thing bruised were a couple of egos.

Despite the unexpected additional mileage and being out there for a few hours too long, I felt pretty good. My uphill legs weren’t quite as spunky as they usually are (might have to do with the fact that I’ve run two marathon+ distances this week… and done 5 marathon+ runs in the past, oh, I don’t know, 5 weeks…) but their endurance did not fail me and their recovery continues to impress me.

And speaking of running a lot of marathon-distances in a row: I am so inspired by Ryan & Ben’s day 1 result at the TransAlps run (9th place overall and 1st place out of the USA teams!) but need to not get too carried away with mimicking their Alpine mountain mileage Rocky Mountain-style as I’ve got my “A” race coming up in 2 weeks… taper time = no fun time :-(

Keep on running strong team ‘Ryjamin’ (or do you prefer ‘Smilsestuen’?)! And Ryan, I hope you packed a Scottish flag to clarify that your nationality is not Texan… ;-)


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