Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Lyell Canyon, Donahue Pass, Ansel Adams Wilderness

After TRT, I wanted to switch gears and run/explore more in places that races don't go.  I also wanted to race less to get rid of the time pressure, but still cover ultra distances.  Because of good timing with a work trip, I was able to put together a long mountain run pretty quickly.  I went with this route because it's well traveled and has a flat start/finish in case something didn't go well.  I was trying a number of new things on this run, many for the first time (trekking poles, dealing with a water filter, carrying significantly more weight, testing an emergency beacon, and going 2000 feet higher in altitude than I have previously on a run, past 11,000 feet).

I beat myself up, in a great way.  I kept a hard effort until the return to the valley floor, but my legs were dead by then.  I speed hiked it back in, by conscious choice rather than out of necessity, since I wanted to be able to walk the next day.  

Lyell Canyon is fairly flat, but at over 8000 feet.  There were many backpackers waking up as I jogged up the valley.  

At the head of the valley, there's a fairly abrupt change to rather technical trail that transitions from rock and dirt into rock steps and rock pieces and more strewn-about pieces of rock, over the next 1000 feet of climbing.  There's a great valley here with a small mountain lake/pond that's fed by the Lyell glacier.  

Then it's more climbing up Donahue pass, in which you encounter more rock stairs, even more rock pieces, and rubble and stuff that all kind of defines the trail.  I didn't actually run much up here, given the terrain and altitude.  

At the pass, at 11,000 feet, there's an abrupt change of views as you enter Ansel Adams wilderness.  

Dropping through more rock for a few miles, things change into the more rock-and-pool-with-mountain-backdrop environment we associate with photography from the area.  

I turned around at the Marie Lakes trail, and had a few fun conversations during breaks on the way back, as I was the only runner out for the day that I'm aware of, and I was now passing many backpackers for the second time.  Some of whom were out for a week to cover the distance I did in a day.

A rather unintimidated marmot at Donahue pass.

Mt Lyell again, and the valley below it, later in the day on the return.

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