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Sopris Shuffle

By Ann Driggers

Anybody who follows me on Twitter knows that at least 30% of the photos I post are of Mount Sopris. (The rest are split half between alcholic beverages and other scenic places I visit on various adventures - exciting stuff!!). My love of Sopris is not unusual as most who set eyes upon this peak can attest - it's a pretty compelling sight here in the Roaring Fork Valley, rising to almost 13,000 feet and with great prominence from the surrounding area. I have climbed it many times but all, bar one, have been in the spring when covered in snow and I skied down which was the real reason for climbing in the first place. That being said there is nothing quite like being on a lofty summit, even if you have to hike down, and I decided it was about high time I got myself up there.

So this Sunday morning I rolled out of bed and headed on up, determined to see how fast I could make it to the summit. The method best employed for me is to alternate between running and  speed hiking depending upon the terrain, a technique I like to call the marmot shuffle.

As I set off up the trail the sun rose, casting long shadows through the aspen forests and across the meadows glistening with rain from the previous night's monsoon. It was a gorgeous morning. The sky became an incredible cerulean blue, it's reflection in the millponds of Thomas Lakes almost seemed as though the world had flipped upside down.

The switchbacking trail up the north east ridge remained runnable and so my only chance to draw breath was to stop and take photos. Here Thomas Lakes from tree line:

Despite being slowed on steeper more rugged terrain on the ridge, I was suprised, and pleased, I made it to the summit in one hour and 50 minutes from the trailhead, a distance of 6.5 miles and 4,600 feet of climbing. Not too shabby for a shuffling marmot! In fact this was the fastest I had ever climbed Sopris. A marmot shuffle PR!

Summit cairn:

Looking north down the Laundry Chutes off the east summit is the rock glacier:

Mount Sopris has one of the best examples of a rock glacier in the US. More info can be found on NASA's website here.

I spent a half hour or so hanging out on the summit all alone, enjoying the 360 degree views before heading back down. I ran into a nice group of lads who took a photo of me running off the summit ridge:

With my orange top I think I look like a yellow bellied marmot. Here's the real deal:

This little guy was hanging out on the saddle overlooking Avalanche Creek drainage and with views of Capitol Peak in the distance. He seemed quite undisturbed by my very close presence as I shuffled on by, which only leads me to believe he recognized a compadre.

In the end it took me almost as long to get down as it did to go up. Which just goes to show I'm much better off with skis on my feet. But also that I can improve on my time. I may well be shuffling on up there again soon to see if I can do just that.


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