We woke early, hopeful that the window of good weather would stay open for us to reach the summit of James Peak. At 13,294 feet, it would be the highest we had ever run, and after only five days since leaving Ontario, it would be a good challenge.
During the previous days in Colorado we hadn't let the altitude hold us back, but had tried to be smart by sleeping in Boulder for two nights before moving on to St. Mary's at about 10,000 ft for the rest of our trip. During this time we hiked and ran up to higher elevations a couple of times each day. Luckily we all coped pretty well which was a relief.
We were staying just a short distance from the St. Mary's Glacier, a really neat snowfield at around 11,000 ft. We had all been up there to hike the day before and scouted out the area above it, to around 12,000 ft. The vast landscape above treeline was incredible, I never wanted to come down. A couple of hikers confirmed that the blob of mountains ahead of us contained James Peak, and that it would be a good target for the next day. We learned it was on the Continental Divide, which I got so excited about and it became an even bigger pull.
Starting up the trail, I tried to pace myself, but even so I found that I was huffing pretty hard early on. I hiked the steeper part of the glacier before returning to running when it mercifully flattened out. Once we made our way further up James Peak the going got very tough and I was hiking more than running. The grades didn't seem too bad with all the switchbacks, but the altitude definitely made it a lot harder. It was a bit frustrating to have to go slower and slower to haul myself up, all the while breathing harder and harder, but I told myself not to be stupid and just be happy that I was able to do it at all.
Finally reaching the summit, we took in the hard-earned view before heading back down. Going down was so easy with the gentle slopes that prevented it from being overly jarring, but it seemed to take forever to get to the bottom. I felt pretty good about making it up all that way.
What I loved about this whole area is that it wasn't busy. Down on the glacier area there were a lot of people, but getting up higher it was empty. If there had have been a 14'er in the area, we guessed it might have been packed. On the entire run up James Peak we only met a group of two on our way up, and another two later on our way down. It was nice to have the mountain to ourselves.
After this run I felt completely and utterly useless until late in the afternoon, similar to after a really hard race effort.
Photos, going up and then coming down: