Zen On Dirt

Making Friends on the 4-Pass

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I knew very little of Trish. I knew that she’d firmly beaten me at the Ouray 50, but not by an outrageous amount. I knew she lived in a teardrop trailer. It appeared (complements of her Instagram feed) that she lived in Leadville. She seemed to work at a goat farm, and Scott thought that he’d recognized her as a barista at City on a Hill, our go-to coffee shop in Leadville. Given these facts, I thought there could be a good chance that Trish and I would get along just fine. And I was looking for people to go running with.

I’ve met some of my favorite people as a result of a cold-email, either me to them or them to me. The gist was always the same. ‘Hi! It looks like you do cool stuff. Do you want to do cool stuff with me?’

So I sent Trish a message. ‘Let’s go running sometime.’

After we confirmed that this would be a good idea, I threw some suggestions out from my bucket list in the area.

Trish wrote back that she wanted to do the 4-Pass Loop from Aspen in the next couple of days before she left for a month in Nepal, so she probably shouldn’t do anything huge.

I was mid sentence typing that I’d wanted to do 4-Pass the week prior, but plans had fallen through, when she wrote, ‘Want to come with me?’

‘Heck yeah!’ Plans were set.  I was beyond excited, and a little bit nervous. 4-Pass could be considered an excessively large and committing first friend-date.


Magic Maroon Bells

It rained the entire night before our departure. The weather forecast was calling for 3-5 inches of snow above 11k feet. I wasn’t going to be the one to bail, but when we met at the Twin Lakes parking lot at 5:30 the following morning, we both acknowledged there was a chance we’d get shut down.

You never know until you go! The fact that Trish hadn’t cancelled, even with the sub-optimal conditions made me like her immediately.


Heading down Buckskin Pass. 

We started out at an, ummm, brisk pace, seeing that we had 27 miles and 8,000+ feet of up and down to go. On the approach to the lake under the Maroon Bells, as Trish danced gracefully through the rocks that I stumbled over, I thought for a second that I’d made a terrible, terrible mistake. But then when the climb started in earnest and we both assumed the slogging position, our paces matched up amazingly well.

While snow had fallen up high, snow line was well above the 12,000 feet that the passes were at. Lucky, lucky us. The descents, which had been loose and terrifying when Scott and I hiked the loop last fall, were tacky and fast. I worked real hard to keep up with Trish on the downhills, but as it turns out, I’m still pretty much a beginner when it comes to descending. I wasn’t good at descending on a mountain bike for a long time either…it’ll come.


Climbing Trail Rider Pass. Snowmass Lake way down there.

Running the loop in a day makes you into a bit of a trail celebrity among the people who take 2-4 days to backpack it. Some of the comments we got were pretty funny to us, as we both seemed to have the mindset of wanting to do big and long days whenever possible instead of breaking routes up into multi-day trips and having to carry camping gear.

We settled into a rhythm. Chat and slog on the uphills, pause for a few minutes at the top of the passes, bomb/stumble down, depending on whether you were Trish or me.


Descending Trail Rider. 

It was amazing how much faster the loop was going this time versus last fall. We were topping out West Maroon Pass before I knew it, greeted by a family where the mom was yelling at a son to get off of the rocks before he killed himself.

We didn’t linger long.

The descent back to the lake. Oh. My. Goodness. That was long. I’d take approximate time splits from Trish whenever I saw her off in the distance, trying desperately to keep the gap down to a couple of minutes. But those downhill muscles, they were giving up real quick-like.


Slogging position heading up Frigid Air Pass. Either I stopped taking pictures at this point, or my computer managed to lose them. Trust me. The rest of the route was magic too. 

I started recognizing signs that we were closing the loop. The giant pile of talus. The campground warning of bear activity. The increasing numbers of day hikers. And then the loop was done, and all that remained were a few miles of toe-catching death rocks back to the car.

I won’t fess up to the number of times I nearly ended up on my face in that last stretch. Any semblance of grace was gone, I was in full on survival mode. And then, all of a sudden, the rocks disappeared, the path turned wide, the lake appeared, and we were treated to the sight of a giant moose in the lake.



We joined everyone else in taking their picture, joking that the only reason we didn’t get the FKT on the route was because we stopped to gape at the moose. Actually, we weren’t close to the FKT at all, but near enough to it that it didn’t seem entirely impossible given increased levels of motivation, more downhill running skills, and a bit of confidence.

We both admitted to being a little bit tired as we sat on the tailgate of the truck watching the world go by.

Deciding that neither of us liked Aspen, we drove over to the restaurant at Twin Lakes for a post-run meal. We arrived at 4:34, but the kitchen closed at 4:30. ‘Pretty please?’ I pleaded.  I think the hostess thought we were CDT/CT thru-hikers and took pity on us. The burger was delicious, and we left a big tip.

Sometimes you finish up a first date and hem and haw ‘We should do that again sometime’ or ‘That was fun, maybe we can meet up for another run in the future.’ But then sometimes you finish a date and know that you’ve found a good adventure partner and want to make sure the momentum keeps rolling. This was definitely one of the latter.

Sometimes all it takes is a simple message. ‘What to go adventure with me?’ and great things happen.



One thought on “Making Friends on the 4-Pass

  1. Good ideas, good running. Which leads me to propose……we need to go ride/run/play sometime together. I promise we can avoid Stony pass if you like 🙂 Next summer….!

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