Trail Runner’s Book Review – Colorado Alpine Trail Runs

Colorado Alpine Trail Runs, by Annalise Grueter. Colorado Mountain Club Press, 2022. Reviewed by trail runner Laura Clark. Laura is an avid mountain, trail and snowshoe runner who lives in Saratoga Springs, NY, where she is a children’s librarian.

The operational consideration for this guidebook is the phrase, “trail runs.” The 45 scenic adventures described, spanning the state of Colorado, range from casual to technically challenging and vary in length from 4 to 30 miles, with occasional options for longer add-on excursions. Annalise Grueter, an accomplished ultramarathoner and mountain mentor, emphasizes that she is mainly interested in routes that can be run with a minimum of hiking.

All trails are rated as to initial and summit elevation, estimated completion time, mileage, run-ability percentage, nearest town, and recommended add-ons. As an Easterner unaccustomed to high altitude, I appreciate the fact that the degree of difficulty ratings factor in not only trail conditions but also high elevation. Routes are grouped by geographical area, facilitating an extended exploration from a single home base.

While there is occasional mention of Class 3 climbs, scrambling hand-over-hand minus the comfort of ropes, the boundaries are clearly delineated so you won’t find yourself getting in over your head. I, for one, have difficulty letting go of a trail and turning back, partly from a desire for completion, and partly because of my compulsion to glimpse what is around the bend. But Greuter, with her strong suggestion to reverse course before disaster strikes, gives us permission to use common sense in ascents like Willow Lake, where with the loose rock and deteriorating trail to the final summit, she urges, “Rather than tacking on risky power hiking, turn around and push yourself on the descent.” Reason and redemption all in the same sentence. For more on scrambling, read Anton Kruipcka’s cautionary article in the August 2022 issue of Ultrarunning, and learn to respect the skill set required should you decide to test boundaries.

We all have had the experience of driving up a trailhead access road, wondering which will break first – our nerves or our vehicle. Thankfully, clearance estimates and 4-wheel drive requirements are all laid out for you. While four-footed hiking companions are seldom mentioned, there are a few occasions, such the borderline Class 3 scrambling just before the summit at Igloo Peak, which Greuter suggests might be too challenging for canine companions. This observation is especially appreciated as the route is classified as a beginner attempt.

As you have already begun to see, it is the thoughtful attention to details that makes this work stand out and enhance your experience. Greuter highlights which trails are apt to be the most crowded and the best times of day to attempt the ascent, and to save retracing steps, she outlines which sections merit heightened alertness for directional changes. If you like to combine your adventure with flower and wildlife photography, she has you covered. And, out of respect, she supplements with Native terms to give you a sense of the footsteps of those who have traveled before.

Enjoy your journey!

Tags: ,