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Guadalupe Peak

Guadelupe Peak, Texas.

Some races and training runs stick in your mind forever, while others seem to get assigned to the same memory space as hotel room numbers and totally disappear within a few days.  In between there are memories that can be resurrected by some external stimulus such as a conversation with an old friend or the sight of a photograph.

I have been reading through, and digitising, my old training diaries.  It is a nostalgic and self-indulgent pastime, but is a source of ideas for this blog and resurrects many memories of races and runs that I had all but forgotten.  Other runs are still quite vivid in my memory and I start anticipating them as I move through the diary towards the date on which they occurred.

The approach to Guadelupe Peak.
One such run was up Guadelupe Peak from Pine Springs Campground and return in the Guadelupe Mountains National Park near El Paso in Texas in January 1986.  We were the only campground residents on a night when temperatures dropped below 10°F after a stormy day characterised by high winds and snow.  When I went to bed I wasn't sure that the planned run to Guadelupe Peak (8740ft) the next morning was going to be feasible, but we woke to an icy cold but crystal clear morning with a three inch snow cover.

Looking south to Guadelupe Peak from the Bowl Trail.

The Campground was at 5800ft, so I knew that altitude would be one of the challenges on my run, but the distance was short, just 7km each way.  However, that 7km incorporated 3000ft of climb along an exposed and unfamiliar snow-covered trail, so even though the weather had cleared, I was a little apprehensive.  There was nobody about and I knew it would take a long time to be rescued if anything bad happened.

The trail to Guadelupe Peak.

The trail gained height rapidly as it switch-backed its way up on to the spur I would be following to the Peak, but I was feeling fit, and knowing the distance was short, maintained a good pace.  It was a little precipitous to the side of the trail early on so I paid a lot of attention to where I put my feet, but higher up the risks were fewer and I began to appreciate the beauty of the vistas and the tranquility of my environment, broken only by the padded sounds of my footfall and my steady deep breathing.  The mostly snow-covered trail was smooth and unmarked, apart from the occasional tiny animal track, and there was almost no wind.  The higher I got the better the views became.

View from Guadelupe Peak.

I reached the summit in a little over 50 minutes and took a break to admire the panoramic views in all directions.  The plains of Texas spread out below to the east, south and west, while the barren peaks of the Guadalupe Mountains dominated the view to the north.  Standing alone atop a mountain in the early morning light with views to the horizon in all directions is about as spiritual as it gets for me.  At the same time as you feel privileged and exceptional to have such an experience, it also emphasises your microscopic place in the world.  You  almost feel powerful and powerless at the same time.

The return trip was much faster and exhilarating in parts, though I still needed to take great care with my foot placement and the sharp switch-backs, and I finished in just over one and a half hours for the return journey.  It was a special and still memorable run.

I walked about 9km today, doing some more exploring around McMasters Beach and Bouddi National Park.  Although I managed the walk OK, there were occasions during it, and later in the day, when I could feel my heart racing and that wasn't pleasant.  On the plus side, my breathing remained steady and I didn't have to rest.  It did remind me, however, that I'm not the person I was six weeks ago.