Boulder adventure: Freezing Skyline Traverse + endless trail runs

Trail Kat keeps coming back for more

By Tatyana Sharpton Aug 12 2020

Editor’s note: The “My Boulder Adventure” series explores how locals leverage the amazing adventure opportunities Boulder offers. The subject of this edition, Boulder resident Kat, Trail Kat to her Instagram followers, requested we not publish her last name. 

A trail runner and writer, Kat W moved to Boulder in 2015 after years of scheming, first moving to Denver in 2012 from Atlanta before making her way to the valley.

Kat on the east ridge of Sanitas.

To Kat, adventure means exploring new parts of herself. Over 14 years ago, Kat W quit smoking and began to run. In 2015, she ran her first half-marathon (roughly 13.11 miles), followed by her first trail marathon in Moab in November 2016.

“If I move through fear, push some physical or mental boundary, or learn something new about myself,” Kat told BLDRfly, “I consider that an adventure. I typically choose mountain and trail adventures, but my whole life has been a series of adventures, some chosen by me, some chosen for me. ”

The trail runner self-defines as a walking contradiction: she loves double-digit mile trail runs but calls herself too lazy to walk to the mailbox; she laughs easily yet perpetually spins amidst existential crisis; she fears change and the unknown, yet runs at light speed right towards it.

Specifically, she always seems to tend towards Type 2 activity — that difficult-until-done, wading through chest-deep snow and never-ending-hikes type of fun.

Kat running Rattlesnake Gulch in Eldo. Image: Kat W.
New Year’s Day Skyline Traverse sunrise, top of south Boulder Peak. 

It only makes sense that Kat’s biggest Boulder adventure involved hiking the Boulder Skyline Traverse, 20 miles with 6,000 feet of net elevation gain across Boulder’s five peaks — South Boulder Peak, Bear Peak, Green Mountain, Flagstaff Mountain and Mount Sanitas. She began in the freezing, pre-dawn hours of New Year’s Day with the goal of getting to the top of South Boulder Peak for sunrise.

“My friend Ann and I hiked up a snowy Shadow Canyon in the dark, singing at the top of our lungs in an attempt to deter the mountain lions from eating us,” Kat said. “We made it to the saddle by the time the sun peaked out from the otherwise cloudy sky and it’s the most amazing sunrise I’ve ever seen.”

After hiking her first Skyline Traverse, Kat got hooked, and the traverse became her absolutely most favorite frequent adventure. In fact, the first time she completed it in September 2017, she went on to do it eleven times over the course of the year, and it has become her go-to celebratory hike/run.

“But let’s be clear,” says Kat, “South to North is the only way to celebrate. The other direction is just torture!”

Having gone through several injuries, currently Kat is managing a hip impingement, where extra bone grows along one or both of the bones that form the hip joint, giving the bones an irregular shape and causing them to rub against each other during movement. She recently bought a gravel bike to allow herself trail access while her body “gets its act together!”

Header Image: Kat, from the New Year’s Day Skyline Traverse sunrise at the top of south Boulder Peak.