Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mount Sniktau

I wasn't sure I was going to go out for a third day in a row, but figured what the hell. This is the peak I was going to climb the day before, but the road conditions turned me away. This was the furthest drive from home, about 1hr 30minutes. Mount Sniktau is an easy 13er by climbing standards, but for me it was just right. Standing at 13,277ft Sniktau reminded me of my favorite mountain near Boise; Cervidae peak, but on steroids.

I arrived at Loveland Pass around 10am, there was one car there and two people were just heading up the trail. Loveland Pass is pretty cool, the elevation is 11,990ft. Nothing like almost starting at the high point in Idaho. But, you earn it either way.

I was surprised that I caught up to the two climbers ahead of me. Only about half hour after I started the wind started howling pretty good and they were putting on shell parka's. The lady was from Fort Collins and her companion was from Kentucky. This would be incredibly hard for a flat lander to come and tackle, but I'm sure it happens often. I was just excited that I wasn't the one getting passed for once. They wanted to tackle Grizzly, I said good luck and was on my way. Within 15minutes I had topped out on the ridge line at 12,915ft. Well it's cake now...right? Not so fast my friend as Lee Corso would put it. The wind died on the first part of the ridge, but I could diffinently feel the elevation with my breathing. There was a good sized false summit before hitting the true summit, so I caught my breath and took off.

Kentucky seemed to be struggling, so I never saw them leave point 12,915. I was trucking along pretty good on the ridge, just enjoying the spectacular views I had in front of me. The false summit is within 100ft of becoming its own mountain, too bad it felt like its own mountain. Once on the other side of the false summit there was a good drop then the gain to Sniktau's summit. Here is where it got cold, oh the wind was frigid. I just kept my slow place so I was always moving and for once actually enjoyed the uphill. The last few hundred feet had me breathing pretty good, but soon enough I summited. It was about 2 miles to the summit from the car and took me 1hr 20minutes. Not bad for a 270 pounder...still breathing, and that's always good.

This was something I wrote on the summit: My younger brother Nate is the photographer in the family. Yesterday when I was on Squaw he texted me something that is so true. "A picture will never capture what your eyes do." Isn't that the truth! I sit here on the summit of Mt Sniktau marveling at Torrey's Peak in front of me, possibly in the top 25 views I've ever seen. And this is a view I am sure only my eyes will appreciate. I wish everyone could see this rather than a picture, there is no justice.

I was actually able to stay up there for quite a while since I found a nice wind block. I took a bunch of pictures but half of them didn't turn out or had sun spots in them. As I said I'm no photographer, but these eyes got great pleasure in everything they saw today. Maybe next weekend a 14er or another 13er, doesn't really matter as long as I'm out in the mountains again.

Date: 3/21/2012

Starting Elevation: 11,990ft

Summit Elevation: 13,277ft

Distance: 4.07miles

Time: 2.5hrs

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Squaw Mountain and Papoose Mountain

Had to get out for the second day in a row. The weather looked good again and I had a desire to climb something high. Originally I wanted to head up a 13er near Loveland Pass, but there was a chain restriction on the road and I had no desire to deal with an icy road. Quickly this morning I pulled out a map and found an area that had three 11ers within a few miles of each other. I didn't end up climbing all three, but here is how it went for the two I did get up.
Squaw Mountain stands at 11,523ft according to my GPS. Not far from the road which made it appealing to me since I had such a long hike yesterday. It wasn't a route, it wasn't a trail, it was a old dirt road. You may call that cheating, but according to my book roads count too. Covered in hard packed ice, which was once snow it reminded me of hiking up a glacier. Do you know that crunch sound that crampons make while cutting into the ice? Oh yes, I love that sound. I wasn't wearing crampons today, just my micro spikes which have turned out a wise investment in Colorado. The solitude of hearing your footsteps and a random gust of wind hitting the trees is awesome. And the feeling knowing your not going to fall on your ass is a comfort too. Squaw was a nice easy hike up the glacier and only took about 45minutes to summit from the car. The fire lookout on top was impressive. I was lucky enough to hang out on top for a while without freezing from the wind. I took a bunch of pictures because the sky was blue and beautiful. The divide mountains were covered in a cloud but to the south the Evans Group looked massive and clear. This was the closest I have been to those giants and I was impressed.

Next I decided I would head over to Papoose Mountain a nearby neighbor without much of a climb to reach the summit. As I got down to the point of leaving the road I found the snow to the likes of a styrofoam origin, which in the climbing world sucks ass. My first few steps I post holed to mid thigh, there was a 3 inch crust then after that cold powdery snow. I quickly decided to turn back to the road and see if I could find another way.
Not far down the main road there was another path making its way SE around the mountain. This road was not near as wide as the main road so I imagine it's an old jeep track in the summer time. I was glad to see the hard packed snow here could hold my weight. It was a nice and easy track around the mountain almost feeling level at the time.
Once I arrived to where a "trail" was supposed to be according to my GPS and Topo map I saw no sign of any use in the recent weeks. It was time to see if the snow on this side was any better. Now imagine a elephant stepping onto a ice covered lake. You got it, this time my pack is the only thing that saved me. That took me some time to get out of. Once free I went for the bear-crawl, rolling approach. I finally made it to some rock and was thankful all my zippers were still zipped.

Finally on rock, that was a good feeling. At first I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to make it up this one, but my stubbornness proved valuable again. I was able to go in a more direct approach to the summit by following some rock bands and avoiding any snow I could. The rock here is amazing, nothing like the ranges in Idaho. Seems to be a lot of quarts and mica, it's really interesting to check out as the area's change. After passing what resembled a couple cougar dens I came underneath a huge rock formation. Looking up into the cracks I notice some climbing gear. I still wonder how those guys do that stuff. Does gravity not affect skinny people like it does fat people? Not my kind of climbing that's for sure.

After meandering through some of the crazy rock formations I finally made the summit. These would be so easy to climb in the summer time, but I have never been known for doing things the easy way.
The sun was out and I was loving it. The wind was trying to piss me off, but I was so happy to thaw out in the ray's of the sun that I forgot about the wind all together. After my experience in the snow I knew I wasn't even going to attempt the third summit. I could see the route up but knew I would need a wet suit to fend off the damp snow. After my short break I headed down to the side track in as straight of a line as I could find. Got into some more deep snow, but for the most part I was just marveling in the views of the Rockies. By now the clouds had lifted and the snow covered peaks were crystal clear. I started pointing, I'm going to climb you, and you, and you and so on.

After another bear-crawl rolling escapade I made it back on the track leading to the road. I sat there and dug snow out from spots I probably shouldn't say, then I realized how good Smartwool sock's are. They were covered with snow and my feet were dry and warm. I love it when gear works. It wasn't long and I was back to the car. A few others were on their way up Squaw, but other than that I had another day of solitude in the mountains. I'm loving 4-day weekends and having Monday's and Tuesday's off. It keeps everyone in Denver and lets me enjoy the mountains like I did in Idaho. I hope to climb something tomorrow as well, I will just see how the body feels after a few beers.

Date: 3/20/2012
Starting Elevation: 10,648ft
Squaw Summit: 11,523ft Papoose Summit: 11,205ft
Distance: 5.05miles (bear-crawl included)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Bergen Peak

Bergen Peak - Front Range, Colorado

It's been a long while since I have been able to get out on peak, so I made a plans to climb Bergen Peak. My old climbing buddy Mike recommended this earlier in the fall, but since the length of the hike is almost 10 miles I just put it off.

Bergen is located near the town of Evergreen, CO. This is only about a 40 minute drive from home, so not to bad for getting up a good sized peak. The weather reports around here are so shoddy, you basically just go to climb and see what happens. It was supposed to be a 30% chance of rain/snow and turned out to be a blue sky day with mild winds. Not too bad, I was able to go without the fleece on the way up then put on while coming down.

The trail up was great, mostly in the woods of aspen and lodge pole pine. Probably 60% of the trail was covered in snow and ice. On the way up I didn't use any traction, but for the trip down I put on the micro spikes to avoid any idiotic injuries. The trail was about 5 miles each way, so that was fun watching my footing most of the day. On a few occasions I ran into some deer and they took pleasure in scarring the crap out of me.

It took about about 2.5hrs to summit. I set a goal to be there by noon and arrived minutes before. I was impressed to say the least. It was a good climb over 2,000ft, just very long which I tend to avoid.

The summit was covered in trees, but there were gaps that looked over towards the Evans group of 14ers and the sun was out so that was nice. I spent a bit writing and having lunch, then went out looking for a geocache. I looked for two up there and assume they are either below the snow or gone.

The way down was uneventful, just strolled down the mountain feeling all the aches from not getting out recently. Overall it was a good day out in the hills. The plan is to do a 13er tomorrow, we will see how that goes.

Date: 3/19/2012

Starting Elevation: 7,606ft

Summit Elevation: 9,708ft

Distance: 9.7miles

Time: 5hrs