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)

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