Monday, April 23, 2012

Mount Bierstadt

I took the week off last week for my trip to Arizona.  Itching to get back to the mountains I decided to climb Mount Bierstadt.  The weather forecast was good as long as I got up there early and the clouds rolled in as anticipated.  Typically this mountains standard route starts from Guanella Pass at 11,640ft, but since I have made the rule to climb at least 3,000ft to check the summit off my list I had to start much lower.  Lucky for me the winter closure is still in effect so I started at 10,900ft, giving me the required climb for my books.  From the winter closure my GPS clocked in 1.75 extra miles each way and around 700ft of elevation.  The road was paved all the way up and really only had snow on the corners.  It was a good way to wake my body up and get into a rhythm.
The morning was beautiful and not too cold.  I wore my micro fleece sweater and a ball cap.  I always love it when I can wear the ball cap; the snow dome is a massive sweat collector.  Gloves were unnecessary for most of the climb.  I ended up using my fleece gloves from about 12K on up, just to protect from the gusty winds.  It took me 40minutes to cover the 1.75miles to the parking lot. 
I have read about the first section of this trail and now finally got to experience it.  From the TH you actually drop maybe 100ft across what I would call a bog.  Swampy area covered in willows, but there was a boardwalk for some of it.  I can’t imagine what it was like before the boardwalk, I think hip waders would have been a necessary piece of equipment.  There was a trail sign in station and I noticed a motion camera near the ground.  When I came back I could swear it was in a different spot, boogie man I guess.  The way across the bog wasn’t too bad, but I did find myself ice skating without skates a few times.  After about half mile from the TH the  trail started gaining a little elevation, very shallow switchbacks, which were mostly covered in angled snow making foot placement difficult.  The one thing I noticed during this section was the mass amounts of willows.  I decided in Colorado willows equal sagebrush in Idaho.  At least that’s what I’m going with.
There was a good gain in the trail up on a rib leading to the main ridge.  This section was covered in snow in and out.  There were posts and cairns marking the route, but it got to the point where I would just follow good boot prints.  There were hundreds of personal routes; you just had to find ones that were the right size.  I kept looking back, sure that someone else would be up here on such a nice day…but, nobody.  Today was actually my first day climbing in Colorado solo.  I usually run into two or three people, but today the mountain was mine, it was awesome!
From 13K on up to the summit I just followed the rocks, since they were like climbing stairs.  It was a pretty efficient way to make up the elevation, but after 13K I start huffing and puffing and my legs were feeling it too.  So, it now becomes baby steps.  I have no place to be and the weather was great, so I enjoyed not being rushed.  That is one of the great things about solo climbing; it’s always at the pace you want.  The mountain looked so close for so long, but all of them really do.  Just after 11am I made the summit.  There was no wind and it was warm, I’m really starting to love these CO 14ers.  So far they have been warm where the 13ers have been frigid.  I think I will jus climb these for a while…hahaha.
I took a bunch of pictures, looked at the Sawtooth and said maybe in the summer, but not today.  I felt good at the elevation; I think eating my old staple the PB&J did the trick.  I think Skippy has climbing juice in it..haha.  I hung out up there for about half hour, found the benchmark so I can log a geocache for that, then shortly after started making my way down.  I followed the ridge down to a large cairn where I assume the trail comes when the snow is gone.  This was a much better idea than twisting an ankle on the rocks via the way I ascended.  I usually take my time down, and today was no different.  I took two breaks and was able to stay well hydrated.  Once leaving the snow the trail was mud.  It was awful, all muddy from the heat.  So, I did my best to stay on the trail to prevent further erosion.  The best idea would have been to come up real early so I could glissade down, but that wasn’t happening.  Near a creek crossing I dropped to my knee and my boot got a bit wet on the inside, but that’s life.  Took a nice break at the parking lot and wished there was a car to take me to mine.  Then I remembered I had some peppered jerky…money, it was awesome!
Hit the pavement and I was on my way.  I removed a few layers and it was nice being in a t-shirt for once.  Mount Evans may be next on my list, so I was scoping out some route options from the area I started.  Have to get my 3K ft for that one, and that mountain has a road to the summit.  Took some pictures of a few 13ers on my way out, always keeping in mind the next adventure.  A little before 3pm I was back to my car.  Never did see anyone on the trail, so it was my mountain for the day.  I love it, climbing it something that always keeps my mind racing and I don’t know what I would do without the mountains.
Date: 4/23/12
Starting Elevation: 10,900ft
Summit Elevation: 14,060ft
Elevation Gained: 3,160ft
Distance: 10.4miles

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Mountain Madness

Updated to this are in RED.

After doing much research via the internet and reading a few books and looking over many maps I have finally decided on my goals for the mountains.  There are short lists and there are long lists.  The rewarding ones will take years and years to accomplish, and time in the mountains is one thing I have.  Now living in Colorado the mountains present many challenges, but the one thing I do enjoy is the variety.  There are 14ers down to 5ers, just depends on what your cup of tea is.  Before I divulge what my lists are, let me state what it takes to be considered a summit.

There is a difference between climbing mountains and visiting summits.  As Gerry Roach states it, you must climb a mountain from the bottom to the top.  I have decided to go with the 3,000 vertical feet number for a mountain to be considered climbed.  If along this there is a connecting ridge to another summit that is considered visiting a summit.  So, in a nutshell each mountain on my lists will be individually climbed.  As I see for many of the 14ers I will have to adjust starting positions because some have as little as 2,000ft gain on them.  That would be easy, and I’m sure I will do some of those, but they won’t get a tick mark on the list that easily.

Lucky for me my first 14er (Grays Peak) had just 3,000ft gain.  It was closet, but just enough to get a tick on the list.  Now for a mountain to be considered a mountain it has to have at least 300ft of prominence from the lowest connecting point.  Prominence is simply defined as land rise from its surroundings.  This is where the term I used “ranked” comes in.  A peak is “ranked” if it has a prominence of 300ft or more from the surrounding area.  There are lists that have 14ers from 53-56 in Colorado.  Obeying my prominence guidelines I have set a firm set of 53 peaks that will make the list.  Now, that I have defined some of the requirements of what makes a mountain I will throw out a few lists.  I’m not going to name all of the mountains, but on the website: you can find any list of mountains you care to see.  There is no particular order of what I want to accomplish first or a timeline.  I plan to just enjoy my time in the mountains and take them one peak at a time.

After climbing a few 14ers I realize some of these goals are needing a little adjusting.  I will start by climbing all by standard routes and if that does not get me the 3k elevation gain that is acceptable.  After I complete the peaks I can go back and do individuals or go after a 3k gain then.  I also see I would need a unlimited supply of gasoline to get to each peak, so 2fers, 3fers, and 4fers will be a go.

List #1  Climb the Colorado 14ers.
To date I have 6 complete.
List #2  Climb Colorado’s 100 highest points
To date I have 6 complete.
List #3  Climb the Contiguous US 50 highest points.
To date I have 7 complete.
List #4  Climb the State High Points West of the Rockies.  No need to climb in the flats to the east.
To date I have 2 complete (Rainier and Borah) and 9 to go.
List #5  Climb a 14er for every month of the year
To date I have 1 complete(April, Grays)
List #6  Climb the major Cascade Volcanoes
To date I have 4 complete (Rainier, Adams, St. Helens, S.Sister) many to go.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Grays Peak

Since moving to Colorado in August I have wanted to try and get up a 14er. I knew better; the shape I was in was crappy for climbing peaks. After a few months at the gym and slowly raising the elevation in peaks I decided to head up Grays Peak. Grays is probably one of the easiest 14ers, but that didn’t matter to me. When you climb a 14er you earn it whether it’s the easiest or the hardest. But, I had no intention of setting myself up for failure, so I picked a 14er with a trail to the summit. I will note that the trail was covered in ice and snow, but it was pretty easy and straightforward.
I seem to always be monitoring the weather on NOAA around the areas of the 14ers that are in close relation to Denver. I had almost sold myself on climbing Mt. Bierstadt, which is a 14er visible from the Denver area. But, with the high mountain roads still being closed because of snow I started monitoring the message boards to get some first hand reports. If I were to climb Bierstadt there would be an additional 3-4miles on closed roads. I’m not training for the Olympics, I wanted to make my first 14er as easy as possible. Last night someone posted that they were able to drive all the way to the Grays Peak trail head, so that immediately changed my plans to head up Grays.
Grays Peak road is typically closed all the way down to I-70. This adds an additional 3 miles each way, but since the report of a few rigs making it to the trail head, it was time to see how good the 4X4 in my Blazer was. This was a pretty rough road without snow, but soon I saw a couple Subaru’s parked along the side of the road. The Blazer did awesome plowing up the rutted ice covered road. There were a few dicey spots but my clearance was just enough to get me through. I arrived at the trail head around 8am, and I was the only person to make it the entire way. Shortly after arriving I geared up and was quickly on the trail to Grays.
There is a bridge crossing right out of the parking lot, once across the creek the trail was snow covered virtually the entire way. I didn’t put my micro spikes on till my second break since the snow was not completely frozen to ice. I was surprised at how warm it was, since the forecast was for a breezy 30 degree day. I covered the first 1.4miles and 1K ft in about 40 minutes. At this point on the trail there is a large sign showing the routes up Grays and Torreys Peak and giving a few stats of mileage and elevations. I took a nice break here and put the snow cap away and was able to wear my ball cap for once. The entire area was so amazing; I didn’t know what to take pictures of. The area was very unique and I loved the geology features all around me.
After my first break I made my way around Kelso Mountain and got the full view of Grays and Torreys. I was now getting my first look at a couple of the coulior’s that my friend Mike had been telling me about. I looked at them and said shit he wants to climb those, they look vertical. Not much further down the trail I noticed a skier climbing up the Dead Dog Coulior and laughed a bit when I saw a dog playing up there. The skier was still on the apron so they had a long way to go yet. Looking over at the Lost Rat Coulior on Grays it didn’t look like there was snow all the way to the top. They were a sight to see that was for sure. I kept making my way around and up onto a ramp of sorts and took my second break at around 13K feet.
At this point I put on my micro spikes. You could really see the switch backs covered in ice all the way to the top. This last 1K+ feet was pretty brutal. More of me being out of shape and being at high elevation. The trail was pretty gentle all the way to the summit. Not long after I took off from my break I heard some hooting and hollering coming from the summit. I could see two people up there and soon they were off to climb Torreys. At this point with all my huffing and puffing I had decided no 2fer today and I was happy with climbing just one 14er today. After 3.5hrs I had made it to the summit of Grays. I looked at the GPS, it said 2.5hrs of moving and 1hrs of stop time. Usually not that much stopping time, but that will get better with more mountains.
The summit was incredible. There was relatively no wind and it was warm for once. I didn’t even have to wear my gloves; it was nice bathing in the sun. I found the summit register and signed in, took a look over at Torreys and the two people were just about to summit. Now it appeared that there were 4 people on top, but I’m not certain. I wanted to head over to Torreys, but I was enjoying the solo summit so much that I was happy were I was. Next I found the Grays Peak Geocache and left my MT GOAT trackable for someone to take to another summit. Not long after I was on my way down. I just descended the same trail I ascended. The going was fast with the spikes on and before I knew it I was down to the point of my previous break. I saw the two other climbers making their way down, I was hoping to see a massive glissade but they chose life. I can’t blame them, I didn’t do it either. I took a couple glances at Dead Dog Coulior and saw some boulders making their way down at incredible speeds. I was thankful to see the skier was not in coulior at the time. Within 10-15minutes I was back to my first break area. I put my spikes away had some water and was off for the car.
I made my way without postholing more than to my ankles except for one or two times. Since it was so warm I was not looking forward to the drive down. I knew the slush and mud would have the Blazer all over the place. While getting my gear stowed, 2 other climbers came down the trail and asked for a ride. So we made a trade a beer for a ride…anytime. The road was worse than I thought, all over the place and sideways at times. Eventually we made it down to their Subaru. I was glad I was able to make it all the way to the trail head, because they had a good 2 miles more and probably another 1K ft. I don’t need any extra obstacles at this point. It was a great day, and I am happy to finally get up to 14K in Colorado. Now just do one a week, well let’s not get that carried away.
Date: 4/9/2012
Starting Elevation: 11,266ft
Summit Elevation: 14,240ft
Elevation Gained: 2,974ft
Distance: 7.07miles
Time: 6hrs

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Grizzly and Cupid

The weather in Colorado has been driving me nuts. Every day I work the weather is good, then the days I have off I'm lucky to get one good day. For the last two days the high country has been getting snow and wind. When I climb solo I don't climb in such conditions, so I had to sit at home twiddling my thumbs till the weather turned.

I had these two peaks on my radar since I climbed Mt Sniktau. If I was a real go-getter, I would have combined all three...but that's just crazy talk. Grizzly Mountain and Cupid are both ranked 13ers, so my total of 13ers is up to three now. During my down time I got all my gear ready to roll so I could get an early start. I set off on the trail at Loveland Pass just before 8:30am and there wasn't any other cars in the lot yet.

Ive been up this first 800ft gain before so I knew what to expect. Just this time the trail was covered in snow. I didn't bring my snowshoes because I didn't think they would be that much help..not when your as big as me. The powder was dry and soft, much different from the snow in Oregon and Washington. There was hardly any wind in the morning and I was only sinking to ankle and at points calf level, so this wasn't so bad. I was still huffing and puffing though, still not close to the shape I want to be in for the mountains.

Once on the main ridge, there was a roller coaster affect taking place. A lot of gain and loss getting to the peaks. I typically don't like this, and this time was no different. Cupid was on the way to Grizzly, but instead of hitting Cupid during the beginning I saved it for the way back. Grizzly was the real goal for this hike. After I passed Cupid the snow got deeper and I was commonly sinking to knee level. I tried to use surrounding rocks as much as I could like steps on the incline then I would plunge-step in the snow on the decline. It worked for the most part, but I was still panting like a dog up there. I could see clearly into the Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and they weren't running yet, so that let me know I was making good time considering everything.

When I got to the base of the last push for Grizzly I took a break. I knew it was going to be a brutal 600ft climb so I needed to refuel. The view everywhere was amazing, the sky was crystal blue with not a cloud in sight. Almost perfect for climbing. Unfortunately there was a breeze and my break spot and not a good place to find wind block. I made it quick, and was on my way up the bear.

I'm not sure how long this part took me, but it seemed like an eternity. There was decent snow coverage, and If I got off the beaten trail I sank deep. Normally a class 2 climb, with me it turned into a class 3. The footing was less than stellar, but I just made my way up with lots of breathing breaks. Just before 11am I was on the summit. The view of Torreys and Grays were amazing. Some people will add Torreys for a 10mile way Jose! I enjoyed the view for about 30minutes and started down.

I was not looking forward to the down climb, but the snow was better than I thought. It was good for plunge-stepping and I was able to avoid most of the snow covered rock. I ran into another climber at the base of Grizzly, he looked like he had things under control. I took a long break since the wind was gone before the push back up the roller coaster.

After a lot of time I finally made it to the base of Cupid. I just followed my tracks and made it to Cupids summit in no time. While sitting on Cupid in a little wind break I noticed this trail runner coming my way..wearing shorts and running shoes. He was going to run all the way up Torreys, crazy but doesn't surprise me in Colorado. The rest of the way down was uneventful, took advantage of the snow and in no time I was back to the car park.

Was another great day in the mountains. This one took everything I had today. One day it won't be so hard, but till that day come I will slog up the mountains and still enjoy every minute of it.

Date: 4/4/2012

Starting Elevation: 11,993ft

Summit Elevation: 13,446ft (Grizzly), 13,140ft (Cupid)

Total Elevation Gain: 2,164ft (Due to roller coaster)

Distance: 5.94miles

Time: 6hrs car to car

Weather Information

Grizzly: Wind Speed 13.3mph, temp 30F

Cupid: Wind Speed 12.4mph, temp 32F