Monday, October 22, 2012

Mount Edwards

Mount Edwards

I needed to get out on a climb, so once again I contacted Brian and we decided on Mount Edwards.  Edwards is a high 13er measuring at 13,839ft and located close to home in the Front Range.  We didn’t want a long drive, so with Edwards only about an hour and a half’s drive from home this worked well for both of us.  A few days prior we both were able to see an Ed Viesturs presentation and I think that gave us an added bug to get out into the mountains this week.

We met at the T-Rex lot off of I-70 at 5am and made it to the Grays Peak TH around 6am.  There were two other cars in the parking lot; I was anticipating a lot more since the weather was supposed to be clear today.  We stepped out of the car and it was brrrr cold.  The wind was blowing pretty hard, so I was already taking layers out of my pack and putting them on.  The sky was dark black and littered with stars.  Unfortunately I was unable to capture a picture of them with my point and shoot camera, but maybe someday I will upgrade.  By 6:20 we were all set and started up the trail.

The TH we used is the same one used for hiking Grays and Torreys Peaks so I had been here twice this year already.  I knew what to expect till we hit the main ridge heading towards Edwards, but that doesn’t mean I was looking forward to it.  It’s a good thing the views are so amazing back here or the trail would get old fast.  We were lucky enough to hike in the darkness for the first 30-40 minutes; I always enjoy hiking in the dark for some reason.  As light was coming into the valley we were arriving at the large sign for Grays and Torreys; about 1.5miles in.  The wind was still blowing pretty hard, probably gusting in the mid 30’s but with light coming so does heat.  From the sign the view of Torreys was amazing.  There was a gentle dusting of snow that made all the contours and cracks really stand out.  I then noticed something moving up on Mount Kelso out of the corner of my eye; there were at least 10 mountain goats high on the mountain.  The day is getting better and better and we are still in the flat land.

As the trail made its way towards the rib heading up Gray’s north face we started seeing a lot more snow on the trail.  We both packed micro spikes in but didn’t put them on during the ascent since we were not slipping at all.  In no time at all we passed the group of three that we saw in the parking lot.  I must say it’s rare when I pass people out here, so I’d be lying if I didn’t say I had a small smile on my face.  As usual Brian was about a football fields length ahead of me, maybe not that much but that’s what it felt like.  Now that we were getting into some of the tight switchbacks we knew our cutoff to the main ridge was near.  There are all kinds of trails heading in the direction we needed to go, so eventually we took one following along the edge of the Lost Rat Couloir.  Once on top of the main ridge we saw how much work was still ahead of us.  It looked like miles to the summit all on a roller coaster ridge…lovely.

It was nice to see there was a faint trail heading in our direction.  I suspect this is from the traffic of Continental Divide Hikers not people heading to Edwards, but who knows maybe others like this punishment too.  We headed down our first descent along the ridge and all was going well at first.  I typically hang on the top of ridges just so I can better scout trails and I think that is where the route here is meant to be followed.  Brian on the other-hand dropped down on another trail too far down where it becomes more side-hilling than anything.  I definitely recommend staying on the high part of the ridge, there is a visible route most of the way, once you lose the ridge kiss your footing goodbye.

On the second hump we both were down way to far from the ridge and I caught up to Brian sitting.  I could tell he wasn’t enjoying the traverse and he didn’t know where to go.  Looking back the easiest thing to do would have been to climb back up to the crest and follow that, but I continued to do the side hill traverse.  It was unpleasant to say the least.  I just kept moving till I made it to the low point before the final climb up to the summit.  Brian was quite a ways behind me so I sat there and had a fuel and water break till he arrived.  Unfortunately when he arrived he was ready to call it a day.  It was disappointing, but a smart choice.  Those are the hard decisions to make and everyone knows their own limits.  Brian said he would hang out while I went to top, so I ditched my pack to speed up the process and I was off.

New Friends
The last 300ft was the worst part of the whole climb.  If you could stay on solid rock it never lasted long.  There was a route heading up here, but I think it was more of a goat trail not a human one.  I slowly made my way up to another false summit and right when I was about to hang my head I noticed some white furballs making their way up the mountain.  Mountain Goats!  Immediately my spirits were lifted as I raced to get my camera out and snap a couple pictures.  There were three goats; a papa, a mama and a youngling.  As they climbed over the crest of the ridge I found myself in pursuit up the mountain.  I got to the crest and was disappointed when I realized I still had a couple hundred yards to go still before reaching the summit.  I gave up on the goats and got back to business finding a nice trail that brought me to the summit at last.

Grays and Torreys and the Ridge
The winds were calm and the sky was as blue as I have seen it all year.  This was a peaceful summit, and I may be a rare visitor to this 13er.  As I looked over to Grays I could see a hoard of people on the top.  This brought a smile to my face, since I got to enjoy this summit by myself.  I didn’t stay up there for more than a few minutes.  I took in the views all around and took a bunch of pictures then I was off down the ridge again.  I was without my pack and I never like doing that, but I’m sure it sped up the process of getting up there.  My goat friends were a rib on the north side of the peak just chilaxin.  There was five or six of them, I took another picture then was on my way.

This next part was by far the worst part of the whole day.  I got too far off the ridge and into some really loose rock that was awful trying to navigate through.  My balance was that of a drunk man and I really wished I had my trekking poles.  Every now and then a boulder would make its way sailing down the mountain, not by choice.  I was just glad it was the rock and not me.  It seemed like hours since I had left the summit, but was probably about 20 to 30 minutes till I made it back down to my pack.  I sat down and had a rest for a few minutes then made my way up the middle hump where Brian was patiently waiting for me.

Brian led the way and we stuck to the ridge and the route was much better on the descent across the ridge than the ascent was.  It was slow going as my legs and energy were on the decline.  The roller coaster of humps wasn’t helping but step by step I finally made it back to the Grays trail.  I was spent by the time we were back on the solid trail so we had a nice long break to help recover.  My feet were sore as hell in my tight leather boots, and for a minute I thought about taking them off.  I knew if I did that I would cry putting them back on for the last three miles.  We decided once we hit snow on the trail the micro spikes were going on.

I was moving at a snail’s pace on the rocky trail, I saw the snow and told Brian it’s time for the spikes.  Once I had my spikes on I gained a step.  I love spikes on the snow I was almost in a trot for a little bit.  Just enough cushion that the bottoms of my feet had some time to relax.  It wasn’t too long till the snow ran out…I almost cried when I saw the rock.  We had about two miles left and most only about one-thousand feet yet to descend.  Once we made it back to the Grays and Torreys sign from the way up we had another break to shed some fleece layers since it was so hot.  After draining the last of our water we took off on the last mile and a half to the car.  It was a tedious process, but eventually me and my aching dogs made it back to the car where Brian was waiting.

Today was one of those tough but rewarding climbs.  We spent a lot more time out on the mountain than we wanted, but that’s how it goes when you get off trails and onto routes sometimes.  Even though it was painful at times I still enjoyed the day.  I wish we both could have summited, but things in the mountains don’t always go as we want.  It was a beautiful day and I love the high mountains with a dusting of snow.  It won’t be long till we are bundled up in down and climbing in snow shoes…and I can’t wait!

GPS Track

Date: 10/21/2012
Starting Elevation: 11,243ft
Mount Edwards Summit: 13,839ft
Total Gained Elevation: 3,523ft
Distance: 8.53miles
Time: 6:29 moving, 2:30 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Brian

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mount Pisgah

I made my annual trip to Eugene, Oregon for a Ducks football game last week.  Typically while I’m in Eugene I always do a hike up Spencer’s Butte, but I decided for a bit of a change since I have done Spencer’s so many times over the years.  This time I decided to hike up Mount Pisgah, which is just to the east of Spencer’s.  Pisgah is a trailed park and is part of the Lane County Park system.  Only a short drive across town from Nate’s townhouse; as he left for school and I left for a short hike.

Mountains west of the Cascade Range have a uniqueness to them that has always drawn me to climb them.  Most are probably extinct volcanoes and hold true to the shape of a standard volcano rising from the Earth.  These mountains seem to be all to their own showing great prominence and that’s what draws me in even though they are a mere 1,500ft high.  I was un-impressed when I arrived at the TH and found out there was a $3 trail fee.  Lucky for me the fee unit took credit cards and that is something I have not seen before.  I already saw about 10 people head up the trail, so I knew it would be like a freeway today.  I ate the rest of my sandwich and turned on my GPS then I was off.

Spencer's Butte
Some call it a trail, I call it a road.  It almost looked to be filled in with gravel at times.  There were other trails to choose from, but I only wanted to spend 1-2 hours out on the mountain, so I stuck with the easy #1 trail as it was called from the TH.  I wasn’t sure on the stats of elevation and such before the hike started, so I was in for somewhat of a surprise right out of the gate.  The trail was pretty steep, a lot steeper than I expected anyway.  It turned out that there was about a 1,000ft gain over 1.5 miles, so it was a nice short vertical climb. 

I brought my trail shoes, but anyone in sandals could have made this summit without too many blisters.  The vertical climb was sustained throughout the hike, so there wasn’t much for relief.  I was sweating out booze like it was going out of style; too much fun over the weekend but it was well worth it.  It was nice having a change in scenery, the moss covered trees were a new thing for me; not something I see in Colorado.  The fall colors were out, but not enough to notice in most of my pictures. 
Summit Sculpture

After about 35 minutes I was at the summit.  The summit was huge and pretty flat.  There was a sculpture of the area on the summit that was pretty neat and it had a topographical depiction of the surrounding area.  I had my first water while sitting on a bench and enjoying the views.  Spencer’s Butte was looking larger than I have ever seen it off to the west.  Within a few minutes I was getting ready to head back down the trail.  The descent was quick, not by choice though.  I kind of just let gravity do its thing and bring me down the trail.  I stopped for a few pictures on the way down, but that was about the excitement of it.

I always love hiking in Oregon.  I’m thankful for getting out on this short one, but hope to make my way deeper into the Cascades within the next couple years for some of the bigger volcanoes. 

GPS Track
Date: 10/8/2012
Starting Elevation:  505ft 
Mount Pisgah Summit: 1,529ft
Total Gained Elevation: 1,020ft
Distance: 3.02 miles
Time: 1:18 moving, 11min stopped
Partners: Solo

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Argentine Peak

It feels like it’s been a month since I was last in the mountains.  I have been eager to get back out but this new work schedule isn’t working with my climbing desires too well.  Lucky for me Brian was available to get out on a short hike so we made plans for Argentine Peak in the Front Range.  I had to be back in Denver by 2pm so we had another early start ahead of us.  As our usual we met at the T-Rex Lot on I-70 at 4:30am for a hopeful early morning start.

Unfortunately not all plans go according to schedule.  Argentine is a 13er, so it doesn’t see as much traffic as the neighboring 14ers.  When not as many people climb these mountains there is less and less beta with old trip reports and directions to trailheads.  This is where the day started sour for us; just getting to the TH.  We found the FS248 road off of the Galena Road out of Georgetown just fine.  The issue was it was still pitch black out and there were all of these side roads heading off of the main FS248.  I knew there was a series of switchbacks right at the beginning so I kept to the curves going up, well my first left turn ended up down a dead end road.  Let me tell you, backing up a tight 4WD road in the dark is no fun.  Brian got out and helped me back down about a 100yrds of road till there was enough space to turn around.

I guess my initial problem was not bringing the directions with us.  I figured it was going to be a lot more straight forward than it was, and I was wrong.  We were back on the main road now and not long after we had our next split…great, another opportunity for another bad decision.  There was a sign for FS248-1B, it was a signed road so I thought that looked good.  No, not the right road.  We took this for a mile maybe more.  This was a full 4WD road as was most of the way up since leaving the pavement.  At one point it was just a boulder road and I told Brian “I hope you’re in for some boulder driving.”  We were both joking around that we thought this resembled a creek bed..well it was a creek bed and not a road.  There was a trickle of water and the boulders were wet and at one point we got stuck.  I put it 4WD low and backed out…at this point I was ready to just back down the creek if I could.  Brian took off up the creek bed to see how far it went.  I weighed my options for a few seconds then just got back in the truck and plowed through the boulders to where I found Brian on a chunk of dirt.  It appeared to be a hunting campsite of sorts and the road/creek bed went no further.  We both got back in the truck turned around and back down the rocky creek we went.

Evans Group
What seemed like an eternity and was probably the matter of minutes we made it back down to the previous “disaster” split.  Brian was pointing “the” way, and at this point I wanted nothing to do with navigation anymore, because apparently I had no clue what the hell I was doing.  I hate to ruin this great travesty for all of you, but we were now on the right path and no more issues with the drive occurred.  This was an incredibly rough road, the ugliest road I have seen yet in Colorado and rivals with anything I have drove in Idaho.  We were over an hour behind our schedule, from the pavement it took over an hour for this escapade of a mere 8 miles.  If we were on the correct path the whole way it is only 6.2 miles from the pavement to the Waldorf Mine.  This still took us about 40minutes to descend on the way out, so that may give you an idea of how bad the road was.  Looking back it would have been a great film opportunity driving the creek bed in my Blazer…after all it is a Blazer and not some tricked out Jeep.

It had already been a long morning.  The sun was coming up over the mountains, so we now knew our plan of multiple summits was doomed for this outing.  Right around 7am we rolled into the Waldorf Mine parking area and I had to check that on my GPS to make sure we were in the right spot.  We were hoping to have been hiking for over an hour already so we already made an adjustment to our route.  I suggested we just head up to Argentine Pass to climb Argentine Peak and if we had time we could head to Wilcox or Edwards.  Brian was in agreement, so a little after 7am we were finally hiking.

Grays and Torreys
We took off up the old road towards Argentine Pass.  The views back in this area were amazing, I wish we made it a week or two earlier to get a full color transformation…but I’m not complaining.  I was feeling pretty exhausted from when we left the car, not sure if it was the altitude or maybe my change in diet with exercise that was backfiring on me.  Needless to say I was slow going right out of the gate.  The road is as easy to follow as it gets, just keep trudging up and up.  When the road started doing some switchbacks I caught up with Brian who was patiently waiting for me.  Just as I made it to Brian two four-wheelers came up the road.  The exhaust was worse from these guys than anything on Pikes Peak so suddenly the Pikes Peak Road didn’t seem so bad.  We decided instead of following the road to the pass were our ATV friends were, we would head cross country towards the peak and get a class 2 hike in.

The terrain here was very easy; not too rocky till making the ridgeline.  I was just in my day hikers and soon I wish I had put on my boots that were sitting in the back of my truck.  I prefer some extra ankle support while off trail.  Brian was a few hundred vertical feet above me by the time I hit the ridge.  I decided I needed to put my jacket on since the wind was quite chilling at this point.  While I was re-layering I couldn’t help but take in the amazing view of Grays and Torreys directly in front of me.  After I was adjusted with warmer clothing I was good to go and started up the north ridge of Argentine.

Argentine Benchmark
There was a dusting of snow, well I don’t know if it was snow or not.  The large pebbles of white resembled frozen hail more than snow.  My feet were a bit chilled since I was in shoes but it never got too bad.  Time to take back my North Face hikers, there is a leak in the toe somewhere.  The ridge stays pretty gentle; I mainly used boulders to stair climb to avoid any of the snow spots and a slip.  From where I gained the ridgeline there was probably 600-700 vertical feet to the summit.  It didn’t take too long to meet up with Brian on the summit, but it seemed like a lot longer period of time during the climb.

The summit area was quite large.  There was a large post declaring the high point of Argentine Peak.  Brian found the benchmark, or at least what was left of it.  Only half of the benchmark was there, so we were trying to conjure up what caused that.  I have a hard time imagining someone came up just to bust the benchmark, but I have been wrong before.  We wandered around the summit area getting a few pictures of the surrounding peaks and trying to decide if we were going to be able to get another one in today.  The ascent took a lot longer than anticipated and with our delay from the drive in we decided it would just be one mountain today.

We contemplated on hiking to ridge to Mount Wilcox for our descent, but I thought it would take more than two hours to get back to the TH if we went that way.  Unfortunately I was on a schedule and we had to be at the car by noon, so that hindered us from having any more fun for the day.  We decided to head down the way we came up, but take a bit more of a direct line down once we got off the high part of the peak.  This turned out to be a great route down and if I ever do head up again I will probably take this line.  You can see this in the GPS track of the photo album where we head directly off the ridge instead of following our ascent line.

Me on the Summit
We made it back to the road in no time at all.  There was one guy hiking up towards us taking pictures of all the fall colors.  None of my pictures really give the color justice, but the red and orange colors were amazing.  Brian and I both agreed that that we would most likely not drive this horrid road back up this way.  So, when we finally do climb the surrounding peaks we will have to find some easier roads to access the peaks.  My Blazer took a beating today and I don’t like to beat up my main ride too much.  I was impressed with my new Michelin tires and they get my seal of approval for their work to get up and back out to the pavement.

Not sure what is next, hopefully a peak on my trip to Oregon next week.  I still hope to get my 50 peaks in this year and I have more than 10 to go so I better stop messing around.  The 13ers are a great option to lose the crowds and get some solitude in the mountains of Colorado.  This marked my 9th 13er this year and I foresee many more in the near future.
GPS Track

Date: 9/29/2012
Starting Elevation:  11,580ft 
Argentine Summit: 13,728ft
Total Gained Elevation: 2,150ft
Distance: 5.03 miles
Time: 3:28 moving, 1:18 stopped
Partners: Brian