Friday, November 23, 2012

Patterson Peak

After flying into Boise on Tuesday evening Kristi and I made our way to Hailey in central Idaho.  Kristi’s brother Danny and I had been sending messages back in forth about a Thanksgiving Day climb in the area and decided on hiking the neighboring mountain of Patterson Peak.  We both needed to be back at the house by 1pm so we decided on an early 5am start.

The nice thing about this hike was we were able to walk from the front door of the house to the mountain.  This is some pretty amazing access that is hard to find these days.  I drank my Monster energy drink and had a couple sugar cookies for breakfast then we were off just after 5am.  There was a heavy frost as we were leaving it was brrr cold, but I wasn’t sure what the temperature was.  The sky was bright with stars which is one of the things I love about Hailey.  After a fast quarter mile walk on the pavement we hit the trail-less foothills and started our climb.

Early, Early Morning Light
There are many different ways to attack the route of this mountain and we chose by starting on one of the ribs to the south of Woodside Elementary School.  The steepness is pretty relentless so there really wasn’t much relief for the first 600ft of vertical climbing.  It seemed like it took us a while to get up this initial section, but that was probably just because we weren’t warmed up yet.  The temp was cool enough that both of us were wearing double layered pants and light down jackets.  Lucky for us the wind was pretty nominal during the first sections so we weren’t chilled to the bone yet, in fact I was starting to heat up quite quickly so soon removed my down jacket layer.

I wasn’t watching the time too much but I think we gained the west ridge in the first 30-45 minutes.  Once on this ridge the terrain definitely got a lot easier.  At times gaining the ridge the slope felt dam near vertical like a wall, it is a steep route so gaining elevation does go quickly.  There was still no sign of the sun rise so we were hoping to gain the main south ridge to catch a glimpse of the sun rising in the east.  The wind started picking up so midway to the south ridge I put my down jacket back on.  After a bit of trail mix and some ice cold water we completed the last couple hundred feet gaining the main south ridge.

We dropped our packs and took some pictures of the orange burnt colors of the sun rising.  It was quite cold so we chose to keep moving and in the next 10 minutes the sun was fully rising over the distant mountain ranges.  The view was amazing; it’s always nice to be able to fight through the cold and the dark for a sunrise.  We hit snow pretty fast somewhere around the 7,700ft area.  It started out light and crusty just perfect for kicking in when we needed to.  There were a few points where the wind chill was pretty unbearable but we just continued to move up the ridge.

Looking Into Hailey from Patterson's Summit
This south ridge was definitely a roller coaster and you all know I’m not too fond of ups and downs.  As we would hike to the low parts of the humps the snow would get deeper up to our knees at some points so we had to make sure to keep on the crown of the ridge.  Patterson’s summit was not marked on my TOPO so we were not sure how long this coaster ride would be.  Each hump looked like a mountain all to itself, and looking back I dreaded the hike back up what we were now descending.  Once we got up onto the third major hump there was a rock cairn with a huge PVC pipe with a summit registry.  It indicated that we were in fact on Patterson, so we were both glad to see that.

Danny and Me on the Summit
Our water bottles had both frozen over so it took a little work to bust through the ice.  We had been on the summit for about 15 minutes and our fingers were freezing from taking photos so we knew it was probably time to start heading out.  I dreaded the idea of hiking back over the humps from our ascent route so talked Danny into taking a more mellow ridge into one of the many canyons feeding into Hailey.  The going went well on the snow but when changing to the rock my toes were frozen like planks so it took some time for them to re-adapt.  Danny spotted about 8 or 9 deer down in the canyon and how I wished we could run down this steep hill like they can.

I was welcoming the heat as we continued to descend and before dropping completely into the canyon we had our last break.  The peanut butter cups that Danny brought were amazing as was his Mt. Hood Trail mix.  I took the chance to shed all my hot layers then we were off.  The drop into the canyon was steep and unforgiving, but within 15-20 minutes we made it to an old 4WD road and had a simple hike out ahead of us.  It took us another half hour or so to funnel out into the population of the world again then we connected with one of the local trails that follows the “Toe of the Mountain” as it was called.  Just after noon we were back to the house.  A 7hour 3,000+ vertical day was a great way to start Thanksgiving.  My knees hurt like hell but that is no different than any other day, with any luck I will have another climb on Saturday and a new TR to soon follow.

GPS Track
 Date: 11/22/2012
Starting Elevation: 5,260ft
Patterson Peak Summit: 8,240ft
Total Gained Elevation: 3,020ft
Distance: 8.32 miles
Time:  5:05 moving, 2:01 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Danny

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Woods Mountain

Woods Mountain
Climbing plans and the actual climb rarely meet eye to eye.  Today was no exception.  I had an idea of combining up to four peaks on this outing, but Mother Nature had other plans for me.  With our Thanksgiving trip to Idaho coming up the following week I wanted to make sure to get out on a mountain this weekend.  The weather was calling for windy conditions, will a high around 0° near the summit with the wind chill factored in.  I thought this would be a great day for a winter gear test, so  I packed it all, my heavy down jacket down to my plastic mountaineering boots.

I wasn’t able to convince anyone to head out with me this week, so I was going solo for the first time in quite a while.  Luckily I was still able to find motivation to get up when my alarm went off at 4:30am and was off on the road by 5am.  Today’s drive was easy; take C-470 to I-70 up to exit 218 into the Herman Gulch TH parking lot.  Once off the freeway the dirt road was only a couple hundred yards to the parking area.  This was nice not to have a bumpy 4WD approach and to within an hour from home. 

Just after 6:30am I was off on the trail.  There was a light snow falling and most of the high mountains were covered in clouds.  I planned my start time just right so I wouldn’t need to dawn a head lamp today, because nobody likes hiking alone in the dark.  I chose my plastic mountaineering boots today and was quickly reminded of how unforgiving they are on the dirt trail.  These boots are made for snow and cramponing up glaciers.  In the first mile my feet and shins were already sore, but that was just something I was going to have to deal with today.  I had already removed my parka, gloves and switched my snow cap for my ball cap.  I was heating up like a furnace with all my winter gear on.  It was still better to be too warm than too cold.

As the trail made its way around the SE flanks of Mount Machebeuf and started gaining its way up Watrous Gulch there was more and more snow on the trail.  The Bard Creek Trail marker was at 1.45miles according to my GPS.  As I stood there taking in the views I noticed a shelter made in the wooded area to the SE.  I guess if the end of the world comes on December 21st I have a new place to call home.  I marked the trail split on my GPS then headed up the snow covered trail.  As the wind started picking up and I kept saying to myself that I should stop and put my parka back on, but I continued for another half mile or so before I actually stopped.

Fall-Out Shelter
My first break was more of a gear change, I still wasn’t too hungry but tried a pumpkin cliff bar….barf!  Stay away; I don’t know why I even bothered to try it since I’m usually a snickers man.  There was a nice log on the side of the trail so I sat down and had a break.  I was looking at the map wondering how far I would be able to go today.  At this point I knew I would give up on the Parnassus-Bard leg of the loop and was planning on doing the Woods-Machebeuf loop.  As I said earlier, nothing ever goes completely to the plan.  Climbing mountains is a series of adjustments and if all goes well you will at least get up a mountain.  I was looking at the map and was pretty sure I would be up for the Woods loop, but solo motivation is something that can turn quickly.  Just as I was getting ready to leave a bird flew down on the log right next to me.  Looking in a book at home I believe it was a GrayJay aka Camp Robber.  I was thankful he was willing to pose for some pictures, but he was probably disappointed when I didn’t leave him any food to eat.  Soon his partner flew down to join him, so I took a few pictures and was on my way up the trail.

Not long after my break there was another break in the trail.  It looked like the main trail went to the NW and a Climbers Trail went to the NE.  I knew the saddle I was heading to so I took the Climbers Trail to the NE.  The terrain started to open up as I was about to leave the tree line and as that happened the wind also picked up.  I was moving slow wearing the big plastic boots.  They felt like they were about 10lbs on each foot at times.  My legs were getting tired already so here I was changing plans again.  I didn’t decide at this point to only do Woods but I thought about it as I was gaining on the saddle between Woods and Parnassus.  The wind was beating the crap out of me and at times pushing me around.  You know it’s an impressive gust when it almost knocks a guy like me down.  By the time I was near the saddle I had decided only to climb Woods today.  I think if I wasn’t in my winter gear at this point I would have turned around.  But the one good thing was those plastic boots kept my toes nice and warm.

It took me almost three hours to make the summit from the parking lot.  It was a windy and cold, but a beautiful summit.  The clouds had lifted on the high surrounding mountains so I had a good chance to take some pictures.  I was surprised that I was able to name most of the peaks; I guess those hours of looking at maps is paying off.  The conditions were cold, but I didn’t bother pulling out my down jacket.  My layering system of thermal underwear, fleece sweater and heavy parka shell were good enough to keep me warm.  My fingers froze as usual as I was taking pictures so I warmed them up in my down gloves for a few minutes to thaw them out.  Most of my snacks were frozen and I didn’t have a hunger at all so I just drank my slushy Gatorade and started to get ready to head out of the wind.

As I was putting my pack on I noticed my belt buckle was missing on one side.  I thought; am I going crazy?  No, it wasn’t there.  I searched the grounds for a few minutes and found the busted plastic piece.  This was not going to be a fun trip down I could tell already.  I tied the belt as best as I could, but it didn’t work too well.  As I was hiking down the first 500ft of the mountain I started to get feeling back in my fingers, and that is the worst.  When that blood rushes back to your fingertips it is so painful, almost makes you want to scream.  But, the good thing is that means they will be back to normal soon.

Grays-Torreys Group
It took a bit to make it back down to tree-line, but I was glad to be out of the wind.  I took a nice long break shedding layers and eating a bunch of snacks.  As I sat there another climber and his dog made their way up the trail.  We chatted for a while and I warned him of the cold winds and we parted.  I felt like I was moving pretty good down the mountain, the descent on the snow trail was nice since there was a little cushion but that soon ended.  A slow steady pace brought me back to my car a little before 1pm.  It was a good hike staying class 1 the entire way, I look forward to coming back to this easy access area since there are so many options of different mountains to climb.  Now I’m off to Idaho so hopefully I will have a couple trip reports to post next week!  Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!

Date: 11/17/2012
Starting Elevation: 10,300ft
Woods Mountain Summit: 12,940ft
Total Gained Elevation: 2,6409ft
Distance: 6.27miles
Time: 3:55 moving, 1:46 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Solo
Picture Link:

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Kelso Mountain

Kelso Mountain

The Ducks-USC game was scheduled for 5pm, so I had time to get a mountain in before it started.  Brian couldn’t make it this weekend so I invited another climber from; Craig.  We met at the winter parking lot at the Bakerville exit off of I-70 at 6am.  There were reports of ice on the road so we took my Blazer and left Craig’s vehicle at the lower lot.  The road wasn’t too bad, there were some sections of ice and packed snow, so vehicles that usually make the TH shouldn’t have issues.  There are many different ways to climb Kelso, we decided to start from Stephens Gulch TH and hike the Grays trail around the south of Kelso Mountain.

We were the first to arrive at the TH, somewhere around 6:30am.  The stars and the moon light were amazing.  One day I would love to learn to take photos in the dark of the amazing lights, but for now the shots just turn up black.  There was no wind unlike a few weeks ago, so I didn’t need a parka just my fleece sweater which was nice.  As we were heading to the trail another car pulled into the lot.  I was surprised that us and this other car were the only ones up bright and early for a hike.  I guess a little ice and snow keeps the crowds at home, and I can’t say I don’t like that.

Today was a leisure hike.  We knew that the route was less than 2,000ft vertical and under 6miles, so we were in no hurry.  I thought the views a couple weeks ago were good, but since the snow has only made the mountains look more dramatic.  Torreys Peak and it’s amazing rock contours resemble more of a Himalayan Peak when the snow and ice fill in the cracks.  I could probably post a picture of Torreys and tell everyone it was a Himalayan Peak and they might buy it.  We made it to the regular first break site on this trail at the main sign where Grays and Torreys come into full view.  This is about 1.5miles from the TH, and by the time I usually make it to this point the light is just enough to take my first photos of the day.

After some trail mix and a splash of water we were off up the trail.  We kept our eye on Kelso’s slopes as we made our way around to the south.  I wasn’t sure if we wanted to do a scramble from the saddle of Torreys and Kelso or just weave our way up the steep grassy slopes.  After a long spell of observation and conversing with Craig we decided to start a traverse up the steep grass along the rock.  I enjoyed this part probably a lot more than Craig.  It had been a couple weeks since I was last hiking so my legs were hungry, I turned my motor on and stair climbed the steep wall.  I loved it, it may sound odd but I get a nice adrenalin rush powering up mountains sometimes.  I kept going till I hit the ridge then waited there for Craig.  The wind picked up once on the Kelso ridge so I took in the amazing views and found a nice windless resting place.

Torreys and Grizzly
Craig made it the ridge in no time at all.  From here to hike was a cake ridge walk.  I enjoyed this ridge since the west side was a complete drop-off into Grizzly Gulch and to the east was a nice mellow grass/rock incline.  The views westward were so amazing that we often found ourselves stopping to take in the view.  I was expecting more snow on the high mountains then I would feel a good gust of wind and would realize once again it is too dam windy here for any snow to stick.  There is one official false summit along the ridge, but I would call the humps a series of false hope as you hike the ridge.  The snow on the leeward side was increasing as we gained higher on the mountain.  By the time we were reaching the final summit push there was blanketing snow and freezing winds and I said to myself; this is Colorado.

Kelso Summit-Rock Cairn Above the Snow
There was a small rock cairn on the summit surrounded by snow.  We dropped our packs, decided we would take a few pictures then bail to the other side of the ridge to have a fuel break.  My fingers froze while taking pictures, so I had to pull out my down mittens and boy were they nice.  It’s amazing how fast down heats you up, within a minute or too I was ready to take more pictures and freeze my fingers again.  The snow covered peaks make the hike and freezing well worth it, the view is something that cannot be described easily in words.  So, I guess what I’m say is you will all have to head up a mountain and experience this and you will understand my addiction.

We hiked about 100yrds down the leeward side of the ridge and found our windless pit stop.  The water in my water bottles were icing up and my snickers bar was completely frozen.  I found the one good trail food I enjoy in the cold is trail mix.  It doesn’t freeze and you get a nice caloric boost in just a couple handfuls.  Even though we were out of the wind we were getting chilled so we made the pit stop quick and gathered ourselves for the hike down the mountain.  We decided not to back-track our ascent route and take a more direct line down to the main trail.

The upper mountain was gradual and easy on the knees, but that soon changed.  There was a good 1,200ft drop from the summit to the trail in about 3/4mile to give you an idea of the steepness.  I was feeling good and was powering down the hill as my body heated up again.  It was different for Craig; he doesn’t have the experience of romping down steep hills so it took him a bit longer.  I just made a zig-zag line down the mountain picking my way as I could.  At a few points I came across some snow and how I wished it was soft and deep enough for a glissade.  Oh, it was more of the ice variety so that was no option today.  I made it down to the trail and waited for Craig.  Once we were gathered together again it was a simple mile walk down the trail to the car.

It was an amazing day in the Front Range again.  I can see myself climbing Kelso from multiple routes in the future.  This would make a good winter mountaineering mountain for beginners to advanced levels; it all depends on what angle you attack it from.  Kristi scheduled a massage for next Saturday, so I get to get out again and I can’t wait!
GPS Track

Date: 11/4/2012
Starting Elevation: 11,245ft
Kelso Mountain Summit: 13,176ft
Total Gained Elevation: 1,931ft
Distance: 4.64miles
Time: 3:03 moving, 2:49 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Craig