Sunday, December 29, 2013

North Star Mountain - Sub Summit

North Star Mountain
Another round of snow is heading towards the mountains, so that means only one thing: it’s time to try and squeeze in another big climb.  I have wanted to climb North Star Mountain since my first ascent of its neighbor Quandary Peak a few years ago.  North Star makes a great winter objective for anyone, there is minimal avalanche danger and any car can make the drive to Hoosier Pass as long as the roads are open.  I sent out my regular Facebook request for a partner and Paul said he was in.
I had to work Friday night closing the store so I was on minimal sleep when I rose for the day.  I have now decided that I cannot do these long drives for climbs the morning after a closing shift.  The exhaustion took its toll, so I will stick to more local climbs for those days.  I was over to Paul’s place by 6:30am and we were off.
Getting to the TH of Hoosier Pass is pretty simple and there are a few ways of going about it.  We chose to take HWY 285 to avoid all of the ski traffic on I70, but by going either way simply turn off on State HWY 9.  Since we came by the way of HWY 285 we turned north on HWY 9 in Fairplay and followed the road past the “smallest incorporated town in the U.S.”  of Alma before arriving at Hoosier Pass.  Don’t worry you won’t miss the pass, there is a large parking area on the west side of the road and there will probably be a bunch of cars there already.
Mount Lincoln
As we arrived at Hoosier Pass, there was a good 12-15 vehicles already there.  We geared up and by 8:30 we were ready to start our climb.  I must add that it was frigid cold as any winter excursion should expect.  Normally I don’t keep my down vest on for climbing, it’s more of a warm driving vest, but today I decided to roll with it on.  After our first three minutes on the trail, we found the sledding hill of sledding hills for the locals.  I would rate this hill extreme, and I could hardly believe kids were up there at 8:30 in the morning hitting the hill hard already.  Maybe it is their warm-up for the ski hills that don’t open till 9am.
The trail was hard packed snow, so no snowshoes or microspikes were warranted.  The first 1.3 miles follows an old mining road to a small saddle of sorts after a bend in the road around a large mound to the south.  I think in the summer you can drive a 4WD vehicle to this point saving a little bit of a road walk.  But with only gaining 500ft and just over a mile, I’m not sure it’s necessary for this peak.
There are a few ways to go about this mountain now that you have arrived at this mini saddle.  There is a road that wraps around and the conditions went from hard pack to unconsolidated to sections of dirt.  It just depended on the drifting.  We chose to get off the main road and start on a direct approach of the southeast ridge.  In the distance, maybe a half hour ahead of us we saw a group of about 7 people and 2 dogs ahead.  I think they chose the road, but the best part about mountains is it’s a “to each their own” type of situation.
Quandary Peak
As we started up the ridge direct the snow conditions were quite variable.  One second the wind packed snow would be like glacier ice, the next second I would be knee deep in some crusted powder.  Yesterday somebody had posted a conditions report on for this route, so we trusted their report.  They said no need for snowshoes or microspikes.  After the fact I would agree, our route snowshoes would have been nice, but only for a short period of time.  Now, if you’re heading up in the future with the new snow, some 6inches or so, looks like you will need some flotation.
The wind was pretty unbearable the entirety of the ridge.  Although it was not snowing, we had plenty of snow blown in our faces, which makes moving upwards difficult.  A time or two we had some layering adjustments, but there really wasn’t a way to make ourselves comfortable with the wind.  We just kept a slow pace that ensured we didn’t need to stop; therefore we would not freeze like giant popsicles.  With a group ahead of us we were at least able to monitor our progress and I think both of us were satisfied.  I think Paul was very happy with his acclimation since he was up in Michigan for the last few weeks.  I’d say he was kicking the mountains butt for being at such low elevations for so long. 
Pano Lincoln in Center
The further we made it up the mountain the more bone chilling cold it got.  We made it to the sub-summit of 13,400ft which Garmin and Google Earth consider the summit.  But, deep down we knew we had a good mile long ridge walk and a few hundred feet to gain to and from the true summit.  We thought about it for about two seconds, but once on top of the sub-summit it felt as if the temp dropped about 30 degrees and the wind picked up about 10mph from what we were previously experiencing.  My fingers went to straight frozen almost instantly and I could not even feel my face anymore it was a frozen ice clad mess.  I spent about 30 seconds taking pictures and told Paul I was heading down.  The feeling of frozen fingers is never a good one, I kept shaking them as much as I could to keep the blood flowing.  Once off the sub-summit we found a bit of a wind block and I pulled out my mittens and grabbed some fuel for the way down.
Sub Summit
Winter climbing as we can see has its immense challenges.  This time it was the freezing wind, had it not been for that we would have kept on route to the proper summit.  Both of us have no desire to make ourselves totally uncomfortable and overextend our limits so we had no problem turning around.  In the summer, this hike would be a breeze, but what fun would it be without a worthy challenge such as a winter ascent?
After I got feeling back to my fingers we loaded up and started making our way down the mountain.  I swear that about a half hour after we started down the wind died.  I kept telling myself that it was still a frigid hurricane at the top to make myself feel a little better about turning back.  Either way I think the both of us had an excellent day on the mountain and were both running on emptied our tanks at that point.
This is an excellent climb for those wanting to get your winter snowflakes on any lists you may have.  There is no technical difficulty, just use good judgment with the weather.  I hope to be back this winter; the views alone are worth the trip. 
GPS Track
Date: 12/28/2013
Starting Elevation: 11,533ft
North Star Mountain Sub Summit: 13,442ft
Total Gained Elevation: 1,925ft
Class: 2
Distance:  5.43 miles
Time: 3:30 moving, 1:15 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Paul

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Rosalie Peak

Rosalie Covered in Snow
After my failed attempt on Guyot yesterday I had a sour taste in my mouth.  I wanted to get back out but wasn’t sure where I would go.  The motivation seemed to be lacking, otherwise this decision would have been much easier to make.  I started thinking about south facing routes within an hour or so of town.  Now, I wasn’t thinking too hard because I went to bed without any plan in place for the next adventure.  I slept in waking up around 7am.
Still unsure what where to go, I pulled up my topo program on the computer and started searching.  I decided to go back to the Tanglewood Creek area which I have been four or five times this year already.  From the Deer Creek TH there are many options: Mount Logan, Kataka, Bandit, Rosalie, Royal or the Pegmatite Points.  Then there is always the option of just having a nice snowshoe without a summit, so there was a plethora of opportunity, but Rosalie is always the target.
To get to the Deer Creek TH head south on HWY285 from the metro area, turning north on County Road 43A which turns into Deer Creek Road (43).  Follow the main road (43) for about 7 miles till there is a jog to the left, hang a left following this road towards the Deer Creek CG.  Follow the dirt road along the north side of the CG for about a mile ending at the Deer Creek TH.
Tanglewood Tree
Since I was not in a hurry because I really thought this would be a snowshoe trip with a view I didn’t arrive at the TH till about 10am.  This is probably the latest start time I have ever had, but it was nice to have a relaxing morning.  I geared up attaching my snowshoes to my pack and I was off. 
The trail was covered in snow from the beginning, but it was a hard pack so I decided to see how long I could go without shoeing up.  Good news is the first bridge has been repaired; it was washed out during all the Colorado flooding earlier this fall.
At 1.10miles there is a junction with the Rosalie Trail, but for this climb stay on the Tanglewood Creek Trail.  Right around mile 2 the pack on the trail was not so great so I decided to put on my snowshoes there.
There are some deviations to the trail this winter compared to other times I have been up this way.  The long switchbacks are few and the gain is more direct to the clearing of tree line above the willows.  Those that have been on the trail before I’m sure will notice it, and this made the trail much fainter which would become an issue later.
After about 2.5hours of hiking I was finally coming out of the forest.  The last section was very taxing to me, so I was already contemplating my plan for the day.  I was moving at what felt to be a snails pace, but I was still moving up the mountain.  I was shocked to see this make-shift trail came out just below where the normal trail exits the forest.  That was good to know I was at least in the right area.  Now that I was back on the normal route I did the traverse that brings you about 600ft below the saddle of 12,000ft.
View to the Southwest as the Sun Fades
I started up the snow drift infested tundra and found no consistency in the snow pack.  Some areas were ice hard and some were pillow soft.  After gaining another 200ft I found a spot to sit and have lunch.
I was dog tired and had basically given up on a shot of climbing Rosalie at this point.  For lunch I packed a Skippy PB&J, so I gobbled that down with some Gatorade.  After a good 20 minutes I decided I should probably pack up and head down.  As I was attaching my snowshoes back on my pack I kept looking up at the saddle.  As far as I was concerned I was still heading down the mountain, but something was pulling me up the hill at this point.  So, I just followed my feet.  Call me crazy but it was like I was being given an invite to continue upwards.  I told myself I would hike to the saddle then I would at least have a high point of 12,000ft before heading home.
We have all been in this situation at one point.  You sit there and ponder the mountain and think how long could it possibly take, and then you just start hiking.  From the saddle I had about 1,600ft go, but thankfully most of the route was free of snow.  My traverse lead me a little above the saddle so I had a slight advantage and convinced myself that I was going to climb Rosalie today.
The main issue now was light.  With the winter solstice right around the corner, the daylight vanishes very quickly.  I left my lunch break around 2pm, so there was only about two hours of light left before the dark set in.  Lucky for me I always pack a headlamp. 
The Saddle and the Pegmatite Points
Once on the ridge there was a sense of newfound energy.  I think there is something to be said about Skippy PB&J, the energy I had was immense.  I felt like I was moving well, till about 12,800ft.  The sledge hammer hit me and I started taking bits of the mountain at a time.  The snail pace was back, and right in front of me I could see the sun lowering at a quick rate.  It was literally one foot in front of the other over the last 700 vertical feet.  I was pretty spent, but kept moving at a somewhat steady pace, that is when I wasn’t gasping for oxygen. 
At 3:30pm I finally made the summit of Rosalie.  It was a great feeling and the wind was blistering cold.  After taking a few pictures on the summit it took quite a while to get feeling back in my fingers.  This is another day to be thankful for down mittens.  I spent maybe five minutes tops on the summit.  I gathered myself and started on the trek down the mountain.
Summit Pano Looking at Mount Evans
A plan I’ve had before was to connect this with Bandit, but since light was going to be an issue that was out for this trip.  I basically followed my path down to the treeline with the help of a few short glissades on the hard packed snow.  By the time I was to the trees the light was out it felt like someone just flipped the light switch to off.  I pulled out my head lamp and found the faint trail in the snow heading through the trees.
My main concern was if the trail would be visible and if I had good working batteries in my headlamp.  I was able to follow the trail pretty easily; there were a couple times that I would check my surroundings to make sure I was on route.  This is something that if I was not totally confident in my abilities as a mountain climber I would have turned back hours ago.  But I have a lot of confidence in my experience on the mountains so I felt good and safe trekking through the trees in the dark.  Don’t do this solo unless you are prepared, you are the only way out of these situations and it takes many years to get comfortable with navigation in the dark and freezing cold.
Summit Shot
I knew I was going to be late getting home so I was quite certain that Kristi was worried and was close to calling SAR (Search And Rescue).  My pace was as fast as it could be, and I felt like I was flying down the trail.  Then I noticed what looked like cat tracks on the trail.  With the light of my headlamp that is hard to confirm, but it gave me a little giddy up in my get-a-long if you feel me.  I didn’t stop once on the way down other than checking the trail.  The stars were out but I wasn’t taking any time to enjoy the view at this point.  At 6:25pm I was back to my truck.  Just about three hours down the mountain, that wasn’t too bad considering how long the ascent took.
It felt good to be back at the truck.  All my layers were soaked from sweating on the descent.  I grabbed some water and hit the road.  I knew I had to get in cell range as soon as possible so Kristi knew all was good.  By 6:40 I was able to get the call in and we were both able to relax a bit after that.
Today was a good climb, probably the toughest day I’ve had in the mountains in Colorado.  Those inner demons of solo climbing tried to get me a few times, but luckily my senses never left and I had some good music to listen to for the entirety of the trip.  Everyone needs to know their capabilities and limits before heading into the backcountry.  I can’t stress that enough; the last place to break down is on a solo climb in the middle of nowhere.  Be careful in you climbs, use your brain and don’t overextend yourself especially while climbing solo.  Everyone have Happy Holidays!
GPS Track

Date: 12/18/2013
Starting Elevation: 9,282ft
Rosalie Peak: 13,575ft
Total Gained Elevation: 4,787ft
Class: 2
Distance:  9.83 miles
Time: 6:25 moving, 2:10 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Solo

Little French Gulch - Mount Guyot Attempt

Mount Guyot
My winter break from school has begun, so that means I have about a month to climb and ski before I’m back at the grind with spring term.  I have three days off in a row from work this week so what better than plan a few climbs.
Mount Guyot has been a mountain that I have wanted to climb for well over a year now, so I thought with the low snow levels this would be a good option.  I couldn’t convince anyone to head out with me, which is to be expected for a Tuesday climb.  After getting off work at 10:30pm on Monday I snuck in a few hours of sleep and was up at 5am for the drive to Breckenridge.
The TH I used for this hike was French Gulch.  From Main Street in Breckenridge turn east onto Wellington.  Follow this road through quite a bit of residential area till it turns into French Gulch Road.  From French Gulch Road just follow the road till it ends with a massive TH sign; there will be a sign there saying to drive no further.  The lot is fairly large, but I assume it is full on the weekends.
Bald Mountain
I arrived a little before 8am and it was frigid, my truck thermometer was reading 7°.  The road was snow packed and looked like it got a lot of use, so I was deciding whether or not to put on my snowshoes.  Instead of strapping them to my pack I just put them on at the TH.  The first 1.25miles is packed well enough not to use them for those heading out soon.
The first 1.25 miles is along a road and gets a lot of ski traffic.  I noticed a few boot prints and no snowshoe prints, so I’m assuming this is cross country skiing paradise.  Not far from the TH the first view of Guyot came into view.  It is a very impressive looking mountain.  I imagine this is a relatively easy climb in the summer months, but today I knew I would be battling the snow.
I was moving fairly well along the road, stopping here and there to take pictures of Guyot as I made my way.  After a while I walked right by a newer barn type structure and there was a beautiful home across the road.  Once passed this property there is a trail that splits off to the left.  There is no real sign but it is roughly 1.25miles from the parking lot.
Once on the trail I would say snowshoes were mandatory.  This trail leads into Little French Gulch which is the preferred way of climbing Guyot in the winter and shoulder seasons. This trail was very nice, gaining elevation but very gradually.  I followed the trail past the last remaining cabins where I was shocked to see a “Beware of Dog” sign.  From this point there was a trail that started heading up towards the northwest ridge or you could stay in the basin and make your way up the never ending gully to the summit ridge.  I had no desire to get suck in the deep snow at the base of the gully so I took the trail leading up towards the ridge.

Cabin Remains
This trail was not packed as firmly as the previous sections of the trail.  I soon passed the remnants of an old cabin that would have had an amazing view back in the day.  About another hundred yards up the route the snow went to crap.  I started punching through to about knee level, this was exhausting.  I am on the north side of the mountain, so I was expecting some snow and it looks like I got it.  I tried climbing up through the deep snow, creating quite a trench but it was too much for me. There was a rut I was in where the snow was waist level and I was having a hard time convincing myself to continue through this. The sad thing was I knew I just needed to get to the ridge, where the wind had blown most the snow away.  There was about 300-400ft to gain to get to the ridge.  After I did a calculation in my head of my progress through the crummy snow, I decided it was not feasible for me to try and gain the ridge by myself so I threw in the towel.
Parting Shot of Me and Guyot
Getting back down through the deep snow was no fun either, but once down on the hard pack I knew it would be a simple walk out.  The sun was just starting to make its way over the mountain, so finally I was starting to warm up.  I had a nice snowshoe out to the main road that seemed to go by fairly quickly.  The views of Bald Mountain were unreal, the entire climbing route was visible and the snow helped to define the steep shoots on the north face.
I got about a thousand foot in gain today even though it didn’t feel like it.  Hopefully next time I bring some of my climbing buddies to help me break a trench if the snow is too deep again.  With any luck someone else will do the trenching and we will reap the rewards.  This was a fairly short trip, so I’m planning to get out on something tomorrow and I have no idea what it’s going to be.
GPS Track

Date: 12/17/2013
Starting Elevation: 10,289ft
High Point: 11,344ft
Total Gained Elevation: 1,055ft
Class: 1
Distance:  4.86 miles
Time: 2:20 moving, 30 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Solo

Friday, December 6, 2013

Carpenter Peak

Roxborough State Park
It’s never a bad day to climb a mountain…right?  Even with the subzero temps looming over the Denver metro area, Brian and I didn’t let that stop us.  I had Friday open for a climb and wanted to get out, so I hooked up with Brian for a mid-morning hike up Carpenter Peak in Roxborough State Park.
Temps in the metro area have been downright frigid this week, a day or two ago the temp of -15° tied a record low temp.  Highs in the day have been below 10° for the past few days…brrr!  That didn’t matter much really, because thankfully I have great gear.  We were expecting temps in the -5° to 5° range today, mostly depending on wind, but lucky for us the wind was calm for most of our hike.  I layered up in a way I have only done a time or two in my adult climbing career.  I had three layers on the bottom and three-four layers on top.  With my heavy puffy down jacket in my pack alongside my mittens we were good to go.
Brian drove over to my place around 9am then we were off to Roxborough State Park.  For those of you that haven’t been there it is pretty easy to find.  Head to C470 to the west and exit at Wadsworth.  Turn south on Wadsworth till getting to Waterton Road, turn east, follow Waterton till the intersection of Rampart Range Road then turn south.  Follow this road into the park.  Don’t forget to pay your $7 state park donation, park in the lot near the visitor center.
Pano of the Red Rocks
I’m not sure what time we arrived at the park, but the temperature gauge on my truck was reading 4°.  It wasn’t too bad as we were getting ready, but I chose to start out with my dome hat and mid down jacket on.  There was actually two other cars in the parking lot, so we weren’t alone in the freezing park today.
The sky was blue and I was hopeful that the rest of the clouds would burn off by the time we made the summit, but either way we were off on the snowy trail.  We both decided there wasn’t enough snow cover to bring snowshoes, so we were booting it today.  After passing the road on the south side of the visitor center I second guessed my snowshoe decision for about a second, but lucky for us the snow was no higher than boot level.
After about a quarter mile I was sweating…really, sweating when it is near subzero temps???  But, yeah I had to ditch a layer or two.  I stopped and took off my small down jacket and ditched the dome hat and traded it for a buff.  For being so cold, it was actually very comfortable and I kind of laugh when I say this, but it was pleasant.  Brian stole the lead from me at this point and was the point man for the remaining ascent..but that wasn’t all bad since he would be breaking trail for a few miles.
Neither of us had been to this park before, so we didn’t know what the trail was really like.  As far as being covered by snow it was pretty pleasant, but I got the feeling there was a nice rocky trail beneath the 5inches of fresh powder.  We kept a nice pace up what seemed to be a low grade, the shady areas were quite cool.  I could feel the back of my shoulders ice up, but as long as we were moving it wasn’t too bad.  Both of us were fighting our sunglasses the entire trip, they would just freeze up like your car window, but we had no defroster.  I tried the old saliva trick a few times but it was just too cold and they would ice up immediately.
We did a long northeast traverse that lead us to the small summit of Carpenter Peak.  Unfortunately the west was clouded in so we could see the Denver metro area to the east and a few smaller mountains to the west.  That was all a.o.k. with me because my good friend Brian packed us in a few summit beers.  I mean who wouldn’t want a summit beer at 0°??  I must say, this was the best summit beer I have had yet; it was a New Belgium California Route Organic Lager.  I had ice on my beard and an ice beer in my hand, it was beautiful, it really was.  Just to top it off Brian pulls out a bag of Pretzels, does it get any better…doubtful.
After we finished our beers we decided it was cold enough and started back down the trail.  The moving was pretty quick, and I was heating up quite fast.  I switched in-between layers a few times even between sunglasses and goggles.  It didn’t seem to matter they both wanted to fog or ice up, it probably had to do with the lack of wind.  And because of that I would not complain, just a bit of a gust of wind and it would chill you to the bone, so wind, wind stay away!
Me and Brian on the Summit
We seemed to be flying down the trail, and after a few stops for layer alterations we were making it far down the small mountain.  There was some fresh ski tracks lower near the flats and a few people we finally ran into along the trail.  I can see this being a popular area with some neat geology and nice trails.  After making it back to the parking lot there was a good 10 cars there, I can see a weekend filling the lot pretty easily.
Today was a really, really good hike.  I’m thankful that Brian was willing to freeze his arse off with me, always good to freeze with a friend.  And he is quickly becoming the bartender of choice.  It was a fun day, and we were both prepared for it which made the enjoyment all the greater.  Come on 21st, let’s start counting these as winter climbs!
GPS Track
Date: 12/6/2013
Starting Elevation: 6,188ft
Carpenter Peak: 7,129ft
Total Gained Elevation: 1,264ft
Class: 1
Distance:  6.66 miles
Time: 2:55 moving, 1hr stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Brian

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Carbonate Mountain

Summit Shot
Hike number 3 over Thanksgiving break.  I wanted to do something fun like Galena, but with weather moving in for Sunday I decided on something in Hailey.  My second option was Della Mountain, which is the mountain immediately south of Carbonate Mountain. 
I left the house around 11am just after the rain/snow started accumulating in town.  My plan was to find a way to access Della but I wasn’t sure how to do so since there isn’t much posted online about the mountain.  After running into private property on the south and north I decided to just head up Carbonate Mountain, which is Della’s neighbor to the north.
On most visits to Hailey I usually do a hike of Carbonate, so this is an area I know pretty well.  The TH is basically in town, so that makes a very convenient hike.  For those of you looking for directions just turn west on Bullion (lighted intersection), this becomes Croy Creek Road.  Cross the bridge over the Big Wood River and park in the area on the north side of the road. 
Cloudy Conditions
There are many trails to use some much more direct than others with varying mileage, but they all connect at some point and will lead you to the summit.  I typically hike the direct southeast ridge that is the fastest way to the summit, but since I’ve been hiking quite a bit this week I took the switchbacks for the ascent to rest my burning quads.
The last time I hiked Carbonate was before the Beaver Creek Fire, so the view was quite different today.  The fire scarred the entire south face of the mountain and made it over the upper ridge threatening the town of Hailey.  It looks like the firefighters got this fire contained just in time.  On the south face the scar goes all the way to Croy Creek Road basically to the parking area.
The visibility today was at a minimum and got worse the higher I made it up the mountain.  After coming over the southwest ridge I was basically in a cloud of blowing snow.  It wasn’t too bad, but the worst weather I’ve faced on Carbonate and my other hikes this week.
Fire scar
As I arrived to what I have always considered the summit I took a look at my GPS.  I was kind of shocked to see that my TOPO program had this as a false summit and I actually had a bit north to go along the ridge.  I have always considered the first large hill the summit of Carbonate, but never had a GPS to confirm it.  I was about an hour in to my hike, so I figured I had time to continue north to the summit indicated by my GPS.
I was surprised how much longer it was to the northern summit, it felt like at least 15 minutes.  The wind was howling across the ridge and my sweat was starting to chill my back so I put on my down jacket and gloves at the summit.  I took two pictures and started back.  I would have liked to do the western summit, but the weather was just too nasty today.
Hailey, Idaho
On the return hike I mixed a number of trails to get down a little faster.  The footing on the ridge was a bit slippery in a few areas, but I felt like I was making good time.  I stopped once when I found a windless cove for a drink of water and snapped a picture of Hailey.  After that it was a ten minute hike and I was back to the car.  I took my jackets – 3 in all – off at the car.  They were all soaked, either from sweat or from the elements.  It was nice to shed the layers finally.
This would be my last hike in Idaho for a while since we are heading back to Denver tomorrow.  It has been a lot of fun hiking some new mountains and some old ones.  I ended up with 4 summits and about 6,500ft in elevation gain.  This was one of my most productive climbing weeks in a while.  I miss climbing in Idaho, I think it’s much more challenging than most of the areas I’ve been to in Colorado so far.  Be thankful for these solo summits you get here, they are hard to come by in other states.
GPS Track
Date: 12/1/2013
Starting Elevation: 5,330ft
Carbonate Mountain: 6,509ft
Total Gained Elevation: 1,905ft
Class: 1
Distance:  5.86 miles
Time: 2:30 moving, 15 stopped. 

Climbing Partner: Solo

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Cross and Avalanche Peak

The Cross 
Hiking day number 2 in Idaho.  This ended up being a solo venture, but it was a great snowshoe.  The Cross and Avalanche Peak are lower mountains in the northern Boulder Mountains.  This was a very easy snowshoe that would be great for all levels.
Drive HWY 75 north to Galena Pass, on the north side of the pass park in the pull-out on the east side of the road.  This is the trailhead for both of these mountains.  I don’t know that this is an official TH, but based on the amount of tracks I saw it gets plenty of use.  I put my snowshoes on in the parking area and I was off around 8am.
Follow the main track that leads to the southwest ridge.  Once on the main ridge there were numerous ski/snowshoe tracks from here on out.  Find the correct tracks to follow (snowshoe or ski) then simply follow the route to the summit of The Cross.  I decided to have a bit more fun and do a more direct route on the south side allowing me to take in the morning views of the Boulder Mountains.  After a short steep climb I was on the rocky summit of The Cross.
Avalanche Peak
From The Cross I could see Avalanche Peak was still a ways away and there was no real snowshoe track leading in the direction I needed to go.  Easy fix; plow my own road.  After dropping down a hundred feet or so off the summit I saw some additional tracks heading to the east.  I followed a snowshoe track to the flat saddle between the two mountains till the track died out.  The track also appeared to have what looked like Wolf tracks, but I cannot confirm that.  The animal tracks were fresh while the old tracks seemed really old and crusted over.  No animal sightings other than a squirrel or two though.
I just plowed my own road up most of Avalanche peak which was fun to do.  At some points the snow was hard and I was able to stay on top and other points I would drop to shin level but never deeper than that.  I was mainly following my GPS to the summit so I arrived at what I though was a summit on the southwest.  After recalling Dan’s pictures from the summit on the northeast looked more like where he topped out at.  That was a simple two minute walk over and then I was finally on top of Avalanche Peak. 
Pano Looking South
Me on the Summit of Avalanche Peak
The clouds were starting to lower a bit, and the wind was chilly so I took a quick fuel break, snapped a few pictures and started on my venture down the mountain.  I met up with my ascent track minus the walk up to the south summit and it was a quick walk down to the saddle area.  Instead of re-ascending The Cross, I followed another track around the north side that kept my additional elevation gain to a minimum.
In no time at all I was back to the parking lot and another trip was in the books.  This was a great snowshoe after a fun climb of Gladiator a few days prior.  The Boulder Mountains seem to be talking to me a little bit right now, so I guess I will have to come back and climb them all.  Such a beautiful range that I neglected all my years living in Idaho…shame on me!  Hell, I may even try to squeeze in another hike tomorrow.  It’s the addiction I tell you.  Have fun and be safe out there.
GPS Track
Date: 11/30/2013
Starting Elevation: 8,656ft
The Cross: 9,225ft
Avalanche Peak: 9,443ft
Total Gained Elevation: 1,500ft
Class: 2
Distance:  3.83 miles
Time: 2:16 moving, 35 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Solo

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Gladiator Peak

Gladiator Peak
It’s Thanksgiving again so that means it is our annual trip back to Hailey, Idaho.  With almost a week in Idaho I am hoping to climb a few mountains, so this report of Gladiator Peak is number one for the week.  I attempted Gladiator last Thanksgiving with my friend Mike, and we were battling snow thigh high from a different route than this, so I had to come back and give this mountain another try.
Early Morning in the Boulders
I did some research this time via and, both websites I frequently used when climbing mountains in Idaho.  For this trip I would hike the southwest ridge.  I wanted to wait for it to be light so I left Hailey about 6am and was to the pull-out on HWY 75 by 7am.
For TH parking on this trip I drove north on HWY 75 past Galena Lodge then just before the first switchback I parked at the pull-out on the west side of the road.  It was dark still being just after 7am, so I took my time getting geared up.  If anyone is going to follow my GPS Track for this report I would follow the southern traverse rather than the northern traverse to the southwest ridge.  There is much less dead fall to contend with, my hike out was quite nice though. 
Summit Ridge
Once I met up with NF-182 I headed up the steep slopes to meet the southwest ridge, after gaining the ridge it mellowed out a bit.  Don’t get me wrong, it was steep and I was huffing and puffing but I was at least on the planned route now.
Something I forgot to mention was I left my snowshoes in the truck.  I didn’t think they would be too effective, and I wanted to shed as much weight as I could.  The snow was hit-and-miss, so some parts of the route they would have been good and some parts with the powder it wouldn’t have mattered too much.  I weigh about 260 and with a pack I find snowshoes more of a drag in the early season, so that’s why I left them in the truck.  I was dropping mid shin for quite a bit of the trip which slowed me down, but I just took my time with it.  This is where the mental toughness of solo hiking comes in.  I just don’t rush myself and take it one step at a time.  Eventually the goal of the summit is usually had.  With the perfect weather today I knew I had plenty of time.  I love solo hiking, and I primarily did solo when climbing in Idaho, so it was nice to get a trip out by myself.  Solo climbs are great for clearing your mind.
Turkey Tracks
It was basically a trudge, but I still thought I was moving at a decent pace.  When I first saw the summit from below I thought it was the false summit.  So, when I found I was on the false summit, I was happy to see I wasn’t too far from the true summit. The last 500ft or so to the main summit ridge was time consuming, but the view was endless.  After attaining the summit ridge I saw I had a bit to go to get to the far end, and from what I have read online that is the true summit.  The funny thing was running into turkey tracks along the ridge.  That sure is fitting for turkey day.
The crux was the traverse over the far northeast end of the ridge.  The snow was powdery and filling in the holes around the rocks.  I took my sweet time but made it over to the true summit a little before 11am.
I didn’t feel any wind till I was on the summit, so I put on my down jacket and had a snack.  The views were out of this world today.  This was one of those days where you just sit there and take in the view for as long as you can.  Castle Peak was looking amazing, one I have yet to climb.  I foresee a trip coming up for that in the near future.
Castle Peak
It was time to head down so I got my stuff back together.  Typically I don’t do the Cliff Gels, but I had one today and it helped immensely on the way down.  It seemed like I was making good time down the mountain so I just kept going till I hit the forest service road.  There was nothing exciting to note on the trip down.  I just knew I needed to get back for turkey dinner.  I took a different route back to the road heading more south to avoid the ups and downs and the downfall area.  This is the route I would do again, and maybe bring some snowshoes.
It was a great adventure today, and now it’s nice to be back with the family and enjoying all the smells of Thanksgiving.  The plan for Saturday is the Cross and Avalanche Peak, so hopefully there is a new TR coming soon.
GPS Track
Date: 11/28/2013
Starting Elevation: 7,636ft
Gladiator Peak: 10,243ft
Total Gained Elevation: 3,000ft
Class: 2
Distance:  5.81 miles
Time: 4:17 moving, 1:35 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Solo

Friday, November 22, 2013

Green Mountain

Me on the Summit
As the semester winds down I have been trying to get out more and more.  Last Sunday I did a hike of Legault Mountain with a few friends but didn’t do a trip report since I have hiked that mountain several times now.  I had bought some new hiking boots at REI’s latest sale and I was eager to test them out.  The boots are Solomon Quest’s, and this is my first time buying this brand.  So far I highly recommend them.  They have a good fit with great ankle and arch support. 

For today I was looking for a quick hike since Kristi was working a half day.  About 10pm last night I decided I needed to get out and found Green Mountain via Summit Post and made plans for a Friday morning hike.

Green Mountain is only about a 30 minute drive from my place, so I was in no hurry to leave this morning.  I hung about the apartment waiting for the temp to rise a bit and finally left around 9am.  I chose to take C470 to Alameda Parkway, follow the parkway to the east turning left at a stoplight. Turn northeast continuing what is still Alameda and park at the TH location off of Utah or Florida Ave.  I parked at the small lot off of Utah Ave, if I did it again I would head up to the Florida Ave lot which is much bigger and the loop trail works a lot better from there.

The online maps I found were sketchy at best so I was kind of on an exploratory hike today.  As I left the parking lot the trail was snow/ice covered and a bit slick.  Not worthy of traction, I just had to be mindful of my steps.  For my ascent route I took the John O. Haden Trail, which is easy to navigate with signs at each intersection.  The trail was mostly a single track, but it did widen in some areas.  There had been some bikers on the trail since the snowfall yesterday and a few footprints, but not much that I could see in the way of humans at the time.

Mount Morrison
Eventually the John O. Haden Trail connects to the Green Mountain Trail, which is more of a road.  This is on top of the flat summit ridge north of the radio tower.  From here it is a short rolling road walk to the true summit of Green Mountain.  The summit area is flat with a tiny rock cairn.  I found a large boulder which I think had a benchmark attached to it at one point, but is no longer there.

Longs Peak
With the temps around 30° and hardly any wind on the summit it was very pleasant.  I took the typical pictures then walked over to another high point on the ridge to check it out.  There wasn’t much on the other point than a larger cairn.  I started back along the trail, which is much more of a road on top.

For the descent I stayed on the Green Mountain Trail to see where it went.  I recommend if you take this route and parked at the lot off of Utah Ave to turn west when arriving at the John O. Haden Trail intersection.  I stayed on the main trail and it took me to the lot off of Florida Ave.  From there I connected on the trail that leads around the mountain till meeting back up with the Utah lot.

This was a great easy hike.  It reminded me of hiking Table Rock back in Boise, but with less elevation gain.  I made a loop, but this could be done from many ways.  I would love to do this as a full on snowshoe with about 8 inches of fresh powder sometime.  We are off to Idaho on Tuesday, so hopefully another trip report will come out of that. 
GPS Track
 Date: 11/22/2013
Starting Elevation: 6,094ft
Green Mountain Summit: 6,847ft
Total Gained Elevation: 753ft
Class: 1
Distance:  4.93 miles
Time: 1:58 moving, 15 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Solo

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mount Machebeuf

Me on the Summit of Mount Machebeuf
All work and no play makes Nick a dull boy.  Well we all know that line came from the movie The Shining, but there is some truth to it.  Between school and work I haven’t been able to get out in about three weeks so I felt due for a climb.  Wednesday would be my first day off of work and school in quite a while so I sent out a message to my Facebook cronies and Paul replied.  I didn’t have much time to research anything much, since I really should be using my time for other things, but nobody said I was perfect.

Paul and I tentatively made plans for a Mount Guyot climb so we were getting somewhere.  I picked Paul up about 7am, which was rather late for us, but we mountain climbers need our beauty sleep too.  Things felt off from the start, primarily because the sun was out, and it felt like a late start.  Somehow I convinced myself that the drive to Mount Guyot would take too long, so we started discussing closer options.  I thought Mount Machebeuf would work out well for us.  I had been in the area of the mountain a few times already this year; with the most recent being my climb of Mount Bethel; a neighbor to the west.  After a pit stop in Georgetown for some Powerade, we made the decision to switch plans and were only a few exits away from our new TH of Herman Gulch.

The Ascent Gully
Herman Gulch TH is really easy to get to.  Any vehicle that can drive to the divide can make it since there is pavement almost to the TH.  Take I-70 West from Denver and get off at exit 218.  Once getting off the freeway take an immediate right at the stop sign that turns onto an improved dirt road for about 100yards ending at the Herman Gulch TH.  There is a restroom which is always a bonus and a large parking lot, which I would say fills up on most weekends.  Before I get carried away with the climb I thought I would add a little history to this report.  Mount Machebeuf is named after the first bishop of Colorado Reverend Joseph P. Machebeuf, he resided in Colorado from 1860-1889.  There is your fun fact for the day, now on with the climb.

About half past 8am we were geared up and ready to go.  Neither of us knew completely what was in store for us since we were more or less climbing on the fly.  We took off along the trail heading to Herman Lake at a mellow pace.  I’m glad that Paul hadn’t been knocking off mountains lately because it made my pace feel not so slow today.  The trail is in excellent shape, I’m assuming most of the traffic is heading to Herman Lake.  This is also part of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), so I’m assuming the upkeep is a lot higher compared to the Watrous Gulch trail heading to the east.  I have looked at climbing this mountain a few times, but not recently so we were kind of guessing on which route to follow.  I know the CDT comes to the west ridge of Machebeuf, but I don’t think either of us was looking for trail hike today.  It seemed as when we approached the first major gulley, we both looked at each other and said: Does that look good?  It was funny, but that’s when you know you’re with a good climbing partner, your ideas are in sink even though nobody is really saying anything.
The Summit!

I can say this now that I have done the climb; my depth, height whatever perception you want to call it is crap.  From the base of the gulley I thought maybe 1,000-1,200ft to the summit…not even close.  When I got home and figured out the elevation on my TOPO program, it turned out to be more of around the 1,800ft range to the summit from the start of the gulley.  For those of you familiar with Colorado climbs that is about the length of the Dead Dog Couloir on Torreys Peak.  I know a couple times I wondered if we were making any ground.  About a quarter of the way up the gulley we took our first break.  I was heating up pretty good at this point since it was more vertical gain than anything so I had to strip my outer fleece layer and suck down some water.

Everyone knows the answer to this.  What happens almost the second you take a jacket, sweater or any layer off?  The dam wind tries to freeze you out, that’s what happens.  I hate it, but as I have found out in my years in the mountain, this is the way it’s going to be.  Not too far up the mountain I was slinging my pack off, digging out my jacket and putting it back on.  I’ll tell you what…sometimes, it’s a vicious cycles between the weather and your layers.  The climbing was in your face steep, just the way I like it.  It is like climbing natural stairs, and to tell you the truth I think it makes climbing mountains pretty easy.  Lucky for the both of us we were in no hurry, so we took our sweet time heading up the gully.  I would stay to the left of the drainage; it’s just easy climbing for the most part.  We did hit some “kitty litter” scree around the 12,000ft range and the boulders were loose.  This only lasted for about 100 vertical feet, so prepare for a little suffering.  Hey, if you didn’t suffer a little, it wouldn’t be worth it…right. Ha-ha.

Looking East-to-South Parnassus to Snictau
Above the 12,000ft range there was a good hundred feet or so of 45+° climbing.  I had to use my hands a few times, but the climb remains a class 2 in my book.  Needless to say, it gets steep.  Find the grass steps and all will be well.  Paul decided to take a breather for some fuel, and I kept plugging along up the mountain.  The wind was so chilly I kept telling myself, once I get to the summit I will pull out my down jacket and warm up.  It wasn’t too chilly, but the wind was less than friendly.  I soon realized the rocks we were climbing to were not the real summit, so I started a minor traverse.  Just follow the gulley to the top of the ridge; from there it’s a simple hike to the true summit.  As I arrived onto the main ridge I wasn’t exactly sure which was the true summit so I walked to the mound to the west then followed a faint ridge trail to the east to what I would call the true summit.  The wind was just vicious on top, I didn’t have my wind meter but I would guess the winds were at least in the 40’s.

Once on the summit I didn’t know what to do.  All that time in the windy cold I was saying to myself there would be a nice wind shelter built that I could use to escape from the elements.  Well, that didn’t happen quite the way I had envisioned.  There was nothing, a bare summit.  I would call this mountain probably a hill in-between larger summits, so nobody ever excavated a wind shelter on top.  That was disappointing because it was so cold, but that is life.  I took the standard pictures all around.  The pictures won’t bring out the chill but I would guess it was in the low 20’s. 
Hagar and the Citadel

I wasn’t on the summit for more than a few minutes when I saw Paul making his way to the mini saddle between the false and true summit.  When he got there I was getting chilled having not put on my down jacket yet since there was no hiding place.  I suggested we try and find some shelter to have a fuel break and warm up and he almost didn’t even stop on top.  That must have been the quickest summit visit ever.  There was nothing close to hide behind, so we went to the lee side of the hill and hunkered down as low as we could get.  The wind was still howling, but it wasn’t unbearable.  I was quick to pull out my down jacket and mittens.  Oh, those mittens…if there is one piece of gear that is a must, it is the mittens.  They warm you so fast; I don’t know why I spent so many years without them.  I ate about half my PB&J and suggested we move somewhere “more friendly” lucky for me Paul was in total agreement.
Mount Snictau in Black & White
Since this whole trip was pieced together on the fly, we didn’t even know which way to go down.  I knew I didn’t want to descend our ascent route, it was just too steep.  The wind was blowing from the west so that ruled out the west ridge heading towards Herman Lake.  Option 3: we work our way along the ridge and drop down to Watrous Gulch Trail.  Beautiful, we had a plan.  The route down was mellow and wide open.  We kept saying how sweet a glissade would be, tons of slope and lots of run-out.  I would love to come back this way in the winter just to play.
Once we made it to the first tree/bush, I’m not sure exactly what they were; we took a good long lunch break.  Of course we picked a spot with a view; Torreys Peak was looking so impressive it was hard to look away.  I finished my PB&J, some pretzels a beef stick that I would later regret and a hand full of anti-inflamitories.  My right foot was getting sore (plantar flascitus), but not too bad.  After the break I was feeling much better.  The good thing was for once today I knew exactly where we were and had a good idea of how far it was back to the TH.
After we saddled up for the remaining descent, we dropped about 200 vertical feet and met up with the Watrous Gulch Trail.  That was a nice feeling to be on a trail for the remaining part of our climb.  We ran into a group of ladies a few minutes later, who thought I was a friend that they hiked with.  Scarry, there are two of us running around out here.  Ha-ha.  On the hike out my foot loosend up and it was very enjoyable.  For those of you that don’t know this trail there is clear views of Torreys Peak and Mount Snictau for the remainder of the hike.  If that doesn’t put a shit eating grin on my face nothing will.  It is an absolute beautiful end of the day.  I love it, Paul and I had another excellent day in the mountains.  Every day I get out I am thankful for.  Get out and climb your mountain, hike your trail…whatever gives you that shit eating grin!
GPS Track
Date: 10/9/2013
Starting Elevation: 10,300ft
Mount Machebeuf Summit: 12,805ft
Total Gained Elevation: 2,600ft
Class: 2
Distance:  5.33 miles
Time: 3:20 moving, 2:00 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Paul