Monday, January 21, 2013

Pegmatite Points

Pegmatite Points
Tomorrow classes start, so today is in a way my last day of freedom.  What better way to spend it than a nice climb in the mountains of Colorado.  Since it was a holiday Brian was able to join me and we decided to climb the Pegmatite Points.  The nice part of this selection is the drive was just over an hour so we could sleep in till 6am.  We met at the Meyer Ranch Parking Lot at 7:30 and made our way to the main Deer Creek TH by 8:30.

The temp was warm at the parking lot and I was already shedding layers; this was a nice change.  We took a bit longer than usual getting geared up since we both were figuring out how to tie on our snow shoes to our packs.  I’m guessing by 9am we were finally off on the trail.  The trail for the whole day was all snow covered and hard packed, so micro spikes were all we needed for traction.  Since our start was later than usual my stomach was ready for fuel rather quickly.  Within the first mile I was already digging into my Cliff Shots and Trail Mix.  After a quick bite I felt much better and continued my slow jont up the trail.

Frozen Creek
Tanglewood Creek was a pretty neat area, and new to the both of us.  You cross what would be creek water a few times on frozen ice.  The ice was thick and had a nice glaze to it; this is where the micro spikes really came in handy.  I could hear the wind howling away but within the trees we were well protected from the chills to be found later in the day.  Most of the day I had no gloves on and was able to sport my ball cap all day.  As Brian was making a shoe change I went ahead of him into the switchback section.  The switchbacks were so mellow that it didn’t feel like I was gaining, but I actually was.  Within the next mile the trees started to fade and the upper slopes of the mountain finally opened up.

I came to a nice open area in the sun and took my pack off just as Brian caught up with me.  It was a good time for a break so I had some summer sausage and a Gatorade before the final push up to the summit.  The snow looked inviting for my snowshoes so I decided to detach them from my bag.  After all I carried them all this way so I may as well use them.  I have the MSR Ascents with the heel lift and this would be my first time using them.  I was very impressed; it was almost like walking up stairs flat footed.  There was about 300ft to gain to the saddle and Brian was up there waiting just below for me.  I ditched the shoes and we were off to the Points.

Denver from the Summit
The wind was crazy, the forecast called for up to 40mph gusts, but I think the winds were a constant 50+mph.  I’m about 275pounds and the wind was blowing me around like a rag doll at times.  There isn’t many things worse than the beating you get from the wind.  Lucky for us it wasn’t cold, so it wasn’t that bad.  It took us a long while to make our way across the ridge to the summit, but eventually we made it and we were both exhausted.  I was able to get a few pictures looking into Denver then we headed back to our gear stash.

It was a tough hike back to the saddle, we had to search for our stashed poles and found them after a bit of wandering around.  At one point the wind blew off my Oregon Ducks hat and I thought it was gone for sure.  Luckily it was only about 100yrds away; that would have been disappointing to lose since it’s been on about 100 summits with me.  On the way down to our packs I marveled at the trees, I guess that’s why they call it Tanglewood Creek.

After a much needed Snickers and some water we loaded up and were on our way back to the TH.  We both thought we would only be in for 6-7miles and at this point we knew it would be around 9.  That made my knees sore just thinking about it.  The good thing was the soft snow wasn’t so hard on my knees, so the going down was pretty fast.  When we made it to Brian’s boot stash he had a hell of a time getting his gear stowed in a comfortable manner, but eventually got it all worked out.  We made it back to the car around 3:30pm, which felt like good time to me.  The day was tough but we got through in one piece.  I hope to get out next weekend, but I guess school will come first and I’m not sure I’m ready for that.
GPS Track

Date: 1/21/2013
Starting Elevation: 9,280ft
Pegmatite Points Summit: 12,180ft
Total Gained Elevation: 2,900ft
Distance: 9.19miles
Time: 4:54 moving, 1:57 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Brian

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Colorado Mines Peak

Trail Head of Berthound Pass

I’m not proud; I will take any summit I can get.  I figure what makes an easier summit than a trail head at over 11,000ft?  Brian and I had a difficult time deciding what mountain to climb, so I made it easy for the both of us by picking Colorado Mines Peak.  The forecast temperatures were around 30°F and winds up to 35mph giving a wind chill of -17°F…sounds like good weather to me.  I have learned that with winter climbing in Colorado this is in fact very good weather.

Flora and James Peaks
Brian and I met at one of the Dinosaur Park-n-Rides off of I-70 around 7am.  The only bad thing is everyone else in Denver was at the Park-n-Ride too, for a weekend of skiing at the many Colorado resorts.  As we got on the freeway the traffic resembled more of a rush hour scene than my typical trip into the mountains.  The drive to Berthound Pass took a bit longer than it should have, but we couldn’t really complain too much.  As we de-boarded the car I glanced at the temp reading on the dashboard and it was registering a warm 16°F.  I knew the temp was a bit cooler since there was a good breeze going at the time.  I didn’t waste any time putting on my layers for the hike. Within a few minutes we were off on the trail.

From the TH the trail follows along an old road, which is probably used for the maintenance of the towers atop the peak.  The snow pack started out very good and I was thankful since we both left our snow shoes in the car.  Being in the trees helped with the temp as there was no wind, so we were probably experiencing 16°F through the woods.  After a few switchbacks on the road the snow drifting took away our nice hard packed route.  I started post holing to above my ankle then to knee level for a little while.  I really wished I had my snow shoes now!  The upper windblown mountain looked like a better option than staying on the road.  We ditched the road and headed straight up the mountains face. 

Brian Knee Deep
The going was much easier now that we were off the road.  There was 600-700ft to go, so I just took as straight of a line as I could and trudged up the mountain.  The wind was kicking in and my feet were starting to freeze.  I decided today to wear my hiking boots rather than my heavy plastics.  The going was much easier in these boots and I did bring some toe warmers, but I was waiting to get to the summit to put them on.  My knee was tightening up a bit so I moved into a rest step mode and it helped a lot.  After a bit more of a trudge I made the summit.  It took 1hour and 20minutes from the car, not too bad, basically on the 1,000ft per hour schedule that I like to keep.

I found a nice wind block and dumped my pack and started digging for my toe warmers.  I wasn’t sure if these things would work, but I was pleasantly surprised when my frozen toes started thawing out.  The wind chill was so cold, somewhere in the -15°F range that I would remove my glove take two pictures and then have to glove up my frozen fingers.  I was glad to have my down gloves with me because they warm you up really, really fast.

Longs and Meeker
We just hung out in the wind block for most of the time, but the clear blue sky was giving us great views.  I was glad Brian had brought up some warm tea; it sure hit the spot on such a cold day.  We decided that the wind chill was too much for us to continue onto Flora today, so we will save that mountain for another date.  After about 40minutes we decided to gear up and start making our way down the mountain.  The upper portion was bone chilling cold, but after we descended a few hundred feet the winds subsided.    After a bit of plunge stepping we made our way back onto the original trail.  The descent was quick and we were back to the car in no time at all.  This was a great short peak to climb; I hope to add some of the nearby ones in the future.  But for now a warm chair and a cup of hot chocolate sounds pretty good.

GPS Track
Date: 1/19/2013
Starting Elevation: 11,317ft
CO Mines Peak Summit: 12,493ft
Total Gained Elevation: 1,176ft
Distance: 2.78 miles
Time: 1:50 moving, 1:10 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Brian

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Quandary Winter Climb

North Star Mountain
I start classes next week so I wanted to get out on a climb or two before hand.  Weather looked decent for a trip up Quandary Peak; a nearby 14er that I previously climbed this summer so I put a message out on the 14ers board looking for a partner.  Since it was a Wednesday climb I didn’t have much hope of finding a partner, but lucky for me Paul responded and we made plans to get out on the mountain.  The forecast was calling for a high of 20°F with winds in the 20mph range resulting in wind chills as low at -20°F with clear skies.  As far as winter climbing goes, these are pretty good conditions.

The hardest part about winter climbing is deciding on clothing and gear.  I’m a real pussy when it comes to cold feet.  My regular boots which are just full grain leather and no added insulation which get cold quite quickly, so I opted to go with my heavy plastic mountaineering boots this time.  The good part with plastics is your feet are toasty warm all day even with temps dropping into the high negatives, but the downside is they weigh a ton.  I'm not sure how much they weigh, but they feel like 10lbs each and when covered in snow they feel even heavier.  I wore my thick thermal plants and had three layers on top and bottom.  This turned out to be way too much.  With the movement up the mountain I was quickly sweating.  I didn’t even wear a hat most of the day, when the wind kicked in I just used my thin buff on my head instead of my heavy snow cap.  Then the final decision that hurt me was leaving my snow shoes in the car.  The beta I found sounded like a hard packed trial the entire way so we just put on micro spikes at the car as we left the trail head.

Wheeler Mountain
There was a light snow coming down and a low cloud cover.  I guess considering we were at almost 11,000ft the cloud cover wasn’t really that low.   Hiking from the car down the summer road I could already tell the boots I selected were going to be too much and end up hurting before long.  As we started through the trees there was a nice hard packed trail with an inch or two of fresh snow.  It didn’t take me long to get out of breath since I have not been as active as I was during the summer.  Soon we were both shedding hats and gloves as we were both sweating pretty good.  After the first hour and 1.35miles we came to a split in the trial where the summer and winter trails head in different directions.  We got a good glimpse of the ridge to come and decided a break was in order.

The fog/cloud whatever it was, was still really thick at this point.  But every now and then we could get a view of what lay ahead of us, and it was quite intimidating.  From this point I really wished I had packed my snow shoes.  With my big moon boots I found myself post holing to my knees as we worked on gaining on the small shelf around 12,080ft.  This was definitely the hardest part of the climb, very very exhausting.  It was only a few hundred feet…or that’s at least what it felt like to the shelf.  From the shelf on the snow was much more wind packed now being above the tree line.  Spikes worked in this area, but many times I wished I had my crampons to get a better bite into the snow.

At this point I knew I would not be going to the summit today and I think I knew that before we started.  I told Paul to take off and I would go up as far as my body allowed.  He took off like a jackrabbit, I was very impressed!  I kept my slow trudge up the ridge and my hip flexors were starting to cramp up.  I’m sure the post holing earlier just destroyed them, and the rest of my legs were quite tired so I knew it wouldn’t be wise to press myself up another 1,000 vertical feet of thin air.  I think it is a very wise thing to know our limits and I hit mine around 13,100ft so I called that a day.

I could see Paul high on the mountain and all looked well for him so I took my time enjoying the amazing views above the clouds.  The wind had picked up by now so I took out my puffy down jacket and gloves and warmed up quite quickly.  I started heading down about a quarter mile at a time, just enjoying being high up on the mountain.  You never really want to leave, but usually the cold wind changes your mind rather quickly.  Skis would have been nice, but my skill level is still that of resort style skiing.

After I got back down into the tree line I finally found a nice log to take a seat and wait for Paul.  Since I was on a snail’s pace coming down it did not take him long to catch up.  I waited there eating Oreo’s and drinking water for about 20-30 minutes till Paul arrived.  He is a machine!  We rested for a few when he arrived then made the last mile back down to the car.  I’ve never had a failed trip in the mountains and this was not going to be the first.  Every trip brings its own beauty and experience, just because you don’t summit a mountain doesn’t mean it was a failure.  The only time you fail is when you don’t go on a trip.  Everyone stay safe in the cold of the winter, but get off your butt and enjoy the season!

GPS Track
Date: 1/16/2013
Starting Elevation: 10,825ft
Quandary High Point: 13,120ft
Total Gained Elevation: 2,300ft
Distance: 4.90 miles
Time: 3:50 moving, 3:22 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Paul

Monday, January 7, 2013

Chief Mountain

Pikes Peak
Apartment fever was starting to set in.  The last mountain I climbed was Patterson Peak in Idaho during Thanksgiving.  I came down with bronchitis and was out of the game for almost a month.  Since I have not been too active other than a few local hikes I knew I should start small so I decided to go with Chief Mountain.  Last March I was planning to add Chief when I hiked Squaw and Papoose Mountains, but the fluffy powder kept me from attempting Chief then. 
Chief Mountain is about 12miles away (by road) from Evergreen, CO.  The road is windy and today was covered in packed snow.  From what I found online the TH was not the easiest thing to find, as I found out today when I drove right by it.  I had my GPS so I marked a waypoint to help others in their future hikes.  The Chief Mountain TH is at: N 39°40.948' W 105°31.265'
I arrived at the TH around 9:45am and was off a few minutes later.  The morning was a little chilly, but I knew I would warm up quickly once the hiking started.  All the online trip reports I found said this was a steep trail and around two miles long.  I found both of these to be false.  I thought the switchbacks were cut very well and never thought it got very steep and my GPS tracked me at 1.47miles from TH to summit.  I loved the snow covered trail it was easy to follow; I did take a few pictures of the trail and the markers along the way.  For those of you that don’t hike much in the winter the route is often marked with two notches cut from trees along the trail, they do this every 50-100ft usually. 
Grays and Torreys
As I crossed another trail that goes around the mountain I saw how close I came to finding the true trail last March.  After a long traverse you arrive at the saddle between Papoose and Chief, from here the trees will begin to thin out and the views of the surrounding mountains start coming into view.  Once I got into an open space I took a few shots towards Grays and Torreys then noticed I could finally see Chief’s summit.  The sun glare was really bad so I took more of a mental picture than a physical one.  The upper part of the mountain started to lose the trees and the beautiful geology started to open up.    My pace started slowing but not because I’m out of shape for once, the rocks and the mountains were keeping my mind busy.
Me on the Summit
The sky was clear blue so I was antsy to get to the summit to hopefully capture a few good photos.  This was probably one of the best viewing days I have had yet.  From Longs Peak to Pikes Peak all was clear.  I didn’t check the time, but I imagine it was about a 45 minute hike up from the car.  I kept looking for mica in the rock and desperately wished I had a rock hammer, but I left all as it was.  After a snickers bar I took all the pictures that are in the attached photo album.  My new camera has a 42x zoom so I was able to get some far away shots for once.  Longs looks tempting….if I was in shape!
I took my time walking down, enjoying the clear sky as much as I could.  About a half mile down I ran into a couple on their way up.  Other than that it was a solo day in the mountains which is something I always enjoy.  This will be a good one for Kristi, so I look forward to coming back up here soon.

GPS Track
Date: 1/7/2013
Starting Elevation: 10,714ft
Chief Mountain Summit: 11,699ft
Total Gained Elevation: 985ft
Distance: 3.02 miles
Time: 1:34 moving, 1:07 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Solo