Friday, August 9, 2013

Bald Mountain

Bald Mountain
After my climb of Mount Bethel I felt I could handle another mountain the following day.  Again I had a tough time deciding which peak to climb based on drive time and weather, in the end I decided to climb Bald Mountain which is one I have wanted to climb for some time now.  Bald Mountain lies to the southeast of Breckenridge and can is easily viewed from the drive along HWY 9 south from I-70.
Getting to the TH is rather easy; I suggest a 4WD vehicle to avoid some road walking time.  Take I-70 or 285 and make your way to Breckenridge.  On the south side of town, the last lighted intersection is Boreas Pass Rd, turn to the east and drive about 2 miles till you arrive at Baldy Road.  Follow Baldy Road to the end, there will be a TH parking lot that is used for the winter.  From here straight ahead of you is a dirt road which is a continuation of Baldy Road (520), there is a place to park a little over half mile up for those who do not have high clearance 4WD.  I have a Chevy Blazer 4WD and I had no issues driving high up on the road.  I passed the Iowa Mill Mine and went up a few more of the switchbacks.  By looking at my GPS track you will be able to see where I started from.  At the corner of that switchback there is space to park two or three vehicles.  Don’t drive past this spot since there really isn’t any good space to park after this.  This marks the starting of the TH (11,700ft) for my hike up Bald Mountain.
Guarding the Summit
It was maybe 7:30am, about a 2hr drive from home when I finally arrived at the TH.  I was tired and wasn’t sure how todays climb was going to go.  I was glad to see where I started from was above tree line, so I would at least have some motivational views from the mountains from the start.  After getting geared up I started up the road.  There are a few options from this point:  1- You can hike the road all the way around that hooks onto the ridge directly.  2- Hike the road to the next switchback heading toward the Carbonite Mine then taking a cross country route to the radio towers (my route).  3- Or from the TH hike directly to the radio towers (my descent).  Since I was able to drive high up the mountain I took the 2nd option that I described instead of a direct assault up the side of the mountain to the radio towers.  My legs didn’t waste any time tightening up, and I could feel the wear and tear from hiking over the past week.  It felt like a trudge up the grassy slopes, but within a half hour I was up to the radio towers shedding my vest.
Love the Mountain Goat
I was only about 800 vertical feet into my climb today and I was a hurting unit.  As I was taking a breather my back was hurting as well as my droggy mental state.  I was just tired and was having issues finding the mental strength to get moving today.  I popped a couple cliff shot blocks and soldiered up so to speak.  The view of Bald Mountain’s summit looked a long ways off from the radio towers, but I knew it wasn’t much more than 1,000 vertical feet away.  I did what any hiker would do and just put one foot in front of the other and started up the old jeep trail.
The start of the jeep trail is fairly steep getting up to the first few visible points.  After a few hundred feet of climbing the road the path turns into a trail.
I was taking my sweet ass time along the steeps of the road, but now on the trail I felt at home.  For me I think there is always a mental block while hiking up a road.  Roads were meant for driving not hiking, and this is why I chose to drive up as high as I could today.  No sense in hiking a rocky road, hike the trail.  Back to the trail…there is a broken trail leading to the summit.  Here and there are a few cairns, but I think it would be hard to get off route on this one.  I would almost classify this as a class 1 hike, but a few cross-country sections deem this a class 2 in my eyes.  There are many humps along the way, but nothing seriously frustrating.  The views are great and you can easily see the progress being made as you make your way along the ridge.  As I was hiking I kept noticing goat fur clinging to rocks, so I knew there was a goat presence up here, I just hoping the fur was leading me to the source.
Bald Mountain Summit
As I arrived at the last push to the summit I sat there gasping for a little oxygen, as I glanced up there he was.  A huge beautiful mountain goat was guarding the summit.  He peered at me and I went for my camera saying, “please don’t move.”  This was the most curious goat I have ran across yet, he started walking down the trail towards me so I skirted off trail around the west side to create a little distance.  Those are some pretty sharp horns and I had no desire to become a kabob today.  He just kept walking towards me unafraid, so I kept snapping pictures hoping a few of them would come out.  This meeting probably only lasted a few minutes, but it seemed like about 20.  As he moved down the trail I moved up and to the side of the mountain, finally he had permitted me to pass and continue on to the summit.  I thanked him and thought how lucky I was to have such a neat encounter today.
Me on the Summit of Bald Mountain
The summit was a mere 80 vertical feet away, I got back on the trail and found myself there within minutes.  A solo summit again, I didn’t even see anyone else on the mountain all day which is just the way I like it.  At first I wasn’t completely positive I was on the true summit since the view south has another prominent point about the same elevation.  I walked down the mellow ridge a bit and then turned back to the wind shelter once I had convinced myself I was on the true summit.  When I got back to the wind shelter I found a registry, and that confirmed it because who would put a register on a false summit…right J
The views were amazing, yesterday gave a light dusting of snow on the nearby 14ers and 13ers.  I loved it, that little bit of snow give some great definition and makes for great photographs.  As the usual summit I took a bunch of pics of the surrounding area and had a snack.  I noticed the clouds were turning dark and moving my way so I knew it was time to leave.  I got myself together and was off the summit with only about a 15 minute break.  I knew it would be better to be off the rocky ridge if the rain came so I started to hustle as quickly as I could.
Mount Guyot
It didn’t seem long till the snow started blowing in.  Lucky for me I made good time and was off the rocky ridge and was just on dirt trail when the snow really came.  It started as graupel (snow that is “recycled” as it comes down-cooled, heated, cooled.  Looks like pellets rather than snowflakes), then turned into real snow as the temperature dropped.  The wind was blowing pretty good so I put on my jacket and covered my pack with its rain cover.  As I dropped in elevation the snow dwindled, by the time I made the radio tower area the snow and wind was non-existent.  I heard a few thunder booms to the east where it looked like the Mount Evans area was getting some more serious weather.  Well, that was telling me a direct descent was in order rather than the road I ascended.  I knew the area of the TH, so I just went straight down the tundra to my rig from the ridge.  This wouldn’t be a bad ascent route for those eager beavers out there, but I was happy with my route selection for the day.
A few minutes after noon I was back to my rig.  The weather was dry on the road so I didn’t have to worry about the drive down the mountain.  I took a few pictures looking towards Quandary, but the storm had pretty much taken over all of the high mountains to the south by this time.  The drive down to the pavement wasn’t too bad, probably only about 10minutes.  I was glad to be off the bumpy rocky road and heading back to civilization.  The unfortunate story of the day was I-70 and the multiple construction zones.  It took a while to get back to Denver, but I think my adventures up I-70 may be coming to an end for a while.  Today was another good hike once I got over my early mental block.  The mountain goat sighting definitely helped raise my spirits and they are my favorite animal to see in the wild.  I only wish I could actually climb a mountain like one of those guys, they make it look so easy.  Well, I’m taking a few days off and I feel a brewski is in order!
GPS Track

Date: 8/8/2013
Starting Elevation: 11,700ft
Bald Mountain Summit: 13,684ft
Total Gained Elevation: 2,134ft
Class: 2
Distance:  4.62 miles
Time: 3:17 moving, 00:40 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Solo

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Mount Bethel

Mount Bethel From I-70
Well another day of crappy weather in the forecast, so what’s new?  A 70% chance of downpour and possibility of thunderstorms had me really guessing on where to go.  I really wanted to head up Rosalie, but with a forecast like this I knew a shorter climb would be ideal.  Since I was in the Loveland area the other day and had been scoping out Mount Bethel I figured why not head up there.  The pros of Bethel are the mileage should be under 5 and the elevation gain is around 2,000ft vertical, so in theory this could be a short climb.  The cons, I have to drive I-70 again through the tunnel construction which is a total bummer…oh well, Bethel it is.
This is a simple TH to get to if you read my last report because it’s the same one.  For those of you that didn’t read the last report this is for you: Take I-70 Westbound from Denver and take exit 216.  Take and immediate right as you are coming off the freeway onto a dirt road.  Drive to the end of the dirt road to a gate, this is about half mile.
The Route to the Summit
I decided to go with my heavy duty boots today since I knew this route would be steep.  They didn’t feel too good at first along the trail, but soon felt better when I was climbing through the boulders.  I wouldn’t recommend trail runners on this one, then again to each their own.  Start up the old road past the gate, eventually somewhere a little under a mile the road disappears and the path turns into a trail.  As you are making your way around the south flank of Mount Trelease, Dry Gulch opens up and you will have clear shots of Hagar and the Citadel along with Mount Bethel to your right.
There wasn’t much beta online about this mountain, so I kind of relied mainly on my own route finding abilities for this one.  I knew from my vantage point on Trelease a few days prior that there was a nice big gully heading up to the saddle, so that was my plan, from there I would just improvise.  I followed the Dry Gulch trail till I thought I was to the main gully.  I immediately found a really good game trail and started making my way up the left side of the creek.  Just follow the trail as far as you can, it will lead you all the way through the tree line to a split on a small plateau. 
The Summit Ridge
From tree line you can make the choice to take the easy hike to the saddle or just attack it head on.  Well I felt like a climb not a hike so I went straight up the steep rocks.  It was a lot of fun and only class 2+, I would say it would be near impossible to make a class 3 out of this route.   The best part about heading straight up is vertical feet start flying by pretty quickly.  I guess my heart rate rises exponentially, but that was something I monitored by adjusting my pace as I went.  All in all there was probably a good 1,000ft of direct in your face vertical that I worked my way up before reaching the summit ridge.  I recommend this route, for a short hike you might as well make it interesting.
The point I came up on the summit ridge was only about 50ft or so away from the true summit, so looks like I planned that pretty good.  Once on top I could feel the chill in the air, there was some moisture in the air, but it never truly rained.  I put on my jacket and had a bite to eat.  I texted my friend LT and Kristi and decided it was probably time to be on my way.  I had no desire to be up high if there was going to be a downpour.
Me on the Summit of Bethel
I chose to make a loop out of it and just head down the southwest ridge directly back to the trail.  In doing this I headed to the snow fences and made my way down from there.  My toes were hitting the ends of my boots so I stopped to tighten up the laces and got lucky and spotted a group of Ptarmigans.  I’m starting to think these birds are as common as marmots are in Colorado, I guess it just depends where you are.  I took my time down through the “gates” as I called it, because it was very steep.  This could be a route up, but not as enjoyable as the one I had.  This was more grass covered than rock covered, so I think it could get boring quick seeing the same thing for 1,000+ vertical feet.
Once down to tree line I could spot many game trails, just not too many in the direction I wanted to travel.  Eventually I found a few and they took me down to the road about ¾ mile from my rig.  Once I hit the road I ditched my vest and had to loosen up my boots so my toes could get blood again.  On the remaining bit of the hike I ran into two people on their way up Dry Gulch and chatted with them for a minute.  I was surprised to see two additional cars on the road.  The good thing was I had the mountain and the summit to myself. 
This climb was a lot of fun and I would highly recommend it.  Just be aware that it is steep both up and down, but there are multiple variations that could be created in order to summit.  The climb reminded me a lot of my days climbing mountains in Idaho and those are good memories to bring back.  Since this was a little one, I just may have to get out again tomorrow, but we will just see how it goes.
GPS Track

Date: 8/7/2013
Starting Elevation: 10,560ft
Mount Bethel Summit: 12,705ft
Total Gained Elevation: 2,145ft
Class: 2+
Distance: 3.83 miles
Time: 2:49 moving, 1:00 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Solo

Monday, August 5, 2013

Mount Trelease and Golden Bear Peak

Mount Trelease
While on my hike today I had thought whether I wanted to share this trip report with others or not.  Sometimes it takes a long time to find a classic hike and when you do you just don’t want the secret to get out.  Today was one of those classic hikes, and probably my favorite hike thus far while living in Colorado.  I was undecided how far I wanted to take this route since there are many options so I was ready for an adventure.  I ended up hiking Mount Trelease and Golden Bear Peak and making a nice loop down into the Loveland Ski Area.
There are multiple ways to access these mountains; the route I chose was to start from Dry Gulch TH.  To get to the TH, drive I-70 west and take exit 216.  When coming down the exit ramp take the immediate right onto a dirt road.  If you go under the bridge you have gone too far.  Follow this dirt road about half mile to a closed gate, park along the road.  There is no TH sign here, but if you heading up the East Ridge Route on Trelease you are in the right place.  Some people do these mountains from the Loveland Ski Area, if you want to do that just follow my route in reverse, but I would recommend doing it the way I did it today.
Summit of Mount Trelease
I arrived at the TH right around 7am, and was the only one on a crisp Monday morning.  Walk around the gate and head up the road, not too far maybe half mile there will be a rock cairn on the left and a ski shack on the right side of the road.  You will see a faint old road heading up the East Ridge, follow the road, it is more of a trail now.  The hiking is steep, and my calves were tightening up almost immediately.  I took it one step at a time and was making good progress in the way of elevation.  There was fresh dew or a rain from the previous night covering all the plants so my shoes and lower legs were all wet.  It was a good way to start the day.  When the road started to level out a bit and I could see the rocks from the false summit I cut off from the road and started making my way through the openings in the trees.  Along this first section I had an owl buzz me and a ptarmigan flew up into a tree, so the birdlife was active this morning.
The Citadel
The walk through the forest was great.  Unlike my hike on Otter where the bushwhacking was almost unbearable, this was a nice walk through the woods.  The area was open and I could easily stick to the East Ridge.  As the trees started clearing the rocks came alive.  All of my geology friends would really have loved this hike.  There was some great metamorphic and igneous rocks to view along much of the ridge.  Now I had past tree line and had to gain a bit to get on top of the false summit.  This area was very steep and loose bits of scree, so I tried to stay on the solid rock where I could.  Like any class 2 hike you just find the way as you go, no route is truly set and that’s what makes this so much fun.  Once getting up the 200ft of the steep loose stuff I was back on stable ground with a breeze of a walk to the false summit.  There was a small rock cairn with a geocache inside, so I checked it out and saw I wasn’t too far off from the true summit of Trelease.
Ascender Line
It only took about 10minutes for me to get over to the true summit of Mount Trelease.  Once on top I took many photos of the surrounding mountains.  Many of these I had never seen up close, so this was something that made this hike so much fun.  Hagar and The Citadel were very impressive, and I imagine I will have to climb them one day.  From the summit Golden Bear Peak looked quite a ways away.  It lies right on the Continental Divide, so I knew once I got there I would have to make the decision to head to Hagar go back the way I came or head south towards Loveland Ski Area.
The ridge connecting these two mountains was probably the highlight of the hike.  The rocky ridge got narrow in areas and wide in others and the rock hopping was fun.  I couldn’t ever get tired of looking at The Citadel; it was so impressive and rightly named.  The marmots were chirping away and what looked like a brown eagle flew by.  It was short lived though, maybe 20 minutes of hiking got me down to the saddle in-between the two mountains.
Once down to the saddle I could peer into the ski area boundary.  The Lift 8 was not too far off, but that wasn’t the way I was heading.  There was a boundary line in place that resembled a fixed line rope from a high Himalayan peak.  If I had my ascender I would have been set, I could have followed it directly to the summit..haha.  I had about 700ft vertical to gain for the summit so I took it a step at a time.  The route finding was simple; it was just a matter of taking the steps.  Within a half an hour from the saddle I had made it to the summit of Golden Bear Peak.  It was about 9:30am, so I made great time today.  I tried to call my dad to rub it in, since I could get cell service up there, but he wasn’t home.  I pulled out some cookies and decided I would just head down into the ski area and make a nice hike today.  I think if I had a climbing partner I would have head over to Hagar, but better to play it safe while hiking solo.
Me on the Summit of Golden Bear Peak
The Continental Divide ridge walk was amazing.  Talk about having views all around that never got old.  I could have stayed up there all day, but I knew eventually I’d have to head back down to my rig.  The ridge was gentle covered in rock and grass.  I stayed on the east side so I could check out the chutes that the skiers head down in the winter time. thanks.  They actually don’t looks as scary as I thought they would, and are pretty short lived, I guess you just have to make the jump over and go from there.  I was eyeing Lift 9 on the cusp of the divide and knew there was a road heading down that way somewhere.  After maybe half mile on the ridge I saw a nice snow chute and headed that way since the road was a few hundred feet below it.
This is one of those days that my better judgment probably came in handy.  I would have loved a nice 100ft glissade down this piece of snow just to say I did it in August, but I figured the walking was easy so no sense in adding unneeded risks.  Plus the scree next to the snow was like kitty litter, so I was down in a few seconds anyway.  I followed the draining creek through some small willows onto a road that came out near the top of lift 4.
Sweet Lunch View
It was time for my PB&J.  I took a short break and marveled at the view heading towards Parnassus and Bard Peaks.  From here I knew it was just a matter of hiking the road down to the base of the mountain then following HWY 6 back to my car.  I took my time since I was in no rush today and enjoyed seeing the lay of the ski hill snow free.  As I got lower and lower I finally passed a pama lift, which I didn’t even knew Loveland had, and in no time at all was walking through the parking lot at the base of the mountain. 
From the Loveland parking lot I just followed the side of the road back down under the bridge and then down the dirt road to my car.  From the parking lot it was about 1.25miles to where I had parked, not a bad walk and a lot better than I was expecting.  This loop was an amazing hike and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for something not technical and close to Denver.  With as close as this was to home the view were by far the best I have seen in my two years here.  I’m putting this up as one of my favorite hikes so far, and I’m looking forward to getting back into the area to climb Bethel, Hagar and The Citadel.  Not all at once of course, but who knows maybe later this week.
*A note to share with non-Coloradans is the section of I-70 from near the first HWY 6 bend on the right of the GPS Track and to the left over the divide is all in the Eisenhower Tunnel, and this is were the Loveland Ski Area is.
*Definitely check out the photo album, there are a few neat panoramas that came out, the link is at the bottom.
GPS Track

Date: 8/5/2013
Starting Elevation: 10,560ft
Mount Trelease Summit: 12,461ft
Golden Bear Peak Summit: 13,010ft
Total Gained Elevation: 2,760ft
Class: 2
Distance: 7.84 miles
Time: 4:10 moving, 00:55 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Solo

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Chief Mountain with Kristi

Me and Kristi at the TH
Kristi said she wanted to go hike a mountain, so I was excited to get her out on one.  I chose one of the easiest mountains above tree line; Chief Mountain.  This is a good place for beginners to get into the activity of hiking.  Chief Mountain is close to Denver; only about an hour from our place so the accessibility is really good.
Longs Peak
To get to the Chief Mountain TH get on I-70 westbound, take the Evergreen Parkway exit.  Drive the parkway till arriving at Squaw Pass Road; take a right and follow this road to the TH.  Once you make the long journey on Squaw Pass Road, there will be a private ski hill on the west side of the road.  Park in the pullout just above the lift and across the road you will see the TH for Chief Mountain.  I also have two other TR with more detailed directions if that is something that will help you.  Beware the road is under construction, so expect some delays.
Evans Group
When we arrived at the TH there was a good five or six cars already there.  It was just after 8am when we started up the trail.  From the TH to the summit is only about 1.5miles and a little under 1,000ft vertical.  There is a trail the entire way, so this is an easy class 1 trail.  We took our time on the ascent, there were multiple groups of people yo-yoing on up the trail.  Kristi did well and a little over an hour we had made our way to the top.  I even let her scramble up the final rock a little and I got the feeling she was enjoying it.
We hung out on top for a good 30 minutes.  The weather was perfect and we could see all the mountains around us.  We were lucky and even had some good views of Longs, which is a long, long ways away.  Kristi was now on her first Colorado summit and at just under 11,700ft, it is quite the way to do it.  It was great to get her up there, so hopefully she gets the bug that I’ve had for so many years now.
We cruised down the trail and were back to the car in about half hour.  There was a good amount of people heading up just as we were finishing, so I was glad we got an early start.  It was a fun relaxing hike, and for those of you that haven’t done it, you should give it a try.  This is also a excellent winter hike, which is how I first did it.  Get out and enjoy and congrats Kristi!
GPS Track

Date: 8/3/2013
Starting Elevation: 10,725ft
Chief Mountain Summit: 11,699ft
Total Gained Elevation: 974ft
Class: 1
Distance: 3.11 miles
Time: 1:45 moving, 00:40 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Kristi

Friday, August 2, 2013

Number 100: Otter Mountain

Otter Mountain
Today was the big day, the day I go for my 100th unique summit on summitpost.  After hiking two times already this week, the idea was to keep it easy.  I chose Otter Mountain, and today Brian would be back with me in the mountains.  We met at the TRex Lot at 6:30 and we were off to the Silver Dollar Lake TH.
The main TH is accessible with any vehicle.  The Silver Dollar Lake TH is on the Guanella Pass Road, so follow the directions from my previous post.  A few miles before Guanella Pass there is the Guanella Pass CG, drive a few hundred yards past this and turn right at the TH sign.  This also facilitates as the winter TH for Bierstadt for those of you that are interested.  Passenger cars can park here, or you can continue driving up the road where there are a few spots to park.  I must put this warning out now.  I would advise against using my GPS route for the trip since the downfall is so bad.  Take a look at a few pictures and you will see.
The Jungle:  DO NOT ENTER
We didn’t walk to far up the road till diving into the maze of downfall; perhaps the worst downfall I have ever been in.  I got enough cuts on my body to prove I have literarily been into the jungle.  The crossing of the deadfall added a lot of time, I’m not sure how long we were in there but it seemed like eons.  The goal was to get to the south ridge which was all covered in trees, and we both hoped there would be a way up from there.  After probably a good 45 minutes of tree hopping we finally made some progress, the valley opened up in-between Wilcox and Otter.  We crossed the stream and the willows and found ourselves at the base of the south ridge…finally.
Evans Group Along the South Ridge
From the base of the ridge the trees thinned out and there wasn’t nearly the downfall that we had just came through.  There were plenty of game trails to jump between, but the climbing was steep.  It was good though, because we were now making some good progress.  After 400-500ft of gain we were on a thin ridge and the trees were thinning.  The tree line was in sight and we were both thankful for that.  Once past the tree line, it was a simple hike up the ridge.  The air opened up and the views around were amazing.
Now out in the open the wind started picking up and it was getting a little chilly.  We took a break to fuel up and knew we were not far off.  The hike up the ridge was nice and quick.  I didn’t want to stop because I thought I would get too cold, so we both powered up to the summit.  There we were, I was now on my 100th summit of Otter Mountain!  It was a chilly one, so I had to put on an additional layer.  I took a few pictures of the surrounding mountains.  I particularly enjoyed the view of the Evans group, this was now in a new angle for me and you could really see how large Evans was.
Me on the Summit of Otter
As we were making the ascent I was monitoring the cloud build up, and they looked less than desirable.  We chose to head back down instead of bagging Wilcox in case the thunderstorms started early.  I think if the jungle didn’t beat us up so much early in the day we would have had plenty of time for Wilcox, but we don’t mess with storms too much.
For the descent we headed to the mouth of the valley in-between Wilcox and Otter.  This actually worked out well for us.  There was a steep descent of a few hundred feet, but the footing was good.  This eventually fed back into the willows and we made our way through the maze on some good game paths.  After descending a few hundred more feet we made our way to the west side of the creek and followed above the willows to stay out of the brush.  After consulting my GPS we decided to cut over a small rib that led to the road.  By doing this we had to work a bit to get over the hill, but we avoided the willows.  There were many game trails and not as much deadfall since we were more to the west than our initial morning crossing.  It was just a matter of following the game trails through the woods till they met up with the road.  We didn’t have any jungle tramping to speak of and the trail was rather efficient making it to the road.  We intersected the road about 50 yards from the private property gate, so our navigation skills are still up to par.  From here it is a simple hike down the road to the car.
The climb was demanding because of all the bushwhacking, but I think if it was too easy it would not have been a memorable 100th summit.  Once out of the downfall the remainder of the hike was a lot of fun.  I really enjoyed the ridge walk and hope to back soon for Wilcox.  With any luck I’ll be out again soon, but I better let my wounds heal a bit first.
GPS Track

Date: 8/2/2013
Starting Elevation: 10,867ft
Otter Mountain Summit: 12,772ft
Total Gained Elevation: 2,344ft
Class: 2
Distance: 5.03 miles
Time: 3:20 moving, 1:16 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Brian