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

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