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