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

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