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

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