Sunday, October 12, 2014

Mount Flora

Cole and Me on the Ascent
I made a last minute decision around 8pm on Friday that I needed to get out on a mountain on Saturday.  I shot Cole a message and he was in for whatever.  I knew I had lost a step in my climbing game with my office job, so I decided to keep it pretty simple and head up Mount Flora again.  The ultimate goal was to tack on either Eva or Breckenridge, but a single mountain was enough for me on this day.
Mount Flora
The TH is Berthound Pass, and you can either follow the CDT or head up CO Mines Peak via the access road then follow the ridgeline to Flora.  I prefer the CDT route, because all the man-made structures at the top of CO Mines are rather unpleasing to me as that is what I am trying to get away from when I’m in the mountains. 
The temp was a chilly 35°; we put on some layers and started up the trail around 8:30a.  The access road was lightly covered in snow, but once moving onto the trail it was ankle to shin deep.  This was a good day to have gaiters.  This was my third time on the mountain and each time a new element has been thrown in my face.  The snow and blustery winds made a nice challenge out of a normal easy hike.  One set of tracks were on the trail ahead of us, which appeared to be trail runners, so I image that guy had some cold toes.  We met up with a guy on his way down just before reaching the saddle between CO Mines and Flora.  He said it was a white-out up there and he was shooting for Eva, but settled with what he though was Flora.  I confirmed he was on Flora based on the tall slender cairn that marks the summit.  We came geared up for bad weather so we didn’t think too much of what he said and pushed on.  This was one of those days where it was a complete white-out with 40mph winds one minute and clear and sunny the next.  So, it was a great taste of October in Colorado.
Pano Looking to the East
I could tell I was way out of my typical climbing shape.  The last time I was at any decent elevation was on Mount Guyot which seems like an eon ago.  That desk job at USGS isn’t helping my cause at the moment either.  Oh well, just soldier on one foot in front of the other as usual.  At least with the adverse weather I could blame my sluggish nature on the high winds..haha.
Cole Marching Up to the Summit
Another couple turned around near the false summit, and they appeared to be wearing a bare foot type shoe.  I’m not sure what they were thinking, so good thing they headed back down.  My boots were covered in snow the entire trek, and I had cold toes, so wearing a light shoe makes no sense in these types of conditions.  The weather didn’t seem too bad, I’ve had worse.  I never forget my climb of Mount St. Helens with howling winds and sleeting rain…now that sucked!
We were able to follow the large cairns to the summit, they were half covered in snow in some places but easy to spot because of their height.  We attempted to use a wind shelter that I had used previously near the summit but it was full of snow already.  A short hike from there we found a large boulder to hide behind.  I pulled out my large puffy and down mittens and we cracked open our summit beers.  Maybe one of the coldest beers I’ve ever had.  That along with my PB&J and I was a happy camper.
Grays and Torreys
The weather was constantly changing while we were on the summit.  We stayed up there for quite a while.  It was freezing cold, but we prepared for it.  Just putting my back on and adjusting straps froze my fingers into stiff fingersicles.  The down mittens paid off and warmed up my fingers pretty fast.  We decided it was time to head down and started off while we could still pick out the route being there was no cloud cover for the time being.
On the way down I put my trekking poles away so I could work on warming up my fingers.  Cole got a nice comedy show of me eating it a few times in the slick snow.  I’m sure he did too, he just didn’t have anyone to laugh at him..haha.  We made good time coming down and the temps seemed to rise quickly.  I was shedding layers about every mile, by the last mile we had no hats or gloves on and that is always a good sign that the winds and freeze has died down.  It was a great hike, the elements kept most of the yuppies at home, so we basically had the mountain to ourselves.  I’d love to get out more often and will have to make an effort to stay in shape so these days aren’t so daunting.  But I’ll still do it either way, because it’s my “Happy Place.” Cheers and enjoy the changing seasons.
GPS Track
Date: 10/11/2014
TH Elevation:  11,307 feet
Mount Flora: 13,146 feet
Total Gained Elevation: 1,875 feet
Class: 2
Distance:  6.38 miles
Time:  3:35 moving, 1:40 stopped
Climbing Partner: Cole

Picture Link: Mount Flora Photo Album

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