Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Flattop Mountain

Flattop Mountain
In order to avoid the heavy mountain traffic that I70 was bound to have on a holiday weekend, Cole and I decided we should head up to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) for a climb. I have only been to the park in the summer months, so I was looking forward to seeing the mountains covered with snow.
There are a few ways to get to RMNP, we chose to take HWY 36 that goes through Boulder into Lyons and Estes Park before coming into the park’s East Entrance.  Pay the $20 park entry fee or bring your pass. Just after entering the park turn south onto Bear Lake Road and drive to the end of the road parking at the Bear Lake TH.
We arrived at 7am, and there were only three or four vehicles parked in the lot. The temperature gauge on my truck was reading -7°F, so neither of us was really eager to go outside at that point.  We faced the music and started gearing up. It takes a bit longer to get ready when it’s freezing outside, so by the time we had boots and all of our layers on we were quite frozen, at least in the fingers and face. I suggested we warm up in the truck so we didn’t start off frozen.  As we heated up in the cab, I started my Jetboil just outside of the door so I could bring some hot tea up the trail. The temps were too cold and the gas wasn’t flowing to well so I brought it in the cab with us and the water boiled fairly quickly in the warm surroundings. I ate the last of Kristi’s pumpkin bread and then we made our way out to the trail a little before 8am.
Trail Near Bear Lake
Conditions didn’t change in the last twenty minutes, but at least now we were moving. We started on the Bear Lake Trail that makes its way around the east side of the lake. The trail was hard packed snow that has seen a lot of traffic so we didn’t need our snowshoes yet. The cold air didn’t seem to affect either of us as we were making what felt like good time on the first stretch. Within about a half mile of the start there is a trail junction, head left or west onto the Flattop Mountain Trail. Once on this trail you make your way onto the Bierstadt Moraine, but you don’t realize it’s a moraine until you are high above it later in the day. After about thirty minutes or so we both had to make a layer adjustment. I had a light prima loft jacket on and I wanted to remove it before I drenched it in sweat that froze into icicles. At this point I tried to mark a waypoint with my GPS App, but screwed it up, so there is a random point that is closer to the lake than our actual position.
Fern Lake Trail was the next intersection along the trail. From here the Flattop Mountain Trail switchbacks to the south west and we could immediately tell the difference in the boot pack along this section. Fewer people head up this trail and the snow was starting to get a lot softer. We managed up the first five or so switchbacks before getting the Dream Lake view point. This was about an hour in for us. We took a few minutes to put on sunblock and have a snack, and I chose to put on my snowshoes instead of caring them on my back.
Morning View of Longs Peak
The snowshoe decision seemed to pay off because after about 50 yards or so the snowshoe track we were following veered off the main trail in a more direct route through the trees. We followed it because the soft snow would have been a serious ass kicking even with snowshoes on. After gaining a little elevation, I noticed the trees were starting to thin out so we were nearing tree line finally.
As we came out of the trees we could see the large east slope of the mountain and one snow shoer making his way across the slope. We took another break here and the vies of Longs Peak were amazing. After a bit of jerky and some fluids we were off on the trail. We caught up to the snow shoer we saw as he was making his way down. He said the wind was too much for him, we hadn’t felt much wind so we continued on. About a hundred yards later and the trail vanished and the snow covered boulder field opened up for us.
We had to remove the snowshoes through this section. I brought crampons and chose to leave them off while Cole put his micro spikes on. I re-laced my boots and froze both hands, and it took quite a bit of time to get the feeling back. While I was shaking the hell of out my hands we started slowly making our traverse through the boulders. I had my eye on a landmark that turned out to be a hitching station for horses. We would cross what looked like the summer trail here and there but just kept to our line. There was a mess of cairns all over the place, so don’t count on them as an aid if you find yourself in our situation.
Summit Area
Once we got near the hitching station we could see tracks from a goat or a sheep. Cole was curious and followed them as they dropped off the south face. We were able to get a glimpse of a few sheep that were probably running from us. We attempted to get a picture and soon gave up and made our way up the last small incline towards the flat summit.
Me and Cole on the Summit
The cairns were starting to get really big and you could at least see they were aligned heading towards what we considered the summit. There was a trail marker where the cairns kind of terminated and we called that the top. We wanted a better view so we headed to the south edge that gave great views of Hallett Peak and Longs in the distance. Just before noon we summited after a gain of almost 3,000 feet.
We had talked about adding Hallett Peak since it would only add another mile and a half or so. I told Cole I didn’t want to head over today. My toes were cold and I didn’t want to be completely exhausted. The sun is also a factor in the winter and the days are short and we would have a long hike back to the car from Hallett’s summit. I really wish we got there a bit earlier, but I have no problem saving Hallett for another day.
We were both remarking how perfect the weather was today. I know we both had our doubts at the TH with car reading negative degrees. The sun was out, and there were no clouds are barely any wind. I think we got very lucky with conditions today. I wished I had brought my binoculars that were in the truck. I knew somebody had to be up on Longs and we both wish we were there as well. After we had a bite to eat Cole spotted a ewe and two lambs walking across the flats behind us. They were on their way to Hallett I guess. Soon we decided it was time to get our gear together and start down.
Hallett Peak
The ridge route looked good to us in order to avoid most of the boulder field. As we started we could see hordes of people making their way up. Not like 14ers hoards, but there were maybe 20-30 people all together that were on the route at some point above tree line. Heading down we found a maze of trails left by people heading to the summit. Just before tree line we stopped for a short break. I saw my first bald eagle flying overhead. I tried to get a picture, but he had his own plans. After that we just hoofed it down the trail making it back to the car at 2:45pm.
It’s hard to beat a day like this in the mountains. Sometimes the crux of the climb is opening the door of your truck when you know it’s going to be damn cold out there. This could be the last climb for me for some time as school is about to start again. I hope that’s not the case, but at least I finished 2015 on one of the best days I had in the mountains all year. Cheers!

Date: December 27, 2015
Bear Lake TH Elevation: 9,464 feet
Flattop Mountain Summit:  12,348 feet
Total Ascent:  2,956 feet
Distance: 7.8 miles
Moving Time: 4hrs 12min
Stopped Time: 2hrs 53min
Total Time: 7hrs 6min
Moving Speed: 1.8mph
Average Speed: 1.1mph
Class: 2
Partners: Cole

Sunday, November 22, 2015

“Notaubuon” and Mount Audubon

Mount Audubon
September was a long time ago. Between a wedding, taking classes and making it to work each day I have not had the time to get to this report, much less find the time to get back into the mountains. It’s been a crazy fall, but I’m itching to get back outside while I have a little bit of a break. As you can imagine this report will not be too detailed as a lot of time has passed and my memory isn’t what it once was.
Mount Audubon is one of those peaks that have been on my list since moving to Colorado. It is located in the heart of the Indian Peaks Wilderness, not too far from Ward, Colorado. Whenever I feel like climbing this peak it’s usually in the winter and that adds quite a bit of mileage to the climb.
Audubon on the Left and Notaubuon on the Right
Paul and I didn’t have much for plans going into this one. I remembered we both wanted to get out, and I gave him a deadline to let me know by 8pm the evening before if he was in. In true fashion he called me about 8:10 or just after. Paul and his roommate Andy were up for a hike the next morning, so our plan was Mount Audubon. I knew how to get there and that was about it.
The trailhead we used is accessed from the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. The main trail departs from an upper loop road 1122C. Here are the driving directions:
Make your way to north side of Boulder. Take Lee Hill Drive off of Broadway. Follow this road (don’t miss the first switchback) to Lefthand Canyon Drive. Not far from Ward, Lefthand Canyon Dr. turns into Indiana Gulch Road, follow this through to the Peak to Peak Highway. Once on the highway take the first left (comes up quick) to Brainard Lake Road and follow this up to the lake. There is an access fee of $10, so bring some cash with you.  We made it to the trailhead around 8am and there was no parking available, so we started near the Pawnee Campground in the large lot next to Brainard Lake. This added a mile or so of walking on the road to get to the real Mount Audubon trail.
Me and Paul on the Summit of Audubon
The trail turns from dirt to large cobbles pretty quickly. There are a few photos that will give you an idea of what it’s like in the photo album.  I would recommend boots, but we did see trail runners up there so it’s more of personal preference. The first section of the trail goes through the trees along a few switchbacks before breaking tree line. Once above tree line we were greeted with the high winds that we would be fighting for the remainder of the day.
Minus the element of wind this would have been a really simple hike, but it’s never fun trying to power through that stuff. We kept trying to find an advantage in the fight but kept losing. It was so bad that Paul and I decided to head up Notaubuon first just in case we didn’t want to deal with the elements for the entire day.
We broke off the main trail and followed the East Ridge while constantly getting sand blasted with all the fragments flying around in the air.  The wind made it pretty cold at times, but we decided what the hell and kept going. Once on Notaubuon we sat behind a small wind block and fueled up for the push up Audubon. It took a good push, but I remembered the wind being worse getting up Notaubuon. 
Indian Peaks Wilderness
There were maybe 10-20 other idiots out there that day with us, so we were not alone at least. There are lots of trails making it up the last 500 feet. Once we got to the summit we scouted the closest wind shelter that was vacant. It was hard taking pictures up there as the wind blew my hand holding the camera all over the place. We didn’t linger too long, just enough to grab a bite to eat and take in the views.
The decent was quick; perhaps the wind was pushing us for once. Once we made it back to the lake area we saw a crowd of people with their phones and cameras out and saw there was a large Bull Moose grubbing in the willows near the lake. I guess we can count that as wildlife viewing, I don’t recall seeing anything else. It was a full day by the time we got back and we were pretty spent. This was about three months ago and the last time I was able to get out. I’m hopeful for a hike during Thanksgiving weekend, so hopefully there will be a new post coming shortly.
GPS Track

Date: September 6, 2015
TH Elevation: 10,360 feet
“Notaubuon” Summit: 12,680 feet
Mount Audubon Summit: 13,209 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 2,937 feet
Distance: 9.9 miles
Moving Time: 4hr 45min
Stopped Time: 1hr 25min

Partners: Paul, Andy

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Witter, Eva, Parry and Bancroft Loop

Mount Eva
As I watch the summer fly by, I am starting to realize I’m not getting very many peaks in. I wanted to get out on something that would be off trail and would have options for multiple summits. I tossed around a few ideas and started developing a plan for the group of Witter Peak, Mount Eva, Parry Peak and Mount Bancroft. I had previously climbed in the area with climbs of Mount Flora and James Peak so I had a good idea of what to expect. After doing a little research on trailhead access, I was set for an early Saturday morning adventure.

I chose to mirror a route I found on The route starts from Fall River Reservoir and does a loop heading up to Witter then to Eva, Parry and Bancroft and finally descending back to the reservoir. From what I gathered the loop looked pretty straight forward and not too difficult for a solo outing. 

Witter Peak
Directions to Fall Creek Reservoir (39.819219, -105.689151): Take I-70W to exit 238, taking the first right off of the freeway onto Fall River Road. Follow this road for roughly 7 miles, then turn northwest onto Rainbow Road (39.804178, -105.641762). This is a dirt road that comes off of a large switch back corner from Fall River Road. Follow Rainbow Road to Fall River Reservoir. There is a fork in the road (39.815276, -105.677364) with about a mile to go; stay to the right. If you go to the left it will take you to Chinn Lakes, which could be a starting point as well if that is what you would like to do. I recommend a high clearance 4WD as the road gets pretty nasty in a few sections. Driving the dirt road portion is about 3.5 miles and takes about a half hour, so plan some extra time for the bumpy ride.

I arrived at the reservoir at 6:30am and the parking area was already pretty packed from people camping for the weekend. By 6:50am I was off on the trail that makes its way south around the reservoir. There are many small trails that make their way up to Chinns Lake; the one I took was around these coordinates: 39.819512, -105.691522. It is only a 5-10 minute hike to the first lake. Once I connected with the Chinns Lake Road I followed it around the lake to the south looking for a good point to start a traverse onto the east ridge of Witter Peak. I started up the first major clearing that I came across (39.815654, -105.694899), which was a large boulder field. The traverse across the boulders was simple and quick; I kept an eye on a grassy patch in-between the trees. Once on the steep grassy slopes I followed the natural path between the trees until tree line ended, and I was then on the open tundra just off of the east ridge of Witter Peak.
Witter Peak Summit

I was making great time gaining quite a bit of elevation. It was around 7:45am when I made it on to the ridge. Along the ridge there was one section of ledges which were very easy class 3 just below the summit. That would be the only real climbing section for the day. The summit was marked by a large rock cairn. I was feeling pretty good with the first 2,000 vertical feet behind me, now it was time to head over to Mount Eva.

The tundra hiking was a nice recovery after the climb up Witter. There was never any trail I could make out, so pretty much the entire route was cross country. At 9:15am I was on top of Mount Eva. This was only a couple hundred feet ascent above Witter, but there was a fair amount of distance in between the two peaks. Near the summit there was an old building that has been out of commission for quite some time, and I could see a few wind blocks made out of the debris. I just passed by it and went directly to the summit. From here the climb down and up Parry Peak looked like it was going to take some work, so I just kept moving.

Mount Eva Summit
The north ridge of Eva was pretty rocky unlike the climb up from the south. Once at the saddle between the two mountains the south ridge up Parry turned to grass. I started up and about halfway I was running on empty, so I took a short break and ate some jerky. That gave me a good pick-me-up and in no time at all I was on Parry’s summit. It was 10:30am, and now it was time for my lunch. Nothing like a good old PB&J with a bottle of Gatorade to energize my body. A cookie would have hit the spot, but I was good today and didn’t bring any junk food. The views from Parry were the best I saw all day. James Peak looks amazing from the southwest. I rested for about 10 minutes on the summit then got ready for the last roller coaster of the day leading to Mount Bancroft.

The ridge heading to Bancroft was the rockiest of the day so far, but easy going. A couple hundred feet climb from the separating saddle is all it took to get on my fourth summit of the day. It was around 11am and I only had my descent back to reservoir left. I would have been up for adding James Peak, but I had no desire to make the long trek back to my car after going out of my way for another summit. I knew it would be a steep drop back to my car so I can’t say I was looking forward to it.

Parry Peak Summit
The descent seemed like the longest leg of the day. There were some very large and steep boulder fields I had to make my way through that became time consuming. I wondered a little close to the cliffs along the ridge a few times and found myself traversing more boulders than I needed too. I kept to the ridge till I could see a main gully heading towards the parking area of reservoir. From there the terrain got really steep, but there were some game/climbers trails heading down intermittently. After dropping a few hundred feet in elevation I had made it back to my truck at 12:15pm.

Today was a beautiful day of solitude in the mountains. I didn’t run into anyone till getting back to the parking area. Those climbs are hard to find in Colorado, so I tend to really enjoy them a lot more. I love solo hiking and adventuring off the beaten path. With any luck I will get a few more days like this in before the seasons change. I’m starting to scout out a five peak loop in the Front Range that has a lot of potential.

GPS Track
Date: August 1, 2015
TH Elevation: 10,776 feet
Witter Peak Summit: 12,854 feet
Mount Eva Summit: 13,130 feet
Parry Peak Summit: 13,373 feet
Mount Bancroft Summit: 13,250 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 3,350 feet
Distance: 6.77 miles
Moving Time: 4hr 21min

Stopped Time: 45min

Monday, July 13, 2015

Father Dyer Peak and Crystal Peak

Father Dyer Peak
I wasn’t able to make an ascent on Father Dyer last weekend, so this weekend I made a return trip to the Crystal Basin to climb the East Ridge. Ryan was up for a scramble so we made plans to attempt the Crystal Basin group of Father Dyer, Crystal Peak and Peak 10.  We had an early departure from the Denver area and made our way to the Breckenridge area by 7am.

From the standard Spruce Creek TH (39.436909, -106.050611) we started making our way to the Spruce Creek 4WD TH (39.428680, -106.069556).  The gate for Crystal Road (39.435797, -106.053966) was open for the first time this year, so we decided to give it a shot.  This road is pretty narrow and steep, but it does go all the way to Lower Crystal Lake.  After about a mile it was too much for my Blazer, so I found a spot to park it in the trees and that would be our trailhead for the day.  If I were to come back I would just drive to the Spruce Creek 4WD TH and start from there.  The Crystal Road is pretty bad in the steeper sections.

False Summit of Father Dyer
By 7:30 a.m. my heels were all taped up and we were heading up the road.  From our start the road was pretty steep, so we both got the blood moving pretty fast. About a mile from the start we reached tree line at around 11,300 feet.  We continued up the road to Lower Crystal Lake at around 12,000 feet.  There was one creek crossing that was still a little bit challenging, but we were able to cross without getting too wet.

It took us about an hour to make our way to Lower Crystal Lake.  Here there is a split (39.436016, -106.088639)– if you take the road to the right that is the route directly to Crystal Peak, if you take the old mining road to the left that heads to the East Ridge of Father Dyer.   So, go to the left and follow the road till it makes a bend (39.433191, -106.090134) to the east onto the rock glacier.  From here it is a cross-country route with some nice scrambling to the summit of Father Dyer.

Ryan Making His Way Up The East Ridge
Follow the edge of the rock glacier till there is a nice opening heading up the slope to the west.  After making your way through some large rock outcroppings the terrain turns more to grass and levels out for a bit.  You will soon find yourself at the base of the rocky East Ridge and this is where the scrambling starts.  We took a long break here in order to fuel up for the climbing ahead of us.  This route stays in the lower class 3 level and would be a great place to introduce new climbers to some solid rock.

We had a goal of summiting at 10am, which would have us climbing at about 1,000ft and hour.  This was a high expectation considering today was Ryan’s first day at high elevation, and we both were taking our time checking out the cool rocks along the route.  There was more than one occasion where we had to stop and rock hound the pegmatite veins.  We were pulling terminated crystals out of veins and on the surface.  Soon I found my pack was loaded with minerals and we were still on the ascent.  If I grab rocks or minerals I like to usually do it after peaking, but these were just too beautiful to leave behind.  I think both of us will be back just to rock hound the area at a later date.

Ryan Seems To Be Having Fun
Getting back to the scramble...  We stayed true to the ridge for the most part.  There were a few ledges and narrow sections with moderate exposure that required some attention, but nothing that a rookie couldn’t handle.  I would say the crux would have been climbing up and over one of the notches mid-ridge, but overall it was very basic class 3 climbing.  As you follow the rest of the route, it leads you to the large false summit that was visible earlier from Lower Crystal Lake.  As you are climbing the ridge and glance to the south there is a large arĂȘte, and that is the true summit of Father Dyer.  From the false summit it is a rocky ridge walk to the true summit of just a few hundred yards.  On the summit there is a plaque commemorating the 100th anniversary of Father Dyer of the United Methodist Church.

The view of Pacific is well worth the climb alone.  It is a very impressive looking mountain that needs to be inspected in the near future.  We took a short breather, and Ryan made friends with a couple of pikas.  Soon we were off on the ridge towards Crystal.  From Father Dyer it is less than a mile to Crystal.  The ridge is covered in large boulders which made the moving slow.  It took us a little over an hour to go from summit to summit.  As we were making our way we monitored the weather to the south.  There was a good amount of precipitation coming down on Elbert.  We got a few graupel pellets on us, but nothing more than that.  The weather didn’t look too promising so we decided to skip Peak 10 today.  I was up on Crystal and Peak 10 last week so it didn’t bother me too much.

Pacific Peak
We took a few minutes on Crystal’s summit.  I took the tape off my feet.  I think my boots are finally broken in so I can forego the tape from here on out.  We started down to the saddle between Crystal and Peak 10 around 12:30 pm.  It was a little rough making our way through the boulders but once on the saddle the terrain eased up a bit.  Another 600 foot drop had us on the trail that ends at Upper Crystal Lake.  We followed the trail till it started switchbacks then made our way cross country till connecting with the Wheeler Trail.  This saved us some mileage from following the road all the way down and was more interesting in the open country.

Once on the Wheeler Trail we followed it about half mile till meeting up with the Crystal Lake Road.  We were pretty much home free now with less than a mile down the road to the truck. Today was a great climb; one of my favorites in Colorado so far. I am still hoping to get in Pacific, Atlantic, Fletcher, Drift and North Star this summer.  The season is going well so far, and I hope to see some of you on the mountains.  Cheers!

GPS Track
Date: July 11, 2015
TH Elevation: 10,747 feet
Father Dyer Summit: 13,596 feet
Crystal Peak: 13,822 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 3,200 feet
Distance: 7.31 miles
Moving Time: 5hrs
Stopped Time: 2hrs 15min

Climbing Partner: Ryan

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Crystal Peak and Peak 10

Brian and Nick on Peak 10
My old climbing partner Brian was ready for a mini-cation to Colorado so we decided to plan a day in the mountains.  I have recently become interested in the 10 Mile Range near Breckenridge, and thought that Crystal Peak and Peak 10 would be a good choice for a climb.  These are two 13ers that can be approached from Crystal Basin by the Spruce Creek Trail Head.  We utilized the same trail head as my previous trip report up Mount Helen.  This time however we drove the additional 1.25 miles up to the upper 4WD trail head which intersects the Wheeler Trail.  The road was in pretty bad shape compared to a couple weeks ago, so I wouldn’t try heading up to the upper trail head unless you have a high clearance vehicle.
Bryan en route to Crystal Peak
We started up the trail just after 7am.  The Wheeler Trial starts about 50 yards past the gate.  We took the trail on the ascent, but came down the road on the descent.  There is a pretty bad creek crossing which took us quite some time to negotiate.  Finally we were able to toss a log across a narrow section and made it to the other side.  I would recommend taking your boots off for the crossing or just staying on the road and walking a little further around since there is a bridge.  After we crossed there was a short climb out of the drainage and we ended up in some backpacker’s campsite.  From there we just walked cross-country heading towards the peaks till hitting the main road that makes its way to Crystal Lake.  There was a lot of snow runoff so some sections of the road were pretty flooded over and crossing was bit challenging.  I was pretty good in my boots till the water made its way in from the top, and I think Brian went all the way in with his trail shoes a couple times.  Soon after that crossing we stopped and had to ring the water out of our socks.  I’m sure there are ways to avoid a lot of the water, we just didn’t take the time to scout it out too much.
Crystal Peak
Our last water crossing came when we needed to cross the outlet of Crystal Lake.  This was the most manageable of all as there were many rock islands to hop to as we crossed the 30 foot outlet of water.  After this crossing we were pretty much in the clear.  Brian got his shoes soaked in the marsh and had to squeeze the water out of his socks one more time.  After that we were good to go and were on our way towards Crystal Peak. 
We chose to follow the old road that heads to the Upper Crystal Lake.  The road is faint in places and narrows as you rise in elevation; it eventually becomes a single track trail.  This trial goes all the way to Upper Crystal Lake.  We spotted a side trail marked with a cairn that looked like it was heading to the saddle between Crystal and Peak 10.  This lead to a traverse across a boulder field, which went by pretty quickly.  Once at the saddle it is about a 500 foot climb to the summit of Crystal.  The clouds were starting to build, so we took a few minutes to refuel and monitor the weather.  I was satisfied with the weather and we started heading up the route to Crystal’s summit.
This was a solid class 2+ section, I left my poles at the saddle but Brian opted to keep his for the climb up.  I stayed on the rock as Brian hopped between the rock and the snow on the way up.  Within a half hour or less we were on the summit.  There were seven skiers getting ready to make there descent as we arrived.  I was jealous of their descent method, but I was thankful I didn’t have to carry all that equipment up this high.  Brian did very well for being a flatlander.  He lives at about 400 feet above sea level, so I definitely had the advantage today.  We took a few pictures then started making our way down to the saddle.  I was feeling pretty good heading down the rock, and for once my knees weren’t killing me.
Peak 10 East Ridge
At the saddle we checked the weather again and decided we were good to head up Peak 10.  From the saddle we only had to gain about 400 feet and the slope was much more mellow than the climb up Crystal.  This went pretty quick and I didn’t really have to stop on the ascent.  I chatted with another hiker on his way over to Crystal.  He was doing the same route we did but in reverse.  A few minutes later and I was on the summit.  There were about 10 others up there, mostly skiers that were heading down the north face into the Breck ski area.  A few minutes later Brian made it up and we were feeling pretty good that it was all downhill from here.  It there wasn’t the threat of thunderheads we were considering adding Peak 9 as well, but that wasn’t going to happen today.  After a few minutes we started making our way down the East Ridge.
The first few hundred vertical feet was on a snow covered ridge.  I think I can blame that snow on the sunburn my legs are dealing with today.  Our goal was to follow the ridge until it meets up with the Wheeler Trail.  There were a few steep snow fields that we avoided and a large boulder field we had to negotiate.  Once hitting the trail the going was fast, we were actually trotting for a good section of it.  Brian found a snow bank and made himself a snow angel.  He didn’t get any snow days living in California, so he was trying to make up for it.  I wanted to avoid the creek crossing, so we followed the road the rest of the way back to the trail head.
Today was a great day out.  I’m patiently waiting for Brian to move back to Colorado so we can continue checking mountains off our list.  I took some time checking out the East Ridge route of Father Dyer and it is looking like a great possibility for next weekend.  I hope everyone got the chance to enjoy the Freedom of the Hills over the Fourth of July weekend.  Cheers!
GPS Track
Date: 7/4/2015
TH Elevation:  10,960ft 
Crystal Peak: 13,822ft
Peak 10: 13,615ft
Total Gained Elevation: 3,240ft
Distance: 8.07 miles
Moving Time: 5:15
Stopped Time: 1:40
Partners: Brian

Picture Link: Crystal Peak Album

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Mount Helen

Mount Helen
During the end of May, Paul and I made an attempt on Mount Helen.  This was not the mountain we were targeting that day, as both of us really wanted to climb Crystal Peak.  As we got back into Crystal Creek basin the snowpack was pretty extreme, so plans from climbing Crystal shifted over to climbing Mount Helen from the north.  We were not on the route of the traditional approach for Helen, so we had to tramp through the deep snow across the valley to meet up with the base of the mountain.  We were contemplating routes up the north eastern face, but the slope was extremely steep.  We gained a few hundred feet and made it into some rock bands where the technicality seemed too much for the both of us on our first climb out for the season.  We decided to turn back and come back for Helen from the traditional route in a few weeks.
Now that three weeks had passed Paul and I were eager to get back into the high country and give Helen another shot.  The best way to approach Helen is from the Spruce Creek TH.  From Breckenridge drive 2 miles south and turn west onto Spruce Creek Road.  Follow the road up a small hill and follow it as it turns to the south.  A couple miles down the road will leave you at the Spruce Creek TH.  We parked there for the start of our hike.  The road was clear at least as far as the Wheeler Trail which is (1.25 miles from Spruce Creek TH) is used in the approach for Helen.  The road was in great shape so any vehicle that made it to the lower TH could have made it to the Wheeler Trail intersection.  There is room up there for five or six vehicles.
Breckenridge Peaks
The Spruce Creek Road intersection and Wheeler Trail is where the hike of Helen will start for most people.  A couple hundred yards up the trail the vegetation to the southwest will start to clear.  Follow the opening till the route intersects with a creek.  Follow this creek to the main east face of Helen.  From there it is a simple hike up the mountain to the summit.
Paul and Nick on the Summit
I may have given you some proper guidance to climbing the mountain, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we took that route.  In my family it’s known as the “Karl Way.”  From the Wheeler Trail we passed the locked gate and hiked about 50 yards then started up the mountain.  There were a few rocky patches and aspen groves we had to fight our way through, but nothing much more than that.  We found our way to the creek and followed that to the open east face.  The north side of the creek had dry patches of dirt following the tree line that we utilized to avoid the snow as much as we could.  Soon enough the dirt ran out and we had to take our snowshoes out.
For the most part we were able to float on top of the snow, but there were sections of slush where we would drop to knee level with our shoes on.  That made for some heavy steps, but lucky for us those conditions didn’t last too long.  We climbed the main snow field to about 11,500 feet then we stashed our shoes there.  From that point to the summit the snow patches were a lot more spread out and we thought it would be faster just playing frogger in-between them.  The going wasn’t too bad, but this was the highest either of us had been in quite a while so the elevation was slowing us down a bit.
Pacific and Father Dyer
Once we got to around 13,000 feet we could see a couple of people on the summit.  Soon they skied down the hundred or so feet to us and we chatted for a few minutes.  Paul and I were pretty envious of their skis, as that would have been a great descent that day.  Another 10-15 minutes of climbing up and we found our way to the summit. 
I was feeling pretty good for this being my first peak since December.  If I had a few more peaks under my belt a trek to Father Dyer would have been awesome.  The connecting ridge looks like a fun scramble, but I will have to do that on another trip.  The Breckenridge peaks are all pretty impressive, I’m hoping to climb a few more this summer and explore some new area.  The highlight of the day may have been the glissade down.  All-in-all we probably dropped 1,000 feet vertical sliding, which is always a nice relief to my knees.  Was a good climb, now Paul and I have unfinished business with North Star Mountain coming up soon I hope.
GPS Track
Date: June 13, 2015
TH Elevation: 10,375 feet
Mount Helen Summit: 13,158 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 2,783 feet
Distance: 5.16 miles
Moving Time: 3hrs 15min
Stopped Time: 2hrs 30min

Climbing Partner: Paul
Photo Album Link:Mount Helen