Mt. Antero

Antero.  The 4WD crew loves it.  Hikers dread it.  Much of the hike is on 4WD ride and hardly feels like a wilderness adventure most of the time due to the roar of engines all around on the many 4WD roads in the area.  Today was not one of those days.

Kris and I ducked out of a beautiful day in Denver and found ourselves heading up the 277 Jeep road in the dark (due to construction on Kenosha Pass) and in the snow.  I drive a 2003 Ford Escape and have taken a car up several rough roads before (Princeton and South Colony Lakes come to mind), but I was a bit uneasy about this one.  Add the snow in and it was a very challenging drive.

It is 2.7 miles to the first creek crossing at 10,850 feet.  Our goal was to get there and camp for the night so that we still hit 3,000 feet of gain but could shorten our day so that we were back in Denver pretty early.  The road is rough the entire way, but it is manageable for a smaller 4WD car.  There are a few sections that are pretty hairy and the presence of a couple hundred foot drop-off on one side make it feel even more so.  We we’re thankfully able to make it the creek in 35 minutes with minimal bottoming out but plenty of stress and prayer.

It was still snowing lightly and quietly.  Once we got settled and calmed down, it was beautiful.  We set up our tent on one of the few rock free areas underneath a tree and settled into bed around 9:30 PM.  It was a challenge to get to sleep with Kris, Casey (70 lb brown lab), Merlin (50 lb Griffon) and myself all in our 2 person REI Half Dome tent but it was warm!

We woke up without an alarm at 4:30 AM and began to get ready for the day.  The sky was clear and the air cold.  Felt a bit like winter!

We were on the trail at 5:45 am and thankfully able to safely cross the rocks through the creek without getting wet.  Would have been a chilly start to the day!

The creek we crossed in the darkness of the morning.

The creek we crossed in the darkness of the morning.

The road made hiking quick and straightforward.  There was an inch or two on much of the trail but we were easily able to manage it without any extra traction.  The combination of the moon and fresh snow made it easy to hike without my headlamp.  The solitude in front of me without a light was relaxing and the most at peace I’ve ever felt during a hike.  As we approached treelike the surrounding peaks began to reveal themselves in the soft light.

The moon illuminates Cronin.

The moon illuminates Cronin.

It’s at this point that I should mention that when I got my camera out to take a picture of Cronin, I realized that my battery was sitting at home so I was stuck on the iPhone for the day.  Not terrible in the light, but not great in low-light situations such as above.

Moonlight shared with Kris' headlamp.

Moonlight shared with Kris’ headlamp.

We reached the first turn just above treeline in 1:06 and about 1.5 miles.  Not the pace we wanted but the cold and snow had led to a relatively slow start.  Alpenglow was starting to peak above the surrounding peaks but we were on the west side of Antero so no sunlight for us yet.

Sunrise around 12,500 feet.

Sunrise around 12,500 feet.  Notice how much more snow the road is holding than surrounding terrain.

Casey and Merlin probably hiked an extra 5 miles today.

Casey and Merlin probably hiked an extra 5 miles today.

The road is gradual for much of the hike and the width of the trail makes it easy to move quickly.  Our pace picked up as the sun rose and we found ourselves at the shortcut to 13,100 at 2:20 and 5K into the climb.

A couple of inches of snow covered the road the whole way.

A couple of inches of snow covered the road the whole way.  Many areas were drifted above treeline with more.

Casey did his usual snow hunting.

Casey did his usual snow hunting.

We were still in the shade as we turned onto the shortcut but we could see the sun on the 13,100 ridge above us.  In between us and the sun stood a 4 foot snowdrift.

nn

Just before the cutoff I believe.  You can see the snow building up along the trail.

We trudged through the drift and worked our way up a steep single track trail and found ourselves finally in the sun a few minutes later.  We picked the road back up and connected with 278A about a half mile later on relatively even terrain.

Point 13,100

Point 13,100.  The view was white and beautiful

At the intersection of 278A and 277 we could see the work in front of us to reach Pt. 13,800

Setting off to 13,800.

Setting off to 13,800.  You can see the switchbacks just to the left of the peak.

We were still on the road, but it was heavily drifted now.  A solid foot of snow covered most parts but thankfully the far edge of the road was usually bare or minimally covered.  Around 12,800 feet we had seen a tent and some tracks, but they stopped somewhere around 13,100 so we were now breaking trail.

We reached the saddle just below Pt. 13,800 in 25 minutes despite the fact that it was only a half mile.  We weren’t struggling but we were moving slowly.  Upon reaching the saddle, we were greeted with a view of Antero’s summit and our remaining route.

The final 450 feet of Antero.

The final 450 feet of Antero.

We took a quick water break and set to work on the remainder of the route.  I was nervous about the dogs being able to get across the rockier section immediately in front of us, but thankfully there was a relatively straightforward trail through the section and it was not as challenging as it looked from a distance.

Working our way through the rocky section.  This spot challenged Casey but as soon as Merlin got it, Casey ran up right behind him.

Working our way through the rocky section. This spot challenged Casey but as soon as Merlin got it, Casey ran up right behind him.

We found ourselves at the summit pitch 15 minutes later and we silently went to work.  The pitch is not overly steep but the light snow had made much of rocks undependable and we had to consider and explore every step.

The summit pitch.

The summit pitch.

We were able to pick up the summer trail and follow it underneath the 14,269 foot summit.  Once past the summit, we took a quick turn and approach the summit from the east, arriving on top 3:52 after we left the trailhead.

Kris and Merlin approach the summit.

Kris and Merlin approach the summit.

Snow covered and beautiful.

Snow covered and beautiful.  Looking west.

Antero's ridge

Looking south on much of the route.

Mt. Princeton's 14,197 foot summit to the North.

Mt. Princeton’s 14,197 foot summit to the North.

The summit was very chilly but they may have been exacerbated by the fact that we we’re drenched in sweat from the summit pitch climb that had left us extremely hot in the sun.  There was minimal wind…always a nice thing to find on a summit.

Summit #25 for me.  Summit #16 for Casey.

Summit #25 for me. Summit #16 for Casey.

Summit

Summit #23 for Kris.  Summit #3 for stubborn Merlin off in the distance.

We spent 15 minutes on the summit and began to work our way back down.  We figured it would take us 45 minutes to get back to 13,800 with the technical terrain immediately in front of us, but the addition of microspikes (which we should have worn on the climb up too) allowed us to move much faster.  We reached the 13,800 saddle in 25 minutes.

Downclimbing the ridge.

Downclimbing the ridge.

Crossing the only technical part of the trip.  The snow did create a couple of Class 3 moves :-).

Crossing the only technical part of the trip. The snow did create a couple of Class 3 moves :-).

From here on out, the rest of the climb was on road and we made quick work of it.  We kept our microspikes on for the entire down climb save a short section where we thought it was going to rocky for the rest of the way.  We quickly realized how much more efficient we were with them on.  We were back at the car 6:12 after we left it.  Our summit to car trip had taken slightly less than 2 hours.

Having fun on the way down.

Having fun on the way down.

The only footprints we saw.

The only footprints we saw.

We did not see a single other person the entire day.  Not on the road.  Not on the trail.  What a unique experience to have on Antero.  We also saw no one coming up the first 3 miles of the 4WD road when we left so we can only assume that we were the only people to summit Antero on October 26, 2013.  Fun fact of the day right there!

Using the bridge to get back to the car.

Using the bridge to get back to the car.

Exhausted.

Exhausted.

Antero is a straightforward and quick climb.  I highly recommend taking advantage of it in similar conditions that we did as it seems to thin/eliminate the crowds.  I haven’t fully decided yet, but it may just be my favorite 14er that I’ve done.

 

 

Antero from the creek crossing.

Antero from the creek crossing.

Mt. Antero Stats
Elevation Gain: 3,654 feet.
Mileage: 9.12 miles
Total Time: 6:12
TH-Summit: 3:52

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mt. Shavano/Tabeguache Peak

Looking to complete the Sawatch range (save Mt. Elbert which is being kept for my finisher) this year, Kris and I set out to climb Shavano and Tabeguache over the weekend.  Conditions looked great and the weather looked phenomenal.   As usual, we camped the night before at the trailhead (in the vicinity of the TH in this case as camping is not allowed at the TH).

We slept in the overflow parking area for a rather brief period of time courtesy of our dogs.  It was a beautiful night under a relatively full moon in an aspen grove.  Our light sleep was interrupted rudely at 3:15 a.m. with our wake up call to get going.

We were on the trail an hour later and off to the races.  We felt fresh and knocked out the first mile in 25 minutes.  A pace we knew wasn’t sustainable but it was certainly nice to knock it out that quickly.  We continued to hike at that pace, only stopping to take a break at the creek around 10,800 ft. to refill water for the rest of the day.  The dogs greatly enjoyed the stop as well as the ran through the water.

It was still quite dark as we worked our way through the trees.  The trail is easy to follow and relatively straightforward.  There are a few sections, especially early on that are more a collection of rocks as opposed to a trail.  Just a side note though.

As we reached treeline, the sun finally started to poke its head in the east.  We started to notice some of the features around us, namely the low hanging clouds in the valley to the south.  One of my bucketlist dreams is to hike above the clouds.  It’s a phenomenon that is relatively rare in Colorado.  It takes the perfect weather conditions to occur so it was somewhat a tease to see it off in the distance but still beautiful.

_MG_7796

The clouds hug the valley floor as the sun rises.

The sun rose slowly initially but the trail grew rapidly brighter thanks to the low moon.  We soon turned off our headlamps and hiked under the natural light of both the sun and moon.

_MG_7800

The moon lights our approach to the ridge.

As we approached the ridge, the wind steadily increased.  We had thought we were the first people on the trail for the day, but a light above us indicated otherwise.  We soon ran into a man and his dog on their way down.  He offered to tell us that the wind got better but that was not the case.  He had chosen to only summit Shavano and avoid his day turning into a sufferfest.  We also took this as an opportunity to enjoy the sunrise behind us.

The clouds hug the valley floor.

The clouds hug the valley floor.

_MG_7803

Sunrise in the east.

_MG_7804

Looking up from just below the ridge at a false summit.

_MG_7807

Looking more and more noble with his gray hairs.

As we approached the ridge around 13,300 feet, the wind began to howl.  Kris nor I are ones to be accurate wind gaugers but it was damn strong.  My initial thoughts were 80 mph, but after considering that would be hurricane force we settled on an estimate of 30-40 mph.  It was enough to knock us around quite a bit though.

_MG_7821

Just below the ridge before we got hit by the wind.

_MG_7822

It was around 30 degrees through the morning. Refreshing for sure.  Merlin got to explore ice too!

Kris and I shut up and just suffered through the misery for the last 900 feet or so to the summit.  We veered a little bit to the left of the trail on the class 2 climb to the summit.  After 30 minutes we reached the top.  The summit is a ridge of sorts that is a network of rocks and spots to hide from the wind.  I was able to find a rock to sit on and enjoy the views from while being obstructed from the wind.  Christine and I had spent one of our favorite 14er summits up here and it was great to be back.  (More on that here: http://14000feetandabove.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/mt-shavano/)

_MG_7830

Enjoying the clouds to the south.

_MG_7831

Not sure what Casey was stalking on the summit, but he was checking it all out.

_MG_7832

Casey shows Merlin the ropes on his first 14er summit.

_MG_7837

Merlin checks out the view from the top of the world for the first time.

_MG_7840

Looking north from Shavano towards Antero.

_MG_7841

Kris and Merlin enjoy their respective 21st and 1st summits.

After 25 minutes on the summit of Shavano, we began our trek over to Tab.  It’s only a mile but the descent to the 13,700 foot saddle is mostly off trail and requires a good bit of rock hopping.  Our view may be skewed though as we stayed away from the edge of the ridge due to the wind and there seemed to be more of a trail up there.

_MG_7845

The descent from Shavano to the saddle.

There was however a bit of excitement on the descent in some of the shady spots…

_MG_7847

FRESH SNOW!

_MG_7849

Tab from just below the summit of Shavano.

_MG_7851

Tab from the saddle.

_MG_7852

Antero from the saddle.

Once reached the saddle, it was a quick climb to the summit.  There are a variety of “trails” in the area, all marked by cairns, so it can be tough to follow a set trail, but there is a simple path to the summit.  We hit the switches and made quick work of it, reaching the saddle in 22 minutes.

The view from the summit was rewarding to say the least.

_MG_7856

Looking west at a variety of ranges.

From the summit of Tab, you are able to see much of the Sawatch range and also much of Nolan’s 14.  I’ve spent the last 2 summers driving down 285 attempting to complete this range that is home to 15 of Colorado’s 14ers.  Most are in this picture somewhere with the notable exception of the lonely Holy Cross off by itself.

_MG_7858

Sawatch Splendor.

_MG_7859

Looking back at Shavano.  Whole lot of wind in between.

As much of our hike had been dark when we were around trees, we hadn’t had a chance to see if any of Colorful Colorado’s Autumn beauty had appeared.  We were greeted with a couple splashes of yellow in the valleys surrounding Shav/Tab.

_MG_7866

Merlin and Casey enjoy a moment of relaxation.

_MG_7861

Splashes of yellow throughout the surrounding valleys.

_MG_7867

Merlin gets his 2nd 14er.

_MG_7874

Casey showing Merlin the ropes on how to wander around 14ers and not listen to your owners.

I had heard the view from Tab was significantly better than Shavano and was skeptical of such claims.  It was only a mile after all.  I was wrong.

_MG_7876

Mt. Antero from Tab.

_MG_7884

Looking south from Tab.

_MG_7887

Kris and Merlin from the summit of Tab with Shavano in the background.

_MG_7889

Casey and I on summit #16 and #24 respectively.

We reached Tab in 4:37.   A pretty decent time, especially considering the winds from the saddle to the summit of Shavano.  After spending some time relaxing on Tab with no one around, we began our trek back to the trailhead.  Unfortunately, there is no way back home without summiting Shavano again, so we set off to climb up an over again.  The trek back was much tougher than the initial trek.  Merlin had sprained his back leg on the journey down Tab and Casey was dog-tired.  No pun intended.

It took us close to an hour to get back to the 14,229 foot summit of Shavano.  By this point, we just hike straight through and began the trek downward.  While 4 miles is a relatively short return to the TH, especially by Sawatch standards, the triple summit had mentally killed us.  It was a struggle to return to treeline.  Once we reached that point, we were able to somewhat mentally rebuild ourselves and break the hike into segments that were much more achievable.

Overall, we completed the 11.1 mile hike in 8h24m.  The finish was a struggle.  Probably due to our lack of longer distance fitness, but it’s good to have another Sawatch summit done.

_MG_7891

Casey exemplifies our feelings by taking the entire back seat.

Shav/Tab Stats
Total Time: 8:24
Total Mileage: 11.1 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 5,261 feet

TH to Shavano:   3:18
Shav to Tab:  1:19
Tab back to Shavano: 1:14
Shavano to TH: 2:34

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mt. Holy Cross (Aug 31/Sept 1)

It was the wettest, stormiest, and darkest 14er we’ve done.  And we dragged my sister, Caitlin, the Chicago flatlander along for her first trip above 14,000 feet.

We chose Holy Cross because it lends itself to backpacking and we wanted to get out into the woods a good ways.  Christine and I had climbed it last year on Labor Day and despite the fact that you go up-down-up-down-up-down, we loved it.

We left Denver Saturday afternoon once Christine had finished work.  We took a couple of cars as Christine was hoping to sell her Jeep on the trip as well to a family in the high country.   Due to all of these activities, we started later than we intended to from the trailhead, but we had headlamps and were meeting some others who had already established camp in East Cross Creek so we weren’t concerned.

And then it started raining.  Then it kept raining.  And kept raining.  We kept telling Caitlin, it’s Colorado, it’ll be a quick shower and then it’ll pass.  Nope.  It rained for the entire 1.7 mile climb to Halfmoon Pass.  It took us 1:12 to reach the summit, which is approximately 1300 feet above the trailhead.  Not too shabby on the time category considering conditions.

Thankfully, the rain tapered off at the summit of the pass, but now we had another variable to deal with: darkness.  We put our headlamps on and began to work our way down to East Cross Creek.  Our spirits had lifted since it wasn’t raining anymore.  Almost to the point that the darkness didn’t bother or concern us.

As we started to reach the bottom, the trail became a bit tougher to follow and some cliffs appeared on our right that I didn’t remember from the last trip.  Everything is a little more fearsome in the dark when you can’t see the bottom.  Around the same time, Caitlin began being quizzed on her beau Tom.  I’ll save that information for another day!

We arrived at Campsite 1 to find the Zelkins huddle in their tent attempting to stay dry.  They had been rained on heavily as well prior to our arrival.  Ultimately, we covered 3 miles in 1:52 which was about the same time it took last time in much better conditions.

Camp was frantically set up and dinner made and enjoyed.  Nothing like black bean soup to warm you up after a cold hike and some hot chocolate before you head to bed.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any pictures from the first part of this hike as the priority was to be dry!

We were up at 6 the next morning, hoping to be on trail by 7.  The sky was still cloudy, but it wasn’t raining.  The clouds did make me nervous as the morning began, but I hoped they would burn off as it warmed up.  It took as a while to get packed and going.  Everything was some level of damp if not downright wet.  We laid a lot of our clothes/gear on the rocks behind us hoping they would dry off.  It was mildly successful.

We finished our oatmeal and coffee and it was time to cross East Cross Creek.  Unfortunately, Kris, Amanda, and the new pup Merlin would not be joining us as Kris had sprained his foot towards the end of the hike last night.  It was going to be chore enough just to get out, much less summit and get out.  We left camp at 8 am, an hour behind schedule.  More on that later.

Christine and Caitlin crossing the creek

Christine and Caitlin crossing the creek with the wobbly rock.

What we need to reach before getting to the summit ridge.

What we need to reach before getting to the summit ridge.

The trail was beautiful and steep as it meandered through the campsites and we arrived at treeline 50 minutes after leaving camp.

Approaching treeline and enjoying the views to the north.

Approaching treeline and enjoying the views to the north.

Lightning has been here...its going to return later too.

Lightning has been here…its going to return later too.

The summit of 14,005 foot Holy Cross plays hide and seek for much of the climb.  We had snuck a brief peek on our hike in the night before.  Caitlin was impressed to say the least.  She had returned to hiding until we approached treeline where she revealed our goal for the day.

The summit of Holy Cross peeks above.

The summit of Holy Cross peeks above.

We had budgeted about 1 mph to reach the summit and we were right on pace so far.  Having gotten a late start, there were plenty of people around us, but it wasn’t unreasonably crowded.

Caitlin and Christine reach treeline.

Caitlin and Christine reach treeline.  Casey ensures their safety.

Enjoying the views towards Notch Mountin

Enjoying the views towards Notch Mountain.  Aptly named for its notch!

We continued to maintain our 1 mph pace as we reached the ridge.  The trail is excellent up here, but the air is rarified and we begun to feel the affects.  Our breaks increased both in frequency and longevity even though the steepness had relaxed.  Their simply is not much oxygen to breath this high, especially if you haven’t ever been this high or haven’t been this high in a few months.

Cairns marked the way.

Cairns marked the way.

_MG_7703

We continue to approach the summit, which remains in view for the rest of the hike.  The ridge s up to the right of the photo.

Reaching the ridge around 13,100 feet.

Reaching the ridge around 13,100 feet.

As you reach the ridge, the terrain eases.  Holy Cross is “only” 14,005 feet tall so one of the benefits is that you reach 14,000 and you are there unlike some of it’ Sawatch friends where you can spend a mile or more above 14,000 feet.  We worked our way across the ridge to the base of the summit approach where the Class 2 climbing began for the last pitch to the top.

Looking at the remaining route.

Looking at the remaining route.

Class 2 rock hopping on hands and feet.

Class 2 rock hopping on hands and feet.

It’s only slightly more than half a mile from 13,400 to the summit, but it takes over 35 minutes to find our way.  Clouds are starting to build around us, but they aren’t of the worrisome type…yet.

After some rock hopping and plenty of breathing brakes, the terrain begins to ease and we find ourselves standing on the summit of 14,005 Mt. Holy Cross.

Caitlin summits for the first time!

Caitlin summits for the first time!

Caitlin, Casey, Christine...the 3Cs.

Caitlin, Casey, Christine…the 3Cs.

The whole crew together.  Only Casey is lacking in Patagonia gear.

The whole crew together. Only Casey is lacking in Patagonia gear.

The summit was beautiful and airy.  There were others up there, but not an overwhelming amount of people.  We say we’re going to spend 10 minutes and head down.  We spend 20+.  Such is life.

_MG_7736

The official summit marker.

The official summit marker.

 

A classic I don't know that I'll soon forget.

A classic I don’t know that I’ll soon forget.

First time there have been 2 Fords this high not in an airplane!

First time there have been 2 Fords this high not in an airplane!

Enjoying  a moment on the summit.

Enjoying a moment on the summit.

We made our way off the summit around 11:15 a.m.  Later than we’re used to, but certainly not unreasonable.  It took us just as long to downclimb the Class 2 section just below the summit as it did to climb it, but after that, we were motoring along.

We were back at treeline 1:45 after leaving the summit.  Pretty good time.  But not fast enough.  For the first time in my 14er experiences, the skies let us know that we had stayed past our welcome.  Thunder became rampant.  Rain began.  Lightly at first with a drop here and there, ultimately opening up into a downpour.  Throw in a couple minutes of hail and hiding under trees for good flavor and you’ve got a t-storm at 11,700 feet.   It was intense but not overwhelmingly stressful…unless you were Casey, who hated every second.  We were amazed by the amount of people who had passed us still climbing.  Undoubtedly, the were scrambling for covered now.

As we set in the cover of a tree grove, we discussed our options.

1. Stay until the storm stopped
2. Hop from tree grove to tree grove
3. Make a run back to camp which was a little more than a mile away

We chose option 3 as the storm seemed to be abating.  Everything we had was already wet so that ship had sailed.  As long as the hail held off, we felt comfortable going for at as the trees provided plenty of protection from the thunder (we hadn’t seen any lightning).

We made quick and muddy work back to camp and reached our tents in the dry but muggy heat of midday at 1:45 PM, 5:48 minutes after we began that morning.  Not too shabby when you consider it took us 5:35 last time WITHOUT an impromptu hideout under a tree.

We slowly broke down camp and packed our bags to camp out.  We wanted to be faster but that just wasn’t happening.  After an hour at the camp site, we left camp and worked our way back up Half Moon Pass.

Looking back from camp on HC.

Looking back from camp on HC.

_MG_7756

Heading up Halfmoon Pass.

We pretty much mirrored our pace from the day before and made good time to the summit of Halfmoon Pass.  The initial climb is incredibly steep as you switchback your way through the first 1200 meters but it eventually grades out and you’re greeted with awe inspiring views of Holy Cross behind you as reach the summit.

Reaching the summit of Halfmoon Pass.

Reaching the summit of Halfmoon Pass.

The descent would be quick and painless if not for it being the end of a 14er.  Due to the it being such, one experiences that sensation of an every retreating parking lot where you can never actually reach that moment of rest and relaxation.  Today was no different, but at least we had beautiful trailside company.

Wildflowers.

First tastes of fall.

Looking back up to Halfmoon.

Looking back up to Halfmoon.

Mushrooms EVERYWHERE.

Mushrooms EVERYWHERE.

We reached the trailhead at 4:45 and immediately unloaded our gear.  We got driving down Tigiwon road as fast as we could since Caitlin was feeling the elevation.  Thankfully, we made great time, kept my car in one piece AND sold Christine’s car, all in one trip.

The beauty and remoteness of Holy Cross is uncompromised.  It was a blessing to share it with my sister.

Mt. Holy Cross Stats
Mileage: 11.5 miles
Time: 9;.5 hours
Elevation: 5600 feet of elev. gain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Leadville Silver Rush 50 Mountain Bike Race

Looking for a goal to get myself focused on a training plan, I signed up for the Leadville Silver Rush 50 Mountain Bike in February thinking it would be a good way.  22 weeks later, race day arrived and I was as prepared as I was ever going to be for the challenge.

While this is not a 14er, I spent enough time above 10/11,000 feet it justifies a trip report of it’s own.

Gun time was 9 am, so we arrived at the start line around 8 am in order to get a good spot at the base of Dutch Henry Hill.  The start of this race has 800 people climbing an unrideable (I know someone will accept that as a challenge) a ski hill that quickly narrows down to the width of a one lane road at the top so positioning was important.

_MG_7246

My companion in misery as well as half of our race crew get focused before heading to the line.

_MG_7248

Showing a little Crested Butte 401 love with the race number.

_MG_7250

Ready to climb, hike a bike, and descend.

_MG_7254

Thinking we know where we’re going…

_MG_7255

Alas…we do not.

The start line was relatively quiet upon our arrival.  I was surprised at how empty it felt given that they were expecting 800 entries, and undoubtedly close to 2,000 people total when you add in friends/fans.  Thats quite the addition when the town only was 2,602 people to begin with.

_MG_7256

Cloud City Ski Hut (teal building) serves as the start and finish line for the race. The Northern end of the Sawatch Range serves as our backdrop.

We had taken care of your typical pre-race duties (numbers, bathrooms, strategy review etc) and in our positions by 8:45.   Our starting spot was dead-smack in the middle of it all.  Not terrible, but not great.  I will remember next year that it is kosher to put your bike where you want to start and leave it there.

_MG_7259

Race minds getting right.

_MG_7261

Legitimate photo of the last smiles we have for 6+ hours.

_MG_7263

My fiance/race crew/photographer.

The start line quickly filled up as 9 am approached and the race director filled the air with instructions and reminders about the course.  Prior to the shotgun start, we stood at attention for the National Anthem.  A late rider accidentally pulled the power cord to the PA right as the verse “Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there” finished.  Without pause, the race field stepped in and finished in chilling style.  As the anthem wrapped up, the PA was plugged back in and flowed smoothly into Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” which got me even more amped up and ready to roll.

_MG_7265

The start line shortly before the race.

The start from the top of Dutch Henry Hill.

The start from the top of Dutch Henry Hill.

_MG_7275

First steps of the next 50 miles.

_MG_7281

Attacking Dutch Henry Hill.

_MG_7282

First man and first woman to the top get automatic bids to the Leadville 100 providing they finish under the 8 hour cutoff.

_MG_7289

Capturing the “organized chaos”

Shortly after climbing the hill, the course bottlenecks into the size of a one lane road which led to a backlog of people waiting to get through.  The course then bottlenecks again about .5 miles farther where it shrinks to a short but steep singletrack trail.  Once through there, the crowded nature of the course eased.

_MG_7292

Waiting to get through.

The first climb is long but not steep.  It is mostly fire road after the first mile or two.  The climb starts around 10,000 feet and pushes to just over 12,000 feet in 10 miles.  It doesn’t really start to climb until 2.5 miles into the race though, so essentially you climb 2,000 feet in 7.5 miles.  The last mile or so was extremely muddy and slick as much of the trail doubled as a creek.  Almost (if not all riders) were hiking a bike here.

My target time to peak out at the top was 1:30.  Doing so would put me on pace to finish between 6-7 hours.  I reached the top at 1:35, a bit slow, but not concerning as I attributed much of it to the early race logjam.  I was feeling strong as I stopped for a second to eat and saddle up for the descent.

The descent was quick and straightforward.  I rolled into the first aid station (13.88 miles) at 1:45, back on pace.  I was greeted by my crew of Christine, Dylan, and Jeremy’s mom.  Dylan was a step ahead of all of us…

_MG_7295

9:30 A.M. beers…why not?

_MG_7296

Jeremy rolling through the first aid station just before me.

_MG_7297

1st aid station.

_MG_7301

Neither of us carried packs as our pockets were enough.

_MG_7308

Rolling into the 1st aid station 10 minutes behind Jeremy.

_MG_7309

Happy to see the crew.

_MG_7311

Quick stop to change out water bottles and reload on food and then off to Stumptown, the turnaround point.

The race was quickly back on dirt trail and continued to head downhill for a short bit longer, but it would soon begin climbing again.  I would forget this downhill later…

The journey to Stumptown was a challenging ride.  We descended down to 10,631 feet before we began to climb back up to 12,000 feet.  Not quite as big or long a climb as our first one, but it was a good bit steeper as we climbed 1,400 feet in 3.5 miles.  The trail was a bit more technical as we mixed in a couple sections of singletrack but it was still plenty rideable.

_MG_7316

A little Leadville character on the way to Stumptown.

What I soon found was that I had significantly underestimated the smaller climb after the the main climb.  It was only a mile and only climbed 450 feet.  As I discovered, the last quarter mile was loose dirt that would have been a challenge to ride solo, much less with 20 other people around you and the increasingly frequent riders coming down.

I was able to peak out at 2:54, 6 minutes ahead of my goal pace.  The pass was beautiful and filled with wildflowers.  I wish I could have spent more time enjoying the view, but I had a descent to complete.  A very sketchy one at that.

I set off for the last 3 miles until the aid station thinking I could cruise in as it was all downhill.  Unfortunately, the downhill was mostly loose, large rocks that I had no choice but to attempt as there was a steady stream of riders climbing up the pass now.  I completed most of the riding with my back brake honking increasingly louder (if you ridden with me…you know this well) until just above a spot where the trail leveled out.  All of the sudden my tires couldn’t grip anymore and my hardtail couldn’t maintain control.  Not wanting to run into someone, I slide like I was heading into 3rd base and got the bike to the ground relatively gently and leaving myself uninjured save for a nice raspberry on my hip.

The remainder of the ride into Stumptown is straightforward and I was able to attack it with gusto arriving at the aid station in 3:20, right on pace.  Dylan quickly looked over my bike and realigned my front brake as I reloaded on water/sports drink and food.  The turnaround was another minute up the road.  Jeremy had come through shortly before and stopped by on his way back out.

_MG_7319

Practicing a different method of hydration those younger folks use.

_MG_7322

Coming into Stumptown

Jeremy coming down from the turnaround.
_MG_7331

Jeremy coming down from the turnaround.

_MG_7334

Enjoying the work done and getting ready to head out.

_MG_7335

That’s 2 more smiles than I thought I would have during the race.

_MG_7339

Excited to be heading back to Leadville.

_MG_7344

Dylan inspiring us with his advice of avoiding pinch flats for Jeremy and breaking my freewheel.

_MG_7347

Heading home.

_MG_7358

Coming down from the turnaround.  The rider in front of me would break his rear derailleur with 3 miles left and proceed to beast mode the rest of the race.

 

_MG_7362

Getting up in the pedals and heading home.

_MG_7366

The views were incredible the whole way.

The climb out from Stumptown was easily the hardest part of the day.  I was able to make quick work back to the singletrack trail that approached the pass, but once I crossed the bridge, it was hike a bike for the next mile.  It was easily the slowest of the day at 22 minutes/mile.  It wasn’t that the trail was unrideable.  It wasn’t.  But the current state of exhaustion my legs were in made it much harder to manage.

On the summit, I stopped to hydrate and take 10 seconds to enjoy the flowers and then I was off on the descent.  I had time to make up as well as the small climb back up to 12,000 feet for the 5th time of 6 during the race.  This was the most technical section of the course as it was a mix of rocks and roots, but the trail was wide, leaving plenty of route choices.

I was back at 12,000 feet in 15 minutes and ready for the long descent into the 3rd and final aid station which was at the same location as the first one.

It’s easy to forget that mountain biking is a whole body sport.  The constant chatter of rocks, roots, and terrain require an upper body strength that is not needed on the road.  At this point, my hands were beginning to experience something similar to a shooting pain every time I went through a rough section, which was making it hard to brake.  Thankfully, it wasn’t terrible, but I would have to keep an eye on it.

The descent into the aid station was easily the most fun part of the day.  Singletrack and narrow road made for some flow which was much needed at the time mentally.  What I had forgotten about was that damn hill coming up to the 3rd aid station.  It was only 400 feet in a mile, but I was mentally unprepared.  I rolled into the aid station looking exhausted and cooked.

_MG_7373

Support crew still working hard.

_MG_7377

Jeremy rolls into the final aid station a few minutes ahead and looking a bit more fresh than me.

_MG_7382

Not too much more fresh though.

_MG_7383

Heading out on the last climb of the day.

_MG_7386

Rolling into the final aid station trying to get myself mentally right.

_MG_7389

Close up of exhaustion

I took a longer break here and inhaled some PB and J which was much needed.  I was long past lunch and had only eaten Shot Blocks, Clif Bars, and Stinger Waffles during the race.  I needed some sustainability.

I was in the aid station right on pace at 4:54.  I knew I had an excellent shot at hitting my goal of 6-7 hours.  I wondered if I had a shot to break 6.  Christine and Dylan flipped my epic switches and I hit my recently installed Beast Mode button as a rolled out of the aid station.  Just before starting the final climb, which is never steep or technical, I passed by Lance Armstrong who was running aid for some other riders.  Regardless of his doping, I dug a little motivation from that because lets be honest, he was still the best due to the fact that everyone was doping.

I felt I needed to reach the top of the climb by 5:30 to have a chance to break 6.  This would give me 30 minutes to cover the 10 mile descent back to Leadville.  I knew it was an outside chance, but averaging 3 minute miles on a downhill is not unreasonable.

Though the climb was never steep or technical, the length of it and the previous workload of the day took its toll.  My legs were beginning to cramp up and I had to stop several times to stretch them out.  I reached the top at 5:38.  I knew sub 6 was out of the question, but I wanted to finish on the low end of the 6 hour range so after stretching and taking a quick sip of Gatorade, I set off on the downhill.  My legs were beyond relieved to know they were done with the major climbing.

As the road descended, my hands began to cramp more and more from the pressure on the handlebars and the braking.  There were several sections I was unable to squeeze the brakes they hurt so bad.  The trail was loose rock up top but as we descended into the forest, it got tackier and easier to ride.  With about 3 miles to go, I began to push for the finish line.  By this time we were low in the forest (around 10,000 feet) and I knew we had a little bit of rolling hills to get out, but my legs were feeling strong so I attacked them all.

Finally, I came upon the singletrack trail that had narrowed everyone out at the start of the race.  I attacked it, spinning as fast as I could, but my legs didn’t have the strength to get beyond halfway.  I got off the bike and ran up it, passing 2 riders while doing so.  I was quickly back in the saddle and pushing the last .7 miles to the finish.

_MG_7393

The medals awaiting the finishers.

Jeremy crosses the finish line in 6:17

The last segment is a quick trip across the top of Dutch Henry Hill and then down a tubing run and around the finish.  A brief but steep downhill flows into the finish line.

_MG_7404

Riding across Dutch Henry Hill before heading down to the finish.
_MG_7414

Finishing at 6:31.

_MG_7423

Getting out of the saddle for the last time.

_MG_7427

Shaking hands with Jeremy with a job well done.

_MG_7431

All in a day’s work.

_MG_7435

Dirt. Legs. Bike. Pretty much sums up the day.

_MG_7436

Juliet did quite well in her first bike-only race.

The Silver Rush 50 was extremely well-organized and well-run event.  The course is challenging but not impossible.  It left me feeling more tired than I’ve ever been after a race.  However, I’m looking forward to going back next year and potentially targeting the Leadville 100 in 2014/15.

Race Stats (Garmin 405):

Distance:
47.3 miles
Elevation:
7,209 feet
1st Aid Station:
1:46
2nd Aid Station:
3:19
3rd Aid Station:
4:54
Finish Time:  6:27:51

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

4th of July Spectacular: Missouri/Belford/Oxford.

Looking to get outside on the 4th, Kris and I set a goal to climb Missouri Mountain southwest of Leadville.  Kris got to digging around and realized that there was a relatively simple route to climb Missouri, Belford, and Oxford in a single push.  I had already done the latter two, but he had not.  Wanting to test my fitness I agreed to climb Missouri and Belford and let him go bag Oxford while I headed down.

We headed up the night before and found a camping spot just below the Missouri Gulch TH.  Asleep by 9:30, we set our alarms for 3:30 a.m. with a goal to be on the trail by 4 a.m.

We were a few minutes late getting on trail, but the boots hit the dirt at 4:08 a.m. and quickly began climbing up.

The trail is easy to follow and extremely well maintained.  No need for anything besides boots at this time.  We reached the split (a little over 2 miles in) in 1:09 just as the sun was high enough to turn off our headlamps.

Reaching the split as alpenglow illuminates the Missouri Summit.

Reaching the split as alpenglow illuminates the Missouri Summit.

Missouri Gulch was beautiful as it filled with the early morning light.  Wildflowers were plentiful.

Missouri Gulch

Missouri Gulch

Kris heads up towards Missouri's ridge

Kris heads up towards Missouri’s ridge.

The hike up to the ridge looks more imposing than it actually is.  The trail is excellent the whole way and we were able to reach the ridge in 37 minutes from the sign where the trail splits with Elkhead Pass.  Once on the ridge, the winds picked up and we put on our shells, but the temperature stayed fairly warm.

The trail up to the 13,600 ridge.

The trail up to the 13,600 ridge.

We stopped for a second and enjoyed the view as we layered up.  The sun was starting to fill in the valleys to the west and the shadow games made for a beautiful landscape.

Looking north from the ridge.

Looking north from the ridge.  Mt. Elbert in the distance.

Looking north from the ridge.  Mt. Elbert in the distance.

Looking north from the ridge. La Plata is on the left.

We continued on the ridge.  While it looks intimidating, there is excellent trail and it never progresses above Class 1 the entire way.  We were on Missouri’s 14,067 foot summit in 35 minutes and enjoying the view.

The summit ridge line.

The summit ridge line.

Kris and Casey progress towards the summit.

Kris and Casey progress towards the summit.

Summit marker.

Summit marker.

On the summit, we were greeted to a 360 degree view of the majority of our route.  We could see down into Missouri Gulch where we had come from and down into Missouri Basin over to Elkhead Pass and BelfOx where we had to go.  The terrain looked manageable and the route-finding relatively straightforward.

Casey's 10th summit.

Casey’s 10th summit.

Obligatory summit shot.

Kris’ obligatory summit shot.

My obligatory summit shot.

My obligatory summit shot.

_MG_7168

Summit View.

Looking towards Iowa and Emerald Peak down in Missouri Basin..

Looking towards Iowa and Emerald Peak down in Missouri Basin.

As we descended off the summit of Missouri Mountain into Missouri Basin (confused yet?), we found ourself on some pretty loose scree.  It was a struggle to descend to a point where we could traverse around the Class 4 rock above us, but with time and several looks at our maps, we were able to do so.

Much of our route to Elkhead Pass.

Much of our route to Elkhead Pass.

Instead of descending all the way into the basin, we chose to make a beeline for the pass, which was in sight the whole time.  It was only in the last half mile or so that we were able to pick up the trail below us.  When we finally did spot it, we decided to stay high and hike the side slope until we met up with it at the base of the Elkhead Pass climb.

Elkhead Pass.

Elkhead Pass.

From there it was quick work on Class 1 trail to just below the Belford summit which we were able to accomplish in 1h45m.  We decided not to summit Belford at this time and headed across the saddle to summit Oxford.  I was feeling strong so I changed my plans and continued across with Kris.  I remembered the traverse to be much shorter, but it took us 45 minutes to cross the saddle and climb Oxford.

Oxford from just below the Belford summit.

Oxford from just below the Belford summit.

The Oxford summit is a flat and expansive.  We joined 3 others up there who had come over from Belford and a toaster…which I’m not sure where that came from.  We had come from Missouri to Oxford in 3h05m.  We were making excellent time.

_MG_7188

Wildflower season is here!

Oxford Summit at 14,153 ft.

Oxford Summit at 14,153 ft.

Another summit view.

Another summit view with Belford in the distance.

Casey takes a break.

Casey takes a break on the summit of Oxford.

We spent 15 minutes on the summit and headed down for our last summit of the day.  It’s a straightforward traverse across the saddle and we enjoyed the views and flowers.

Looking back over at Belford.  Our last goal of the day.

Looking back over at Belford. Our last goal of the day.

Quite a few of these guys running around.

Quite a few of these guys running around on the saddle.

We reached the Belford summit at 14,197 feet 45 minutes after leaving the Oxford summit and at a total time of 7 hours, 11 minutes.  It is a unique looking summit in that it seems to be like a block just resting on top of rocks.  There were quite a few people here, many debating their next steps.  Kris and were glad to finally be done with the climbing, but dreading our descent of Belford and her infamous switchbacks.

The final approach to Belford.

The final approach to Belford.

Belford summit view with Harvard in the distance.

Belford summit view with Harvard in the distance.

We spent another 15 minutes on our final summit of the day and began our trek down Belford’s standard route.  We debated heading down Elkhead Pass which was much more gradual, but we didn’t have time for the extra 2 miles.

The descent is steep and unenjoyable.  Too steep to walk and too steep to run so you’re stuck somewhere in the middle.  It didn’t help that it was a hot day and we had run out of water (we each drank 3 liters of water and 32 oz of Gatorade on the hike).  We stopped at the first creek crossing at the bottom of the switchbacks and filtered water from the creek that was deliciously cool and refreshing.

With that done and feeling refreshed, we made the final push back to the trailhead, completing the hike in 9 hours 10 minutes.

Missouri/Oxford/Belford
Total Time: 9:10
Total Mileage: 14.5 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 6,904 feet

TH to Missouri:   3:13
Missouri to Oxford:  6:03
Oxford to Belford: 7:11
Belford to TH: 9:10

Posted in 14er, Hikes and Climbs, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mt. Princeton (June 24, 2013)

The Monarch of the Sawatch.  At least that’s what they call it in fancy mountaineering terms.  Most simply describe it as “wow.”  As in the only way you can describe the view when you turn the corner on 285 heading into Buena Vista.

Princeton dominates the view from all around.  There are few peaks, if any in Colorado with such prominence.  I can remember the first time I saw Princeton going to Buena Vista for a rafting trip on my 24th birthday and how it took my breath away.  I wasn’t quite as dedicated to attaining Colorado’s 54 14,000 foot summits then, but I still felt a calling to reach her peak.

Something romantic about finally achieving a view that called me before I even knew what it was.

Something romantic about finally achieving a view that called me before I even knew what it was.

One of the benefits of being a teacher is getting summers off.  A side benefit of this is climbing 14ers/enjoying Colorado’s high country on “quiet days” when the rest of the Front Range isn’t there.  This finally gave me an excuse to brave Mt. Princeton single lane three mile 4WD journey.

I'm sorry...you call this a road?

I’m sorry…you call this a road?

Before I got there, I had to brave 285 from Denver to Buena Vista which meant several otherworldly thunderstorms and one driver who lacked knowledge of double yellow lines (Sir, when you flip a “u-ee” to help the stranded driver on the other side…look behind you first”)

Foothill's storms with insane lightning.  Casey and thunder and in the car...not a fun combination.

Foothill’s storms with insane lightning. Casey and thunder and in the car…not a fun combination.

I had stopped at Safeway in Conifer for some munchies and gas but realized somewhere around Fairplay that I had forgotten to grab new batteries for my headlamp and backup batteries for the SPOT.  Upon arriving in Buena Vista, I made a quick dash to City Market to grab them…however they wouldn’t be necessary in the long run.

Turns out my car can handle Mt. Princeton Road all the way to the radio towers.  Probably could have gone higher but it was getting dark quickly.  The road itself is not terrible but it is extremely narrow.  Be prepared to drive it in reverse on a busy weekend!

I pulled into a parking spot by the towers around 9:30 and made quick work of setting up my sleeping arrangements for the evening.  Lights out around 10:15 as I had a 4 am wake-up call.  Side note here: Super Moon led to a 11:45 pm, 1 am, and 3 am wake up call.  It was daylight in my car all night.

The alarm startled me awake at 4 and I set to work getting dressed and ready to go as quickly and quietly (I had neighbors) as possibly.  Casey spent much of this time disoriented and wondering what I was doing.  After coffee and a very disorganized yet successful packing session, I was on the trail at 4:55 am.

Sunrise

Sunrise

The initial part of the hike follows the Mt. Princeton Road for a little bit over a mile.  The hike here is easy and I was able to make quick time of it.  To top it off, there was no need to turn on my headlamp (or for those extra batteries) as the moon was so bright.  However, there were several stops to enjoy the sunrise.  The fires throughout Colorado are devastating but in nature there is always beauty and today’s sunrise did not disappoint.

Mt. Princeton Road from just above the Radio Towers

Mt. Princeton Road from just above the Radio Towers.  This picture was taken around 5:05 am…25 minutes before sunrise.

One of several feeble attempts to capture the beauty of the sunrise.

One of several feeble attempts to capture the beauty of the sunrise.

The turnoff for the Princeton trail is a fairly obvious set of rock stairs to the hiker’s right.  Excitedly, I turned onto their trail and crossed a stunningly beautiful alpine meadow.

If you find yourself on this stretch of road...you've gone too far.

If you find yourself on this stretch of road…you’ve gone too far.

I was greeted to my first views of Princeton since leaving my car as she was just peeking into alpenglow.  She was beautiful and frankly didn’t look all that far away.  I would later realize how much I underestimated the amount rocks between where I was standing and her 14,197 foot summit.  Significantly.

A very motivating approach.

A very motivating approach perspective.

What smoke will do to alpenglow.

What smoke will do to alpenglow.

The alpine flowers were in full bloom.  It’s been a while since I hiked with such green beauty above treeline.  I had a hard time grasping the beauty of it.  Casey couldn’t stop exploring it as well.  One flower in particular caught my eye.

Mt. Princeton

Mt. Princeton

Trail neighbor

Trail neighbor

_MG_7081

After a quick photo session and snack we arrived at the rocks.  Once again I found myself saying “Damn.  They got the name of these mountains right.”  The trail wasn’t particularly steep but it required my constant attention as I hopped from rock to rock.

Life above 12,000 feet on Princeton.

Life above 12,000 feet on Princeton.

Looking North.

Looking South

Looking South.

After our 132,231st or was it 132,232nd rock?  We finally reached the ridge below the summit.  The trail along the way to there was loose and frankly miserable.  Somehow I had ended up on the old trail for Princeton that appeared to be very prone to erosion.  I had missed the switchbacks that allow the hiker to gain the ridge much quicker and therefore find much more consolidated ground much quicker.  Either way, I stood just below the summit approach looking up at…you guess it….more rocks.

The summit approach.

The summit approach.

I was also greeted by the sudden arrival of dark clouds.  The bluebird day had rapidly turned dark.  They seemed more of the cool morning type as opposed the spitting lightning and hail type so we pushed towards the summit.  The rock her was much more consolidated and we were able to make quick work to the summit, arriving at 7:25, 2.5 hours after we started.  As always, the views abounded.

Mt. Harvard...thinking back to a June 2011 adventure here.

Mt. Harvard…thinking back to a June 2011 adventure here.  Mt. Yale also looms on the left side of the picture.

Looking Southwest.

Mt. Antero...my next weekday goal.  Gotta avoid the 4-wheelers.

Mt. Antero…my next weekday goal. Gotta avoid the 4-wheelers.

West Fork Complex Fire burning south of Princeton.

West Fork Complex Fire burning south of Princeton.

Casey and I on the summit.   Our 11th peak together.

Casey and I on the summit. Our 11th peak together.

Thought it was time he got to sign his name on the summit register.

Thought it was time he got to sign his name on the summit register.

We spent 15 minutes on the summit as the weather was quite pleasant…until we got a quick burst of snow for about 30 seconds.  It is June…and snow in June is a good reason not to be above treeline.  We packed up and followed the trail off the summit, making quick time back to the ridge.  It seems to always be the case, but we turned around and were greeted by nothing by blue skies.

The hike down was less questionable than the hike up, but we still dropped below the ridge to early and were forced to traverse across our own trail of rocks.  We had several brief conversations with other hikers heading up but for the most part high tailed our way back to the car.

Not a part of the road you want to overshoot.

Not a part of the road you want to overshoot.

Conditions through the trail were great.  No need for microspikes or anything more than trailrunners/hiking boots.  This is a great 14er that produce some of my more beautiful climbing memories and views.

Mt. Princeton Stats (Approx.)
Distance: 7 miles.
Elevation: 3300′
Time:
Car-Summit – 2:30 (4:55 – 7:25)
Summit-Car – 1:45 (7:40 – 9:25)
  TOTAL: 4:15

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mt. Massive (6.8.13)

First things first, much more of a trip report here as opposed to pictures.  Forgot my camera on this trip which is a shame because the stars on the summit were incredible.

IMG_3145

Good to be back on dirt roads blasting Jason Aldean.

Back to the start.  Our plans were to leave Denver by 1 PM and get to the TH at 4.  We would then hike in to just below treeline around 11,400 feet and camp for the night.  A 3:30 AM wake up call would put us on trail towards the summit by 4 AM and then hopefully back down around noon.  Of this simple plan, we followed the first two steps.

It was an easy drive up to the trailhead and we made quick work of last minute packing for our bags.  Casey was amped and ready to go.  It’s been a while since he has been on the trail, especially without snow around.

The first section of the trail is gradual, but about a half mile in it gets considerably steeper for a bit.  We quickly reached the first creek crossing about 2 miles in.  The creek is flowing high but is easily crossable, especially if you go a short ways up stream where it is narrower.

The first creek crossing.

The first creek crossing.

Crossing higher up on the creek.

Crossing higher up on the creek.

It is about a mile to the next crossing and somehow we knocked that out in 15 minutes.  It is very much a rolling mile.  Couple ups.  Couple downs.  We knew that we would hate those downs when they became ups on the way out.  The creek was in the same condition as the previous one but it was wider where it crossed the trail.

After the creek, we left the the Colorado Trail and headed up toward Mt. Massive.  The trail was fairly steep but not overwhelming with our packs on through this section.  We set up camp around 11,400 underneath a massive rock a couple hundred feet north of the trail.

Casey makes quick work of changing to guard dog duties.

Christine and I in camp.  Our first engaged 14er!

Christine and I in camp. Our first engaged 14er!

We set up camp well ahead of schedule and got a delicious dinner of Couscous and Black Bean Soup going on the stove.  There were a few small storms of graupel that chased us under our rock a couple of times but not thunder or lightning.  We wrapped up dinner and enjoyed an Avery IPA to close it off.

Perhaps it was the beer speaking but we decided that we still had quite a bit of daylight left and the weather looked good.  Why not go for the summit now?

At 7:15 PM we were walking out of camp heading for the summit.

The weather was great and we made quick work to treeline where we were greeted with our first views of Massive since Leadville.

Mt. Massive from treeline

Mt. Massive from treeline.   The summit is barely in view on the right side of the photo.

Quick shot with Casey.

Quick shot with Casey and his new shoes.

Stating his "pleasure" with said new shoes.

Stating his “pleasure” with said new shoes.

We pushed higher on the trail.  It feels like it should be flat but it is anything but.  It’s a gradual climb towards the saddle just south of the peak.  It was here that we encountered our first snowfields of the hike as well.  They are manageable without microspikes but we definitely played the posthole/no posthole game crossing several of them.

The sun set slowly on our hike

The sun set slowly on our hike.

The wind was fairly strong and was keeping things a bit chillier than it would have been otherwise.

Sunset...Wishing I hadn't forgotten my camera.

Sunset…Wishing I hadn’t forgotten my camera.

Climbing above the valley

Climbing above the valley

Christine approaches 13,000 feet.

Christine approaches 13,000 feet.

 

We reached the 13,900 foot saddle around 9:15 PM.  We had lost much of the sunlight but the weather was still good.  The stars were coming out to shine and Leadville was a glimmering town in the distance.  A new view for a 14er climb.

We pushed on as quickly as we could.  Crossing a 30 degree (more?) snow packed slope in the dark brings a heightened sense of focus to what you’re trying to accomplish.  Microspikes would not be necessary during the say, but we felt they were a huge help here.

Christine crosses the slope around 14,000 feet.

Christine crosses the slope around 14,000 feet.  Leadville glimmers in the distance.

The wind was relatively calm along the ridge but it grew progressively stronger as we closed in on the summit.  The ridge was rocky and exposed.  It probably felt more exposed than normal due to the darkness but either way, we wanted to summit and be on our back down as quickly as possible.

We scrambled across the ridge, tagged the summit at 10:15 PM and quickly worked our way back.  Casey was over the hike at this point in time and he was not shy about letting us know.

Summit photo.  We tried to get a decent one of both of us but it just wasn't going to happen.

Summit photo. We tried to get a decent one of both of us but it just wasn’t going to happen.

It was slow doing descending the snowfield but we were able to pick up speed once we were below the ridge.  It was nervewracking following the trail in the dark but we had minimal problems doing so.

We reached camp at 12:30 A.M. and immediately fell asleep in our sleeping bags.

It was an early morning with a 6:30  wake up call by Casey but we felt refreshed and started to head down.  We stopped at the creek to pump some water and cooked breakfast/coffee.  While we were eating, we met a group of 4 guys from Oklahoma City who had traveled out to climb Elbert and Massive.  Seemed like a good crew and hopefully they were able to summit and enjoy it!

We returned back to the car at 9:30 A.M.  Feeling strong but tired we loaded up and headed home.

14er #9 for Christine.  14er #20 for myself.

14er #9 for Christine.
14er #20 for myself.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment