Too Much Rain!

Our weather needs to get its priorities straightened out. Tuesday and Wednesday were beautiful, sunny, and 70 degrees. But last Sunday it pretty much poured non-stop, and today we had scattered showers all day (which can alter ones hiking agendas). I got started early this morning because I knew it was supposed to rain in the afternoon, but it started raining at 10.30, just over an hour into my hike. It looked like there was going to be a lot of this off-and-on rain all day, so I turned around and went back to the car beforeit got worse. I was going to climb Mt. Silverheels, but settled for a nice ridge tour just south of the Continental Divide near Hoosier Pass. The views were great, being basically right across the street from 3 fourteeners, and high enough to see the expanse of South Park. Yes, there is a real South Park, though its not a town, its more of a region. Its basically a large expanse of flat land surrounded by mountains in Park County that is used for cattle ranching. Its pretty wide too, some 30 miles or so across. The towns of Alma and Fairplay sort of anchor it on the northwest side. In town there is the South Park Saloon, and South Park Hotel! It kind of makes you laugh to drive by it all, and you can't help but sing the theme song...

Anyway, so the showers kept going all day, during my drive back home I went through 3 different ones, and throughout the afternoon it kept going like that. It would be nice if it could at least hold off until like 4pm or so like it usually does, that way I could get in a climb! I don't think we have had a weekend with zero rain since before Memorial Day. Hopefully this coming one will be sunny, my parents are coming to visit, and I would hate to have us get all wet! Well I hope everyone back home is enjoying the battle of the Chicago baseball teams, so far each team has won once, tomorrow we'll see who gets the bragging rights. Well, for one week anyway, as its off to Wrigley next week to do it all over again. I'm sorry to have to miss it all, its always a good time!


Dead Cars and Classic Climbs

Well to start out let us have a moment of silence for the Monte Carlo... ...thanks. If you don't know, I have been driving my parent's old 1995 Monte Carlo here since I moved, it has almost 165,000 miles on it and I guess that was enough. It died on Vail Pass Thursday, just over a 1/2 mile from the top, at least if it would have made the top it could have coasted downhill for a while. I happened to be on my way to a car dealer to look at a Nissan XTerra I found on the web, good thing I was on my way to look at a car because I was about 30 miles from home! Luckily I was able to call the dealer (from a truck driver's cell), and the dealer picked me up. That ended up becoming the test drive as well. Fortunately the XTerra is great! Its a 2002, in great shape, with brand new tires. Needless to say, I went ahead and bought it, but not purely out of neccessity, it really is in great shape, and I probably would have bought it anyway.

Today being a Saturday, of course this is peak climbing day, so I got a chance to test some of the off-road ability of the new truck. It did great! I had to drive about 5 miles along a dirt road to reach the trailhead, and had no problems. Today's goal was to climb Mt Edwards, one of Colorado's 100 highest peaks (83rd) at 13,850 feet, via "The Edwardian". The Edwardian is the south facing couloir on the peaks west side, and rated one of the front range's classic snow climbs. The snow actually makes the climb worthwhile, and if its melted out, it is not a recommended route due to loose rocks. To my delight, upon arriving at the trailhead the snow conditions looked good. I set out along a 4-wheel drive road to the slopes leading to the couloir. As I got close, I realized there were already 3 other people making the climb about 20 minutes ahead of me. This turned out useful as it gave me footprints to follow, almost like a staircase. And a big one at that, its 1,080 feet up to the ridge, at 30-35 degrees. This is a rise of approximately 7 inches for every 12, so about the same as an office building stair, but its still pretty steep to climb as it is also the pitch of a double black diamond ski run. After reaching the ridge it was only about 1/2 mile to the summit, 300 feet above. I caught up with the other climbers (and their dog, who also climbed the couloir!) and we took pictures for each other and signed the summit log. The view was great, you can see people on the summits of nearby Fourteeners Grays and Torreys peaks, which are just to the west along the same ridge. In the distance you can see Pikes Peak, as well as least 6 other Fourteeners. The climb down was along the east ridge to Argentine Pass, and then down the Argentine Trail back to the car, essentially making a nice loop around Edwards. Along the descent, you can see the entire 5 mile loop and the many abandoned mine buildings lying below it in the gulch. Tack on the family of Mountain Goats I drove by along the road on the way in and you can see why this route is considered a classic!


A Taste of Hawai'i?

Well sort of, Sunday's destination wasn't surrounded by lush rainforests, but the crystal clear green pools of Hanging Lake feel a bit like paradise. Hanging Lake is approximately a mile and quarter north of the Colorado River in the middle of Glenwood Canyon, the hike to the lake gains 900 feet, and while steep in places it is a pleasant hike with a beautiful payoff. The lake itself has green water, that you can see all the way to the bottom of. 3 separate waterfalls that split from the same stream above cascade into the lake, and another waterfall leaves the lake below, hence the "hanging" look. Above the lake a few hundred yards the stream above the lake is fed by a waterfall called Spouting Rock Falls, which literally spouts right out of the middle of a cliff. The cliff is overhanging and you can walk easily behind the falls and feel their cool spray. The hike takes most people about an hour, and is very popular, the only thing spoiling the pristine beauty is the fact that you have to share it with at least two dozen other people. Its amazing the variety of natural sights that this state has to offer, and I feel that I have barely touched the surface!

On the work front, we issue our lodge this Wednesday for building permit, then my boss goes on vacation for the rest of the week, should be an easy week. The project is going well, and over the next two weeks we will wrap up our coordination and out details and issue for construction July 1. Also, I just got done watching the Cubs, wasn't that a great game? I love it when they beat Houstin, and Mark Prior's first win of the season at the expense of Roger Clemens first lost made it that much nicer! I'm also proud of Anderson throwing 4 solid relief innings in a game when the bullpen was mostly unusable due their 15 inning marathon Sunday. Great job!


Three Down...

Fifty to go. Well to summit all of the "official" fourteeners anyway. For those of you who don't know, a fourteener is a paek in Colorado that is over 14,000 feet. Last year I climbed two of them, Grays and Torreys Peaks. During this past week one of the guys at work was talking about heading out and crossing a few more summits off the list, the plan was to hike the Decalibron, a route that hits Mts. Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln and Bross. (De-Ca-Li-Bro-n, clever huh?) The loop is 7 miles, gains appx 3600 total feel of elevation, and can easily be done in one day, provided good conditions. All four summits are over 14,000, however Cameron is not an official peak, because it rises less than 300 feet from the ridge connecting it to the higher Mt Lincoln. Essentially this makes it a "false summit" of Lincoln, but it is named on the map, so I guess that makes it officially unofficial. Well the plan was good, start early, head to Kite Lake and start climbing. The weather didn't fully cooperate, however, and we had to settle for only climbing Democrat today.

The trail up to the connecting saddle at 13,340 wasn't bad, the trail was in great shape, didn't have much snow on it all, and was relatively gentle, for a fourteener anyway. From here, to get to the top of Democrat you have to climb up a rocky ridge, again not too steep, but more difficult than just trail climbing. Along this section it started to snow a bit, but it wasn't bad, visibility was excellent and the rock didn't get slippery. A few people coming down the trail made comments that they felt a bit of static electricity, and were worried about lightning and heading down. Not wanting to risk it, we descended to a safe point and waited for a while to see if the snow shower would break, about 15 minutes later it did and we saw a window of opportunity to summit before it snowed again. We estimated it would take us about 20 minutes to summit and were on the summit in just about that much time. We summmited, taking our pictures of course, and then headed back down to the saddle for a snack break before pressing on. While at the saddle another light snow shower moved in and we decided that rather than playing tag with the weather, we would call it a day and head back. There is always another day to climb the rest of the peaks, and with the weather unpredictable, we decided to be safe. The descent was uneventful and we saw no more snow, however there were some more clouds moving in to the summits. We crossed a few light rain showers on the drive back home, so it was probably wise that we cancelled the remainder of our trip. All in all to summit Democrat took us 2 hours, gaining 2150 feet of elevation over about 3 miles. I guess the other peaks will have to wait until another day.



Monday our office was closed for a baseball outing, we all went off to Coors Field to see the Rockies take on San Francisco. There was a familiar face on the mound, remember Shawn Estes? Well he was in full Cubs form, giving up 5 runs in the first inning. He ended up with a no decision as the Rockies came back to tie it in the 3rd. They went on to lose it in the late innings, however, 10-5 was the final. Bonds pinch hit and got (big surprise) intentionally walked.

That isn't the only baseball, there have been a lot of televised Cubs games this week too, Sunday on WGN, Wednesday on ESPN and Thursday on WGN again. Also the Sox were on ESPN Sunday night. I live close to home, so the last two days I went home for lunch and the Cubs were on, good deal! Especially today, seeing as I took a little later lunch, I was home for the 10 run 4th! That was a lot of fun to watch. One stretch the Cubs had 9 straight hits including homers by Alou and Lee... all with 2 outs!

Hope everyone is doing well, talk to you soon!


Peak Climbing season - now open!

Now that the snow in the High Country is starting to melt, I decided it was time to go for a summit. For those of you who have skiied or rode at Breckenridge, you may be familiar with these peaks. Starting out across the street from the base village of Copper Mountain, I hiked along the Wheeler National Recreation Trail. The trail starts out flat, then begins to rise through the forest and eventually above treeline through the tundra for a little over 4 miles one way to a saddle between Peak 8 and Peak 9 at 12,460 feet. Below this saddle, know informally as Wheeler Pass, lie the Peak 8 back bowls and the Boneyard at Breckenridge. At this point, most people either turn around and go back, or continue over the pass, descending the ski area into the town of Breckenridge (Of course to do that you would need two cars). I decided at this point that the ridge to Peak 9's summit was clear enough from snow to go for the summit. I had got a distant view of this ridge from the parking lot, but until I was there it was hard to tell if it would be climbable or not. The ridge was relatively gentle, over tundra grass and some scattered rocks. There is a false summit just before the real one, and the ridge that connects the two, while relatively flat, is exposed to steep faces on both sides. The exposeure would have been unnerving if it was snowed in, but luckily it was clear and I was at the summit of 13,195 feet in less than an hour from reaching the pass. From this point you get a great view to the south of Peak 10 and Crystal Peak. The route to the Peak 10 summit was also clear of snow, and I decided to continue on. After descending into the saddle between peaks 9 and 10, I had to climb about 800 feet up a slope of rock that was 45 plus degrees in pitch for most of the way. The summit of Peak 10 is 13,633 feet and is the 178th tallest peak in the entire state. This may not sound like too high of a rank, but it is only about 810 feet shorter than Mt. Elbert, the state's highest point and in every other state except for 5, it would easily be the highest point. The view was spectacular, you could see Grays and Torreys peaks to the east, Mt of the Holy Cross and the Gore Range to the west, and below, the entire town of Breckenridge. The trip back to the car was long and exhausting, it felt good to be done! All in all the trip took 7 1/2 hours, covered nearly 12 miles of hiking, and 4500 feet of total elevation gain, including having to climb over Peak 9 a second time to get back to the trail! It was a great climb though, and great preparation to tackle the even taller peaks! I can't wait... well maybe a little while to recover!
Sunday was a recovery day, I got the watch the Cubs win on WGN, the Sox lose (Billy Koch blows it again...) on ESPN, and Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban at the movie theater. Which I thought was great, I think Alfonso Cuaron did a great job of injecting new life into the series. Considering the film's writers had to edit a 550 page book down to 2 1/2 hours, I thought they did a good job of staying faithful to the book, although there are a few things they should have left in, and would have only added about 15 minutes. I won't say anymore about that though, as I don't know who has read it/ seen it yet. Well I guess that is about it, I hope you all had a good weekend!


From Snowy Passes to Waterfalls

I hope everyone had a good weekend, I know my visitors and I had a good time here! Saturday we went to the Beaver Creek Village for the Blues Brews and Barbeques festival, snacked on some BBQ, had a couple beers and checked out the shops in the village. Most of the day was wet though, and in the early evening the rain changed over to snow! We actually got about 2 or 3 inches. It all melted away on Sunday when the sun came out though.

Sunday we went for a scenic drive. After lunch in the Vail Village, we headed east to Copper Mtn, south over Fremont Pass into Leadville where there was just enough breaks in the clouds to get a view of Mt Elbert and Mt Massive, the 2 tallest peaks in the state. Independence Pass was open, so we opted for the drive over it to Aspen. Its about a 45 mile trip, peaking on 12,095 foot Independence Pass on the Continental Divide. It was cold, windy and snowy on the pass, and due to the snow, there wasn't much of a view. The drive down the Aspen side was interesting, there was a ghost town off the side of the highway, and a spot on the side of the road where we parked and got to scramble up a few rocks for a view of the nearby mountain ranges. We got into Aspen and walked around admiring the town, and the snow-free ski slopes. They look just as steep, but a little less intimidating without the moguls. From Aspen we headed northwest to Glenwood Springs, stopping to stretch with a view of Mt Sopris in the distance. The return drive took us through Glenwood Canyon and its 2,000 foot high rock walls before returning home for a nice dinner at the Mustang Bar and Grill in Edwards. I recommend getting your steak or salmon "Ore House" style, smothered in crab meat and bearnaise sauce.

Monday we took a nice hike, 2 miles in and 1,400 feet up into the Eagle's Nest Wilderness along the Booth Creek Trail. After two hours we were awarded with a 60 foot waterfall that made all the lungbusting worth the effort. The trail starts out steeply, them levels out a bit through Aspen and Spruce forest, and across two streams to a large meadow before the falls. In another month or so the meadow will be full of beautiful blue, purple and yellow wildflowers. The final push to the falls includes a moderately steep trail over rocks for about 30-40 feet of vertical. The overlook for the falls is at the top of them, looking down into the 60 foot rocky ravine. There is this great rock at the overlook to lean over, almost like a natural guardrail, waist high so that you don't feel so exposed to the depths below. You can continue up around the edge of the ravine to a smaller upper section of the falls with more views of the rocky ravine the falls cut their way through. After the walk down we took a drive up to Piney Lake for a view across the alpine tarn to 13,500 plus foot Mt Powell, the tallest peak in the Gore Range.

All together it was a great time, we saw a lot of sites, wandered through 3 different ski resort villages, over the Continental Divide twice, and got to see some of the tallest and most majestic peaks in the state. So who else is ready for a visit?