One Less Burden

I finally have sold my condo in Chicago. I got an offer on it in late July, and we came to an agreement on price and everything and set it up to close in late August. Well, it is all done with now, the closing was Monday, it went smooth, and I got my check today. I am glad to be rid of it from the standpoint of not having to pay for two places, but it is a little sad too. It was my first place that I owned, and obviously the most expensive thing I had ever bought. I am so happy to not have the extra expense though, I guss I can afford to eat better than mac and cheese, hot dogs, and Lipton noodles and sauce! Most of the money I made will be put into savings for a future place, but there will be some fun purchases too, I want to get a new CD player for the car, a ski rack, and a rock climbing harness for starters.
In other news, my sister and her boyfriend are coming to visit me for Labor Day! It will be alot of fun showing them around, and we already have plans of spending one of the days in Steamboat Springs, which is a town I have never been too, so there will be a new experience in it for me too. I'll tell you all about it soon, in the mean time, have a great week everyone.


Clear... but chilly

Today was probably the clearest the sky has been on any of my climbs this summer, and it only took until August 28! Of course there was some light snow in the higher elevations, as low as 10,000 feet in some places... It was very light, but there was still a bit of a dusting on the meadows and rocks as we hiked. My friend Ben and I decided we would like something short and relatively easy, but with an option to do more if we felt up to the challenge. We decided on Fletcher Mountain, a 13,951 foot peak right behind the fourteener Quandary. The route is only about 2 1/4 miles one way with 2,251 feet of altitude gain. The route is considered Class 2, but only because there is no trail, the route is gentle and makes a nice short outing. The lack of a trail was great because it keeps the route less traveled, and gives you a sense of being the first people to ever set foot in the area. Of course we had that sense shattered when we found a miner’s cabin at around 13,400 feet. This was a good one, it was well preserved (all four walls and the roof in tact), and even still had a rusted out stove inside! Very cool find. We reached Fletcher’s summit to be basked in clear blue skies as far as the eye could see. We could even see to the Maroon Bells west of Aspen which were over 40 miles away (as the crow flies). We decided with the weather so good, and our legs itching for more of a work out, we would traverse the ridge to the south of Fletcher and summit an unnamed peak at 13,900 feet, commonly called Drift Peak. The descent off Fletcher was easy, but Drift’s ridge is a much more challenging climb a Class 3 scramble. There are several false summits along the ridge that are very steep and rugged, the easiest way to deal with them is to go around them rather than over them. Even this required us to climb up a steep couloir, where we had to use both hands and feet to work our way up. Definitely more of a climb than a hike, and with it being on the shaded side of the mountain, it still had some of the previous night’s snow. The snow made it a little tougher, but mostly it just made it colder on our hands as we climbed. At the top of the couloir is a notch between two of the false summit towers, we could then traverse the last false summit to the real one on a nice Class 2 slope. From the summit, the descent was down a steep face that had a couple of brief Class 3 sections, but nothing as steep as the couloir on the way up. The traverse and climb of Drift turned out to be a really enjoyable and athletic scramble. We saw two other people who were climbing it behind us, but their route finding skills were not as good as ours, as they tried to go over one of the false summits. The steep cliff on the other side changed their minds, as it was next to impossible to descend without a rope. About a half hour later we saw them come through the notch at the top of the couloir we climbed, I guess our tracks in the snow showed them the right way to go! It made us feel pretty good to have judged our route well enough to find the easiest way, even it was still a bit of a challenge.
It was a great climb, but even with all of the sunshine and blue skies the climb was cool and very breezy. On top of that, the tundra grasses at the top of the peaks are starting to turn orange and red. Combined with the light snow, it looks like summer is over for the high country, I can’t believe how fall-like it was starting to feel on this hike. In another month all of the aspen trees will be in full fall color, and by early November the ski areas will start to open. I guess the peak bagging will start to wind down, but don’t worry, there are going to be some great fall foliage hikes in late September, so the blog reports will live on!


Midwestern Tour

Well in honor of my homeland I climbed a few peaks named after Midwestern Universities in the Collegiate Peaks. First, I climbed the fourteener Missouri Mtn, then traversed over to Iowa Peak, before finishing up over centennial thirteener Emerald Peak and descending from there. The Collegiate Peaks get there name for being named after universities, the tallest of the group is Harvard, which I got some great views of from these neighboring peaks. I climbed Missouri from the “back”, using the West Ridge route. The standard route is to climb from the east, but that route is also used to climb Belford and Oxford, and seeing as I will be over there sometime in the future, I thought I’d check out a different valley this trip. The other benefit is that it is easier to climb Iowa and Emerald this way. There is a long 4WD road off the main access way that leads to a lake that can be used as “base camp” for these three peaks, it cuts off over 2 miles of the route each way, making a 14 1/2 mile round trip only 8 1/4, so it was worth the drive. The drive is not bad, except for the creek ford at the beginning. In spring its pretty deep, but its late August now, so it is much shallower, and no problem for most SUV’s. In fact I saw an Explorer, Range Rover and 4Runner at the trailhead as well. I’d rather drive through 2 feet of water than walk through it anyway, maybe that is why this route is less popular than the other side. The route ascends above the lake along Missouri’s west ridge, and then joins the standard route for the final half mile or so. Even though its less used, it was still popular and I saw 6 other climbers using this route today. From the 14,067 foot summit of Missouri (making it the 36th highest peak) the trek over to 13,831 foot Iowa is an easy ridge traverse. Iowa is unfortunately not quite an official peak, it only rises 291 feet from the saddle with Missouri, missing being official by a mere 9 feet. I should have piled some extra rocks on top to help it out! Emerald is directly south of Iowa about 3/4 of a mile away. It is 13,904 feet tall and the 71st highest peak in the state. The descent back to the lake takes you further south over gentle grassy slopes to avoid a steep and lose western face, before swinging back around to the north and back to the lake. The 8+ mile trip took just about 6 hours, but unfortunately it wasn’t quite quick enough to avoid the rain. The last mile I had to put on my "emergency" poncho (which I carry just in case) to help keep me dry from the rain. The drive back held a surprise, the dirt road that accesses Missouri’s two drainages and Huron Peak was having some sort of afternoon race, the poor souls were getting rained on though. The road is fairly wide and two vehicles can pass comfortably, but not when the road is full of parked cars and joggers! There were several sections where I had to crawl slowly behind racers to let oncoming cars pass. I was surprised to see the race, there were no signs or advertisements in the area for it at all at 8am when I was driving the road the first time. It caused quite a traffic jam!

Anyway, so the other Midwestern tour is coming up soon as well, I booked my flight this week to come to Chicago, I will be in town the weekend of September 25th , so keep your calendars open! Well now it is time to watch the Cubs on WGN, I’d write about the progress so far, but I can’t without the express written consent of the Cubs and MLB, sorry :)


New Highest Peak

Well I lived up to my personal promise, no 10 mile multi-peak climb this week. That doesn’t mean I didn’t climb at all of course… Today I climbed Mt Lincoln, the 8th highest peak in the state at 14,286, and a new “highest point above sea level” for me, by 16 feet. I climbed with a person from work, which was good, because even though it was a relatively short climb, it was steep, and we didn’t see anyone else on the route. A definite rarity when it comes to 14ers. There were other people at the summit though, but they climbed from the other side, which is easier, although a little longer. The route we took is called the Lincoln Amphitheater, and the entire route is easily visible from Colorado 9 just south of Hoosier Pass. The route starts at the west end of Montgomery Reservoir and quickly climbs into the woods. The amphitheater itself is above a steep headwall strewn with cliff bands and waterfalls. Taking care with route selection, which you have to scope out from drive in, you can find the gaps in the cliffs that lead to the amphitheater. Once inside, you can see where it gets its name. To the north and south are steep rock walls, and straight ahead to the west is a steep rock gully filled with scree. Its like being inside a giant 3-dimensional “U”. The rock walls actually create an echo, and we could here Pika’s squeaks echoing off the walls of the amphitheater. At the west end, you have to climb out of the amphitheater by climbing around the south edge of the scree filled gulley. Once above the initial steepness, you can easily see the southeast ridge of Lincoln, which you continue to climb up to. At the top, there is an old mining road that goes by countless prospecting pits, and at several mine structures, most in ruins, but two were really well preserved. The final push to the summit is again a little steep but after the gentle ridge road, which acts as a sort of ‘breather’, it’s not that bad. The summit is a strange place, the surrounding peaks have gentle, flat, rounded summits, but Lincoln has this extra sort of knob on the top of rugged rock. Its as if it used to have a rounded summit, and someone decided to stick an extra couple hundred feet on top to make it taller. The views are great though, and it is the highest peak in the immediate area, so you can see all the other high peaks in the range, including 5, 14ers and 8 centennial 13ers. You can even see all the way to Pikes Peak, although it was hidden in the distant haze. After that it was just a return the way we came. The route totals out at about 4 miles round trip, but has 3,370 feet of altitude gain! With the exception of a few mellow sections, its pretty much non-stop climbing, but hey, at least we didn’t have a 3+ mile approach hike like the last few climbs…


10 for me, 300 for Mad Dog

First I would like to give a “congratulations” out to Greg Maddux, who just won his 300th game. He is only the 22nd player to ever achieve this feat, and it will more than likely be a long time before anyone else does it. I got home from today’s hike in time to catch the last few innings of the game, but just missed Maddux by a couple of outs.

Today was another long one, the third week in a row (I think next week will not be so long). This one was again a two peak trip, and I finished up the 11 mile hike in just over 6 hours. I climbed Pacific and Crystal Peaks, 13,950 and 13,852 feet respectively, which although they dominate the view from I-70 in Copper, cannot be seen until you are several miles from the trailhead. (Pacific is the big pyramid of a peak you can see south of Copper with the dramatic notch in its west ridge). It is a very nice combination that completes a loop, (no backtracking, horray!), through two separate creek drainages, the route is called “Wind Song”. The wind song loop starts (and ends) at the end of Spruce Creek Road just south of Breckenridge, in fact Crystal is the next peak south on the ridge from Peak 10 (part of the ski area), to give you an idea of how close they are. I climbed along a 4WD road following the Spruce Creek Drainage to the Mohawk Lakes Trail, the lakes lie at the top of a beautiful multi-pitched waterfall that had several other hikers checking it out. Also at the top of the waterfall is an old mining structure that still had a cart (a very rusty and old cart) attached to a cable dangling in the falls! The Mohawk Lakes are amazing, very high (upper Mohawk Lake is at 12,400 feet), and surrounded by tundra and rugged mountain faces whose boulders create the west edge of the lakeshore (Kodak Moment). I even saw two guys fishing in the upper lake, now that is earning your dinner, it’s a 3 1/2 mile hike to that lake! Above the upper lake is yet another even higher, but unnamed lake. From this higher lake you begin the ascent of Pacific Peak’s northeast slopes. There are several gulleys to chose from here, all fairly steep and requiring some Class 3 sections. I chose one that looked good and started to climb up to join Pacific’s ridge. Believe it or not, there is yet another lake above this point! This lake is at about 13,400 feet, and could well be the highest lake in the whole state. The view here are stunning, you are right in the heart of the Tenmile Range and can see 4 of the ranges 14ers and 5 of its centennial 13ers (including the two on my list). The ridge leads right to Pacific’s summit, the 61st highest summit in the state, which is a small area that can only accommodate a handful of climbers. There were two other people right behind me, and we took each others pictures and went our separate ways. They descended, I continued along the ridge that connects to Crystal, the 82nd highest peak. The weather looked like it may start to get bad, so I didn’t spend much time on the summit, just enough to snap a few pictures and sign the register. Luckily the weather held the whole descent, although there were a couple of light sprinkles near the end. The descent of Crystal is on the opposite side of the peak from Pacific, and in a different drainage than the ascent. This is the Crystal Creek drainage, and it passes two more lakes on its way through beautiful wildflower meadows to return to the trailhead and the car. After a quick stop at KFC for some popcorn chicken, it was off to see how Greg and the Cubs were doing, which to my delight, was very well! By the way, these peaks were my 10th and 11th of the highest 100, and Pacific being such a scenic and dominating peak, made it a nice choice for number 10.


Part of History

It was a pretty exciting game last night, the seats I had were great, nice view along the right field foul line. I got to witness a little bit of history, Nomar had his first Cubs double, and Sammy hit a 436 foot 3 run homer to tie the game, and Reggie Jackson for 8th all-time. It was a fun game in the late innings when both teams got hot on offense. Of course that made the game run a little longer than I had hoped, it didn't end until after 10.30, and by the time I got back home (100 miles away) it was almost 1. It was worth it though! Too bad it wasn't a weekend series so I could have gone to more games. There were a ton of Cubs fans there, especially in my section, I guess they wanted to be behind Sosa too. I got a couple of "nice shirt"s for the Harry Carey shirt. It was definitely a Cubs game, just like at home, there were several rowdy drunken Cubs fans, but they didn't embarass themselves too bad... Today was another good game, the Cubs pulled out the sweep, their first at Coors Field. Hopefully they will keep it up the rest of the season, they lead the Wild Card race now, go Cubs!


TV Star?

I hope Cubs do this well on offense tomorrow! So far they have 4 runs in the second, two guys on and Sosa coming up... I thought I would add a quick little mid week update to let you know that I am going to Wednesday's game in Denver, so check out your TV's, maybe you'll see me! My seats are right behind Sosa in right field, near the foul pole, row 3. UPDATE: Sosa just singled in another run! Anyway, so check out the game, and look for me in my Harry Carey "Cubs Fan, Bud Man" T-shirt... Go Cubs!


The Sawtooth

What would a Saturday be without climbing another mountain? My friend from work, Ben, and I went with his roommate to climb Mt Bierstadt and Mt Evans, two fourteerers that are connected along a high, rugged ridge. We started on the west, climbing Mt Bierstadt, which is 14,060 feet first. It is one of the easier, and most popular, fourteeners in the state, and it was quite a party of people. The parking area had at least 30 cars, and there were easily 2 dozen people on the summit with us. Most of those people just turned around and went back down the way they came (an easy 3 mile hike, with 2700 feet of altitude gain), but we were on to bigger and bolder things. The ridge that connects to Mt Evans is steep, and contains several sections of what is called “class 3” climbing. To give you a sense of the class system, class 1 is trail hiking, class 2 is still hiking, but usually with no defined trail, or over rocky slopes, class 3 becomes scrambling, where you often need to use your hands and knees to crawl over steeper sections. After that, class 4 is usually roped and is starting to get more like rock climbing, class 5 is rock climbing, and has a lot of sub-numbers, like 5.6 or 5.10a, if you have ever rock climbed before you will know what I mean. Anyway, so there were a few class 3 sections which had large rocks we needed to use basic climbing motions, rather than hiking, to get over. Some of the nearly vertical rocks were 4-6 feet high! After climbing down from the summiut, there is a traverse section known as The Sawtooth, which is this huge cliff face that is shaped sort of like a shark’s tooth on an angle. From a distance it looks impossible, but when you get closer you realize it is much easier than it looks. This is because there is this perfectly placed shelf that gently ascends across the cliff and on average is about 4 feet wide. This width helps you feel a lot more comfortable with the fact that the drop off to your side is over 1000 foot cliff! After that section, which is probably what scares off most of the people from climbing both peaks together, you follow easy slopes to Mt Evans’ west ridge. This is a long high ridge, that stays over 14,000 for the last 1/2 mile on its way to the summit, which is 14,264 feet. It was over 4 1/2 miles one way to Evans from the car, but it could have been a lot less. Mt Evans actually has a road that goes pretty much all the way to the summit, and when you are on the summit, you look down 100 feet below to the parking lot, which was quite full on this beautiful summer day. So was the summit, but not with hikers, with tourists, who drove up the mountain (cheaters…). One of them, noticing our backpacks, asked which way we climbed up and seemed impressed with the tales of our traverse of The Sawtooth. The way back was easier, because we were able to drop into the valley below without having to redo The Sawtooth or Bierstadt. It was fun day, but long. With all of our breaks, including lunch on the ridge, it took us about 10 miles for the 9 1/2 mile round trip, but it was well worth it to have “earned” our summit, instead of driving up it. It’s pretty cool that there is a road up it though, now when I have visitors I can drive them up and give them a taste of the fourteerner experience, who knows, maybe it will inspire them to climb one with me.

After our climb we were starving, so we went to Idaho Springs for pizza at Beau Jo’s Pizza. It was good, and they have this extra wide crust that you can eat with honey, sort of like the dessert I guess. It’s a big place, in an old building that once was a miner’s saloon, so it has this cool sort of “old west” atmosphere. The whole town’s main street is like that, but with more modern shops. It would be a nice place to spend a day, and I’ll have to go back some day and check it out. In other news, as you know, there is a new Cub on the block, Nomar Garciaparra is now the new shortstop. He did well today, and RBI single and a few nice plays on defense. Hopefully this is the spark in the batting order the Cubs need to start to make a nice playoff run!