10.02.2004

Back in The Mountains

Sorry I haven’t updated for a couple of weeks. Last week I was back home, and couldn't update, and I got to see most of you when I was there. I had a great time, and I hope you all did too. It was nice to be back, a little weird to be a ‘visitor’, but nice none the less. You have much warmer weather out there than we have here, even though it is “above normal” here this weekend at 60 degrees. It is definitely fall, and even a few tastes of winter here and there. We have had a couple of rainy days the last two weeks, and the snow levels have varied from 7,000 – 10,000 feet. Above about 11,000 feet there is snow on the ground that may just stay there until next spring with the cooler temperatures rolling in. The fall colors are looking good, but beginning to go past peak in some areas, especially East Vail. We had a meeting at the job site in Crested Butte on Wednesday, and the drive there was in prime fall-color season. The drive goes through the largest Aspen stand in the world, and it was about 80% yellow and orange for miles and miles. It was incredible, all of that color mixed in with some green pine trees in the background, and snow capped peaks beyond. Its no wonder we saw close to 2 dozen people with tripods along the 28 mile stretch of road. The project is moving along nicely, they have 2/3 of the footings done, about 1/4 of the precast foundation walls. Steel will be arriving in about a week. Not sure how frequently we will have to make the trip out there, but probably about twice a month.

Today, despite the snow in the high country, I decided to climb another peak. The snow is not deep at all, just an inch or two with some deeper drifts. The hike was almost entirely over snow covered fields and rocks, and was very cold and windy. I got my usual early start, so the sun had not had its chance to warm things up yet. The air temperature on the mountain was probably in the mid 20’s, but with wind chills close to zero at times. It felt like winter, but the sky was clear, and the snowy peaks made for some excellent views along the way. I climbed Mt. Silverheels, the 96th tallest in the state at 13,822 feet, and the 18th in the top 100 for me. It is just south of Hoosier Pass and only a few miles to the east of the fourteeners Lincoln and Bross. The climb is pretty easy, about 3 1/2 miles one way with an altitude gain of just under 3,000 feet. The route climbs a gentle grassy ridge with a few rocky sections, and the summit is visible most of the way, so you always know just how much further you need to go. The summit was the coldest and windiest part of the trip, and I didn’t spend much time there. The summit, like most, has a pile of rocks wrapping the summit to form a sort of shelter, but the entire thing was filled with wind swept snow, no escape from the wind for me, and no chance to sign the summit register which was buried in a 3 foot snow drift. The trip was pretty quick, overall it was just under 4 hours round trip and I was back at the car at about noon. The highlight was on the climb, however, when a herd of elk crossed the trail just a few hundred feet in front of me. There were close to two dozen of them, I watched them cross the slopes, drop across a ravine and then over the next ridge a mile away. It was great, they moved so fast, it was incredible to see how fast they got across to the next ridge, it didn't even take them 10 minutes. There was one elk out ahead of the others, I guess as a sort of scout, then the rest were all packed together in line about 2-3 elk wide with the bull in the middle. All in all it was a great climb, and despite being cold, the gentle slopes were easy to climb even with the light covering of snow. Maybe there will be time for another climb this season, hey Wells, what do you say? You up for it?