6.11.2005

Taking a Break, Colorado Style

After a week of painting at the new place almost everyday after work, I decided to give myself a day off Saturday and go hiking instead. I got a nice early start and was actually at the trailhead before 8. I went over to climb Mt Oklahoma, which is a centennial thirteener on the west side of Mt Massive (the second highest peak in the state) near Leadville. The drive from my town really isn’t that bad, it’s only about an hour and a half and most of the way it’s pretty easy going. The last few miles to the trailhead the road gets a little rough, and the last maybe half mile is where passenger cars can no longer make it. The trail rises along the North Halfmoon Creek, and is a fairly gentle trail and well maintained. In fact the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative was out on the section of the trail that branches off for Mt Massive doing some work to make it even better. The trail I was on continues beyond this point, and I was on the trail for about 2 miles total before having to leave the trail, cross the creek, and start climbing Mt Oklahoma. The peak climb portion itself is not on any sort of trail, and even if it was you wouldn’t know because that side of the valley still had a lot of snow. The main route up Oklahoma is on the east slopes, and due to less afternoon sun, the east slopes melt out later than those on the west side of the peaks. Pretty much the entire route from the creek to the summit was covered in snow. The snow was fairly hardpacked though and with the snowshoes on it was relatively easy going. The steepest section of the route, which in the summer is a rock filled gully, was a little difficult with the snowshoes. This was partly because of its near 30 degree angle, and partly because it was so solid that the snowshoes weren’t getting a good grip. Wearing snowshoes can be a little like wearing small sleds when it gets steep, unless the snow is soft. It probably would have been better to use crampons, which are metal spikes you put on your shoes to provide grip in icy conditions, but I had left mine at home. I was putting a lot of my body weight on my ice axe to keep from slipping backwards as I climbed, which made that portion of the climb much more tiring than I expected. I took a rest and had a snack after that crux section of the route before climbing much gentler, but still snow covered, slopes the remaining 650 feet to the summit. All in all the route was about 3 1/2 miles one way and gained about 3300 feet of altitude. And to think I chose this route because my friend Ben was too busy to do a snow climb and I end up climbing snow anyway! From the summit the views of Mt Massive to the east are spectacular, and you can see several other of the surrounding high peaks. Mt Oklahoma itself is fairly high as well; it is 13,845 feet and the 85th highest peak in the state. It was my 23rd “centennial” peak, almost a quarter of the way done! The weather in the morning was a beautiful blue sky, but it slowly clouded up over the course of the hike, and I even got a few raindrops on the drive back down the road. Good thing I started so early or I may have been in the snow on the peak! Tomorrow it will be back to work on the condo, hopefully I can get a lot done so I can climb again next weekend.