Season change

Saturday was my friend Ben's bachelor party. The plan has changed so many times, at first we talked about doing a backcountry hut trip. This would entail hiking 4-5 miles in the snow and it sort of turned off some of the invitees as being too much physical labor. Then we thought maybe of climbing Mt Princeton, a 14er, and basking in the Mt Princeton Hot Springs afterwards, but again was rated to strenous for everyone. Finally we settled on a quick hike up to Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon, with a trip to the Glenwood Spring hot springs before barbeque and poker back at Ben's house. The hike went well, there was almost no snow left on the trail as it is lower in elevation and tends to melt out faster. The only patches were in particularly dark parts of the trail. There were a lot of people up there, I was surprised at the popularity of the hike for April, but I guess everyone kind of is drawn to the hikes with the least amount of snow this time of year. The hot springs were nice, its basically just a big pool but it has natural mineral deposits and the water is about 104 degrees. The biggest issue is that one of those minerals is sulfer, so it can get to smelling like eggs a bit. Definitely want to take a shower after being in there! The barbeque was good, steaks with baked potatoes, good "guy" food. Poker was more for fun than actual money, it was nickel ante. I don't know much about the game, so it was fun to not really have much at stake! The wedding is in two weeks in Vail.

Sunday I met up with Tracy in Empire and we drove up to the top of Berthoud Pass, which is at 11,315' on the Continental Divide. Its a great place for an early season hike as the majority of the ridge was wind blown clear of snow. That and there isn't much terrain below treeline so there wasn't too much snow to contend with at all. We climbed from the parking area to the summit of Colorado Mines Peak, a mere baby by my usual standards at only 12,493'. The top is covered in antennae, but otherwise is a nice vantage point of the surrounding peaks. Most of the effort is in this part of the climb, almost 1200' vertical in a mile! From the top there is just a long gentle ridge that first drops 350', then slowly rises 1000' along the Divide to the summit of Mt Flora, which is at 13,132'. From there you could continue on to more peaks, but we decided two summits before lunch was plenty for us for the day. It only took about 4 hours round trip, and this makes for a great "warm up" climb for the summer ahead! I then had the whole afternoon to devote for laundry.

It was closing weekend at Vail as well, it was a good season, they still have a good amount of snow except for right at the bottom. Judging by the picture in our paper today, it was quite a party at the summit! Its sort of a tradition for locals, but rather than fight the crowds for a few slushy turns I decided it was time to start off climbing season in earnest. There is always A-Basin for at least another month if I need to get one last day of skiing!


The Summit of Mt Antero

The view of the final summit push on Mt Antero as viewed from approximately 13,800' on the peaks' south ridge.

Birthday Skiing and Easter Climbing

Well as you probably know, Saturday was my birthday. So in honor of it we planned a sort of birthday party at the top of Blue Sky Basin in Vail to barbeque and enjoy the beautiful spring weather we were having. Of course, Friday night and Saturday the next cold front moved through, bringing rain to the valley and wind driven snow to the mountains. It was a cold and snowy day on Vail, but unlike office ski day the week before the snow wasn't deep enough to bury all the sun-baked snow that had turned to crust. It was still a fun day of skiing, but unfortunately the weather scared a lot of party-goers away and it was a rather small group on the mountain. There were a couple of parts of the mountain that we were able to get a little bit of powder though, so that was a nice birthday treat. Vail is still open another week, so I will probably get in one more day of skiing this season on Saturday, if so that will give me 32 ski days!

That evening my friend's Ben and Erica took me out to dinner. Our choice of restaurant gives free dessert for people's birthday and I had a fresh baked chocolate chip cookie covered in ice cream, whipped cream, hot fudge, caramel and heath bar crumble with a cherry. Not a bad slice of birthday cake!

For Easter Sunday Ben and I were joined by my friend Tracy in Buena Vista for a climb of Mt Antero, Colorado's tenth highest peak at 14,269'. The road up to the peak was still snowed in at the base, so we had to hike almost 13 miles round trip with 5000' of elevation gain to get this summit. It was a very long and demanding day! The lower part of the road was patchy snow, which slowly increased to more sustained snow pack of 3-4 feet deep! In the morning this was okay, but the afternoon sun turned it to the consistency of a snow cone in places and we often found ourselves wading through the nearly waist deep snow. The upper slopes of the mountain were pretty well windblown, and we were also able to use a few snow-filled gullies to cut off some of the switchbacks and thus some of the mileage as well. In summer this peak has a 4WD road all the way to 13,100', a hideous scar of a road that cuts back and forth across the slope. The snow gullies allowed us to just go straight up which made the day much more enjoyable. Once at the top of the road, the ridge was reasonably blown clear of snow and we were able to hike mostly on rock the remaining way to the top. The summit itself had an amazing 360 panorama of the surrounding mountains. Being one of the highest mountains in the state, the views are far reaching and you can see high peaks in four of the neighboring mountain ranges. There are 54 official fourteeners, (official meaning that the peak rises at least 300' from the low point of the ridge connecting with a higher neighboring peak) this was my 24th, so I almost halfway there in only 2 years of living here. Looks like this summer is going to be a productive one, so far the spring is starting out right!


A Very Full Weekend

This weekend I was fortunate enough to get an extra day to enjoy the outdoors. Our office took Friday off for an office ski day at Vail! We lucked out, Thursday was a cooler day and it snowed most of the day in the mountains. In fact, Thursday night the snows really picked up and Vail had close to a foot of new snow for us to enjoy. This was probably the last good powder we will have the whole season, seeing as there are only two weeks left and the temperatures have really started to warm up. We got to really enjoy the snow, but seeing as it was an office day we had several meeting points throughout the day so we couldn’t completely just wander off by ourselves. At each meeting point we got a playing card (five in total) and after the day was over we met up at a bar at the base of the ski area and used those cards to play poker for a prize. I didn’t win. It was much nicer to be up to our knees in fresh snow than in work though, that is for sure!

Saturday a large group of my friends came up from Denver to ski at Beaver Creek. Most of them were dressed “retro” in neon ski suits straight out of a late 80’s Warren Miller movie. Beau took the cake with a head to toe neon pink one piece, especially when he did a “daffy” off of one of the jumps. The weather was completely different than the day before, in fact it was about 50 degrees and sunny all weekend up here. The ski conditions were soft, but at times sort of slushy and sticky too. It was a lot of fun, and afterward we all headed over to Beau and Evan’s house for grilled burgers and some bocce bowling.

Sunday I met up with my friends Tracy and Jody and headed for a peak climb up off of Hoosier Pass. We climbed North Star Mountain which is 13,614 feet, and the 187th highest peak in the state. It sits right on the Continental Divide suspended between the fourteeners Quandary to the north and Lincoln, Bross and Democrat to the south. The main spine of the Tenmile/Mosquito Range lies directly west and you can see eight other thirteeners along the range crest including 4 in the highest hundred. There are also distant views of Pikes Peak and LaPlata Peak and all of South Park to the southeast. The peak itself is really more of a ridge than a peak, and is laced with several false summits along the way. The slopes to either side are steep, and drop over 2000’ to the valleys below. There was snow on the peak, but in general it wasn’t too bad. Most of the slopes were either wind blown clear of the snow, or solid enough to be able to walk on without needing snowshoes. All together it was a pretty full weekend, two ski days and a bi-centennial thirteener! With the ski season winding down, there will be a lot more climbing coming soon.


Another Typical Spring Weekend

April is here, only a handful of ski days left! Saturday I headed out to Vail. Conditions were okay, but it was a bit colder overnight and during the day than it had been later in the week and it got a little crusty, particularly in areas that had been sunbaked the day before. There were still a few good areas around, mostly on northeast facing slopes that were protected from the afternoon sun. The winds were back to normal, so unlike the week before I was able to ski in the Blue Sky Basin area, got some good steep runs in on Skree Field and Lovers Leap, and finally landed the 5' cliff band at the top of Skree Field without falling. Too bad no one saw me! Thanks to it being late season and a little crusty out there was hardly anyone there all day. No lift lines, except for a few of the most popular chairs on the front side, but even those weren't that bad. Pretty soon all of the tourists will be gone until summer and things will get really dead around here. At least there won't be any lines at the grocery store!

Sunday my friend Drew and I went hiking again, we thought about skiing Beaver Creek but decided that if the snow was as crusty as the day before it wouldn't be worth it. I heard from some people that were up that it was a mixed bag, so probably better that we passed. Instead we took our snowshoes up to Tennessee Pass and hiked the trail that leads to Vance's Cabin. Vance's is one of the 10th Mountain Division huts, an interlinked system of backcountry cabins that can be rented out in winter. You basically hike or ski from a trailhead into the backcountry to these secluded cabins. We didn't hike the whole way to the cabin (about 3 miles), instead we turned around after about 2 miles. All in all it was about a 2 hour round trip, through forest and snow covered meadows. There were some great views along the way, including Mts Elbert and Massive in the distance, and the nearby Ski Cooper ski area. Cooper (not to be confused with Copper) is only about a 400 acre resort with no hotels at its base. It falls under the "Colorado Gems" category of ski areas, tiny uncrowded resorts with no glitz.

Now that the air is warming up and the sun is out later (7.30pm!), I may even be able to start biking after work again. Most of the forest service roads I like to mountain bike on are still snowed in, but the paved paths are open and ready to go!