6.29.2006

Missed a week

Sorry, I guess I missed a week in posting. Been busy with work, but also been getting out a lot after work whether it be rock climbing or hiking to help keep myself in shape for Rainier, its only about 2 weeks away until we head out there now! Recently we have been doing some training, we went up the Navajo Snowfield in the Indian Peaks two weeks ago. The snowfield is about 40-45 degrees at its steepest part. We didn't end up climbing Navajo Peak though, our initial plan was to summit via the North Ridge which is a low-grade technical route. I think it is a 5.2 rating (based on rock climbing grades). A party ahead of us kicked loose some rocks on their climbing partners and got dinged up. Nothing serious, but it was enough for us to not want to climb behind them and we ended up just climbing back down the snow. The day before we got some rock climbing in at Clear Creek canyon, which is along US 6 to the west of Golden. During the week last week I got up on rock again, and did my first 5.10b route, the hardest I had done to date. On the solstice with all that extra daylight I climbed an unranked peak near where I live. I did 13,237' Notch Mountain. Round trip it is only like 5 1/2 miles and despite the 2900' of elevation gain I was able to go car door to car door in about 2 hrs and 45 minutes. That is quite a nice little after work escape! I chalk it up to "training", so I didn't mind the workout.

This past weekend on Saturday we did some glacier travel and crevasse rescue training. Not that we think we will be put into a position to need to rescue anyone, but being on Rainier is not the time to learn. We tossed our packs (attached to the rope) over a cornice over at St Mary's Glacier and set up a Z-Pully system to "rescue" our packs. I think with another run or two at setting it up we will get comfortable with the system and be able to set it up fast in an emergency. Rainier is a different type of mountain than what we have near us because it is covered in glaciers. Glaciers move ever so slowly down the mountain, and as they do they can create large cracks in them known as crevasses. As the winter snow melts they become exposed, usually they are avoidable but you never know when an accident may occur and we just want to be well prepared. That night we went and camped near Canon City near the Shelf Road area. This area is known for rock climbing and the next day we set up at Cactus Cliff to climb. We didn't get too many routes in, partly because of some afternoon rain. We also set up a fixed line to practice aid climbing on, this is a technique that you can use to ascend a rope when there are no "holds", especially useful for self rescue out of a crevasse. Another good skill to know and be prepared for on Rainier. While climbing at Shelf, we did another hard route, this one was a 5.10c. It took me a few tries to get past the crux (hardest part), but I managed to do it and top out on the route, my hardest rock climb to date!

6.14.2006

Halfway There

The snows continue to melt as the first day of summer rapidly approaches. The ski mountains around here are nearly snow free, just a few patches here and there. With the warm dry weather Tracy and I headed up to climb a couple of more fourteeners this weekend. Two more and my total would hit 27, halfway through the 53 ranked fourteeners in Colorado. Sunday was the full moon, so we thought it would be cool if we could summit something easy on Saturday night and then Sunday get in a nice scrambling route. Saturday morning before our drive down to the trailhead we headed out for some rock climbing on Golden. We went to North Table Mountain for some easy to moderate sport climbing routes. Sport is slightly different from the usual top roping I have done, in that the route needs to be led. This basically means that as you go up you clip the rope to anchors on the rock with a piece of equipment called a quick draw. This is basically two carabiners attached with a length of material. The carabiners have a gate so you can put one end of the draw through the anchor and then clip the rope to the other. These help so that if you fall, you only fall as far as the previous anchor point. When you get to the top you set up a top anchor and then you climb similar to a top roped route. At the end of the climb the last person to top out removes the top anchor and rapels down the face. It was the first time I led a climb, and also the first time I rapelled a route. It was fun, but a little scary!

We then drove down towards the Crestone Peaks area for our climb. The road up is a rough one, and I gave up on the road a good mile and a half or so from the trailhead. I just didn't like the looks of the steep, wet rocks in the road ahead. After setting up camp, we headed towards a climb of Humboldt Peak, the 36th tallest in the state at 14,064'. For this area, it is an easy peak, and for a lot of people is sort of "ho hum". Its still a great hike and has very impressive views. Climbing at dusk we got to see the sun set and the moon rise. We then had to climb back down in the dark, but with the nearly full moon we had plenty of light and a good portion of the hike did not even need our headlamps to light the way. The round trip took less than 5 hours and we were back by midnight. The next morning we got up around 7 and started heading up the trail again, this time towards Colorado's 7th highest peak, mighty and rugged Crestone Peak (14,294'). Once claimed "unclimbable" it took this peak and its neighbor Crestone Needle until 1916 to finally succumb to the feet of man. While difficult, and definitely intimidating looking from a distance, it actually was not so bad. The standard route ascends a steep gully full of red rock and is mostly a hiking route with a few intermixed sections of class 3 climbing. We thought that the face to the right looked more interesting with its knobby conglomerate rock and went that way instead. There was much more class 3 and also some class 4 climbing on this route, and it was a lot of fun. We left this face as it started to lead us the wrong way, and headed up the upper part of the red gully. From here a couple hundred more feet of scrambling on knobby rock leads you to the summit. The Peak (as it is known) is the highest summit for miles and has some really long distance views of the surrounding valleys. We decended more in the gully where it was easier and headed back towards camp. As we got closer to camp we came across a mountain goat having a late afternoon snack, he didn't seem to be afraid of us so we took some few pictures and then headed on back to break camp and drive back out the bumpy road. I posted trip reports with photos on one of the climbing forums I belong to, you can see them here:

Humboldt Peak

Crestone Peak

6.09.2006

Ellingwood Ridge


Ellingwood Ridge with the summit of LaPlata in the distance on the route, still holding a lot of snow on the north face!

Thwarted by the remnants of Winter

Saturday was a day for some more pack training. I went with one of the guys from work (who is also climbing a glacier peak) up Bighorn Creek with our 50 lb packs. We didn't quite make it all the way to the cabin, there was a large section of snow in the trees near the end of the trail. We got some great views of the Grand Traverse and back behind us towards Vail and the peaks to the south. It was a lot of work carrying all that weight, my shoulders were really sore! It will all be worth it to be in shape for Rainier though. That climb is a two-day climb and we will have a lot of gear to carry, so training for the weight is definitely something we need to do! After I got back, it was time to get ready to go camping. Tracy came up and we packed into my car and headed down to set up camp before it got dark. Our first choice camping area had a $13 charge! For a Forest Service campground? We decided that was too much and went off on a nearby dirt road to see if there were any free spots along the road. We found a nice one between the road and the creek, and set up there. In the morning we headed towards LaPlata Peak to climb the Ellingwood Ridge. Both of us have already climbed the walk-up trail route on LaPlata and wanted to check out the scramble route. We started out on the trail but soon left the trail on a smaller trail towards the start of the ridge. After climbing to treeline, we left the trail and headed up a steep, sometimes loose slope of rock to the ridge proper where we took a nice little snack break. The ridge is long and jagged and has several towers of rock you either have to climb or bypass around. It started out easy enough, but quickly tested our route finding skills with some rugged notches in the ridge. A few times we found ourselves looking down faces of rock that we didn't want to downclimb without a rope and had to find an easier way around. After a few hours of this method we came to another such notch. This time the gully below was filled with snow, so we thought we would just cross the snow. I walked out to start crossing the snow and quickly sunk to my waist in the deeply drifted gully. The snow was mushy and wet, and we didn't feel it was safe to cross. After inspecting the rock around the notch a bit more we decided there was no good way down and had to resign ourselves to turning around. It was a long way back, having to reclimb all of the other towers again, but it was the right call. We will have to come back up there when the snow melts. During the week I got to go rock climbing with some of my friends from work and also got to see X-Men III. Now the week is wrapping up with some scattered rain showers, so no more rock climbing or hiking until the weekend. The goal for this weekend is the Crestones Traverse, one of the four great fourteener traverses in Colorado, and in some peoples opinions the best. I can't wait!

6.02.2006

Holiday Weekend

Sorry, its been a busy week. Its a short week, and I had to go to Crested Butte for the project Wednesday and Tracy came up last night to visit me and go on a Rainier pack training hike with me. Finally I have been able to get to the blog and let you know how the weekend went! Saturday was another errands running day, I had got my tires the weekend before but their alignment mechanic had quit so I had to wait another week, and drive to Glenwood Springs to go to their other store and get the alignment taken care of. Now I have nice new tires that drive straight! That evening I drove down to Denver to stay with Tracy before our early morning climb near Boulder of the Arapahoe Peaks with our friend Jody. We wanted a dawn start because we wanted to make sure snow conditions would be optimal for our ascent. The snow was in great shape and we had a wonderful climb. I actually put up a trip report on one of the climbing forums I belong too with pictures, you can read all about it here:

http://www.summitpost.org/trip-report/197501/Following-the-North-Star.html

That night our original plan was to go camping somewhere and do another peak on Monday but we got done with the Arapahoes so late that we didn't have enough daylight left to drive anywhere to camp. Instead we had dinner and decided to do a day trip on Monday instead. Our intention was to climb New York Mountain, which is up here near me, but as we got to around 11,000' the trail got snowed in and the trees were so thick we couldn't tell where we were supposed to go anymore and just turned around. Luckily she had all of her rock climbing gear in her car and we headed to Gilman Gorge for some rock climbing. We had fun, I was able to top out on a route that had thwarted me the week before and she got to see a new area to climb that she had never been to before. It was the first time we got on technical rock together and it was a lot of fun. Afterwards we went to dinner for $5 burger night, you have to get burgers at least once over Memorial Day weekend!

Phew, now its time for the weekend once more, and another peak!