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!