9.28.2006

Skipping Fall

This will be brief, I have had to work a lot of overtime recently due to my project but I wanted to give you all a quick update. The deadline is Monday (Oct 2) so that is the good news, but I will be in the office all weekend. At least all the hard work is paying off, 1) I get paid for overtime, 2) they gave us all an interim bonus check for our efforts and 3) they made me an associate last week! Those are 3 things the old firm never did...

Anyway, last weekend I managed to sneak a peak climb inbetween my weekend overtime. It was one I had already done, but I knew it was a short and close outing. I headed up Dyer Mountain again, this time via the southeast slopes routes instead of the west ridge which I climbed last year. There was a lot of snow up there actually, the end of last week we got hit with a large early season storm and in some of the higher mountains (such as Dyer) there was over 2 feet! I was up to my knees most of the way, and even to my waist in a few drifts. It was beautiful and sunny out though, and actually the sun felt rather warm. It wasn't too windy either! The ground was covered, but the snow was not compacted at all. It may have been 2-3 feet deep but I could feel pretty much every rock below. It made some sections tricky becaues you couldn't see where the gaps in the rocks were but you sure could feel them when you sunk in! The summit was nice, I was the only one up there and got to enjoy the view with clear skies! There were two groups climbing nearby Mt Sherman (a fourteener I had already done twice) but I never crossed their paths. The rest of the weekend I was at work most of the time, and have been there most of the week too. At least the light at the end of the tunnel is now in sight, and I will be able to spend my OT money on some new ski boots just in time for season to start!

A view of the Sawatch Range from the summit of Dyer Mountain is below. It sure looks more like February than September don't you think?



Fall snow on Beaver Creek:

9.20.2006

Even More Wintry Conditions

The cooling trend has continued, and the snow levels keep getting lower. This past weekend snow got almost all the way to Beaver Creek Village, and this coming Friday it is expected to snow in my town overnight. Despite these conditions, I have still worked to get myself out in the mountains, if only to keep some sanity as our project reaches its deadline. Of course madness must have taken over for me to have still climbed on last Saturday. We had been planning a 14ers.com gathering for some time, and as the day got closer the weather started to look more and more like it was not going to cooperate. There were still a good group of people willing to give it a try, and I drove down to meet them at the trailhead the moon and stars were out, giving me hope that we would have a good day. We met at the trailhead at 6am with our sights set on climbing Harvard, the 3rd highest peak in Colorado at 14,420' above sea level. As we started up the trail the flurries started to fly, and the higher we got the heavier the snow, and the more the accumulation on the ground around us. We met up with two others, a man and his 4 year old son, at their campsite, where I set up my tent and put gear in there that I wasn't going to need for the climb. My original hope was to camp and climb Columbia on Sunday. We regrouped and started up the trail, our 4 year old companion leading the way. Now I know you must think his dad is nuts, but truth be told the kid could hold his own and has already summited several peaks, refusing to be carried. He insisted on trying to go to the top of Harvard despite the snow. Still his dad would ask if he wanted to turn around, and still the little guy would say no. We started to break above the trees and now the winds started to come into play. It was forecast to be a windy day, and it was living up to the forecast. The blowing snow was making visibility difficult and making all of us cold. All except for our 4 year old friend, who was short enough to stay sheltered by the bushes. The second we got above the bushes though it was too much for him and he asked his dad to go back. Our remaining group of 6 kept going, we weren't sure if we'd make it, but we at least would try. The visibility remained a problem, but the majority of the wind was at our backs and we were able to stay reasonably warm. The trail was hard to see at times with the snow drifting across it, but we kept on and soon began reaching steeper terrain. As we got closer to the top, we lost 3 of our group who could no longer bear the wind, but me and two others decided to keep trying. After all, turning back would mean heading face into the wind, maybe if we held out longer it would start to clear. It didn't, and as we got closer to the top we saw many others coming down, none of whom summited. We now were at 14,000' and starting to climb into the clouds where the wind and visibility issues multiplied. Right below the summit we reached the crux; a steep, rocky block that we had to scramble up. We had finally reached the summit, the first (and only) party to do so that day. The winds were howling, the snow was horizontal, and we didn't stay long before we decided to head back. Coming down was worse! Face first into sustained winds of close to 50mph as we were pelted with snow. I wish I would have had my ski goggles, but other than my face I was still rather warm. It felt like January, but I was dressed like it was January, so it wasn't as bad as it could have been. The lower we got the more the weather died off, and by the time we reached tree line it was beginning to get sunny of all things! Welcome to the wild world of Colorado weather I guess! I decided to break camp and go home, especially seeing as no one else was camping either. It was a rough one, but in the end we were successful. It goes to show that with proper planning and clothing even the freak September blizzards can be conquered!

Conditions on the way up:



And then the sun comes out on the way down, less than 2hrs after the other image was taken!

9.12.2006

Early Season Snow



The image above was taken from above the cabin at the end of the Bighorn Creek trail in East Vail. My friend Ben and I were going to try and climb the Grand Traverse, a class 4 ridge route that starts at the head of the basin, but were thwarted by the fresh snow in the mountains this past weekend. We still went ahead and hiked the trail, we were hoping that the weather would break as the day progressed and that we would still be able to hike Keller Mountain, which is a class 2 route. The peak at the head of the basin in the photograph is actually a false summit of Keller. The clouds unfortunately stuck around, and we were getting rain and sleet off and on while we were hiking the trail so when we got to the end of the trail we decided to just head back. Ben and his wife Erica were up visiting me from Crested Butte, but Erica decided not to come along on the hike in the rain. After the hike we met up with her and some other friends to watch college football at one of Erica's good friend's house. As you may remember, Ben and Erica used to live in Edwards and Ben and I worked together. We had our eyes on the Grand Traverse for years, but never have been able to get up there. Once again, out plans didn't work out, but one of these days Vail's landmark traverse will be ours!

Sunday we had a late breakfast and then Ben and Erica left to get some errands in on the way back home. Crested Butte is fairly isolated and there were a lot of stores they needed to visit in Glenwood Springs to get some things for their house. I ended up spending Sunday afternoon at the office to make up some of my overtime hours that I have been needing to work. We have been on mandatory overtime since I got back from Rainier, and still have about 3 more weeks to go before it will be back to normal hours. At least I get paid for it, so its not all bad! The only problem has been the wet weekends, Karlin and Wells lucked out on the weather last week, it was the only dry Saturday in the last month and a half. Hopefully things will dry out and I will get some climbing in this weekend to hold me over for the final push on my project deadline. In the meantime I get to watch the colors as they start to change on the local mountains, soon all the aspen trees will be yellow for fall!

9.07.2006

Wedding in Aspen

I hope you all had a great holiday weekend! The weather up here was perfect, it was warm, calm and dry all weekend in the mountains! Perfect for a wedding, and a climb. Saturday my friends Karlin and Wells got married on top of Aspen! The ceremony was outside on the wedding deck with incredible views of the surrounding peaks including the fourteener Pyramid Peak, and the Aspen Highlands Ski Area. They couldn't have ordered up a better day for the event! After a cocktail reception on the deck, the party moved into the neighboring lodge where the Aspen Mountain Club is housed. This is the private ski club on top of the mountain, but it can be rented out by the public in summer for receptions. Nice place! We had a buffet style lunch which included potato and leek soup, salad, proscuitto wrapped chicken, mushroom risotto, salmon and fresh vegetables. All of which was excellent! After lunch it was time for the toasts, and they were tear jerkers for sure. One of Wells' family friends delivered a speech about Wells and his late parents that everyone soggy-eyed. Then one of all of our dear friends from Chicago kept the tears going with a tribute to his best friends before Wells made sure all the hankies were soaked with his own dedication and tribute to his family. Hey, you are supposed to cry at weddings, right? After that it was time for dessert and dancing before the gondola whisked us all back to the town. That evening we had dinner and watched college football kick off before heading out on the town. A good number of people were staying in town all weekend, though some were in and out of the festivities for concerts and hiking. I was part of the latter, taking advantage of the beautiful weather to head up one of Colorado's hardest fourteeners. Capitol Peak, at 14,130' is the 29th highest peak in the state, but considered by many to be in the top 3 list of most difficult fourteeners. Most of this difficulty is due to a section of ridge known as the "knife edge". This portion is fourth class and requires most people to either crawl or traverse across the side by gripping the top and side stepping. I was able to stand on most of it, but there were a few places it was too narrow and too exposed for my comfort. In order to fully understand the beauty and difficulty of this time honored test piece of Coloroado's mountains, I have included a link to my trip report from 14ers.com below:

Capitol Peak Trip Report

After the climb I headed back to Aspen to meet up with my friends Mike, Kate, Jim, Kelly and Tim from back in the days of living in Chicago. Tim actually now lives in Austin himself, seems our old group is splitting up and moving all over the country. We hung out at their hotel suite, sharing pizza for dinner before having a bunch of the wedding guests, including the bride and groom, over for a send off party. It was fun getting to hang out and reminsice with everyone, though I was admittedly a bit tired from my hike. We even resurrected the old jam sessions from Chicago, playing guitar and singing along to as many songs as we knew the words for. I stayed at their hotel, and in the morning when they drove back towards the airport we followed each other over Independence Pass stopping for some pictures. We stopped in Leadville for gas and food before splitting up once again, them to head to Denver and me back to Vail. Hopefully we will all be able to get together again really soon (Christmas perhaps?). It was good to see everyone, its hard to believe that is has been so long since the days of hanging out at each others houses jamming on guitar and singing songs. It felt good to do that again, but also it kind of made me feel lonely knowing I was going back to Vail by myself in the morning. It was a great weekend though, and I hope we have more like that!