11.28.2006

Turkey Day Weekend Wrap Up

Hope everyone had a good holiday. As usualy mine involved a lot of outdoor activities! I started out with a few runs over at Beaver Creek on Thursday morning. They opened the day before, and while there wasn't much open conditions were pretty good and it wasn't too crowded. I headed home at 12 so I could get started on the Thanksgiving dinner. I was playing host to the office "orphans", all of us that had no other plans for the holiday. There only ended up being 4 of us, but it was good. I made the turkey, stuffing and potatoes, and my friends brought desserts, vegetables and chips with homemade salsa to nibble on during the football games. Friday we had to work, but we all had nice little care packages of leftovers to look forward to.

Saturday it was back on the ski slopes, this time to Vail. They opened more terrain during the week and I got to ski some runs that I haven't been on since April when they closed for the season. Should be another good weekend of skiing coming up, today we've been hammered with snow! Already over a foot in town and its supposed to keep going all night and into tomorrow although it is supposed to lighten up a bit. We still should get a good 2 feet on the ski slopes out of this one! Good news for us so that we can boost our early season conditions! It makes for some rough driving, but its worth it to get that early season powder!

Back to last weekend... Sunday with the impending snow storm I decided would be a good time to climb a few more peaks before they got all snowed in. I was originally going south to an area that had almost no snow, but my partner had to bail on me last minute and I came up with a plan B instead. I headed to just east of the Eisenhower tunnel to the Herman Gulch trailhead. This area is really popular in summer because of its easy access to Denver, but winter sees a little less traffic. I was the first car in the lot at 7.30am (but there were 5 more when I came back). I hit the trail and took the fork with the Waltrous Gulch trail to head towards a few high 13ers. The trail had some snow, but it was well packed down. Above treeline there was also a good amount of snow, but as I got near the slopes 12,520' saddle between Mt Parnassus (13,574') and Woods Mountain (12,940') the wind had scoured the peaks clean. The ascent up Paranassus was interrupted with a brief snowshower, but otherwise it was smooth sailing on grassy slopes. From there I travered over to neighboring Bard Peak (13,641'), one of Colorado's 200 highest peaks. Along the way I saw no people, but 8 bighorn sheep! One I saw pretty close as I startled him when he was behind a rock outcropping I was hiking around. He ran off pretty fast and by the time I got my camera out it was tough to get a good picture of him. I finished my hike up Bard and enjoyed a snack before having to reclimb over Parnassus to get back to Waltrous Gulch. I decided the extra 420' to climb Woods were worth it and headed that way. There were two other people at this point climbing as well, for the woman it was her first peak. I congratulated them and then headed back down to the car, making it back around 3pm. It was a great way to burn off those turkey calories! Hopefully I will get another peak in this year, especially seeing as I have never summited anything in December, but aside from that it is time to ski!

11.19.2006

Opening Weekend

Ski season is starting to roll in. I wouldn't exactly say its going full speed yet, though. For one the resorts still have the majority of their terrain closed, and I am not in total ski shape yet. Sure I climbed a lot of mountains, but they use different muscles to go up than they do to go down, namely the thighs. After two days in a row of skiing at Vail they are a little sore, but that is why early season skiing is so important. Nothing gets you in shape for skiing like skiing, no matter how much time you spend at the gym or doing other things.

We got a pretty fair amount of snow earlier this week, around 20" on the ski resorts. That helped boost the snowmaking operations and by opening day Vail was able to get about half of the front side open, about 785 acres and 55 trails. That was great news for this weekend's skiing, it meant the crowds would be nice and spread out and there would be a variety of terrain for everyone. Some of the steeper black diamond runs are still a little thin, with branched and rocks sticking out, so it definitely paid to have "rock skis". The intermediate cruisers were in nice shape though, and not too icy either. Saturday I met up with a bunch of people from work and we skiied and boarded around all over the mountain, mainly on the cruisers. There was hardly anyone over in the area near the Gondola so we got to have some of those trails all to ourselves! Everyone was pretty beat when we called it quits at 3, my friend Ryan and I headed for some lunch and the rest of the guys headed home to crash on the couch. I went up solo on Sunday, got in a few mogul runs and some more groomers. Hopefully my form is coming back and in another couple of weeks when the bowls open I will be ready for them!

Other than that not much going on, we had a bowling party at work last week which was fun. I got a 142 the one game, I think that is one of the best I ever had. Usually I am happy to break 100! It looks like I will be hosting a Thanksgiving party this week for all of the fellow "orphans" in the office that aren't going home for the holidays. I am supplying the turkey, stuffing and potatoes and the guests are taking care of the vegetables, dessert and any snacks for us to have while we watch football. Hope you all have a great holiday!

11.07.2006

Trifecta

Well we are going to get our passes on Wednesday, so last weekend I was not able to go skiing, unless I wanted to pay extra which I don't! That meant it was time to find a partner to climb something (or things) instead. When we were camped on Rainier we met two other climbers from Colorado and I have been keeping in touch with them looking at possible climbs in the future. Chris had a "hall pass" from his domestic duties on Saturday and was more than happy to meet me in Alma at 6am to head climbing. This would give him plenty of time to climb and get back home before having to go to a dinner party with his wife. We decided on a group of easily accessed thirteeners in the Mosquito Range, and headed up the road. We weren't sure how much snow would be on the road, but luckily we were able to go a good mile plus beyond the typical winter closure and park high in the Mosquito Gulch. From here we continued hiking on the road before leaving at the first of three hanging basins. We traversed across this first basin, past frozen Oliver Twist lake and up the steep slopes on the other side. This led us the the second, and largest bench. This was a large mostly flat area that provided a sort of "break" with easy hiking. At the other side was a steep rocky slope that led us the third bench, where another high lake (Cooney Lake) greeted us. From here we were starting to get into the clouds as there was some light snow showers hugging the mountains that morning. It was tough to see where to go, so we consulted the map and chose the mostly windblown slopes ahead of us to stay out of deeper snow. Soon we decided to take a quick break before we crested on the ridge to stay out of the wind while we snacked. The visibility was so bad that once we started up again we were on the summit in less than 10 minutes, yet we couldn't see the summit from where we stopped! This was peak one of the day, Treasurevault Mountain at 13,701'. It was cold and windy (after all it was only 8.15 in the morning) so we didn't stay long and headed for peak number two, Mosquito Peak. This is the namesake peak of the range, but not the highest. It is 13,781' and the 115th highest peak in Colorado. It is also a heavily mined peak, and as we neared the summit we saw discarded mining machines and several roads criss crossing the peak, all of these at around 13,500' above sea level! Those miners sure did work in a tough environment! The winds were a little calmer here and we hung out for a little bit before heading down the ridge towards peak number three, and unnamed peak known as "Repeater" because of all the telecommunications equipment near its summit. In the low visibility we chose the wrong ridge though, and ended up more towards the east than we should have been. We tried to traverse back to the saddle but changed our mind because of some steep icy snow. I even fell on this section and slid down for about 15 feet before I stopped myself, bruising my shin on a rock in the process. Its fine, but serves as a reminded that climbing this time of year can be really unpredictable! We made our way to the basin and crossed below "Repeater" to the saddle with London Mountain (our would be fourth peak) and had another short snack break. We then headed up the west ridge of London which offered a little bit of fun scrambling. There were several false summits along the way that kept teasing us, but soon we were on the true summit at 13,194', our third peak of the day and it was only 11am! While the mining history has ripped these mountains up, it sure did leave behind a lot of roads for easy access to our high peaks, its not everywhere you can climb three mountains all before lunch time... We headed back down, passing the London Mine (photo below) and followed the road back to our cars. In summer his road goes all the way to 13,000' Mosquito Pass, the highest road in Colorado and perhaps the continental United States! We had lunch in Breckenridge before heading home where I took it easy the rest of the weekend.

11.01.2006

October treat

Despite a rather significant fall snow in some parts of the state, the weekend weather was looking good for another climb. In particular the areas in the foothills to the east of the Continental Divide had around 2 feet of snow, and locally we had 8" in my town. For some reason though, the southern Sawatch mountains were mostly spared and only got a small accumulation. My friend James, who lives in Vail, and I met up Saturday morning to head down that way in the hopes of climbing Colorado's 75th highest peak, 13,870' Cronin Peak. The peak is named after the first woman to complete all of the Fourteeners back in 1921. It is located right next to 14,269' Mount Antero and offers views of several other fourteeners. An appropriate suspended island in the sky surrounded by a sea of peaks in recognition Mary Cronin's accomplishment. We weren't sure how the road conditions were going to be, seeing as the peak is located up in Baldwin Gulch, which is not plowed in winter. The road surprised us though, as there was only about 4" of snow on it, easily drivable for my 4WD. We made the 3 mile drive with no problems and parked at the trailhead at 10,840'. From here we headed up the jeep trail that climbs to Mt Antero's mines. We didn't stay on the road for long as our north ridge route quickly appeared through the trees to the right. We left the road and began hiking through the trees to the base of the ridge. After a quick snack we started up the ridge from about 11,500'. Still close to 2 miles and over 2300' of climbing to go. Initially the ridge was steep, but not too rocky. Then there was one short rocky section that required a little bit of class 3 and some careful route finding to avoid a couple of loose rocks. Once past this section there were a series of rolling false summits culminating in the highest false summit at 12,591'. This was a good place to have a snack before the final 1200 vertical foot push up the ridge. This final section went smooth, and in another hour we were on the summit admiring the far reaching views that included Pikes Peak and Uncompahgre Peak in the distance. We decided to descend a different way than our ascent and headed along the southwest ridge. We hit the low point on the ridge and dropped down snow covered slopes towards Baldwin Lake. There we found an elk trail through the snow that skirted the lake and led us back to the upper road. After another short break we hiked back down the road to the point where I was parked and headed back home. Sunday was another nice day, but instead of heading out on another peak I made it more of a lazy day. It was nice to get another peak in, and hopefully this Saturday I will be able to get in yet another climbing trip before switching to skis the following week. I should get my ski pass next Monday, and with 3 resorts already open and at least 2 more opening Friday there will be plenty of options to get re-aquainted with the snow!

The north ridge on Cronin Peak as seen from PT 12591: