High in Colorado

High in Colorado
Photo: Mandy Lea Photo

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Catching Up on the Last Month

Week in Review: September 8-14

Monday, September 8th
Still descending from “Ninja Peak”…

Sunrise after a night summit of my last ranked 14er
Tuesday, September 9th
PM—3.5 Miles—1:12—1,100’—Little Bear SW Ridge Route Scouting
I decided to scout the route up to Little Bear’s SW ridge from near Tobin Creek. I wanted to see if there was a way to avoid the thorny bushwhack through Tobin Creek. I ended up finding a nice jeep road that went up to some mining ruins. From there, it looked like a bit of a bushwhack up to the ridge with the usual tremendous amount of downfall, but hopefully no thorn bushes. I had to turn around before scouting much further since night was creeping in and I didn’t have a light.

Mining ruins on the south side of Little Bear
Wednesday, September 10th
AM—9 Miles—5:53—6,500’—South Little Bear and Little Bear
I decided to head up the SW Ridge to summit the unranked 14er, South Little Bear. I forgot to hit this peak when Paul and I did the Little Bear-Blanca-Ellingwood traverse a few weeks ago. The bushwhack up to treeline seemed to go on forever, but once I reached the ridge it was smooth sailing with a lot of talus hopping. The ridge offered up a few fun, exposed knife-edge sections as I neared South Little Bear’s summit. I decided to shimmy over to the summit of Little Bear real quick and ended up lingering around for a while talking to other climbers. I met a group of three (Britt, Joey, and I can’t remember the last guy’s name) and chatted with them for quite some time before parting ways. Britt got some great photos of me on SLB, which he kindly emailed to me. The descent to treeline went by quickly. When I got below treeline I had to make sure I descended via the correct rib that would take me to the road for an easy descent that avoided the thorny bushwhack. I began making my way down a rib, which happened to be the wrong one. Luckily, there was a clearing where I was able to see that I was on the wrong ridge before descending too low. I quickly made my way over to the right one and headed down to some mining ruins that had a faint trail below them. After about 15 minutes on the trail I was back on the jeep road for a quick return to the Taco. I just hiked the entire day.

View of the Little Bear-Blanca traverse from South Little Bear

Gazing at Little Bear from the San Luis Valley floor

Traversing between South Little Bear and Little Bear (Photo: Britt Jones)

Summit of Little Bear (Photo: Britt Jones)

Reaching the summit of South Little Bear (Photo: Britt Jones)

Venturing up Little Bear's southwest ridge

Staring up Little Bear's SW ridge
Thursday, September 11th 
PM—3 Miles—0:43—2,200’—Treadmill
A little uphill running on David’s treadmill while house/dog sitting while he’s in Steamboat for Run Rabbit Run.

Friday, September 12th
OFF—Taking a little rest after several big weeks

Saturday, September 13th
OFF—Still resting a bit…

Sunday, September 14th 
OFF—Something about today being a “Day of Rest” or something like that…

Weekly Totals
Time—7 hours 48 minutes
Elevation Gain—9,800 feet

Week in Review: September 1-7

Monday, September 1st
PM—2 Miles—0:15—300’—Leadville Roads
Trying out the Hoka Rapa Nui’s that Dave gave me. Kind of squishy, but pretty comfortable.

Tuesday, September 2nd
OFF—Just plain tired…

Wednesday, September 3rd
PM—10 Miles—4:18—4,200’—La Plata Peak (14,336’)
Nolan’s 14 pacing for Ben. Up the standard route from Highway 82 and down into Winfield. Ben was a little dehydrated when he got to the TH so I kept his effort in check for the entire ascent. I kept bugging him to drink water, take rests, and just keep it mellow. It was actually quite warm as we made our way up, which was the big reason I didn’t want him working too hard. My main goal was getting him to Winfield feeling better than he felt at the Highway 82 trailhead. When we arrived in Winfield it seemed that the problems bothering Ben at the base of La Plata had faded away.

Thursday, September 4th
AM—16 Miles—13:40—11,000’—Nolan’s Pacing from Clohesy Lake to North Cottonwood Trailhead
More Nolan’s 14 pacing for Ben. At about 3:30am I joined Ben at Clohesy Lake and kept him company for the summits of Missouri, Belford, Oxford, Harvard, and Columbia before descending to North Cottonwood. This was a long day of easy effort hiking with only a brief period below treeline at Pine Creek between Oxford and Harvard. The weather was incredibly unpredictable all day causing us to change clothing countless times. The only positive about the weather was that it stayed dry all day long. Always great to spend a long day in the hills with Ben.

Belford—4:00 (1:49 split)
Oxford—4:56 (0:56 split)
Harvard—9:27 (4:31 split)
Columbia—11:51 (2:24 split)
North Cottonwood Trailhead—13:40 (1:49 split)

Ben emptying out his shoes on Elkhead Pass

Sunrise near Elkhead Pass
Friday, September 5th
OFF—Tired and a little sore after sleeping in the driver’s seat of the Taco

Saturday, September 6th
AM—5 Miles—1:03—1,150’—Colorado Trail
Just an easy run on the CT from the Blanks Cabin trailhead for Shavano. First trail run in the Hoka’s Dave gave me. I actually liked the way they felt…

Sunday, September 7th 
PM—26 Miles—18:08—18,400’—A tall peak that will remain Unnamed
Big peak summited using everything I’ve learned in my ninja training…

The beginning of a long night

Weekly Totals
Time—37 hours 27 minutes
Elevation Gain—35,050 feet

Week in Review: August 25-31

Monday, August 25th
AM—6 Miles—6:38—1,700’—Climbing on The Matron, North Face
David wanted to get out and climb up one of Roach’s Top 10 Flatiron Classics this morning. So, we headed up to The Matron to ascend its three-pitch 5.6 north face. I’ve never led trad before and didn’t really feel like “learning” how today. So, armed with the knowledge acquired from watching online videos about gear placement and setting up belay anchors, David proceeded to lead the route like a champ. Storms started rolling in right as we reached the summit. When you combine the possibility of getting struck by lightning with the ridiculous amount of gnats on the summit it was an obvious choice not to linger around for too long. So, we readied for our two rappels back down to solid ground. As David was doing the first rappel some thunder started rolling and I saw a flash of lightning. After impatiently waiting for David to get off the rope it was finally my turn to do my second rappel ever; it ended up being a lot easier than I remember. We both stood uncomfortably at the top of the second rappel while dicking around with knots in the rope. Thunder, rain, and the occasional flash of lightning had me wondering why everything David and I do seems to end up being a shit show of sorts. As I neared the ground David told me to look over for a photo. So I did. Then I felt this weird tugging on my face. It took a moment to realize it, but my friggin’ beard got caught in my ATC! Luckily, there was a flake right next to the face of The Matron that allowed me to stem out with my legs, while holding onto the brake end of the rope with one hand and simultaneously using my other hand to pull up on the top end of the rope. This allowed me to get out with minimal beard loss. My only thought after was “this is why I solo in the Flatirons…”

Little bit of beard hair in the ol' ATC (Photo: David Ponak)

Photo: David Ponak

Photo: David Ponak

Reaching The Matron's summit (Photo: David Ponak)

David sitting atop the first pitch

Approaching the north face of The Matron (Photo: David Ponak)
Tuesday, August 26th
AM—2.5 Miles—0:38—1,300’—2nd Flatiron Time Trial
I parked the Taco in the round-a-bout near the park just east of the Ranger Cottage. I trotted up to the trailhead and began making my way up to the 2nd Flatiron. Nothing felt especially good on the approach, but as I neared the base of the slab I noticed that I was making great approach time—I reached the base of the 2nd in 11:19. So, I decided that if my scrambling felt spot on I would do my first ever Flatiron time trial. I cruised through the crux bulge without any hesitation and knew I was going to have a decent split to the top. It was pretty hot on the exposed slab so I was sweating my ass off and breathing hard the entire way up. I stopped for a very brief rest (~10-15 seconds) right before taking the leap of faith and then kept cruising up to the walk-off at the top of the Freeway route—a 9:40 split for the scramble and 20:59 total time. The slowest part of the day for me was likely the more technical upper portion of the descent. As the trail became less rocky I gradually picked up my pace until I was hitting 5:30 pace for the last half-mile or so. I reached the trailhead in 13:29 from the top of the Freeway route for a trailhead-to-trailhead time of 34:28. Short, but fun day!

Wednesday, August 27th 
PM—2.5 Miles—1:21—1,700’—2nd Flatiron and 1st Flatiron
I waited around all morning for the slabs to dry after the night’s rainfall. My legs felt kind of tired so I hiked up to the base of the 2nd before scrambling up it. I think the easy hiking approach and the significantly cooler temperatures when compared to yesterday allowed me to shimmy up the Freeway with less perceived effort than yesterday, but with a similar time—9:56 to the walk-off. En route to the summit I passed another guy soloing the route. When he reached the top we chatted for a few minutes about the 3rd Flatiron downclimb before he invited me to follow him up the Fandango route on the 1st Flatiron, which we covered in about 21 minutes. With storms starting to roll in we didn’t waste any time hanging around the summit. We quickly knocked out the downclimb off the backside of the 1st in 6:17 and ran the descent back to Chautauqua in an attempt to keep from getting soaked in the coming rain.

Thursday, August 28th
AM—2.5 Miles—0:48—1,300’—Mount Sanitas
I ran up at a slightly hard effort, but on really tired legs. So, effort and fatigue cancelled each other out and resulted in an average ~20 minute ascent. After sitting on the summit for a while I did a mostly hiking descent.

Friday, August 29th
AM—17 Miles—7:43—7,500’—Little Bear Peak (14,037’), Blanca Peak (14,345’), Huerfano County High Point (14,340’), and Ellingwood Point (14,042’)
Paul and I headed out from about a mile up Lake Como Road at 5:30 am. For those who don’t know, Lake Como Road just plain sucks. It’s more technical than just about any trail you could ever choose to run on. After grunting up the road for about an hour-and-a-half we reached Lake Como and made our way to the east side. We began scrambling up the talus slope to gain the west ridge of Little Bear. Our line kept us on the ridge proper versus sticking to the marked route a little below the ridge. After a while we got off the ridge and began following the cairns to the Hour Glass. It seemed to us that the easiest route would have just stayed directly on the West Ridge crest and avoided the Hour Glass completely, but who knows? The Hour Glass was an icy and wet shit show. So, we decided to avoid this by climbing directly up on the left side of the Hour Glass—significantly harder climbing, but dry rock. Fortunately, we were the only ones in the Hour Glass, which meant that the consequences of kicking rocks loose weren’t potentially fatal. After 3:12 Paul and I were standing on the summit of Little Bear with full view of the ridgeline traverse in store for us.

After a few minutes of loitering on the summit and snapping photos we began dropping off the summit and onto the ridge. With the exception of one or two semi-cruxy moves this traverse proved to be significantly easier than I expected. Yes, there was decent exposure throughout the traverse, but the moves were all easy and never seemed to exceed easy 4th Class. We took our sweet time making our way across the ridge; taking lots of photos along the way and enjoying the exposure. The ridge certainly offered many opportunities for exposure junkies to get a little fix. After 1:35 (4:47 total time) we were sitting on our second 14k foot summit of the day, Blanca Peak. More loitering and photos ensued before heading over for the quick trip to Ellingwood Point. This segment was all easy 2nd and 3rd Class, which Paul and I knocked out in 0:28. After 5:15 we were sitting on our third 14k feet summit of the day and enjoying a few snacks.

The descent back to Lake Como was enjoyable, but came to an end far too soon. Once at the lake we had about five miles of the shittiest four-wheel drive road in Colorado (and maybe the States?) separating us from our trucks. I ended up bonking like a champ and walking the last three miles or so back home. Great day on one of Colorado’s four great 14er traverses!

Little Bear—3:12
Blanca—4:47 (1:35 split)
Ellingwood—5:15 (0:28 split)

Little Bear-Blanca traverse (Photo: Paul Hamilton)

Bypassing the Hour Glass (Photo: Paul Hamilton)

Our full Little Bear-Blanca-Ellingwood traverse from the summit of Ellingwood (Photo: Paul Hamilton)

Little Bear-Blanca traverse viewed from Blanca

Making our way to Blanca from Little Bear (Photo: Paul Hamilton)

Little Bear-Blanca traverse viewed from Ellingwood

Nearing Blanca's summit (Photo: Paul Hamilton)

Paul with Little Bear looming overhead

Little Bear-Blanca-Ellingwood route viewed from Ellingwood
Saturday, August 30th
AM—12.5 Miles—7:02—7,300’—Crestone Peak (14,294’), Northeast Crestone Peak (14,260’), and Crestone Needle (14,197’)
Paul and I headed to the Cottonwood Creek trailhead just outside of Crestone after we got down from Lake Como yesterday. Eventually Brendan Trimboli rolled up to the parking lot to join us on the Crestones the next morning. Since the route was significantly shorter than Little Bear, Blanca, and Ellingwood we decided to start somewhere around 7am versus our previous day’s 5:30am start.

The next morning when I was getting dressed and ready I decided that I wasn’t going to make the same mistake as the day before and wear way too much clothing. I opted for my usual minimal style today—shorts, shirt, wind shell (tucked into shorts), gloves (tucked into shorts), Buff, one handheld, and two gels.

Near treeline we had to avoid a significant amount of downfall. Once out of the trees we began making our way towards the base of Crestone Peak’s red gulley. My legs were pretty spent and not enjoying the steep ascent at all, but the climb was over before too long. We lingered around the summit taking photos for a few minutes. When I pointed out Northeast Crestone to Paul and Brendan I couldn’t help but think how much easier of a climb it looked like versus last year. Brendan decided he was going to go tag East Crestone while Paul and I stared at the descent/traverse from the top of the Red Gulley over to the base of NE Crestone. I had some reservations due to the path being covered in a dusting of snow and ice, but Paul took the initiative and led the way. Of course, I followed. It only took us 13 minutes to get from the summit of Crestone Peak to the summit of Crestone Needle—I guess it was an easy climb.

We made our way back to the base of East Crestone and joined Brendan for the beginning of our traverse to Crestone Needle. For the most part, this traverse stays way below the ridge crest and just involves a lot of skirting around before ascending the first of two gullies. Then there’s a little more skirting around to the Black Gendarme, which is where the most difficult parts of the traverse begin. While ascending this gulley there are two little bulgy sections of 5.easy climbing up to a very short knife edge section. Some scurrying up a few ledges finally gets you up to the final summit pitch to the Needle. This section is sort of steep, sort of exposed, and 4th class for a hundred feet or so. I’d probably compare it to everything on the 3rd Flatiron east face route minus the last summit pitch—holds are everywhere and the angle feels about the same.

On our descent we tried going down a gulley to cut out some distance down to the lakes. This ended up cliffing out. So, we made our way back down the long way. My legs were starting to feel the cumulative fatigue of the past few days, which let Paul and Brendan put a good gap on me. Back at treeline I got off route somehow and ended up doing a little over an hour of bushwhacking until I rejoined the trail. Then, I was finally able to run again. I trotted out the last few miles around 10-minute pace and called it a day.

Crestone Peak—2:41
Northeast Crestone—2:54 (0:13 split)
Crestone Needle—4:10 (1:16 split)

Crestone Peak's summit (Photo: Paul Hamilton)

Nearing Crestone Peak's summit (Photo: Brendan Trimboli)

Heading up Crestone Peak (Photo: Paul Hamilton, I think?)

View of the route Paul and I used to ascend NE Crestone Peak

Posing on Crestone Peak's summit with Brendan (Photo: Paul Hamilton)

View of the traverse to Crestone Needle from Crestone Peak

Brendan and I descending Crestone Needle (Photo: Paul Hamilton)
Sunday, August 31st
AM—11.5 Miles—2:57—4,800’—Mount Elbert (14,433’)
Pretty easy day up/down the East Ridge from the lower South Elbert trailhead near Twin Lakes. My legs felt awful on the two mile jeep road run to the upper trailhead. From the upper trailhead to the summit I pretty much hiked every step. It was unbelievably cold and terribly windy, which made me wish I had more clothing. I was wearing skimpy shorts, no shirt, a Buff, no gloves, sunglasses, and a Patagonia Houdini wind shell. Once above treeline, I kept my hands down the backside of my shorts the entire way to the summit. This helped keep them slightly less numb than just keeping them out and exposed to the cold wind. The shit weather had me tempted to bail on the summit on more than one occasion, but I kept trudging along. I reached the summit in about 1:55 and immediately turned around to begin my descent. It was great to get low enough that I could finally regain the feeling in my hands.

Weekly Totals
Time—27 hours 09 minutes
Elevation Gain—25,600 feet

Week in Review: August 18-24

Monday, August 18th
AM—16.5 Miles—7:32—9,500’—Mount Belford (14,197’), Mount Oxford (14,153’), Mount Harvard (14,420’), and Mount Columbia (14,073’)
My legs felt pretty crappy all day, but it still turned out to be a good day in the hills with Peter. I was most pleased with our route selection and time from the summit of Oxford to the summit of Harvard. I don’t think we could have picked a path with less resistance. Peter’s route finding skills are top-notch. The worst part of the day was definitely the descent of Columbia’s west slopes—steep and loose.

Oxford—2:10 (0:29 split)
Harvard—4:25 (2:15 split)
Columbia—5:55 (1:30 split)
Cottonwood TH—7:32 (1:37 split)

Mount Columbia in the distance
Tuesday, August 19th
AM—7.5 Miles—3:59—4,300’—Pyramid Peak (14,018’)
Pretty mellow day. I had a few instances while rock hopping and making my way up to the ridge where I didn’t think I would get the summit today due to rain. Luckily, it would just sprinkle for a few minutes then quit. Once on the ridge, this is a really enjoyable route on quite solid rock considering you’re in the Elks.

Wednesday, August 20th 
OFF—Climbing at Gold Butte (Aspen, CO)
I led and top-roped the 5.7 route, Flake Armour. I also led and top-roped the 5.6 route, Rat-A-Tat-Tat. Rat-A-Tat-Tat would likely have been much easier to solo since there was so much rope drag. Several times I felt like I was going to be pulled off the rock by the rope.

Sweet view from the crag
Thursday, August 21st
AM—13 Miles—2:11—2,500’—Sunnyside Loop (Aspen, CO)
A fun, runnable loop run with Luke. Our pace up the first big ascent was easy, but then we started hitting the descents and flats pretty hard. We ended with a couple of 6:15 minute miles on pavement.

Luke cruising through a nice, flat stretch of the Sunnyside Loop
Friday, August 22nd
PM—5 Miles—1:18—2,500’—Green Mountain
Just an easy day up-and-down the front side of the mountain. First time up this peak in a long time…

Went to Gold Hill Inn to celebrate Alex and Wayne's birthdays. My beard made a few people envious (Photo: Jeremy Gruber)
Saturday, August 23rd  
AM—10.5 Miles—3:54—4,000’—South Arapaho (13,397’) and Old Baldy (13,038’)
Cold, windy, and wet with poor visibility. I was a bit surprised with how many people I saw on the trails today considering how bad the weather was. From the summit of South Arapaho I decided to head over to North Arapaho, but was turned around at the crux slab since it was soaking wet. My shoes wouldn’t provide enough purchase to make the usual quick-and-easy shimmy up it. So, I decided to head over and tag the low-13er Old Baldy as a consolation prize.

My last good view while ascending South Arapaho. Visibility went to crap shortly after this.

Heading over to Old Baldy
Sunday, August 24th
AM—8 Miles—3:23—2,800’—Mount Audubon (13,223’)
Another very cold and windy morning, but fortunately there wasn’t any rain. The rocks were all frosted for the last several hundred feet of ascent. We (Donald, his brother, and I) began with intentions of doing a big traverse of 13ers in the area. We called it a day at Audubon due to the winds and frosted rocks. August is way too soon to have an ice beard…

August is way too early for an ice beard...
PM—4 Miles—2:26—2,800’—2nd Flatiron (x2) and 3rd Flatiron
After a couple of laps on the 2nd Flatiron (9:45 and 10:49) I decided to head over to the 3rd and see if I could remember the route Peter had just shown me. I ended up staying too far north (right) for most of the ascent, which made for slightly harder climbing (but not much harder). Down climbing the SW chimney sucked since it was 2:30pm and the sun was beating down on me. My hands were a sweaty mess…

Sweet view of the 1st from the 3rd's summit

Looking back up at the SW Chimney downclimb off the 3rd Flatiron

Weekly Totals
Time—24 hours 47 minutes
Elevation Gain—28,300 feet

Best double rainbow I've ever seen...