Friday, July 23, 2010

21 July, 2010: Made an unsuccessful :( attempt at technically unranked, but difficult, North Maroon Peak, trying to bring me to #49 and Trisha to #48. Despite an early start, rain rolled in just as we approached the summit, and the crux of the route. We stuck it out as long as we felt prudent, on what's considered one of Colorado's most dangerous fourteeners, but ultimately headed back down from somewhere around 13,600 ft. Here's hoping August brings much sunnier days.
Long life and many peaks!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Longs Peak (14,261 ft.)
Battle Mtn. (12,044 ft.)

14 July, 2010: After two unsuccessful tries (yes, there was another one last month that I didn't even mention here), it was mandatory to get Trisha to the summit of Longs for 14er #47. The snow was finally all gone, and true summer conditions prevailed, so I felt sure we could pull it off.
After the best short night's sleep we could manage, we left Greeley shortly before 3 am MDT. We pulled into one of the two remaining parking spots at the Longs Peak Ranger Station parking lot, threw on our packs, and were on the trail just about 4:30 (just about dawn). With a starting temperature of 62° F, we set off in just long sleeves.
A couple of hours later, above timberline and with the sun up, we were forced to put on every stitch of clothing we had brought and hunker down against unexpectedly fierce winds! At 12,000 feet, a 30 mph wind with gusts of at least 50 has a lot of chilling power, as well as the ability to make you go very slow. As a result, it took us five hours to reach the Keyhole.
By the time we got there, we had already encountered half a dozen other parties who had turned around, having found even more wind at the Keyhole, and anticipating still worse conditions on the upper part of the route. The number of people making any real bid for the summit was plummeting rapidly!
At the Keyhole, we weighed our options. The wind out of the west had not abated, but the route ahead was dry. Not wanting to suffer the ignomy of a third turn-back on the same mountain unless absolutely necessary, we joined forces with another couple and pressed on. We figured we owed it to ourselves to go as far as we could, while hoping for an improvement in conditions.
Almost immediately, our boldness was rewarded. The wind was actually less of a problem as we traversed across the west side of the mountain! With no snow to make things slippery, or to hide the famous bullseyes which mark the trail, we made good progress toward the "Homestretch" climb. And we hardly noticed that the day was warming nicely, and the winds were indeed abating.
Two hours from the Keyhole, we stepped out onto the huge summit plateau. To my amazement (this was July, after all!), we were sharing the summit with only three other people! Also, the sun had finally come out and warmed everything to the extent that we could finally shed some clothing and enjoy our time on the summit. We spent about half an hour taking pictures, enjoying some lunch, swapping stories, and otherwise relishing our summit. Since it was Bastille Day, I made a sign with the date colored as a French flag (see Trisha's pictures--of which she took a lot more than I did)!
On the way down, we got both rained and graupelled on, in short bursts. It was enough to make us very careful on the last leg approaching the Keyhole, and enough to make me abandon the idea of climbing Mt. Lady Washington (the NE buttress peak of Longs). Instead, after the blustery weather finally was over for good, I left the trail at Granite Pass and did a quick climb of unranked Battle Mtn. I dropped off the south side, found the disused trail through Jim's Grove, and managed to arrive at the junction with the main trail just as Trisha got there!
There, we (finally!) stripped down to light summer hiking garb and made good time on the last 2.5 miles back to the parking lot. All in all, a very strange, but very satisfying day.
My photos are at:
RT: approx. 15 miles
Vert.: approx. 5,000 ft.
7 hrs. up, 30 min. on the summit, 6 hrs. down.
Long life and many peaks!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Cow Mtn. (11,143 ft.)
UN 10,543

7 July, 2010: This was another trip up Gold Camp Road, to the part of Teller County which is on the Pikes Peak quad. I took GCR nearly to Victor and turned north on an (apparently) unnamed road at approximately 38.7446°N, -105.0755°W. I followed it for roughly a third of a mile. (The map shows this road continuing all the way around in a loop by Bison Reservoir, and back to the main road, but I found it coming to an end not far beyond where I parked at a convenient pull-out.)
Heading off at 4:44 MST, I followed the road, and then a rough trail (horse?) which continued on to the north to the saddle between the two peaks. A short (quarter mile) jaunt with just over 300 feet of elevation gain (If I'm not mistaken, this is the saddle which defines this peak's prominence, and leads to its being ranked!) led to the tree-shrouded summit. The high point is in a cluster of microwave-sized rocks located very close to the literature values for the summit location. I got there at 5:10.
Back at the saddle, I headed--basically blindly--north and west, up and into the trees. At this elevation, there are still a lot of aspens. The forest is not dense enough to impede progress much, nor is there any big problem with downed timber. However, the trees plus the gentle convolutions of the mountainside do make it impossible to see very far ahead. Just as importantly, the sky had gone totally overcast, eliminating sun navigation. As I climbed higher, I was actually hitting the underside of the cloud deck, and hiking through wisps of fog. Thus, I was navigating by compass, and just kept going up. This took me over one false summit, where I gave up a small bit of elevation. When I encountered another segment of the elusive, deteriorating 4WD road, I stopped to check my position by GPS one more time. Continuing up and west again, I soon encountered the steepest climbing of the day: The east side of the summit is guarded by a talus slope that goes on for a couple of hundred vertical feet.
I finally found what had to be the summit at 6:22, where GPS confirmed that I was indeed in the right place. It's a good thing that I had this modern device, though, since I couldn't see anything more than a few dozen feet away.
Hoping that the coulds would lift, I dropped off the north side until I once again encountered the old road. I still had hopes of crossing the drainage to the northwest (the outflow from Bison Reservoir) and adding Trachyte Knob to my day. After all, It was still very early in the day, and I had thought that afternoon thunderstorms would be my worst meteorological enemy. But no! The persistent clould cover and fog--which showed no sign of burning off--still made it impossible to see where I was going. I could see myself pushing on to the third summit (You can always get there by just going up until there isn't any more up!), and then getting hopelessly disoriented on the way down and being unable to find my way back to the slopes of Cow Mtn.
Thus, I called two rarely climbed, ranked peaks good for the day. Despite the fog, I managed to come right back to the point where the road crosses the Cow/10543 saddle, and quickly made it back to the car. Only two peaks left on the Pikes Peak quad! (Due to the fog, no photos on this one either.)
RT: 4.3miles, 3 hrs. Vertical: approx. 1,700 ft.
Long life and many peaks!