Monday, April 18, 2011

200 Ranked Peaks...and counting...

UN 9036

Tappan Mtn.(8,945 ft.)

Pt. 8857

UN 9083

18 April, 2011: I set out to finish off the Hackett Mtn. Quad. I had done the four ranked (and one unranked) peaks in the western extremity of Teller County, and needed the three sitting over the line in Park County. I couldn't quite meet this goal, but I made the best use possible of a partial day. To wit:

Foray 1: I pulled off Park Co. Rd.77—the Tarryall Road—onto FR 210 a few miles north of US 24. I found it gated basically right at the NF boundary, so I started from there. I had hoped to be able to drive considerably farther east, reducing my hiking time, but I knew I could still accomplish most of my day's objectives even having to hike from this point. East on the road (which even my Honda could easily have handled...), north on an unnamed 4WD track, and then ENE up the gentle ridge to the summit of UN 9036. It took just over an hour. I installed a register. Back down, almost to the car, in 49 min.

I headed north on FR 292 for Tappan Mtn. This pretty much deep-sixed my chances of finishing the Hackett Mtn. Quad, due to time, but, although Tappan is over the line on the adjacent Tarryall quad, I just couldn't pass it up, since adding it to this foray was a whole lot easier than making the same journey later. Besides, it would still give me three ranked peaks for the day, just not the three I had originally envisioned. It took me less than an hour to climb the south slopes (after leaving FR 292) and return to the car. Although Kevin's TR said there was a register, I could not locate it, despite the fact that my GPS confirmed the fact that I had found the true summit. Oh, well...

RT: 7.3 mi. Vert.: roughly 1,650 ft.

Foray 2: I headed back down CR 77 to CR 112. After crossing the creek (Tappan Gulch), the main road turns south to go to the Happy Meadows CG on the South Platte River. I instead headed north on FR 295, aiming to go as far as the road would let me. Once again, it wasn't really the road that stopped my wheeled progress, but a FS gate, just inside the NF boundary, where FR 296 heads off to the northeast. Based on previously published reports, this was not really a surprise, so I parked and proceeded north on the road on foot; at least, there would be no bushwhacking for a while. Noteworthy is the fact that a sign posted on the gate calls the closure “seasonal,” but the road beyond the gate had, obviously, long since dried out of the last snows; I can only conclude that the FS is arbitrarily expanding its authority yet again...

I left the road (not knowing how far it really went) at roughly 39.0286°N, and headed up the south ridge of Pt. 8857. I knew that climbing this unranked point was not really necessary to my ultimate objective, but I also knew that it would make route-finding relatively simple. What's more, the south-facing slopes offered quite a bit of relatively open terrain, not seriously encumbered by either rocks or timber; I felt it would be worth the extra vertical, not least because, in all probability, few have ever stood on top of this unranked high point.

After descending the steeper, rockier, and more wooded northern slopes, I finally tackled the south side of 9083. A cut for a power line helped with cleared timber, and I finally left it just short of the summit, which I reached an hour and thirteen minutes after setting off. With time now at a premium, I took a more direct route southward back to the saddle between 9083 and 8857, after which I did a gently descending traverse across the west slopes, avoiding most of the rocks, until I found the road (FR 295) just a bit north of where I had left it on the way up. I arrived back at the car just 50 minutes after leaving my third summit of the day.

And that summit was my 200th ranked peak—including a number in New Mexico. There are many climbers out there—a few of whom I know and have been happy to climb with—who have many more peaks to their credit, but this milestone still made me feel a certain sense of pride.

RT: 4.35 mi. Vert.: roughly 1,100 ft.

Long life and many peaks!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Santa Fe Quad

Atalaya Mtn. (9,121 ft.)

UN 8086

Sun Mtn. (7,952 ft.)

Talaya Hill (7,436 ft.)

As shuttling back and forth to Rio Rancho has become the background of my life, I decided that I should make every trip count. As it turns out, there are quite a few New Mexico and Colorado peaks which can be accessed with just a modest out-and-back off the trip I'm repeatedly making anyway.

The area around Santa Fe, near the southern end of the Sangre de Cristo range, sports a host of peaks. An accident of topography and cartography, however, puts just two ranked peaks and four unranked but named peaks on the USGS quad which includes most of the city, and bears its name. So, on the way down to Rio Rancho, I stopped off and grabbed one of those ranked peaks, and made the same little detour on the way back to climb the other one.

9 April, 2011: I took the Old Pecos Trail exit off the interstate to skirt the eastern edge of Santa Fe. Five miles further on, I arrived at the Atalaya Mountain trailhead, which is located on a city street, just after dawn. The streets finally give out, roughly at the National Forest boundary, and the actual trail takes off up a ridge, heading up to the range crest. The trail is surprisingly good, impossible to miss, and nicely signed where there are route finding choices to make. It leads to a saddle just south of the summit, where yet another sign clearly points the way. Having not seen a single other person, I arrived at the summit 56 minutes after setting off--just as the sun peeked over the hills to the east.

After installing a register, I made it back to the car in about 40 minutes, and was somewhat surprised to find that the parking lot--large enough for only 7 or 8 cars--was nearly full!

14 April, 2011: Taking the same detour on the way back, I pulled off Camino de Cruz Blanca a bit sooner, at the campus of St. John's College, into the parking lot which also accesses the Atalaya Mtn. trail. This access point appears to be a cooperative effort of the College, the city of Santa Fe's park & rec. department, and the Forest Service: How nice it would be if there were more similar collaborations in Colorado!

After following the trail down into the arroyo on the east side of the campus, I left it when it crossed the arroyo for the last time and took off to the east, and instead continued on southward to the water tank. Past this point, the road gradually becomes a trail, veering to the right (southwest) away from the bottom of the drainage. A couple of hundred yards brings one to the junction where a smaller, but clear, trail heads west to the saddle between UN 8086 and Sun Mtn.

From the saddle, I first climbed 8086 (since it's ranked!), then basically re-traced my steps down the north side and climbed the south face of Sun. 8086 was 90% a bushwhack, as the trail disappeared almost immediately. Sun, however, has bits of trail here and there all the way to the top, and although it is considerably rockier than 8086, it is not as steep and sports less visibility-impeding timber. Views from the summit are better, too. Neither peak has a register or cairn, but the high points are not hard to find.

I quickly descended, re-connecting with my ascent route at the saddle, and was back at the car in well under two hours.

Extra credit: After Sun, I drove a short distance north on Camino del Monte Sol and found the informal trailhead for unranked Talaya Hill. For a few extra minutes of driving and hiking, I got myself up to 4 out of 6 named peaks on this quad. Unexpectedly nice views from the summit of this one, too.

Long life and many peaks!

Friday, April 08, 2011

Mount Garfield (yet again)
7 April, 2011: Mount Garfield (10,940 ft.) is the second-highest ranked peak in El Paso County. (That's right: There's nothing in between 11,000 ft. and Pikes Peak at over 14,000!) Despite this a) there's almost nowhere down in Colorado Springs from which its summit can actually be seen, and b) its summit is very rarely visited.
Map junkie that I am, however, I actually climbed this peak somewhere back around 1976. I climbed it a second time in the spring of 2007. On neither of these forays did I find the summit register, which another climber's trip report said was there. So, facing banishment from Colorado, I decided that finding, and signing, that register was a "must do."
By bushwhacking my way up the southwest slopes from FS trail 667, I finally found the elusive register--although I walked right past it once before re-tracing my steps and noticing it. Upon opening the metal (not PVC!) canister, I found not one, but two CMC registers, the older one placed in 1979 and still far from full. It still gave the CMC's address as Denver instead of Golden, where they are now located! I have no way of knowing whether or not the 1979 register replaced an older one but, based on the infrequency of entries, it seems unlikely--which means that, when I first climbed this peak, no one had ever even placed a register, and I was actually one of the first handful of people to reach this summit. Now I've done it three times, an obscure link the chain of my completion of El Paso County peaks.
TH: the Gold Camp Road closure parking lot above Helen Hunt Falls
RT: 6+ miles, 6 hrs., 25 min.
Vert: about 3,500 ft.

Long life and many peaks!