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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mt. Arkansas - north ridge

Date:   August 10 2013
Mission:  Summit Mt. Arkansas (elevation 13,795 ft.) 

Who:  My wife Siona and myself
Lesson re-learned:   You don't need to gain a summit to have a fun day in the mountains.

After having a successful summit of Longs Peak in late July, I spent at least a week hobbling around in pain from my lingering ankle injury.  Right about the time I was able to walk somewhat normally again, a rare kid free weekend opportunity opened up.  My wife and I decided to take the two huskies up Mt. Arkansas.  We choose the 13er to avoid the normal crowds seen on 14ers on the weekends.  We were rewarded with a mountain to ourselves. 

The hike up Mt. Arkansas is listed on sounds easy on paper.  It's barely over 5 miles and less than 3000 ft. in elevation gain.  Don't let this fool you.  Maybe it was due to my still not 100% ankle, but I found this mountain to be difficult and here's why. 

This was taken on our way down, but we went through these willows twice.  See my wife and dogs in this pic?

The route up this mountain has no trail, it's a bushwhack through the willows and the trees until you reach the tundra.  From there it's a steep climb to the ridge which is where the real fun begins.  The ridge is some legit talus hoping fun followed by some short class 3 sections which can be bypassed. 

Myself and the dogs headed over to the steep climb up the to the ridge.

It may not be totally apparent from the pictures, but the area in between the trees and the talus on the ridge is very uneven ground filled with pika holes, marmot mansions, and wild flowers.  Very beautiful area, but not exactly great terrain for someone nursing an ankle injury.

Views of the Mosquito range.

Talus covers this entire ridge.

Our oldest husky Altai is losing his eyesight and he was having issues navigating the talus.  Siona told me she would wait with the dogs while I went to the summit.  I decided that I would just turn back with her.  I would never feel comfortable leaving my wife alone on a mountain.  I know she could navigate her way out, but it's more about the fact that I wanted to just spend time with her, and not necessarily chase a summit of some mountain.

Views of the Climax mine from where Siona and I turned around.

Side-hilling is not fun with an injured ankle.

My amazing wife and my two huskies enjoying the hike through a field of wildflowers.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Longs Peak - a truly special day in the mountains

Date:   July 29, 2013
Mission:  To do what my orthopedic surgeon told me not to do and climb Longs Peak (elevation 14,255')
Who:  Myself, a member of named Greg, and my friend Joel
Length:  15 miles
Elevation gain: 5100 ft.

"Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did" ~ Newt Gingrich

I've always been an independent person.  I take anything that someone says I can't do as a personal challenge.  This is probably not great to do when it's your doctor, but I just can't help myself.  I have rebellious Wilbur blood.  I thank both my Mom's stubbornness and my Dad's competitiveness for this. 

During the last week of June, during a checkup on the recovery progress of my broken and dislocated ankle, the conversation went like so.

Doc:  "The x-rays show that the fibula is healing nicely.  The ligaments however can take up to a year to fully heal.  This was a very serious  injury and your ankle experienced a great deal of trauma particularly to the ligaments and soft tissue."
Me:  "That's great news.  I do still have quite a bit of pain and discomfort on the Deltoid ligament and particularly after hikes.  Is it ok for me to progress to more strenuous hikes?  I don't want to cause any damage."
Doc:  "Unfortunately pain, soreness and discomfort will be the norm for you for potentially six to nine more months.  The soft tissue damage with your injury was severe.  Strenuous hikes should be fine, but listen to your body.  Understand that strenuous is ok, but don't go hiking Longs Peak or anything just yet."

Me:  "Ok"   (Challenge accepted!)

Alpenglow as seen from the ledges behind the Keyhole on Longs Peak at sunrise.

The forecast was not playing nicely with my desire to avoid the normal Longs Peak crowds by taking a day off to hike this mountain on a Monday.  70% chance of thunderstorms after 12pm.  Most hikers know to get well below the tree line before t-storms start; Longs Peak offers other challenges too.  Pretty much the entire route past The Keyhole is not a place to be when it's raining.  Wet or icy rock could make parts of this class 3 climb just treacherous.

As usual, I decided that an earlier than normal start should allow us a chance to summit.  I stayed up very late Saturday night, well into Sunday morning to try to adjust my sleep schedule accordingly for a Monday 1am start time.  This didn't really help.  I slept from 7:45am Sunday till about 10am.  I got up and ate, and went back to bed around 11:30am sleeping off and on until 4pm.  This was not the great restful sleep I was looking for before such a grueling climb. 

Nine days prior I had just done the climb up Mt. Bierstadt, traversing The Sawtooth over to Mt. Evans.  This climb was supposed to be far easier than Longs Peak.  For me though, I had to catch a ride down from Mt. Evans due to ankle pain combined with brutal blisters from new boots.  Let's just say having to catch a ride down had my confidence in my ability to complete the climb up Longs Peak a bit low.

But the nocturnal side of me loves early starts.  The nighttime hikes allow for me to mentally push myself more for some reason.  It's almost as if I am racing the sunrise.  There's my Dad's competitiveness again. 

Plus, I had to at least get to the Boulder Field on Longs Peak at 12,600' because my friend Joel had camped there Sunday night.  I would be damned if I left a friend hanging like that. 

So Greg and I met at the trailhead and were on the trail by 1am Monday morning.

The Climb to The Keyhole

The hike up through the forest passed quickly.  I stopped only once before reaching the tree line to stretch my ankle and pop a couple Advil.  Greg kept up a good pace, which was surprising for a guy coming from sea level, but he hikes a lot back in New Hampshire so I guess this wasn't too surprising.

We shared a lot of mountaineering stories on our ascent and before we know it it's 3:45am and I am talking to Joel who clearly hadn't slept much at all the night before while camping in the Boulder Field.  Joel was not feeling well and he decided not to join Greg and I for the rest of the climb.  We think he was experiencing some ill effects of the altitude having camped at 12,600' the night before.  I verified that Joel would be ok, and even offered to descend with him.  Joel refused my offer and told me to continue on.

The stone shelter.  Pic taken on descent.
Greg and I picked our way across the Boulder Field deliberately.  This is also where my ankle really started letting me know it was not happy.  The uneven terrain was a challenge for the sore ligaments, but I just pushed on anyway.  I have hiked enough now with this ankle injury to know the pain that just sucks vs. the pain that means something worse.  This was just annoying pain.

We reached The Keyhole at 4:30am.  There was no light in the sky yet, so we sat down in the stone shelter that was constructed nearly a century ago and after exchanging some conversation with two girls that were already in the shelter, the four of us took a 45 minute nap or so waiting for the sun to come up.  The route beyond The Keyhole is not something I would really love to navigate in the dark. 

Around 5:15am some light hit the sky, and although the sun was still not up, we began down the back side of Longs Peak. 

The route beyond The Keyhole is like climbing a totally different mountain.  To this point, the route is mainly just an arduous hike with some talus hopping in the Boulder Field.  Past The Keyhole, the exposure is present and the class 3 climbing is abundant.

On The Ledges looking back towards The Keyhole.

Staying on route here is easy with the bulls eyes marking the route for you, but paying attention is important.  Being slightly off route here can make a class 3 climb on smooth rock turn into class 4 quickly.  Before long we are in The Trough, which is a steep gully of class 3 rock and loose dirt.  The elevation gain from the bottom to the top of The Trough is 600 ft., but it feels like the crux of the whole route if you ask me.  It was relentless.

Views looking North from within The Trough.

Looking up The Trough.  You can see Greg, just to the left of a yellow and red route marker.

After reaching the top of The Trough, I knew I was going to make the summit.  Part of me was in disbelief.  My ankle, while in pain, was still functioning thanks to Advil and keeping moving.  Stopping makes everything tighten up.  We had only stopped for a significant amount of time to take a 45 minute nap.  Other than that we were moving slowly but surely the whole time.

At the top of The Trough, those with a fear of heights get a dose of reality facing The Narrows.  It's easier to cross than it looks, but it's definitely not a place to be in inclement weather. 

Greg looking down the cliff side along The Narrows.

Estes Park hidden by a thick fog.

After the narrows, the last obstacle is The Homestretch.  The rock here is smooth and is even wet in places.  Care should be taken with each step and hand hold because a fall here would certainly turn the "suck" meter on your life past 10 and all the way to 11.  For those that have never seen Spinal Tap, just translate this as "Don't Fall.".

Greg climbing up The Homestretch.

Another view of the route up The Homestretch.

The fun climbing up The Homestretch ends abruptly and we are standing on the summit of the northern most 14er in Colorado.  The 15th highest peak in the state, and a mountain I can see from the front porch of my house.

Tears fill my eyes as I walk across the large summit to tag the summit boulder.  I can only partially believe I made it.  Disbelief is not a feeling many people who've climbed thirty-seven 14ers experience, but disbelief is almost all I felt.  Well, that and a deep feeling of pride.  In one moment, months of physical therapy, hard work, setbacks, and mental anguish all disappear and just a smile returns to my face.  A genuine smile.

Me on the summit of Longs Peak!

We eat some food, and even though it's only 7:30am, we only lounge on the summit for 15 minutes or so, knowing we are racing afternoon thunderstorms on our descent.

And the race is on.

Down The Homestretch, across The Narrows, down The Trough, back across the Ledges and up (yuck) about 100 ft. again to The Keyhole.  Now it's 9:45am, and clearly weather is already building to the west. 

Quick break at The Keyhole on descent. 

The Keyhole from the Boulder Field.

It is about here that I begin noticing just how many unprepared people climb Longs Peak each day.  This was a Monday, and a Monday with a shitty weather forecast.  I did not expect to see so many people still on their way up when we were already back at The Keyhole. 

Not to rant, but we saw some unexplainable stupidity.  We saw people with only shorts, and tee shirts with no backpack carrying a single water bottle.  We saw one lady with no backpack, in sandals carrying a purse.  She was near the Boulder Field already!  We saw countless people with maybe only 1 or 2 of the ten essentials and carrying just a hydration pack.  On our descent, we passed at least 25 people still heading up the mountain, into a brewing thunderstorm.

The brewing storm over Twin Sisters.
This logic is unexplainable to me.

It's amazing to me that more people do not die on this mountain every year.  Be smart out there people.

Anyways, we were hauling ass down this mountain to try and avoid being above the tree line before the thunderstorms opened up.  We were moving as fast as fatigue and my ailing ankle would let us.

As soon as we got to the tree line the rain began.  It was a steady rain, with a little distant thunder, but mostly just a steady rain.  It rained for the rest of the descent through the forest back to the trail head.  It was a muddy sloppy trail the rest of the way.  With the rain came some now constant ankle pain, gnawing hunger, and fatigue.   But from suffering comes great things. 

For years, every time I stepped foot on my front porch, I saw Longs Peak.  Now, I really see it, and I like to think that it sees me too.

A sunset behind Longs Peak as seen from my front porch in 2006.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Crowds suck - a summer weekend on Bierstadt, Sawtooth, and Evans.

Date:   July 20, 2013
Mission:  Summit Mt. Bierstadt (elevation 14,060') then traverse the Sawtooth to Mt. Evans (elevation 14,264')
Who:  Myself and my friend Raj
Length:  9 miles
Elevation gain: 3900 ft.

A baby mountain goat on Mt. Evans.

Raj and I met at the Guanella Pass trailhead at 4am.  We were not really surprised to find at least a couple dozen cars already in the parking lot.

We made decent time up to the summit of Bierstadt, particularly considering this was the first 14er that Raj has hiked in several years.  The views on the way up as the sun began to rise are always worth the early start.

Raj making his way up to 13,300 or so on Mt. Bierstadt.

After a quick and fun class 2 scramble, we are on the summit.  

My third summit of Bierstadt, and maybe my last.
On the summit, I picked up at least 6 pieces of litter.  A granola bar wrapper, a banana peel, a hair tie, etc.  People that do not adhere to the Leave No Trace principles really piss me off.  To add to my annoyance, there is someone blasting music from their phone at the top of the summit.  I love music just as much as the next guy, but you will never see me blasting tunes from anywhere in nature.  It just seems to kill the silence and peace that so many, including me, strive for when being in nature.

Raj decided to skip doing the Sawtooth and was just going to descend Bierstadt.  I continued onto the Sawtooth by myself at about 7:30am  trying to escape the growing posse of tourists and ill-prepared city folk that hike Bierstadt each Saturday. 

A look at the Sawtooth ridge from Mt. Bierstadt.

The route across the Sawtooth is basically a difficult class 2 scramble with a couple of short class 3 sections.  The route can be made more fun, or difficult depending on how you look at it, by staying closer to the ridge line.  I followed the route that drops a bit lower on the east side for the most part, but definitely had some class 3 fun along the way. 

On the way up Bierstadt I had started to notice that I was possibly getting a couple of blisters.  This is fully what I deserved for taking a brand new pair of boots on a 10 mile hike without breaking them in.  Now, halfway across the Sawtooth, I am not just noticing these blisters, they hurt, and a lot.  Add to that the fact that my recovering ankle is bothering me and my pace slowed significantly.  I was still having fun though, chatting with the occasional person I would meet and just soaking in the nice weather. 

If you zoom in on this photo, you can see a crowd forming at the summit of Bierstadt.

The worst of the exposure on the Sawtooth, it's really nothing crazy when dry.  I could probably rollerblade down this ledge.

Looking back at Bierstadt from the ledge pictured above.

After making it across the Sawtooth, my blisters were bad, and my ankle was worse.  This was not a good sign either since this was supposed to be a warm-up hike for the next weekend when I had committed to doing Longs Peak with a member of  Either way I knew I had a good buddy that would come get me from the summit of Mt. Evans, so I wouldn't have to descend.  So I called my friend Joel from somewhere on the west ridge of Mt. Evans and he kindly agreed to meet me on the summit and drive me back to Guanella Pass to get my car.   For those that do not know, you can drive to about 13,900 on Mt. Evans on most days in the summer. 

Bierstadt and the Sawtooth from Mt. Evans.

As I reached the summit parking lot of Mt. Evans I realized my plan to have Joel meet me up there had a major problem.  The road was closed for a bicycle race.  I tried to call my friend Joel to cancel my friend-taxi but of course in typical Verizon style, I had no cell signal now.  Go figure.  I had a signal at 13,700' or so, but not at 14,100'.  Anyway I talk to some race officials and discover that the road will open at 2pm.  It is only 11:45am.  I decide to just start walking down the long road in hopes of hitchhiking down with one of the race vehicles, a ranger, etc. 

I walked for almost a mile and a half as many bicycles sped by me at probably close to 50mph.  I finally managed to get a van to stop.  This van was full of bicyclists who did not want to ride their bikes down the mountain.  The driver told me I could sit on the floor in between the van door and the seat or the wheel well.  I opted for a small piece of floor space.  Some kind Russian guy in the seat next to me offered me some water and I quickly accepted since I had run out of water about an hour prior on the west ridge of Mt. Evans. 

My ride down the mountain was a blessing, but to be met at the road closure by a friend who was patiently still waiting was even better.  Joel drove me back to my car and I retrieved my car from a Guanella Pass trailhead that was now 100% full.  In fact the road going up from Georgetown had cars parked on both side for at least 2 miles.  Insane crowds.  Bierstadt is not for the person seeking isolation, solitude, or any semblance of a nature experience.  It's really sort of sad that crowds litter and destroy such places.

Anyhow the day was a sad one from many perspectives like the litter, the crowds, the blisters, and the ankle.  Looking on the bright side though, it was a great day from other perspectives, like hiking with a friend Raj, having friends good enough that will drive 3 hours round trip to pick you up on a summit, kindness from random strangers in giving me a ride down Mt. Evans and some water too. 

Life is really how you choose to see it sometimes.  On this day, I chose to see both, but I'll remember the good stuff and the negative stuff fades quickly from my memories.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Antero - 10 years of learning

Date:   July 13, 2013
Mission:  Mt. Antero (elevation 14,269 ft.)
Who:  Siona (my wife), Liam (my son), and I
Length:  7.25 miles
Elevation gain: 2500 ft.

About 10 years ago, I made an attempt on Mt. Antero.  This was back when I was in my mid-twenties.  At that time I knew very little about climbing 14ers and in fact I was a totally different person.  I had only climbed Mt. Yale once at that point and Mt. Antero was my second 14er attempt ever.  To summarize my attempt in 2003, I started at the 2WD trailhead.  I made it to maybe 13,600' before turning around due to looming afternoon t-storms and pending darkness, since I didn't even make it to 13,600' until 5pm or so.  I was a total newbie and learned a lot of lessons that day in 2003. 
  • Buy a headlamp.  It's a fixture in my pack now.  It's a must have on all 14ers regardless of whether you think you'll need it.
  • Buy water wicking clothing.  Don't hike a 14er in sneakers, jeans, and a cotton t-shirt.  Just trust me on this, but if you don't believe me read about the dangers of cotton.  Just Bing or Google "cotton kills".
  • Quit smoking.  I was a smoker in 2003 and it certainly was a factor in slowing me down back then.  Over 5 years ago I quit.
  • Start early.  Early, at least for a 15 mile hike for a guy my pace, is not 7:30am.  7:30am is LATE.  Example:  I am hiking a different 16 mile hike this coming weekend, and I am starting no later than 2am in attempt to beat the afternoon t-storms.
  • Get in shape.  Being in shape is not a requirement for climbing a 14er, but it will definitely make it more enjoyable.  At age 28 in 2003, I was "in shape", but not aerobically.  I sucked wind all the time.  I'm in better aerobic shape at age 38 than I have been my whole life. 

This 4x4 road is pretty easy.
Anyway, let's take the time machine back to July 2013.

Siona, Liam and I decided to get up early and make the 3 hour drive out to Mt. Antero on Saturday.  We woke at 2:45am.  It amazed me how easily my 11 year old son woke and jumped eagerly into the Jeep at that hour. 

We were on the Mt. Antero 4-wheel drive road at 6am and made our way to the tree line.  We could've easily taken the Jeep to the end of the road at about 13,800', but we all wanted to hike most of it.

So we parked just above the tree line at about 12,000' and began our walk up the 4x4 road. 

A word of advice, if you have to start at the 2WD trailhead, start really early.  The hike is not hard, but it is long. 

Before 13,800, the hike up is mostly gradual and on a 4x4 road, except for this short section that cuts one switchback.

After an enjoyable hike up the road, we are at 13,800 and ready for some talus hoping fun across a ridgeline to make it to the summit at 14,269'. 

At 13,800, Liam with a smile and Siona enjoying the views.

The short ridge to the summit.

The talus was both fun and a bit scary for my 11 year old, since this is only his 3rd 14er and the others all had trails to the top.  After a bit though, he is having a blast.  Before you know it we are on the summit and enjoying the beautiful morning.

I always love these moments.

Celebrating the summit with a nap.

Liam holding the crystal he found right on the 4x4 road.

We hung out on the summit and did the normal summit things.  Take pictures of others summiting, eat, smile, smile some more, and then it was off to beat the already building clouds. 

For those that do not know, Mt. Antero is one of the few mountains you can still find gem quality Tourmaline.  I mentioned this to my son on the drive up, and he apparently had his eyes peeled all day. On the way down he found a crystal/gem.  We're not really sure what it is, but it made his day for sure.

Can you see the Jeep in this picture?

We took our time on the way down after the weather that looked like it was moving in passed.  We enjoyed the wild flowers, the views and chatted with a bunch of other hikers.  

We made it back to the Jeep, and had an uneventful drive down the 4x4 road.

About two minutes after getting off the 4x4 road and on to the dirt road, Liam was sound asleep for most of the ride back to the Boulder area, a sure sign of a good time had.

I spent the drive home reflecting on not only how I was on this mountain 10 years ago, but how as a person I have changed so much since.  I even learned lessons this time too, but these may just be lessoned learned in the last ten years.

  • Take nothing for granted.  I cherish every smile I see from my wife, every hug from my daughter, and every high-five with my son.
  • Take time to kiss a dog.  Someone on the summit of Antero brought a husky to the top.  This dog gave me kisses for about 2 minutes straight. 
  • A bad day in the mountains beats any day not in the mountains.  I am not the first to say something like this.  Whomever said it first, cheers to you.  You understood it 100%.
  • Religion is bull shit.  However, love and random acts of kindness are not bull shit and have direct impacts on those around you.  Try it, I dare you.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Crestone Peak - Nemesis mountain?

Date:   July 4th & 5h, 2013
Mission:  Crestone Peak (elevation 14,294 ft.)
Who:  Siona (my wife) and I
Length:  10 miles
Elevation gain: 3000 ft.

Hiking up to the lakes with the 35lb pack.
The normal trip up Crestone Peak is 13 miles and 5700 ft. of elevation gain.  At the top of Broken Hand Pass at around 12,900', we decided to cut our trip short due to some issues with my ankle.  This trip was just a reminder that it's about the adventure, not the summit.

Day 1 

We arrived at the 4x4 trailhead at 1pm or so on July 4th and was pleasantly surprised to find a not too crowded parking area.  We slowly made our way to the South Colony Lakes. 

Carrying a 35 lb. pack was a bit harder on my recovering ankle than I thought it would be.  By the time we reached our campsite, I was already questioning whether my ankle would be okay for the following day when we were to attempt to summit Crestone Peak.

My beautiful wife!

After setting up camp, we walked down to the creek and I took my boot off and stuck my right foot in the creek as a good substitute for ice.  The water is still very cold and was just what the doctor ordered for my ankle.

After icing the ankle in the creek, my wife and I just hung out, stared at the trees, listened to the birds, sat in the shade of a tree, and just enjoyed each other's company. 

We ate our camp dinner of homemade cold pizza made the night before.  For the record, as a former chef, my pizza rocks and it tastes even more awesome when you are 10+ miles from the nearest town. 

We went to sleep before the sun even set.  By the time darkness hit, a light rain started and I fell sound asleep for about an hour and a half.  After that, we were both just in and out of sleep for the rest of the night.



Day 2

Sunrise over Humboldt Peak's east ridge.
We were already lying awake when the alarm went off at 3:30am.  We packed up our gear while discussing the fact that both of us had nearly no sleep.  We then had a quick bite to eat and were on our way by 4:15am or so.

The hike from our camp at 11,650' was still going to be a long day.  We were going to ascend Broken Hand Pass at 12,900'.  Then the next goal was to descend to Cottonwood Lake at 12,300' before hiking up Crestone Peak's red gully to 14,294'.   So our early start was necessary to ensure we were down to camp and out of the thunder storm risk area before the afternoon came around.

In the dark, following the trail up to Broken Hand Pass, I missed a switchback and we had to scramble over some loose steep rock before traversing some more talus and eventually regaining the trail.  This killed a little bit of time for us, but we were still greeted with a stunning Sangre De Cristo sunrise.

My wife and I made our way slowly up the steep scree & snow mixture.  About three quarters of the way up Broken Hand Pass there is a short but legitimate class 3 climbing section.  On this day, this section was made a bit more complicated with lingering snow & ice.  We both broke out our microspikes for some additional traction.

My wife making her way up the tricky section on Broken Hand Pass.

As we arrived on the top of the pass at 12,900' my ankle was already very sore.  I was discussing turning around with Siona when my wife let me know that she was also having some issues with numbness in her hands and feet, which is a phenomenon that happens to her occasionally at altitude ever since she was diagnosed with Lupus.

My wife is a my hero.  She has pushed through so much pain on hikes like this, just because she loves doing this stuff.  For those that do not know, my wife lives with pain from both Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis.  She has probably experienced more pain than I will ever know from my broken ankle and some bad knees.  She is one tough and stubborn Irish girl that refuses to let anything stop her.  

That being said, I can usually tell when she is pushing herself too much, and this was one of those moments.  Add in some clouds that looked to be building already at 7:00am, and a growing presence of smoke from a forest fire about 50 miles away and we were sold that turning around here was the right choice.  

We snapped some shots from the top of Broken Hand Pass before heading down.

I love the Crestones, but today was not my day.

My wife at the top of Broken Hand Pass

The down climb of that same tricky section was fun but a little sketchy.  I slipped once on the snow and my left knee hit a rock causing some significant pain that would last for the rest of the hike back to the Jeep.

Down climbing the class 3 section with snow and ice.

We took our time on our hike down and enjoyed the views of the lakes, wildflowers, and the warming sun.  We joked about how nearby Humboldt Peak probably had something to do with me turning around since I have attempted Humboldt Peak three times, all in winter, and have had to turn around three times.

Humboldt attempt # 1

Humboldt attempt # 2

Humboldt attempt # 3

We also realized that this was the first mountain my wife has turned around on.  Mountaineers joke about mountains that they've been turned back on as their nemesis mountain.  Humboldt Peak is clearly my nemesis mountain.  Crestone Peak is now Siona's nemesis mountain.  She can't wait to go back, and neither can I.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Uncompahgre Peak is paradise

Date:   June 29, 2013
Mission:  Summit Uncompahgre Peak - the first 14er summit since breaking my ankle on 2/22/2013
Who: Solo
Length:  7 miles
Elevation gain: 3000 ft.

The Uncompahgre National Forest has a natural beauty that rejuvinates my soul every time I visit.  Wildlife, the aroma of the thick pine forest, countless wildflowers, numerous butterflies, beautiful waterfalls, sun glistening creeks, unparalleled mountain views, and add in an alpine sunrise and this place is just heaven.

Uncompahgre Peak in the early morning light.

I skipped out of work midday on Friday to make the 6+ hour drive down to Lake City.  After stopping in town for some decent cajun BBQ, I made my way to the Nellie Creek 4x4 road that leads to the trailhead.  This 4x4 road might be a bit rough on stock SUVs, but the Jeep handled it without a problem.  If you watch on the drive up, you can catch a good view of a waterfall to your left.

Waterfall along the Nellie Creek 4x4 road.

I picked out a nice campsite, even though I had not even packed a tent for this adventure.  I was just sleeping in the Jeep. 

This hike is just so beautiful that words themselves cannot convey the beauty.  My pictures do not even do it justice, but pictures are probably better than words.


Alpine Sunrise!

Alpine sunrises are a great reason to wake up at 4am.

Just before the sun peaked above the ridge.



The yellow bellied marmot.  These guys will steal your gear, and likely eat it, if you leave it alone for too long.
Deer won't eat your trekking poles, therefore I like them better than marmots.

Mountain views!

The San Juan mountain range is just breathtaking.

Clouds & sun make for interesting lighting.

Views looking NW near 13,700'.

View from the summit looking west.
Looking over the cliff near the summit facing NE I believe.

The hike up Uncompahgre Peak was relatively uneventful.  My ankle was hurting a bit off and on. It was very tender and sore when I finished, but this is a normal part of the recovery process for torn ligaments.  I did meet a cool guy Ben around 13,400', and we shared some good conversation on the summit.  We have plans of tackling the Maroon Bells together in August which would be the exclaimation point at the end of the statement that says my ankle is recovered.

I'll leave you with what I consider to be one of the coolest summit photos ever.  Thanks Ben for the great summit photo!

When people ask why I climb mountains while recovering from a broken ankle.  This picture is the answer.

Bring on the Bells!