Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Riding in Durango!

Fall has officially arrived according to the calendar but so far we've had a mix of wintry conditions last week in Denver followed by an "Indian Summer" in Durango.  Karen and I met in Durango for the 3rd year to ride the Durango Fall Blaze.  The previous 2 years were moderately lousy conditions - cold, rain, wind in the AM followed by sunny conditions after the ride.  Not this year...except for cold AM's the weather was warm, sunny, no clouds and perfect!

We both drove up to Durango Friday late afternoon and had a great dinner at Carver's Brew Pub & Restaurant - highly recommend this place!  Saturday AM came WWWWAAAAYYYY too early - checked the temps...39 degrees!  Brrr...wearing spandex arms/legs we cycled over to Fort Lewis College for coffee/danish and a cannon start at 8 AM.  This seems to be an "older" ride as the average age of the riders is 50's or so, but overall an active crowd.  The 37 mile ride was the right distance as neither of us had trained especially hard.  We finished around 11:30 AM and grabbed our provided lunch of huge potatoes with the fixin's, free Steamwork brew, and enjoyed the music/sun.  Saturday afternoon was Oktoberfest in downtown and a great dinner at Steamworks.

Sunday AM I had to leave early to catch a 7:30 PM flight for a work assignment in Fort Worth, TX but we did manage to sneak in the best breakfast in town at Carver's (again!) - awesome pancakes.  Teaching this climb October 10-11 on Mt. Meeker!  Climb On!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Mouse that Gorged...

With apologies to a certain 1959 movie - my climbing partner, Alan Arnette, and I tackled Blanca Peak (14, 435') and Ellingwood Point (14,042') in the Sangre de Cristo's this past weekend.  These 2 mountains are rated a Difficult Class 2 and I would term them more of a walk up with a lot of talus/scree navigation and perhaps one or two fun rock moves at the top.

The plan was for me to meet Alan Friday evening at Crater Lake at the end of Lake Como Road.  I use the term "road" loosely as the first 4.5 miles are certainly passable for most stock 4x4 vehicles but afterward one requires a "rock crawler" or ATV/dirt bike to get to the end of the road via mechanized means.  My trusty ole Honda CRV made it 1.75 miles to the car/light truck parking lot requiring a hike in of 4-5 miles and 3700' of hiking to camp.  I arrived into camp after an intense hail/rain/thunderstorm had hit Crater Lake and promptly set up my tent, devoured my dinner of noodles/tuna and turned in for a somewhat restful night.  Our plan was to be on trail by 8 AM Saturday for the dual 14er day...

I awoke at 7 AM to get my gear in order and have some oatmeal/coffee beforehand only to discover that the rattling noise I heard overnight was a field mouse or chipmunk eating 1/2 of my food supplies - gone were my trail mix, almonds, 14-16 organic chocolate cookies, 1 oatmeal bag, 3 Lara bars and mouse "deposits" in my bag pack AND coffee cup!  The food - okay, I can deal with that - but to sh*t in one's coffee cup - that's low...  We quickly got ready for the day and headed up the trail at 8:15 AM.  The morning was brisk and conditions slick with frost on the rocks and hail/groppel on the trail from the events 1 day earlier.  We made the summit of Ellingwood Point in 3 hours following the trail blazed by folks earlier and then started our traverse to Blanca Peak.  Blanca is the 4th highest peak in Colorado and the highest southern peak in the continental U.S. - one has to go to the Mexican volcanoes for higher summits.  Overall the traverse was easy although we were lower than we wanted to be and the ridge line not as imposing as we thought from our vantage point on Ellingwood.  There were one or two rock moves towards the top that made me think a bit due to the snow but overall it was great!  We spent 30 minutes on summit enjoying the views of Lindsey, Little Bear, Iron Nipple, and Ellingwood - beautiful!  See Alan's trip report: for details and a movie!

We worked our way back down the mountain, spent one more night at the Crater Lake camp, hiked down to Alan's Jeep Sunday AM and drove home.  Overall, this was a great trip and makes #39 out of 54 14,000' peaks in Colorado climbed.  I would like to get one more before the season closes but it's all dependent upon time and weather...would you believe it snowed in Denver today...Climb On!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Labor (Day) of Hiking

Ah a long weekend compliments of the Labor Day holiday.  Karen was visiting from Albuquerque, NM for 4.5 days and we took advantage of the many happenings going on in Denver - dinner with friends, a tattoo convention, a hike to Chapin-Chiquita-Ypsilon with great friends Patrick and Shannon Vall.

The plan was to meet in Estes Park at 7 AM Sunday and head up to Fall River Road - the original dirt road in RMNP to the top of the continental divide.  I had never been on this road before and it was quite beautiful early in the AM - not so much later in the day when the hordes of traffic slowly worked it's way up higher.  Regardless, we were on trail by 8:30 AM for a nice day of Class 1 hiking to 3 summits.  As it turned out, Patrick was fighting a bit of the bug and stop at the top of Chapin.  After some food/water, Karen and I continued to Chiquita (banana) and summited our second peak for the day.  We met a RMNP ranger/Search & Rescue ranger on top who politely asked us how far we were planning to go.  We said due to questionable weather in the area this was it - he concurred and wish us well.  We had a nice lunch on summit (photo) and then worked our way back down the mountain in periodic rain and 1 thunder-boom.  Patrick and Shannon were resting at the car...from there back to Estes Park through the elk jams.

Afterwards, Karen and I grabbed pizza and brew at Oskar Blues and enjoyed hanging on the porch until time to travel home.  All in all a great weekend!  Next weekend - Challenger/Kit Carson!!!  Climb On!