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!

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