Sunday, August 29, 2010

Finishing the 14ers...

Two weeks ago, my climbing partner, Alan Arnette, completed his goal climbing all 54 14,000 peaks in Colorado.  Alan was part of a 6-person group to the Chicago Basin located in southwest Colorado between Durango and Silverton.  The 3 ranked 14ers, Mt. Eolus, Windom Peak, and Sunlight Peak are some of the most remote 14,000 peaks in Colorado that require a ride on the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to shorten the hike into the basin.  For all, this was a trip we had talked about doing for years.

Our first full day in the basin brought abundant sunshine and Colorado blue skies - perfect conditions for climbing Mt. Eolus and it's neighbor North Eolus.  One of our team members, John Little, had befriended Alan several years ago and had dreamed of climbing his first Class 3 mountain.  I had not met John until this trip but had corresponded with him over the years.  Eolus and North Eolus proved to be both very beautiful and very interesting rocks to climb.  For Alan, this brought him closer to his end goal with 52 successful summits.

Our second day in the basin brought consistent low cloud cover, rain, drizzle, and groppel - not exactly perfect conditions for climbing Windom Peak and Sunlight Peak.  We delayed our start time from camp about 1-2 hours to determine whether climbing was in the cards.  Seeing a window, we set out for Windom Peak.  Windom Peak is the easiest of the two mountains we were to attempt that day and through drizzle, groppel and some wind we summited the mountain surrounded by pea soup...53 successful summits for Alan.  We then made a hasty retreat down the mountain to avoid freezing conditions.  Successfully off of Windom, Alan and I attempted Sunlight Peak in marginal conditions.  I got 200' from the top and Alan about 50' from the top before we made the call to turn around.  Wet rock, exposed terrain, and icy conditions dictated that Sunlight, an unforgiving mountain, was not to be that day...stuck at 53 successful summits.

Our third day in the basin brought an overnight abundance of rain and hail but a dawn of abundant sunshine and Colorado blue skies.  I had to hike out of the basin that morning to catch my train while Alan awoke at 4:30 AM to summit Sunlight Peak.  Although he soloed Sunlight Peak, thoughts of his mother (who passed away from complications of Alzheimer's1 year and 1 day on his completion of the 14ers), his climbing accomplishments, and his memories of all 54 summits hopefully kept him company.  A hearty congratulations in completing the goal of climbing all 54 14,000 peaks in Colorado - a task undertaken by many but accomplished by few.

As our team returned to our respective homes, all of us have had time to think about this trip and what it meant for each individual.  For Alan, a completion of a goal and the beginning of a new goal - to raise awareness of and $1 million for Alzheimer's Research with his Memories are Everything:  The 7 Summits for Alzheimer's.  The project begins Q4 2010 and will conclude in 2011/2012.  You can follow Alan's progress with this project on the link above.  Please consider donating to this cause by giving 1 penny for each vertical foot Alan climbs - it can be for all 7 summits or just 1 - $13 to $196 depending on the summit.

Climb On my friends!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Third times a charm...

Kit Carson Peak (14,165') has been an elusive 14er to climb for me.  In 2009...on 2 respective trips...Kit Carson Peak thwarted my best efforts to gain the summit.  The June 2009 attempt brought 6 hikers together with varied climbing skills.  The snows from winter 2008-09 were still on the mountain - areas that required crampons and an ice axe.  Half of our team only made neighboring Challenger Point (14,081') but an iced over ledge system called "The Avenue" stopped us.  The September 2009 attempt brought 5 hikers together again but hours and hours of rain, groppel and hail throughout the night only iced the rock up.  It was not meant to be...

Fast forward to early August 2010 and the snows are a distant memory - winter 2010 is only months away though...  Ben Kubczak and I were the only folks able to give Kit Carson/Challenger Point a go this past weekend.  The plan, as suggested by Ben, was to make this a day hike versus an overnight backpacking trip.  The 14 miles round trip and 6250' gain/loss would have been easier broken into two days, but the advantage of 1 day was the ability to travel light.  And heck, it would be a challenge - I'm always up for a challenge.

I drove to the Willow Lake trail head Friday night and slept in the 4Runner for the first time.  Another perk of this "new to me" vehicle, I can lay down easily enough complete with pad and sleeping bag - couldn't do that with the CRV.  Ben met me at the 4x4 turn-off at 3:30 AM Saturday and we were on trail by 4 AM.   Walking through he woods by headlamp with only a sliver of moon was great.  The air was still and the forest not quite awake.  Ben noted that someone had seen a mountain lion here recently...ggggreeeeaaaatttttt....

We made Willow Lake in 2 hours 45 minutes and pumped water to refill our bottles.  From there, we began the climb up towards Challenger Point.  The standard trail is nothing more than a scree slope with some boulder hoping  thrown in for good measure.  Ben made it about halfway before calling his summit bid due to changing weather.  I decided to continue to get a fuller weather picture on Challenger Point.  I gained the summit and after evaluating the weather, decided Kit Carson was a go.  I met up with 3 other folks who had the same plan and from Challenger, we began the trip over to Kit Carson.

Kit Carson is a complex mountain with 3 summits - Kat Carson, Kit Carson, and Challenger Point (although some give it the nickname of Johnny Carson!)  The easiest way to summit Kit Carson is to use the ledge system (The Avenue) around the back side of the mountain to an easy Class 3 scramble to the summit.  From Challenger summit to Kit Carson summit was 45 minutes.  #47 in the books!  I enjoyed the scenery for 20-30 minutes, took some pictures, texted Karen, and then began the long hike down to the 4Runner...7 miles away and 6250' down.

I met Ben back at Willow Lake and we hiked down the mountain to clean clothes, sandals and the thought of pizza/beer in Salida.  After a hearty dinner, we departed to separate cities - me (Denver) and Ben (Colorado Springs).  The ride home was tough - I was very, very tired and drank coffee to keep awake.  Fortunately, the trip went well and I parked the car at home, left all my gear in the car, and promptly walked into my apartment and crashed for 10 hours.  I feel much better now...

Next weekend is the Eolus group trip north of Durango with my regular climbing partners, Alan Arnette and Patrick Vall as well as some new additions - John Little and Anne/Kevin Martin.  Looking forward to it!

Climb On my friends!