Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mount Guyot

Mount Guyot
With school starting on Monday, I needed to get in one last mountain for the summer.  My climbing buddy Paul was finally back in Denver so we made plans for a climb of Mount Guyot.  Mount Guyot was my primary objective for climbing this summer; nothing like waiting till the last minute.  July of last year I did a climb of Mount Silverheels which lies to the SW and that day I put Bald Mountain and Mount Guyot high on my list of peaks to climb.
Directions are pretty straight forward, drive to Breckenridge and turn east on Wellington.  This comes up pretty quick when approaching from the north.  Follow the road through the residential area till it turns to dirt.  At the end of the road is a parking area and this acts as the TH for this climb.
Bald Mountain Pano
We arrived at the TH around 8:30a.m., which is really sleeping in for us.  It didn’t bother me too much as long as the weather didn’t become a factor later in the day.  There were four or five cars in the lot already, but we didn’t really see anyone for quite awhile.  The first section of trail heads down a road for 1.25 miles before actually getting on anything that would resemble a real trail.
I had been down this road previously with a failed winter attempt back in December, so I had had an idea of the route already.  I did my research for this climb on  Just after passing a large property around the 1.25 mile mark there is a trail or what appears to be an old jeep road heading off to the left.  Make your way down the trail and about 50 yards or so you will see there is a sign.  I’m not sure why that isn’t right on the road, probably has to do with being on private property rather than NFS land.
Summit Ridge
Hiking up the trail is a nice change of pace; it goes from single to double track a few times.  There are a few tiny creeks that roll by that are nice for cooling down later in the day.  About a mile up this road is a cabin off to the left; from there the route really starts to gain.  The trail will finally open up outside of the forest and you will start to see what you have to do.
The first objective from here is to climb directly to the ridge.  I’ll warn you, this is no picnic.  A 600 foot gain in a short distance makes for a very steep slope.  This is where I had to turn back in December because the snow was so bad.  Make the trudge up to the ridge in whatever fashion you like.  Once on the ridge the grade mellows out and your claves can start to recover.  We took a fuel break here, probably about 1.5hours into the climb.
Summit with Bald Mountain in the Backdrop
A faint trail goes in and out along the ridge.  There is another steep climb of about 600 feet coming up, but we were lucky to find that the goats had made us some nice trail through the talus.  It didn’t seem like it took us too terribly long and we were at 12,500ft.  The only thing that lay in front of us was the 800 foot grunt up the boulder field.  At this point we had some fluffy clouds surrounding the mountain so we had to keep our eyes on how they developed.  I think our karma paid off, and the mountain gods let us continue our journey up Guyot.
The grunt up the boulder field is as stated..a grunt.  I would rate the boulders semi-consolidated, at times boulders that should be way too big to move would move on you.  Proceed with caution, because this is the last place you would want an ankle injury or something worse to happen. We took our time, but consistently made progress up the mountain.  Once gaining the west side of the ridge I think we both had big smiles on our faces.  The last ridge walk took a matter of five minutes then we were on the summit of Guyot.
I had run out of fuel on the last push, so I had to eat a cliff bar.  I’ll be honest, it didn’t taste good, but it was needed.  After a few minute recovery period we took some pictures and were on our way down.  We didn’t want to have summit beers on top of the boulder field; lingering on top with shady weather was not a good idea.  The beers were waiting for us at the 12,500 foot hump.
Paul and Nick on the Summit of Guyot
It was a long trudge down the boulders, but it felt as if we made good time.  As we arrived at the 12,500 foot hump I saw a mountain goat on the far ridge.  This looked like a good spot for a Pb&J and an ice cold beer.  We had a good lunch, hoping the goat would get a little closer, but he was happy eating grass on the other side of the mountain.  The clouds were building up again so we gathered ourselves and started down the ridge of the mountain.
Both of us were hurting a little bit, but nothing too bad.  We found a few short cuts on the descent through the trees that hosted some soft ground for my sore fee.  Once back on the trail it was a short hike out.  This was an excellent trip with a good climbing buddy.  I’m glad I was able to sneak it in before the semester got underway.  I hope to get out a few times this fall, but we will just have to see how it goes.  Cheers!
GPS Track

Date: 8/16/2014
TH Elevation:  10,290 feet
Mount Guyot: 13,370 feet
Total Gained Elevation: 3,100 feet
Class: 2
Distance:  7.49 miles
Time:  4:34 moving, 2:00 minutes stopped
Climbing Partner: Paul

Picture Link: Mount Guyot

Monday, August 4, 2014

Horseshoe Mountain and Peerless Mountain

Horseshoe Mountain
With school ramping up in a couple of weeks I wanted to get out on a last camping trip for the summer.  I have long wanted to hike Horseshoe Mountain.  This mountain has an easy class 1 trail that is within a couple hours of Denver.  Craig found us a nice camp site at the Four Mile CG which is just down the road from the Horseshoe TH.  We met up with Craig around 7am, set up our tent and were on our way to the TH.
The TH for this hike can have many different meanings.  It all depends on how far you are willing to drive your vehicle.  We saw a few vehicles that drove to the saddle separating Horseshoe and Peerless Mountains (13,200ft), but that kind of defeats the purpose of what we are all doing out here.  I chose to start at the 4WD TH described on the description. 
Basic directions are to head to Fairplay along HWY 285.  Drive south through town making a turn right onto CR18.  There is a sign directing you towards Four Mile Creek Rd.  Follow this for 8 miles to Four Mile CG.  About two miles up the road from the CG is the Leavick site.  There is plenty of parking just past the old mining structure for low clearance vehicles.  Those with capable vehicles can drive an additional .75 miles up the road turning left onto a more rocky road.  Drive about .5 mile up this road to the TH used in this trip report.  As I mentioned 4WD vehicles can make it much further up the road and there are plenty of spots to park, it just depends on how much hiking you want to do.
Nick and Craig on the Ridge
We arrived at the TH around 8am and were soon started hiking up the road.  The road is easy walking and soon I found out that we could have driven up further than we did.  That was o.k. with me because I was up for a good hike today.  A mixture of old mining roads weave all around the side of the mountain, so basically just pick the road that has the right grade for you.  This could have been done in a more direct fashion as well, but I think our group was happy with adding some extra miles to ease the hike up.
Alongside the road there are remnants of past mining.  Some of it was interesting, but most of it looked like trash that wasn’t too incredibly old.   Checking out the old equipment does help take your mind off the exhaustion though.  The switchbacks weren’t that bad; about an hour and a half from the start of our adventure put us on the saddle between Horseshoe and Peerless Mountains.
By the time we got to the saddle the mostly blue sky was starting to cloud up a bit.  We decided to head over to Horseshoe first then do the short hike up Peerless on our way back down.  There is a faint trail that leads to the main ridge of Horseshoe that can easily be followed.  After getting off the main saddle area the trail will start gaining again, but nothing to steep.  There is just over 600ft of elevation to gain from the saddle to the summit.
Craig, Kristi and Nick on the summit of Horseshoe
Some puffy clouds were getting close to the mountain but they kept heading to the south, so the weather was working for us.  I had to keep a close eye on them tough because they were pretty close at times.    
About two and a half hours into our hike we made it to the summit of Horseshoe Mountain.  The view down to the Leavick Tarn was quite impressive.  I could only imagine the crowds of people over on Sherman today, so I felt pretty lucky that just the three of us were on this summit.
We had a quick snack and took the usual pictures before heading down.  I wanted to get down before any rain or thunder storms came along to ruin our fun day.  I was feeling pretty good on the way down so I tried to sling-shot my way up Peerless as quick as I could.  From the saddle area it doesn’t take more than 10 minutes to summit.  The view of Sheridan is very enticing from Peerless.  I have already climbed that mountain so I said hello and goodbye as I headed back down to the saddle where Kristi was.
Nick and Craig Ascending Peerless Mountain
At the saddle Kristi had found a couple of our friends that climbed the wrong mountain today.  We caught up with them for a few minutes then started making our way down.  I was more in the mood for the direct line down the mountain rather than the road, but not everyone else was in agreement with that.  I decided I would head down and grab the Jeep so I could drive up to pick the rest of our group up.  It was a fun run/skip/trying not to eat it adventure cross country to the TH.  It didn’t seem like too much time went by and I had made it back to the Jeep.  A quick 5 minute drive and I met them on the road.

I think we all had a great time on the mountain today.  Kristi got her first 13er in and I think this was Craig’s first mountain of the year.  I would recommend this for any beginner wanting to get out on an easy peak.  I would rate this hike exactly like the neighboring 14er Mount Sherman.  So if you can do one, you should have no problem doing the other.  Someday I’d like to come back and do a Tour de Sherman starting with Sheep Mountain looping all the way to Sherman.  But that is a long ways off, since I don’t have the endurance for a hike like that right now.  Now it’s time to relax a bit before classes start in a few weeks.  Cheers!
GPS Track
Date: 8/2/2014
TH Elevation:  11,840 feet
Horseshoe Mountain: 13,894 feet
Peerless Mountain: 13,337 feet
Total Gained Elevation: 2,200 feet
Class: 1
Distance:  6.67 miles
Time:  3:43 moving, 1:47 stopped
Climbing Partner: Kristi, Craig

Monday, July 28, 2014

Idaho: Handwerk Peak and Goat Mountain

Summit of Handwerk Peak
Mike and I have tried to make plans to climb Goat Mountain in Idaho for the past few years with nothing ever materializing.  This year we decided to get serious.  Usually one week each summer I find my way back to Idaho to get out on some peaks with my old climbing buddies.  This week I was lucky enough to have my Dad, Mark come over from Oregon and my two friends Mike and Loren from Idaho meet up with me for a few nights.  With a climb of Goat Mountain being over 5,000ft gain and 14 miles round trip it is quite a commitment. I thought that sounded like a lot of work for a guy like me to do in a day so we decided to backpack in about four miles and set up a base camp.
This trip starts at the North Fork Hyndman Creek TH.  Many Idahoans are familiar with this area since this TH is next to the Hyndman TH.  Don’t be mistaken and take the wrong trail, the North Fork Trail is at the end of the dirt road. 
Our plan was to pack into a camping area about four miles in, set up camp and hike Handwerk Peak on the first day.  The next day would be the climb of Goat Mountain (primary objective), then the last day was to hike out or try climbing the Spitzl if there was any juice left.  Me, Mike and my Dad headed in mid-morning on Wednesday.  Loren would be joining us later that evening since he had work obligations. 
Handwerk Peak
From what I can gather the North Fork Hyndman Creek Trail is primarily used for accessing Pioneer Cabin.  This was an old ski cabin built years ago that many locals hike to for a day trip.  I have been up there two other times previously, so this was not on the agenda this time.  Just a note, if you do plan to go up there an early spring hike is fun from either the Corral Creek side or the Hyndman Creek side. 
Day 1 – Handwerk Peak
The trail is well maintained and the Ketchum Ranger District is pretty good about keeping the trail conditions up to date on their website.  The first 2.8 miles is pretty mild.  The gain is not too bad, probably around 1,000ft so with a full pack on it wasn’t too bad.  There is a trail split here where switchbacks soon start for the trail to Pioneer Cabin or a trail to the east that heads out into the open meadow towards Handwerk.  The trail fades out since not too many people use it, and that is kind of what this group likes.  We needed to find a camp site that was flat, had water and Loren could find.  There are some nice rock slabs that raise a few hundred feet and are still visible from the trail split; this is the area we chose to camp.  Originally we wanted to camp in the basin below Goat, but I thought that would have been much more difficult for Loren to find late in the evening. 
Mark, Mike and Nick on Handwerk
My pack was overly heavy for two nights; Mike and I guessed it was around 50 pounds.  That beer was weighing me down, but it would be a blessing over the next two evenings.  I was happy we found a place without too much hard work.  We set up our camp and put a flag out for Loren to see in case we were still up on Handwerk when he arrived.
Our camp site wasn’t too far from the base of Handwerk peak.  There were a few small creek crossings, but we just followed the tree line around the east so there was no bushwhacking at all.  For those of you that haven’t climbed this mountain you are in for a real treat.  I would say this is the most unique mountain in the Pioneer Range.  It’s not often you find a sand dune with a few rocks here and there deep in the Idaho Mountains.  Be ready for hiking on loose sand for a long, long time.  From camp the summit rose about 2,000ft in about 1.25miles.  This took us an incredible amount of time because of the sand.  I spent some time checking out the geology of the mountain as well.  There was some magnetite and malachite that kept catching my eye as I was hiking.  As we reached the false summit the wind picked up but thankfully the sand ended.  The top of the mountain seemed to mainly be a slate rock which is interesting in itself. 
Some Old Friends
I would guess the wind was blowing in the upper 30’s (mph), with a couple gusts that knocked over the smaller guys.  Lucky for me I have a solid base and I just walked up the ridge.  I’m used to the awful Colorado winds on the high peaks I guess.  Maybe a half hour later we were all on the summit.  I was dragging ass, probably from the backpack in.  Either way I was glad to finally be on top.  The views were pretty clear and we had the summit to ourselves…man I love Idaho!
We did a little route recon for Goat and I was shocked at how far back it looked.  It wasn’t that bad, I think the hike had just kicked my butt a little extra today.  I want to say it was around 5pm when we were on the summit so we decided to start heading down since we thought Loren would get there around 7pm or so.  The beautiful thing on all our minds besides the beer in the creek was that soft sand we would be skiing down virtually back to camp.  It was a dusty, but sweet descent.  In no time at all we were back at camp enjoying some nicely chilled Idaho craft beers by the creek.
After a nice cool down by the creek we made our way out to a point on the rock where we would be able to see Loren on approach.  We sat out there probably about an hour till I saw a light flash by the far tree line.  We flashed him back and it seemed like he was up to camp in no time at all.  As I expected he greeted us with more beer, I guess he knows this crew pretty well…hahaha.  We all hung out for a while and enjoyed the stars.  I love coming to Idaho where you can see the Milky Way.  That is hard to find in the light polluted Denver area.
Entering Goat  Mountain Basin
Day 2 – Goat Mountain
It was nice sleeping in for a second day after the drive from Colorado.  We were in no hurry to get out since the weather was supposed to be near perfect and we were half way up the mountain.  Somewhere around 9am we started making our way into the basin below Goat Mountain.
Idaho is called the Gem State, and I think this was one of those gems.  This area is an amazing glacially carved valley.  If you head this way plan to camp in the upper valley, you just have to make it up about 800 more feet of elevation from where our camp was.  The valley opened wide and it was like something from the Sound of Music, a wild array of flowers, waterfalls and lush green grass that seemed to go on forever. 
After making our way to the end of the valley we finally reached some rock.  It is easy to spot a route around a very large rock face and a ramp leading to the first summit of Goat.  We followed the grass and slab rock as far up as we could till jumping into the boulder field.  These boulders are very large and were great for climbing on.  The vertical gain comes quick, but so did my heart rate.  Needless to say I took my time.  After gaining a few hundred feet through the large boulders it is a walk up the ramp to the first summit.  What I mean is there is no more scrambling up the boulders, the boulders gets smaller so in a sense it’s a walk up from here.  As you do this climb don’t forget to look behind you every now and then, the view is stunning.  Old Hyndman keeps rising through a notch in to the east of Duncan’s Ridge. 
View Towards Johnstone
Our group got together near the first summit as the real scrambling was about to start.  I haven’t been on a good class 3 route in more than a year, so I was excited to get going.  Loren was reading Splattski's report…I think.  He told me what side to go around and I was off.  I just found my own way from there as all climbing adventures should be.  I thought this was very tame and not too difficult at all.  There wasn’t much exposure that I ever saw.  The climb down to the mini saddle between summits was the only hard part.  Climbing up to the top of the main summit was quick and direct.  Now, if the rock was wet or there was ice and snow this would be a different story.  Still doable, but it would be a little nerve racking in a few spots.
The summit was unreal, definitely on my top 5 list.  The surrounding views of the mountains were one of the better views I have ever had.  It made me really appreciate Idaho, because if I was home in Colorado there would be at least 50 other yahoos up there with me.  It was nice to share the summit with my Dad and some good friends. 
The Boulder Field
I seemed to forget I was starving in the excitement of the scramble, so I had to eat some food before the climb back.  I would suggest some leather gloves on this one.  I sliced my hands a few times on the rocks, but scars are cool too.  It was just after 1:30pm and we were heading back down the mountain.  The weather couldn’t have been much better for this climb.  Jackets came off for the trip back down and the wind died down and heat increased with every step.
East Side of Goat Mountain
We took a more direct line down into the valley.  The boulders were steep, but we weren’t in them as long by taking the more direct line.  Once down on the grass we took a long break and enjoyed the view looking towards Johnstone Peak and the Sun Valley Ski Area.  Loren said he could stay there all day, and I would have to agree with him.  I polished off the last of my water, so we made our way down to the creek in the valley to replenish our supplies.  The valley seemed to keep going on going, but that was a good thing for once.  I enjoyed the breaks along the creek and for once being able to take as much time as we wanted.  No thunderheads like back home, so I figured I better enjoy it.
Beautiful Day
After the last break I could feel my ankles and feet tightening up so I did one solid push back to camp.  There were lots of game trails we could utilize here and there which made the hiking a bit quicker.  Once back to camp I grabbed my camp towel and headed to the creek. 
The cool mountain water was very refreshing on my feet.  The beer was even more so.  I was looking at my toes and they weren’t looking too good.  My big toe nail ended up popping off from an injury I had in Utah a few months prior.  A little duct tape and I was good to go.  We all sat around the creek soaking and getting cleaned up a bit.  Next thing we knew the sun was behind the mountain and it was getting dark.
Day 3 – Hike Out
I was pretty beat after the past two days in the mountains so I knew I would be heading out in the morning.  Dad had to get back to La Grande to work an evening shift at the hospital, so we planned on a 7am departure.  Mike joined us on the hike out but Loren stayed another day in the valley and climbed the Spitzl by himself.  I heard he got a nice summit nap in…lucky, I wish my body could have lasted another day.  Dad and I got back into Hailey by 10am and found some biscuits and gravy at Shorty’s.  Not as good as the Pickles breakfast from a few years ago, but it was damn good.

It’s always great to get back to Idaho and do some climbing where it all started for me.  Nothing beats Idaho, Colorado is nice and all but the solitude that you can find in Idaho is unmatched.  I’m not sure when I will be back there for another adventure, but there were talks of Longs Peak next summer…so stay tuned.
Full Trip GPS Track
Handwerk and Goat Route

Date: 7/23/2014 to 7/25/2014
TH Elevation:  7,085 feet
Handwerk Peak: 10,860 feet
Goat Mountain:  11,913 feet
Total Gained Elevation: 7,330 feet
Class: 3
Distance:  17.4 miles
Climbing Partner: Mark (Dad), Mike, Loren
Picture Link:  Handwerk and Goat

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Whale Peak

Whale Peak
I have some serious climbing plans in Idaho in a few weeks, so I had to try and get a decent peak in.  I’ve been curious about the area near Kenosha Pass since it is pretty close to Denver.  Whale Peak via Gibson Lake looked like a good trip, so I rounded up a posse.  I was able to get Kristi out there along with Boyd, Jenny and Joel.  We had a solid group, which always makes these peaks a lot more fun.  You know, so we can all suffer together. Hahaha.
I’ll warn you the road isn’t pretty.  I would give it a class 4 rating; meaning it’s a bitch of a drive the last 2 miles.  High clearance 4WD is mandatory.  Directions from the Denver area is to head south on 285 turning north on Hall Valley Road.  This road is well marked and is about 3 miles past the town of Grant.  From here the road turns to dirt, the road stays in good for about 5 miles till meeting up with the Hall Valley CG.  From here it is a little less than 2 miles to the Gibson Lake TH.  Follow the signs heading to Gibson Lake; park your car here if you don’t have a high clearance vehicle.  The next bit is a really rough section with one creek crossing.  I didn’t have issues with my Chevy Blazer, but I have driven that into many places it shouldn’t have been before.  There are some campsites up there, but the use seemed pretty heavy.
Drainage to the South
Once we got to the TH, we took a few minutes to ease the nausea from the rough ride in.  It was around 7:30A and we were the first to the TH.  I read so many mixed reports of distances to Gibson Lake from the TH I didn’t know what to expect.  The sign said 3 miles, where my GPS tracked us at 2.48miles. 
The trail is in really good shape.  Once crossing the creek (bridge) and getting out of the wet morning dew on the willows the trail opens up to double wide most of the way.  I didn’t think the grade was too bad, so I would say its kid friendly to the lake.  We were in no rush, but I felt we made good progress getting to the lake.  Another warning is to bring bug spray.   The mosquitos and flies were pretty bad whenever we did stop.
Tree line is around 11,200ft.  The rock fields sucked in a little of our time.  There were some really neat pegmatites and gneisses to check out.  The trail continues through the willows and it became quite muddy.  After a short trudge through the swamp I ditched some items I didn’t think would be necessary for the push up the mountain.
Glissade Snow Field
We decided on the direct route, making our way through the snow fields.  There was a nice ramp that took us right to the summit.  This route is rather steep, but that’s kind of how I prefer it.  There was some serious huffing and puffing.  The elevation gain from the lake is about 1,200ft in about 0.65 miles; we kept it as direct as possible.  Every snowfield we passed we ogled at the thought of a glissade on the way back.  You got to keep those spirits high at points of suffering. Haha.
Boyd led the way and owned the mountain.  We eventually caught up to him on the ridge.  From there it was a few hundred feet to the summit.  Coming into this climb I didn’t think we would see anyone out here, we ran into a group of four at the summit.  And two other solo hikers during the day.  So, this mountain was a lot busier than I anticipated.  It still beats the people on 14ers, which is ridiculous these days.  We enjoyed the views, still crystal blue sky.  Some clouds were starting to develop, but nothing that would affect our climb.  I had a hunger and a thirst for a frosty cold one; I left those at the lake so it was time to head down.
Gibson Lake
I felt energized on the route down, probably looking forward to that glissade.  For once my knees didn’t hurt, so I just rolled with it making great time down the mountain.  Once I made it to the snow field I waited for Jenny and Joel to catch up.  The snow was nice and soft, which is perfect for glissading with no tools.  The slide was fast and amazing as always.  This is where a GoPro would come in handy.  Snow flying in your face is a good feeling on a hot day.  Joel came next then Jenny.  For some reason Jenny can’t get any speed, I think we need to bring a sled for her.  After the glissade the lake was a stones throw away.  We made it down there in no time and cracked open our climbing beers.
The Crew
We rested for quite a bit enjoying sandwiches and beers.  The clouds were getting puffy, so it was time to roll out.  The beauty of the mountains is walking down the trail while still enjoying a cold one.  Truly, the freedom of the hills. 
There were many groups of people heading up to the lake.  With it being so hot I was kind of surprised.  We were making good time on the trail back to the car.  With that ugly drive to look forward to, I wanted to get that over before any rain hit if we could make that happen.
This was one of my favorite climbing trips in Colorado so far.  My body didn’t get beat, the company was amazing and the scenery was out of this world.  It was a fun way to celebrate Joel’s birthday and he got his first ever summit…awesome, a 13er to boot.  I hope to get out with everyone a few more times this year, there are many more mountains to climb!
GPS Track
Date: 7/12/2014
TH Elevation:  10,316 feet
Whale Peak: 13,078 feet
Total Gained Elevation: 2,800 feet
Class: 2
Distance:  6.29 miles
Time:  3:56 moving, 2:14 minutes stopped
Climbing Partner: Kristi, Boyd, Jenny and Joel

Picture Link: Whale Peak

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Royal Mountain

Cole Rockin the Summit
Heading to Summit County for Fourth of July weekend had about as many people roaming around as back home in Denver.  So, I guess we weren't really getting away.  The drive time up to Frisco was awful; leaving at noon on Thursday it took us almost 3 hours which is double the standard drive time.  We heard reports of 5 hours later in the afternoon.  Crap like this makes me really appreciate Idaho.  But, we still wanted to get up to the cool mountain air and we often find ourselves just dealing with it.
As it turned out my friend Cole was up in Breckenridge doing wildlife surveys over the weekend, so a small peak sounded like a fun idea.  Wanting to keep it short I decided on Royal Mountain which is the first peak of the 10 Mile Range starting in Frisco.
Mount Guyout and Bald Mountain
Getting to the TR is pretty easy.  Head south on HWY 9 turning west on Main Street in Frisco.  Follow Main to 2nd Ave, following the road to the end.  There is a construction site where the road used to go through to the TH so you will have to park on the street.  Being a good boy, I was looking for a way around the construction site since it was littered with NO TRESPASSING signs, but we couldn't find a way through so eventually followed everyone else cutting through the construction site.  Once at the TH the trail is easy to spot on the northwest side.
The trail is reported to be 1.8 miles to the summit with 1,400ft vertical gain.  We took an “off the beaten path” approach for a while then made our way to the standard trail.  This is a steep climb that had me dripping of sweat and smelling like a brewery in no time.  Don’t underestimate this little climb, for a little mountain it gets the blood pumping fast.
Bristlecone Pine Trees
Once near a small saddle there is split in the trail, head to the right for Royal Mountain.  From that point the trail eases up and the views to the northwest are finally visible.  I enjoyed the bristlecone pine trees on the summit ridge.  We found the high point and took a much needed water break.
This is a heavy traffic trail, which is always unfortunate.  But this can be a nice short summit with descent views to the north and west.  The views to the south and east are blocked by a lot of the trees at the summit, but can be viewed at various parts along the trail.  I’m glad we got out for a lung burner, next stop Backcountry Brewing!
GPS Track

Date: 7/5/2014
TH Elevation:  9,095 feet
Royal Mountain: 10,500 feet
Total Gained Elevation: 1,400 feet
Class: 1
Distance:  4.07 miles
Time:  2:10 moving, 35 minutes stopped
Climbing Partner: Cole

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Mount Wilcox

Mount Wilcox
Mount Wilcox has been on my list for some time now.  I have gridded the area from I-70 to the north covering all the major peaks along the corridor to Geneva Mountain to the south.  This was the last peak I needed to finish the Guanella Pass area.  I have been to the Wilcox area about four other times, but multiple peaks sometimes don’t work.  Here I am back to climb Wilcox, and from a different route.  I find it’s always good to have company and it didn’t take much convincing to get Cole and Jenny to head out with me.
We met at 5am in Denver and made the drive up to the Silver Dollar Lake TH.  To get to the TH head to Georgetown and follow the Guanella Pass road till you pass the Guanella Pass CG.  Just after the CG there will be a road heading off to the right called Naylor Lake Road.  This road is a dirt road and can be a little rough.  We had no problem with Jenny at the wheel of the Subaru.  About a mile up the road is the parking for the Silver Dollar Lake TH.  We arrived about 6:30am and were off on the trail a bit before 7.
Silver Dollar Lake and Squaretop Mountain
The area surrounding Naylor Lake is all private property so this trail is the best access to the mountain.  Beware that we heard gun shots on our descent, so this area is probably a gun club or militant camp..haha.  One thing to note was my GPS was not working well at the beginning of the hike.  It kept beeping saying it was losing satellite service.  That is why I don’t have complete data for this trip, but I’m sure you can piece together all the missing parts.
I made the bad decision of eating some McDonalds before the hike and I wasn’t feeling to well from the start.  We slowly made our way up the trail until I got my body working.  There was quite a bit of snow along the trail, as it opened up above the lake the snow fields were quite large.  Depending on your comfort you could bring micro spikes or walk across it with good boots.  I was fine in boots, but then again I love snow.
As we worked on the traverse towards Silver Dollar Lake we saw a Mountain Goat high up on Squaretop Mountain.  The picture I took was zoomed in as far as I could get, so he was up there quite a ways.  Cole was naming of the birds as they buzzed by us, it’s always good to have people around with different knowledge banks.  The trail got muddy and wet as we approached Silver Dollar Lake.  Jenny got a good soaking so we took a minute at the lake for personal maintenance. 
The terrain rises a bit towards Murray Reservoir and the trail disappears beneath the large snow fields.  We just headed directly up and had no problems not using any traction.  As we approached Murray we started discussing our options for the day.  This route is really easy for a combination of a couple peaks.  Argentine is just to the west of Wilcox along the same ridge.  Cole and Jenny wanted to go for it, so we started making a more direct route through the rocks towards Argentine.
Grays and Torreys
I recommend our ascent route, primarily because there are some really cool rocks.  With that being said, we didn’t make much progress.  We all love rocks too much and found ourselves rock hounding more than hiking.  At one point we found this large pegmatite boulder and out came the rock hammers.  You have to love geologists.  It is always nice to be on a laid back trip with lots of time for discussion.  All three of us took Geomorphology during the spring semester together so we all love calling out all the different landscapes we see as we go.  Geologic discussions in the field are one of the things I enjoy most, especially in the mountains.
My legs were pretty beat, probably from a lack of use.  These desk jobs are not all they are cracked up to be.  I decided to tell Jenny and Cole to take off for Argentine without me and I would meet them on the main ridge.  They agreed so we split up a few hundred vertical feet of the main ridge.
I found an awesome rock rib to climb up.  There was some beautiful metamorphic rock with very cool pegmatites.  I love to be adventurous so I put together a nice class 3 route, but there are easy ways to navigate around the rocks to stay on class 2 terrain.  I climbed up maybe 50 vertical feet of killer rock then the grass terrain came back in leading towards the ridge.  It didn’t look like Cole and Jenny were running up the mountain so I started rock hounding again.  I found some nice rose quartz among other rocks that would continue to weigh my pack down.
Pano from Squaretop to Torreys
Cole and Jenny had just made it over the first false summit and it looked like they had decided against climbing Argentine, as the weather was starting to turn.  Just then I spotted two ptarmigans in the rocks.  I always love finding these birds, and they seem to like being photographed.  I waited there so Cole and Jenny could check them out.
Now that we were re-grouped we started heading towards Wilcox.  We probably only had about half mile and 700 vertical feet to go, but at 13,000ft that can go pretty slow.  I was breathing pretty hard, so I took my sweet ass time.  The rocks along the west ridge are neat and I kept finding my pockets full of new specimens.  After a good march up the mountain we finally summited.
The weather was getting dark and gray, but nothing bad.  We enjoyed our solo summit, unlike the 100 people on Bierstadt across the road.  Cole brought up our summit beers and they were ice cold.  The funny thing was, we needed to put our gloves on to hold the chilled beer.  It started to snow graupel on us just as we decided to hit the road; I guess someone was telling us it’s time to get going.
Summit Beers
We decided to make a loop out of this trip so we just had to head down the gentle slope of the mountain, find our way through the trees and hook up with the road.  I had been on most of this part before, so it was nice knowing I kind of knew where to go.  We found our first snow field and I wasn’t about to walk down it, a glissade opportunity was finally here.  It was probably only 100 vertical feet down, but I’ll take what I can get.  Cole and I enjoyed watching Jenny do her first glissade, it was quite acrobatic.
The next snow field was rather steep and had no good run out so I told them we should just walk it.  The snow was a bit harder and it took us a while to cross it, but we were never in a hurry.  Always play it safe.
Once off the snow we had the willows to deal with.  Cole took point, and by the time he was done with them you would think a moose had trampled through.  On the other side it was a simple hike through the woods.  The down fall is pretty bad in this area, but we didn’t have any issue navigating our way through.  We started hearing gun shots so that was a little sketch.  As we kept making our way down it seemed like they were coming from the other side of the lake, so we slowly made our way to the road.  We met up with the road about 100 yards into the private property.  It wasn’t well staked so, keep that in mind if you use my GPS map for future hikes.
I highly recommend this route for anyone wanting to do Squaretop, Argentine or Wilcox.  We all enjoyed it, and the bonus is there are no people like the over populated 14ers.  I love the solitude of the 13ers; they are way more fun too.  Our next stop was Beau Jo’s in Idaho Springs for some mountain pie and beer.  And it was amazing.  Till next time. Cheers!
GPS Track
Date: 6/21/2014
TH Elevation: 11,200 feet
Mount Wilcox: 13,408 feet
Total Gained Elevation: ~2,260ft
Class: 2
Distance:  ~6 miles
Time: Lost Data 
Climbing Partner: Jenny, Cole

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Rocky Mountain National Park: Estes Cone, Emerald Mountain

Estes Cone
Kristi and I have been talking about getting out and doing some camping this summer and our opportunity finally arrived.  I was able to get the last spot at Glacier Basin Camp in Rocky Mountain National Park.  We just bought a new tent last week since our old tent ripped on our last adventure to the park about a year and a half ago.  Cole and Jenny were able to join us, so we had a small crew heading up for two days hiking and one night of camping.
The tough decision for RMNP is deciding where to hike.  There are so many great places, and the hard part is getting away from the hordes of people.  I really wanted to do a summit hike so I could get a nice view of Longs Peak in.  A few years ago I did the Twin Sisters Peak hike which I highly recommend, so I wanted a new peak.  The answer was easy and it was literally across the road; Estes Cone.
Estes Cone
The hike of Estes Cone starts from the Longs Peak TH.  This is located along HWY 7 to the south of Estes Park.  The parking lot will remain full for the remainder of the summer since this is also the TH for Longs Peak, so expect a lot of people.  The good news is that most of the people will be making their way towards Longs or Chasm Lake, leaving the trail to Estes Cone relatively free of traffic.
Cap Rock
From the TH, the hike is about 3.2 miles to the summit.  The first half mile runs along the Longs Peak Trail, then there will be a split that is well marked heading to the north; this is the Estes Cone Trail.  After this split it’s roughly another mile to the Eugenia Mine which is located along the Inn Brook Creek.  There is little left of what was apparently “produced more dreams that gold” as the sign states.  It is a nice area for a breather, but the mosquitos were pretty heavy so we pushed on.
The trail kind of tricks you here, instead of going uphill the trail heads down.  There is a nice meadow after the short descent that gives a open shot of the mountain.  Once meeting up with another trail junction the gain is steady to the top.  Another junction .7miles up the grade is where Estes Cone Trail and Storm Pass Trail meet.  From here it the main trail fades in the first few hundred yards and a climbers trail leads to the summit.
Nick and Cole Checking in on Longs
Follow the cairns and it’s pretty easy to stay on a decent trail to the top.  It is only .7miles from the last junction so it can go pretty quick, or not.  We took our time because this was our only hike for the day.  There is a nice short scramble through the cap rock to the summit.  Once on top the views of Meeker and Longs are amazing, even better than from the summit of Twin Sisters.  I took the opportunity to do a father’s day photo.  We hit the road to get back to camp and relax for the rest of the afternoon.
I must say one of the funniest parts of the day was driving by the line of cars waiting to pay at the park’s entrance.  Sometimes those annual passes are really nice; you get to open the gate with a swipe of the card.  At camp we were discussing options for the next day.  We came up with the idea of hiking Emerald Mountain from camp.  This was barely 500ft, but it still counts in my book.  Then after our morning hike we would head to the Bear Lake area and do a hike to one of the many lakes with all the other tourists.
Emerald Mountain
Jenny, Cole and Nick on Emerald Mountain
This is a small peak, but it we made a fun route through the woods and up the rocks.  There may have even been some prospecting along the way, but I can’t confirm that.  We took about as direct of a route as possible, once through the trees there was a good game trail leading up through the large rock outcrops.  This just took us over half hour to ascend, a good way to start the day.  This was a great place to view a lot of the glacial geomorphology of the park.  The moraine park to the north was quite impressive as were all the cirques to the west.  This made it well worth the effort.
Nymph and Dream Lakes
Longs Peak
We were looking for an easy hike to lakes or waterfalls, unfortunately so was everyone else.  This part of the park was packed full of tourists getting in an easy hike.  The beauty of this area is the backdrops of the mountains.  Hallett Peak looks like it made my list, and has an amazing view from Dream Lake.  This would be a great place for a snowshoe in the winter and maybe the traffic would be down around then.  As we descended the trail the arĂȘte to the east was quite impressive.  I was glad we were able to sneak another hike in for the day.
We all had a beer and some lunch from Oskar Blues on our mind, so we made our exit pretty quickly.  I can’t say I recommend hitting up Oskar Blues on a Sunday, the wait was pretty ridiculous.  But, when you’re with good friends it doesn’t really matter.  It was a great weekend, now it’s time to climb some real mountains.
Estes Cone GPS Track

Date: 6/14,15/2014
Estes Cone TH Elevation: 9,375ft
Estes Cone Summit : 11,010ft
Total Gained Elevation: ~2,000ft
Class: 1-2
Distance:  6.4 miles
Time: 4:00 moving, 2:00 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Kristi, Jenny, Cole