Saturday, January 31, 2009

CMC Adventure #2

So, we decided to join the CMC (Colorado Mountain Club) back in November, but for whatever reason, we haven't done many trips. We found one for today that looked like a lot of fun in Rocky Mountain National Park.

The alarm went off at 5:30 (yuck!) so we could meet the group up in the park at 7:00. Though we were a bit late to the designated meeting site, we were able to meet up with the group at the trail head at Bear Lake. In the parking lot the wind was howling so we dressed for a cold day, even though the forecast was for sun and 40-degree temps.

Our group of eight began snowshoeing around Bear Lake and then westward towards Flattop Mountain. When we were in the trees for the first half of the hike, the wind was blocked and we were very comfortable. There were awesome views of Longs Peak and many other mountains above 12,000ft. The group members took turns breaking trail, or should I say bushwhacking, because we were about 600 feet higher than the trail. Some of the snow was two or three feet deep so it was slow going for quite a while.

When we broke out of the trees, our goal was to gain the ridge and then follow it to the summit. Without our trees to offer some relief from the wind, the gusts were blowing full force down the ridge. There was a fairly steady 10-20mph wind with gusts up to about 30. When we gained the summit of 12,300ft around noon, the winds were annoying but not debilitating. Therefore, we continued on the route originally planned for the day. We turned a bit north to head for Ptarmigan Lake. We last about 20 minutes as the winds picked up strength and were blowing at a steady 40mph. At times I was blown off balance.

Picking up the trail, we headed back down to the tree line for a sheltered spot for lunch. On the way back down we saw a few pure white ptarmigans (cool alpine birds that are gray in the summer) and then finally stopped for lunch at 2:00. We made it back to the trail head a bit after 3:30 after nine miles and 3000 feet elevation gained. See our trek in Google Earth or Maps.

This was a first true winter summit. Our first CMC trip failed to summit Mt. St. Vrain and we've done mountains in town, but those are just over 8,000ft. It was a fun, yet windy day, and the folks we snowshoed with were just wonderful. I should mention, though, that we were the youngest people there by over 40 years. I hope when I'm in my seventies I can still do trips like this!

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