Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Few Days in the Desert

After leaving the booming metropolis of Kingman, AZ, we headed southwest for Joshua Tree. On the way we stopped at a little gas station on historic Route 66 and the attendant told us what we had been looking at for an hour or so. The black hill off in the distance was Amboy Crater -- formerly a volcano that had blown its top. He informed us you could hike to the top and then inside the crater. So, a mile down the road we parked the car and made off on this short hike. The volcanic rock that littered the trail was very hard to step on, but made the desert floor much more interesting. It was fun hiking around inside and then enjoying different views from the rim of this 250 foot hill.

We arrived in Joshua Tree about an hour and a half later. There we picked up some supplies and headed into the park to stake out a campsite for the night. We weren’t able to get into the first couple of sites that have climbing routes actually in the sites so we were forced down the road to the Jumbo Rocks area. We found a sunny, south-facing site and set up camp. Our neighbors were very nice and we shared a fire with a handyman from Orange County named John.

Monday night we froze as the desert temperatures dropped to below freezing and the wind ripped through the tent. My feet never warmed up and Dan was in his sleeping bag with jeans and a sweater on (usually he sweats in the bag). However, we survived and staked the fly down the next morning.

On Tuesday we did a climb on the side of the Jumbo Rocks corridor. The rappel was off a boulder on top and we couldn’t pull the rope. Eventually Dan jumared back up and was able to pull it. Afterward we scrambled on rock for a long while and then took a short hike before dinner.

Tuesday night was cooler (but our tent was much warmer) and we both slept a lot better, although neither of us was excited about camping out again. So we packed up the site after a pre-breakfast hike, and hit the road. On the way out of the park we hiked Mount Ryan (5,000-something feet) and checked out rock around the Real Hidden Valley. Unfortunately, the climbs we wanted to do were all in the shade where it was considerably colder. We did leave the park and tried to find lodging in town. Being that it was New Year’s Eve we had no luck and decided to head north towards Las Vegas.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Grand Canyon, Day 4

By 5:00am, we were both up. We weren't moving, we weren't looking forward to the task of getting dressed in the freezing cold. The sleeping bags were warm and outside was not. At 6:00am we both bragged to one another how we were able to change out some clothes while still in the sleeping bag. This skill takes much practice! After an hour and half breaking down camp in the dark (and with only one headlamp which Dan got to keep in the tent) we were on our way.

The first part of the hike was the River Trail, aptly named as it followed the cliffs along the Colorado. It was very moderate and a good way to start the day. We could see the sun hitting the upper layers of rock like a spot light thousands of feet above.

After a quick stop for bagels, we followed the trail up along another creek. The riparian landscapes were very pretty. Around 10am we started seeing some people on their way down. They couldn't believe how much warmer it was getting, as they started their days at zero degrees. We didn't notice how much colder it was getting until we got halfway up the trail to the Indian Garden Campground. At this point we were hoping for a sunny spot for lunch, but the ranger said we wouldn't see sun again until we got to the rim. He was right. The shady high canyon walls were cold and we kept stopping to put more layers on and minutes later stopping to take them off because it got steep and we were working hard.

The last 4 miles of the trail (9.7 overall) were very steep and full of icy switchbacks. Our microspikes were awesome and we didn't even slip. 6 hours and 40 minutes after we set off on our adventure we topped out at the South Rim. It was very sunny and relatively warm. After a good stretch and some munchies, we hit the road. We made it as far as Kingman, AZ (right on the CA/NV/AZ border) and called it a night after long showers and steak dinners.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Grand Canyon, Day 3

Saturday was our "play day" in the canyon. Too stupid to take a day to rest, we decided to hike up to Ribbon Falls. The trail was described as "not steep, but tedious" or something like that. 12 or 13 mile round trip.

We saw the most amazing waterfall. The water comes shooting off a cliff and splashes down on a giant moss-covered rock. You can hike up around behind the falls and also to another elevated viewpoint called The Alcove.

We got back to camp exhausted but determined to stay up late enough to hang out at the Phantom Ranch canteen for a little while (it didn't open until 8 PM). We had a good time talking with a few people but headed back to camp a bit after 9. It was a very starry night -- no clouds, a new moon, and no light pollution.

Our plan for the morning was to be packed up and on the trail by sunrise, since we didn't know how long to expect the trip out to take. There's only 10 hours of daylight this time of year and we thought there was a chance we'd need all of it.

P.S. That "giant rock" is actually a stalagmite!!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Grand Canyon, Day 2

We got up early, geared up, made a final go/no-go decision, and hopped on the 8AM bus. The ranger suggested we take the Kaibab trail down. There is no parking by that trailhead but there are shuttles at 8AM and 9AM.

We were the only hikers on the bus.

The previous day's weather had caused huge snow drifts. A hundred feet down trail we found two men shoveling the path -- odd since few tourists hike this trail. In many places we would sink into the snow knee-deep and in a few spots we were post-holing up to our hips. We had crampons but no snowshoes, so it was slow hard work. As we descended further into the canyon and lost elevation there was less snow and we picked up pace.

The sky was partly cloudy and the views were amazing. As the day went on the clouds cleared almost entirely. Click a pic to see the whole album.

It took us 5.5 hours to hike the 7 mile trail -- all downhill for a 4800' drop. Even if I wasn't carrying a 45 lbs pack I would have considered it the hardest hike I've ever done. It was a relief to find a campsite and get the packs off our shoulders. We set up camp, made dinner, and were so exhausted we went to sleep at 7:30 PM. Sunrise wasn't until 7:30 AM.

Despite the difficulty of the hike, it was entirely worth it for the views and the solitude.

There is an easier way to see the bottom of the canyon than hiking and camping. You can ride a mule down, stay in a room at the Phantom Ranch (located less than a mile from our campground), and ride back up a day or more later. I think it's a great idea if you're not up for the hike.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Grand Canyon, Day 1

"Should we bring the snowshoes?"

I had to think for a minute since we were planning a climbing trip to Joshua Tree National Park in the California desert.

"Oh. You mean for the Grand Canyon. Nah, how much can it snow in Arizona?"

The original plan was a week in JTree. Then Laurel started talking about visiting the Grand Canyon on the way there or back. As winter break neared we checked the forecast again and saw that JTree would be cold or rainy around Christmas, so I suggested we spend a little more time at the Grand Canyon.

Two days before Christmas I stayed up late reading about the area, the trails, the campgrounds, and the permit process for back-country camping. The next morning (Christmas eve) we packed the car and left. Snowshoes were left behind.

Typically campsites are reserved months in advance but a few spots are held for last-minute next-day walk-ins. That was our plan -- show up at the park Christmas afternoon and hope for a reservation on the 26th. The NPS website said the Bright Angel Campground was already 100% full for the 27th and 29th.

We got lucky. The ranger said we could camp the 26th and 27th. He also warned us of the latest weather forecast: snow Christmas night on the rim, low of 15 F at the bottom of the canyon. Our sleeping bags are "20 degree" bags and we have a 3-season tent. Last time we used them it got below freezing and we survived (with margin) so we thought we could cope.

That night we stayed in a little cabin room at the Bright Angel Lodge and had a good Christmas dinner. It was cold, windy, and sleeting but we walked along the rim trail and checked out one of the ranger programs too before heading to bed.

As you can see in the picture, visibility sucked. We hoped it would be better the next few days.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Skiing the 14ers

Had a good time fixing up kids' bikes today at the Velodrome, plan to do some more tomorrow.

Tonight Laurel and I went to Neptune for a slideshow on skiing the 14ers. I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew Lou Dawson wrote a book on Colorado's 14ers and has done both summer and winter ascents of all of them. This show was by Chris Davenport and I wasn't sure what the angle would be.

The show was gripping! Even though I was up early today and the show ran late, I knew I wouldn't be able to fall right asleep tonight after a show like that! His goal was to ski from the summit of every 14,000+ foot mountain in Colorado -- all 54 of them -- in a year. That's insane. Even skiing the easiest one of these mountains is insane. There was one month period where he bagged 22 descents. That's about how many working days there are in a month, and some of these days started at 3am and were 16 hours long.

These pictures show the route he and his partners pioneered on Capitol Peak (click pic for his website). See in the first picture how that red line goes down from the summit then cuts sharp to the left and around the arete? You have to go that way to avoid the 500' sheer cliffs of doom. He described it as a "no-fall zone". The second pic shows a scary perspective of those cliffs from around the corner.

I'd like to do some back-country skiing someday, but geez, not this.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Community Cycles

For the past few months I have been volunteering at Community Cycles. Mostly doing mechanic work and helping people out but a few days I got to help out with the kids programs. Boulder's "Out there guy" Ryan Van Duzer put up video from a day we took the kids to a dirt park for some off-road mountain biking. Then another day we were back in the shop fixing up bikes -- check out the guy at 1:45.

The next few days CC volunteers will be wrenching on around 300 kids bikes to get them ready for the holiday give-away this weekend. I can't imagine how that many bikes are going to get fixed up in time, but hopefully Thursday or Friday night I'll find out (and help out!).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Weekend with Rob and Lisa

Rob and Lisa visited this weekend. It was a lot of fun to see them. Friday afternoon we explored Pearl St. That night we took them to the Gold Hill Inn -- great food and a great table by the fireplace. Saturday we skied the slopes of Eldora. Sunday was very very very cold so we only spent a little time outside. There was fresh snow so we had to try a little sledding at Chautauqua. Football, pizza and beer in the evening.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Knot Tying School

Monday night we braved the snowy roads to drive down to Golden for the first day of a CMC course in knot tying. The class was very good -- we learned a few things and met a lot of knowledgeable people. Towards the end of the class Laurel and I got to chat with local legend Gerry Roach for a bit. Looking forward to the second half next Monday.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Arestua Hut!

Last time we tried snowshoeing on the Jenny Creek Trail, we didn't get on the right trail, there wasn't enough snow, and we couldn't find the CMC hut at the top of Guinn Mountain.

Sunday was redemptive! Lots of snow (although it was melting at temps in the 50s). Better signage directing us to the trail. And... at the end of it was the Arestua hut.

Looking forward to staying an overnight sometime soon. Check out the pics.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Our first CMC trip

Today we went on our first CMC trip, led by Ricardo Peña. There were 8 people in our group total. We enjoyed hiking and talking with them.

The trip started at the St. Vrain Mountain Trailhead south of Allenspark and headed up the valley between Meadow and St. Vrain Mountains. Our aim was to summit St. Vrain for a 10-mile round-trip.

There was only a few inches of snow at the trailhead so we started off hiking. After a couple of miles we reached a point where there was enough snow to snowshoe. We geared up and headed off-trail. Parts were rocky and steep but we soon got to nice deep snow (with an occasional rocky section).

View Larger Map

We 'shoed on- and off-trail for a while to a saddle above the treeline, where we stashed our snowshoes and headed for the summit. Without the protection of the trees we were exposed to high winds -- some gusts were strong enough to knock us off balance. The pelting snow didn't feel too good against our faces. Of course the more Laurel and I tried to cover up the more our sunglasses fogged, so at times we were just following the blurry shapes in front of us. We definitely need better headgear!

Even without foggy glasses visibility was very poor. For a number of reasons we turned back about 500 vertical feet from the summit. The trip was a lot of fun despite the weather. (See our trek in Google Earth)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving Vacation Part 2

On Thanksgiving Day it was overcast in Boulder. We were hoping to wake up to some snow, but no luck here in town. So, we decided to try our luck and hopefully our snowshoes in the mountains. I picked out a trail west of Nederland and a village called Eldora. We started at the Hessie trailhead and hiked the Devil's Thumb Bypass Trail. Parts were very pretty and went along a creek. However, the trail was very, very icy. There was only a little bit of snow, so we didn't break out the snowshoes and we kept wishing we had YakTracks. We stopped for lunch and a couple totally flew by us unaffected by the snow because they had the rubber contraptions on their feet. It was getting late and we were moving slowly, so we turned around before hitting Devil's Lake and made a loop with the Devil's Thumb trail. The picturesque Hessie Falls were totally frozen and covered with snow. We'll have to go back sometime to see them in their glory. The whole hike was only about 6 miles. We then headed home for some good 'ole Thanksgiving hot dogs and mac & cheese. Yum!

Friday was supposed to be a rest day. So, we had a leisurely morning and hung around the house reading and stuff. Around lunchtime we headed out on our bikes to do some errands. We rode about 5 miles down to Neptune's to pick up some things (we got cool MicroSpikes--better than YakTracks!) Then Dan wanted Arby's for lunch (yuck). When we finally got home it was getting cold and we both made chocolate chip cookies.

We did wake up to a little snow on Saturday morning--just a dusting. It was very pretty, so I decided to go for a little run in our neighborhood. A little later in the morning we went out to Betasso and hiked the 3 mile loop in an hour. After running a few more errands we came home for lunch and then I promptly fell asleep for two hours. After Dan woke me up we hit the rock gym for a while. Dan's reading a book about training for climbing so we each did four laps on a 5.9 for a stamina test.

Sunday is our big CMC hike/snowshoe day. The trip Dan picked is supposed to be 10 miles with 3500 feet elevation gain--two summits (Mt. St. Vrain and Meadow). This should be interesting...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Vacation

In Boulder the schools get the whole week surrounding Thanksgiving off. It's definitely a nice feature. So, I was trying to get Dan to take off work Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday so we could go somewhere south of here to climb. Our hopes were set on Moab, Utah where we could bike, hike, and climb. However, he had to work Monday and Tuesday so come Tuesday night when we checked to weather to pack for our trip, we learned that it was just not in the stars for us this week. There is a huge low pressure system moving through the southwestern part of the country. Many areas are getting snow and rain--everywhere from here to Moab to Joshua Tree, CA. Hopefully the weather will be better at Christmastime...

Monday I just hung around town, did some swimming and yoga, and went into school for a little while. Monday night we joined the rock gym for the winter. It took us a whole 10 minutes to walk there Monday night (it's only two blocks away!) and now we can go anytime we want. Disappointingly, the grades are sandbagged. After 8 months of working on 5.2-5.6 rock we were able to get successfully on 5.9s (or should I say 5.8s). It was still fun, though.

Tuesday I drove down to Colorado Springs to visit my friend Melanie and her 8-month-old, Josh (who is very cute). It was really fun to visit them.

Wednesday Dan didn't have to work so we had a fun vacation day in Boulder. For breakfast we went to Moe's, a bagel shop. Then I dragged Dan to do groceries with me and we spent twice as much as usual (lots of goodies for the week)! At lunchtime we decided to go for a short hike on Sanitas. It was beautiful and warm out--60s I'd say. Then we hit the rock gym and some 5.10 and 5.11 routes before I went for a run and Dan went for a bike ride. The day ended with a viewing of "Tremors." I'd never seen it.

Oh yeah, we also joined the Colorado Mountain Club. They offer a lot of local (and not so local) trips, outdoor schools, and social events. We signed up for a snowshoe trip on Sunday. It's supposed to be 10 miles with 3500 ft elevation gain. Hopefully we can keep up!

Happy Turkey Day Everyone!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mallory Cave

Today we finally hiked to Mallory Cave. We have been meaning to for some time but kept getting sidetracked by other fun things to do.

The trail to the cave was a steep hike, especially at the end! Once we got back down we took this picture of two women scrambling up.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Fun Hike

This morning we started at NCAR and headed to the Mesa Trail. After about 3 miles we headed towards South Boulder Peak on the Shadow Canyon Trail. We summited the 8,500 foot peak at lunch time. Though it was beautiful, warm, and sunny on the whole 5 miles to the top, it was very windy and chilly once we got there. After a quick bite, we traversed the ridge to Bear Peak at 8,400 feet.

My hope was to bag a third peak (Green Mountain) and rack up 15 miles on the day. However, it was getting late (now that the sun sets at 4:30) and we were getting tired. Once we completed the West Bear Ridge Trail (really neat route!) and the Bear Canyon Trail we were glad we didn't take the long way home. After nearly 7 and a half hours and almost 11 miles the car was a welcome sight!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dan's last big ride of the year

There probably won't be many (any?) days like today for the rest of the year. It was almost 70 today, so I took off on a long bike ride. In 140 minutes I covered 27.8 miles -- almost 12 MPH average, which isn't too bad considering I went up the big hill to NCAR!

View Larger Map

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A tale of the route that Laurel and Dan climbed today that might be Hubris and/or Atlanta but may not be

The weather was forecast to be warm today so our plan was to get to Chautauqua early and climb a Flatiron. We picked two shorter routes in case it got cold. The first was East-facing for the morning sun and the second was South-facing for the afternoon -- by 1 or 2pm the sun isn't hitting the East faces any more and by 2 or 3 it's behind the mountain.

Finding the first route, Hubris, was a challenge. The book describes how to get to the start of the climb: "Start at the same place as Atlanta..." For Atlanta it says: "Start 230 feet southwest from the start of Baker's Way..." Baker's Way is described as being "...several hundred feet from the top of the Witch's Cabin..." Measuring these distances is near impossible, since 1) the trail switches back so much that you may hike 200 feet along the trail but only gain 20 vertical feet and end up 40 feet away, and 2) there are trees and rocks in the way, so you can't always see where you were.

We eventually decided that we must be at the start of the climb, even though the rock didn't match up with the description. In any case it seemed that a few hundred feet up we would meet up with where the route was supposed to go, and the lower section looked like easy enough climbing. The route was supposed to climb a "well-formed dihedral" but there wasn't anything in sight that I would describe that way.

In the shade the rock was cool but once we reached sunlight it was quite warm, especially with a heavy long-sleeved black shirt! I led up the rock as I have on any Flatiron climb: disregard any beta found in a guidebook. Instead, look for cracks that will take pro and aim for them. Runout the easy sections a bit. Tackle some harder sections if there's good pro. Eventually we made it to a large Juniper tree; from that point on we were no longer climbing what we thought was Hubris and had moved over to what seems to be Atlanta.

Atlanta tops out on the North Arete route. Lots of traffic today -- more than 10 people passed me while I was belaying Laurel up to that point. From there it should have been one short pitch to the summit, but since there were many people around we made it two really short pitches. The air was calm for a while but eventually the wind picked up, probably around 50 MPH. Laurel had a tough time rappelling with the wind blowing the ropes all around.

It was a fun day climbing the First, and unlike last summer's ascent, this time there were no thunderstorms (and I got to sign the register!). We didn't have time for the second climb -- we were pretty beat too. Maybe if the weather holds up...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bike ride, protest, hike

Saturday we went for a bike ride on the Cottonwood and Eagle trails, then pedaled down to Pearl Street for the Prop. 8 protest, then pedaled over to Chautauqua and hiked around the Woods Quarry area.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Look what Dan made me for breakfast! Moose cakes!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Royal Arch Hiking and Scrambling

We thought it might be too cold to climb today so instead we biked to Chautauqua with our rock shoes. We ventured off the Royal Arch trail in a few spots to explore some rock formations and catch a glimpse of the area where we were spelunking last weekend. At Sentinal Pass we stopped to scramble around the big boulders there. Calling them big is an understatement -- some were mini-flatirons!

Getting a little higher up allowed us to see the extent of rock that exists between the 3rd and 4th Flatirons. This mountain has enough rock to keep us busy for a looong time, even if we were to only do one climb on each rock! There were a few pinnacles high up on the hillside that were particularly appealing.

Eventually we made it to the Royal Arch. Since we had our rock shoes with us I thought it'd be fun to scramble up to the top. See me in the picture below?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hiking in Wild Basin, RMNP

Today we drove up to the southern part of Rocky Mountain National Park and hiked in the Wild Basin area. There was snow on the ground even at the trailhead, but once we got hiking it wasn't too cold. We hiked along the North St. Vrain Creek and then the Ouzel Creek, passing a few partially-frozen waterfalls on the way.

There were also a few boulders worth scrambling up and we could see Mt. Meeker for most of the trip (see photo below). At one point we passed by a cave that looked like it went pretty far back but couldn't scramble in too far due to a 10' drop.

Towards the end of the trail we had to decide whether to head to Ouzel Lake or Bluebird Lake. The day was getting late, the weather was getting cloudier, and it looked like there could be some snow coming, so we headed to Ouzel which was closer.

On the way back we passed by a few campsites. Could be a nice place to stay someday when it's warmer.

See all pictures.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election night

Last night after watching Senator McCain and President-elect Obama speak I biked down to Pearl Street to see what was going on. Big celebration. People were dancing in the streets (yes, literally).

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Spelunking, day 1

Today we searched for the McCarty Cave.

These were not the cave we were looking for:

One of the caves was very cool. It was big and had a few arches and windows:

I climbed out one of the windows and up into a higher vestibule. There was a mostly melted candle set in a depression:

See all pictures from today.

See pictures from yesterday -- we hiked the Niwot Ridge.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Week in Review

We did get to see Obama speak. Perhaps I should rephrase that, we heard Obama speak from massive speakers. It was very difficult to SEE him because there were 50,000 people there. It was still neat, though, to be part of something that big and exciting.

On Monday and Wednesday I did some substitute teaching. Yup, I was a sub. Monday went well--it was a half day with some middle school orchestra kids. They were a lot of fun and well behaved. On Wednesday I was at Boulder High School for the afternoon. That, as you could imagine, was a different story. The Concert Choir was a rowdy bunch but I survived and no one got hurt or sent to the office (can you even do that in high school? I'm not sure).

What else did we do this week? Hmmm... Monday night we saw "Burn After Reading" with Brad Pitt. It really wasn't as funny as I thought it would be. Thursday we went to an avalanche safety seminar at REI. It was very interesting and now we know what to look for come the snowy season.

Friday night we did a long bike ride into the canyon. On the way back I almost hit a duck. Then we hit Pearl Street for dinner. It was really fun watching everyone in costumes walking around. Unfortunately, we didn't stay late enough for the Naked Pumpkin Run that started at 10:45. Maybe next year...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Quiet Weekend

Unfortunately, my knee is still pretty nasty. The gravel I feel on really took two big chunks of skin out and these spots are taking a long time to heal. So, this weekend has been very quiet. Yesterday we took an hour walk in the plains (no elevation gain because stairs and hills are hard for me) near the Heatherwood area. The little mini-hike had beautiful views of the snow-covered rockies with colorful deciduous trees in the foreground.

After returning home we decided to walk to Target to get Dan some new sneakers. On the way back we stopped in the parking lot of the Whole Pets Store to observe a Halloween pet party. About 25 dogs were dressed up in costumes being paraded around by their owners--often in costumes themselves. It was quite a show. We grabbed hot dogs of the grill and just watched the show.

Dan had to work in the afternoon and I was confined to the couch to rest my knee. To pass the time I tried my hand at watercoloring painting the beautiful scenes we had witnessed earlier in the day. I figure my attempts were about as good as a 10-year-old could do. Let's just say that this is not a viable career change option for me!

Sunday morning we went for another walk in the plains. This time we were walking around the Walden pond and marsh area. It was considerably colder and windier than yesterday, but still pretty. Right now Dan is working on his bike at Community Cycles and then the plan is to drive up to Fort Collins to try to see Obama speak. Right now he's in Denver and they estimate the crowd is about 80,000 people. Hopefully, it will be a little less crazy north of here. When I saw Michelle speak three weeks ago here in town there was quite a turn out. I don't remember how many people they estimated, but it was in the thousands.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Jump move

Yes, people really jump! Scary. Can't imagine doing that with rope attached and a 10 pound rack.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Little Bike Ride

On Sunday the weather was absolutely gorgeous, so we decided to take advantage of it and go for a long bike ride (in a couple of weeks I don't think we'll want to get on bikes much!). There is an area west of the Flatirons/Green Mountain called Walker Ranch that we wanted to check out. On a hike in Eldorado a few weeks ago we ran into the Walker Loop Trail and it looked like a lot of fun. So, this was the day to check it out!

We hopped on our bikes and headed for the hills...literally. To reach Walker Ranch we needed to bike 4 miles to Chautauqua Park, then another 4.5 miles to the summit of Flagstaff Mountain, then another 3 miles to the trail head of Walker Ranch. Chautauqua was no big deal--about 25 minutes most of week was up a decent hill. Flagstaff proved a bit more difficult. The 4.5 miles is up a mountain, so we gained a good 2,000 feet over the next 35 minutes or so. Reaching the Summit Road (a spur that gets you to some hiking trails, an outdoor amphitheater, and some great views) we thought we were done with the elevation gain. Haa! The next part was even more treacherous. The road was so steep (>7.5 degrees) pedaling in the lowest gear was really, really hard. We both fought thoughts of getting off and walking, but we didn't! The next parking area, Stevens Gulch, offered great views and a chance to stretch. The road kept heading up until we got behind Green Mountain. Then we finally enjoyed a couple of downhills before the final descent to Walker Ranch.

Now, if you're a regular reader of the blog, you know we've done some mountain biking out here. Most of it has been a lot of fun. Sure, there's been a few technical spots where Dan attempts to ride and I just walk my bike, but it's been quite doable. Walker Ranch was not all that doable. I swear, someone needed to mark this trail as difficult and the others as easy or novice. The majority of this seven-mile loop was insane. It was steep (both going up and down), it was rocky, there were sharp turns and switchbacks, and there was even about 1,000 feet where EVERYONE (even the REALLY good people) had to carry their bikes because there were stairs cut into the side of the cliff. Let me tell you, walking your bike up steep hills is not a lot of fun, carrying your bike down a cliff is even less fun. All in all the 7 miles took us almost 3 hours to complete. Crazy!

After a snack, we were ready for the ride home, or so I thought. We were headed down the long, loose-gravel driveway back to the road and I slid off my bike. Yup, I was going too fast, tried to slow down, and then ended up in the middle of the road on all fours. I gouged a good chunk of skin out of my knee and arm and thought I needed stitches. Very fortunately, a ranger was passing by a few minutes after the accident. He had a first aid kit (ours was at home in the climbing packs...stupid us!) and a nice big pick up. Though I could have ridden home (it would have been a long and rather painful ordeal) the ranger offered us a ride. Thankfully, I didn't need stitches but I still did a number on my left limbs. After a few days of R&R I'm sure I'll be fine for next weekend's adventures. I better be!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

2nd and Sunset

Laurel and I did two big climbs today. First up was a route on the Second Flatiron called Freeway. It was an interesting climb, especially when we got to the part the guidebook author describes as:

Jumping may be the easiest way to overcome the gap. Jumping, while not a recommended climbing technique, seems innocent and safe enough at this notch.

Well we got to that point and wasted almost an hour deciding how to get down, because jumping looked like a sure way to twist an ankle halfway up this 800 foot climb. There was no easy way to downclimb (this was supposed to be a Class 4 climb), so instead of the jump move we did an interesting 10 foot rappel. The picture shows where the jump is supposed to happen -- from that piece of rock sticking out on to the slab.

On the climb we were met by 3 guys free soloing. It probably only took them an hour or less to do the whole climb unroped. We did the climb roped in 6 pitches, in about 6 hours.

Our hope was to head over to the Sunset Flatironette next, since it is somewhat behind the Second Flatiron. We weren't sure if there would be enough daylight to finish the "Chase the Sun" climb (it was almost 4pm), but it looked like there were good escape points along the way if we needed one, so we gave it a shot. This climb follows a ridge for 600 feet and had some 30' runouts. It was an interesting climb, but parts of it felt tougher than the 5.4 rating -- there was lots of lichen and loose rock in places, as this is not a very frequently-climbed rock.

Before we started we decided that at 6:30 we would bail so we weren't climbing in the dark -- but around 5:30 we were nearing the end of the climb so we just wrapped it up. By the time we got our sneakers on and started to hike it was very dark. It was about an hour hike back down to our packs at the base of the Second Flatiron and then to the car. Definitely worth it though -- the sunset was beautiful (see all pics).

In all, we climbed 10 pitches today, covering about 1400 feet of climbing. We left the car a bit after 8am and returned a bit after 8pm.

When we got to the parking lot, there were a few news crews and park rangers. During our "Chase the Sun" climb we had seen a rescue team off behind the South Block of the Second Flatiron. Apparently someone had fallen and died "between the 2nd and 3rd Flatirons" but given the location of the rescue/recovery team it appeared to us to be closer to the 2nd. Could have been one of the freesoloers we saw. So far no details, but it sounds like the person didn't have any safety equipment.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Snowy Nederland

As expected, Boulder didn't see any snow. But, we decided we would go chase it because, you know, there's nothing like freezing temps in and white stuff in October. We didn't need to go too far to find some. By the time we got to Boulder Falls in the canyon (about 8 miles from town) there was snow on the branches of the evergreens. Once we got to Nederland there was a dusting on the ground. We drove a bit west and south of town to the Eldora Ski Area where we parked at an elevation of 9,200ft. Our hope was to hike the Jenny Creek Trail to Guinn Mountain at 11,200ft. We did get more snow as we ascended the trail and at times there was enough to try out our snowshoes. However, once we put them on, we would quickly take them off again as parts of the trail were rocky and windswept which meant minimal snow.

The base of the trail was well marked, but when we were supposed to turn off the resort access road was not marked, so we hiked the road all the way to the top of the mountain--lots of steep switchbacks. After about 2 hours the road finally petered out and became a trail that followed a gas pipeline. After about a mile out of the ski resort the trail got very narrow and led us through some dense, snow covered pines. Here Dan saw some moose tracks (that's right, there was a big sign that warned us that many moose frequented the area). Eventually we made it to the summit of what we thought was Guinn Mountain. The visibility was so poor at this point (maybe 350ft) it was hard to tell. But, according to the GPS we were there. We promptly turned around and what took us 3.5 hours to ascend took 2 hours to descend. Needless to say after 5.5 hours of hiking in the snow we were cold, tired, and sore especially since the snow shoes were on our backs more than our feet! We got back into town and stopped at Sherpa's Restaurant for dinner.