Monday, June 28, 2010

Estes Cone run

Our plan for today was to run part of the Sourdough trail. The segment starts at the CU Alpine Research Center at around 9,000', ends at around 10,100' (if we actually made it all the way to the Brainard Lake area), has a fairly consistent grade, and would be in the shade.

Once we started driving to the trailhead, we realized that would put us right in the neighborhood where a guy with a rifle tied two hikers to a tree a few days earlier. OK, scratch that plan.

Instead we drove up to the Longs Peak trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park and ran up to Estes Cone.

Compared to our planned run, the trail started a little higher (9,400'), ended a lot higher (11,000'), had many ups and downs, some very steep sections at the end where we had to stop running and start hiking, and was almost entirely in the sun.

At least the first 50 minutes was runnable, so we got a good workout in. And then we got to run that part on the way back too.

View Estes Cone in a larger map

Sunday, June 27, 2010


We tried to bike this year's B360. Missed a few turns, but we still probably got 20 miles in.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

James Peak

We've been to St. Mary's Glacier twice for CMC classes, since there are good snow slopes to practice on. Each time, we looked up the slopes and wondered what's up top. We know James Peak is up there, but never got a glimpse since we stayed low on the slopes.

We decided to hike James Peak, but from the other direction -- starting at the Moffat Tunnel / East Portal trailhead. This trailhead is just 5 miles due north of where we park for St. Mary's, but 45 miles away by car. Starting here instead of St. Mary's meant less driving, but more distance and more vertical gain. And so of course, an earlier start.

By 5:45 am we were hiking up the trail. It was already 50 degrees -- surprising at 9200'! The trail was fairly moderate so we set out at a fast pace. Our goal was to summit and return to treeline by 1pm.

The trail follows the South Boulder Creek to its headwaters. With the high temps, there was a lot of water, and not just in the creek! Parts of the trail had streams running down so our boots got pretty wet and muddy.

Around 10,000' we started to see snow, and not long after that we were spending more time on snow than on dry ground. Most of the snow was pretty soft but we weren't post-holing too bad.

Many of the creek crossings had split-log bridges or stones to hop across, but there was one place we had to cross a snow bridge over the river. The snow was a few feet thick and solid so it wasn't much of a concern.

After 4.5 miles we got to a beautiful meadow and soon after had views of Haystack Mountain, Roger's Peak Lake, and Heart Lake. The trail up to Roger's Pass was wonderful -- for such a popular area, it was nice to be hiking on overgrown singletrack.

From there is was about another mile and another hour hiking up steep switchbacks to the Continental Divide. From the ridgetop we could see the town and ski slopes of Winter Park.

The trail stayed on the west side of the divide, avoiding the steep corniced slopes on the east side. There was one place we had to get out our ice axes -- only 30' of snow to cross, but the way down would have been quite a ride if we slipped without any way to arrest.

Finally we got to the northern slope of James Peak. The trail was fairly well marked but easy to lose where covered in snow. There were no tracks to follow. About halfway up we aimed for a misplaced cairn and ended up off trail for most of the rest of the ascent. We eventually saw another person hiking up the ridge. It looked like he was on a trail, so we aimed for that and had an easier time completing the hike.

We arrived on summit right at 11:00, joining three people who had hiked up from St. Mary's. The clouds weren't looking great so after a snack and a summit photo we turned around pretty quick.

Following the trail on the way down was sooooo much nicer than scrambling on the talus! Only a few drops of rain fell on us as we were hiking down the divide -- somehow we managed to stay dry for the 4 hour hike back down.

At the end of the day, we had hiked almost 15 miles (with 4,000' elevation gain) in about 9.5 hours.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mesa trail run

Today we headed up to Chautauqua on our bikes shortly after we woke up. It was a gorgeous day to do some trail running. We headed up the Old Kinnikinic Road to the Mesa Trail. Our plan was to run for half and hour and then turn back. We both made it to Bear Creek (Dan was ahead of me by a couple of minutes) and back. Click here to see the route and elevation gain. On the way back home we stopped along Boulder Creek to cool down. We had a competition to see who could keep their feet and ankles in the icy river the longest. I won after 11 seconds. Rushing snow melt is very cold.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fourteener Friday

Friday was the first meeting of the Fourteener Fridays Club. My friend, Ann, and I decided that we would attempt some fourteeners on Fridays this summer as I'm not working and as a realtor, she would likely have some free time on Fridays. For our first hike, Mount Massive, Dan came along, too.

We met in South Boulder at 4:30am and drove all the way through Leadville to the trailhead. Dan and I were pleasantly surprised by the roads, as we were on them three years when we hiked our very first fourteener, Mount Elbert. However, we kept going on the dirt road past the standard trailheads to try some 4-wheel driving and get to the North Halfmoon Creek parking lot. We saw one other truck there.

The beginning of trail was absolutely beautiful. It meandered through lush forests and a beautiful meadow. We saw a big rabbit and lots of early season wild flowers. After a mile and a half, we left the main trail and headed straight up for almost three miles.

Though the trail was very well built and maintained, it was steep and large portions were hidden under huge snowfields. Several times we got out the axes and kick-stepped up the slopes. Amazingly, we managed to keep finding the trail and followed up to the very, very long summit ridge.

Mount Massive has many small peaks along this huge ridge that are all above 14,000 (Massive ranks second highest in the state at 14,421 ft). Once we climbed one small peak, there was always another, higher one further along the ridge. We FINALLY reached the true summit at 1:30 and had a leisurely lunch as there was not a cloud in the sky.

On the way down we were determined to speed up our descent by doing some glissading down the large snowfields. After sliding down the summit ridge, we hiked over a saddle to a very steep, rockslide slope. We were actually planting our axes into the loose dirt and scree to safely walk/slide down it. We were able to glissade down several more snowfields before meeting back up with the trail back to the car.

I think Massive is probably the prettiest fourteener we've hiked, but it was also very long and steep. It took us 5:45 to travel 4 miles and ascend 4,000 ft and 3:45 to get back to the car. This coupled with a 6-hour round trip drive, made for a very, very long day.

From the summit we had great views of the Tenmile and Mosquito Ranges. We could even see Pikes Peak! When we got home Dan identified and labeled the peaks. Use the scrollbar below to view the entire panorama, or click for a larger view:

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Intermediate snow, part 2

The second field trip for the Intermediate Snow class was crampon practice in Rocky Mountain National Park. Laurel didn't make this trip since she had a pretty bad spill on her bike earlier in the week and sprained her shoulder.

To get some good hard snow on steeper slopes, we needed an early start. At 2:50am my alarm woke me up. I picked up a few other CMC'ers in Lyons at 4am then met the rest of the class at the Bear Lake trailhead at 5am. It was raining lightly but soon turned to snow as we gained elevation. We hiked to some steep slopes near Lake Helene, arriving there before 8am.

Despite the early start, the snow was not great for crampon practice, as there was 5 inches of new soft snow on top. We practiced the techniques, but unfortunately the conditions didn't always warrant those techniques. Still, it was great practice and a great experience. At the end of the day we glissaded back down the slopes and hiked back to the car. We made it to Oscar Blues in Lyons around 1:30 for lunch.

See pictures someone else took that day.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Intermediate snow

We got up not-so-bright and early Sunday morning to meet for a field trip with the CMC Intermediate Snow School. At St. Mary's Glacier we practiced building anchors in the snow using natural features, pickets, flukes, and ice axes -- standard snow climbing tools. We learned how to do hip belays from bucket seats, boot-axe belays, and a few other techniques. We also practiced traveling in rope teams and setting protection up a steep snow slope. Both of us got a turn leading our rope teams. It was fun and we met a lot of nice people. After 8 hours on the snow we unwound at Tommy Knockers in Idaho Springs.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Yay Summer!

Dan slept in a bit today, so I wen for a nice run before we headed to Chautauqua for some climbing. At lunch time we were standing at the base of The Hammerhead, a rock that Gerry Roach calls classic despite its easy rating.

I led (yes, me!) the first two pitches of the climb. I was slow, but I protected the route well, even on the 50 foot long arch in the middle of the route.

Dan led the next half pitch to the the back of the rock and then led up behind the summit block to the top. The summit was huge and flat (hence "Hammerhead") and we hung out for a while.

Great views of the Fourth Flatiron from this summit:

Fields of wildflowers on the hike back: