Friday, July 30, 2010

IPW Backpacking, Day 5

We woke up early (5:15) to a gorgeous sunrise. Finally, a day where the weather seemed back to normal for Colorado (clear and sunny except for a passing thunder storm in the afternoon).

We ascended the east ridge of Sawtooth (class 3) which was a really fun scramble. We met two other hikers who had camped out the night before to do this climb. They said they saw three moose as they hiked by our camp -- lucky them!!!

After talking with Sean and Liz for a while on the summit, Laurel and I headed south on the Divide to Algonquin peak. We stopped first at unnamed point 12,155...

... and then started up the LONG ridge to the summit of Algonquin. Great views from that summit, but we didn't stick around long since the clouds were gathering.

We backtracked to the east ridge of Algonquin towards the valley between it and the smaller "mountain" known as Coney Island. The descent was supposed to be class 2, but we ended up on some nasty choss -- Laurel slid down the scree and I found some mostly-stable boulders to scramble down.

We wanted to try to summit Coney Island, but once again the storms forced us back to camp. On the way back we saw a helicopter fly by as we were hiking around Coney Lake. It must have been heading up to RMNP.

Just as the tent came into sight, we saw a group of trail runners on the trail a few thousand feet away. We figured it was a Boulder Trail Runners group (it was). Looked like fun!

(Click picture for a fully zoomed in view)

We once again waited for the storms to pass and packed up camp. We hiked the Buchanan Pass Trail east to the Beaver Creek Trail. Where the two trails intersect is actually outside the designated wilderness area. No big deal, there are plenty of places that are not "wilderness" that we've hiked, but as soon as we rounded the corner we were on a wide 4WD road. And right at that moment, a Jeep happened to be repeatedly driving through the river. His son was in the front seat and his young daughter was in the back wrapped in some sort of bag wearing goggles. Very strange, guess it kept her dry. After 5 days of only seeing a few people, a few aircraft fly over, and nothing else but nature, this was strange.

Within maybe a quarter mile we were back in the wilderness, continuing south on the Beaver Creek Trail. We wanted to get as far south as we could to be in good position fro the morning. We passed one large creek and didn't think to stop to filter water. We continued on for an hour to a spot we thought would be great for the night, which is when we realized we were running low on water.

After examining the map, we hoped to find the source of Beaver Creek. We hiked for a bit, and found a creek barely big enough to get water. Downhill a ways, Laurel found a great campsite. It was flat -- this would be the first night we wouldn't be rolling to the left or sliding down towards our feet! The weather was cooperating too -- it appeared that we would be able to make dinner without rain.

But instead of rain, there were flies/fleas/gnats swarming around us. They especially liked flying into our eyes, ears, and hair. It was disgusting. I made a very small smoky fire to try to get rid of them. It helped, but it was still not fun constantly waving our arms and hats around to scare them away. We cleaned up after eating chicken and dumplings (and chocolate cheesecake for dessert!) and settled down for the night. We killed all the flies in the tent and laid down. Twenty minutes later the wind started, and didn't stop until 6:30am. Not just a little breeze, either. We were just above treeline in an open meadow and the wind kept gusting enough that our tent poles would bend. Neither of us got much sleep.

(Oh yeah, and that nice flat campsite? Well, it turns out it was level, but it was not flat. There were large clumps of grass sticking into the smalls of our backs all night.)

IPW Backpacking, Day 4

We woke up to a cold morning. Luckily our campsite was situated high above the foggy valley floor. Despite our trouble setting up the tent in the rain, we actually had a fairly dry night.

After another hot oatmeal breakfast, we packed up and hiked back down to the Buchanan Pass Trail. Another long day ahead -- up and over the pass plus another mountain or two on the Divide if time and weather allowed.

The overgrown single-track trail wound through quintessential Rocky Mountain landscape -- jagged, rocky peaks, tall pine forests, and meadows of wild flowers in every color. It was very wet because of all the rain, so every time we had to squeeze through a clump of bushes we got soaked.

We summited Buchanan Pass. The last half mile of trail was super steep! We decided to skip Sawtooth Mountain, less than a mile south along the divide, because the clouds looked so threatening and it was already after 11am.

We hiked down the rocky east side of the pass and found a flat area near treeline to set up our tent. This location would set us up for a number of possible hikes the next day.

As soon as the tent was up and the bags were stashed under the tarp, it started storming. This time, we were dry and all our stuff was dry. Amazing! We played cards in the tent and looked at maps for a while, and before we knew it the storm had passed.

Once we thought it was all clear, we headed off trail towards Coney Island, a small mountain in the area. However, we only made it about a quarter mile before hearing thunder again. The rest of our route would be above treeline, exposed to lightning. Back to camp to wait it out. We decided instead to hike to Red Deer Lake, since the trail is entirely below treeline. It was another very pretty lake.

We hiked back to camp quickly to try to beat the rain, but failed. Once again, Laurel cooked dinner in the rain. It was great having warm soup on a cold rainy night. We ate Ramen noodles, soy nuts, and veggies under cover of a few trees -- delicious!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

IPW Backpacking, Day 3

The morning had a slow start as we tried to dry out our clothes, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, tarp, rain fly, and tent before packing it all up. Once everything was dry (except Laurel's boots, which were hopelessly soaked!) we headed west on the Cascade Creek Trail.

Our original plan was to summit Thunderbolt Peak on the way, but it was already too late in the day to safely attempt. It was neat walking around it though and also seeing the back side of Cherokee, which we had ascended the day before.

The Cascade Creek Trail had many large, beautiful, cascading waterfalls. Truly impressive how the creek had carved its way through the surrounding rock.

We eventually came to the Buchanan Pass Trail and began hiking east again. We ran into other backpackers who were heading for Gourd Lake, but they missed the trail junction. We hiked on a bit further than they had and found it well-marked about a third of a mile up the trail. I thought we might find a good campsite along the way up that trail, and was mildly interested in seeing the lake, so we started hiking up the very, very long switchbacks.

About a third of the way up, it started to rain a little, then thunder, then rain a lot. We found a fairly flat spot and put the tent up in the rain. Bad idea. In hindsight we should have just waited it out a bit, but we were afraid that like the day before, it wouldn't stop raining. The inside of the tent was soaked. It didn't help that we put the fly on upside down and then had to flip it over.

Fortunately, this night the rain did let up -- right after the tent was set up. Then it stopped completely. I sopped up the water with a backpacker's towel we had and Laurel made dinner (again under a tarp because the trees were still dripping). Dinner was a delicious "stew" of couscous, black bean soup mix, and veggies.

After dinner the weather had really cleared up, so we decided to continue on the trail to see Gourd Lake. It was much further than we had anticipated due to the enormous switchbacks. (In total, 2.6 miles of trail to cover 0.7 miles of straight-line distance and 1300 vertical feet.)

A mile and a half later, we finally reached the top of the hill and saw the lake. It was incredibly tranquil and lush with vegetation on its shores. Too bad we didn't have much time to explore, because it seemed really neat up there. We never saw those other hikers again, so hopefully they found a secluded spot somewhere and actually made it to the lake at some point on their trip.

We got back to camp just before dark -- a nice change getting to fall asleep without the lights on!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

IPW Backpacking, Day 2

The 12 "Crater Lake" campsites are spread along a length of trail maybe a mile long, so we actually weren't camped that close to Crater Lake. When Laurel got our back-country permit she was told we got one of the last reservations for each night, but we only saw a few other people. It felt like we had the place to ourselves. Our campsite had a stream running through it and a great view of Lone Eagle.

After a breakfast of bagels and almond butter we headed towards the lakes. First up was Mirror Lake, which is connected to Crater Lake by a small stream. There's a great reflected view of Lone Eagle from the shore of this lake.

We walked around Crater Lake and got more great views of Lone Eagle (even though it was still cloudy). We found remnants of an old log cabin that was described as the starting point for a hike we were interested in, so we started up that one.

The mountain we were attempting is unofficially called Cherokee and is not a popular destination (the summit register only had a dozen or so parties listed in the past 5 years). We followed the directions in Gerry Roach's book and snaked our way up the hillside. There was no trail at all so route-finding around the maze of cliffs and greenways was a fun challenge.

At 11,000 feet we obtained a steep 'ramp', followed it north to a saddle at 11,600, and then climbed scree to the top. This upper portion is class 3 and had a few tricky moves where the scree turned into short cliffs that couldn't be circumvented easily.

We descended before the thunderstorms hit and decided to chill out by the lake and soak our tired feet in the cold water. About a quarter of the way around the lake was a very tall and loud waterfall. It was peaceful sitting there enjoying the views.

It thundered a bit and there was a little rain, but we were sure it would pass. Nope. It started raining harder and thundering louder (echoing impressively in the cirque), so we decided to head back to the campsite. On the way it started pouring. We took cover under some trees and waited for it to pass. Again, it did not.

Eventually it did let up a bit so we hightailed it back to camp. We reconfigured the tarp to provide a canopy next to a slightly overhanging rock and managed to cook dinner under there. Making "Thanksgiving" dinner that night (stuffing, chicken, and craisins) was definitely comforting.

We went to bed early because it was still pouring. Of course there's no good way (that we knew of) to get into the tent without bringing in some of the wet, so that wasn't pleasant. Condensation was collecting inside too and we were occasionally dripped on. It rained hard all night. The next morning there was a puddle of water in the tent that my sleeping bag was trying to sop up. It took until almost 10:00 to get enough sunlight to start drying things out.

We never did make it to the other side of Crater Lake to scope out Lone Eagle, but it will still be there next time we're in the neighborhood.

(At the end of our trip, we found out that just 10 miles southeast of us, the town of Eldora got 8 inches of hail that night. So in hindsight, we were lucky!)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

IPW Backpacking, Day 1

Wet and humid are not words we often use to describe Colorado, but on this backpacking trip I think it rained every day!

Laurel planned a great 6-day route for us through the Indian Peaks Wilderness. It started east of the Continental Divide, hiked west over Pawnee Pass, stayed on the west side of the divide for a few days, then came back east over Buchanan Pass. Along the way there were multiple peaks we intended to summit.

When we left, our packs weighed between 45 and 50 lbs.

On the first day, we started hiking at 6am at the Long Lake trailhead. We hiked past Long Lake and Lake Isabelle, then up to Pawnee Pass. Once on the Divide, we left trail and ascended Shoshoni Peak. It was not a straight shot, as there was one big unnamed point and several small rock piles to cross. The views from the peak were stunning. The summit itself was a big block that required one or two climbing moves and had lots exposure.

So far, the weather was great. Heavier clouds started coming in after noon as we began our descent on the other side of the Divide. The west side of Pawnee Pass was a contrast to the mellow east side. It was steep, very rocky, and other-worldly. We descended the crumbling rock into huge fields of wildflowers.

Along the way we met a group of four backpackers from the L.A. area who were doing our same loop, but without the mountain excursions. For the two girls, it was their first trip. Hope they had a good three nights out!

Pawnee Lake was beautiful as was the forest around it. We continued on the trail until we started seeing designated campsites near Crater Lake. One of the guys from the L.A. group pointed out a few sites that were available but too small for them. We were pretty tired so we set up camp at the first site.

We have been meaning to get to Crater Lake for over a year now. It is the home of Lone Eagle Peak, a picturesque rock outcropping that requires ropes to climb. Our plan was to spend two days at Crater Lake so we could scope out a fourth class route up Lone Eagle for a future trip.

As the afternoon went on the clouds thickened, but we only got a few drops of rain. It was dry enough that we were able to make dinner without a problem -- rehydrated hummus and refried beans with fresh tortillas and sun dried tomatoes. Later the drizzle picked up a bit so we retired to the tent early. The humidity remained all night, as the clouds seemed to be stuck in the mile-wide bowl we were camping in.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Weekend with Rob

Rob flew out Friday to spend an adventure-filled Colorado weekend with us.  Friday afternoon we hopped on the bikes and took a tour of the Boulder Creek Path up into the canyon.  It was a beautiful, warm day so it was nice to put our feet in the water for a while.  We went to Mountain Sun for dinner and the boys enjoyed the locally brewed beer.

On Saturday, we headed to the Amphitheater to climb.  We hoped to set up topropes on the West Bench, but someone already beat us to it.  Dan led two climbs on the Third Pinnacle and Rob followed. That kept them busy for a few hours.  I helped Rob with belaying a leader and seconding, but I couldn't climb because of my damn shoulder.  So, when they were set, I ran up Flagstaff and then Green and met them back at the rock two hours later.

Once we cleaned up from climbing, we were back out again.  This time we were headed up to Allenspark for some good old-fashioned camping.  We drove up the Ski Road to Rock Creek Road in Roosevelt National Forest.  There are no official campgrounds or sites here, but it is a 4-wheel drive road along a creek that many locals pull off and create makeshift campsites.  We found an awesome one that had a tree trunk bridge across the creek, a fire pit made of stones, and a flat spot for the tent.  It was a cool night, but we had a lot of fun hanging out around the fire.

The next morning we made pancakes (yum!) and headed to RoMo.  We took Rob on our regular tour loop -- up Old Fall River Road to Milner Pass, hiking to Marmot City, and back on Trail Ridge Road.  It was a gorgeous day and we got to see marmots, elk, and bighorn sheep.  We were all beat when we got back to Boulder, so we had dinner at home and watched stupid TV.

This morning Rob took us out to breakfast at Lucile's (double yum!) and then we drove up Flagstaff and the boys did some scrambling up around Crown Rock.  Before we knew it, it was time to bring Rob back to the bus station to get a ride to the airport.  We had a really fun weekend and hopefully we didn't tire Rob out too much so he'll come back to visit soon!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Big Ride

Today I rode my bike to Ward.  It's 20 miles away and nearly 4000 feet higher than Boulder.  It took me 2h50m to get there and 1h30m to get back.

Click here to see my route.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

King Lear

Saw King Lear at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Adam's Visit by the Numbers

So Adam was here for 5 days...5 very fun and busy days.  Here's what he and I did when you add it all up:

6 summits, and 600 vertical feet shy of a 7th
33.4 miles of hiking
14,400 overall elevation gain
30 hours hiking (6 hours over 13,000ft)

I should mention, though, that Saturday was the tubing day, so all of these numbers apply to 4 days of activity.  Today is a rest day :-)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Meeker Ridge

Adam and Laurel agreed to let me pick our adventure for today. We got another early start -- by 5:25 am we were hiking from the Horse Creek trailhead. Eventually the sun broke over the mountains behind us and cast shades of red on the hillside.

At the saddle between Lookout Mountain and Meeker Ridge, we left trail and began bushwhacking towards treeline. Cairns were scattered along the way, but didn't appear to be marking any trail that we could see. (On the way back we discovered an established, well-marked trail! It was only a few hundred feet southwest of where we had hiked up.)

We broke out of the trees and began climbing talus. Tough work that went on for hours.

Eventually we realized there was very little chance of summiting and descending back to treeline before the afternoon thunderstorms came in. We decided to continue on anyway, to see how far we'd get. 10:30 was our turnaround time, unless the weather were to miraculously improve.

We made it to a large headwall and found a way to climb up that wasn't too scary. Once we "summited" this block we could see just how much more scrambling there was to even get to the lower east summit of Meeker.

It was just about 10:30, and the weather was behaving as expected, so we decided this was our summit for the day.

On the way back we navigated towards Lookout Mountain. Just before reaching treeline we heard thunder rumbling, and shortly after there was 10 minutes of rain. We managed to pick up a trail once we got into the trees, which was much better than slipping down wet scree.

At the end of the day, we had hiked a bit over 9 miles, gaining 4500' along the way. (See our GPS route for Meeker Ridge.)