Friday, July 29, 2011

Wild Basin Run

On Friday I decided to head to the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park for my long run. All my running partners were out of town or unavailable, so this was a solo trip. I picked Wild Basin because the trails are long, very moderate in elevation gain, and cooler, sitting between 9,500 and 11,200 feet.

I started running at 7:30 and headed out to Lion Lake #1. The 6.5 mile trail took me about 2 hours with 2500' gain. I only passed two other parties on the way and I had the lake to myself. Then I backtracked a bit and turned off for Ouzel Lake.

On the way, I bumped into some backpackers who told me how just half an hour earlier a black bear stole their open jar of peanut butter. Great. I had to run by their campsite and there was a bear (with peanut butter!) in the area. I started singing. Loudly. I ran into an elderly couple who seemed surprised by my singing. I explained the bear story and they just couldn't believe how stupid the two guys were leaving out their peanut butter. Oh well. I kept singing.

I turned off for Ouzel Lake and started seeing many more people. It was getting later in the morning and there were a lot of tourists out. When I arrived at the lake I was surprised by how many fishermen were there. It was much different from the winter!

Then, I was getting pretty tired. So I backtracked again, passed Ouzel Falls and Calypso Cascades and made it back to the car, sans bear. All in all, my track was just over 17 miles. It took 5 hours.

(Dan did a more moderate "long-run" in town, mostly on trails.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mount Audubon Run

Tanya and I ran up Mount Audubon today. It took us 1:33 to get up and about the same time to come down. It was a gorgeous morning and we were the first ones on the summit. More pics.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chasm Lake with Jim and Jacqueline

Violin Jim is back in town for the Colorado Music Festival. We've seen two of his concerts (wonderful), visited with his 3-year-old twins, and had dinner with him and his wife Jacqueline this summer. Well, at dinner last week the idea of a hike came up. So, we planned a trip for the four of us up to Rocky Mountain National Park.

We met at the Longs Peak Ranger Cottage and hiked up the standard trail. It was a lovely walk through the forest. When we hit treeline, we saw many wild flowers and a few marmots.

We hiked up to the Chasm Lake overlook, had snack, and laughed over the cliff-side privy. We started to head down the trail to the lake, but were turned around by a huge snowfield on a 45-degree slope. None of us were equipped for such a crossing, plus Dan and I both had to get back to town for afternoon appointments and the clouds were getting darker.

On the way down we lucked out with the rain (just a bit while we were in the trees), but I think Jim cautioned everyone about the snowfield. He was disappointed we didn't get to go on (we were too!) but it was the safest choice. We got back to the cars in time for Dan and me to run up to Estes Park to get our backpacking permit for the weekend.

See all pics.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

High Lonesome Loop

Today I went for a beautiful run/hike with the BTR (Boulder Trail Runners) Church Run group. It was a small group today with only three of us, but it was tons of fun. I drove up to the Hessie trailhead with Theresa where we met Fred who had taken the bus and ridden his bike. From there, we ran/hiked up the Devil's Lake Cut-off trail to, you guessed it, Devil's Lake. There was significantly less snow than a month ago when Dan and I tried to hike in this area. There were a couple of snow fields still around, but nothing that wasn't easily crossable. We ascended Devil's Thumb Pass to the Continental Divide in about two and a half hours. The whole route was crawling with wild flowers and boasted gorgeous views.

We then ran down part of the ridge to summit two little bumps. I thought one of them was Skyscraper Peak, but after looking at the map again, I don't think we got the true summit. We got back on the trail and descended into the King Lake basin. From there we just took the King Lake Trail back to the Hessie Trailhead. The whole adventure took 5.5 hours and we covered 16 miles and 3600' gain.

Here's our route.
Here are the pics.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Lee Hill/Deer Trail Bike Ride

I decided to go for a "little" bike ride before it got too hot today. I went up Lee Hill Road and then saw another biker turn off on Deer Trail. It looked interesting so I decided to follow him. The road didn't really go anywhere except up. I rode over 20 miles in 2:10 and climbed 2500' in elevation. Here's the map.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Buchanan Pass Run

This morning I drove up to Allenspark with my friend Maggie from my principal class to run 8-10 miles on the Buchanan Pass Trail. We left from Camp Dick and ran for about 4.5 miles until the trail was totally flooded out. Dan and I snowshoed this trail this past winter out to Red Deer Lake. There were beautiful flowers and great views of the Sawtooth!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mount Yale

On Monday we were up at 4:30 again. We threw everything in the car and were hiking before dawn. The first mile of the trail was wide and fairly easy to navigate by moonlight. We only needed our headlamps to read the trail junction signs.

We passed a father-daughter pair and then a group of 14 hiking-camp kids from Massachusetts. The trail was very well constructed and easy to follow (we learned later that it was brand new!). As we got up to about 13,000ft we ran into a single hiker who had summited early enough to see the sunrise -— very cool!

We reached the summit at 8:00 and had it to ourselves for nearly half an hour. It was another gorgeous morning, made even more special by our solitude. Other parties started to make it up, so we headed back down. We passed the kids and wished them luck in summiting. I wonder if they actually made it up -- some of them didn't look too good.

Around 11:00 am we got back to the car and then headed into town for brunch. Dan had a huge omelet and I had the best French toast ever! You really can't beat real food! We were back in Boulder at 3:00 and then I went to class at 5:00. It was a long night discussing school law, but well worth the early morning!

From the summit we had great views of some of the mountains we climbed to the North. Use the scrollbar below to view the entire panorama, or click for a larger view:

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Huron (Take 2)

Saturday evening we were both bummed that we hadn't reached the summit of Huron. Due to its remote location, I was not looking forward to making a return trip. After some debate and discussion, we decided to give it another try. However, we didn't want to hike the same trail we had just come down.

We turned to Dan's original plan of following a jeep road to the peak's north ridge. Along this ridge were several summits we could tag en route to Huron. We didn't want to be shut out due to the weather again, so we planned for a very early start. We moved the Xterra to the base of the road and set up the big tent, which felt luxurious after a night in the backpacking tent.

We got up at 4:30 and were on the trail before dawn. The full moon lit our way up the old Jeep road that we followed to the beautiful basin of Lulu Creek. From here we spotted a good route to the ridge. There were tons of columbines, which we were very careful not to step on.

Once we obtained the ridge, we actually traveled back towards the jeep road to summit Middle Mountain and Cross Mountain. From Cross we could see the town of Winfield that we hiked and then drove through yesterday.


Laurel hiking down Cross Mountain. From front to back, the peaks are Middle Mountain, Point 13,462, Browns Peak, and Huron Peak.

We retraced our steps back to Middle and then headed towards the unnamed point on the ridge leading to Browns Peak. There was actually another small bump on the way as we scrambled to the top of Point 13,462. We were surprised to find a summit register up there. It was deposited a month earlier and already three other hikers had signed it.

Then it was on to Browns. We replaced the old tattered summit register. Unfortunately, the ink had dried up in the pen we brought, and the pen that was already in the register tube was busted. Hopefully the next person can leave a pen or pencil.

The ridge got rockier between Browns and Huron. Dan was completely in his element and I was a bit exposure-shy. It actually wasn't too bad and the talus was fairly climbable.

We summited another unnamed peak (Point 13,518) just for fun, and then it was finally on to Huron! We hiked the last 600 vertical feet quickly and reached the summit at 10:30. It was a gorgeous morning and the top was crowded. There was an 80-year-old man from Germany who reached the top shortly after we did. Most impressive!

Our respite was short, as clouds were already building around us. We hiked back on the Huron Superhighway for about 1,500 vertical feet, only retracing about half a mile of the trail we had hiked down yesterday. Dan wanted to find an old Jeep road marked on the map that would get us back to where we started in the morning. We navigated along the northwest slopes of Huron until the clouds got dark and we felt some rain.

At this point I was getting really nervous about still being above treeline, so we dropped down a couple of hundred feet into the trees to have some protection from potential lightning. Quite unexpectedly, we found a very old faint trail that led us all the way back to our original Jeep road. The weather held above us for the rest of the afternoon and the trees offered some shade from the hot sun. We returned to the tent around 2:00 after summiting 7 different peaks.

We took a nice nap and then contemplated our next move. We were both tired of backpacking food and there weren't any other peaks in the neighborhood that we were interested in, so we decided to pack up and head to Buena Vista for real food. We found a great Mexican place that served us despite our appearance after 3 days in the mountains. After picking up some additional provisions we headed to Mount Yale, found the trailhead, and set up camp at the neighboring campground.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Huron Peak (almost)

Given how bad the "trail" was descending Missouri Mountain yesterday -- basically nonexistent -- we were concerned about ascending Huron today. Our backup plan, if we couldn't find (or hike) the trail, was to exit via the 4wd road and hopefully be able to cross the creek at some point.

Fortunately we found the "trail". On the Trails Illustrated map, this trail was drawn with the same thickness and line style as all the others, so we had assumed it would actually be like the others -- well defined. Nope.

First problem was finding the trailhead. It was supposed to be at the end of the 4wd road but somehow we missed it. No problem, we navigated through the woods to the north end of the lake where the trail crosses the "intermittent stream" (as described on the map).

Just before reaching the stream we saw a small aspen grove that had been broken in half like a bunch of toothpicks. The upper parts of the trees were scattered 100 feet away. Our first thought was that a tornado touched down. Rare at that elevation, but there was a funnel cloud near Mt. Massive last June.

Later we realized that an avalanche had slid down a slope on the other side of the creek, crossed the creek, and slammed into the aspens. It must have been this winter because the aspens looked freshly broken. And it must have been a HUGE avalanche. There were even snow deposits remaining that probably otherwise would not have been where they were. You can see the avalanche path in a picture from yesterday and a close up from today:

Further up on the mountain we saw more evidence of the avalanche; the stump this tree was plucked from was nowhere in sight:

Back to the "intermittent creek". Once we saw it, we figured that "intermittent" referred to the wintertime when the stream is covered in snow. It was not an easy crossing! The current was strong, the creek was wide, the algae-covered rocks were slippery, and we were boot-deep or more in places. I had better luck than Laurel with my gaiters -- she had to wring out her socks and boots on the other side. My socks were pretty wet too.

Once across the stream we headed south for a short while on what looked like a trail (it even had horseshoe tracks) before realizing the map showed the trail heading north. Indeed it did, and then switchbacked up and around the avalanche slope. Avalanches are most common on slopes with angles between 30 and 45 degrees, and I would guess this hill was on the higher end of that range. Fortunately it was vegetated, so the footing was more secure than yesterday's similarly-steep slope. On the other hand, it was quite vegetated, so it was difficult to hike in some places and in other places we lost the trail entirely.

Aspen thrive in the wake of an avalanche; the density and maturity of unbroken aspen further up on the slope hinted that the most recent avalanche may have only taken out the lower half of the slope, or else the bed of the avalanche was 15' off the ground.

Past the avy slope we navigated around a horn of rock cliffs, through a bog (I took one step in boot-deep mud!), and up a meadow. Since crossing the stream, the trail was so faint that we were only sure we were on it half the time.

The next challenge: a scree/boulder field. Fortunately not as steep as yesterday's. At this point we were starting to see some weather come in. Today was supposed to be better than yesterday, but our forecast was necessarily over a day old at that point and it didn't look like that was the case.

The rock slope flattened out for a while and then we had a decision to make. The map showed the "trail" ascending a steep scree field to the south, up to a saddle. But once on that saddle, it appeared it would be impossible to follow the ridge west to the main ridge of the mountain without some technical climbing. It seemed like the better way up was to continue west up the north end of a steep grassy hill to a secondary plateau, then somewhat southwest up to a different saddle. We did exactly that without any trouble at all.

With all the difficulties of the day, it was after 11am by the time we reached that saddle. The clouds had formed quite well by that point, so even though the summit of Huron was "only" 0.6 miles and 600 vertical feet away, we decided to bail. We headed directly towards a switchback on the main hiking trail, hiking across a slope of moderately sized rocks and a small snow slope. About halfway across it started raining lightly which made the rocks nice and slick.

Lots of challenges today, but we had a good time working them out. The remainder of the day was relatively uneventful -- we hiked down the trail for a few miles and then a few more miles along the road to get back to where we had parked.

As for the map -- it has quite a few strikes against it now: two trails drawn in the wrong locations, a raging "intermittent stream", and minor trails drawn with no distinction from major trails. Still, they are fairly good maps, but I think we've learned not to trust them exclusively and to check other sources next time.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Missouri Mountain

"Oh, it's an ass. I thought it was a mountain goat." Laurel sounded relieved. I took a few steps further on the trail and saw a guy in white shorts bending over to tie his shoes or something. Hmm... didn't look like a mountain goat to me. I took another few steps and saw a white donkey!

We took off for a few days to hike 14ers in the Sawatch range. Laurel had picked out a bunch of mountains, and I had the idea of linking together Missouri and Huron into a two-day backpacking trip (which became a bit of an epic adventure).

Most of the trip up Missouri was familiar territory, as we had taken that trail to hike Belford and Oxford last year. Once we got to the turn-off for Missouri, things got more interesting. The trail became steep and rocky with some exposure in a few places.

Along the way we ran into a guy hiking with his son. The father had fallen and dislocated his shoulder. My first-hand knowledge of dislocated shoulders finally came to use -- I explained how to reduce the dislocation and it actually worked!

We summited Missouri soon after that. The weather wasn't good enough to attempt the two peaks to the south, Iowa and Emerald. Emerald looked neat, maybe some other time we'll hike it.

From the Missouri summit we could see Huron, which looked very far away. Clohesy Lake was out of sight but we knew it was in the valley between the two 14ers. Just a matter of following the trail down to it... or so we thought.

Our Trails Illustrated map showed a "trail" descending from the saddle between Missouri and Iowa, down into a cirque, then down further into the valley. We hiked to where the trail should have begun. It appeared others had gone down at that point, so we figured that was it.

This was no trail! The slope was very steep and covered in loose sand, gravel, and rock -- all of which was treacherous to descend. It took us forever to glissade down 1,000 vertical feet of nasty rock. Our heavy backpacking packs didn't make it any easier.

Once in the bowl we managed to find a trail that seemed to go in the right direction. The interesting thing was that the trail also went in the other direction up a grassy slope to a ridge, and presumably up the ridge to the Missouri summit. That would have been a much nicer descent. (The next day we saw that trail drawn correctly in the Roach 14ers book. Trails Illustrated just plain got it wrong. Strike one.)

We got to the lake, set up camp, made dinner, and did a little exploring. It seemed like we had the whole area to ourselves. Other than hiking up and over a 14er, the only approach was on a long 4wd road with a difficult creek crossing, so we really didn't expect to see anyone. However, we did hear some hikers a few times in the night, one person said "Hey look, a tent!" Guess they were as surprised to see someone else as we were to hear them.

The other surprise for the night was that somehow I managed to pack up our water filter without the actual filter itself, so we used iodine instead.

The clouds turned a beautiful shade of red as the sun set behind the mountains.