Saturday, July 28, 2012

Chapin, Chiquita, & Ypsilon

On Saturday JJ and I drove up to Rocky Mountain National Park. We drove up the Old Fall River Road to the high trailhead of Chapin Pass. We left the car around 7:45 and started hiking the trail towards the mountains. After only a few minutes we saw dozens of elk down in a lower meadow. Then, a park sign that designated the end of the maintained trail. However, the unofficial trail was really quite good.

It was a gorgeous morning and there weren't many other people on the trail. We continued to hike along the trail on the side of Mount Chapin. We decided to leave the trail and go straight up the north slope to the summit. On the way we saw dozens of marmots and pikas. Very cool!

When we summited what we thought was Chapin, we realized it was just a labeled point and not the actual summit. We continued on up and got to the true summit around 9:30. We picked up the trail again and descended to the saddle. Then, it was on to Mount Chiquita. Again, lots of critters and another hiker pointed out some baby ermines. Very cute! We summited this peak around 11:00.

Clouds were starting to form, but it looked like we had enough time to head over to Ypsilon, the third peak along the ridge. This one had a very gradual slope. We got to the top right at noon. There were beautiful mountain lakes below us and we also met some climbers who had come up the class 4 ridge from Lawn Lake. We turned around quickly because the clouds were getting bigger and darker.

We were just 10 minutes from the treeline when it started hailing and then thundering with lightning behind us. The thunder was very loud, but fortunately we made it to the trees with no ill effects. After a few minutes the skies above us cleared and we got back to the car at 2:45. A long, but great day.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mount Antero

Yesterday I ran up Mount Antero, my 24th fourteener. It was an awesome day and I'm so glad I did it!

I set my alarm for 4:00, but for some reason I was wide awake at 2:30. I tried desperately to fall back asleep for some much needed rest, but it just didn't work. So at 3:40 I decided it was time to get the show on the road. I got dressed, ate a little breakfast, and was on my way to Buena Vista at 4.

The drive was uneventful, but the sunrise over South Park was amazing. It's so neat how just before dawn you start to see the outlines of the mountains and then they gradually become illuminated by the morning sun. After a quick stop in Fairplay, I made a beeline for the trailhead and parked the car at 7:00. I decided that I wanted to start at the lower trailhead at 9,400 feet rather than try to take the XTerra up the 4-wheel drive road at 10,800. First of all, I wanted the longer distance as a training run for September's Imogene Pass Run and secondly, I was worried about driving up a steep 4-wheel drive road on my own.

At 7:10 I hit the trail and was able to run very steadily the first three miles to the upper trailhead. The road was rocky and wet, but I was able to get a pretty good footing the whole way. The one downer was that it was pitched to the left the whole time, so my right leg was not so happy. I got a few knots in my calf that I had to keep stretching out. The road followed a gorgeous creek with light colored rocks. There were also aspen and pine trees that seemed to climb a mile up into the sky.

The upper trailhead allowed views of the surrounding peaks. They looked like giants from my vantage point and I wondered how I would ever make it to the top. I crossed the stream and continued on. The next mile or so continued along the creek and passed many small pullouts perfect for camping. About and hour and a half into my run, I saw the first people of my trip---a large party camping along the road. I quietly ran by, pretending I didn't see or smell their illegal campfire.

Soon I was finally at the treeline. I could see endless switchbacks snaking their way up the mountain. I didn't realize what a popular 4-wheel drive area this was. There was an extensive "trail" system and even well-marked maps displayed by the High Rockies Off Road Vehicle Club. At this point I ran into a hiker. This older gentlemen was dressed in jeans and nice cowboy boots. He told me he was a "digger" and that his ATV broke down so he was hiking back to "basecamp" to get a replacement part. Ok....fair enough. For a while after we passed I wondered if he really said "digger" and carried on up the switchbacks.

After what seemed to be an eternity I got to the upper regions of the mountains. Here I saw my first ATV of the day (a friendly couple who I saw in the parking lot earlier) and continued on the southern side of the mountain. All the trip reports and trail guides I read said to stay on the road/trail, even when it looked like you could just slog up the scree, stay on the road. So, that's what I did. At one point I did cut a switchback because I thought the road was ending and the scree was super loose and steep. Thankfully, the road continued and I ran up a few more switchbacks. Suddenly, I came to a flat saddle between point 13800 and Mount Antero. The stone and sand were white and the road just ended. I looked to my right and saw a formidable ridge. I thought, "that can't be it, that looks crazy!" I took out my trail description and map and realized it was, in fact, the way to the summit. Gerry Roach described it as class 2 hiking, so I went on my way.

The ridge was actually not bad at all. There was a bit of a trail going through the really rocky part and it led pretty quickly the the summit hill. I scrambled up the talus and made it to the top in just under 3 hours---2:58! To my surprise there were 4 other people on top. A father and daughter and two guys from Germany (I think). It was beautiful on top, but already the clouds were building and I wanted to get down quickly since the treeline was probably an hour and a half away. They were all a bit surprised I had run from the lower trailhead.

I took a few pictures, texted Dan, ate a snack, and headed down. The switchbacks were fun to run and I made it to treeline in less than an hour. Here I started to see more ATVs and 4-wheel drive trucks. Actually, in all I saw 16 (and 2 marmots, 4 pikas, and countless chipmunks---I like counting things :-) People in the ATVs were telling me I was crazy, making them look bad, etc., etc. Pretty funny! Then, just minutes from the car I ran into my digger friend. Turns out he and his buddies dig for aquamarine on the other side of the mountain. Modern miners! Crazy! His friend was trying to get me to join them as they needed people with "my kind of stamina." I don't think so! I got to the car less than two hours after reaching the summit (1:52). What a great day!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Shavano & Tabeguache

On Wednesday, Maggie and I drove up to Buena Vista and camped at the Shavano trailhead. What a gorgeous place! We pitched our tent smack in the middle of an Aspen grove. There was some rain for about half an hour, but it was dry the rest of the evening and into the night. As we were hanging out after dinner, a 22-year-old rode his bike to the parking lot. To celebrate his recent birthday he had ridden from his home in Leadville (60 miles away) and planned to hike the mountain the next day. The poor guy was exhausted and in need of water. Fortunately, we were able to help out, since the nearest stream was a 45-minute hike up the trail. We hit the sack when the sun set to help us get an early start.

Thursday we woke up at 5:00 and were on the trail by 6:00. The trail climbed over 4000' up the east slopes of Shavano, a huge fourteener seen from Salida and Buena Vista. The morning was absolutely perfect. Cool, sunny, and cloudless! There weren't many other people on the trail. Two women from Boulder, a trail runner, and a big Boy Scout group (that started at 3:30!) were the only people we saw until our descent. We reached the summit of Shavano in three hours.

After the necessary pictures and snacks, we started our descent down the northwest ridge to Tabeguache (pronounced Tab-a-watch). Maggie wasn't feeling up to the full descent and subsequent ascent of the neighboring peak. I went on, tagged the summit, and met her back on the ridge in less than an hour. We then climbed to the top of Shavano (again!) before heading back down towards the car. Clouds were starting to form, but they weren't getting too big or too dark. We ran into our buddy from the night before---his legs were shot but he was still having a blast and moving upwards! We returned to the trailhead without incident 7 hours after we left. A great day!

Overall: 11.5 miles, 5400' gain, 7:00 hours

Monday, July 9, 2012

Blue Lake

This morning Heather and I drove up to Brainard Lake to hike to Blue Lake with her dog (small horse, is more like it!), Bayley. We started at the trailhead around 7:30 and enjoyed walking through the damp forest. We learned on our return that the Brainard Lake area had received inches of rain over the last few days. Rather than a subalpine forest, it felt more like a rainforest!

The morning was also very foggy. There were times we could see patches of blue sky, but the clouds never lifted enough for us to see the mountains around us---Pawnee, Toll, Paiute, and Audubon. We did see plenty of wildflowers, some marmots, and gorgeous waterfalls. I even found a lake with big ice chunks breaking off. We started hiking a bit past Blue Lake to Upper Blue Lake, but it got too rocky for Bayley. I think he also had a hidden agenda, as he hopped into the ice-cold lake twice!

We didn't see a soul until we got to the lake, but then on the way back we saw many folks out for a rocky walk. We were very glad we got out before most and got to enjoy the lake to ourselves. A fun morning!

Sunday, July 8, 2012


Today I competed in the Boulder Peak Triathlon. It was a weird, wet, humid day but the skies cleared enough for us not to be rained on during the race. This course was harder than the one I did last year, as the cycling portion went up over Olde Stage road (900' over 2 miles; steepest section was 600' in 2/3 of a mile or 15% grade).

I finished in 3:07:06---9:30 faster than last year, despite the much more challenging bike ride. I'm very happy, but very tired :-)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Dome

Tim and I tried some climbing in Boulder Canyon today. He wanted to check out the Dome and Elephant Buttresses right outside of town, so I came along as his belayer. We carefully navigated the poison ivy along the access trails and made our way up to the left side of the Dome. Here, Tim led a 5.6/5.7 route---perhaps part of it was the classic "East Slab Route"---but it's always hard to tell whether one is exactly on route when it comes to trad climbing. We topped out in two pitches, managing to stay in the shade for the majority of the route.

I found the Dome Boulder while looking for a "lady's room," so we climbed around on that for a while. Some fun little routes and a good traverse problem.

Then we went over to the Elephant Buttresses (lots more poison ivy that I adeptly avoided!). Unfortunately, Tim wasn't up for more leading, but it was cool to check out the very accessible area. I think Dan and I could go back in a few months and check out some of the 5.6s over there.

Rather than calling the day super early, we scrambled a bit on Rock Island and then climbed some stuff back at the gym.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Jurassic Park

Tim and I went up to Rocky Mountain National Park today to check out the Jurassic Park climbing area. We got to Lily Lake at 7:00 and by 8:00 we had navigated the climbers' trails to the base of the rocks and were ready to climb.

We started at Lefthand Rock and I led a very easy 5.2 sport route called Byron's Ladder. Though super easy, it was good to get a feel for the granite and general sense of the area. Then we moved slightly right and I led two more bolted climbs---T-Rect (5.7+) and Triceratops (5.8-). As the morning wore on, more and more people showed up. There was a group from Long Island, a camp that was toproping and practicing Tyrolean Traverses, and what looked like a family reunion.

We moved up to Dinosaur's Foot and attempted a 5.8+ lead on one of the "toes." The seventh bolt was definitely the crux, and neither of us could manage the delicate moves need to clip. After practicing some rescue techniques (on the ground) we went up to Estes Park for some yummy lunch. A great day!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Triathlon Training

Last week of tough training done! Now it's time to taper. Woo hoo!

Bike: 78 miles
Run: 17 miles
Swim: 2.2 miles
Hike: 7.5 miles
Climb: 3:00
YAYOG week 4 complete!