Archive for October, 2008

After leading a hike up Mount Parnassus and my third trip to The Castle, joining a CMC trip to Jacque Peak where I didn’t have to think about routefinding or group dynamics would be a nice way to finish up the weekend.

Today’s leader was Dominique who I last hiked with on her East Partner Peak trip at the height of the Aspens’ fall color change.

After breaking trail through snow in the trees we started to reach timberline and began to see the great views I hoped we’d have today.

Centrally located between the Tenmile, Gore and northern Sawatch ranges I was praying for a clear sky day. However, to actually reach those views it looked like we’d have a long hike on a ridge to the summit.

The wind certainly wasn’t as strong as on Mount Parnassus, but we found other obstacles to our ascent, including a foot-high rock wall built across the ridge.

The summit was far more pleasant than the finger-numbing top of Mount Parnassus so we lounged around telling stories, eating lunch and picking out the distant peaks.

To make the hike a loop, Dominique planned to take us over the bump known as Tucker Mountain, at the edge of the Copper Mountain ski area. The descent from Jacque Peak was on loose rock only partly covered with snow.

Once near the ski area we found route finding a breeze with signage unusual for a mountain peak.

We then took an extreme way down from Tucker Mountain.

Our descent route turned even more extreme when we encountered a couple hundred feet of young aspens to bushwhack through.

We soon reached the cars and stopped at a brewpub on the way home to complete a perfect day in the mountains.

Complete Photo Gallery

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For the third time this month I found myself climbing The Castle. I had the climbing route down pretty well by now (the approach hike was another matter entirely), but my challenge would be getting 5 other people to the summit. I had just enough ropes for us all to climb caterpillar style and looked forward to the task of managing the climb for such a large group.

The weather forecast was excellent, but we had a little snow to hike through on the approach hike. Due to the lack of an established trail, and to keep things interesting, I never take the same path through these woods twice. Once we arrived at the base of the first pitch I had everyone tie in then reviewed how the climbing would go. Jonathan belayed me up the first pitch and I anchored into the tree and brought up the slack. Jonathan, Pete, John, Renata and then Piper all followed. There was some extra room just above the belay tree where everyone could sit after climbing and I passed up the ropes one by one for others to coil for the scramble ahead. Piper cleaned all the cams I placed and was enjoying her return to rock climbing after breaking her leg sometime ago on a leader fall.

After scrambling up to the summit block and our second and final pitch we brought he ropes back out and I proceeded to lead upwards. Once on the summit I belayed everyone up one by one and they clipped into the rappel slings. After Piper shared some brownies we started our rappel. Piper was able to stay up top and check everyone’s setup after I rappelled first and provided a fireman’s belay for each person on their descent.

We then reversed our scramble back to the top of the first pitch.

For the one tricky slab downclimb I anchored a rope for a handline which a couple of our party utilized.

The last rappel went smoothly and we were soon packing away all our technical gear for the hike back out.

Everyone else ran off to evening appointments, while John, Renata and I decided to add a few unnamed mountains to our day. We drove to a different parking area and then scampered up a 8494 foot summit with a great view of The Castle. Then we descended off to the north.

After reaching a valley and crossing a creek we headed up to our second unnamed peak, this one just 10 feet lower.

After descending we completed the loop back to our car and headed home as large lenticular clouds turned pink in the sky.

Piper’s photo gallery

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In preparation for becoming a CMC trip leader I went through a two night class covering the basics including scenarios you might encounter while leading a hike. Before finalizing my leadership status, I’d need to serve as an assistant leader for two hikes (Leader-In-Training). Wanting to move through the formalities as soon as possible, I registered to be the LIT for a hike the day after the classes finished.

The regular trip leader, Mike, and I talked and coordinated our activities. I called all the participants after seeing a forecast for 40mph winds to warn them. Even with the new snow we decided snowshoes wouldn’t be necessary. Finally, on Friday morning I started meeting the group and Mike then we carpooled to the trailhead.

Our objective was Mount Parnassus, which I’d scouted out the weekend prior to become familiar with the route. However, with new snow during the week it didn’t look exactly familiar. From the trailhead we hiked up to Watrous Gulch and were pleased to see more sun than the forecast had called for. Down in the valley the winds weren’t very noticeable either.

We took a long break at treeline to allow everyone to bundle up in extra layers before journeying into the winds we could hear screaming above. I kicked steps through the mostly-thin snow pack towards the saddle on the north side of Mount Parnassus. Partway up I noticed movement above me and saw a bighorn sheep running across the slope. It was joined by 10 others who milled around and watched us watching them.

The wind steadily strengthened as we hiked higher. Once at the saddle we took a brief break then made for the summit of Parnassus.

The summit was windy as well with a leaky windbreak, so we moved below the top. Our break spot wasn’t entirely out of the wind but was south-facing and the sun warmed rocks reflected a fair amount of warmth our way.

We snacked and drank until our fingers grew numb then hustled back down – this time descending directly into the wind. Thankfully, the height correlation with wind strength still held true, and soon the gusts diminished. As we closed the gap between ourselves and the cars we stripped layers off and regained feeling in our fingers. Since I didn’t loose any hikers or any hiker’s digits I think I passed my first trip as leader.

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I was surprised when I woke up early after yesterday’s craziness. However, I decided to take advantage of an early morning and head out for a long hike. I drove up to the Herman Gulch trailhead and then turned right on to the Watrous Gulch trail instead of the more traveled Herman Gulch. As I began to near the treeline I had my first views of one of today’s objectives, Mount Parnassus.

More stunning was the view south to the snow-frosted north slopes of Mount Sniktau and some alpine glow.

A fair number of clouds had lingered through the night and occasionally dropped a few snow flakes as I hiked to the end of the trail.

Across open slopes I hiked up to the saddle between Woods Mountain and Mount Parnassus. Grays, Torreys and Grizzly peaks now popped into the viewshed formerly dominated by Sniktau.

Once at the saddle it was an easy hike to to top of Woods Mountain.

In the distance I could clearly make out the Citadel and Pettingell Peak, mountains I’d climbed back in the summer.

I retraced my steps back to the saddle then headed up Mount Parnassus. Some fresh snow covered the slope in patches, but was easily avoided. However, the wind was picking up, gusting to about 30 mph.

During a break on Parnassus, I studied the ridge leading to its higher neighbor, Bard Peak.

The ridge turned out to be quite easy, with a faint trail running on the sunny and wind-protected south side. However, as I started up the final slopes to Bard Peak I had to emerge from the protected ridge and again encountered the strong wind gusts. Once on top, I found a semi-sheltered spot on the lee side of the peak for another break.

The clouds didn’t look threatening and I figured I had plenty of time to make the long out and back hike to reach a 4th peak, Engelmann. I encountered the strongest winds on this hike but thankfully the summit itself was calm.

I returned the way I came, back as far as Bard Peak and a little ways down the ridge towards Parnassus. However, I wanted to make this a bit of a loop, so I dropped down into the gully running south between Bard and Parnassus. The sun was currently out in strength and I was protected by the mountain masses above. Shedding layers and drinking water I picked a route down loose, but moderately angled, slopes to about 12,000 feet. Here I picked up the neglected Bard Creek Trail at a surprisingly large flat spot right at treeline.

The trail wasn’t as defined as most, but was still marked by the occasional cairn and wasn’t hard to follow. It lead across the steep south-facing slopes below Bard and Parnassus, slopes that seemed to drop straight down to I-70 below.

I noticed that I was following someone’s foot steps on the trail. They’d passed by since the last snow fall, but were probably a day or more old. Still, after not seeing anyone for over 6 hours it was strangely comforting.

Once I rejoined the Watrous Gulch trail I began running into real people, at least 11 before I hit the trailhead after a 7 and a half hour hike.

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After climbing The Castle a few weeks ago, I’d offered to go again and help some other climbers check this one off their list. Kevin took me up on the offer and also wanted to add some other peaks into the day. So after meeting outside Castle Rock, we headed west to attempt the strangely named South Noddle Head. Like The Castle, this one would require a little technical climbing so we stuffed packs full of ropes and harnesses for the short walk.

We noticed an easy looking gully that appeared to end near the summit, but decided to scramble up some slabs and cracks that we knew others had used to get to the top.

North Noddle Head stuck out of the trees in the distance and we knew there was some debate about which was higher. We had some hopes of at least checking out the climb up the North Noddle Head even if we didn’t get to attempt it today.

South Noddle Head drew back our attention as we realized we still needed to find a route to the top of the summit block.

On the west side we found a fat crack and lots of broken ground that looked to be about 5.0 climbing.

On the summit Kevin tried to solve the problem of which Noddle Head was taller while I concerned myself with finding a rappel anchor since I didn’t really want to downclimb our ascent route.

Once the anchor was built we took turns descending from the summit.

Before heading back down the slabs we took a closer look at the gully and found easy class 3 scrambling back to the base.

I started to head over to North Noddle Head but Kevin stopped me. It looked like we didn’t have enough time to explore that summit and still met a third person at The Castle. So we returned to the cars discussing climbing (of course) along the way. I foolishly admitted to Kevin that I’d let my Highpointers Club membership expire after moving to Colorado only to discover that he was the treasurer of that organization!

I followed Kevin on the drive to Wellington Lake, but just after passing the town of Deckers a motorcycle rider headed the other direction lost control and slid into Kevin’s path. Luckily, the driver separated from the bike and rolled behind Kevin’s car and came to a rest in the ditch on our side of the road. The bike took a direct line into Kevin’s front driver-side tire before being kicked back to the center of the road. Kevin’s SUV ramped up on the bike, then came down in the ditch and smacked a rock wall. I slammed on the breaks then jumped out of the car to assess the bike rider who was amazing fine, abet stunned and with a sore back. Kevin also made it out of the wreck with only a small cut from the airbags.

We found out the rider’s name was also Kevin and worked with the 3 other motorcyclists he was riding with to move the bike off the road. Unfortunately, no one had cell phone reception at this spot and help was a long time coming. We wondered if Pete would think we had an accident on our first climb and how long he’d hang around for at The Castle.

After about 2 and a half hours the police had finished taking statements and the tow truck was going away with the wrecked bike and SUV. In typical guy logic we figured we were both uninjured, we still had one working vehicle and just enough day light left. Somewhere in the back of my mind I wondered what Kevin’s wife would think.

We found a note from Pete that he’d gone home after giving up on us, so the two of us again lugged the climbing equipment up the steep track to the base of The Castle’s southeast gully route.

I climbed up to the belay tree then brought Kevin up. We hurried up through the 3rd and 4th class scrambling to the base of the final summit block.

Again, I avoided the “tree route” that Roach describes and ascended the cracks on the south end of the summit block. Kevin followed and soon we were enjoying the view of an eagle soaring just above us.

Kevin found just enough signal strength to try calling his wife. Of course, the call ended before he could say much more than that the car was totaled after an accident and that he was safe. That last part might not have gotten through okay. . .

After rappelling down from the summit we checked out the easiest of the other “turrets”. We thought about adding a 3rd to our day, but decided not to attempt the “leap of faith” that would be required. We’d probably tempted faith enough today as it was.

We rushed back to the belay tree and rappelled the first pitch then hurried out to the car. Thankfully, we made it back at 6:20, well before the 7pm gate closure. After a long and winding drive I took Kevin back to Colorado Springs then turned north to home.

Adam’s complete Photo Gallery
Kevin’s Photos

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MountainFilm, the Telluride-based film festival, came to Golden on Friday night. The event was a fundraiser for the Alpine Rescue Team, a volunteer rescue group serving some of the nearby counties.

Reversing the standard order of films, the event opened with the feature title, The Beckoning Silence. I’d already seen this a week ago at the Alpinist Film Festival and already have posted my thoughts on this film. A second viewing didn’t change my option that this is a great mountaineering documentary, but Joe Simpson should have stayed off the mountain in the film.

After the intermission I got skunked by the raffle, but got to view the following films:

Play Gravity 10 minutes – Beautiful shots of some amazing flying with a parasail (?). However, like too many films on the outdoor festival circuit, it contains little in the way of character or plot and feels like an extended music video. (Hint: Interviews don’t count as character development without thought provoking questions.)

End of the Affair 3 minutes – Produced as part of one of those 24-, or 48-hour speed film making competitions, End of the Affair was a winner for taking an off-kilter look at bouldering and relationships. The running voice-over belongs to someone or something unexpected as revealed at the end of this short film.

The Last Frontier: Conservation and Exploration 16 minutes – Just banging exploratory kayaking and conservation issues together does not produce a good film. Try to see Oil and Water for an example of how these topics could have come together in a great film. I was lucky to see Oil and Water at Films for Fourteeners.

Roam – 15 minutes. The best film of the night, along with The Beckoning Silence. Roam built up a world of amazing feats that seems to have been shot on our planet, but certainly feel other worldly. Two wildly different environments produced the best segments: urban tricks in Europe and the contorted courses built in old-growth North Pacific woods. Only misstep: mountain biking helmets do not look inspiring in silhouette. Roam avoiding even trying to introduce the bikers as personalities which suggests two possibilities for outdoor film greatness: ignore the people and focus on creative film making ala Roam, or find a really good story like The Beckoning Silence.

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Hand Cut

Bent Gate’s latest community night was screening the movie Hand Cut, a film by Sweetgrass Productions. The event also served as a fundraiser for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Over $1000 dollars were raised for the CAIC with the sale of raffle tickets. I grabbed a t-shirt thrown out into the audience but otherwise didn’t win anything this time.

I was a little disappointed to see that the film wasn’t entirely presented in black & white, or sepia tones, only the interviews with the mountain old timers. That kept the history visually separate from the full-color ski action. However, the film missed a real chance to blend the two worlds and present a dreamy never-never land that would have been visually more original. My other complaint was the pixelated images, but that may have been a byproduct of showing the movie via DVD on a laptop run through a digital projector.

The soundtrack by John-Alex Mason, a Colorado-based blues artist was the best part of the film. It’s unfortunate that the rest of the movie couldn’t live up to his soulful and deep blues.


Lou Dawson also has a review on his blog.

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