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Archive for September, 2009

After Saturday’s long day I got to sleep in a bit before driving to Boulder to meet up with a climbing crew of Jeremy, Jenn, Piper and Stef. We carpooled up Boulder Canyon then made the short hike and scramble up to The Bihedral crag.

The cliff was sunny and south facing on this warm autumn day. So we took turns hiding, stalling and belaying in the little bit of shade available and occasionally getting some climbing in. While we had a trad rack or two along, we ended up only climbing sport routes.

I think we all ended up leading or following or top roping the following (ordered left to right at the crag):

High Hard One (5.9+)
Group Therapy (5.8)
Dan’s Line (5.8)
Hold The Line (5.9)

Stef and Piper also top roped “Rhodian Shores” a slabby 5.10b.

To avoid the steep class 4 ascent, we used the rappel anchors near our shady refuge to reach the easier trail below.

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I’d been really itching to return to the Lost Creek Wilderness for over a month, and with a prospect for aspens at their height of fall color I finally convinced Pete to make an attempt on two unnamed 9,000+ foot peaks in the Goose Creek valley.

We hoped to make short work of the hiking and climbing and with luck Pete would get home for a 6pm Purdue game (his alma mater). As an Indiana University graduate, I’d kept our rivalry out of my climbing partnership with Pete, but know I saw the perfect opportunity to sabotage his plans.

The hike started out perfectly, with a cool morning and the amazing granite formations in the Goose Creek valley.

We didn’t yet have a good idea which of the many domes and spires were our goal peaks of 9242 and 9300. A misreading of my map and GPS caused us to loose almost an hour hiking past then backtracking. Still, it looked like Pete would get to see his Purdue game, so I had to come up with a better distraction.

I started by compounding my map reading errors and mistaking the unranked 9250 for 9242. We wasted nearly two hours trying to make the cliffs match the photos we had of the start of 9242’s climbing, then scrambling around and disbelieving the GPS that we were a half mile or more from the real 9242.

After bushwhacking, scrambling and crawling through small notches I could no longer continue the charade any longer. 9300 was clearly visible to our west, which would make 9242 further south of our present location.

Tired and it was nearing noon as we headed west through trail-less forest. Deer trail occasionally lent a hand, but we had to make our own way across a creek.

This brought us to the base of the elusive 9300 and we started to climb up the southern gully between the two towers.

The terrain was steep boulders with plenty of thorn bushes and small pebbles and loose dirt on any flat surface. I was wishing I’d worn my approach shoes instead of the trail runners. Eventually we made it to the base of the real climbing. To waste yet more time I managed to drop the GPS into a small hole and had to go spelunking under a large rock to retrieve it.

Once we were roped up I led up some slabby ledges and a nice crack to a slabby arete and then left following another crack. The climbing was mostly easy (5.3) with the hardest maybe around the start (5.4-5.5?) but probably could have been avoided by going a different way.

Pete quickly followed this first pitch and took to the belay stance with ease.

Looking ahead I had a continuation of the crack, then a bit of blank slab followed by a ledge to a final crack leading to a block where I could see a red rappel sling.

Pete belayed as I hurried up this terrain with meadows and Goose Creek way below.

The summit was just a short scramble beyond this point and we checked out the tiny summit register with just a few names (all ascents known to us).

We reversed our short scramble to the slung boulder to which I added a second sling, then started a messy rappel. The angle was low enough that we couldn’t toss the ropes far before they tangled.

Once I was down a full 60 meters I built an anchor and had Pete come down. After pulling the ropes we packed away the static tag line and I belayed Pete as he down climbed some easy slab. I pulled the anchor and followed, then we did one more small crack which Pete rappelled while placing a few cams, then belayed me as I downclimbed. A short scramble brought us back to the base of the slabs then we reversed the vegetated scramble to the base of the peak.

After hiking down from peak 9300, we crossed the stream on a huge boulder that formed a natural bridge some 20 feet above the creek. We discussed the late hour and whether or not we should bail from an attempt on 9242. It’d be a shame to pass it up, but we’d definitely be hiking out in the dark and Pete didn’t have a headlamp. It’d be safer to skip the attempt, but so rewarding to pull it off.

Initial agreement to postpone 9242 for another day gave way to “just scouting it out” and we turned south to approach the peak. Internally I was considering an attempt justified if we could reach the base by 4:15. Helpfully, I’d also remembered a small LED light that I had as a backup that Pete could use when it got dark.

We hit the cliffs right at my goal time and a bit of scouting found our ascent crack. We geared up, checked that we had an extra layer and a flashlight then I started up the crack.

I soon realized a bottle of weedkiller might have been as appropriate on my rack as the cams and slings. Dirt and live vegetation obscured what would otherwise have been a classic 5.7 hand crack. The top widened to off-width but featured rock on either side allowed forward progress as the angle relented and I spotted a tree with a rappel sling. We were definitely on track.

Pete followed with a tug or two on gear, especially around a slick and frictionless part of the crack that had given me some trouble as well.

We coiled the rope then headed off on brushy ledges past pine trees and through thorn bushes to search out pitch #2.

We came to the slanting dihedral that was our second pitch and a little scrambling brought us to the base. I started up, but mostly stayed left of the dihedral’s crack which was plugged with plenty of vegetation. It wasn’t as sharp, but the climbing reminded me of a recent visit to the Monastery – plenty of pebble pinching. I spotted a slung boulder as I reached the end of the dihedral and traversed right to build a final anchor and belay Pete up.

Pete arrived with a sarcastic comment about that being the best pitch of climbing all year, then hurried over to the true summit in late afternoon light.

Peak 9300 was already in the shade, as was much of the valley. We located the summit register and added our names to those of our friends and joined a small circle of people who’d climbed these obscure peaks.

We then rushed back to the rappel and had a closer look at this slung boulder. The webbing wasn’t as secure as I would have liked, but dropping below the boulder into a little cave then bushwhacking while on rappel through a partially dead plant kept the pull more secure and sent me back to the base.

Pete came down and thankfully the ropes pulled without much struggle.

We found another hole to crawl through to avoid one of the exposed scrambling moves we’d made on the way up, then quickly arrived back at the top of the first pitch. Rappelling from the tree was straight forward then we packed up our gear and headed pretty much due east to find the trail after about 15 minutes.

Only the walking remained back to the car and we weren’t worried about darkness now. The trail would be easy to follow and I’d actually started to look forward to a little night hiking while on the climb of 9242. About an hour passed before we really needed our lights, as the trees blocked the half moon light. Still, the moon light cast a silvery glow on the creek as we hiked by and didn’t drown out the night’s stars.

It was after 8pm when we finally reached the car, over a 12 hour day but an extremely satisfying one, even if Pete missed his Purdue game.

Adam’s Complete Photo Album
Pete’s Photos

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An early morning drive had me over the Continental Divide to watch alpine glow beginning to hit the clouds scattered in the sky above. The weather forecast had deteriorated with each reading for today and the morning’s collection of clouds was an indication of the moisture headed our way.

I met up with John and Renata at the trailhead after spotting a fox and a couple deer on the drive. Then we quickly shouldered packs and started up the Rock Creek trail.

The aspens were at their height of fall color and possibly brightened by the few rain drops that fell.

We were almost delayed for far too long by the sight of two moose having a half-hearted sparing in a meadow.

We suspected they were young adults, and not the alpha males of this valley. Their fighting may have been practice for future years. The view of Keller Mountain’s east ridge reminded us of our purpose and we returned to the hike.

Once we reached the old Boss mine the trail faded out and we began to switch back up the old mine road through the tailing piles. The views up valley were amazing in the mixed light of early morning and dark clouds.

Steep dirt, vegetation and loose rocks eventually accepted our passage and let us hike upwards to gain the east ridge.

Once above treeline we had easy open slopes to reach the first of several false summits.

A healthy dosage of sun gave us hope that foul weather would hold off long enough for us to reach the summit. At that first false summit we donned our only climbing gear: helmets. Let the scrambling begin!

The east ridge was long, but not especially complicated route, and Keller’s true summit looked far away. Ah, right under those dark clouds to the west. Better hurry.

Some fun scrambling along the crest and much traversing just below the jagged ridge line speed us along to the next false summit.

A few loose spots caused us to slow down as we neared the end of the difficulties, but we were still keeping ahead of the weather.

With about a hundred feet to gain, and all the scrambling behind us it began to snow lightly. We were a little concerned about the possibly of thunder snow, but decided we had enough time to hurry to the last false summit and the true summit then take a direct route down.

All around the skies were clearly building to concentrated rain and snow so we hurried over the top of Keller Mountains true summit noticing, but ignoring, the summit register.

A quick descent down loose dirt and scree off the south east side of the summit had us feeling much better. So giddy were we that John and Renata had fun knocking down rocks and testing their aim against a moving target (me). Thankfully, the rocks were small and John’s aim poor and we joked about the tiny missiles until I traverse out of their fall line.

When the sun emerged unexpectedly we took a break for an early lunch before resuming our downward trek. Valhalla Peak across the valley occupied our attention (or as much as we could spare as we boulder hopped across the slopes).

Eventually we hit grassy slopes and the forested terrain below. Thankfully, the thunder, lightening and strong rain held off until we were in the trees.

A long trail-less bushwhack through wet vegetation soon had us soaked through. Pushing a path past willows had us wondering if a machete shouldn’t be part of the “10 Essentials” to never go mountaineering without.

As we got closer to the trail we heard elk calls that sounded just a little off. Worried about hunters we started calling out and singing. Surely hunters would realize moose and elk aren’t singing “Bohemian Rhapsody”?

About 3pm we made it back to the trailhead, a little more tired and a lot wetter and colder than when we’d departed 8 hours before. With car heaters turned way up we swapped dry close for soaked. Backed up traffic on I-70 assured that we’d be warmed up by the time we hit Idaho Springs and looking forward to a beer with our dinner.

Adam’s Complete Photo Album
Renata’s Photos

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For the forth time this year I found my self hiking up the Longs Peak trail in the pre-dawn darkness. This time I was accompanied by Jonathan our our goal was the Keiners route (also known as the Mountaineers route). Sunrise found us at Chasm Lake in time for the morning light show on the Diamond of Longs Peak.

After traversing around the north side of the lake we passed below the Diamond just as it was turning gold.

After a struggle through some loose talus blocks we paused at the frozen snow of Lambs Slide and went through the ritual of donning harnesses, helmets and crampons. The snow was solid but not really icy, good conditions for soloing up the slope.

We exited right at the start of Broadway were the crampons and ice axes disappeared for the rest of the day, then warmed up in a sunny spot.

Broadway went much easier this time than when it was completely snow covered in June.

Still, the exposure was immense as we peered down the lower part of the wall.

We didn’t even rope up for the “crux” step around the boulder.

A little more scrambling brought us to the Notch couloir, the bottom of which was melted out. We scrambled up the rock to the left and found what looked like a descent route up, but I only got a few feet up the layback crack before deciding this definitely wasn’t 5.3-5.4 terrain. I scrambled further up the couloir, staying on rock and built a new belay to bring Jonathan over.

I was part way up our first real pitch when another group of 3 showed up. Above I was looking at a stiff-for-the-grade dihedral that I had enough rope to climb. However, rope drag was becoming an issue, so I stopped at this 30 meter point to build and anchor and bring Jonathan up. Our second pitch proved to be the crux at this dihedral with moves probably on the order of 5.5-5.6. A stuck nut proved others had been this way and after the short dihedral easy scrambling led back to the sun.

Jonathan managed to clean the nut and earned his first piece of booty gear. After our 2 30 meter pitches I was looking up at terrain I recognized from online route photos. This last pitch was fun and easier climbing and I ran out the rope about 55 meters.

Above this point the terrain eased off so we stashed the ropes and gear then began scrambling up and right toward some cliffs near the summit.

Loose rock slopes alternated with class 3 rock as we worked our way up.

When we hit the cliffs that seemed to block access to the summit, we negotiated the Staircase of well-spaced blocks then cut right on a ledge with a first class view over the Diamond.

Easy scrambling led to the summit where at least one hiker wondered where we’d come from.

On the summit we ate and napped for about 30 minutes before heading off to the north face to descend the Cables Route.

The Cables Route was once the main route up Longs Peak and was named for the steel cable the park service installed as a hand line. The cable was anchored by some stout eye bolts, at least 4 of which still exist and are routinely used as rappel anchors.

Getting to the eye bolts required some careful hiking down loose rock on this slightly tilted face (falling objects tend to head straight out over the Diamond).

We passed up the first eye bolt we came to then anchored to the second and began to thread the rope for a rappel.

With one 60 meter rope we needed to get down to another eye bolt and do a second rappel to the ground. I should have used the next bolt I came to, instead I went to another where the ropes just reached and had a much worse stance for two people.

After packing away the rope for the final time we scrambled down some easy rock and passed beside the Diamond face.

Then we just had a talus hop down to the Boulderfield and a long walk out on the trail.

Adam’s Complete Photo Album
Jonathan’s Photos

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The Wednesday climbing crew dwindled a bit due to sickness and calendar confusion. Still, Jenn and I were ready to get out in the face of possible rain. Seven small rain drops fell as I left Golden then the skies cleared nicely by the time I reached Boulder Canyon.

Jenn directed us to the Happy Hour Crag where another party was just leaving and we had the place to ourselves. We warmed up on Left Side, a 5.5 crack that I first led and Jenn cleaned.

Jenn then led the pitch again to practice her trad leading skills. My turn to pick a route and I move left to “I, Robot” a 5.7 with a nice looking corner to start in.

Jenn’s friend Judy had showed up right as I left the ground and was offered to follow the pitch and clean the gear.

Route choice went back to Jenn who wanted to lead an unnamed 5.5 in the “gully” further left. After some fun with a disappearing #4 cam, she made the top and Judy again followed while I hunted out a jacket since the sun had now set.

With headlamps blazing we might have squeezed in one more climb, but I didn’t feel like trying a 5.8 in at dusk. The Wednesday night climbs are slowly getting squeezed out by the rapid onset of autumn. Already I’m looking forward to spring’s longer days.

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Friday after work I drove out 285 from the city and then hung a right at Jefferson towards Georgia Pass. I found the road well graded and low-angled all the way up to the pass where signs led me to the campsite the forest rangers and Continental Divide Trail Association had picked out for this weekend’s work project.

I meet some of the other volunteers and rangers, set up my tent and cooked a pasta dinner before hanging around a campfire and celebrating one ranger’s birthday.

On Saturday morning we woke to a few clouds and a little sun for introductions then divided up into vehicles. A few true 4wd vehicles headed straight along the divide towards Glacier Peak, while the rest of us (some with just 2wd like me) stayed north of the divide until we could drop our passengers off with a short hike remaining to the ridge above.

After letting everyone off, we drove further east to a pullout where we could leave our vehicles. We drivers then headed up on a tangent to the top of the ridge where the true 4wd vehicles had made it with the tools.

There I was assigned to Kurt’s group and we got a quick safety talk on walking with tools. Then we contoured around Glacier Peak and eventually hit some previous trail which we walked to its end. There we stopped for a longer demonstration on trail building in the alpine tundra. After which, we hiked a few hundred feet further to our assigned section and set to work.

I had leap frogged ahead and found myself trenching out the high side of the trail for a ways while everyone else worked behind me. Layers were slowly stripped off as I warmed up, then added back as the wind picked up. I was also fighting the tendency of my pulsaki’s head to separate from the shaft. Kurt had us break for lunch around 11:30 as the wind and snow were increasing.

After the short lunch we returned to work (and I picked up a different tool). Only a few minutes later we decided to bail on the day as the weather wasn’t improving and everyone else was heading out.

Leaving our tools cached at the start of the new trail construction, we headed back to the jeeps near Glacier Peak then those of us that drove hurried down to the cars to meet everyone back at the pick-up point.

While hiking down we’d actually descended below the cloud layer and found conditions much warmer. We debated whether or not we should have stayed up high working as we pulled into camp to 5 minutes of sun. That was all we’d get as soon it clouded over and the wind picked up. I retired to the shelter of my tent as it started to snow lightly around 2pm.

After an hour long nap I woke to close thunder (sub 2 seconds between flash and bang) and did a little reading in my tent before 5:30 when I decided to venture out and see if dinner was ready. Sure enough, a warm chili and cold beer were available as people gathered under the rain shelter.

We spent the evening eating home made cookies and chatting under the large rain fly (while occasionally knocking an inch of wet snow off) before breaking up and heading to bed.

Around 3am I woke feeling like I needed more air. The on and off snowfall had completely covered the tent and sealed the bottom of the fly. The air inside was humid and stale. After shaking snow off the tent I cracked the doors and plowed air tunnels under the vestible doors for ventilation.

A 6am alarm woke up from sleep and I headed over to the kitchen tent to see if coffee was ready (not quite). With all the new snow it was confirmed that we wouldn’t be working today, so I started packing up then headed back to the kitchen when a moose strolled through camp (alas, too fast for any photos).

By 9am I was headed down the road where the snow quickly gave way to a beautiful drive through changing aspens. I stopped at the aspen hot spot of Kenosha Pass on the way home to get a shot of the forest below cloud line before continuing on to the much warmer and sunnier Golden to dry out.

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Peak 12740

After climbing at Bucksnort Slabs, Pete and I drove down to Crestone and the South Crestone Lake Trailhead. Here we departed from the holiday weekend crowds headed up to Willow Lakes and the 14ers and took the South Crestone Trail.

Clouds and some intermittent breezes kept the hike in cool. We only traveled about 3 miles in, but had plenty of time to check out the view of the unnamed peak 12,740 that was our goal tomorrow.

Our campsite was picked based mostly on when we were too tired and hungry to hike any further. It was a little too close to the trail, but had water nearby and a nice slab of crestone conglomerate to admire the sunset.

The cloudy skies gradually cleared overnight and the near-full moon provided amazing light for nocturnal trips out of the tent. We slept in till nearly 6am then had a quick breakfast and started up the trail.

Quickly we found the burnt tree stump that marked the place to leave the trail and realized our hunger and tiredness last night had held out until the last possible campsite before this marker. At the tree we turned left below some short cliffs then headed generally up and left across talus and a little bushwhacking. Our speed was slowed by the discovery of ripe raspberries.

A couple loose gullies led us up to the next major landmark – the Monolith.

This huge rock might have inspired apes to tool use or man to venture into space in Arthur C. Clarke’s imagination, but Pete and I were just moved to continue past with a few photos.

Above the monolith we stayed to the right and found a couple cairns left by previous climbers this summer who’s route description we were following. We cut back left on the proscribed second grassy ledge.

Soon the ledge dead-ended and the two half ropes came out of our packs. After tying in, Pete put me on belay and I started up the easy rock.

The first few moves were the hardest, maybe 5.4, followed by rapidly easing terrain until I began to run out of rope. I slotted a nut and a cam for a belay anchor and Pete soon followed.

The terrain above looked much easier so I told Pete to continue up and stop if he found any place he wanted a belay. Pete scrambled right up to the crest of the east ridge trailing the ropes up 3rd and 4th class rock and grass.

I cleaned the anchor (minus the nut which I’d retrieve on the descent since Pete had our nut tool), then followed to reach Pete’s stance in a little notch. Leading again, I started up the scramble on the east ridge to the base of our last mini-pitch of climbing. After creating another 2-point anchor I belayed Pete up, not that he needed it on this terrain.

We restacked the rope, and Pete put me on belay for the last 30 feet or so of 5.4 climbing.

I slung a large boulder then belayed Pete up. From here it was a short walk and a moderate scramble to the summit.

We read through all 4 prior ascents since the summit register was left in 1998. We knew nearly all the names and were happy to leave our mark besides those of friends.

I wasn’t really anxious to leave the summit and enjoyed the great weather we were having. Over on the 14er Kit Carson it looked like conditions were a little less pleasant with a lenticular cloud hanging on the summit.

Still, we had to start down eventually so we found some older webbing that was still in great shape and used it to rappel our last pitch down the east ridge.

We then downclimbed to the top of the difficulties that we first roped up for (retrieving that stuck nut on the way down), and I setup another anchor to belay Pete’s descent. He pulled the rope down with him and I broke down the anchor then followed. The crux moves were right off the deck and Pete provided a spot in case I should slip. With the difficulties over we headed back across the grassy ledge.

Pete wanted to tag the neighboring summit of unnamed 13,153, but I was having trouble finding the motivation. So we split up, with me offering to take Pete’s rope and technical gear down to our camp. My descent was slowed by finding all the raspberries that we’d passed on the way up.

Once at camp I napped, read and ate for the couple hours until Pete’s arrival. Then we quickly packed up and hiked out for the drive to Salida and an early dinner at Amica’s (beer and pizza).

Complete Photo Album

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