Archive for February, 2010

A rare forecast for light winds around Longs Peak just happened to coincide with a trip to the Cables Route that John and Ed were planning. I begged my way into the group and 4am found us leaving the trailhead.

John had measured 8 inches of new snow in Rollinsville so we were surprised how little new snow seemed to have fallen here and the snowshoes we carried as a precaution turned into “training weight”.

As a group, we weren’t moving real fast and sunrise caught us around Chasm Junction.

The sun was welcome and added to the moderate temperatures, it was nice not to need handwarmers this morning.

It was 8am when we fully absorbed the folly of carrying snowshoes any further and cached them above Granite Pass. At least our objective was in sight now.

The snowy boulderfield slowed us down even more as did the rock hoping, snow wallowing and wind-slab breaking as we approached the eye bolts. Roughly 4 large eye bolts are most of what remain from the old cables route that the park service put up, then removed, and once was the main route to the summit. Now the bolts make convenient rappel anchors for climbers descending from the summit and wishing to avoid the Keyhole route. In fact, while I hadn’t been up the cables route before, I’d already descended it twice before.

Just below the eye bolts we had a small obstacle in the slabby ledges. I found a large boulder wrapped with a sling where another group had rappelled down this section.

Ed was interested in leading some of the route, so I let him take the first pitch and he roped up to cross the snow and reach the right-facing corner system and the first eye bolt.

He then belayed John across and I watched with mounting fear as John made a few attempts to climb just above the eyebolt to a nice stance to clear room for all three of us. Thankfully, John’s crampons didn’t puncture Ed and I had soon joined them.

Ed led up finding the crux in getting past the first 10 feet, then clipped the next eye bolt and belayed on gear just out of reach of the top bolts. John and I climbed next and I took my turn – leading a puny 15 feet to the upper bolt.

The wind was picking up a little and throwing some spindrift down as John and Ed joined me.

After packing away the rope we started hiking up the terrain above but quickly realized we’d be wallowing through the same snow conditions that so slowed us down below the “cables”. It was already 1:30 and if we went for the summit we knew darkness would catch us well before we hit the well trodden track at treeline. Rationalizing that we’d “done” the route, even if we hadn’t reached the summit we turned tail and began organizing the rappels.

Three rappels took down the cables and then the scrambling terrain just below the eye bolts.

A couple hours passed while we negotiated the boulder field, picked up the unwelcome snowshoes and made the treeline before dark. Headlamps came out for some of the hike back to the trailhead (which we made by 7pm – for a 15 hour day).

Adam’s complete photo album
John’s photos


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Sheep Nose

One of us should have said something. 3 inches of new snow here in Golden and I was going to meet Pete for a couple 8-9,000 foot peaks in Douglas county. We knew there would be scrambling involved so we anticipated some increased difficulties. We should have slept in and visited Clear Creek Canyon for some more ice climbing. Instead we spent 2 hours driving to Sheep Nose.

From the burned forest we passed through on the short walk from car to peak it was obvious this was going to be interesting. I’d climbed the peak in late April before and found a little wet rock and a bit of ice that made the 4th class gully a bit more difficult. We’d definitely find snow today, but ice? At least we brought along a short rope, a small rack, crampons and an ice tool each.

We stayed low until we were nearly directly below the saddle between the north and south summits of Sheep Nose and then we began the hike up. One benefit of doing this hike on a cold day – the thorn bushes didn’t penetrate our many layers.

We found the same gully I’d ascended before and moved the gear from packs onto our waists and heads. I decided to start the climb without crampons which worked fine. Brushing 3+ inches of snow off the rocks to search for holds was the most tedious part. I remembered joking to Pete to bring the windshield scraper with a large brush from his truck, it actually would have been very useful.

Eventually I located a decent stance in the gully and a crack for a simple anchor and belayed Pete up. Here I looked at a left hand variation of the gully, thinking I might prefer steeper rock with positive holds to snowy slabs on the right. I got partway up and found myself contemplating a far too committing move to overcome a small bulge for the small rope and minimal gear. I carefully downclimbed then took the devil I knew and found the rest of the gully not too bad.

After topping out I located an anchor complete with a belay cave to stay out of the snow and belayed Pete up. Upon topping out he pondered “Why the F* are we here? We should be watching the Olympics.” I reminded him that this was his idea as I’d already climbed this peak. At least the crux was behind us and we could carefully deal with the 3rd class snowy boulders to the summit.

As we reached the summits the weather gods seemed to take some pity on us and while the sun didn’t exactly shine, the clouds did lessen and it was definitely lighter. We ate a bit on the summit and thought about the journey down before reversing all our moves to the belay cave.

Pete found a perfect boulder to rappel off and our 30 meter rope got us right back to the belay stance in the middle of the gully.

A short scramble to a tree and our next rappel was anchor was reached. Pete pulled down the rope and then tossed me the ends. His second toss was a revenge for all the snow I’d knocked down on him while leading as the rope sailed into the snow-laden branches above my head and heavily dusted me.

The second rappel returned us to easy ground and we marched out following our tracks and decided to return when it was warmer and dryer for the other summits in the vicinity.

Complete photo album

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Given the ton of snow falling in the high country I decided to stay closer to town on Saturday. Darin and I meet up at 6:30am for the short ride 4 miles up Clear Creek Canyon to hit the ice flows. We started on Mickey’s Big Mouth, with Darin taking the first pitch, then lowering off and we each top roped the rope a couple times. Then we booted further up the creek and hit the upper ice fall (my lead), and again did a few repeats with the top rope.

Crowds were already gathering, and we had a short wait at the base of Coors Ultra Light before soloing the first stair-steeped pitch.

Two groups were already setup on the steeper ice above, so we walked off and headed back to town. Darin to take care of some work, me to hit a coffee shop before Pete arrived.

Pete and I drove back up the canyon and spotted almost no one on Coors Ultra Light so that’s what we hiked to first.

Besides a climb of the Flying Dutchman Couloir this was Pete’s first time on ice. The upper ice flow was a little steeper than what I really wanted to put him on at first, but we made do and he got in a few laps while I critiqued his technique and shouted pointers.

We then hiked out and visited Mickey’s, but a group had taken over the first ice flow. Heading further up we found only two other people on the top formation and they let us slide in next to them and share the anchors. Pete got a few more practice laps here and began to show improvement in his form. Having some small ice to run a few drills on while the other group rappelled off helped as well.

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Valentine’s Day Ice

Sunday morning I carefully motored up I-70 through fresh snow and met John in Idaho Springs. Since he had 4wd, he agreed to drive and we were soon at the Montgomery Reservoir and gearing up for a morning at Lincoln Falls.

The gated road in was icier than I’d ever seen it before, but we eventually danced, slid and bypassed the ice to the climbers trail. New and blowing snow had partly obscured the beaten path and lax routefinding led into crotch deep snow.

The falls was in thicker than on my other visits and I thought about jumping right into some WI4 lines. The colder temperatures and accompanying brittle ice (at least at the start) convinced me to stick with some easier stuff.

I led up a traversing line from left (at the SAR cache) to right (large slung block) of just over 30m. John followed and got to figure out the process of cleaning screws on his third time on ice.

From our belay I climbed straight up easy ice bulges on the left side of the main flow on wet, plastic-y ice. One axe swing erupted in a shooting stream of water, resulting in a soaking glove and a soon to be soaking rope. I rushed through the steeper finish as my hands were rapidly numbing and reached a bolted boulder but had to suffer a bout of the screaming barfies before I could anchor in.

Anchor built, I tried to pull up the slack in the rope but found it was frozen to the ice. A couple good heaves broke it loose and the stiff rope eventually went into my belay device.

John began climbing while I worked out a system for forcing the iced rope through the belay. A two-handed tug on the brake strand seemed to work best and would fire a shower of ice crystals as the rope bent through the device.

With all our soaked and freezing gear, and a desire to avoid the worst of I-70’s afternoon traffic we decided it was time to depart and hiked around the west side of the falls to descend. A welcomed sun had finally come out and nicely cleared of the interstate as we returned to Idaho Springs for a late lunch at Tommyknocker’s.

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Waterton Canyon

After a week of being sick I was feeling just well enough to try and hike up a couple easy peaks, even while less than 100% I couldn’t let a decent weather day pass. Given a need to stay low, I decided to fill in a couple slots on a silly list I’ve been keeping: a list of sequential elevation blocks. The idea is to climb one “ranked” peak between 7,000 and 7,099 feet, 7,100-7,199, etc up to 14,400-14,499 (highest block I can get in Colorado). Like I said, silly.

First goal of the day was unnamed peak 7,100 in Douglas county and accessed via Waterton Canyon. I followed the well-graded road alongside the South Platte River for about 4 miles to the Mill Gulch Bridge. Along the way I got passed by lots of runners and realized that I should have gotten my bike fixed up and just ridden the 4 miles in a quarter of the time. I did have a couple nice flashbacks to long walks I’d taken on canal tow paths and riversides, such as the One Day Hike and Scotland’s Great Glen Way.

Once at the Mill Gulch Bridge I dropped a layer and started working my way up the sunny slope of dirt and loose rock, while finding plenty of cactus and other brush.

My uphill efficiency was certainly compromised by the lingering cold and I paused frequently to cough up some mucus from my lungs. Humm, maybe it was best that I was hiking solo today. A careless step resulted in my foot slipping and I caught myself just as my ass touched down on a patch of cactus. 20+ needles went into my pants and every slight movement buried them deeper into my flesh. “Oh-yeah, well I’ve got some defensive measures too” I thought as I hacked up a bit of mucus to send flying at the offending plant.

Pretty soon I was mooning more cactus as I pulled out the thin needles. Finally, I could continue upwards to see what next indignity the mountain could inflict. Scrub oak quickly revealed itself as my next nemesis. The occasional deer and sheep trails weren’t very continuous for a biped and I found myself forcing my way through several thickets as I neared the summit.

Thankfully the summit finally came into view, complete with a large metal pole. I think this previously unnamed peak needs to be granted the name “Festivus Peak” in honor of its summit marker.

Tinsel, cairns and registers distract me. Luckily, Festivus Peak is devoid of all three. Today, getting up here felt like a feat of strength, so it was time to descend. After a 5-hour round trip (yes, 5 hours for a 7,100 foot peak), I made it back to my car and drove around the mountains to access a second peak for the day. This one would fill in the 8,000-8,099 slot in my previously mentioned silly list. I should have just gone home.

Bennett Mountain (8,045 for those checking my math at home) was accessed from the Indian Creek trailhead, on Colorado 67 just west of the hamlet Pine Nook (possibly the cutest town name in all of Colorado – anyone got one better?). The trail was snowpacked right from the trailhead, but had been beaten down by other hikers. At least they’d walked on it as far as I needed the trail, which was just past a patch of private property sitting between the trail and Bennett.

Once on the north side of the fences, I wallowed through sugar snow across a small creek and then began my upward hike. Knee deep snow alternated with a few bare patches and lots of hidden goodies under the snow (like slick rocks and tripping trees). If I hadn’t paid a California-based concessionaire $5 just to park, I might have turned around before the summit and come back another day. At least paying to access our public lands got me up the summit this time. Not that there was much of a top to this peak. I could at least make out the Noddleheads, Long Scraggy and the east side of the Lost Creek Wilderness.

I returned the way I came and labored up the beaten trail back to my car. My legs were sore and I was tired. Probably a good thing I canceled on that 34 mile ultra marathon I’d had planned for today.

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Eagle Rock

Pete was recovering from 2 weeks in Dallas, so we made arrangements to climb a couple lower peaks in the morning. First up was 9,111 near the Spruce Grove Trailhead on Tarryall Road in Park county.

We brought a small rope and rack but the only really steep faces were on the cold north side of the peak. So we just scrambled up from the east side. Had there been a little less snow, we could have found some really fun scrambling on this peak – as it was we stuck to some easier (4th class) terrain.

For the descent we headed more south-east and encountered no more than 3rd class. Then we headed back north on Tarryall Road and picked up Park County 23 below Tarryall Reservoir. Eventually, I chickened out on driving any further and jumped in Pete’s 4wd truck. We found some space to pull out on Forest Road 146 to the south east of Eagle Rock and began the hike following some old tracks.

Higher on the slopes the snow relented and we passed below some fairly impressive cliffs. We eventually hit a little saddle just to the north of the true summit and found a snowy ramp on the northwest side of the peak to continue our hike to the summit.

A little bit of fun scrambling led to the summit.

We returned the way we came and gave up driving straight through on FR 146 to Observatory Rock. We thought about driving around, but then thought we’d rather head to Lincoln Falls for a little ice climbing. We lost some more time when a large pickup nearly forced us off the road and I got a tire stuck in a snowy ditch. A little work with a tow strap and we were on the road, but less enthused with fighting the expected mid-afternoon crowds at Lincoln Falls. A rain check was scheduled for some CCC ice midweek and we continued our separate ways for the afternoon.

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After following up on a post on Mountain Project looking for partners for an after-work ice climbing session I met Chris and Darin at the mouth of Clear Creek Canyon and we carpooled a couple miles up to the ice flows.

Our first objective was the series of falls known as “Mickey’s Big Mouth”, with a few sections of WI2-3 interspersed with a fair amount of scrambling.

Another climber was on the lowest fall, doing some top rope soloing. We soloed climbed this step and continued up to the higher ice fall. After soloing easy terrain on the right side, we dropped a toprope and each took a lap on the slightly harder left side.

Next we hiked out and walked east towards “Coors Lite”. Again we soloed the first couple easy steps.

We ran into another soloist on the top flow of Coors Lite. He was doing laps on the left side of the fall, so I borrowed some slings and screws from Chris to lead the right side. After Darin departed (had some other commitments), I started up and placed a few screws feeling really comfortable after the weekend in Ouray. I cleaned the pitch while being lowered and Darin then led a line further right. I followed to clean the couple screws and we rappelled off a tree and hiked out.

We hit Woody’s for a few pizza slices and beer then finished the evening with a presentation by Jeff Blumenfeld on his book You Want To Go Where? about finding sponsorship for your big adventure or expedition.

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