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Archive for March, 2010

Clear Creek Trail

Pete’s call woke me a minute before my alarm went off. “I don’t think I can hike today” came his words and the little bit of information to indicate he was dealing with another bout of Fletcheritis. Backpacker and author, Colin Fletcher, invented the term to describe the constant pre-trip sickness that always cropped up for him before a long journey. In Pete’s case his Fletcheritis has been activated by trail marathons and 50k’s this year. In a sense, I was honored that my planned 30 mile walk on the Clear Creek Trail could cause the same emotional distress as running 26 or 31 miles. Unfortunately, it also meant that Pete was doubtful about finishing the big 42 mile hike we have planned in a couple weeks.

Still groggy I tried to absolve Pete’s guilt for standing me up two days in a row and then put down the phone to finish my own prep for the day. At least doing the hike on my own would be good mental practice. Coffee drunk and food packed I left my door step at 6:02 for the several block walk to the Clear Creek Trail.

About one mile from home I stopped to take a picture of the lights of Denver and the Coors factory as the sun was working on breaking the horizon.

I spent the first several miles thinking about the hike I was training for and working through the logistics of water resupplies, elevation gain and food required. Redwing blackbirds called my attention to the morning light on South Table Mountain.

I only saw 4 people by the time I hit Prospect Park after 5 miles. The park looked like the scene of a safari as tens of photographers brandishing huge telephoto lens crowded the pond shores. I hope they were after photos of something more exotic than the canadian geese.

A previous training hike had taken me 7 miles from home to the far end of the park (and then I did a couple repeat laps of the earlier portion of the trail). Today I continued on the Clear Creek trail through a few neighborhoods and over a bridge near my mile 8.

The next seven miles grew silent as I moved away from Prospect Park. Only a few joggers and bikers were using those trail miles that danced with I-76 and ended when I hit a small bridge past Pecos St. I stopped to stretch and loosen a too-tight left shoe then turned back, right on my time estimate of 10am.

A few more bikers were out now and the day was really warming up. Stripping another layer my packed seemed to be full and functioned as a reminder to leave every thing extraneous behind in a few weeks. However, my left foot reminded me that ibuprofen and a minimal first aid kit for blisters should have been in my pack today.

Eventually I beat my complaining extremities into submission for at least a brief period and the miles rolled on as I re-entered Prospect Park. North and South Table mountain still looked too far away but I knew home was only another 6 miles.

I’d started jogging brief segments as that form of movement broke up the repetitive pounding on my heels and actually felt better than walking. A female runner I’d seen before caught up with me and asked what I was training for – I guess the stuffed day pack and and sighting 6 miles ago was a clue. I tried to explain my adventure to come and she was preparing for a run of the Boston Marathon. Then she speed ahead.

The last few blocks home were the worst – uphill on my cramping legs but I managed to jog a few blocks and reach my door after 7 hours and 59 minutes.

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Another 26F night at Bridger Jack camp ground, but I slept soundly after our first day climbing in Indiana Creek at Donnelly Canyon. I woke up before sun-hit again, but used the time to prep the kitchen rather than take a walk.

The eggs and blueberry pancakes were a hit again and after doing dishes we were on the road.

Megan and Tyson were meeting us at the parking lot to augment our little group. While waiting for them we worked on our tape gloves and stretched in the sun.

Our plan was to head up to Supercrack Buttress and climb some of the routes there. We found the famous Luxury Liner (aka Supercrack) route easily enough.

However, we overshot our intended climb and after consulting the guidebooks retraced our steps.

The route we were looking for was an unnamed 5.10 hand crack that Jenn and Jeremy had followed last fall. Once we found it, Jenn racked up for the first lead.

Once again, Jenn did great and completed her first 5.10 trad lead.

With 5 of us, and nearly all of us taking a turn at the lead it was a while to cycle through our full group. I spent a little time admiring the nearby petroglyphs.

Leading this route was also my first 5.10 trad lead. Once I’d cleaned the anchors we moved further north along the cliff and spread out. Tyson loaded up his harness with a huge number of #1-#3 cams and set off up 3AM Crack.

At over 100 feet long, he needed to take several breaks to complete the full pitch. Jenn, Jeremy and I headed around the corner and took turns leading Twin Cracks.

Tyson had now finished leading 3AM Crack and Meg had taken a lap top-roping it. Jenn, myself and Jeremy now set out to do battle with this long route. In fact, the route was long enough that our 60 meter rope didn’t quite touch the ground and both the belayer and climber had to scramble up to a ledge to get started.

We’d only climbed 3 routes, but felt like we’d made a lot of personal strides and got enough out of the day. Returning to camp we all pitched in for a huge burrito dinner and a welcome warmer night (36F) before returning to Colorado’s front range.

Complete photo album

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I thought I was going rock climbing. But so far, I’ve been in a car and a Starbucks, and a car and a gas station, and a car and a Starbucks and a car.

Indian Creek. We’d been talking (and getting stoked) about this trip for months. A spring snow storm delayed our travel by a half day and we found it took 2 hours just to make it to Idaho Springs.

Conditions improved after that and blue skies were breaking through by the time the overloaded Subaru passed into Utah. We rattled up the rough road to the Bridger Jack camping area and took the first open spot. Cold wind cut through the kitchen as we made some roasted red pepper and grilled cheese sandwiches then hid back in the car to eat them.

I was up before sun hit to explore and take a few pictures after a cold (26F) night.

Jumping around to warm up in the sun I started preparing a breakfast of blueberry pancakes while Jeremy complained of getting the screaming barfies doing food prep. Jenn added some fried eggs with cheese and spinach to complete the meal.

Armed with all our cams and a double set of borrowed friends we drove over to Donnelly Canyon to see what we could attempt.

Chocolate Corner, a 5.9 thin-hands crack was open and was a route both Jeremy and Jenn had top-roped on a previous visit. Jenn had a “Indian Creek lead climbing” monkey to get off her back and after we taped up she racked up to free herself from that mental baggage.

Jenn quickly dispatched the monkey and could already tally up this trip as a success.

Besides South Six-shooter peak, I’d never climbed in Indian Creek, but after bouldering up the first 6 feet of Chocolate Corner and finding perfect hand jams, I was ready to lead my first 5.9. Unfortunately, I discovered the crack pinched down after that first 6 feet and I had to resort to some hang dogging to rest up and finish the route.

I also discovered that I’ve a bit to learn about properly taping my hands.

A friendly group climbing next to us offered their rope on Elephant Man which we each took a lap on.

Jeremy then had his turn at leading Chocolate Corner.

The same group put up a rope on Mr. Peanut and we each took a spin, figuring out how best to use the off-width crack to the right.

Finally, we attempted the harder Dos Hermanos with both Jenn and I giving up not 25 feet up the wall. Jeremy powered through with a bit of a belay assist and cleaned the route.

We made a not-so-quick trip into Moab for additional fuel and firewood then returned to camp for a much more pleasant and windless evening of pasta and a campfire.

Complete photo album

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The outdoorsy sect of Colorado’s weekend warriors devotes itself to the weather forecasts as Saturday draws nigh. With thousands of feet of topology and hundreds of miles of playgrounds each region is scanned for sunny blue bird days or deep fresh snow. So it was foreordained that I’d find myself enjoying rock in Eldorado with hundreds of trad climbing brethren on Saturday. Sunday prophecies rain in the front range, with several inches of snow up high, and since I’m no longer of the skiing cult, the faithful go ice climbing.

Erick and I got a ridiculously early start (especially given the loss of an hour that we some how “saved” to cash in in autumn) and arrived at the parking area for Lincoln Falls just past dawn. We were the first ones on the ice but were surprised to see three ropes hanging down the start of Lincoln Falls Minor. Erick had climbed here recently and offered me the first lead. I might have picked a bolder line to start with, but I’d brought the rope and Erick the screws. Erick attends Old School, and none of his screws had knobs or levers and without those technological crutches my bravery melts.

I place one of his dinosaur screws at the start, well before I could get pumped and save my two 19cm’s for the upper part of the pitch. Arriving at the bolts, I’m somewhat surprised to see that all three top rope lines are anchored to the same dead tree.

Erick takes the second “pitch” which is mostly a snow ramp to some trees where I get the third rope length to top out at another set of anchors on a large boulder. We’d climbed quickly, and only one other group has walked up the trail, so we figure we can fit in another pitch then get out before the snow and ski traffic gets bad.

After walking to the base, Erick starts up a WI3 line that angles right to the anchors and the dead-tree-anchor. The group who left their lines from the day before shows up while I’m belaying. One student in the group has been overdosing on fresh air and immediately lights a cigarette. I’m thankful when Erick yells “Off belay!” and I can climb outta here.

After scurrying up the route and removing 4 ice screws we thread the rope through the chains and rappel back down. A couple minutes of sorting gear, coiling ropes and removing harnesses and we’re on our way back to the trailhead. Four pitches and it’s not yet 11am.

The snow if falling aggressively by now, and 4 inches or more of new snow easily covers our tracks on trail and road. We decide to sneak home via 285 with the aid of Erick’s studded snow tires and find the wet front range we’d knowingly escaped.

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With another great weather day forecast for Saturday, Jonathan and I made plans to head to Eldorado State Park’s West Ridge for some rock climbing. We thought we’d met early enough to beat the crowd, but we found people already on the first couple climbs we aimed for. Thankfully, the 5.7+ Dandi-Line was open and I jumped on it.

It was still in the shade and I needed to stop to warm my fingers a few times on the climb. Jonathan cleaned the route and we had a short break while the group to our left pulled their rope from the anchors and freed up Mesca-Line (also 5.7+). It was Jonathan’s turn to lead, but the climb looked to nice to just follow, so he cleaned the route on lower then we pulled the rope and I led up and cleaned my gear on rappel. By now there was a large line forming for these climbs, so we headed up hill to find Jenn and Jeremy.

The 4 of us decided to climb Duh-Dihedral, a 5.6 which was open. Jonathan and I repeated our earlier pattern of each of us cleaning our own ascent so we could both lead the climb.

Eldo seemed really crowded today, so we jumped on some nearby obscure and short lines to avoid any waits. Jonathan led Srinagar (5.7) and I followed to clean the pitch. Then I took the lead on Hang Ten, the 5.8 to its left.

We started to hike down from the West Ridge and thought about doing the 2-pitch Verschneidung Dihedral, but the guidebook’s warning that a single 60 meter rope wouldn’t get you down the rappel scared us off. Running out of time we made a quick trip up the West Dihedral (5.4) on the Whale’s Tail enroute to the parking lot.

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Jenn, Jeremy, Erick and I took advantage of the warm and sunny Sunday weather and headed up to the shadeless rock at Golden Cliffs (North Table Mountain). Erick and I had never met before but teamed up and found that we were climbing at a similar level. We decided to start on the route “Bimbo in Limbo” which at 5.10a is harder than either one of us really wanted for a warm-up. Erick backed off the climb after the first bolt, but I decided to give it a try. Mostly climbing the crack to the right (the route “Abortion Control”) and reaching out to clip the bolts, I eventually moved onto the face and was pretty pumped by the time I clipped the bolts and lowered off.

After following the route, Erick found a 5.9 around the corner (Crowbar Cowboy), which had a fun roof that’s bypassed by some huge jug holds on the right.

After following the route we headed back to the Winterfest wall and found “Dweeb” to be in the sun. The direct start variation (also 5.9+) looked like fun, so I took another turn leading. After cleaning the quickdraws while being lowered, Erick led the route as well.

Borrowing Erick’s trad rack my next lead became “Hand Crack”, a 5.8 whose name I took to literally and tried to hand and foot jam much more than I should and took a short fall onto a cam. After finishing the route, Eric followed it and made a crazy layback of that crux portion – something he said he wouldn’t have done on lead.

While Erick was cleaning the anchors, I wandered over to find Jenn and Jeremy working on a pair of sport routes – “The Perfect Ten” (5.10a) and “Not” (5.10b). They offered the use of their top rope after they’d each taken a lap, so I rested up while the clouds finally moved in and the air began to cool.

Erick and I each did a quick lap on the two routes (now finally warmed up for 5.10 routes) and then we hiked out to call it a day.

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Thanks to a bit of digging around by Pete and the generosity of a fellow FourteenerWorld member, we were armed with some enticing photos of a 7,000 foot peak in Fremont county that required 5th class climbing to reach the summit. Photos made the formation look like a dome in the Elevenmile Canyon and I decided we should try a bit harder line than the other known ascents.

The prior night’s Banff Film Festival cut into my sleep, but I was quickly out of bed and ready to get on the road for the 3 hour drive past Canon City. We quickly located the parking area used by the ORV crowd just north of the Arkansas River and across from Texas Creek and started out on one of the ORV trails.

As we gained a bit of elevation we earned sweeping views of the Sangre de Cristo range.

An undulating ridge took us northeast towards our first objective, unnamed 7741, whose main attraction was its “unclimbed” status on the site Lists of John.

Shortly into the hike I came across a 5 point deer antler. That quickly was added to my load and Pete steamed that he hadn’t been hiking in front. Soon we had our first views of 7741 which suddenly looked more interesting with the rocky summit tower.

The bushwhacking was actually pretty pleasant so far, mostly it was open woods with only the occasional thicket of scrub oak. Cactus were our major hazard, but I lucked out today with only a few needles. On the other hand, Pete suffered through a few slips and subsequent palm-plants right into the plant. Ouch.

As we got closer to the summit we were able to confirm that the high point would be a worthy, if short, scramble.

The route we ended up using had one short 4th class slab.

Once on the summit we took a break and looked at some of the other granite towers sticking up out of the trees. Unfortunately, only 7741 and 7516’s granite summits appeared to be the top of “ranked” peaks.

We descended a different side of the summit tower and decided it would be possible to get up without doing anything harder than 3rd class scrambling.

Leaving 7741 behind, we followed a ridge running east and northeast towards 7516, our “main attraction” for the day.

Descending into Hindman Gulch on the southwest side of 7516 we found the worst terrain of the day – steep and loose slopes with plenty of cactus and a bit of snow. With some relief we reached the dry gulch and started up similar, but dry, slopes towards 7516.

My original plan had been to continue around to the southeast side and look for the most enticing, and reasonable, line. Now that we were so close to the rock, I picked out a line on this southwest side that looked like it would continue around to the other face and decided to give it a go. One little scrub oak patch hindered our final approach to the rock and then we were gearing up.

The first pitch started out with a bit of a mantle move (Pete’s shorter height rendered this the crux move of the whole route for him), then some easy walking up and leftwards to a short dihedral and a nice belay ledge. The rock was solid and well textured (Pikes Peak granite?), but certainly wasn’t cleaned off like a popular crag. Some small flakes would easily break off, lichen and plants were also present. I wondered if this was how the domes in Elevenmile looked on their first ascents by climbers?

I looked at a few options to start the 2nd pitch, and ended up sticking with the easiest climbing, which also led to a large zig-zag that created some horrible rope drag by the time I pulled myself up on a little ledge and made a strenuous belly crawl to a belay spot. Having my foot stuck briefly in a crack and dealing with the deer antler in my pack pushing me away from the side wall made this the crux for me. Pete cruised up since he didn’t have to deal with any of those issues.

From our ledge belay I continued to the right and quickly exited onto the southeast face and some easy slab climbing to another nice belay right below a short vertical section.

The vertical section went easily, with good handholds, but less than simple footwork (5.5-5.6?) and a bit of easier slabs continued above. At this point I didn’t know if I should head more right onto some slabs or stick with the large boulders to the left that might eventually terminate in a dead end. I ended up staying left, and continued up a slabby arete then exited right via some jugs to another little ledge.

Once Pete finished the pitch and had me on belay I again faced the same question, right or left? I decided again to stay left, boulder hoped up below some overhanging blocks, but spotted a shaft of light. Time for some spelunking! The short cave led to a smooth slot canyon-like bit of stemming and then a couple short steep steps. I tied off to a large block and noticed I was only a few feet from the summit and yelled down an “off belay”.

As Pete neared the top I lied and said we had another pitch or so to go, which he believed until he reached my position and spied the summit boulder so close.

Looking through the summit register the first listed climber had named this “Hindman Dome”. Our break was cut short by the wind picking up, so we scrambled to the northeast and started looking for a descent route.

A few trees would have allowed for a rappel off, but the 5.easy slab climbing was straight-forward enough that we both down climbed without the rope.

Finally the rock shoes could come off and we began to scramble down the drainage immediately below the southeast face of “Hindman Dome”. Large boulders and scrub oak soon revealed themselves and we hiked up to the granite formations further east and found some less bushy scrambling down to Hindman Gulch.

The descent down Hindman Gulch was quick and fairly simple. Lots of cows and deer had beaten down a path, but a few short waterfalls made for some quick down scrambling.

Eventually we were able to loop back to our parking area for a bit over a nine hour day. A stop at Trinity Brewing in Colorado Springs helped fuel our return drive.

Our route wasn’t particularly aesthetic, but was a lot of fun in an adventure-climbing sort of way. None of the cruxes were long nor exceeded 5.7 and were separated by 5.easy slabs or boulder scrambling. There’s lots of potential for new and more direct routes if others want to make the approach.

Route topo – start:

Route topo – finish:

Complete photo album

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