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Archive for December, 2010

Skiing Boreas Pass Road

My brother Kyle and I kept up a fairly new Christmas tradition by skiing up Boreas Pass Road.

Unfortunately, Grant was unable to join us this year, but on the plus side we had a few new inches of powder to slip through.

Starting out cloudy, the conditions gradually cleared, first only hinting at the peaks the skies hid.

Quite a few cars were in the parking lot, but people were well spread out and we only occasionally passed other parties.

Feeling less competitive than other years, we took numerous breaks on the slight uphill grade to take pictures of the scenery.

I commented that the Lodge Pole forests are the most boring I’ve ever seen (thankfully Colorado has aspen groves, ponderosa, and bristlecones). That all changes with some fresh snow when the trees come into their own.

Every year our goal has been the restored water tank from when this path was a railroad track. We stopped and enjoyed a quick snack and thermos of hot chocolate.

The clouds were really clearing off now and the light snow had stopped. We couldn’t glide all the way back down, but the effort was much less and stops less frequent.

During one of the few pauses I looked up at a large bird and identified it as a bald eagle. I tried to remember if I’d ever seen another in Colorado.

Complete photo album

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Following a short drive up to Boulder’s NCAR parking lot, I hit the trails and left the few people behind who were also out this early as I turned up the Mallory Cave Trail. I’d never been to this part of the flatirons before and had a lot of rock formations to sort out and get to know.

Passing by Der Zerkle and Dinosaur Rock, I headed south on a faint trail to the southeast base of the formation known as Der Freischutz. The South Ridge was supposed to be a 4th class route to the summit. I went ahead and donned a helmet and switched to some climbing shoes, both actions I’m grateful for as the route seemed at least 5th class.

To start I headed up and left of a natural rock arch, then further along the ridge. The rock quality varied, with some spots showing signs of recent fractures and making me a little nervous about the holds I was trusting. Partway up I hit what I’d later decide was the crux, maybe I should have stayed further left?

A really enjoyable part of the ridge came later when I got into a solid water channel with plenty of pockets. Okay, this part felt 4th class.

Reaching the summit, I found two blocks of about equal height.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the rappel anchors (which I later saw were hidden a bit off the ridge crest). I certainly didn’t want to downclimb the whole route I’d just done, so I ended up going down the slabby 5.1 variation to “North Vee” which had just a little snow and some cold rock.


Warming up in the sun and glad to be off Der Freischutz, I decided to walk over and check out the “walk off” route up the Red Devil Formation.

Climbing in my approach shoes and helmet I decided the “walk off” was probably class 3. But there were a couple nice looking routes up the south side I’d like to come back and climb with a partner.

Heading back down the Mallory Cave Trail I stopped below Der Freischutz and looked for the West Face (5.0) route up to the top of Dinosaur Rock. The route description was confusing by mixing up “left” for “right” in describing the spatial relationship between a skinny tree and a dihedral, but I eventually figured out where the line must go. However, I decided to dry a variation left of the tree and dihedral which also seemed about 5.0 – but probably harder to downclimb easily than the more standard route.

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Once I hit a flat ledge I had to examine the last 15 feet of slabby climbing for the easiest route and carefully climb up to the ridge crest and shuttle along the top to the "peak".

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Carefully I reversed my steps then went down the regular version of the West Face route and rejoined my pack for the return hike.

Complete photo album

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Aid and Sport

Plans to go bouldering with Jenn fell through (get well soon!) so I decided on a solo day up at nearby North Table Mountain to work on some aid climbing skills. At 9:30 I was the first car in the lot and hiked up to the cliffs. After initially setting a top rope over Lemons, Limes and Tangerines I quickly decided the overhanging nature of the start of the route wasn’t a good place to practice beginner aid skills. I moved the rope to Left Slab and setup my Petzl Mini-Traxion on one of the two tied of ends of the rope as a self-belay.

Getting out my etriers I scrambled up and clipped into the first bolt then found myself mostly high stepping to reach the subsequent bolts and reached the anchors over 6 and a half minutes later. On my second lap I put the watch away and added a #1 Master Cam in a crack and a #4 micro nut to break up the long reaches. Only one clip now required high stepping. 5 more laps and I was feeling a little bit smoother with the process.

A group of three showed up below and offered that I join them to make it more efficient for them. I did a couple more laps and timed my last one at about 3.5 minutes. Not too bad for adding two more clips and having the etriers setup in the “wrong” pattern for that ascent. After cleaning the anchors and rapping down I joined Cory and his friends then got a belay to lead Left Slab (5.8). Cory then led it and I took a lap on Lemons, Limes and Tangerines (5.8). Cory and I would switch off leads for the next several climbs, the second climber getting pre-placed draws on the routes. We stuck with all sport routes: This Ain’t Naturita Pilgrim (5.9, where I took a longish lead fall from the 3rd bolt), Deck Chairs on the Titanic (5.9+, which I was too pumped to finish) and Pack O’ Bobs (5.7, which I hung several times on).

Arms completely shot, I at least hoped I’d be able to open a bottle of beer when I got home.

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Mr. Natural

50 degrees, mostly sunny, should be a nice day right? Well, there was that wind in the forecast.

Jenn and I met in the nearly vacant parking lot in Eldo at 10 for a pre-climb tailgate brunch (donuts and cold pancakes).

Walking up to the Redgarden Wall we warmed up and found the 5.8 Mr. Natural in the sun. The crack was still cold and we definitely weren’t sheltered from the wind, but let’s give it a go.

Racking up I pondered how my first climb in a month would go and quickly found that between the cold and being out of practice this felt as hard as some 5.9’s I’d done a month prior.

Coming back down I cleaned all the gear then we pulled the rope and Jenn got ready to lead the same pitch. On the way up I heard an “Uh-oh, that cam might be stuck.” Sure enough, as she lowered and cleaned the gear the #1 red camalot was not coming out. She worked on it for at least 15 minutes, getting it inverted. I offered to climb up and try to finagle it out if she needed a break.

Trading places I went up and at least managed to reset the cam into its original orientation. At least we were only 15 feet apart and could carry on a conversation while counterbalancing one another. Discussing college majors brought mention of my religious studies minor then questions on our personal beliefs. 20 minutes into my shift working on the cam I declared atheist leanings, but conceded a bit of agnostic. Maybe I’d believe in a higher power if shown an undeniable mir. . ., mira. . ., Miracle! The cam pops out and I hold it up triumphantly!

Back on the ground I’m sure it was my own tenacity, but our will to climb in the cold wind is steadily weakening. We check out Jenn’s stated project for the day, a 5.11a route that is now in the shade of Eldorado Mountain. Slowly the sun creeps around the other side of the peak and throws some weak light on the rock. Jenn psyches her self up for the climb, one that looks hard and possibly a little dangerous. A few moves up she decides the rock “feels cold, like death” and we agree to bail, head to Southern Sun and get a beer and warm up. Feels like the smartest thing we’ve done all day.

Later she sums up the day as:
“ate pancake, climbed one pitch, fought gear, ate donut, drank pint, ate fries”

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Somewhat recovered from last weekend’s marathon, I decided to keep up the bit of hiking fitness with a few walks around three Jefferson County Open Space parks I hadn’t visited.

A short two mile walk around the South Valley Park and it’s rock formations started my day.

With the sun and scenery I was feeling happier than the artist’s rendition of a sad-looking, extinct proto-mammal on the informative signs.

A few other hikers and a couple runners were also out this morning.

Following a few back roads I’d never been on I found Deer Creek Canyon road aptly named.

At Meyer Ranch Park I hiked most of the trails for a short 4 miles through the trees.

Finally I took a 3 mile loop around the Flying J Ranch Park which was the least interesting of all 3 parks. Young trees with a lot of stumps and fire openings provided little of scenic interest. Maybe with some more snow this would make a fun cross country ski loop.

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Looking at an AM departure for a two week trip back to the midwest, I spent my last night in Golden at the opening of the Alpine Styles art exhibit at the American Mountaineering Center. While there I finally met Chris Pruchnic, the chair of the American Alpine Club’s Front Range section.

I launch out of town the next morning only making a significant stop when I reach Omaha, and enjoy a late lunch at the Upstream Brewing Company. A short stretch of driving takes me to Anita, IA where I ponder how the land-locked town ended up with the slogan “A Whale of a Town”. Camping at a state park I enjoyed the near full moon and lack of other visitors.

Arriving in Chicago I prepare for that evening’s beer mile. I ran the event once before and thought that spectating just might be more fun than participating. To share the fun, I took a video of the event.

On Monday I was struck with the tragic news that Chris Pruchnic had passed away in a climbing accident on Saturday. I can’t say I knew him well, but the shock came from having just met him not 48 hours before his accident. Chris seemed to have been very active with the AAC, and an extremely friendly and giving individual. You will be missed.

The rest of the week passed with me feeling a little lost and wishing I was back in Colorado. A few days of rain and stuffing myself with food didn’t help. At least getting out for a 13 mile hike around the Deam Wilderness with the Bloomington Hikers got me thinking ahead.

I’d be sweeping the Tecumseh Trail Marathon for the 8th year in a row and was badly out of hiking shape. Feeling a little sore by the end of the 13 mile hike I could now shift to worrying about the 26 miles I’d be doing the next weekend.

While camping in the Deam Wilderness, I pondered at what point this summer/fall my life migrated from the largely horizontal concerns of hiking and mountaineering to the vertical life of accumulating pitches of rock climbing with short approaches. Overnight temps froze those thoughts and frosted the tent and I put in another week of work prior to the marathon.

Saturday morning started with a look out the window and seeing 3+ inches of new snow. This was more than we’d had in Golden all season yet. While my brother (acting as co-sweep this year) and I made it to the race headquarters without much issue, the shuttle buses refused to transport all the runners to the start line. The normally point-to-point course would be an out-and-back this year.

The temps stayed right around freezing with intermittent light snow all day and nearly no wind. Beautiful conditions for a run, if not a fast time. Also, passing runners moving in the opposite direction definitely slowed everyone down, but the race officials, HAM radio operators and aid station volunteers all responded quickly to the changed reality. I took a few short video clips, edited together below.

Sore, but proud, once again, to be associated with this event and the amazing runners who push on through at the back of the pack, my brother and I stiffly make our way to a big elk burger dinner. One final huge feed at the Village Deli sends us off in different directions the next morning and I’m several states away before needing to snack again.

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