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Archive for January, 2011

Breckenridge

Started a very frontcountry weekend in Breckenridge with a walk through the annual snow sculpture competition. The international field was spending their last night finalizing their art work for judging.

I hadn’t ridden a chair lift all last winter, but that’s mostly what I spent Saturday doing. That, and enjoying spending some time in the warm winter sunlight with friends and relatives.

A couple of Saturday’s large meals needed to be worked off, so Erick, Jeremy and I departed at 7:15 am to skin up from the base of Peak 9 to the top of the Mercury Chair lift before the lifts opened.

Tired legs appreciated the forgiving freshly groomed runs as we headed down just as the first chairs of people began their ascent. A large breakfast followed with most of the rest of the crew. Then we were back out the door for more runs with the crowds followed by a delay-tactic of dinner out to let the traffic thin before making our own return back home.

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More secret ice

What can I say, it’s nice having your own (nearly) private ice flow.

This time John and I came out to the secret ice with nearly the same agenda as yesterday.

Feeling better with every outing, like I’m about back where to where I was at the end of last season.

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Return to Secret Ice

Had the weather forecast not deteriorated on us, this might have been titled “Return to Garden of the Gods”. However the winds and increased chance of rain or snow had us convinced the reasonable option was ice climbing. (Hint: If ice climbing ever seems reasonable – you’re beyond help.)

Having been given the keys to the secret ice lair I figured it would be the perfect place to take Pete. I was a little shocked I remembered where the hidden passage way descended into the rabbit hole, but we got there just fine.

We rappelled in with full packs to enjoy thermoses of tea and down jackets between laps.

After a few warm up laps along the complete ice flow, I climbed up and set an anchor at the base of the steeper ice so we’d more efficiently work technique.

Pete’s technique was improving with every lap as he’d only been ice climbing a scant few times prior. If he hadn’t been getting tired I’d have forced him into a lap with a single ice tool to work on his balance. Instead, I took a lap with only one tool to show him what could be done.

I didn’t do any leading today, but felt my confidence and technique returning to last year’s levels. One final lap up with my pack and then I hauled Pete’s pack up and let him climb unweighted to work his technique further.

We had a small mixed-scramble left to get back to hiking terrain and then we hunted around for the secret decoder ring I’d left in one of my pockets that would unlock the route back to the car.

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It’d been over two years since I’d been ski touring in the Moffatt Tunnel’s East Portal, and when Jenn suggested a Boulder Multisport day of ice climbing and ski touring, I was excited. New skis that were begging to get out and be put to use were certainly part of the reason.

During the snowy drive up the mountains I thought we might add “snow shoveling” and “car pushing” our multi-sport list, but Erick eventually powered his 2WD through the drifts and to the parking lot.

Nursing shoulder injuries, Erick and Jeremy took off on a morning ski tour while Jenn, Tara and I booted our way to a north-facing ice climb. Deep snow wallowing should be an Olympic sport.

For some waist deep snow, I decided rolling would be a more efficient method of locomotion, and one adopted by Jenn. Unfortunately, laughing too hard took away any efficiency gains.

After carefully crossing a creek we started a straight-up push through the trees hoping to run into the ice eventually. I also wondered if we’d need to tie the rope to Jenn so we wouldn’t lose her if the snow got any deeper.

Taking a breather in one small meadow we spotted a late-season Christmas tree.

Near the tree we’d come across a partly drifted old track which offered easier travel and renewed our faith that we’d eventually locate the ice flow. Finally, turning a corner we were greeted with the sight we’d been wallowing for.





Jenn hadn’t yet climbed ice this season, but was gung-ho to lead and quickly racked up while I put her on belay.

We briefly thought about climbing the steeper “prow” of the ice, but it was dripping and getting soaked then ski touring sounded like a bad idea. So Jenn stayed right in some well abused, but dry ice.

After setting up a top-rope anchor and lowering down, I followed the route and cleaned all the ice screws but a directional. Then we took some laps and tried out the assortment of ice tools we’d brought. After taking one more lap, I stayed on top to shoot something other than butt-shots of climbers.





The air temps were right around freezing and the winds only intermittent, so it was relatively pleasant as far as ice climbing goes. I think we were having fun, or at least faking it well with big smiles.

Almost noon it was time to make the somewhat-easier return trip and eat a lunch huddled in the cars before leaving the sharp stuff in the trunk and strapping on the boards.

Erick and Jeremy had scouted a close and very mellow glade that would be perfect for some short laps, perfect for those of us with new gear, experiencing their first trip on AT-gear and still making the switch from tele-skiing.

Jeremy switched on his inner aerobic beast and started quickly lapping all of us while I found I really like my new and light Hagan skis.

For his final run of the day, Jeremy decided to attempt a high speed grab of a backpack which nearly went well.





Our core group of 5 soon found ourselves back in Boulder laughing and drinking at Southern Sun. Arriving friends soon doubled our group and enabled a rare photo of this blog’s author.

Complete photo album

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I’d never been bouldering before. I knew I would try it eventually, but maybe like joining Facebook, it’s just something I’ve been delaying as long as possible.

No alpine starts today, I could sleep in, make a large breakfast, clean and do some shopping before carpooling down with Jenn and Josh to nearby Morrison and the short approach hike. Heather later joined us after we’d warmed up on some easy stuff (and the only problems that I could send in my present weak state).

Definitely wanting to take it easy (climbing a bit of 5.5-5.8 doesn’t prepare one well for bouldering), at some point I put away rock shoes and concentrated on taking photos of the others.

Since most of what I did was snap photos of everyone else, this post will be filled with eye candy and no more words.



Complete album

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I hadn’t seen Ryan since we met on the Crestone Traverse, but he decided to take a break from the high peaks and join me for some low-land rock climbing. With the wind forecast the most reasonable place seemed to be Castlewood Canyon so we parked at a less-than-ideal spot and found ourselves walking a ways to the “Coat of Arms” crag. My warm-up route, Crack Up (5.7), was still in the shade but numb fingers didn’t fail and Ryan got his first chance to work on removing trad gear.

Not having brought any large cams or long lengths of webbing, I looked like it would be difficult to rig a top-rope on some of the other routes I wanted to inspect first hand before leading. So we moved on to the Juggernaut Area, pieced together the scramble up the detached block and hung a rope over the 5.9 Bat Wing route.

Moving further east we visited the Playground Area and got on Darys’ Crack (5.8 in the book, but felt easier).

We then jumped on a sport climb that was a bit over our heads and finally spent some time talking about anchors and gear placements before hiking back up down the canyon and driving home.

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Secret Ice

Derek said he’d take me to a secret ice climbing spot so details in this post will be rather vague.

After meeting somewhere and carpooling somewhere else we maybe hiked for a ways, possibly involving a bushwhack, but maybe not. There was ice and no one else was there.

After rappelling down the climb we pulled the rope and Derek took the first lead. The lower potion was pretty low angle, but the upper was WI3.

Since it was my first time on ice this season I took a lap on top rope, then we decided to move the anchor right to the base of the steeper portion.

After pulling the rope I took the screws from Derek and did a short lead. We both took several more laps, but that was the only one I lead, I still wasn’t feeling as solid as I had been at the end of last season. Derek did another lead or two, then a few top rope laps to get used to a new pair of ice tools.

Finally I climbed out and belayed him up and we scrambled back up to hiking terrain.

On the way out we made sure to create a few false tracks in the snow, brush over our real steps and walk in circles to confuse anyone else prospecting for this secret stash.

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45 degrees? Sunny? No wind? If this is January I’ll take it.

Taking advantage of a few extra degrees of warmth further south, Pete and I drive down to the Garden of the Gods. 2011 climbing permits acquired we start out with a warm-up on South Gateway Rock. And it does indeed warm us up as the direct sun has us stripping off layers as we hike up the south ridge.

We stop when the climbing gets a little harder and break out the rope. I lead up pretty easy terrain clipping bolts and placing a couple bits of removable protection. Pete follows, but since he forget his belay device I lower him off the anchor, then rappel myself.

We scramble back down to the main trails and the warmth we’d acquired turns our thoughts to the Windows Route on the Three Graces. The route will be mostly in the shade but the rock isn’t too cold so I lead up and find somewhat harder than 5.2 moves by not passing through the window. A traverse isn’t too bad, then a slightly run out but easy arete and the final step-across moves with positive holds gets me to the thin top which I straddle. Pete follows, finding my line a little challenging so I watch the volunteer rangers yell at tourists below while waiting.

Pete finds the final moves more to his liking and we eventually get him setup on rappel to drop down on the tourists below.

I rappel on a Munter hitch, ensuring we’ll be fighting kinks in the rope the rest of the day. After that cold route we need something a little warmer so we walk over to the Twin Spires and decide the Potholes route is too cold, but the South Edge (5.6) on White Twin Spire will be perfect. Well almost perfect, we’re climbing right off the footpath so become a spectacle for crowds of tourists whose chatter I try to ignore.

At least the belay is nice and sunny and Pete follows much quicker than on Three Graces.

Pete keeps my belay device for another rappel, dropping in on some more tourists before I descend, further kinking the rope with the Munter hitch.

At the base a little girl comes up to tell me that she can climb the rocks without all the stuff we use. Chastened, we walk back to Pete’s truck and enjoy some carrot cake I’d baked the night before and decide what to do with our remaining time in the Garden. Our sun is rapidly vanishing behind clouds so we decide to climb up Grey Rock via the normal descent path (5.0). Leaving a good portion of the rack in the truck we head over for this adventure route.





We take along our rock shoes, but end up doing the whole climb and descent in our approach shoes and just break out the rope at one short crux to belay Pete up and down.

From up on Grey Rock the sun breaks out just in time to light up the Three Graces and Montezuma Tower’s.

Reversing the route, we make one variation at the end and rappel off a set of top-rope anchors instead of down climbing the slab we started on. A little early for a full dinner, we stop at Trinity Brewing regardless for a couple appetizers and beer before returning home knowing the excellent weather is about to vanish.

Complete photo album

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Windy Peak

After a few days of sloth encouraged by the cold and windy weather I joined a small group for a hike/snowshoe up Windy Peak (11,970 feet) in the Lost Creek Wilderness. Starting at the Rolling Creek Trailhead the four of us hiked along the Colorado Trail for nearly 3 miles to a signed junction. The trail was covered in about 4 inches of snow and only Carol elected to use her snowshoes at this point.

From the junction we headed off trail nearly due south along the north ridge of Windy Peak with Luke leading the way. There was still only a few inches of snow so most of us kept the snowshoes on our packs.

Around 10,500 feet we ran in a boulder field that would have been a fun scramble in the summer. With snow cover we had to move very carefully to not slip and break a leg between rocks. Following some recent tracks led us deeper into the boulders where Luke and I ended up doing a couple moves that Pete and Carol weren’t willing to commit to.

Temporarily splitting up Luke and I continued on our way then to an excellent perch to watch where Pete and Carol were ascending and then meet them above the boulders. It had taken us about an hour to gain 200-300 feet.

Higher up we got somewhat better conditions as the trees thinned and we could see further to avoid the rock outcrops. Feeling strong Luke continued to lead and Carol had stashed her snowshoes back in the boulders. As less intelligent males, the other 3 of us continued to carry the snowshoes up and down the entire way without once using them.

Last year I’d spent the first days of the new year backpacking and climbing two of the state’s 14,000+ foot peaks. As I made my way to the more moderate elevation of Windy Peak it was apparent just how out of hiking-shape and unacclimated I was. It’d been months since I’d been this high.

It was nearly 2pm when we reached the summit and after a quick break started back down. Mostly following our uphill track, we stayed left of the boulder field for an easier descent then traversed back just below where Carol had stashed her snowshoes.

The remainder of the descent was just more work for tired legs, but I was surprised that we reached the car without needing headlamps (only just barely) for a solid eight hour day. Later we found out that we knew the people whose tracks we found near the boulder field and that they’d tried the peak on the colder and windier Saturday and wisely turned back.

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