Archive for March, 2012

Green Mountain loop

Saturday’s hike started at NCAR where I picked up the Mesa Trail to Bear Canyon.

Bits of ice and snow didn’t present a real hazard and I looped around the west side of Green Mountain on the Green Bear, Green Mountain West Ridge and Long Canyon Trails to the Ranger Trail.

I turned off on the E.M. Greenman (again avoiding Green’s summit) then headed down the Saddle Rock and Amphitheater trails. Bluebell/Baird, 2nd Flatiron, Royal Arch, Mesa and Woods Quarry trails finished my 4 hour loop back to NCAR.

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Five months since I last rock climbed I agree to head to the Flatirons with Pete. During the drought of climbing I kept saying I’d be back on rock eventually and figured that “eventually” might start with a climb of the Fatiron. Two years ago we did this same climb and had a blast, this year I got us lost on the approach and we scrambled a few hundred feet on the “Forgotten Flatiron” before figuring out where we weren’t.

Having at least obtained a higher vantage point, and gotten a warm-up, we hiked back down and south to the Fatiron and easily scrambled up the north-side approach to the start of the route. I remembered the first pitch as being the crux (a thin crack with enough, if not plentiful, protection) and set off on lead with some trepidation. Slower and less confident than 2 years ago, I still got up and ran out most of the rope to an cramped belay stance that owed it’s minor “ledge” attribute to a dying bush. Pete followed with much more vigor than I’d displayed (has he been climbing in the gym these last few weeks?) and joined me on the bush.

Relieved to have the “crux” done I still found my climbing was tenuous and unconfident as I tackled pitch two. That the wind was picking up did little for my nerves and I belayed at a good sized ledge to make up for the bushy stance I’d previously parked out on.

Once again Pete cruised up the pitch and handed me the rack of gear I’d placed. I recalled pitch 3 being runout, but easy with a sea of jugs. Unfortunately, I headed too far left – up a water-polished mini-gully with harder moves and little pro. I was shaken by the time I reached the summit. At least the wind seemed more mild on top and the sun did something to restore my spirits while Pete climbed up to this eastern summit. Lunch helped even more, but I was considering bailing on the last of the climb.

After a short scramble and rappel, I was wavering in my commitment to bail. Looking up at the last two pitches to the western summit I was still having trouble summoning the psyche to continue leading and somehow talked Pete into doing his first trad lead. For better or worse, Pete set off with the rack and tackled the less-protectable-than-I-recalled pitch with more poise than I was likely to muster today. Fiddling with cams in odd spots he set a few good pieces and several less-than-ideal. I climbed up to his tree belay, helped reduce the cluster of his anchor then figured I should lead the last pitch – a pitch that turned out to be really short, really easy and easily protectable. Humm, maybe this should have been Pete’s first trad lead.

One last rappel, then some bushwhacking around the north side of the formation and a hike back towards the Shadow Canyon cutoff trail and we were out of the shadow of the Fatiron. When I got home I stuffed my climbing gear back in a box where it should stay until I’ve really got my motivation back.

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With a week of clear weather I was hoping the trails around the Flatirons would be cleared off. Taking an evening to hike to Royal Arch and back I found a few very ice spots and twice wished for traction more robust than my Yaktrax. Regardless, they got me down safe in conjunction with a headlamp (am I actually looking forward to daylight savings and “extra” evening hour?).

Saturday morning Tara and I picked up Claire on the way out of town and headed to the Longs Peak Trailhead. Bright blue skies and warm sun had us stripping off layers (is this really winter?) minutes from the trailhead.

I’ve seen more snow up above treeline in June than we had right now and wondered if the Keyhole route would loose its technical rating early this year.

To get a view of the continental divide we hiked up to Granite Pass (how am I not wearing gloves at 12,000+ feet in March?) for a quick lunch before trekking back to the Chasm Lake junction.

It was amazing to have such a warm and calm day in the park, I almost wished I was going for the summit.

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For the first weekend in March I had signed up for a winter photography course run through the Rocky Mountain Nature Association and taught by professional photographer Glenn Randall.

Friday night started with an elk traffic jam as I toured the park before our classroom session began.

The forecast for Saturday morning wasn’t ideal for photography but we agreed to show up at 5:30am and carpool to Many Parks Curve for sunrise. Lots of clouds, plenty of wind and enough cold to numb fingers greeted us.

A particularly strong wind sent my camera bag over the stone wall and 20 feet down a snow slope. At least nothing was damaged, but I hid out in the bus and rewarmed afterwards missing a few more gusts.

A day of class room instruction followed before we ventured out to try and catch sunset (too cloudy again, but not as cold or windy). Ignoring the big landscapes that were covered by clouds, most of us wandered about looking for smaller scenes.

It took Sunday morning until a photo shot showed some real promise. We’d returned to Many Parks Curve again and caught a break in the clouds with the sunrise coming through.

Some final classroom time and a photo review/critique finished the course and left me with a lot to practice and work into my future photography.

Complete Photo Album

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