Archive for August, 2012

With the USA Pro Cycling Challenge coming through Boulder there was little chance I was going to miss the party on Flagstaff Mountain. First, I had to get out for my own ride with a couple friends and loop north out of town for a 35 mile loop to take the Left Hand Canyon and Lee Hill climb and descent that the pros would fly over in a few hours.

Ride over, I joined our own growing peloton for the journey up Flagstaff (a road climb I’ve never done). We parked our bikes with the first bike corral to position ourselves just above the steepest part of the climb where most attacks would come. Then we settled in to the eating, drinking and spectator watching while waiting a few hours for the riders to reach us.

Spectator watching was really the main reason to be out today and pass the time with the bike-crazy crowds, but eventually we spotted the helicopter following the leaders coming back into town and flying above Baseline towards Flagstaff. Looking below at the road we could see race leader Rory Sutherland approaching.

The main GC contenders quickly appeared through the remains of the broken breakaway group, with yellow-jersey holder Tejay Van Garderen closely watching his main rivals (but would lose the jersey to finish the day in 3rd place overall).

The yellow jersey wasn’t the only one to change hands, as Tom Danielson would pass the climber’s jersey to crowd-favorite Jens Voigt.

The fast race pace strung out the group and other riders were still coming through 10 minutes later.

The parade of racers wouldn’t be over until the broom wagon passed by.

The huge crowd (including descending pros) made for a crazy bike back down the hill.

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It wasn’t pre-dawn, but 7am was early enough to arrive at the 4th of July trailhead and secure a parking spot at the end of the rutted road. The previous month had been filled with road biking and I was curious how my legs would hold up to a longer hike. After passing nearly a dozen others before the Diamond Lake trail junction I figured I still had some of the old speed.

Passing below South Arapaho I took a minute to pick out the gully of the Skywalker Couloir, a route I did over 4 years ago, when I super eager to pick off the classic snow climbs and scrambles around the state. I’m a little less gung-ho now, but still pleased to be headed towards another classic this morning.

Across the valley I get a good look at Mount Jasper, the planned second part of my day and it’s class 3 northeast ridge descending from the summit in my direction.

Nearing Arapaho Pass I’m surprised that I haven’t seen any more hikers since down in the trees. I’m kept company by reflections on the last 4+ years of weekend outings in the state, and by a few territorial pikas.

Passing near the actual pass, I continue to follow the trail to the placid waters of Lake Dorothy below the shear rock face of Mount Neva. I’m a little late for the best light and the angle is too direct, so I return to my ascent to gain the north ridge.

This is the classic route I’ve come to do – largely third class scrambling along the crest of the north ridge with a few 4th class sections near the prominent notches. The route lets you ease in to the difficulties, with the crux sections coming towards the end. The northern end of the ridge was even home to a guardian marmot.

Having done no technical rock climbing in months, I’m perfectly happy to go gentle into the scrambling and stop often to take photos and check hand holds.

By the time the final notch and headwall come into view I’m warmed up to the game, and thankfully don’t have any chest-tightening fear like I’d had the last time I was on steep rock. I originally got into rock climbing through scrambling, possibly it will be my gateway again.

Lake Dorothy looked better as a shimmering blue backdrop to the ridge I was perched on than it had up close.

The views north and east continued my reflection on prior climbs as I looked over Apache, Navajo and Arapaho Peaks.

The last difficult moves passed without much worry, I had picked the easiest line I could see (a few years ago I might have challenged myself more and felt indestructible). A bit of easy walking brought me to summit where I snacked and kept one eye on the clouds to the east. I should still have time to rush along the connecting ridge towards Mount Jasper.

Sky to the west was clear (well, hazy from distant forest fires, but clear of clouds) while clouds built ominously over Apache, Navajo and Arapaho peaks. I was still in the sun which made it easier to decide to solider on.

Thirty minutes later I was on top of the slightly higher Mount Jasper – the ridge line being easier than I’d suspected. I put my helmet back on for the descent down the northeast ridge which was largely class 2 with a few enjoyable class 3 moves.

Once off the ridge and approaching an unnamed lake I ran into the first person I’d seen since arriving in the alpine zone, and came across an old plane wreck.

Continuing down the trail-less drainage I passed several more pretty lakes and some great views of South Arapaho.

Eventually I connected with the Diamond Lake trail and the usual weekend masses of humanity (of which I was clearly a part) on the jaunt back to the trailhead to end a six hour day.

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Tara and I escaped town Friday after work and headed up past Eldora to the Hesse trailhead. I hadn’t been here since they got serious about cracking down on people’s parking and clearly marked out all the legal spaces. At this day and hour it wasn’t hard to grab a spot very close to where the road gets rugged.

With Tara still recovering from a knee injury, we were planning on heading into Lost Lake, a relatively close hike and just before the wilderness boundary – meaning permits weren’t required. However, there are only 9 legit places to camp around the lake, so we still wanted to get in before the crowds. We ended up up getting a pick of the last couple remaining spots and grabbed site #9 as it seemed somewhat secluded.

After sleeping in we strolled around the lake saying hi to a few of the other campers.

After breakfast we packed up (including packing out a giant blanket someone had discarded, thank goodness for spare trash bags), and started down the trail running into 50+ people before reaching the trailhead. Sure enough, parking was now tight as the hordes ascended into the wilderness.

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