View Full Version : Peakbagging in Colorado
08-19-2007, 07:06 PM
This, our first foray to Colorado, was an excellent trip punctuated by fantastic weather, stupendous views, tremendous hiking and friendly and gracious people.
We (my brother and I) spent 6 days Peakbagging, in which time we bagged (11) 14ers, 9 of which are listed peaks (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2226037130097082051RSGiOL).
The current (55) 14ers on the list are determined by using the 300’ col rule.
The difference in elevation between the lowest and highest is 432’.
All of these peaks we climbed are in the Front, Tenmile and Mosquito Ranges. These Ranges are located in the Arapaho Nation Forest, Pike National Forest, San Isabel National Forest. None of the peaks listed fall within Wilderness Areas although 3 peaks are on private property. More info on the Nationally Designated areas within Colorado can be found here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Colorado_National_Parks).
For this trip, I used the reportedly, most popular guide book (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1555914128/002-6204676-8459219) for the 14ers.
In this book, by Gerry Roach, he indicates route length, elevation gain and classification (http://www.14ers.com/classes.html)for each route to the 14er.
He does not however, hold your hand with detailed descriptions or warnings. Route difficulty is left up to the individual to determine based upon his/her fitness level and effects of elevation.
If you care to read further, I’ll take you through each trip with route descriptions and photos. Warning: You may want to grab your favorite beverage as this TR is long.
08-19-2007, 07:11 PM
Arrive in Denver, Colorado
After grabbing our 4X4 (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2073793880097082051QCYbBV)at the airport we drove into Denver to grab a burger before driving into the mountains.
It was 95 degrees and humid in the city. We decided to drive to the summit of Mt. Evans (the Mt. Washington of Colorado) to access the effects of altitude on our normally 700’ above sea level existence. About 1.5 hours after leaving Denver we were driving up 14,264’ mountain. On this Saturday there were numerous people riding bikes and running this 28 mile route.
The road ride took us to within about 200’ vertical feet of the summit. From there a 200 yard foot path switchbacks a half a dozen times to take you the summit. While climbing this 200 yrd, 200’ ft high path, I had to stop no less than 6 times to catch my breath. My heart was pounding so hard, I could hear it in my ears. Once I was on the summit, I felt light headed and somewhat drunk. (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2087706240097082051Azaicx)
Although my brother had procured enough diamox for the both of us, I wanted to see if I could climb this week chemical free. Upon completing this 200yrd nightmare, I figured I was in trouble.
With this experience behind us, we put our macho tails between our legs and headed to the hostel in Breckenridge (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2861881280097082051qnDNCQ), to get some sleep at 9500’ and hope for a good day of hiking on Sunday.
08-19-2007, 07:22 PM
Sunday 8/12/07 (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2932218080097082051lxUfnY)
Mt. Evans, 14,264’ – 14th Highest (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2731241300097082051TsflZP)
Ascent: Northeast Face – Class 2
Descent: Summit Ridge – Class 2
1840’ Elevation Gain
4 Hours RT
We decided to go back and get a little “Hair of the dog that bit ya”.
It was a beautiful day with almost no wind and 70 degree temps.
The northeast face route to Evans is an unofficial, non-maintain rock hop to the summit. It is the shortest and most direct route (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2916542570097082051HaKZut) (that counts) of any of the routes.
This rock hop had the flavor of a Mt. Adams summit. It was straight up and the effects of the altitude made it extremely difficult (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2103972940097082051BWdIpc).
Once at the top, we were treated to fantastic 360 degree views (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2881492390097082051gQncSz).
After taking in the views and having a snack we headed over the north summit ridge toward Mt. Spaulding (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2888536960097082051VDfHzx).
While traversing the summit ridge we were afforded excellent views of the sawtooth (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2880064110097082051YLWOwh)connecting Mt. Evans to Mt. Bierstadt.
Once we arrived on Mt. Spaulding, we contemplated a glissade (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2997885640097082051nuvJQp)down to summit lake, but decided that would definitely lead to a SARs dispatch (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2371799730097082051uaUDQX).
We left Mt. Spaulding and headed down the ridge the whole while being afforded great views of the summit lake and the TH parking (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2052901910097082051OgVxfu).
Upon returning to the TH we had a better appreciation of what we just accomplished (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2061199370097082051nFXBhO).
We were also treated to a gaggle of mountain goats (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2136826690097082051PPUaIq) that were very photogenic.
Although this hike was short with minimal elevation gain, once completed we felt like we just done a presi traverse.
One 14er down and 10 to go.
To finish out the day we drove to the next days TH to scope it out.
Days Monday thru Friday, to follow. No peeking at the subsequent photos. :)
These are the full pictures of the day (http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/560302648GaFJeS).
08-20-2007, 04:28 PM
Monday 8/13/07 (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2127167590097082051DwfmYO)
Mt. Bierstadt, 14,060’ (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2044033590097082051ipiWTt) – 39th Highest
Ascent/Descent: West Slopes – Class 2
2770’ Elevation Gain
4 Hours RT
During our pre-trip planning we had identified (10) 14ers that were within reasonable driving distance from our base in Breckenridge. We had loosely listed those 10 in order of difficulty from easiest to hardest. The plan was to start out easy to acclimatize to the elevation and pick from the list based upon how we felt from day to day. If need be we could take rest days in-between each hiking day. Taking rest days did not become a necessary even though I managed the week chemical free.
After what would become our morning ritual of pancakes, OJ and coffee we left our base, a small little hostel in Breckenridge, and headed towards Mt. Bierstadt (beer stad).
Breckenridge is an old mining town turned touristy ski resort at the base of Mt. Breckenridge. The center of town is filled with small, quaint little specialty stores that carter to your every imaginable purchasing desire. Surrounding the old town is fashionable condominiums and hillside 1 – 3 million dollar winter homes. The resort itself consists of 146 trails connecting 4 mountains. It is Colorado’s largest historic district.
After a 45 minute drive across I70, the east/west interstate through the Rockies, we started our journey to the 11,669’ TH at Guanella Pass. This “Secondary Forest Route” (FR 381), dirt road leaves the old mining town of Georgetown (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2943722970097082051InoJAN)and quickly ascends the surrounding terrain.
Along this winding stretch of FR381 up through the Arapaho National Forest we came across a pair of long horn sheep (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2810448070097082051ghGreH) grazing by the side of the road.
After about a half an hour we arrived at Guanella Pass and were treated with views our day’s objective (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2802781860097082051yvVtuQ).
The West Slopes ascent of Mt. Bierstadt is reportedly the easiest 14er on the list with it gently sloping trail through open meadows. The greatest danger on this hike would be:
2. Sun blindness
3. Nuzzled by a dog
Sunscreen and Glazier Glasses would be the only emergency equipment required for this trek.
As we were getting gear up at the TH a young lady headed out for a run up the mountain. We would see many runners this week as lots of folks were warming up for the upcoming Leadville 100 mile Ultra “The Race Across the Sky” (http://www.leadvilletrail100.com/), being held the upcoming Saturday.
There are different races associated with this annual event but the 100 mile run is one sick course (http://www.nyx.net/~mwallace/LT_files/LT100Run/100Run.htm).
The West Faces gently sloping path with its slightly concaved gravel base made for a pleasant stroll up this side of the mountain (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2707690480097082051VdsFJi).
Although the TH and entire hike was above treeline this hike was in stark contrast to any above treeline hike in the NE as there were virtually no rocks or roots to step over. If it wasn’t for the occasional water bar I would dare say this one was almost handicap accessible.
I was feeling pretty good so far today, although still getting winded walking uphill, I was not feeling fatigued as I gained elevation. As we neared the top, the terrain changed from a “sidewalk to the summit” to the familiar rock hopping (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2191472840097082051VfhOib) of the Northern Presidential.
From the top the views were great. On this clear and cool day we could see Mt. Evans (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2661865560097082051biqxef) across its cirque that we had climbed the day before.
The north (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2217890840097082051IlptDm), south (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2517272370097082051cIXIVw)and east (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2661865560097082051biqxef)face of the mountain was in sharp contrast to the gentle west slope ascent.
While awaiting my brothers arrival on the summit had a snack and talked to a few folks.
Although my brother and I have hiked the NE115 (3 season) and the NE67 (winter) together we have different paces. I will usually go on ahead and wait for him at various trail junctions or the summit if all is good. Upon his arrival, we lounged on the summit for a while taking in the views, fresh air and sunshine. I was feeling pretty good, physically so I decided to stretch my lungs and run back to the TH to see how that felt. The path on descent couldn’t have been made any better for running. The combination of switchbacks and infrequent rocks made a speedy descent. While awaiting my bothers arrival back at the car I stared longingly at Argentine Peak (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2513503490097082051bVedil) (13,738’) across the road.
I’m not quite sure what attracted me to this peak but it would have to wait for another trip.
After my brothers arrival and changing into fresh clothes we decided based upon how we felt on this hike that tomorrow we could “kick it up a notch”. Tomorrows hike would be a 2fer. So we spent the rest of the afternoon scoping out the next days TH.
(2) 14ers down and 9 to go.
Days Tuesday through Friday to follow
These (http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/560303827nAYoOB)are the full pictures of the day.
08-20-2007, 05:27 PM
OH NO, not another list. 14ers.
First 2 days TRs look good. Great pictures.
Looking foward to the rest of the trip.
08-20-2007, 07:17 PM
Great pics, looking forward to the rest.
Awesome! I'm heading out there Wednesday. Hope I get the rest of your TR's and pics by then!
08-20-2007, 10:04 PM
Awesome! I'm heading out there Wednesday. Hope I get the rest of your TR's and pics by then!
Sent you a PM :)
08-21-2007, 06:39 PM
Tuesday 8/14/07 (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2029602180097082051dWHqye)
Mt. Gray, 14,270’ – 9th Highest
Mt. Torreys, 14,267’ – 11th Highest (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2852739880097082051ubfZMz)
Ascent: North Slopes – Class 2
Descent: Kelso Ridge – Class 3
3600’ Elevation Gain
6.0 Hours RT
After scoping out the TH the day before, we were very excited to hike this classic 14er 2fer. The classic route takes you up and down the North Slopes but I might decided to spice it up with a class 3 descent down the Kelso Ridge. :eek:
After our morning ritual we saddled up for the ride to Mt. Gray and Mt. Torreys. These 2 mountains were in the general vicinity of the last 2 hikes as we jumped on I70 and headed toward Denver. What made this road trip different was the access road to the TH. It became apparent the day before why a 4X4 is recommended to access some the trailheads.
Because we made good time hiking the two days before, we decided to get a leisurely start and took the Bakersville exit off I70 at 8:00am. It appeared the only reason for this exit was access to this bone jarring, teeth chattering County Road 321 that hasn’t been graded in who knows how long. This old miners access road through the Arapaho National Forest took us up through Stevens Gulch to our TH at 11,230’. If one chose, you could take a right, 1 mile in on this kidney puncher and take County Road 319 to Grizzly Gulch up to a 10,320’ TH.
After 35 minutes we got the first glimpse (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2209807050097082051pYtmfh)of our destination.
I know, the road doesn’t look that bad, right? This was the only good section, really!
After spending 45 minutes trying to hold down breakfast we completed the 3.5 mile off road rally and were treated to one of the most dramatic gulches we had ever seen. As your driving up to the TH, McClellan, Edwards and Ganley Mts. formed a semi circle ridge (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2795939480097082051PTaOaf) that encompassed the entire gulch to the east.
In this picture from the TH parking you can’t see Mt. Grays and Torreys yet. What you’re looking at is the semi circle ridge encompassing the gulch to the left of the picture (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2665665910097082051PDZbZh).
As we were gearing up in the parking lot at 9:00am we were somewhat surprised to see the number of vehicles that had made the trek this early in the morning. The rule of thumb given to us by the locals was to be back to timberline (locals term = treeline) by 3:00pm. Thus, most people got an early start to be off the summit by noon. So far this week thunderstorms rolled in around 3:00pm every day.
After gearing up we started up the wide gravel footpath (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2852739880097082051ubfZMz)toward the cirque formed by Grays/Torreys.
The area was lush and green with several streams running on either side of the trail. We could see the early morning hikers ahead of us on Grays north ridge. Once we left the lush Gulch below us we were treated to what was fast becoming the typically alpine terrain (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2033787640097082051gvNiHr).
The trail meandered up the North Slope mercifully switch backing to the summit. From Grays summit we had fantastic views of the long semi circle ridge (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2471723010097082051gmpmEg) that bordered one side of Stevens Gulch.
We took a little time to read the past posts before signing the summit register and noticed that a couple from Keene NH had signed in the day before. The summit registers are supplied and maintained by the CMC (http://www.cmc.org). They are housed in PVC tubing, anchored to the summit rocks with cable. The standardized forms have sections for date, name, address and comments.
After a quick snack is was time to head over to Torreys (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2125171860097082051YAsxGi).
While traversing from Grays to Torreys we were very much aware that the Continental Divide ran under our feet. For some reason I had the urge to pee on the ridge to see if the resulting stream headed toward the Pacific or Atlantic.
The rest of the traverse was uneventful with stupendous views (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2622544080097082051rOqdQj) in all directions.
The only danger so far on this hike was the risk of neck injury from spinning your head around looking at the views (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2068511210097082051Yecmdw).
This lack of danger was about to come to an abrupt end with the descent from Torreys summit down the Kelso Ridge (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2352296070097082051tlUsWx).
The guide book would indicate this to be a nice little loop hike/climb which I wouldn’t voice to my bother until the Torreys summit. My brother and exposure aren’t on friendly terms and I didn’t want him thinking about this the entire day. If the ridge looked gnarly from the summit we could make a decision from there.
Once summited, I pitched the idea of the class 3 descent and although he hesitated for 5 seconds, he said he was up for it. After a quick fuel break we headed down the summit cone (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2424701890097082051beClfW) for the ridge.
200 yards below the summit we would be greeted with the beginning and crux of the ridge. A 40’ high solid rock buttress that would either need to be climbed direct (class 4) or skirted on either side (class 3). I took the lead, establishing 3 points of contact with the buttress while keeping a careful eye on the 40’ scree shoot that lay in wait below me for my first mistake. Within 10 minutes I had crossed the 30’ spanned and thought to myself, “Thank god I brought toilet paper with me because if I need to make many more moves like that, I'll surely need it”.
My brother lay in wait on the other side of the buttress looking like a cat stuck in a tree. It was obvious he really didn’t want to proceed and I didn’t want him to go this way either. I told him I would head down to the next tower to try and determine how difficult the next pitch would be. 50 yards away he was out of sight. I could only see about 50 yards in both directions and it didn’t look like it was going to get any easier.
After yelling this information back to him, he said he was heading back up to Torreys summit to head down the North Slopes. I watched him slip and slide back up the summit cone until he reach the top.
Now it was time to negotiate the notorious knife-edge of Kelso Ridge. This 30’ class 3 scramble takes you over heart pumping views of the Dead Dog Couloir below. I’m sure most folks would chose to scoot across this edge sitting down but with what I had already gone through, I was afraid I’d leave skid marks.
Once traversed I quickly proceeded to a spot where I could stop, let my heart slow and take in the views (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2313498640097082051blNUiW).
The rest of the ridge was a classic class 3 scramble that if in New England, would attract scramblers from far and near, but for Colorado it was just another pile of rocks (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2635159980097082051USpHil).
The ridge would take me past a variety of plant life (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2741343130097082051JMTaZW) and the only warm blooded things I saw on this imposing pile of rocks were mountain goats (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2803161040097082051zMGufW).
The ridge would take me right back to the gravel footpath we followed up to Grays. The timing couldn’t have been any better as I watched my bother nearing the ridge base; we met at the intersection almost simultaneously.
I was pretty stoked after this ridge descent and after arriving at the TH we discussed options for the next day. We both decided we needed to “kick it up a notch” for Wednesday. Tomorrows hike would be a 3fer. So we spent the rest of the afternoon scoping out the next days TH.
(4) 14ers down and 7 to go.
Days Wednesday through Friday to follow
These are the spartan pictures (http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/560305597ewumHb?start=0) of the day.
08-21-2007, 09:49 PM
OH NO, not another list. 14ers.
Hold on tight.
In Colorado there’s the:
55 – 14ers
100 – Highest
584 Hard Ranked – 13ers
676 Hard Ranked – 12ers
469 Hard Ranked – 11ers
Those ought a keep ya busy for awhile. :eek: :D
08-22-2007, 06:23 PM
Wednesday 8/15/07 (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2510853900097082051tuPOEv)
Mt. Democrat 14,148’ – 29th Highest
Mt. Lincoln 14,286’ – 8th Highest
Mt. Cameron 14,238’ - (Does not count as a 14er)
Mt. Bross 14,172’ – 22nd Highest (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2442538720097082051XYGkzY)
Ascent/Descent: “The Decalibron” Loop – Class 2
5.5 Hours RT
After being presented with a camera screen that displayed “empty battery” the day before, I charged it, emptied the SD card and generally readied it for the 100+ photos I’d take on this day.
This 4th day of hiking would begin with a groggy morning start. The sleeping at 9500’ had been infrequent, at best, all week and was starting to take it toll on my ability to enthusiastically chow down my morning pancakes. But after a stiff belt of the morning Joe, I was up for another day of fantastic views, outstanding panoramas and generally pretty good vistas.
The morning ride would be a short one as we headed south along route 9 from Breckenridge. The TH would be at the end of County Road 8 outside the old mining town of Almo. This small town was in the grips of a sidewalk installation that would transform it from an old frontier looking town to a new frontier looking town. There is a great pizza/spaghetti joint in the middle of town, whose name escapes me. We would eat there on several occasions.
County Road 8 is not unlike all the other TH access road we’d seen so far. It is an old mining road that gained access to the many mines littering the hillsides and steep slopes of the 14ers. The TH parking and Kite Lake (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2163795760097082051gScxWb) are nestled in the Cirque created by the 4 mountains on our itinerary for this day.
Kite Lake and the slightly elevated Emmo Lake is a popular camping destination in the Pike National Forest. While scoping this TH the afternoon before there were several solo and couples camping in this very scenic area (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2143843140097082051ALaann).
We got underway, from the TH, as the sun started to illuminate the summit of Cameron (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2438192150097082051cDSFXg).
Although hiking this classic loop would take us over the summit of Mt. Cameron, this peak isn’t on the list because it only rises 157’ from its connecting saddle with Lincoln.
The base of the Cirque was lush and green (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2409055380097082051tCwXmF) as we walked up the gravel road toward our ascent of the Democrat/Cameron col.
As we started to gain elevation the sunshine continued it’s descent (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2159193940097082051DZXIHC) into the Cirque bringing added warmth as we quickly heated up.
This trail would continually switch back (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2088444120097082051OMgVLB) its way up the East Ridge to the saddle Democrat/Cameron (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2807321220097082051GKtNzx).
After a quick snack break at the saddle I headed up the arduous incline (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2642535310097082051gnFOfS) to Democrats summit.
This final ascent kicked my butt. I was breathing heavily and my heart was pounding out of my chest. The terrain had changed from a gravel tread way to an all out rock hop and the 13,500’ elevation was taking its toll. Once on the summit all of the toil of getting there faded away with the VFTT.
Before signing the register, I chatted a bit with the only fella on the summit thus far. A Floridian, in Colorado for a week of Peakbagging, he flew in from –7 feet elevation 3 day prior. He told me stories of past trips and triumphs in this wilderness playground. He would tell me about his trip to Longs Peak, a peak I had already heard a lot about.
I waited for my brother to arrive, chatted at bit about how we felt, and started off toward Cameron (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2231581700097082051kmEtjF)and Lincoln beyond.
I found going down Democrat to be just as easy off trail while heading straight toward the saddle and bypassing the switch backs. In due course I was humping it up Cameron looking forward to a glimpse of Lincoln beyond.
Once on top of Cameron the topography changed dramatically. What was a jagged rock pile hike so far turned into a table land toward Lincoln (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2978103430097082051cHnNUI)as well as Bross (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2820201510097082051qEazsw).
Quickly I made my way across the strip mine like table land, which was covered with small flowering clumps of vegetation (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2174103960097082051FKBWjf), to the summit of Mt. Lincoln.
From here the views were fantastic, until the cloud cover suddenly lowered (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2958861580097082051ccnUxH) and I found myself being pelted by sleet.
Because the cloud cover reduced visibility to about 50’ I decided to wait on Lincoln until my brother arrived. In short order the cloud cover lifted and my brother was not far behind. We decide to stay together for the walk to Mt. Bross.
Before long we found ourselves on top of the flat wide open summit (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2483512530097082051sJDAhT) of Bross.
Most of the summits and exposed ridge areas had rock shelters built to protect hikers from the westerly winds. The summit of Bross was so flat and large there were two of these structures (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2010033650097082051BsTxAh), 1 on each end.
We didn’t waist much time on the summit of Bross and started the traversing descent of the scree slope (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2220242670097082051encNTJ) along the South side of Bross
The guide book indicated that most people descended this trail because this side of the mountain is entirely scree (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2102130340097082051tCnjUI).
That’s not sand, it’s softball size rocks.
On the descent, we passed more abandoned mines (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2308439890097082051vcthAx).
At one point a fella came running up behind us and asked if we were the 2 guys from Manchester, NH. He saw our entries in the summit log. When we said yes, he told us he had been trying to catch us all day because he was from Manchester as well. Go figure eh?
Before long we found ourselves approaching Kite Lake and the TH (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2096042360097082051FWVzSb) to end this day of hiking.
After a quick change of clothes at the TH we decided to “throttle back a bit” for tomorrows hike. So we spent the rest of the afternoon scoping out the next days TH.
(8) 14ers down and 3 to go.
Days Thursday through Friday to follow
These are the copious pictures (http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/560305605mocFrZ?track_pagetag=/page/photo/outdoors/hikingbackpacking&track_action=/Owner/BreadCrumb/Album) of the day.
(Disclaimer: These 4 mountains are closed to the public)
During the planning stages of this trip it became apparent that the tops of these mountains located within the Pikes National Forest are privately owned. The owners (a mining company) are concerned that wondering hikers will fall through the roof of the shallow mile shafts zigzagging the summits if they don’t stay on trail. Although the owners are near an agreement with the State of Colorado (expected this fall 07) presently the official word is “no public assess”.
After scoping out the TH the day before our hike we did not see any signage indicating the trails or summits were closed. We stopped at the NF information center and they confirmed the official story, although they indicated that access “was tolerated”. It appears there is a don’t ask/don’t tell policy in place. The only signage we saw was on the trail to/from the summit of Bross.
For good or bad, right or wrong we decided to hike these mountains.
08-23-2007, 08:02 PM
Thursday 8/15/07 (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2669369940097082051bNRfJN)
Mt. Quandary Peak (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2544042570097082051fyIQpl) 14,265’ – 13th Highest
Ascent: East Slopes – Class 2
Descent: West Ridge – Class 3
5.75 Hours RT
Quandary Peak would be the closest 14er to our base camp yet. This very accessible mountain is just off route 9 about 10 miles south of Breckenridge in the Pike National Forest. This 14er along with the previous 3 are located along the Tenmile/Mosquito Range. This range, although continuous, has 2 names because the Continental Divide bisects it. The northern half is the Tenmile range (includes Mt.Breckenridge) and the southern half includes Quandary among others.
As we drug our weary bodies into the 4X4 it became apparent this would be another Dandy Day in the mountains. The sky was clear with only a wisp of wind and the forecast indicated a great morning.
Although we had a bit of a time finding the correct TH the afternoon before, this morning we would enjoy a brief ride up this access road. At the trailhead the cars were already lining both sides of this dirt road. Somehow, we got the idea that we should have started much earlier (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2544042570097082051fyIQpl).
From the TH the footpath rose abruptly; switch backing through the mostly open forest of Christmas trees and Aspen. Starting at the TH in wooded terrain would be the exception this week as most of our hikes so far started above treeline. Although starting in the woods, we encountered no bugs or other offensive type creatures we have come to enjoy and love in the NE.
Meandering through this open forested slope we quickly exited (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2380723140097082051ZAaCMh)onto the now familiar alpine rocks and grasslands.
While waiting for my brother to catch up I quickly dabbed on some more sunscreen and donned my glacier glasses insuring a day free from hazards, or so I thought.
As we started to gain elevation in this alpine environment the trail would traverse the southern side of the east slope giving us great views of the valley (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2617345580097082051hFyRNm) boarding its southern flank.
Looking back from whence we came (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2985255180097082051RhCmSP), the extent of our hike thus far became apparent. Route 9 lay below us with Red Mountain across the way.
Once upon the ridge crest our day’s objective (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2175714580097082051vNlVrS) loomed imposingly above us.
From this vantage point we could see the former contents of all those vehicles at the TH. They were line up, single file, 30-40 individuals vying for the chance to make it to the summit. The scene ahead looked like the ladders on Everest on a clear and sunny day. The only thing missing were the corpses on the side of the trail. People were milling around resting and lounging in the middle of the trail. This apparent road block was of no consequence as I (alpine whacked) rock hopped my way around all obstacles.
Once on the summit, the views were once again; stupendous.
The top also afforded a nice view of the dam (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2057765410097082051VVHOQG) being constructed in the valley below.
After about 10 minutes of being on the summit, the hordes of people I had passed on the way up started to arrive in force. There was a group of young adults holding up banners of companies for summit photos while hooting and hollering about there accomplished superhuman feat. There was also a father/daughter pair that I had chatted with on the way up. The girl was about 11-12 years old and this was her first 14er. Upon arrival I quickly congratulated her with high fives and plenty of at-da-girls.
While awaiting my brothers’ arrival I took the opportunity to head down the West Ridge to scope out this class 3 route (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2226833450097082051ZyeITa).
This classic ridge looked surprisingly like the Kelso ridge and begged to be descended. The interesting part about the (2) class 3 ridge descents I did is there were no cairns, painted blazes, worn rocks or other indications on which way to go. Half the fun was route finding. What worked for me was to stay on the crest of the ridge while climbing the towers and once on top of each look down their 4 sides to determine the best route. Sometimes it was directly over the spire and sometimes it would require downclimbing either side to determine the best route (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2314445850097082051UyAfhN).
I re-summited Quandary and shortly thereafter Carl arrived while I was snacking on pop tarts. As we rested and finished our summit snacks I asked if he would mind me taking the West Ridge descent. This route would take me around the other side of the mountain to a different TH. I told him if he had to wait for me more than an hour to head back to the Hostel and I’d hitch a ride. Upon his approval I had no idea what kind of adventure I was about to embark on.
Its funny how each of these mountains has a multitude of different faces. One side may be a slope, another, a sheer cliff face and another, a jagged ridge. These 14ers definitely have something for everyone.
The West Side (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2097932460097082051rHDLXA) of this mountain would have something I wanted and something I didn’t want.
This class 3 ridge descent was as fun and exhilarating as the Kelso ridge. Its many towers (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2661891410097082051qhQqhs) and sheer drops (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2657888340097082051WQSlFN) required your constant focus and undivided attention.
I would meet 2 groups ascending this ridge on my way down. Let me just say that both groups…um….well…I tried to talk them into turning around. The first group 2 men and a women from Texas decided to continue. The other group, a women, man and dog eventually agreed with my recommendation to turn back.
In about 1.5 hours I had made my way to the bottom of the ridge and saw a cairn marking the entrance to the ridge from the table land (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2816530560097082051bTRUVZ).
I stood at the cairn on this flat open expanse of grassland and didn’t see a tread way anywhere. Although I could see the trail down in the valley while descending the ridge now that I was on the table land there was another 1000-1500’ of elevation I needed to loose to get to it. The problem was there was a cliff between me and the valley trail.
I zig zagged across the table land hoping to come across the trail that would lead me down the cliffs, but I couldn’t find it. I was now officially lost. OK, maybe not lost, I mean I knew exactly where I was, all I had to do was look around in this open expanse to determine that. I guess I was more precisely, off trail.
I decided to cross the table land (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2851721500097082051rFAaiM) and see if I could traverse the south slope or cliff to make my way to the valley below (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2617345580097082051hFyRNm).
I reached the south slope of the table land and started my downward traverse of the boulder strewn slopes. After a half hour of my downward traverse I looked into the valley below to see 4 dear (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2687839500097082051dMixHI) steadfastly watching my every move.
I continued on this steady course until I came to a boulder slide which afforded me ready access to the valley floor. Once down, I quickly gained access to the gravel trail for my trek to a TH that I’d never been to before. While outward bound I would pass by the new dam (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2809441140097082051mdUFuE) being built.
Looks like their getting close.
From there it would be a short 10 minute dirt road walk to the TH. Because I had become “off trail”, my time returning had taken considerably longer than anticipated and I wondered if my ride would be there when I arrived. Mercifully, Carl was sleeping in the 4X4 when I arrived. So I quickly dropped trou, threw a rock at his window to awaken him, and bent over, something he appreciated immensely.
Well, what can I say? This week had been filled with outstanding hiking thus far and we only had one more day left. We discussed what our last hike would be and after considerable discussion…we could not agree. It looks like we’ll have to hike different mountains on our last day.
(9) 14ers down and 2 to go.
Friday to follow
These are the pictures (http://good-times.webshots.com/album/560318188JqLQub)of the day.
08-25-2007, 02:09 PM
Friday 8/16/07 (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2041435660097082051mXFrPX)
Mt. South Elbert 14,134’ (Does not count as a 14er)
Mt. Elbert 14,433’ – 1st Highest (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2443910930097082051gOmova)
Ascent: Unnamed/Un-shown route w/ alpine whack (Oops) – Class 2 (estimate)
Descent: East Ridge – Class 2
4763’ Elevation Gain
6.25 Hours RT
One of the listed 14ers is Longs Peak. This Mt. is located 12 miles southwest of Estes Park in Rocky Mountain National Park and a 2.5 hour drive from Breckenridge. Although it is part of the Front Range it is the most northerly of the 14ers.
This peak was my chose for Friday. The reason for this was the classic route ascent of 15 miles w/ a class 3 section. Everyone I talked to said it was a good idea to start very early to ensure a safe descent before the afternoon thunderstorms. At this point in the trip I was acclimated to the altitude, I had strong legs and the logistic of its location begged to be checked off the list.
Carl didn’t feel he was ready for this 15 miler w/ 5000’ gain, so I decided to rent a car, drive up that morning, “git ur dun”, and drive back that night so we could head to the airport together. So I spent Thursday afternoon calling every car rental agency within 50 miles. None of them had any vehicles due to the Ultra Race the next day in Leadville. After the disappointment wore off, Carl and I decided on Mt. Elbert for the last hike.
Mt. Elbert is the highest of the 14ers at 14,433’. To avoid the enviable crowds this day we opted for a loop hike that would take us up South Elbert (doesn’t meet the col requirement) and loop over to Elbert for a descent of the East Ridge.
Mt. Elbert (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2600180850097082051TtFzGV) would require a 1.5 hour drive this early morning as its located ½ hour south of Leadville looming over the Twin Lakes Reservoir.
During our drive through the San Isabel Nation Forest near Leadville alone the Sawatch Range, we would pass many mining operations (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2293471560097082051AxoSYO) that are stripping the mountain tops and creating retention ponds for the waste water byproduct of their processes.
Although this was difficult to see I realize that our everyday life’s are enriched by these types of processes.
Access to the South Elbert route would start at an under-described access point off the Colorado Trail.
The Colorado Trail, the equivalent of VT’s Long Trail, is a 500 mile/28 section thru hike (http://www.coloradotrail.org/planning.html) that attract people from far and near. During this week at the hostel there were a couple from Alaska and a cigar store owner from Chicago that stopped for a couple of days to slack pack while thru hiking the CT.
After parking at the stream crossing described in the guide we proceeded up the trail to the first junction. None of the trails were marked and the unmarked access road we decided to take was heading in the right direction.
The 4 wheel drive road (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2334887640097082051jsaKLu) quickly gained elevation and had 2 signs along the ascent. Both signs indicated the public road ascended through private property. Sticking to this rough road I quickly gained elevation and soon had open views of the clouds forming over Twin Lakes (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2973837310097082051QYrhSl).
In an hours time I was breaking out of the forested area (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2680350560097082051fOILig) and was ready to don my week’s safety gear (sunscreen and glacier glasses).
As I meandered along this increasingly overgrown path I suddenly found myself at the end of the road, terminating at an old mine shaft (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2290744790097082051oGXqqD) dug into the side of South Elbert.
While awaiting Carl’s arrival, I zig zagged the surrounding terrain in hopes of finding a path to the now obvious summit of South Elbert and Elbert (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2019564430097082051kDdlTx) to the right.
It became apparent, that there was no path heading in any direction from the old mine shaft. We would have to (Alpine Whack) to the summit. Once Carl arrived we discussed the obvious option, so I headed up while he took a quick snack break.
Within ¾ of an hour I was at a height of land below SE’s summit enjoying the fantastic views (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2685400590097082051XvrOQt).
Once on top of this summit ridge I quickly picked up the correct path that would take us up to the South Elbert’s summit (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2230074380097082051CdBXYn).
The dramatic view of the 13ers Lackawanna, Casco and French (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2132414420097082051RHFxzj) called to the adventurous mountaineer to challenge it.
Once on the SE summit I found a comfortable spot out of the 50 degree temps and light wind to snack and wait for Carl (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2245628190097082051gracML).
The clouds were starting to get a little dark in the west and looking at our objective (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2564082310097082051JRzOMX), it appeared to be a 1.5 hour trek at this already 12:30pm time. Proceeding over this exposed ridge to Elberts summit at this late time in the day would need further discussion.
Carl and I agreed before embarking on this trip that we wouldn’t be married to any schedule, goal or objectives. We would play it by ear, and if circumstances required a retreat, a rest day or what ever, it would be no problem. We had no intentions of being memorialized on some summit ridge; a pile of ashes left behind by a lightning bolt that ripped through our flesh.
Just after Carl arrived on the South Elbert summit the thickening clouds (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2899209490097082051pmVwic) started spewing pea sized hale upon us, confounding our decision to continue.
We projected (worst case) that if we continued, we would be in timberline by 3:30pm. Although this sounded good, the present conditions dictated caution. After much deliberation we decided to pick up the pace and proceed to Elbert where we could see at least 6 people through the distance.
Making good time up the ridge the weather was merciful as the hale was intermittent and the cloud cover alternated from friendly (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2029560690097082051SeRHWp)to adversarial.
Soon we were on the summit with only 2 people left to greet us. Until now we had enjoyed the company of no one along this unpopular approach.
We stopped for the traditional log signing and picture taking (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2371103780097082051XeKSMe) and wasted no time in following the other pair of hikers that were quickly exiting this brewing storm.
During our hastily retreat down the mountain we enjoyed the relaxing and soothing rhythm of pelting sleet for the next ¾ hour while thunder clapped in the background. Although this was somewhat disconcerting, we did have excellent views of Twin Lakes and mountains to the east (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2270934260097082051RSxclQ).
We made it to timberline as the weather started to break and we quickly stripped our foul weather gear for the remaining trek back to the Jeep.
This hike proved to be an excellent replacement to Longs Peak that I had looked forward to most of the week. The drive back to Breckenridge was uneventful and we celebrated our week’s adventures and successes with dinner out.
(11) 14ers, 9 being listed peaks for the week afforded us a variety of conditions, experiences, and locations to enjoy. Given this fact and the gorgeous weather we couldn’t have asked for a better vacation.
Colorado will certainly be on my list of vacation spots for the foreseeable summers.
These are the copious pictures (http://good-times.webshots.com/album/560330853ZVdzqS) of the day.
08-25-2007, 02:18 PM
While planning this trip I accumulated a bunch of helpful links provided below.
The Hostel (http://www.firesideinn.com/)we stayed at in Breckenridge. This town proved to be a good central location for hiking the Front Range.
This Hostel (http://www.leadvillehostel.com/page/page/1581193.htm)has good reviews amongst the boys/girls at 14ers.com. I will stay there next summer while hiking the Sawatch Range.
Colorado Mountain Club (http://www.cmc.org/)
Above The Timberline (http://www.abovethetimber.com/default.asp)
Definitive Guide Book (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1555914128/qid=1124419719/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-4127265-0752013?v=glance&s=books&n=507846)
Colorado Mountaineering Accidents (http://listsofjohn.com/Accidents/Accidents.html)
Colorado Highways (http://www.mesalek.com/colo/index.html)
Colorado Avalanche Information Center (http://avalanche.state.co.us/)
Colorado 14er Initiative (http://www.14ers.org/page.php)
Gerry Roach Web Site (http://www.climb.mountains.com/)
Google Map of 14ers (http://maps.google.com/maps?q=http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/download.php?Number=700996&t=k&om=1)
And of course, everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask. (http://www.14ers.com/)
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