Saturday, December 01, 2007

Mount Morrison

Just outside of Denver, Colorado near the Red Rocks Amphitheater is Mount Morrison. I joined Sean, Sam, and Mark on a climb of this close in mountain on 11/17/2007. I had not been out of the house since hunting season and I was really getting antsy.

This hike is good for late fall and winter. We decided to tackle it in order to keep our legs in shape for ski season. To get to the trail head simply take the Morrison exit off of C-470 and go to entrance 4 of Red Rocks. Immediately after the turn off there is roadside parking and the trail head is just across the road.

It turns out that the beginning and ending of this trail are quite steep. The middle section gives you a bit of a break on the angle of incline. The first photo looks back at the trail after the initial steep section. You come up to the point at the center-left of the photo then follow the ridge around. The second shows the trail ahead from the middle leg. You simply follow the ridge to the face of the peak.

As you follow the ridge you can see the Red Rocks Amphitheater below you at times as well as nice views of the city of Denver. As you approach the final ascent of the mount, the level is easily Class 2. I may return here soon to make this ascent more interesting with a bit of scrambling. Check out the nice scrambling rocks in the third photo.

There are many deer in this area so be sure to keep your eyes peeled. All in all a very nice hike. Not too exerting yet enough to satiate your climbing jones. Here's a nice view of the Red Rocks Amphitheater. I wonder if you could hear U2 sing "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" from up here?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Hunt 2007 - Part 3 of 3

After hunting exclusively in the towers area all week we decided to ride up the airport road and hunt around a basin. Plus after Friday's pack Dave and I didn't want much of a hike. After having a flat on Dave's trailer, we decided to take three pickups each with an atv in the back. This made us a bit late as we headed up the road. Last year I ran out of gas on this road, so I took along an extra gas can.

As we started getting into the pinions, Justin spotted some deer near the catch pond. We spotted a nice buck, but couldn't get off and get our rifle's in time. Dave and Justin headed out and spotted another little buck and took him. The buck traveled 10 yards up hill with a 6 inch hole in his side. Steve and I went farther up the road. Steve decided to walk down at the gulch where the other buck headed. I found a nice opening on the hill and decided to glass for awhile.

I spotted the deer in an upper meadow. I was hoping Steve would get a shot, but he didn't. Dave drove his atv right into the park where the deer were. If I could have shot from here, I wonder if I would miss.

Later we decided to go on up, even though it was midmorning. Steve and I went to the end of the road. He went down to overlook the meadows. I went up and across to overlook the far bench. I made it all the way to upper texas, but not to where D got his bull.

The forest ranger gave me a ticket for not having current stickers. Steve filled his buck tag with a nice 3pt. My atv made it back to the truck with plenty of gas to spare. Not sure what happened last year, though we did go across the top then.

Saturday night we cut up two hind quarters at camp and Sunday we broke camp and went back to town. I spent nine hours at Dave's cutting up meat.

Hunt 2007 - Best of 3

I took Tuesday night off from hunting to watch Dave's son Justin play in the pee-wee football superbowl. Wednesday Michelle and I built the rest of Millie's fence. Steve and Dave both had to work and Dalton had to return to Moab to sell his 4Runner.

Thursday it was only Dave and I hunting. I decided that it was high time I went up into the high bowl to get the bull I seen in there opening morning. Two young guys pulled a six point out of there opening morning. We followed two other guys up the towers trail. Every time we caught them they would take off ahead. Finally at Dalton's rock, I passed them as they stopped to watch the sunrise.

As I continued up, I heard some rustling in the trees. The hunt was on. Turned out to be just a bunch of beef cows in the high meadow.

As I topped the ridge and looked into the bowl I spotted two bulls sparring. Very cool. They were at least 600 yards away, so I decided to try to get closer. The bulls where whistling and bugling.

It took me an hour and a half to come down the hill, cross the oak brush and meadow. The willows and oak brush got so thick I was getting stuck with thorns and sticks. Finally I made it onto the boulder outcroppings above the high meadows. I knew those two bulls were here somewhere, likely bedded down as it was approaching noon. I found a nice bench and set up my backpack as a shooting bench and decided I would stay here all day if necessary. I even contemplated spending the night here. If I built a fire and used my space blanket it might be less than miserable overnight.

I was getting chilled sitting in the shade so I decided to find some sun and a different angle. It didn't take long before I spotted a nice bull lying up hill from the meadow where he was sparring with his buddy that morning. My blood was pumping, but he wasn't at all aware of me so I took my time and found a nice rock to take my shot. I dropped him in his bed with one shot! I was very happy.

I gathered my things and worked my way down to the meadow thru more oak brush and then up to his bed. By now the day was warm and I stripped down to shirtless to do t he dressing. I felt very wild there bare skinned with my knife covered in blood. A couple of hunters watched from the ridge below Indian Point as I finished skinning my bull. I didn't have a bone saw to quarter him, and the hour was late enough that I knew I wouldn't have time to return to this place from my atv today. So I skinned the elk head and removed it from the neck. I set off for the atv with antlers in hand. I would return tomorrow for the meat.

The trip back to Dalton's rock was an hour and a half of nasty bushwhacking thru thick oak brush. There is a reason not too many people hunt up here. I was getting tired by time I reached my atv at the towers.

I made it back to camp before Dave and Steve did. They had taken an evening hunt up the diagonal road to try and get a buck. We celebrated my successful hunt and decided to try and get the bull out via W Gulch rather than the towers trail. The next morning we left my atv at the end of gulch road and headed over to the towers trail. As we headed up the road we came upon a guy who had high-centered his 2WD truck in the ditch. We tried to get him out with Steve's truck but no luck. We were the first ones onto the trail, but we were way past sunrise. The hunt wasn't fruitful this morning. As we headed on up we found a better trail to my elk from Dalton's rock. If you stay a bit lower by skirting the bottom of the open parks the oak brush isn't quite as thick. It still didn't change our plan to head down into w gulch for the pack.

We loaded my pack with a hind quarter and the backstraps. Dave took the other hind and we put the front quarters in the tree. The trip down the gulch as a bitch. By far the worst pack ever. The vertical is brutal for quite a ways as soon as you start down. I think taking the tower ridge would have been easier. To make matters more fun, as we arrived at the atv, we spotted a buck running. We decided we better go hunt him as tired as we were. He went up and around the hill and eluded us. Dave chewed my butt for talking him into hunting that buck. lol.

My first elk in three years made me very happy. Thursday was my best day hunting, Friday my worst!

Hunt 2007, Part 1 of 3

Unlike last year, this year I wasn't going to miss opening day. Steve and I were the only hunters, Dave had a football game, Dalton went partying with his friends, and Ronnie couldn't leave Denver until Sat. morning.

We hunted the bowl in the morning, then heard shots above Dalton's rock. We decided to go higher. I seen 4 cows in the meadow below Dalton's rock, but didn't get a shot. Just then I heard shots on the back side of Dalton's rock. Steve tracked and shot a nice 5-pt bull. His first opening day bull ever.

Sunday with the whole crew, we decided to hunt radio towers again and then haul Steve's bull out. We woke to a blizzard. The ride on the atv's was a pelting of ice in the face. We decided to stay in Dave's truck and see if the storm let up. Finally in the afternoon the snow let up and we were hoping for some good hunting. Dalton headed up to his rock as we dressed out the elk. We didn't have any luck.

Monday Dalton wanted to go hunt his meadow. The road to his meadow starts at the powerline and heads diagonally across the desert. Dalton watched the meadow while I took a walk up the hill and then back to the peak toward Well's Gulch. No elk tracks in sight, but I did see some cat tracks at the top of the peak. This peak offers nice views in all directions.

Since I told Dalton I would be back at the ATV by noon, I headed down the ridge. As I approached the meadow at the end of the road I spotted a little buck. He wasn't a hundred yards from the ATV, so I decided to fill my tag. I considered taking the 300 yard shot, but decided to try to get closer. I sneaked to within 150 yards and crouched to take my shot. A clean drop with one shot.

The two does with him were hanging out waiting for him to join. They seen me but were not spooked. I watched them for a while and took some photos. The buck turned out to be a small 2pt. I lost my camera so I can't post the photos :-(

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Castle Peak

Brian and I made an attempt on Castle Peak on September 15th. It had been five years since I was in the Aspen at all and even then it was a quick trip to meet Angie to get Matt home. (I-70 was closed due to a sink hole in Vail.) I had never been up the Maroon Creek Road, and let me tell you it winds through a very beautiful valley.

The road eventually turns to dirt and becomes more and more difficult. You can actually take a jeep or ATV most of the way up the mountain. As for us, Brian took us up past a couple switch backs, and then we parked just below a nasty hill. No use tearing up his SUV when we came to hike! We hiked up the 4WD road that you can see in this first picture. We parked down below tree line in the valley you can see in this photo.

We hiked to the end of the road to a parking area. From here the trail traverses a boulder field then gains the ridge behind the cliff at the left top of the second photo. Castle Peak is the mountain you can see behind this foreground peak/cliff face. Brian has been having trouble with his neck from all those years of hockey. At this point it was really starting to bother him so we had a decision to make. Push on or turn around.

The weather had been looking sketchy all morning long and as we looked up to the ridge above we could see that it was snowy from the night before. Other hikers were going on, but we decided to turn around. The ridge is only rated Class 2, but Brian said it is challenging. I was looking forward to the climb, but I didn't want to push our luck either.

On the hike back down we met up with a lady and her dog. As we chatted with her, the poor dog took a rest. As she started to move on, she couldn't get Fido to get up: he was pooped. Quite funny. Once back at the truck, we headed down and caught up to gal and dog. We gave her a ride back to camp.

Brian and I contemplated a short hike to the Maroon Bells viewing area, but instead decided to get lunch at a great sandwich shop in Aspen. I can't remember the name, but it is directly across the street from the Aspen City Market. Thanks for buying lunch Brian! We'll conquer Castle Peak another day.

Dalton Invades Las Vegas

Yet another post that has nothing to do with climbing. This Vegas trip was to celebrate Dalton's 21st birthday!

We took off from Denver in our new Dodge pickup. We picked up Dalton in Green River. We were very late, so Dalton had to wait at the gas station in the sun. From there it was a long trip across Utah to Mesquite where we spent the night. James, Veronica, Jessi, and her friend Mike went to the rodeo, but all we did was go to the seafood buffet. We had a little after party in V's room.

The next morning we met up with Angie, Matt, and Natasha at the Indian Reservation. We played some slots that actually give you quarters and bought some fireworks. Once in Vegas we decided to do the stuff you don't have to be 21 to do. So the first day we rode the coaster at NY, NY. We attended the Excalibur jousting show yet again. Dalton wanted to and it was his birthday, but if I never see this show again that would be fine. Dalton didn't make it to midnight to celebrate his 21st.

Sunday morning we cruised down Fremont Street. We stopped into the Gold Nugget and had Dalton's first legal drink. We all did a shot of Petron.

Sunday we went to Circus Circus to win some stuffed animals for Cayden and allow Dalton to celebrate with his mom, brother, and sister. We then went to Toby Keith's Bar in Harrah's. Check out the bartender pasting D's license to his forehead. James and V went back to the room, and we took D and Jesse to the Picasso art show in the Bellagio.

Sunday night we went to the Ooo-Lah-Lah show. Very nice show with cute girls. Back on Fremont street Dalton had a large drink with his mom, and got his picture with more girls. Dalton crashed early. I tried to wake him to go to the strip club but he was done.

Monday we went and had lunch at Hooter's. Check out the girls here!

While I'm glad we drove the new truck on this trip, the next time we go to Vegas I am definitely flying.

Mount Audubon and Paiute Peak

I finally hooked up with my buddy Sean for a scramble on Mount Audubon on August 26,2007.

Taking the Brainard Lake trail to the lake we then made our way over to the south east ridge. Ascending to the ridge requires travel over a steep boulder field.

Once on the ridge it is easy Class 2 scrambling until you reach the notch. Gerry Roach's Indian Peaks book doesn't give a hint as to the route finding here, but I will spill the beans. Make your way left (South) about 100 yards back from the peak. Scramble around the peak on a narrow ledge and you will find your way to the saddle. This picture is looking back so the route is on the right of the photo.

Once you reach the top of the ridge, it is back to some boulder scrambling as you make the final ascent of Audubon. Once on top you will meet up again with the crowd.

The skies were getting a little cloudy, but we decided the trip over to Paiute was worth a try. The descent has nice views, and the ridge has a couple of nice scrambling spots.

The ascent of Paiute offers more sustained scrambling and is quite fun. Sometimes you have to force the scramble, because you can easily bypass some of the cliffs.

The descent of Paiute we took turned it out to be a challenge in itself. As you head for the lake the slope contains loose rock and scree. One must be careful not to roll rocks onto one's partner.

Reaching the lake we caught a couple skinny dipping in the cold mountain lake, so we slowed our descent. The trail back to the parking lot completed the 10 mile round trip.

Sean and I enjoyed a celebration beer back at the truck, then stopped off for a quick drought to seal the day.

Rattlesnake Canyon

Michelle and I made a trip to Grand Junction to build a fence for Mildred so the dogs will have a place to stay when we travel.

Ever since mom and I went for looking for dinosaur bones, we had wanted to check out the arches in Rattlesnake Canyon. I met my mom, Dalton, and Carmen for the hike. This was the first time I had met Carmen, Dalton's friend. She is a great gal and fun to go hiking with.

This was also the first time my new Dodge Ram was taken off road. The road into Rattlesnak Canyon is an easy 4wd trip to the trailhead. We did manage to miss the turnoff and went all the way to Glade Park. The turnoff is just after you get to the top of the Colorado National Monument.

We hiked down and into canyon, then once you get around the bend you start to see the arches. Check out the pictures above.

Dave Cooper, author of Colorado Scrambles, wrote an article on Rattlesnake Canyon in the Denver Post. On the last arch, Cooper says you can scramble up to make it a loop instead of an out and back. No way. Check out the picture, would you free climb this slickrock? Not me. Not even Dalton who scrambles better than me.

After exploring for another way to get up on top, we decided to start the long hike back the way we came. Dalton tried to take a short cut just before the corner. It is a climbable scramble, but after failing a couple of times we convinced Dalton that the girls wouldn't make it even if he did. Check out Dalton in the last picture trying to make this climb.

Mom got tired hiking back up to the ridge, but she made it. It was another hot day in the western Colorado desert, but a lot of fun.

Long's Peak - Clark's Arrow

I had three goals for this summer: Mount Elbert, Mount Evans, and Long's Peak. This then is the crown jewel of the summer, and as it turns out, for all time. Climbing Long's is a spiritual experience unparalleled. My general philosophy is that one should seek out new experiences and try different mountains, but Long's is such a unique mountain that I hope to return many times.

I got a bit of a late start arriving at the trailhead at 5:30 AM. Most books recommend leaving at 4 AM in order to get off the summit by noon. It turns out that Clark's Arrow route is shorter than the Keyhole route, so a 5:30 start is just fine.

I passed a few parties on the trail up the the junction where Keyhole and Clark split ways. Just before the junction I spotted a herd of elk just above tree line. Quite a scene and the start to a great day. The scramble up to the Loft was fun but not great. The climbing is not sustained and just not quite steep enough to be truly engaging. There is a ledge just before the final ascent which provides an escape route to the left. I've read that in some years there is snow and ice year round on the loft which would make it more challenging. On August 5, 2007 there was no snow, so an ascent straight up and to the right of the loft might have added the kick this section needed. Nevertheless, the views of the Ship's Prow from here are amazing.

Once on the saddle between Meeker and Longs I followed the white rock piles leading to Clark's Arrow. I wasn't confident about the weather so I decided a detour to Meeker's peak was unnecessary; I am not chasing the 13er list anyway.

When you get around the corner to the back side of Long's Peak the crux is near. The down climb here is challenging and fun. Once past the Notch Couloir you start to see climber's on the home stretch. The climbing here can be made more challenging if you desire.

The homestretch consists of two cracks loaded with people going up and down. My advice is to off route and bypass the crowd rather than waiting your turn. The summit has exhilarating views in all directions. I even met a guy who came up the Kliener's route (a route I hope to take one day with the guidance of the Colorado Mountain School.) One thing about the girls you see on peaks: most are quite shapely!

I decided to make a loop of it and take the Keyhole route down. Once I was back down off of the homestretch I got behind a couple who were descending very slowly. There isn't much room to pass without being rude, so I chilled and enjoyed the scenery. The trip across the narrows would be a bit nervewracking for someone not used to such exposure (see picture). At the top of the trough I seen my opening and bypassed the slow-pokes. The climb down the trough is somewhat loose, but otherwise uneventful. There were still people coming up and it was getting on to about 2 PM.

The trip along the NW ridge to the Keyhole provided more alpine experience as I didn't encounter any other climbers. Encountering the Keyhole for the first time is cool: it is quite a rock formation. From the Keyhole you descend the boulders to the boulder field, then it is simply a long hike back to truck.

On the way back I saw some ptarmigan (quite tame) and seen a middle aged woman who had sprained her ankle. Not good as she was still 5 miles from the trailhead. One last cool thing about the Long's Peak Trailhead: no charge to park here! Very nice.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Bierstadt to Evans - Sawtooth Scramble

Matt and I bagged two fourteeners and scrambled the Sawtooth ridge on Sunday July 15th, 2007. It was a great day and a great to spend time in the mountains with my son Matt. He has become quite a 17 year old mountaineer.

Getting to the Beirstadt trailhead at the top of Guanella pass, we were delayed for a short time by construction on the road. Once at the trailhead we noticed one thing: lots of people climb Beirstadt. I would guess it is top 5 along with Gray's.

Crossing the willows is no longer the adventure it used to be. The trail and planks now make it easy. The trail to the summit is uneventful, yet quite scenic. Close to the top is a snowfield to cross and a bit of Class 2 rock scrambling. This was the goal of most of our fellow climbers, but Matt and I were just getting started. After sharing a Busch NA, away we went!

The ridge between Bierstadt and Evans is called the Sawtooth. It is aptly named and recommended by Colorado Scrambles. The first half of the Sawtooth requires quite a bit of downclimbing. Although challenging, it is less fun for me than climbing up. Matt took the lead and did a great job of route finding. Just past the low point of the ridge the climbing gets more intense. Matt scrambled away and I lost him. As I climbed the steep rock I started to worry more and more. I have told him not to get separated, but you know teenagers. I met up with some other hikers with a dog, at this point they had to turn back because it was just too steep for Fido. Don't bring your dog on this route: humans have this advantage over dogs. It turned out Matt didn't get too far ahead and was waiting for me at the top of a nice pinnacle (not the one pictured.)

We were killing quite a bit of time, so Matt convinced me to leave the standard route which circles the last cliff to the left (NW). Instead we headed straight for Evans, circling to the right above Abyss Lake. Leaving the recommended route is something that experience has taught me is usually not a good idea. In this case the obstacles included some boulder hopping, loose rock and especially one snow couloir that was impassable without crampons and an ice axe. We decided to climb further down to go around the snow rather than risk it. Finally we decided to climb a gully which got us back into some fun scrambling. We again gained the ridge and met up with the trail to the top of Evans.

We were quite tired by now, yet trudged on to the summit of Evans. We started to hustle a bit because the clouds were rolling in and the day was aging.

On the descent from Evans we again deviated from Dave Cooper's route to Mount Spalding and instead headed straight down the creek. Following the creek is the only way to avoid the cliffs of the Sawtooth. The trail was steep and loose plus it started to hail pretty intensely. Luckily we were prepared with light coats which we donned. Once we climbed down the cliffs the weather cleared up and the day was beautiful again. The only problem was the two or three miles of swamp and willows to cross. There is a nice path through the willows so it wasn't too bad and we passed a nice waterfall. Matt and I talked about how we might hunt this valley and I tried to give him some pointers on how to hunt.

As we reached the Jeep it started to downpour again, so we were feeling relieved to be back. All in all it wasn't my favorite scramble and it was a very long day. We probably covered 10 miles.

Mount Elbert Scramble

On July 4th, 2007 Matt and I climbed the tallest mountain in Colorado: Mount Elbert. While Mount Elbert is the tallest at 14,333 feet, it isn't the hardest mountain to climb. The normal route is only a Class 1 trail. We left Denver at 6 AM and arrived at the trail head at 9 AM. We got a bit of a late start, since normally you want to be off the top of peak in Colorado by noon to avoid thunderstorms and lightning.

Matt and I decided to make the trip a bit more interesting by following a variation of this route up the gully on some Class 3 rock. My focus is not to climb all the 14ers, rather I am interested in climbing all of the scrambles in Dave Cooper's Colorado Scrambles book. On the other hand it is surprising that it took me over forty years to bag this peak!

I must say this scramble was as much fun as some of the scrambles in Cooper's book (photo at left). The climbing isn't sustained, but is long enough to be as good as the Kelso Ridge on Torreys. Dave explains in his book that there are thousands of Class 3 climbs in Colorado's mountains and he couldn't include them all. He also purposely left some classic climbs out. While not quite a classic climb, I suspect he left this route out to protect it from the throngs of people who might want to bag the biggest and get in some scrambling. My advice is to always look for adventure and not to rely on documented trails all of the time (all while respecting nature).

The route to tree line is sustained elevation gain, with some steeper sections. At the start you follow the Colorado Trail, so I completed a small bit of that goal. About a half mile above tree line we left the main trail and headed for the small lake. I believe you could make the climbing above the lake as difficult as you want: easily 5+.

Above the cliffs is the false summit where we rejoined the trail. Matt was getting pretty tired at this point and he vowed to take a nap on the summit. Arriving at the summit we encountered a light crowd. The views of all the mountains surrounding Elbert is amazing.

The descent seemed very long. Matt smoked me on the way down, so I guess that nap was a good idea!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Flatiron Scramble

Matt and I took a trip up to Boulder for a day of scrambling. Our goal was to climb Angel's Way which Gerry Roach's Flatiron Classics book describes as mostly F3 with a few F4 cruxes. F4 translates to a 5.0-5.2 climb, but we were going to see if we could make it over the cruxes without ropes.

We approached Angel's Way via the Skunk Canyon Trail as I understood from the book. I was glad we took this route for the adventure, but it is not the most direct approach to Angel's Way. Instead you should just go to NCAR and take that trail.

As it turns out the whole area around Angel's Way is blocked until July 31st for raptor nesting. So Matt and I decided to just head over to the Shanahan crags.

I was a bit disappointed because I thought I had thoroughly explored the Shanahans, but I was in for a pleasant surprise. Last year I had tried to climb the northern most Shanny, but it proved to difficult. This time we started farther north on the rock, just passed the Slab.

The scrambling on the second Shanahan is very similar to it's brother, but a little more intense. You can make it as hard as you want; well up to 5.1 I would say. The route is punctuated by a vertical cliff that looks climbable, but with ropes (see picture). Instead we traversed south for 100 yards and then back across polished rock to bypass the cliff. Matt went on up, but we weren't sure of a walk-off from the absolute top, so we decided to descend near the area of the cliff. We found an escape off the south side of the rock by passing under a chock stone (picture without people).

We then walked up and around this rock and found another piece of scrambling rock above the Shanahan. This proved to be fun easy scrambling to a nice summit. We planted a dead stump in the pothole at the top as our flag.

Walking off we found a very nice hidden cave on the south side of the Shanahan rock. It looks like a great place for a guy to bring his girl ;-)

We will be back in late August to attempt Angel's Way again. Stay tuned.