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.