Monday, July 21, 2008

Mount Sherman Glissade

After climbing Belford and Oxford the day before, Dalton and I were pretty well spent. Rather than backpack in and climb Mount Yale, we decided to climb Sherman instead.

There many good spots on the road up to Sherman to car camp. We found a spot even though it was dark and had a wonderful campfire and a couple of brews. We slept in the bed of the truck with the bedcover pulled for wind protection. It worked out pretty well.

The ascent was routine but fun. You can get a sense of it from photo 1. You follow the road then head up the ridge where it meets the left side of the photo. From there you follow the ridge to the summit in the middle of the picture. There are many kids on this route because it is an easy 14er and I'm sure they enjoy seeing all the old mining equipment on the way up (photo 2). As we approached the ridge we had to cross a large snowfield that was still in place in late July. From the ridge the hiking is a fun mix of rock and dirt. We reached the summit early and enjoyed the view of all the mountains in the region (photo 3). There were quite a few tourist from Japan at the peak... must have been a group thing.

On the descent we decided to glissade the snowfield just below the ridge crest (photo 4). I didn't bring an ice axe (big mistake) so I found a long stick to use as a brake. The angle of descent was steep and I gained quite a bit of speed. When I reached the boulder field at the bottom I was going way too fast and impacted the rocks, jumped up and ran off the rest of my momentum. My right cheek was black and blue but I made it back to the truck. Lesson learned: always bring an axe in case you find some fun snow.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mount Oxford and Mount Belford

Every fourteener hike has its own character. For the ultimate climb I recommend Long's Peak. For pure fun you can't beat the Crestone Needle. But here's a new one. For a quintessential Colorado mountain climb, I would recommend Mount Belford and Mount Oxford. You get it all, steep hiking, beautiful views both panoramic and nature settings, wild flowers, wild life, exposure, and just the right number of fellow hikers. You can even add in some scrambling and bushwhacking as Dalton and I did.

I was surprised and pleased that Dalton agreed to go hiking with me on this late July weekend in 2008. The plan was to climb both Saturday and Sunday with a car camp in between. We decided to tackle the Belford to Oxford traverse on Saturday, then head over to Sherman on Sunday if we had enough steam.

From the Belford trailhead, you head up a steep slope for about a mile. Dalton's back was hurting, so I wasn't optimistic we were going to make it far. Steep slopes from the road are typical on Colorado hikes, and I had burned Dalton before with promises that "it will get easier up ahead."

This time it was true. Once you break over the initial slope, you are treated to a pleasant hike through a beautiful valley with majestic pine trees, columbines and other wild flowers, plus a bubbling creek (photo 1). Enjoy this part of the hike because you are in for more steep climbing once you get to the slopes of Belford (photo 2).

The long steep climb to the top of Belford is right there in front of you. The seemingly endless switchbacks will try your patience, but won't send you over the edge. At the base Dalton and I tried to make the most of it by straying off trail and engaging the rocks to the left. A little forced scrambling whetted my climbing appetite, but just barely (photo 3). There isn't much to work with, although I might recommend continuing left to some steeper stuff.

Once you summit Belford (photo 4) there is a big traverse over to Oxford. On our descent to the saddle, we seen many weary travellers returning from Oxford. Dalton's back was feeling reasonably good, so we pressed on. As we ascended Mount Oxford, we crossed the last vestigases of a snow field. On top of Oxford we enjoyed the great view of Mount Harvard, Columbia, and Missouri. From here you can see the great expanses of valleys that divide these high peaks.

On the return the faces of those weary travellers making their way back to the summit of Belford were haunting us. Dalton wanted to descend the valley that separates the two peaks rather than stay on the trail to Belford. I warned him that it could involve quite a bit of bushwacking, but secretly I wanted to get off trail myself. The initial slope into the valley is covered in scree that will test your balance. Once the steep stuff is over, it is an easier hike down the grassy slopes (photo 5).

Eventually the valley curves right and the downslope's angle increases dramatically. Rather than lose too much altitude and risk heading away from the parking lot, we decided to skirt the ridge that surrounds Peck's Peak. Plus we found some nice cliffs to scramble on our left. We made our way traversing and scrambling for a more extended time than before (photo 6). I think you could add to the climb by continuing up Peck's, but I couldn't convince Dalton to give it a try so we continued on a more level course.

After topping out on the ridge we could see the road and the parking lot. The way there didn't look easy though. The slopes are steep and the forest is thick (photo 7). Bushwhacking the bottom portion was no joy. The downed logs, loose dirt, and thick foliage was pissing Dalton off. I'm used to a fair amount of bushwacking but was ready for the hike to be over myself.

In the end, what a great day. Dalton bagged his first two fourteeners! I have now climbed mountains with both my boys and it is a memory I will always cherise. We headed down to South Park to find a place to camp and ponder a climb of Sherman.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Apex Mountain Bike Ride

My wife is in town, so I had to fore go another attempt on Castle Peak with Brian and stay close to Denver. So in prep for a Kokopelli ride, I decided to take on the Apex trail.

Located just outside of Golden, Colorado, the trail starts at the Heritage Square parking lot. Taking a right at the first trail junction leads to a slope with a perfect grade for climbing (photo 1). This is called the Pick and Sledge trail. The Apex ride up the creek bed is much rockier. Once on top you are treated to a very nice ride through the trees (photo 2).

The trail then leads around the hill and then starts a steep descent off the backside. I endoed on the way down and bruised and scraped my arm and leg (photo 3).

La Plata - Ellingwood Ridge

Dalton and I set out to climb Harvard and Columbia, but I couldn't get my Mitsubishi Eclipse up the North Cottonwood Creek Road. Why would someone try to take their sports car up there? Well, my wife had the pickup out of town that weekend.

The Ellingwood Ridge on La Plata Peak was also one of my goals so we decided to opt for it instead since the trailhead is on the highway. Since it was still early on Saturday we decided to do a little fishing at Twin Lakes. Dalton and I backpacked in about two miles in and set up camp. That afternoon we hung out by Lake Creek and relaxed. After a backpacker supper the mosquitos were so bad we decided to turn in early. We knew we needed to get an early start the next morning anyway.

We knew this trip was going to be a long day, but we were surprised in how far it felt just getting to the first big slope and boulder field. Then the boulder field seemed to go up forever (photo 2). I did find a camera tripod which was cool. By the time we arrived at Ellingwood Ridge Dalton has started cramping. We scrambled a bit up the trail, but I was worried that we would get in trouble if Dalton got worse so we turned around. We did meet up with one other pair of climbers. They both had their harnesses on and were carrying a rope. After seeing the ridge for myself I think this is a good idea (photo 3). With a snowy winter, even in mid-July the remaining snow causes one to engage harder moves.

Even though we didn't summit, it was still a great day. I was very happy that Dalton finally agreed to join me on a climb and gave it his best.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

El Camino Royale and Royal Arch Climb

Dalton and I headed up to the FlatIrons above Boulder on a Wednesday evening after work to enjoy a classic climb of the El Camino Royale and the Royal Arch. This is indeed an enjoyable scramble.

We approached from the NCAR trialhead even though some books recommend the Chautauqua trailhead to get to the Royal Arch. I think that NCAR is a better way to get to the El Camino because you can leave the trail once the big rock comes into view and bushwhack up. Be sure to leave the trail before you hit the Woods Quarry.

The El Camino Royale is 800 yards of pure scrambling fun. Climbing the Royal Arch is more intense and it seems that going up is scarier than coming down. Even Dalton was deliberate in spots, but then again he was climbing in his sandals.

We arrived back at the car after dusk and headed down to Pearl Street in Boulder for some beers at BJ's.

Slick Rock Bike Trail

Well my niece decided she must have a June wedding, so she plans it with a week's notice. What this means for the YACC is a trip to Moab, Utah rather than a rafting trip on the best water in quite a few years.

Having family in Moab means that I have biked Slick Rock many times. Since Larry and I are planning a Kokopelli trip in September, I decided I should bring my bike to the wedding. Dalton and I busted ass out of Denver on Friday night and spent the night in Grand Junction. Saturday morning I took my bike to the Lunch Loop area and took a trip up Pet-e-kes, over to Little Park Road, then down the Eagle's Tail. This was a nice warm up for Moab on Sunday.

Sunday morning I was supposed to help clean up after the Saturday night festivities. Instead I ditched my duties and headed up to Slick Rock. I was surprised to find only a few vehicles in the parking lot. Has everyone abandoned Moab, or is it the heat?

Since I was riding alone and there weren't very many people on the trail, I didn't push my luck too much. I walked a few sections that normally I would have chanced a ride. My training hasn't been hard-core up to this point, but I found that I am in pretty good shape. I pulled some of the hard hills (picture 1) and made the full 11 mile trip in good time.

Picture 2 is a classic view of biking on great rock with the La Salle's in the back ground. The third pic proves I made it out to Shrimp Rock and back. The final picture shows the section where Jeepers and bikers share this super area.

I can't wait to ride this with Larry so we can compare skills!