Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ellingwood Ridge

After a failed attempt last year, I have been pining to return and finally see if I could complete the Ellingwood Ridge on La Plata Peak. I drove to the parking area on Highway 82 and slept in the back of my truck. Anticipating a twelve hour day I woke at 4 and left at 4:30 AM.
The point where you leave the trail was fairly easy to find in dark. It is just over a hundred yards after the two log bridge crossing the second creek. I heard some animal in dark: probably just a deer, but I was hoping it wasn't a bear.

It didn't start to get light until I started up the boulder field at around 7:30 am. I didn't finish the tedious climb over the boulders (pic 1) until 8:30. I missed the cairns at 39 3.38, 106 28.85 because I crossed the third creek too soon.

Finally the fun part of the scramble was here (pic 2). The first down climb is a good test of what is to come on the rest of the ridge (pic 3). Overall the ridge is a good mix of hiking and third class climbing. I made my way contouring and down climbing on the left side of the ridge never getting too far from the ridge crest. The weather looked bad toward Mt Elbert, but it was still sunny on La Plata.

Approaching the crux of the route, I went right as prescribed, but then hooked back left. The steep terrain forced me down farther than I wanted and I missed the dihedral described by Cooper because I was too low. Trying not to lose any more elevation, I found a few dead ends but always found an escape. Reviewing my route later, I probably followed Roach's line more than Cooper's.

The weather started rolling in at this point. It was snowing lightly and I could see that the summit was socked in. There was no turning back so I pressed on. Picture 4 shows one small chimney I climbed through. The best line follows the ridge crest at this point which lifted my spirits.

At this point you can see the obvious route to the left of the next peak. I enjoyed climbing the chock stone (pic 5), but the rock was a bit wet from the melting snow.

Once past this crux, I tried to make good time across the talus slope (pic 6) but my weary body could only move so fast. Pic 7 looks back on the route with the weather coming in.

After passing the East La Plata summit, I was tempted to do some more scrambling along the ridge (pic 8). But with thunder booming to the east, I followed the advise of the guidebooks and and contoured left across the loose gravel then up the rocks to the true summit. Cooper's terse description of the final ascent was perfect.

At the apex (pic 9) I talked with a guy who came up from Winfield trailhead. I made a mistake and followed him down the wrong trail for 1/2 mile. I was in a hurry to get off the top due to rolling thunderstorms and didn't realize I was on the Southwest ridge. This forced me to contour back to the Northwest trail wasting over an hour. As I was making my way slowly, the hail rolled in and my head started to crackle. I made quick progress straight down the mountain until my hair quit buzzing.

I plunge stepped down a dirt hill and crossed a grassy bench until finally I was back on track. The trail here is interesting for the many switch backs. In the valley bottom I hunted mushrooms (pic 10) on the long slog back to the truck.

Mount Antero

Mount Antero
Being a rockhound, I had anticipated climbing Mount Antero for a couple of years now.  Since this 14er does not have a technical route, I kept pushing it down on my list.  When peakcowboy suggested we climb it on a Thursday in September I thought it was a great idea.  Any day in the mountains beats a day at work.
Antero Top

We parked by the creek and started hiking up the road.  There was quite a bit of "mining" activity on the mountain with ATVs running up and down the road.  We left the road as soon as possible and tried to avoid the normal route in order to maybe get lucky and find a few semi-precious gems.  I did find a few rocks with aquamarine and jade.

Antero Road
unclegar from joined us on this beautiful day.  We parked by the stream crossing and took the easy hike up the 4wd road.  Once past the end of the road there is some fun scrambling on the ridge if you look for it.  I finally remembered to leave a Colorado quarter on the top of a peak. On the descent I

met a guy from Virginia with Antero license plates.  He discovered an aquamarine which is in the Denver Museum of Natural History.  My first 14er not done on a weekend!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Little Bear

Little Bear
Don, Paul, and I headed out from Parker at 10 AM and hiked into huerfano basin and set up camp next to lake como. We made it two miles past the 2wd section in Paul's Jeep Grand Cherokee. We hiked the remaining road and saw an old blazer take Jaws 1 with no problems. Many camps and jeeps.

We were up at 3:30 AM to start our 4:00 AM climb. We were the first up the loose gully. We kept right mostly, but very loose any way. As we made the traverse below the ridge quest we lost the trail a couple of times, but always made our way back to it.
Little Bear's Backside

Heading up the bowling alley the climbing is a fun scramble and most definitely Class 4. There are many ropes of varying degrees of wear. The trail then leads to the left toward the front face before making its way back to the right. There is one ledge you have to climb to follow the cairns. The last couple hundred feet is easier scrambling as you zig zag up to the peak.

Two guys did the traverse after just beating us to the peak. We had the peak to ourselves for about ten minutes, but it was very cold. My approach shoes worked wonderfully, but I wished I had pant legs rather than just my Pira climbing shorts.

On the decent we hit quite a crowd at the hour glass. Probably 10 people in three parties. I was waiting at the top of the ropes when a rock the size of bowling ball came down from the alley and flew right over my head.

Many cairns
We could have down climbed the smooth section of the hour glass, but since we had brought our harnesses, we decided to use them. Walking down the rock on self-belay was an enjoyable way to get past this part. I seen some folks using the ropes to ascend, which I think is a bit of cheating.

Tricky downclimb
On the way back we again lost the trail a couple of times because there is more than one route which is cairned. Stop building more cairns please! It's not that bad really since you know the general direction you need to go anyway.

Down to Lake Como
Making our way back down the gully to camp was the least fun part of the route. Stay to climbers right so you get some downclimb on solid rock. Otherwise it's a slog down loose rock and dirt that is reminiscent of Columbia's horrid descent.

The hike back down the road with a full pack made for a good end to the workout. We did come across a guy trying to winch his way over Jaws 2. We offered to help, but he felt confident he could get it.

I got a good look at the traverse to Blanca and plan to do an ascent of the hand route with the Blanca traverse in 2013. Would you like to join me?

The weather was great all day.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

El Camino Royale to Hammerhead

Sunday M wanted to go for a motorcycle ride in the afternoon, so I could not head for the mountains. I fell back on my contingency plan: Hammerhead Flatiron. With a whole Sunday morning I figured I would see if I could go from El Camino Royale to the Royal Arch, then Hammerhead, the Last Flatiron, and finally Fern Alley.

I started from the National Atmospheric trail, but left the Mesa Trail too early. I had to bushwhack through a small canyon to reach ECR. I started on the south part of the rock with some Class 4 climbing and less than ideal holds. This lead to the crux. I had to cross climb then usurp a ledge. The route from here looked familiar and I was directly across from the escape. I headed up to the top, so that all the people at the arch could have a look at me.

I climbed the arch, but escaped at bottom of the hole. I needed to let the adrenaline dissipate. There were a ton of people on the arch trail.

I started the Hammerhead and decided to not climb the arch this time. The natural line takes you over the arch, so it was a bit tricky getting over to the north half. The climbing is about the same once you get there and I made good time to the top. Still no yodeling moves but I think I spotted a better line farther to the left.

I circumvented the last flatiron since I was running out of time and wanted to find my ring. I went up the south side and down the north. No luck. I skipped fern alley all together. At the top of Hammerhead you can follow the trail along the ridge down to xx pass. A much easier hike than down to the base of it.

M and I went on a 70 mile ride down to Elizabeth and back. A scenic drive and I seen three bucks still in the velvet.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Holy Cross Mountain Bike Trail

Larry and I biked Holy Cross. I almost cleaned the crux... he did.

quad burner

holy cross trail's namesake

lunch loop area
nice views from grand junctions lunch loop

larry biking

lemon squeeze



Saturday, July 18, 2009

Crestone Traverse

Dalton and I set out to do the Crestone Traverse from Peak to Needle. Took off after work on Friday drove straight through and arrived at midnight and slept in the parking lot at the trail head. Up at 6 am we started hiking.
Above South Colony Lakes we encountered a herd of big horn sheep including a couple of lambs. There are a couple of snow fields you must cross, but they are well traveled enough to not need an ice ax for safety. A crew is working on the trail at Broken Hand Pass, which is good because the loose rock and dirt is annoying to climb.
After reaching the pass I took a wrong turn and headed straight for the Crestone Needle. We planned to climb the Crestone Peak first so we had to backtrack about a half mile. You head down into the very beautiful valley to approach Cottonwood lake.
As we started the ascent of the Peak we could see that the Red Couloir still had a lot of snow. There were climbers kicking steps and making slow progress. We decided to climb the rocks to the left of the couloir since Dalton did not bring an axe. The climbing here is excellent and fun. The route finding is fairly straightforward, but you can venture into Class 4 or better moves.
On top of the Peak there was only one other gentleman. We had a sandwich and enjoyed the views of the San Luis Valley and the Great Sand Dunes National Park.
You must descend quite a ways in order to find the exit ramp to engage the traverse to the Needle. Using Cooper's way points we found the exit and made our way across following cairns. We found the second way point to be at N37 57.961 W10534.648 of the traverse.
We encountered a steep snow field we had to cross and Dalton slipped into an ice crack. Luckily he made a nice self arrest using his knees and hands. I slipped in the same place and nearly pulled out the knob I was holding on to.
From here Dalton and I got separated for a bit as I was angling for the third way point and he was following his own line. The way gives up even more altitude as you make your way across.
To make matters worse my satellite coverage was cutting out. In the end, the picture Dave has in his book would have been worth more than the way point.
We had traversed too far around to the South and ended up climbing the south face. Rather than ending the climb with the steep Class 4 of the SW face, we encountered some low Class 5 pitch 300 feet lower (N37 57.823 W105 34.648, 13,855ft.). The rock was steep but solid and we finished the route with easier climbing to the summit.
We left the Needle summit at 6:30 PM. Our climbing was far from over. The descent down the eastern couloir was more difficult than I remembered it. This even required a few facing-inward downclimbs for me.
The hour was getting late as we made our way down Broken Hand Pass. I removed my ice axe to help in crossing the snow fields which felt less secure going down than up. As it grew dark we still had a quarter of a mile to the camp sites by the lake. We lost the trail and thrashed about for over an hour before finding it again. Again we lost the trail, but this time knew better than to try and make it by bushwacking. The bushes here are much too thick with many gullies to trap you.
To make things surreal we witnessed some very strange flashlights that seemed to hover and dash much too quickly across the valley floor. It must have been my tired mind playing tricks on me, but Dalton seen them too.
Finally we made it to the campsites and the trail was easier to follow. We trudged in the dark back to the parking lot arriving at midnight. No campfire for us tonight either after an 18 hour day!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Lost Ring of Hammerhead Part 2

After losing my wedding ring during a hike/ascent of Hammerhead's Yodeling Moves, I needed to get back up on the rock as soon as possible. I took off from work early on a Tuesday to make my way to Boulder. This time I started at NCAR and did a trail run approach sans backpack. My new Scarpa approach shoes are perfect for a run/scramble combo. The photo above is me at the bottom of Hammerhead. This photo shows the nice holds this rock has.

The second time up Yodeling Moves and the East Face of the Last Flatiron was just as enjoyable as the first. I hope to find my ring, but if not it will make a good excuses to keep returning to these nice climbs. This time I added on Fern Alley. This Class 3 scramble starts just as the Last Flatiron ends and is aptly named: A rock canyon with lots of ferns. Check out this photo of Hammerhead... this rock so much nicer to climb than the brittle sandstone around where I grew up in western Colorado.

I think one could combine the Casino Royale, Yodeling Moves, Last Flatiron, and Fern Alley for an awesome day of climbing. I didn't find my ring, so maybe that's what I will try next time. This photo shows the last pitch on the Last Flatiron. You can see the huge dead tree poking out at the top.