Wednesday, June 25, 2014

New York Photos

Images From New York

Christmas Morning Sunrise

Morris Canal Sunset

Memorial Day Rockefeller Center


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Fall Aspens in the Holy Cross Wilderness

Fall Aspens in the Holy Cross Wilderness.

Was overdue for a run to the hills to see the fall colors and in the process decompress and unwind the  mind.  Decided to do a short hike around the Tennessee Pass area and all of the wonderful network of trails that make up the Holy Cross Wilderness.

The final choice was Fancy Creek Trail.  To get there you turn off of Tennesee Pass on the road towards Homesatke Reservoir.  Drive 8 miles in to a turn off onto Forest Service Road 704.  From there the road brings you to two trailheads.This nice trail climbs to Fancy Lake which sits right at treeline.  If one was so inclined they could continue up and over Fancy Pass at 13,000 and drop down to where Missouri Lake and the Missouri Lake pass trail meet up.

Fancy Lake trail up to the lake and back was approx 6.5 miles round trip with roughly 1,350 elevation gain.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Fun with Friends in the High Country or Missouri Mountain from the West Ridge

So the dogs and I rolled into Buena Vista with the intent of having a nice dinner with family and friends then heading out to the spot on the map otherwise known as Rockdale.  The intent was also to pick up some first-hand local knowledge of the current flows in the creeks.  Reason being you need to be able to ford Clear Creek in two places with your vehicle to take almost 7 miles off the round trip journey to the top of Missouri Mountain and back that was our intended goal for the following day.

After much discussion and various points of beer induced wisdom, caution, and hot air it was decided that we would volunteer Fred’s old Nissan pickup as the official river crosser and SAG vehicle for the mornings journey. Plans and meeting times were laid out and we dispersed for the night.

Morning came and it was by no means an alpine start.  We loaded up on a solid breakfast cooked by Chef Bob and headed out to our first rondavous with Fred and Jeff at the CR390 turn off from Hwy 24.  Fred was there waiting and Jeff pulled in just as we did.  Quick review of the vehicle discussions from last night, condensed into two vehicles and headed towards our next turn off at Rockdale.

Found our turn off and wandered around the multiple dirt track splits until we came to Clear Creek and the inevitable water crossing.  Due to the lack of rain this summer the creek was flowing well below its normal levels for that time of year.  Even with that being said it was still something to be thought about before wetting the tires.  We piled all the gear, dogs, and people into Fred’s lil’ Nissan truck and plunged in.  Water came up to just above the hubs.  With a slow and steady push we crossed the first section and the second with no issues.  Only to be confronted by the steep muddy push up the bank and onto the very rough road to the trailhead.  Eventually we came to the gate across the road and the end of motorized travel.

Quick check of the topo to get oriented and mark our bearings and we were off.  A short ways up the trail we came to Clohesy Lake.  Beautiful high mountain lake tucked into the valley between Huron Peak and Missouri Mountain.  There used to be a nice one room cabin that had been built many years ago right on the lake that would be a wonderful shelter from the storm.  That is until the Forest Service decided that this cabin was being used for too many other things than shelter.

Up through the trees we went in a steady incline following the contours of the mountain.  Couple of small steep pitches and we suddenly broke out above tree line and got our first full glimpse of what truly laid before us.  A wonderful basin with a consistent pitch for most of the way up to the ridgeline that we would hug all the way to the summit and back.

Just enough time to shed a layer as we were now standing in the sun and up we went.  For most of this pitch it was a wonderful grassy hike that slowly worked its way ever upward to the first patches of scree and parts of the mountain that would make you earn the climb.  Just below where the trail meets up with the ridgeline the scree fields start.  Just above that the knuckle of the ridge sticks out and creates a more vertical challenge to work around.
Trail finding is always more of a challenge when all you can do is look up for that next gap in the boulders or that small pile of rocks that could be considered a trail marker. We zigzagged and meandered but eventually broke over the steepest section of the hump to find a clear path laid out before us and approx. a mile of ridge running with a small summit rise to Point 13,930 and onward to the summit.
At this point in the ridge is where the main trail coming up from the Missouri Gulch Trailhead merges with ours and the steady stream of hikers marching up from the valley below become visible.  A quick glance to the ridgeline also shows the humanity either ascending or descending our path to the summit.  Even with all the people the run along the ridge is wonderful.  Mt Belford stands to the east with Oxford tucked just below its own ridgeline.  Huron Peak stands to the west were the dogs and I had stood just two weeks prior to this climb.
Huron Peak to the west

Mt Belford to the east and the Missouri Creek Basin
The last crux of the run to the top is a small down climb of approx. 25 feet thru a narrow chute.  Dogs were not too sure about this section until Annie got below and showed them exactly where we wanted them to go.  Once that hurdle was cleared we were onward to the top.

Quick break for food, photos, and to tighten the shoelaces and we were on our way back down the ridge.  Up the chute, over Point 13,930 and down to the knuckle on the ridgeline.  Looking down on this section that had so flummoxed on our ascent was humbling. From a higher point of view the trail winding through the talus was plain as day.  Once we cleared the knuckle it was smooth sailing the whole way down the grassy covered ridge and back into the tree line below.
From the top of the knuckle looking down to the ridgeline and trail below

A detour off the main trail and down to the shores of Clohesy Lake took us a little further off trail than expected.  A short wander through the brush reminded us all too always be conscious of where exactly you are in the bigger context of things if you decide to step off that well beaten path at your feet.  We met up with Fred’s Nissan just in time for a light rain shower to start and keep us cool on the drive back down to Clear Creek and Rockdale.

When it was all said and done.  We covered roughly 5.5 miles with an elevation gain of 3,100 feet.  More importantly it was another great day shared with friends and family in the high country.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Make like a Fish and Go with the Flow

Leading up to the summer months I have been taking the dogs for longer and extended hikes on a regular basis to start building them up to tackling some of the bigger climbs required on my goal 14er summits for this season.  The dogs, as well as myself, were in need of some serious conditioning after a lackadaisical spring focused on school and work.
I was feeling good and felt comfortable that the dogs were right there with me in our physical progression.  As the weekend approached the weather forecast looked clear and would be cooperative for that first camp/climb of the summer.  A check of the website showed good trip reports and most trails unseasonably free of any lingering snow.  Nights leading up to the weekend were spent gathering up gear and airing out tents and sleeping bags from a winter of storage.  Everything seemed in order and good to go…or so it seemed.
Friday came and I plodded through the work day anxious to get home, loaded up, and headed towards the hills.  The magic hour came and I left the office in a rush.  I arrived home and started loading the gear that had only been partially pre-staged the night before.  In the haste to try and beat the normal Friday night summer mass exodus from Denver I did not do the normal double check of gear so important, especially for the first trip of the season.  Dogs and I were loaded and on the road a little before 5:00.
We had managed to stay just ahead of the traffic and made good time on hwy 285 through South Park.  Coming down the backside of Trout Creek Pass I started doing the mental checklist of gear in my head.  This brought me to my first check.  In the haste to get out the door I had forgot to measure out and pack the dogs kibble….DAMN!  Available options ran through my head with not many choices.  I finally concluded that we would make a quick stop at the City Market in Buena Vista to grab some substitute kibble.
Whipped into the City Market parking lot with all of the other refuges from the big city trying to stock up for their own weekend adventures.  Not many kibble options available in less than a 30 lb bag unless you wanted food for a 5 pound chihuawawa.  Zebbers and Harry were not going to be happy with me.  Found something that was remotely close to what the dogs were used to eating in a 15 lb bag and hit the road to the trailhead.
Drove up hwy 24 a little ways until I came to the county road I was looking for, turned off, and we were on our way to the trailhead with plenty of light left to set up camp.  A couple of miles in and we were brought to an abrupt halt with a large steel gate closed and bolted across the road in front of us.   Got out of the car to take a closer inspection of the heavy duty steel chain and industrial size padlock securely blocking access to the road and our designated camping spot for the night another 6 miles up the road.  DAMN DAMN!

Options???  Broke out the topo map for the Sawatch range and started mentally exploring the possibilities.  Mt Princeton or Yale were both close and they were on the bucket list for this summer.  Mt Princeton had a couple of recent trail reports that had said the trail was in good shape but I was not familiar with area regarding camping options.  Yale would be a little bigger climb than I wanted to take the dogs on to start and would be swarming with people.  Further north, Missouri mtn and Oxford were both on the list but I had already determined that I wanted to come at those summits from the southern route requiring a longer hike in. Hmmmmm, what about Huron Peak that is so often overshadowed by its monster neighbors to the north and south?  Quick check of the map and determined the trailhead was on territory already known to me from previous adventures up the south side of La Plata.  Topo did not show any extreme climbing or scrambling near the trail.  Sold!
Turned the car around and headed back downstream to hwy 24 and north towards the turn off onto county road 390 and 12 miles to Winfield.  From this point the road turns to rugged jeep track that will test your ground clearance and ability to squeeze between boulders and trees on one side and a drop off into the dark on the other.  A little more than 2 miles of this two fisted driving put us into the trailhead and the resting spot for the night.
Found a semi level spot tucked just off the road below the trailhead and set up the tent.  Attempted to feed the dogs with their substitute kibble to which Zebbers immediately turned up his nose as if I was attempting to pass off salmon eggs as beluga caviar at a black tie, invite only event.
Dawn broke and I got a quick lay of the land and adjusted my mental compass and map to the terrain and land marks around me.  Huron peak was not visible from the trailhead but tucked back around a rolling ridgeline that would start the climb.  Fed the dogs, broke down the tent, and staged my pack and gear for the climb.
Reached down into the supplies and grabbed one of the yogurts I had brought along for breakfast and opened it up.  At this point it occurred to me that my camping spoon and fork were still sitting on the counter at home where I had pulled them, freshly cleaned, out of the dish washer and set them where I would not forget them.  DAMN!  Oh well, sucked out what I could and used a twig as an improvised spoon for the rest.
Pack on, dogs harnessed in, and we were off.  By no means an alpine start but still fairly early to get moving before the usual afternoon clouds and thunder boomies rolled in.  The trail is well marked and in great shape after some very recent maintance work.  Starting out you enter the forest and start a slow climb while following the contour of the mountain around.  A very nice warm up to get the blood flowing and gear settled into place.
Eventually you come to a series of switchbacks that start working your way up in elevation while keeping the climb comfortable.  At one switchback just a little ways below treeline Huron Peak comes into view for the first time and you get a better idea of what lies ahead.  A pretty solid, unbroken mountain climbs directly up from the break in the trees you are standing in.

Hanging Valley and slope upward to ridgeline between Browns Peak and Huron Peak

The trail then takes you away from this view and eventually deposits you in a hanging valley above treeline to see Huron Peak and its adjoining ridges looming down at you from above.  One small section of steep climbing onto a large unbroken slope that rises at an even pitch upward to the ridgeline between Browns Peak and Huron Peak and the final push to the summit.  Climbing at a steady pace switchbacking  ever upward we made good time with only a brief stop to slip on a jacket to block the steady, biting wind from the west. 

Last 550' of vertical to summit

Cooling the paws while on the look out for yetis

The last 550 ft of vertical becomes a little steeper and you enter into a scree field with a well defined path snaking its way to the top.  A short break for the dogs to cool their paws in the last vestiges of a snow cornice and we are on the summit.  Without the face of the mountain to break the wind we are immediately hit with the full brunt of the constant icy blow coming from the west.
The lasting impression from this summit is the imposing view of the Three Apostles just to the south west.  Each a worthy mountain on their own.  Missouri and Oxford are visible just to the east and La Plata, with her own hanging valleys, swallows up most of the horizon to the north.

The Three Apostles

The constant biting wind at the top immediately took its toll on any exposed skin.  Fingers became numb and skin on your face tingled with the cold.  Not a place to hang around in long without shelter or protection.  Rested a little, fed the dogs, fed myself, and we were off again.

Aussie Dog playtime at 14,000'

Easy scramble down and started the steady passing of others just now working their way towards the top.  From the base of the hanging valley the slope up was now filled with a steady stream of people marching to the top like line of ants.  A last glance to the north at La Plata’s south slope and the fond memories of a previous climb and we dropped back into the trees for the final push down.

View of La Plata's Southern Slopes

A brief rest at a stream crossing for the dogs to cool off and play in the icy water and we were back at the trail head by 1:00.  Loaded up and prepared for the fun drive back down to Winfield.  The drive it’s self is no easy task as we were now confronted with two way traffic on a two track trail barely wide enough for one car to begin with.
Made it back to Winfield without too many scratches to the paint and we were headed for home with a brief stop at the Eddyline brewery to pick up a couple of growlers for home.  Lots of last minute changes and adaptations to obstacles and conditions transitioned into a very nice first climb of the season.  Make like a fish and go with the flow.
Notes from the climb: Trailhead Elevation: 10,560 Summit Elevation: 14,003 Total Elevation Gain: 3,443 ft  6.75 miles round trip.  Very nice climb to start the season with something that would be a great intro climb for those just learning about the mountains and 14ers.
“We may encounter many defeats in our life but we must not be defeated.  When, in fact, it may be necessary to encounter defeat so we can know who the hell we are and what we can overcome.  What makes us stumble and fall also somehow miraculously binds and makes us go on.”  LTJ Bukem