Thursday, June 29, 2006

Talus Hopping on Princeton

All week I was debating whether to climb Princeton or Yale. I was leaning more towards Yale because it is one of, if not, his favorites. The two mountains are right next to each other so I was just going to wake up in the morning and choose one. Then at about 9:45 Friday night, one of my buddies (Chris Ferraro) called me from Crestone (where he was climbing the group of five around that region) and described to me how he got lost going to his campsite for the second night. Since he got lost he turned around and headed back to his car, knowing that I was climbing the next day, and that he could meet up with me. Since Chris had not done Princeton, that made the decision for me to do Princeton.

My alarm went off at 4:00 AM, I rolled over, gave Heather a kiss, and got out of bed to put my hiking clothes on. Ace and I were meeting Chris at 6:30 at Mt. Princeton road and HWY 285/24, so we had to get a quick move on it. Driving went really well. I didn’t get caught behind any slow drivers and I made it all the way to the meeting point in about 2 hours. I sat there waiting for Chris for about 5 minutes; enough time for Ace and I to get our stuff ready for the hike.

Mt. Princeton

I took my brothers advice and drove all the way to the end of the road. You can faintly see the road traverse all the way across to the left side of the mountain in the picture above. On the drive up we passed quite a few people who could not drive any farther and were hiking up the road. We finally parked at 7:30 and were hiking at 7:40.

Mt. Princeton From the Car

We hiked up this hillside that was grass and talus mixed. It was a fairly easy start. We scurried up the initial hillside with no problems. Once we started to climb around to the front side of the mountain, we could see the summit of Princeton, and everything turned to talus.

When Everything Turned to Talus

At this point we were not on much of a trail; we were more finding our way through a huge talus field. We continued at an angle toward Princeton’s ridge line.

Where We Met The Original Trail

After talus hopping for about 30 minutes we finally met up with the actual Mt. Princeton trail. From here the talus hopping did not stop. The trail consisted of loose dirt to talus and then back to loose dirt. After getting a little frustrated at the loose rock and dirt we decided to head off the trail a little and start hiking straight up the mountain on pure talus. For Ace’s first hike of the year he did really well. He did have some trouble with the talus (as would any dog), but for the most part he did just fine. We reached the summit just before 10:00. We ate a couple of snacks, took some pictures, talked to a few others and headed down the mountain.

On the Princeton Summit

We pretty much went down the same way we came up. We passed quite a few people on the way down. There was a group of boy scouts that were hiking, that were from Littleton. I thought that in boy scouts they taught you how to be in the wilderness and how to survive in the wilderness, but I guess not due to the fact that the majority of the boys were wearing jeans and a couple of them looked to have no water at all.

Over it was a good mountain to get out of the way. It was not a very hard climb; it took us about 2 ½ hours up and about 2 hours down. JJ and I are headed to the Maroon Bells this Friday for an attempt on the South to North traverse via either Bell Cord Couloir or the SE Couloir. It should be a classic mountaineering route with a snow climb, mixed climbing, and good old fashioned scrambling. Watch for that post next week.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Missouri Mountain

I passed Pete with the climbing of this mountain.

Seeing as my dad and I had some extra time off lately, we took Tuesday to climb Missouri Mountain. It was my 20th and his 3rd.

We met at County Road 390 just before 6:00 and drove to the trailhead. The same trailhead is used to climb Belford, Oxford, and Missouri. We were hiking by 6:15 along a well maintained trail that is easy to follow. The first part of the climb is up thorugh an aspen / evergreen forest. For the first 3/4 mile, we gained over 1,000 vertical feet as we climbed several steep switchbacks up through the forest. After about 1600 vertical the trail levels out and we finally cleared treeline.

Also after treeline, we got our first look at Misouri's North Face.

Great view but we still had a long way to go. We were still below 12,000 feet and were less than 1/2 way to the summit. We had to crest 2 ridges and gain a saddle before prior to making the summit ridge. After the second ridge we took a break and shared a Clif Bar. Both of us were doing well and we set off for the saddle.

The trail began to swithback again and eventually headed to the North. At just over 13,000 feet, the trail steepens significantly as it crosses a talus slope. This portion was no fun. Steep, slippery, and full of loose rock. At about 13,400 Dad developed a cramp. Most likely due to dehydration, we took another break and Dad started to "re"hydrate. We were less than a mile and about 600 vertical feet from the summit. He worked through it by rehydrating and resting a bit more often.

The summit ridge trail basically follows the top of the ridge. For the final part, the trail dips below the western face and there is a small class 3 "climb" prior to the summit.

I was a few minutes ahead of Dad and while I was waiting I heard and saw a rockslide. It was amazing to see rocks the size of cars crash and roll down a mountainside.

We made the summit 5 minutes later at 11:15. The views were amazing. We could see all the major ranges from the summit. It was hazy to the East due to the fires currently burning.

After 25 minutes enjoying the views and lunch, it was time to head home. On the ascent, we spotted a snow field that we could decend. We decended the ridge but took a right turn about 1/4 mile from the saddle. We decended the gully to the snowfield and glissaded the snowfield. About 1/2 way down we looked to the right and there stood a mountain goat that was watching us and wondering "What are they doing?" By taking this shortcut, we were able to cut at least a mile off of our decent plus we were able to skip the talus slope that gave us a hard time on the ascent.

The knee feeling well, we continued the decent. Dad's knee and cramp were doing better and from here on out it was a straight forward hike out to the car. 3 miles and 2 hours later we were at the car. It was a great day that was enjoyed by both of us.

The stats:

  • 8 hours 40 minutes of total climbing (6 hrs up, 3 down)
  • 5 hours hiking, 3 hours 40 minutes resting
  • 9.75 total miles
  • 4600 total elevation gain
  • 17 feet per minute average ascent rate
  • 27 feet per minute average decent rate

Monday, June 19, 2006

Traverse - No, Needle - Yes!

Peter and I climbed and summitted Crestone Needle on May 28th, 2006. We summitted via the Standard South Face Route. The downside to this post is that I forgot my camera so there will be no photos in this post. In coming posts, I will be sure to bring my camera and post photos.

We started up the South Colony lake road (via ATV) at 4:00 AM. It took us just under 45 mintues to make the trailhead. The road is every bit as rough as described. We saw several trucks at the trailhead and I can't imagine how long or uncomfortable that ride is in a standard vehicle. ATV is definitely the way to go.

We started up the hiking trail from the South Colony Lakes Trailhead at 5:00. Our original intent was to do the "Peak to Needle Traverse" but due to conditions, we were forced to abandon that plan and only got the Needle. Regardless, we followed the standard trail as it winds below Broken Hand Peak's Eastern face. The trail is in good shape, is easy to find, and follows a gentle slope up toward the South Colony Lakes. Soon after starting up the trail, we began to hear the wind. After about 30 minutes of hiking, we turned the corner into the basin that holds the lakes and that was when we felt what we had only heard earlier. It was going to be a windy day. As we got further into the basin and just below the lakes, we got a bit off trail and had to back-track for about 10 minutes to get back on route.

Finally back on trail, we reached the base of Broken Hand Pass right at 7:00. Still early in the season, we were forced to climb a medium sized snow field for 500 vertical feet to reach the mid-point of the pass. The snow was consolidated and frozen from the night before. Although we would have preferred to use our crampons (we left them at camp), we were able to cut steps with our axes and after about 20 minutes of climbing, we reached the mid-point of the pass and the rest of the route was clear of snow. On the decent, we were able to glissade this portion and save ourselves some time and have some fun as well.

At the top of Broken Hand Pass we felt the full effect of the wind. Previously the winds had been gusty but strong. At the top of the pass, the winds were steady at around 25 MPH with gusts up to an estimated 60 MPH led us to abort our plans for the traverse and only go for the Needle. We began up the Southern face of the Needle. We easily traversed over and up onto the Needle proper. We began to climb and gain some initial altitude in the first gully. The first few hundered feet was easy class 3 or low class 4 scrambling. As the gully narrowed, the climbing became more difficult with increased exposure. After about 45 minutes of this climbing it appeared to be time to traverse over the "rib" into the Western gully. This portion was an exposed climb / traverse that is low Class 5. Pete got a little off route and spooked as he had to downclimb 10 feet to get back on route. One of those moments where you breathe deep and ensure that every placement is absolutely correct. The pucker factor was "high." After reaching the Western gully the climbing returned to class 3 all the way to the summit. There were a few pockets of snow and ice to deal with but the climbing and exposure did ease a bit.

We summited right at 9:30 and had it all to ourselves. In fact, we only came upon two other groups all day. One at the top of Broken Hand Pass on our decent and another about 1/4 mile from the trailhead. The summit was WINDY! Easily 60 MPH winds. It was a good decision not to go for the traverse. On the decent, we left the Western gully a few hundred feet higher than we came into it. This proved the easier route. We downclimbed cautiously and in hindsight, it may have made more sense to rapelle a couple sections. None the less, we made it safely and in about the same amount of time as the ascent. Finally below Broken Hand Pass we were able to glissade the snow field and save some time. The rest of the decent was straight forward including the trip back down the road.

All in all, it was a great day. Over 6,600 vertical feet from the lower trailhead. Over 6.5 miles of hiking (from the upper parking lot). Total trip time was just over 7.5 hours from car to car. We averaged 30 feet per minute on the ascent and 43 feet per minute on the decent. An excellent day (aside from the wind) with great views and a challenging mountain. we both look forward to the Peak and another potential attempt at the traverse.