Lauren commonly calls me “Mr. Mountain Energy”. I suppose it’s a fairly accurate nickname (just look at the majority of my blog entries). I guess my zeal has slowed a bit in the past year; maybe it’s the fact we have twins on the way, my current knee injury, or one particular day in the mountains last fall.
In late October, Kyle & I (mostly I) decided it would be a good idea to climb three fourteeners in a day. Depending on the three fourteeners, it wouldn’t necessarily be too insane…
It’s commonly debated (depending on conditions) if Little Bear has the most difficult standard route on any fourteeners. The crux of the route is a section called the “Hour Glass”, that commonly features loose rock, water, & ice. We decided to completely bypass the “Hour Glass”, by taking the north west face. While the NW face probably has more sustained exposure/difficulty, we didn’t have to worry about people kicking rocks on us, etc. The NW face ended up being pretty fun, and was fairly easy to stay “on route”.
Kyle making his way up the NW face of Little Bear.
The traverse between Little Bear and Blanca is one of Colorado’s four great fourteener traverses. Some say it is the most difficult of the four. – Summitpost.org
Once on top of Little Bear, we looked across the ridge we would painstakingly traverse for the next five hours (people definitely do it faster). It was to be the most terrifying traverse I have done. If you don’t have experience with considerable exposure (Capitol Peak was easy comparatively), I would recommend getting some first.
Kyle on a less dicey section of the ridge.
Most of the connecting ridge between Little Bear & Blanca.
Little Bear & the ridge in the background. Taken from Ellingwood Pt.
Once on top of Blanca, we could head down or continue on to Ellingwood Pt. Bad decision #2…we kept going. The traverse over to Ellingwood Pt. was much more docile, but we both had massive headaches from being at 13,000 ft. for so many hours.
Thanks to Kyle for the nice video!
17 hours later, we finally made it back down Lake Como Road (supposedly the most difficult 4×4 trail in Colorado) to our car.
It’s one of my few days in the mountains where I am unsure of my accomplishment, and really if it was enjoyable. Here are a couple tips if you go for it:
- Consider spending at least one night at Lake Como (unfortunately that means carrying your stuff up a crappy road with a lot of elevation gain)
- The traverse takes a long time. Try to enjoy it as much as possible. I think I spent too much time focusing on how long it was taking.
We haven’t been doing too much lately that is picture worthy (at least me sitting on the couch doesn’t seem too exciting), so I thought I’d post an update on the kiddies, size-wise at least. And I’m sitting down because my feet are tired, and I’ve apparently run out of other things to do on the internet.
Baby A – 1lb, 13oz
Baby B – 1lb, 8oz
That’s as of our appointment on Thursday. Everything is looking good so far, so we feel very blessed (I’m hitting 25 weeks this weekend). We’ve been working on nursery stuff as well as our back yard, so I’ll have pictures of those at some point. Also, we do have some ultrasound pictures, but I can’t tell what 90% of them are supposed to show (oh, there’s his hand in front of his face! oh really? I can’t see that at all. All I can see is more blurry stuff!).
Back in the fall, we decided to take a trip to celebrate my upcoming 30th birthday. As you may know, we are also having twins! (boys!) When we found out, we decided it should be a “babiesmoon” too. For the first time in the history of Joel and Lauren, we selected a warm, relaxing location…it did sound fun, but of course our typical adventure/sightseeing trips weren’t going to fit the bill for me this time anyway.
We decided we didn’t want to do a resort, so we ended up in Isla Mujeres, Mexico (island off the coast of Cancun) using extra frequent flyer miles from what we saved for our South America trip. We had a wonderful time relaxing on the beach and exploring the island. There was a number of people with kids there, so who knows? Maybe we’ll be back one day.
Our trip began at Nautibeach on the north end of the island, which boasts the downtown and popular Playa Norte beach. We rented a golf cart mid-trip and explored the rest of the island, transitioning to stay at Lolo Lorena’s, an eclectic bed and breakfast. Lolo is a a chef and made the most fabulous breakfasts! We were the only guests there, and she was very attentive and thoughtful to my pregnancy. We explored the southern tip of the island’s rocky coast and went snorkeling one day. The trip was filled with lovely food experiences, beautiful weather, and lots of sunscreen and umbrella time (our biggest goal was to not get burned!).
And…our twins are apparently growing like crazy because I am getting huge!
Is it March? Better late than never.
In December, we made the big drive south for Christmas. We had fun spending time with Matt & Erin & the girls in Dickson, my family in Nashville, and Joel’s parents in Birmingham, along with some friends sprinkled in there. We also got to see my extended family, but not surprisingly, I have no pictures. Our friends, the Mortons, were in Kansas, so we had a fun, short stay with them on the way back. We were unfortunately caught in a snowstorm the next day and had to stop an extra night, but we finally made it home!
Since there’s no way I’m going to make posts about all of these things, here are some other highlights from 2012. We did move in 2012, but I’ll actually make a post about that!
Back in July, we took a short backpacking trip to Heart Lake. It was really the perfect length…just when I started to get tired, we arrived! After enjoying the beautiful wildflowers, we camped near Rogers Lake. We then climbed Rogers Pass to get a view of Heart Lake the next morning. From the top of the pass, you can see over to Winter Park as well as the backs of some peaks, like Mt. Bancroft.
Back in August, we utilized frequent flyer miles and hotel points to take a 7th anniversary trip to New York. I had saved hotel points from previous jobs, and we finally made use of them! We stayed in the Tribeca neighborhood and really enjoyed our time in a more “normal,” not-so-touristy neighborhood. Here is a run-down of the things we did:
-Ate in Little Italy (I could do without Little Italy)
-Took the ferry by the Statue of Liberty and on to tour Ellis Island (it was freezing inside but so interesting)
-Visited the Irish Hunger Memorial
-Visited the 9/11 Memorial (Would not do it again – wait until it’s finished and you don’t have to go through five thousand security checkpoints)
-Ate at L’Ecole French Culinary School restaurant (during restaurant week! made it affordable)
-Went to see Wicked on Broadway
-Toured the Tenement Museum (so great!)
-Met up with our old friend Jelmore and walked around Brooklyn
-Visited Chelsea Market (neat) and the High Line park (way too crowded)
-Spent time in Central Park
-Visited the Top of the Rock observation deck at Rockefeller Center
-Ate pizza, sushi, doughnuts, pretzels, cupcakes, etc, etc…
-Spent our last morning walking around the Tribeca neighborhood
We had a great trip but each agreed that NYC for us is a place to visit only!
At L’Ecole French Culinary School’s restaurant
At L’Ecole French Culinary School’s restaurant
With Jelmore in Brooklyn
At High Line Park
Eating pizza at Lombardi’s
At Central Park
At the Top of the Rock Observation Deck
If you’ve spent much time with me, you may know that Grand Teton National Park is one of my favorite places on earth. My parents got me hooked on a summer road-trip in 1994. I’ve climbed and hiked some in the Tetons, and I’ve always talked about wanting to climb “the Grand”. Without technical alpine climbing experience, the Grand always felt a bit out of reach. The easiest route up the mountain is still a technical rock climb.
In April of this year, I turned thirty. I didn’t feel much different (I still mostly act like a kid), but Lauren decided turning thirty was special. She threw me a big fiesta birthday party. At the end of the night, after everyone left, she told me that she had arranged for me to climb the Grand Teton with my friend Kyle! If you didn’t know already, I have the best wife ever!
I immediately started planning. We landed on using Exum Guides to safely get us up the mountain on a four day trip (2 training, 2 climbing). I thought July would never arrive, but finally it did. I’ll quickly break down each day:
Day 1 - We learned how to get the most out of our approach shoes (a hiking shoe specifically created for easier climbing). We learned/reviewed several climbing knots (figure 8 & bowline) and some rope management skills. By the end of the day, we were moving as a roped team up some easy terrain at Hidden Falls. The day ended with learning how to safely rappel.
Kyle & our guide Mark.
Day 2 – After day 1, our guide Mark suggested that Kyle and I do something a bit more challenging. Day two is typically more hands-on practice of day one’s skills. We were stoked when Mark suggested we do a route on the north end of Jenny Lake called Baxter’s Pinnacle. It was a moderate six pitch climb that ended with a very challenging 5.9 move at the beginning of the last pitch. Kyle and I agreed that this was almost as much fun as climbing the Grand.
Climbing Baxter’s Pinnacle with Jenny Lake in the background.
Climb Baxter’s Pinnacle with Teewinot and Middle Teton (I think) in the background.
Kyle on one of the last pitches of Baxter’s Pinnacle.
Cam & nut placed for protection on Baxter’s Pinnacle.
Day 3 - We met Mark, our guide, and the rest of our team to start the trek to the lower saddle, where we would camp before climbing the Grand. We had very warm/hot weather for the seven miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain. Mark kept a good pace, and we felt great the whole way up. After dinner, we bedded down with our closest twenty friends in the Exum hut. Between the old man that kept elbowing me, and some dude snoring, I got almost no sleep.
Hiking up Garnet Canyon approaching the Lower Saddle.
Relaxing after arriving at the Lower Saddle.
Outside our tent/hut at the Lower Saddle below the Grand.
Day 4 – At 2 AM, our alarms went off. After a quick breakfast, our team was off. Our team of 5 made great time up the mountain. Kyle and I pushed Suzzane & Pam really hard (50th birthday trip for them!), as we were determined to summit. Please forgive us. You guys were rock stars! By 6 AM, we had made it safely to the summit! The trip down was pretty laid back besides a section that is best rappelled. The rappel is in a dangerous rock-fall area, so it was important to move quickly through this section. After packing up camp and grabbing a bite to eat, we headed back down the trail. Once we were through the dangerous parts, Kyle and I broke off from the group and raced back. We had to be back to work the next day and had 8 hours in the car still ahead! Sheesh!
First sunlight hitting the Enclosure (a side peak of the Grand) and an awesome shadow of the Grand in the background.
Kyle working the traverse…definitely the most exposure of the route.
Our awesome team on the summit.
Kyle rappelling on the descent.
A nice view from the top!
The whole experience was really amazing! We learned a lot from the guides, and feel like we could easily enough do it on our own now. Thanks to our wives for letting us do this, and a big thanks to Kyle’s wife Stephanie for driving us home!
Fun Fact: Many people think the Grand Teton is the highest point in Wyoming. It’s not, but what mountain is?
P.S. Our wives had a lovely time exploring the park, the town of Jackson, and Jackson Hole ski resort, where we rented a condo.
Stephanie & Lauren in front of Hidden Falls.
Capitol Peak is one of the most beautiful and challenging of Colorado’s Fourteeners. In September 2010, I blogged about my second and Lauren’s first failed attempt on the mountain. This summer was getting away from us, and we decided to give it “one” more try. The drive to the Capitol Peak trailhead is worth the trip alone.
Capitol Peak in Numbers
- 3 attempts
- 51 miles hiked
- 12,000 ft of elevation gained
- ∞ days of rain in the Elk Mountains
- 14,130 feet tall
We arrived at the trailhead in the afternoon the start the six-mile backpack to our camp. We were greeted by one of the loudest thunder claps we’ve ever heard…a warning sign? The weather quickly cleared up and we hiked in. After setting up camp, it was deja vu. It started raining and raining. Luckily we got a quick break and were able to eat dinner and get ready for bed. It rained steadily through the night. When the alarm went off at 4ish, it wasn’t raining and we decided to go for it. Quickly, we were greeted by the moon and stars, and then a lovely sunrise.
The climb took us around nine hours round trip. Capitol’s northeast ridge is ranked Class 4, which is right below technical climbing (needing ropes). Lauren and I were both thankful for our rock climbing backgrounds as we felt comfortable most of the time. There is one section of the climb called the “Knife Edge”, which has a lot of exposure (big drops on either side). This part usually bothers people the most, but I actually thought the east side of the route after coming over the saddle between Mt. Daly and Capitol was the scariest part. The “cairned” trail was hard for us to follow, and there was a good bit of loose scary terrain.
On the summit!
The third time was the charm! This trip was another good reminder that the mountain will always be there, so be safe and don’t push your luck when weather is bad. Capitol Peak was a lot of fun, and I’m so happy that Lauren was willing to try it again. After a good night’s rest, Lauren and I packed up and headed back to the car. On the way out, we talked to a couple who recommended a restaurant in Glenwood Springs called The Pullman. Definitely check it out next time you’re in the area.