All posts by Joel

My Father-in-Law Steve Temple

Some people don’t have the opportunity to have one good father on this earth. For the past eight plus years, I’ve been blessed to have two. Sadly, on Monday evening, June 24, 2013 Steve Temple lost his life to melanoma.


A rare moment captured. Steve slinging pancakes while camping.

I can’t really remember the first time I met Steve (Mr. Temple at the time). It would have been in the summer of 2002 when Lauren and I started dating. Thankfully he wasn’t the type of guy who sat around and cleaned his guns when I came over. Even though he wasn’t intimidating in that way, his character demanded respect.

Steve was nice to me from the beginning, but I think I earned a place in his heart with my  IT consulting at the Temple house. Lauren and I had been dating around three months before she went to Europe to study in the Fall of 2002. Even while she was gone, Steve and Mary Ruth would have me over for dinner, and they were so nice to me. The second thing that really made us click was finding out the we both changed the oil in our cars at home. Lauren’s car care quickly became part of my duty as the boyfriend.

Steve had many amazing qualities, but if I had to choose one word to describe him, it would be selflessness. He always put others before himself, especially Lauren and me on many occasions:

  • Completely overhauling the landscaping at our first house with Mary Ruth
  • Doing my taxes before we got married
  • Helping put a new floor in our kitchen, finding out that the subfloor was rotten in one place and completely replacing it
  • Working on countless other projects at 4903 Maywood and 2929 Gilpin
  • Helping work on my car many times
  • Paying for our beautiful wedding

We had a lot of great times together. One of the best (and most uncomfortable) was asking permission to marry Lauren. We met up at Baja Burrito for lunch, and I barely touched my food (very unusual if you know me). He graciously said yes. Another awesome memory from 2009 was getting to climb Mt. Bierstadt, one of Colorado’s Fourteeners (14,000 ft mountain). At the time, Steve was in better shape than me, and I had trouble keeping up! It was awesome getting to enjoy that view with him, especially since Lauren and Mary Ruth had to head down a little earlier.


Steve & I on top of Mt. Bierstadt in July 2009.

Steve, I love you. You were a great second father to me, and you would have been an awesome grandfather. Thanks for loving your family so much and pointing us to Christ. We’ll miss you, but we know you aren’t suffering now. Your legacy will live on.

Little Bear / Blanca Traverse + Ellingwood Point

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. –

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.


A Grand 30th Birthday Present

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 Charmer

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.

Northeast Ridge

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.

Happy Campers!

Our Introduction to the Indian Peaks Wilderness

I may have been slow to warm up to the idea, but I know for a fact that some of Colorado’s finest mountains are not 14,000 ft. In an effort to find some good peaks near Denver, I did some research on the Indian Peaks Wilderness a.k.a. the IPW. Our first trip to the IPW was on Memorial Day. I had lofty plans of doing a snow climb on Mt. Neva. Like most of the Colorado Rockies, the IPW got slammed with snow during the 2010/11 winter and the trailhead sign was almost completely covered. Needless to say, route finding was a challenge. We never made it to Mt. Neva, but we still had a fun day.

In August we decided to return and climb Mt. Neva’s North ridge. The trail starts from the Fourth of July trailhead outside Nederland, CO. On Friday, we followed the Arapahoe Pass Trail for about 2 miles and setup camp 1/4 mile shy of the old mine. Saturday morning we were up early for our summit attempt.

A creek along the Arapahoe Pass Trail. Hiking poles were helpful.

Mt. Neva coming into view over Lauren’s shoulder.

From camp, the hike up to Arapahoe Pass wasn’t too bad. (Side note: going to Arapahoe Pass would be an excellent day hike)

Early morning light hits Mt. Neva

From the pass, we gained Mt. Neva’s North ridge. The ridge is considered class 3 with a couple class 4 sections.

Lauren along one section of the ridge.

The route starts on the right of this photo and works to the high point on the left.

The ridge was super fun and had stunning views of the surrounding IPW, James Peak Wilderness, and some RMNP. The descent was a bit sketchy (loose rock). We were also glad that we packed our ice axes…we were still able to descend a few hundred vertical feet on snow.

Something tells me that this lake isn’t melting out completely this summer.

Looking up after descending.

I know it was a long day for Lauren, but she handled the mileage well. Once back at camp, we packed up and headed out.

Boys Trip 2011

In the summer of 2010, my friend Kyle, his friend Jake, and I took a trip to the Sangre De Cristos in southern Colorado to climb Crestone Needle. We had an incredible time (even though I never found time to blog about it) and decided to take another dude trip this summer.

Crestone Needle in the background

After some research, we turned our eyes towards Chicago Basin in southwestern Colorado (near Durango). Chicago Basin is a fairly remote wilderness area home to three of Colorado’s 14,000 ft. mountains.

Just getting to the Needleton trailhead requires a fun train ride via the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad or a long backpack in. If you want to save money or just have the time, I suppose the backpack option could be fun. We all felt the train added to the experience and was well worth the money.

Lauren took the train with us and waved bye as we got dropped off at the Needleton trailhead. She enjoyed a weekend exploring Silverton, Mesa Verde, Durango, etc.

Bye Lauren!

Lauren @ Mesa Verde

From the Needleton trailhead we made the fairly arduous hike (3,000 ft elevation gain, 6 miles, 3 hours) to Chicago Basin.

The basin was quite beautiful!

We expected to see a lot of mountain goats based on our information, and they were literally everywhere.

We only had one full day for climbing. We hoped to climb all three 14ers, but Sunlight and Windom were enough to wear us out pretty well. Eolus would have to wait until another trip. We could have potentially climbed Eolus before hiking out to meet the train, but we didn’t feel like taking the risk of missing our only ride. Most people that climb all three in a day (props to you) start with Eolus and then end with the Sunlight/Windom combo. Sunlight was our main objective, so we opted to start there.

Nearing the summit of Sunlight

I was the only one in our group dumb enough to climb up the block on top of Sunlight. I’ve seen it described as the single hardest move on any 14er. Really its just a bit awkward and nerve-racking (sorry mom!).

Kyle part way up Sunlight’s summit block.

Me perched awkwardly on the Sunlight’s summit block.

Kyle making a quick descent of Windom.

Chicago Basin really is a special place…no wonder why it is so popular.

Take aways:

  • Give yourself 4 days in the basin (1 hike in, 2 climbing, 1 hike out)
  • Start really really early if you want to climb all 3 peaks in a day
  • If you go over a holiday weekend (July 4th in our case) expect plenty of friends
  • Hang everything and leave nothing in your tent. Lots of marmots and goats that would love to eat your stuff.
  • Take Jake with you. He’ll make you laugh.
  • For more tips on Chicago Basin, check out this post on

Quandary Peak via Cristo Couloir

Mountaineering, you know…the real deal with ice axes and crampons has always intrigued me. Back in April, Lauren was at the beach with some friends, and I “somehow” ended up at the REI garage sale. I didn’t really need anything, but it didn’t hurt to wander through the deals. And there they were, a couple pairs of old rental crampons for $30 a pair. Sold!

When Lauren returned from the beach, I tried to tell her that the crampons were part of her birthday present. That went over well. :)

Even though she wasn’t super excited about the idea, Lauren graciously agreed to climb Cristo Couloir with me. Cristo Couloir is a snow climb on Quandary Peak (Lauren’s first 14er when we moved here). We had record or near record snowfall this winter, so there was still plenty of snow, even on June 17th. We tried for a super early start to avoid soft snow conditions once the sun was on the route. Fog, rain, and snow prevented a really early start. With partly cloudy skies, we got started around 6:30 AM. The conditions were great, and we made it up in just under four hours.

Lauren motoring ahead of me. I’m the one that runs and she was kicking my butt!

Excellent views! Still looked like winter up there.

On top! 4 hours up and 1 hour down. Glissading down was a rush. Check out this video (not us in the video) if you don’t know what glissading is.

Just as we were finishing, we saw this fox! Look closely and you’ll see that it started snowing again. We had a perfect weather window.

Snow Cave, Yes Please!

If you haven’t noticed, I’m a pretty big fan of snow. Luckily we live somewhere with an abundance of the white stuff, and it’s good for more than skiing and snowball fights.

Saturday morning my friend Lewis McAll and I got an early start and headed towards our destination, Loch Lomond. Loch Lomond is located at the base of Mt. Bancroft which Lauren and I climbed last summer. Visiting the area in the winter proved to be a much different experience. The bustling jeep trail (Stewart Road) was sitting under feet of snow, and we only encountered two other parties (four people total).

It took under two hours to snowshoe two miles (over 1,000 ft of elevation gain). Once we were about 1/3 a mile from the lake, we started looking for the perfect snow drift. The lake is above treeline and very wind-blown. Lewis spotted a sizeable drift, and I was convinced that it was actually a small hill. The avalanche probe proved that the drift was 7+ feet deep.

We set down our packs and got to work digging. The snow was hard-packed and proved very challenging for digging. About four hours later, our snow cave was complete. The completed cave had room for us and our gear.

Around 5 PM we climbed into our snow cave. We cooked an excellent curry backpackers meal and called it a day. Despite the cold outside (probably 0 – 10 degrees), the snow cave was fairly warm. It was also very quiet and dark which made for a decent night’s sleep.

Lessons learned and/or things that proved helpful:

  • Snow conditions can vary greatly. Leave plenty of time for digging. Each person should carry a shovel if possible (but you could get tendonitis…Lewis!).
  • Bring extra gloves. We got really wet while digging. Even though our gloves were Gore-tex, when we took them off to let them dry, they froze stiff as boards.
  • If you don’t have a winter sleeping bag, consider using two bags. Lauren and I both have 15 degree down bags. I stole hers and put ours together. I stayed nice and toasty. Also, don’t forget a sleeping mat. Staying off the snow is very important.

Little Matterhorn – RMNP

After visiting the Matterhorn during our 2007 trip to Switzerland, there was no question about visiting Little Matterhorn in Rocky Mountain National Park when we found out about it in my Colorado Scrambles: Climbs Beyond the Beaten Path book.

The real Matterhorn:

This time, we wouldn’t just see it, we would make the point to climb it! The hike starts out at the popular Bear Lake trailhead. Our guide book had us exiting the trail near Lake Helene to approach the mountain. We kept commenting that Little Mattherhorn looked nothing like the real deal…and from this approach, it really didn’t.

After boulder and talus hopping for a couple hours, we finally reached the third class ridge.

We were in complete solitude until we met up with a couple nice guys on the ridge. They were kind enough to snap a picture of us on their decent and email it to us! Thanks Dan!

The ridge only took around thirty minutes in each direction. The summit is really just a big cairn at the end of the ridge. The most exciting part of the climb was a tight chimney (probably class 4) right before the summit. I don’t think Lauren was too excited! Note from Lauren: This was a fake smile because I had just gotten my leg stuck!

Happy on the summit!

By the time we reached the parking lot, we had been hiking/climbing for 9+ hours! Thanks to my great wife for being a champ! We ended the day with some great thai food in Boulder and crashed when we got home.

P.S. After doing a little research, I found a picture of Little Matterhorn from Odessa Lake, and it looked much more like the real deal from that angle. Photo Credits: Andrew Mace on Flickr

Capitol Fever

In the summer of 2001, (summer after my freshman year of college) I painted houses for my summer job. That summer, I learned at least two things:

  1. I learned how to paint
  2. I learned that I hated painting

I guess while high on paint fumes one day, I decided that my friend Jason Rice and I should try to climb two of the hardest mountains in the states.

The first mountain I picked for us was Capitol Peak. Capitol Peak is one of Colorado’s 14ers located in the Elk Range (near Aspen). Unfortunately during our climb, we were rained/sleeted off the mountain and never got to finish.

Photo: Jason reading below Capitol Peak

Almost 10 years later…

Capitol Peak has always been in the back of my mind. It’s one of the most distinct and beautiful mountains I have come across. So, at the beginning of the summer, I told Lauren that I had only one thing I wanted to put on the calendar: round two with Capitol Peak.

We arrived late one Friday evening at the Capitol Creek Trailhead and set up camp. The trailhead is over 9,000 ft. in elevation, and is far away from city lights, so the stars were amazing. The next morning we packed up our backpacks, and made the 6.5 mile trip in four hours.

Our camp was just below Capitol Lake (and the peak).

Our arrival time was just about perfect. Within 15 minutes of setting up our tent, it started raining…and raining. From 2 PM on Saturday, to 7 AM on Sunday, it rained on and off. Our alarm was set for 4:15 AM to start the climb, and around 6:30 AM we knew we had missed our window to start the climb. In order to avoid dangerous afternoon storms, it’s extremely important to start early enough to be off the top by noon.

Despite another failed attempt, we still had a wonderful trip, and it’s hard to get tired of such beautiful scenery. Maybe the third time will be the charm.