We made it through our first trip with babies! Joel’s office had a work retreat in Breckenridge, and families were invited. We spent 4 nights in a 3-bedroom condo with two other coworkers…and honestly the nights were a little stressful trying to keep the boys quiet, not to mention having them in our room (they moved out of our room at home at about 5 weeks old). But we had a good time walking around Breckenridge and eating. We were probably a week past the peak of the leaves turning, but it was still beautiful!
I’ll let you guess which one of us did the posing in the pictures of the boys below, despite Luke’s dismay.
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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.
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In January, our dear friends the Mankins came to visit us! We had a lovely time snow tubing, eating, and just having general fun. See the picture below that Joseph made: the boys got to check out the driving on ice at Georgetown Lake. A couple of people even took them for a spin!
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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.
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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
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.
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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.
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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.
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.
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.
In June, we went camping with our friends, the Lanzens, on Guanella Pass. It’s really beautiful up there, and it’s not too far from Denver. Everything was going well until we realized that “someone” forgot to pack our tent poles. Luckily, I am a good sport and didn’t complain about sleeping under this makeshift tarp-tent that Joel and Scott created for us. It was better than sleeping under the stars I guess.
I would think that it’s understandable that I was tired when we reached the top. It’s a mountain. However, Mr. Mountain Energy was ready for more. Joel then crossed the Sawtooth ridge and summitted Mt. Evans before beginning a grueling descent. Here he is at the top of Mt. Evans (and yes, this is the same Mt. Evans that you can drive to the top of).
Here’s a view of Mt. Bierstadt (right), the Sawtooth (center), and Mt. Evans (left).
When it was time to go, the Lanzen girls couldn’t handle it. I mean, we are not that exciting, but it was flattering. This was taken while they were holding on to our hands so we couldn’t leave!
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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.
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