Tag Archives: Outdoor Activities

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”.

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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.

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Kyle on a less dicey section of the ridge.

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Most of the connecting ridge between Little Bear & Blanca.

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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.

 

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 164 user reviews.

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!

Skiing a few times,  despite the bad snow year
Skiing a few times, despite the bad snow year
We went to Memphis for Rebecca's wonderful wedding
We went to Memphis for Rebecca’s wonderful wedding

 

Joel turned 30,  and we had a big fiesta
Joel turned 30, and we had a big fiesta
Mom and Dad came out and conquered a difficult hike with us
Mom and Dad came out and conquered a difficult hike with us
Joel and 4 of us ladies went on a fun snow climb to the Citadel
Joel and 4 of us ladies went on a challenging snow climb to the Citadel
Matt,  Erin,  Evie,  and Amelia came for a fun weekend
Matt, Erin, Evie, and Amelia came for a great weekend
We did round 2 of the snow climb up Kelso Ridge on Torrey's Peak with Sarah & Patrick
We did round 2 of the snow climb up Kelso Ridge on Torrey’s Peak with Sarah & Patrick
Some of our community group took a fun trip to Annie's family cabin in South Dakota over Memorial Day weekend
Some of our community group took a lovely trip to Annie’s family cabin in South Dakota over Memorial Day weekend
Fun on our block!
Fun on our block!
Although a little rusty,  we brought out the old climbing gear a few times
Although a little rusty, we brought out the old climbing gear a few times
Joel's mentee,  Kuatid,  graduated from high school
Joel’s mentee, Kuatid, graduated from high school
We had a fun couple of days with Brittney and Dupree in the mountains
We had a fun couple of days with Brittney and Dupree in the mountains
Our 2012 garden
Our 2012 garden

 

We climbed the West Ridge of Quandary Peak...our 3rd way to climb it
We climbed the West Ridge of Quandary Peak…our 3rd way to climb it
Joel's parents visited and provided invaluable help as we and our neighbor sodded our front yards
Joel’s parents visited and provided invaluable help as we and our neighbor sodded our front yards

 

Guanella Pass provided one last chilly camping trip of the year with Sarah,  Annie,  and Patrick
Guanella Pass provided one last chilly camping trip of the year with Sarah, Annie, and Patrick

Average Rating: 4.9 out of 5 based on 249 user reviews.

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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At Rogers Lake

Heart Lake

Rogers Pass

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Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 210 user reviews.

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:

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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.

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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.

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Climbing Baxter’s Pinnacle with Jenny Lake in the background.

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Climb Baxter’s Pinnacle with Teewinot and Middle Teton (I think) in the background.

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Kyle on one of the last pitches of Baxter’s Pinnacle.

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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.

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Hiking up Garnet Canyon approaching the Lower Saddle.

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Relaxing after arriving at the Lower Saddle.

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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!

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First sunlight hitting the Enclosure (a side peak of the Grand) and an awesome shadow of the Grand in the background.

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Kyle working the traverse…definitely the most exposure of the route.

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Our awesome team on the summit.

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Kyle rappelling on the descent.

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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.

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Stephanie & Lauren in front of Hidden Falls.

 

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 273 user reviews.

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!

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 180 user reviews.

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.

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 200 user reviews.

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 14ers.com

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 180 user reviews.

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.

In the morning, we headed to Mt. Bierstadt. Yes, this is the Mt. Bierstadt we climbed when my parents came out with us in 2009 and I got altitude sickness. And yes, this is the Mt. Bierstadt that we attempted last winter in the snow when we did not have appropriate gear. And finally, yes, this is the Mt. Bierstadt that is considered to be perhaps the “easiest” of the 14ers, and it took me 3 tries to reach the summit! So, here we are.

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!

 

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 277 user reviews.

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.

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 219 user reviews.

I guess I just haven’t been into blogging the last few months. Maybe the zeal will come back one day. Here are some fun things we’ve done lately.

1. Started the garden/seedlings (yes, we are still looking for a house, so the garden thing is a bit of an issue). I’ve planted spinach and pea seeds and started tomatoes and peppers inside.

2. Skiing/snowboarding. We’ve been a good bit this year since we got season passes, and we’ve had fun times with friends like the Potorffs, Thomases, Simmons, Clendenins.

3. Joel had jury duty again, but he got dismissed right away. That was a relief after the terrible case he was on in Nashville.

3. We finally had our “Boo-rito” party that we won from Chipotle on Halloween. We had our small group plus some visitors over and had about 20 people in our skinny house!

3. We had a short but fun visit with Joseph while he was in town.

3. We got to hang out with the Mortons! They were in town for a youth rally, and we were able to spend two fun evenings with them.

4. My cousin Brent had a conference in town and spent the weekend with us. We had a great time snowshoeing, hiking, etc.

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 213 user reviews.