Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Estes Park with Friends

This weekend Shelby and I made a trip to the Allenspark/Estes Park area for some time camping, hiking, and climbing with our friends Zach and Hilary. We ended up retreating to out tents from the rain a couple times, the hiking wasn't what we were expecting, and the climbing a bit humbling but all in all it was a wonderful time spent with good friends outside.

We've become used to going to less popular camping areas so we showed up around 9:00 to find that all the campgrounds were full. Thankfully a drunk old man named Chip offered us a spot next to his trailer for us to set up out tents. After an hour of shooting the breeze with Chip we hit the hay.

After a lazy start to the morning, we found a new campsite and headed over to the Brainard Lakes area for a hike. Again forgetting about the business of this part of the state, we showed up and they didn't let us passed the toll booth since there were no parking spots ahead. Instead of waiting around, we opted for a walk up the rough dirt road to Left Hand Reservoir. 

The walk up the road was pleasant and easy. At the top we were rewarded with good views and did a little exploring around the lake. We saw moose poop but sadly saw no moose. We need to get up to Alaska sometime soon!

Back at our campground, we were soon tent bound because of a storm passing through. A few card games, a short snooze, and a beer later we emerged from our shelters an went on a stroll around Lily Lake next to where we'd be climbing the next day.

After a delicious dinner of steak fajitas, we were tent bound once more and had a vicious game of Indian rat slap or whatever that game is called. This time a stream flowed beneath our tent and we were very thankful for the good waterproofing. Eventually we were able to leave the tent and spend the rest of the evening around the campfire.

The next day we headed back to the Lily Lake area for some climbing at a crag called Jurassic Park. The pictures I had seen made this crag look absolutely gorgeous and it definitely was.

We started out on Coloradoddity (5.6) which was a fun long slab with a gorgeous backdrop of Longs, Meeker, and Lily Lake. Next up was a 5.8 that was really pretty weird but somewhat fun. The crux is an odd traverse the right that forces you to skip easy rock that would follow the natural line up the rock. Kind of a weird route, but Shelby crushed it!

Our next climb would be the route that ends up on the cover photo for every guidebook in the area: Edge of Time (5.9).

(The photo we saw before coming)

We waited patiently for about 45 minutes to get on this climb. It gets 3.5 out of 4 stars and after climbing it, I think that rating is more for the beautiful formation than for the excellent climbing. Getting to the first bolt is challenging but doable. The crux is between the first and second bolts so a ground fall is entirely possible. I stood there balancing on a large edge with okay hands for a while worried about the next moves. The hands were bad, the feet were bad, and a fall would be scary here. I eventually made the first crux move and found a good finger lock which Shelby later called a jug. It wasn't enough of a jug for me when my foot slipped. I clung to the finger crack for just a second with my weight flying outward. My wonderful girlfriend made the smart, quick decision to take in the rope by moving several steps back which could have saved me from hitting the ground when my hands came off and I took a long fall onto the first bolt. I dangled there for a second scared from my fall and sore from banging my ankle and scraping my wrists and then was lowered to the ground. Spooked from my fall, I was reluctant to try again, but I felt okay so I didn't have a good excuse not to try again. This time I got the crux moves, locked my fingers in the crack and pulled up onto lower angle rock where I thankfully found my second bolt. The rest of the route was runout which normally would have been thrilling, but I was still nervous from my fall so it ended up being a bit scary for me.

We finished off our climbing day with another fun climb: Middle Toe (5.9). This was a great climb. It was long and sustained. Still being nervous, I got a bit scared at a couple points but it was certainly an enjoyable climb with a great view at the top.

I left the crag somewhat humbled for getting so scared on a couple 5.9s. I love the challenges that climbing presents, but they inevitably bring out my own insecurities and remind me that I am a very finite being.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways 
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pacific and Atlantic Peaks

Due to a slight shift in recreational interests as well as general business of life, I’m finally getting around to my first highish altitude hike of the year. Shelby rode in the Courage Classic fundraiser ride for Denver Children’s Hospital on Saturday, so I found myself in the mountains with nothing to do. I only had so much time since I wanted to get back to meet Shelby at the finish line, so that limited my options to hikes nearby the Copper area. Luckily there are all kinds of great hikes within 10 minutes! My route would start out at Mayflower Gulch, I would climb the 3rd class west ridge of Pacific Peak and then hike over to Atlantic Peak before coming back to my car along Atlantic’s more mellow west ridge.

The hike started out with a mile walk along a road that leads to the Boston Mine ruins. The standard way to do this hike is to go all the way to the end of the road and then head north to a gully between Atlantic and Mayflower Hill. But that added at least a half mile of backtracking, so I went off trail and took a shortcut across the gulch to get to the gully shown in orange above. My feet got soaked since it was boggy, but the shortcut worked pretty well. Eventually I found a faint trail that went up the gully towards the basin area where the scrambling would start.

Two men in their 50s/60s were hiking behind me and eventually caught up to me at the base of Pacific’s west ridge. They happened to be doing the same ridge as me so we talked about the route a bit and I let them go ahead of me before heading up.
Sitting at the base of the route I was reminded of how alive I feel when I am in the mountains with a big (to me) route ahead of me. The ridge looked menacing. It was steep, loose, and chaotic looking. It was going to be a challenge, but one that I was excited to figure out.

I put on my helmet and started hiking. Following the men 100 feet ahead of me I stayed to the edge of the gullies we went up or on top of a ridge crest to stay out of the way of rock fall. The route was quite loose for most of the way up. I was always looking for more solid sections that I could climb up favoring exposed ridges to crumbly scree gullies. Solid is relative of course.

Eventually we made it to the top and spent 15 minutes enjoying the summit. From here, it was a descent to the saddle between Pacific and Atlantic and then a class 2 hike up Atlantic.

Atlantic Peak from the summit of Pacific Peak
It was nice to not have to worry too much about loose rock, but the hike over to Atlantic wasn’t anything too special. I did start getting really tired part way up Atlantic though. I had to start my habit of walking 50 steps and taking a quick break before continuing. I made it to the top and the clouds were starting to form.

I munched down most of my remaining food and then started down the west ridge of Atlantic. The ridge was actually pretty cool going down. It was boulder hopping all the way down and the ridge started out narrow and widened as I went down. I would be a pretty enjoyable hike up.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a very enjoyable hike down for me because I tweaked my knee at some point near the top. So I walked with a slight limp all the way down. I got quite tired on the way down so you can imagine my sheer joy when I found a perfect snow field that I could glissade down to save 200 feet of down hiking.

At this point I got back onto an actual trail, which was very nice. I decided I would head to the Boston Mine ruins since I figured the trail would be better in that direction than my short cut. Eventually the trail disappeared and I found myself bushwacking for a quarter mile through very thick willows anyway! Luckily I was rewarded with a wonderful view of the Boston Mine ruins with the treacherous Atlantic-Fletcher traverse in the background.

The hike finished off with a mile and a half walk down the road to my car. I was completely exhausted at this point and annoyed by my knee. But I was ecstatic to have spent a day alone in the mountains on a challenging route.