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.

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