May 26, 2008

A Trio of 14ers

Ashley, Ryan (coworker) and I left after work on Friday with the ambitious plan of hiking three 14,000 foot peaks, all in close proximity. On Friday night, we backpacked in to the northern end of Missouri Basin. It was here that we would camp and launch or campaign to summit Missouri Mountain, Mt. Belford, and Mt. Oxford over the next two days.

Our campsite at about 11,000 feet

Saturday morning we woke up leisurely, melted snow to make water, and set off up the basin to try our luck on Missouri Mountain.

Ashley skinning up Missouri Basin

The further we went, the windier and snowier it became. Around half way up, Ashley decided to turn around due to weather and terrain concerns while Ryan and I decided to persevere. About an hour and a half later, and after negotiating some steeper sections near the top, we had reached the summit. It had been snowing lightly since about the time we parted ways with Ashley.

Ryan on top of Missouri Mountain

Somehow, I convinced Ryan to hike down the couloir I wanted to ski (Ryan was on snowshoes and didn't have skis). The snow conditions permitted a ski descent from the summit all the way back to our camp. The few inches of fresh snow in the couloir made for a tremendous late May surprise and excellent skiing! In the photo below, you can make out Ryan's more or less straight line descent with my ski tracks being the furthest to the left.

Our tracks coming down Missouri Mountain's 'C' Couloir

We decided to head back to camp and wait to attempt Belford and Oxford the following day.

We got moving a couple hours earlier on Sunday morning than we did the previous day in hopes that we could summit Belford and Oxford and return to camp in time to pack up and hike out before the snow got too soft. From our camp, the route up Belford was short and direct, gaining about 3200 feet. Ashley and I sent Snowshoe Ryan on the standard trial, which followed the ridge just above the gully that we skied up. We were able to ski to within about 50 feet of the rocky summit, which was an unexpected surprise as most of the snow-filled gully was hidden from below. Ryan reached the summit about 5 minutes before Ashley and I arrived.

Ashley nearing the top of Mt. Belford

From Mt. Belford's summit, Mt. Oxford lies about 1 mile away. A gracious ridge links the two with a saddle elevation of about 13,500 feet, so traveling from one to the other is easy relative to climbing an entirely separate mountain. Although there were less clouds this day and it wasn't snowing, the wind was vicious. The price we had to pay for the handy ridge linking the two summits was a steady 35 mile an hour wind with balance-destroying gusts.

Ashley traversing from Mt. Belford to Mt. Oxford

We successfully made it to the summit of Oxford in spite of the wind. The bad news (and we already knew this) was that the easiest way back to camp was to reverse the ridge, re-summit Belford, and descend Belford to camp. The retreat seemed even windier than the original traverse. Despite the names of these two mountains, more Missouri was encountered on that traverse than anything the previous day.

While Ryan continued hiking and glissading down from the summit of Belford, Ashley and I put on our skis and began (for me) the second ski descent of a 14er in as many days. Without the fresh snow, the skiing was not quite as good as the previous day, but it sure beat walking down!

Dealing with various degrees of exhaustion and altitude sickness, we spent some time recovering at the tent before packing it up and hiking back to the car.

May 20, 2008

Quote of the Day

While reading Yvon Chouinard's "Let My People Go Surfing" last night, I ran across this quote that grabbed my attention:

"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always seems to be doing both."

- François Auguste René Chateaubriand

I couldn't agree more, and I hope to someday master the art of living.

May 19, 2008


Capitalizing on the terrific but all-too-short spring ski season, Andy, Keith and I climbed up and skied down Mt. Audubon in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. We left our car on bikes at 4 am in attempt to reach the summit and begin skiing down before the snow softened up too much. We biked up the gate-closed road for a mile or so before encountering enough snow that skiing became the preferred method of travel. We then skied towards and up the southeast ridge of Mt. Audubon until the terrain became 'unskiable'.

Traversing some of the 'unskiable' terrain

Shortly after this section we encountered some steeper snow slopes which lead to the broad and much flatter summit plateau.

Keith booting up the steep snow

About 200 yards beyond the summit, we began our ski descent down the Crooked Couloir. The snow was slightly icy in the top of the couloir, but softened up considerably near the bottom, suggesting that we hit the timing just about right for the ski descent. The couloir maintained a steady pitch, which I measured at 42 degrees, for nearly 2000 vertical feet.

Me cruising on the mellower slopes below the couloir

After skiing the rest of the way out the valley, we eventually made it back to our bikes and rode back to the car, making for an 8 hour round trip.

Keith, fully loaded, riding his cruiser (I think this get-up is worthy of a Patagonia add)

Needless to say, I had a blast during this bike-climb-ski escapade. The only thing better than engaging in one of my favorite activities is to engage in many of my favorite activities! The Crooked Couloir is just one of many classic ski descents in the Indian Peaks, and I look forward to doing some more this spring - especially after the road opens and the approach isn't so long.

May 15, 2008


My parents came to visit last week and we wanted to leave Boulder over the weekend to avoid the CU graduation craziness. On previous visits, my parents have seen a majority of the cool places in Colorado, so we decided to head out of state to Utah this trip. We left for Moab Friday morning and returned late Sunday night.

Near Fisher Towers on the drive out.

Josh and I brought mountain bikes because it seemed like a shame to travel to Moab without them. Saturday morning we rode one of my favorite rides from the last visit to Moab, Klondike Bluffs. This ride combines slick rock, relatively gradual up-hills, and views at the top to get my seal of approval.

Supposed dino track on Klondike Bluffs ride.

After we returned from our ride, we headed to Arches with my parents. It was a crowded weekend, but the weather was nice and for the most part we got pictures of the arches without strangers in them.

Delicate Arch (with non-strangers)

The family at Arches

Josh airborne with Double Arch in the background.

On Sunday morning, Josh got to pick the bike ride. He chose the famous Slick Rock bike trail, which was more technical and to his liking. I was pretty sure I would break an arm, but finished with all bones intact.

Josh styling an uphill.

Ashley trying not to break any bones.

We then headed up to Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands National Park.

The Colorado River from Dead Horse Point

The Green River from Canyonlands

I think by the end we were all pretty tired of seeing arches and canyons. Overall the trip was great and we packed a lot into three days. It was good to have my parents in town and I am glad we got to travel somewhere they hadn't been before.

May 13, 2008

Flagstaff Monday

About a month ago, Josh and I started a tradition of biking up Flagstaff Mountain on Monday evenings. This is the best hill ride close to our house and good for quick ride after work. I usually turn around at the amphitheater for a total ride time of a little over an hour. However, Josh sometimes continues up to the true Flagstaff summit for an extra steep climb. Keith joined us yesterday and we hope to get a group together for this ride throughout the summer. Also, my parents were in town, so we have some rare photographic evidence of this event.

Keith leading the pack up the lower steep section



At the top

May 04, 2008

Tour de Rocky Mountain National Park

Yesterday I went with Chris and Andy on a beautiful tour of the high country in Rocky Mountain National Park. We first climbed up a ridge to the less-than-impressive summit of Flattop Mountain. Although there wasn't much of a summit, the south side of the ridge was quite impressive with several steep and skiable couloirs dropping from its crest. Early in the morning, we were fortunate to see a few animals braving the altitude and cold weather, which gave me a chance to practice my wildlife photography.

Camp Robber

Well Camouflaged Ptarmigan

From the summit of Flattop Mountain, we hiked along the continental divide, above the Tyndall Glacier, until we reached the summit of Hallett Peak. The weather was beautiful all day, and we were perfectly content to linger on the summit a while, enjoy the view, and ogle at all the great rock and alpine routes that were visible from our vantage point.

From here we proceeded to ski down the south face of Hallett Peak (we had come from the north), dropping into Chaos Canyon, the area where Chris and I had skied the previous weekend. The top of the mountain contained some surprisingly nice snow on moderate pitches.

Me throwing some snow near the top of Hallett Peak

After the opening moderate pitch, we rounded a corner where the only way down was to ski, more or less, below a monstrosity of a cornice.

Cornice looming over the top of our ski run

Thankfully, the cornice didn't try to eat any of us as we took turns skiing this slope, which varied from classic corn snow to windblown powder.

Andy Giving some Perspective to the Cornice

Lower on the mountain, where the snow melt was a little more pronounced, there were several obstacles with which to contend. I decided to jump over this one, and Andy miraculously captured this photo documentation.

Airing off a small and poorly covered rock

Not to be outdone, Andy decided to go for a little air of his own on the next section of skiing. I was unable to get any footage of the ensuing event, so I'll have to describe it. Skiing down some hard packed corn, Andy sized up an air off of a wind sculpted feature. He executed it nicely, only to land in about 2 feet of packed, windblown snow. As this was quite unexpected, Andy quickly performed an advanced face plant that stopped all forward progress. Upon pulling his head out of the snow bank, he looked . . . well . . . see the picture below.

Andy's Dorsal Fin

We proceeded down the rest of the valley in high spirits. We intended to do a repeat of ski descent of Otis Redding Couloir from the previous weekend, but by the time we reached the bottom of the couloir, the snow conditions were becoming suspect due to the recent snowfall and the fact that it was warming up dramatically. We decided not to ski Otis and proceeded to tour back to the parking lot - a wise decision based on the snow conditions we encountered on the way back.

Today Ashley and I went for a mountain bike ride where we did three laps on the Betasso Preserve Loop. Despite the copious amounts of tourists, we managed not to run anyone over and made it out with only minor scrapes and bruises.