February 23, 2009

Dinner and an Eldo

On Saturday I went climbing in Eldorado Canyon with Dane, Rainbow, and Melanie. We hung out in the morning waiting for the previous night's 1-2 inches of snow to melt off the rock so we could climb. This happened quickly as it warmed up into the 50's. Eventually, Dane and I got on Long John Wall. We took turns leading 4 moderate, sustained, and very enjoyable pitches to the top. This is probably my most difficult trad climb to date, and I felt pretty good on it.

That night, I got to join Dane as his date at the annual American Alpine Club Dinner/Benefit in Golden. I thought it was great to be in a room full of old-school and new-school badasses, including the likes of Layton Kor, Johnny Copp, Conrad Anker, and Lynn Hill to name a few. Perhaps the highlight of the evening was the guest speaker, who I admittedly did not know much about prior to the event. Greg Mortenson, former dirt-bag climber and author of Three Cups of Tea, was the guest speaker. He spoke of his grassroots efforts to bring schools and education, particularly to females, in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The effort all began after a failed attempt on K2 when he returned, in very poor shape, to a local village. He was amazed at the kindness these people showed him in nursing him back to health and seems to have been trying to return the favor ever since. At any rate, I'm now going to read the book. It's a great story of how someone with very little financial means can take giant steps in making the world a better place.

February 16, 2009


Heading towards the route

wallow (verb): to flounder about; move along or proceed clumsily or with difficulty

This weekend, despite or because of the weather (I'm still not quite sure), Dane and I made an attempt at climbing Dreamweaver on Mt. Meeker in Rocky Mountain National Park.

After sleeping in the truck at the trailhead, we woke at 3:00 am and began skiing by 4:00. We skied up to treeline and then hiked across the wind-scoured open terrain above treeline, up over Chasm Lake Pass, and down to Chasm Lake. This part of the journey went pretty smoothly, arriving at the lake before 8:00. The entire hike up to this point was cold and a bit windy and snowy.

Dane doing a superb job of wallowing

As we headed up from the lake to the base of the climb, we encountered deep snow and swirling spindrift that seemed to envelope everything. We made painfully slow progress for the next 2 or 3 hours. Dane broke trail for most of this stretch and only complained about his arms being tired from all the swimming. Eventually, after much wallowing, we arrived at the base of Dreamweaver couloir. We knew we had arrived when the gully we were hiking up narrowed to about the width of a body and steepened dramatically. We had optimistically hoped that the snow wouldn't be as deep on the steeper terrain. Hope was not enough.

Dane at the base of the climb

We had also hoped that the deep, narrow couloir would block the wind. Instead, the wind swirled and eddied all around us as it carried fine-grained snow that coated everything it touched.

Dane made an honest attempt at leading the first pitch of the climb. He made slow but steady progress up the slippery rock covered in a few feet of snow. After progressing about 50 feet in 45 minutes, we both decided we were in a loosing battle and opted to back off the route and return to the car.

After a hasty retreat (notice the eyebrows)

Returning back over the pass from Chasm Lake

Dreamweaver is a classic spring climb and only occasionally done in the winter. Had we not endured a recent snow storm, I think the route would have been doable. Nonetheless, we were fully engaged in Type 2 fun for a good, long day in the mountains. Every time one does something like this, one's ability to suffer increases and priceless alpine experiences are gained.

February 09, 2009


I made it down to the San Juan Mountains for the second weekend in a row. This time, I went with Keith, Dane, Rachel, and Rainbow to Ouray, CO, which is known for its ice climbing. The ice that makes the town famous is not quite naturally forming. Pipes transport water along the top edge of the shady side of a cliff leading down into a narrow river canyon. This pipe has spigots every few feet. At 4:00 pm every below-freezing weekday, the town turns the water on and more ice forms. This strategy for attracting tourists has been so successful, I'm surprised more towns have not tried to employ it.

We spent all of Friday ice climbing in the park.

We spent Saturday backcountry skiing on Red Mountain Pass, a few miles above town.

Indecisively, we spent the first half of Sunday backcountry skiing at the same local as the previous day, and the latter half ice climbing in the park prior to driving home.

Dane leading a climb in the South Park area (yes, all the climbs here are named after South Park episodes and characters)

Keith in The Schoolroom

Dane in The Schoolroom

More of Dane gettin' his learn on in The Schoolroom

This was a fun, steep, and pumpy one

Rainbow in the snow on "Pic o' the Vic"

I think I'd turn in to a good ice climber if I lived in Ouray for a winter. MORE PHOTOS

February 08, 2009

skate ski

Last weekend, I went skate skiing with a couple friends at Snow Mountain Ranch (just north of Winter Park ski area). Trail passes for the day were $15. But if you got a lesson, passes were free. And lessons were free that day. So, we decided to take a lesson. I have been skate skiing for over 4 years, but have never taken an official lesson. I learned a ton and really improved my technique.

Now I can't wait to xc ski with Josh. A couple weeks ago, he was able to stay ahead of me .... I am ready to make sure that doesn't happen again.

February 01, 2009

San Juan Winter 14ers

Noticing that yet another nice weekend was in store, I made plans to climb two fourteeners in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado. The crux of this trip turned out to be finding a climbing partner on short notice. Ryan pulled through. After leaving work at lunch to go home and pack, he was ready to leave at 3:00 and we drove to Lake City.

We planned to climb the east ridge of Sunshine Peak, which carries the distinction of being the lowest 14er in the US at 14,001 feet. After reaching Sunshine's summit, we planned to traverse the 1.3-mile ridge between Sunshine Peak and Redcloud Peak, followed by a ski descent.

The first part of our journey required us to gain the east ridge, which meant 2,500 vertical feet of steep scrambling/bushwhacking amongst a menagerie of small cliffs. Most of our energy for the entire day was exerted on this portion of the climb. Once on the ridge and above the trees, we caught the first glimpse of the mountains we were aiming for.

Sunshine Peak - the East Ridge route gains the false summit on the right before continuing up to the true summit. Redcloud Peak is out of view to the right. Yes, the sky really was that blue.

The strenuous first part of the climb brought Ryan to abandon the original plan of climbing both peaks. At about 13,000 feet on Sunshine's east ridge, Ryan and I split up. He intended to take his time and enjoy the rest of the climb on Sunshine before retracing the route. I shifted into high gear in attempt to summit Sunshine, ski down to the saddle between Sunshine and Redcloud, hike up to Redcloud and back to the saddle, and ski from the saddle down to treeline where Ryan and I would once again meet up.

Thanks to the weather, this revamped plan worked out, and Ryan beat me to our meeting spot by about 2 minutes.

Looking down Sunshine's East Ridge from the summit

The beautiful San Juans, with Uncompagre Peak on the right and Wetterhorn on the left

Redcloud Peak from the top of Sunshine Peak

The second leg of my ski descent started at the saddle, just left of center

The distance between the two peaks seemed like a long 1.3 miles, perhaps because I was trying to hurry. The ski descent was wind packed, variable, fast, and fun. Most importantly, it was a great way to avoid walking down the mountain.

Overall it was a nice 10 to 11 hour hike and a great way to end January. The weather was spectacular, and we literally didn't see a cloud the entire day. We spent the previous night on the new bed in the back of the 4-Runner, which exceeded all my expectations. It's weekends like this that make the ensuing work week seem all the more drab.