Monday, January 5, 2009

Sunday, 1/04/09 Decalibron

Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln and Bross
~12 miles
~4,600 vertical
Jeff Valliere and John Prater

John called me on Saturday to see if I wanted to get out for a high peak or four on Sunday. The weather report looked a bit cold, but doesn’t it always look cold in winter? What else would one expect? He suggested Decalibron, as he had come across some recent info that snowshoes would not be necessary and that was all I needed to hear to sell me on the trip.The drive to the TH was slow on snowy/icy roads and we kept close tabs on the temperature readings…. 1, -8, -14 etc… but at least there was no wind.

Once over Hoosier Pass, there was barely a trace of fresh snow and the temperature slowly climbed to a relatively balmy +1 degree at the winter TH near Paris Mill.Progress along the Kite Lake Road to Kite Lake was no problem without snowshoes as what little snow remained, was nice solid crust that held our weight for the most part. Though cold, we were dressed right and we were very thankful that there was no wind, sure that the banshees were busy elsewhere, harassing Ken on another peak somewhere in the Sawatch perhaps?

After a brief bio stop at the Nolan Warming Hut (sorry Ken, I had no choice ), we made our way up toward the Democrat/Cameron saddle. Eventually, once the slopes steepened, progress was complicated by variable snow, one step might glance off bulletproof crust, the next would be a knee deep wallow. Generally conditions were reasonable, but as I neared the saddle, I started to bonk a bit and was not too keen on stopping to eat, as the wind was picking up and I was hoping to find a more sheltered spot to stop. We plugged along up the steep, loose and snowy rocks, where I was getting mildly annoyed with the crappy conditions and slow going. I assumed that we were getting close to the top, but a view of the true summit, surprisingly far away, almost had me turning tail.

I slowly plodded my way to the false summit, where I stopped to put on a shell, goggles and mittens, but it was now very cold and my hands went numb as a result of my fumbling around with bare hands. I blew off eating and went chasing after John toward the true summit of Democrat where our stay was brief. Soon, we were skittering down the snowy talus to the saddle and quickly found a somewhat sheltered spot to eat as we started up Cameron.I was completely running on empty at this point, but I managed to force down some Chicken Tortilla soup, Heed, Clif Shot Bloks and vitamin I for my now pounding headache. John seemed to be feeling great and maintained a one sided conversation as I could hardly muster a response. Part of me wanted to bail here, but this break provided me with just enough to keep plugging along, “one foot in front of the other” I kept telling myself.

The trip up Cameron was windy and cold, but not horrible, as the trail conditions were mostly good with minimal trail breaking. The winds increased significantly on Cameron, but fortunately, we found a bit of a lull on the way to Lincoln, where we added more layers (a Masque for me and a shell for John). The out and back to Lincoln went quick as expected, then after another short break, we settled in for the long walk over to Bross. Although I had managed to get down some food and drink, I was still not feeling all that great and was just kind of cruising on autopilot, in my own sealed cocoon, beneath all the constrictive layers. The winds on the way to Bross continued to increase and were at moments, gusting to raging banshee level. Fortunately, I had my warmest clothing on where I managed to hide all skin and still had no goggle fogging issues. I think the wind helped with this, along with deliberate forced exhalations. We passed a few signs along the way, but like Ken, could not totally make out what they said .

Relieved to crest our final peak for the day, we did not linger for more than a few minutes and started down the standard route as the wind in my face threatened to rip off my goggles. At first, the trail was mostly windswept and dry which made for efficient travel, but as we descended and rounded the corner, the snow on the trail increased and made for all kinds of slips and slides as it concealed ice, rocks and anything else that made an ankle twist or a foot slip. Progress became painfully slow and my wrists were aching from using my poles to remain upright.After many slips, slides and near crashes, we were relieved to finally arrive at the Kite Lake Road, where the remainder of the hike would be a cruise.

The wind had mostly subsided at the lower elevations, but with the waning daylight, it was still cold, so we opted to not shed layers and just cruised back to the car without stopping.Although I felt really low on energy today and developed a splitting headache, I still had a great time and felt a sense of satisfaction to get in a few new winter 14ers. Although cold and windy up high, it was not as bad as we had expected and certainly could have been a lot worse. As always, it was great getting out with John and I owe him for pushing me along for much of the day and getting my lazy/wimpy a$$ out in the high mountains.

Rough time splits:

Depart from Paris Mill: 8:15am
Kite Lake: 9:20am
Democrat: 11:20am-ish
Cameron: 12:40pm?
Lincoln: 12:55pm
Bross: 1:40pm
Finish: 3:15pm