Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday, 03/29/09 Bear Peak

After slogging in deep and unconsolidated snow the past 2 days and not having pushed myself very hard more than once or twice in the past few months, I was itching to get in a hard run on Bear Peak, where I had hoped the trail was setting up nicely from the weekend foot traffic and warm/cold temperatures.

Started off at a brisk pace and was sucking wind a bit, but generally feeling good, all things considered. With some slipping and sliding, I topped out from the Cragmoor cutoff in about 3 minutes.

The trip up the Shanahan trail was somewhat better, hard packed snow that was quickly melting in the warm sun. Made the Mesa trail in 10:48, not quite PR pace, but surprisingly close given the conditons.

From Mesa to the Slab, footing was tricky, with 3+ inch deep frozen footprints from the day before to negotiate. Passed the Slab in the high 15’s, not great, but I was still feeling good, so I pressed on at a hard pace.

The trip to the saddle was pretty smooth, footing was good and I mainly power hiked, but ran when I could. Made the saddle in 29:??, then just went into hands on knees hiking mode the remainder of the way. The trail conditions worsened a bit, mainly just a consequence of the steepness which ensured a certain amount of slippage with every toe off. Made the summit post in 45:37, then 30 more seconds to the true summit.

Conditions were really slick back to the saddle, so I took that easy and even so, managed to get out of control a few times, but managed to keep from falling. Went fairly quick the remainder of the run, but the snow was really softening and turning to slippy and unpredictable slush, so did not press too hard as to not have any mishaps.

Finished the run in 1:13:07 and felt pretty good about it all things considered. I have a ways to go to regain the fitness I am looking for, but it is still early in the year and the trails are a mess.


10:48 mesa
15:?? slab
29:?? saddle
45:37 summit post
46:07 summit
54:?? saddle
1:13:07 finish a cragmoor

Saturday, 03/28/09 Bear Peak

Headed up Bear again today with Allison and Sierra. The trail was packed much better than the previous day (we at least had faint tracks to follow from the previous day’s wallow fest) and we made good time up to the saddle. From the saddle to the summit, the overnight winds eroded our previous days work and at times the snow drifts were knee to waist deep, but compared to the previous day, it was a cake walk. We made the summit in 1:30, lounged for 15-20 and then took our time heading down, just enjoyed an all around great day, arriving back at the car after 3 hours total.

Took some pictures along the way, which is rare for me, but the new snow made picture taking a must today:

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday, 3/27/09 Bear Peak

Scott, Sierra and I got out for a great snow swim up Bear Peak today from the Cragmoor TH. The trail started off nice and packed to the Mesa Trail, but from there to the Fern Canyon, there was no track, then a ski track for a very short ways up Fern.

Not sure what the official storm total for Boulder was, maybe ~18 inches, but there was certainly more on Bear Peak. When trailbreaking, the snow was never less then knee deep, was waist deep in places where it was steepest and armpit deep at the base of the Slab where all the spindrift collects.

The steep trudge up Fern was a challenge as it was like swimming in spots and you never really knew exactly what you were stepping on. Things became a little easier above the saddle, as Scott's trail from the previous day revealed itself somewhat, but it was still a slog. Made the true summit after 1:54, hung out on top for a while then went down in an hour and a few minutes taking it pretty easy. Never went too hard, although just breaking trail the entire way was a challenge in and of itself.

Sierra had a blast as always, a big smile on her face the entire time and by the end had a nice collection of snowballs firmly embedded to her chest.

We wore Kahtoola crampons, but all they did was ball up, then were a nuisance on the descent, so we took them off. A warm day or two, plus a few more passes on the trail, it should set up pretty nice.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Utah Fun

Little Wild Horse Canyon, Bell Canyon, Dang/Ding Canyons, Crack Canyon
March 20-23rd, 2009
Jeff and Allison Valliere, Dave and Emily Hale, Sierra, Shep and Kiefer

We had been planning to head to the desert for over a month. Looking for canyons that were doggy friendly and did not require gear, we settled on the Goblin Valley area, as I had gone there with my Dad and Sierra back in October and knew it would fit the bill.

Saturday morning, 3/21/09, LWH/Bell Canyons

After a peaceful night in our quiet campsite, we arose to a nice calm morning. It was great to get up, have it be reasonably warm and not be in a big hurry. One of the reasons I picked this general area was because I assumed it to be not too popular, but it being Spring break, the entire area was teeming with scouts and families. I could not believe how many people were driving in the previous evening and finding a camp spot took a bit more searching than I had anticipated.

We got on the trail at 8:45am and headed up LWH canyon first. The morning was sunny, calm and warm and we were all taking it easy and having a great time. The dogs were having as good or better of a time than we were and it was fun watching them cavort and explore.

We passed the occasional large group of scouts, but fortunately, most of them seemed to be heading in the opposite direction and exposure was minimal. Many of the scouts looked a bit worn out and I was surprised that many seemed to be under prepared.

All of the obstacles (though minimal) seemed to be much easier on this trip. Sierra seemed to remember all the moves and cruised it all with ease. Shep followed Sierra, but little Kiefer was very new to exposure and jumping off rocks, so he needed a bit of assistance from time to time. It was fun to watch him try to overcome his fears and learn new tricks.

Saturday afternoon, 3/21/09 Dang/Ding Canyons

We had a leisurely lunch back at camp and then mobilized for a bit of Ding/Dang exploration. It was advertised as being difficult enough to keep the riff raff at bay, but not on this day. There were about 25+ cars at the TH, more scouts of course, people with dogs, kids etc….

We decided to take the route in reverse, as it was the quickest way to encounter the more difficult obstacles. The canyon narrowed significantly and after a bit of work, we got the dogs past the first chockstone, but this was still not one of the significant obstacles. A huge crowd passed and we made a quick preview of the first significant obstacles and as expected, it would be too much to get the dogs up.

Dave and Allison volunteered to continue the loop in the opposite direction, while Emily and I continued up Dang Canyon and we would meet in the middle. The climbing up Dang Canyon turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip, as it was a great time working our way through these problems.

Emily and I helped one another through each of the cruxes and this generally worked great, except for one large overhanging chockstone that I just could not make it past. I boosted Emily up, her using my extended hands as a step, but with nobody below me, I could not quite make it. As I was doing my best to solve the problem and on the verge of admitting defeat, a couple approached on their descent and the guy hopped down and helped me up as I had helped Emily. I returned the favor by assisting his dog and wife over the drop. A perfect trade.

After the hardest obstacles, there were a few more interesting spots, but they either had a bypass or a rope and we were having an awesome time. All too soon, the canyon ended, we made the short crossover to Ding and soon met up with Dave, Allison and the dogs.
We took our time descending, helping Kiefer down over the drops, while Sierra and Shep made easy work of the rocks.

The walk back out to the trailhead seemed long through the stinking desert (I think the smells originated from Dave and I) and we were the last car there for the day.

Sunday, 3/22/09, Crack Canyon

Headed to Crack Canyon on our way to Moab and spent a few hours exploring. It was windy as a weather front was moving through and we all had our eyes pasted with dirt. When we got to the drop that thwarted our efforts back in October with my dad, I went back up canyon for a ways and investigated some cairns we spotted earlier, and sure enough, there was a nice bypass for the dogs. We were able to head down canyon for another mile or so through some interesting rocks on the canyon floor and another great section of deep narrows before the canyon opened back up again.

Heading into the last set of narrows, Allison and Emily were a bit ahead as Dave and I were taking our time for photos. I heard some crashing rocks and in a split second, Dave and I were in full sprint yelling to the wives to “RUNNN!!!!!!” We both saw the same cloud of dust high on the wall in sync with the racket of falling rock and were not sure how big the rocks were or how much was coming down. React first, assess later is my motto. Fortunately, the rocks landed on a bench and did not make it to the valley floor. If they had gone all the way, they would have landed very near where we had just passed seconds earlier. As Roach says, “Geologic time is now”. This was a bit spooky and really got the adrenaline spiked.

The trip back was uneventful, aside from the dark clouds up-drainage, but it was not yet producing any precipitation.

Monday, 3/23/09, Moab

After a restful night sleep at La Quinta in Moab and an awesome pizza buffet at Zax, we decided to go our separate ways before we headed home. Dave and Emily headed to Arches, while Allison and I left Sierra in the room and spent the morning running (she was tired and her paws were a little sore from the sandstone canyons).

We went down Kane Creek road and parked in the large lot where people gear up for Amassa Back, Hurrah Pass and Prichett Canyon. We took Jackson’s Trail along the Colorado river and up to the top of the mesa to intersect with the Amassa Back trail. The views here were awesome and we had the place to ourselves.

After returning to the car, we had a bit of time to spare and headed into Pritchett Canyon. Tight on time, we again jogged, stopping often to take pictures and take in the scenery. It was so tough to turn around, as I was itching to peek around every corner, but checkout time at the hotel was looming and we had a long drive ahead to get home.

The trip home was complicated by a Spring storm that had closed Vail Pass. Dave and Emily gave us a heads up and we decided to take Tennessee Pass to Leadville. This worked great and we debated heading South to BV on dry roads, or heading over Fremont and back into the storm. From Fremont Pass to Bakerville, the roads were terrible, but there was no traffic on I-70 which made things less stressful. We were happy to make it home by 8:30pm, after 8:15 in the car.


Longs Peak, the full version.

Longs Peak
20 miles
7,500 vertical
Start: Glacier Gorge TH 6:50am
Finish: Longs Peak TH 6:50pm
Jeff Valliere and Tim Long

For years I have considered a winter climb of Longs, but for whatever reasons I kept putting it off, perhaps a bit apprehensive as to whether or not I would be up for the task. Since Kevin Baker’s February climb, the thought of getting around to it this winter in the lean snow conditions seemed increasingly appealing. Several more recent trip reports found in various places on the internet indicated that the Trough was in good condition and that the much feared (feared by me when imagining typical winter conditions) Narrows and Homestretch were mostly dry.

Now all I needed was a partner. I considered going solo, but that idea was quickly shot down by Allison. I sent a few invites, hoping to coax somebody into joining me on a Thursday, the last day I had available for the winter 2008/2009 season. Dan Mottinger was interested, but could not make it and Tim Long, a good running friend of mine immediately bit, eager to climb his 2nd 14er ever and stand atop his namesake peak.

I was a bit apprehensive at first to take Tim along and warned him of what the climb entailed after we discussed his previous experience. Even after he read up on what he was getting himself into, he assured me that he was eager to give it a try and had no problem with exposure.

I picked up Tim at his house in Boulder at 5:15am and we made good time to the Glacier Gorge TH. After futzing around getting ready for a bit, we were on the trail at 6:50am, just as it was getting light. The trail was packed and I felt great. I kept my pace in check, as to not get too far ahead of Tim, but was really itching to go super fast on the approach, as I was eager to get to the mountain. We were still going a pretty good speed however, power hiking when necessary and jogging when practical.

Just beyond the N. Longs Peak Trail jct., we pass two ice climbers headed to Black Lake. We exchange pleasantries, take a few photos and continue on. We soon reach the junction for Emerald Lake and this was familiar territory for me, having come here several times in the summer over the past 12 years. Just beyond this junction, there was a split in the well packed trail and a bridge to the left, but no sign at this junction. Having read about various shortcuts and having seen random snowshoe tracks through the woods, I dismissed this and kept on heading up the more obvious trail.

After five minutes or so, I was having sneaking suspicions that turned to serious doubts, sure that we were going in the wrong direction. I told Tim that we should turn back and go investigate that previous junction a little better. Soon after turning around, about half the distance back to the junction, we bump into the ice climbers that we had previously passed and I told them that I thought we were heading the wrong way. They expressed their doubts and the maps and compasses came whipping out.

I considered bringing my GPS along on the trip, but what for?? How hard could it be? I had been to Black Lake before, RMNP has well signed trails and I typically take pride in my natural ability to find my way.

My gut feeling insisted that I was correct in my assessment that we had missed a key turn and looking at the maps bolstered my suspicions, but one of the ice climbers said “see, the compass indicates that we are heading South, not West”. This was just enough to second guess my second guess and we started heading back up the trail.

We soon arrived at The Loch and tried to convince myself that it was indeed Mills Lake, but I was still skeptical, as the view did not seem to match what I remember from my summer hike to Mills and Black Lake 10 years ago. With my mental compass spinning, I walked across the lake, feigning confidence for Tim’s sake, trying to convince him and myself that we were on the track to Black Lake. The trail was more intermittent than I expected and we ended up post holing a bit, as we opted not to bring snowshoes as I was sure there would be a packed track.

Hmmm…. This headwall seems a bit steeper than I remember and we are getting above tree line which is not right. I still can’t see Longs yet either which is a bit disconcerting. As soon as I saw the lake, I knew I had screwed up. I again busted out the map and realized for sure that we were standing on Glass Lake. I cursed myself and apologized to Tim. He was very easy going about it and I scrambled to come up with plan B. Climb Taylor, Powell or McHenrys from here? That seemed unlikely, given the terrain, my lack of familiarity with these peaks and the fact that now nobody knew where we were in case anything happened.

We decided to head back to the unmarked junction where my alarm bells went off and just hike up to Black Lake and see how that went. The whole time I was cursing myself for my stupid mistake, cursing the Park Service for not marking the junction and lamenting the fact that I just made a dumb navigational mistake that threatened our summit bid.

It should not have been that big of a deal, we probably only lost 90 minutes or so, but we both had dogs to get home to, I a wife expecting me and afternoon obligations. We arrived at Black Lake a bit after 10am and took a long break to eat and discuss our options. We both agreed that with the perfect weather, it would be a shame to turn back now. Despite the 90 minute detour and unnecessary extra credit post holing to Glass Lake, I still felt quite fresh, but I could tell that Tim was starting to feel it a bit.

In the back of my mind, I knew that we should just turn around, as bad days typically start off with one small mistake, which compounds with more consequential mistakes. As is usually the case with many people in similar circumstances, I let summit fever get the best of me and in the back of my mind, I knew that I was going to let nothing get in the way of this unique opportunity to climb Longs in winter under such perfect conditions.

Although Tim was tiring, his attitude was ever positive and optimistic and he soon indicated that he too really wanted to summit. We geared up at the base of the Trough and began the climb. I have been on much steeper snow, but with the hardness of the snow and the fact that the Trough doglegs and ends with a small cliff band, I was starting to debate whether or not I wanted to descend this way. Tim was climbing strong and seemed confident on the snow, I was quite impressed.

I asked Tim how he felt about descending the snow and he eagerly wanted to glissade it, but that option made me a bit nervous. He may have been fine, but even with the relative technical insignificance the Trough presents, I just did not feel as though it would be the best introduction to glissading. To further complicate matters, instead of wearing true crampons, I opted to wear my Kahtoola running crampons to save weight. I am also a notoriously reluctant glissader, having witnessed several accidents and the prospect of a glissade, although very appealing to some, just was not in the cards for me.

Progress on the upper stretch of the Trough became slow with the variable snow, but eventually we made it to the chockstone. Knowing the route above was dry, we stashed our technical gear here and I climbed my usual way around on climber left. Although the moves were a bit spicier with a little snow, it presented minimal difficulty and I waited at the top of the crux for Tim. As I was waiting, the wind picked up and I really needed to eat. I ducked around the corner to the start of the Narrows to escape the wind and refuel for the final stretch.

I waited for what seemed to be too long and I peeked around the corner to see what was taking Tim so long. He eventually appeared, his fleece covered with snow and he was moving very tentatively. He then informed me that he had taken a fall while attempting the crux move. From here on, the day got a bit more serious.

Concerned for Tim, I assessed his condition. He seemed nervous and rattled and informed me that he had twisted his knee and hit his calf on a rock when he fell 5 feet backwards but was otherwise OK. I told him we could turn at that point if he wanted, but he insisted that he was up to the task and wanted to continue on.

We tentatively picked our way across the Narrows. There was no significant snow to speak of, but there were some small patches that were tough to avoid and were just enough to wet the shoes and make footing a bit slick, requiring a good bit of extra care. The Homestretch was also mostly dry, but like the Narrows a few small patches of snow lingered and were just enough to wet the shoes and make things slick in spots.

We made the summit at around 1:50pm and I just wanted to get Tim down safely. I placed a quick call to Allison at work to let her know we made the summit and started to inform her of my plan to take an alternate route down, but then the call was dropped.

Even though Tim was doing great and was elated to have made the summit, I was feeling bad that I had put him through this, somewhat worried that I may have gotten him in over his head, at least a bit too much too soon. His fall and subsequent weakness of his leg had me further second guessing a descent of the Trough. Having run into a few climbers who had ascended from the Keyhole, they reported good conditions and I figured that might be a reasonable alternative, to get to easier ground more quickly and then cruise back to the TH on the apparently dry North Longs Peak Trail from Granite Pass.

We cautiously picked our way down the Homestretch, which surprisingly was easier than the ascent, using the shameful but effective butt scooting technique. Who knew a puckered behind could serve as a solid 5th point of contact? The Narrows was a snap and the crux move into the Trough was easier than anticipated. We descended to the cut off to the Keyhole and started the traverse. Before long, we came to a very steep, bulletproof snowfield we had to traverse. With full crampons, Tim easily made his way across, but with my stubby spikes, I slowly and carefully picked my way across inches at a time, as a fall here would be bad news.

The going to the Keyhole was slower than anticipated and I could tell that Tim was getting frustrated and I was now lamenting that it may have just been easier to descend the Trough after all. The Keyhole was a welcome sight and from here on I was sure it would be a quick and easy cruise to the car. Again, progress was slowed by Tim’s injured leg, but we were still doing OK and I was thankful that it was not worse. As we neared Granite Pass, I figured we could drop down the hillside and head due North and intersect the North Longs Peak Trail, saving a bit of distance.

We descended down to tree line and I was sure we would just easily traipse down the drainage, until we intersected the trail where we would be out in no time. As soon as we hit the snow in the trees, I knew we were in trouble, as it was very deep, wet, unconsolidated and we had no snowshoes. I was pissed at myself for making this mistake, on top of the last several mistakes and sure enough, just like I had talked about that morning, one mistake leads to another leads to another.

Now was the time to decide and this was my last chance to make at least one sound decision. It was 5pm and the sun was getting low. We were not lost, but with only 2.5 hours of daylight, I was not sure that it would be a good idea to try to force our way through the deep and wet snow for ~3 miles toward the car. Although very unappealing, especially to Tim who was really tiring and had a hurt leg and now aching ankle where he has screws from a previous mishap, I felt the safest option was to head 1,500+ feet back up the steep tundra slopes to Granite Pass and take the very familiar trail down to the Longs Peak TH.

It was a slog back up to the pass, especially after a long day and I kept stressing about how we would get back to my car on the opposite side of the mountain. I could not stop beating myself up for making such idiotic mistakes where I could just hear myself judging if it were somebody else. I was kicking myself for not just going down the Trough and retracing our steps, the decision seemed so recent and vivid it almost seemed within reach to alter our course. Strangely, although mentally battered, I felt fine physically and was full of energy despite not having eaten much and being low on water, but Tim was in death march mode.

I constantly tried to place a call to Allison to let her know we were OK, but I could not get good enough reception. The normally well trodden trail, split into a random network of footprints near tree line and we ended up post holing for a bit on somebody’s stupid idea of a shortcut. I knew we were on track to hit the main trail, but Tim was questioning me and why he ever joined me today, throwing in some choice words and vowing never to do winter outing again. At 6:50pm, a full 12 hours after we began, we made it to the Longs Peak TH and were relieved to be “out of the woods” so to speak.

What I had hoped would take 7-8 hours tops, took 12 hours and we were now many miles from the car and way overdue. As if on cue, a couple pulls into the lot in a rental Mustang for a quick bathroom break. I borrow their phone and their AT&T I-Phone musters up just enough power to leave a message to Allison that we are OK, but running late.

I probe a bit and find that they are visiting Estes Park from Texas and I shamelessly ask for a ride. They happily oblige and after some initial small talk, conversation stalls, the miles to the Glacier Gorge TH drag, knees stiffen in the not so roomy back seat and the sky darkens. We finally arrive at my car, creaky, hungry and parched, yet very thankful not be out in the woods for the night.

I was reluctant to even write a TR, I just wanted to stick my tail between my legs and forget about it, but a long weekend in the desert allowed me to reflect a bit and the bad feelings about the day have dulled significantly. Tim and I have discussed the lessons we learned and surprisingly, we are still friends (I was sure that he would not want anything to do with me after that wild goose chase).

It is true about what they say, one mistake leading to more mistakes. Though the initial route finding snafu only cost us 90 minutes, I think it snowballed into us (me) making hasty decisions that I may not have otherwise made had we not been pressed for time.

It was also a huge mistake to bring the wimpy crampons just to save a few ounces. When climbing Longs in winter, bring the real crampons!! What was I thinking? I’m sure Prater, Halladay, Wright would have just cruised up down in running shoes, I am just not that adept.

Although Tim is very strong, athletic, able and courageous, I would not again take a relative beginner on such a rigorous climb, especially since I myself do not feel entirely confident on such a winter climb, hence my putting off Longs for years.

This trip was certainly an eye opener for me to re-calibrate my decision making strategies. I guess if you are out there enough, you are bound to have bad days. I consider ourselves lucky that nothing worse happened despite it all and take away some valuable lessons from the experience.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday, 3/15/09 Green/Bear

Had an excellent run up Green and Bear today, it was an awesome morning to be out and I felt particularly good, at least on the ascents. Started from the Bear Creek TH and felt sluggish for the first 10 minutes or so as I was digesting breakfast and warming up. I soon started to get into a groove and focused on efficiency which soon translated into speed. All the steep sections that seemed excessively steep on Thursday, passed without notice today as I easily cruised along the trail. My splits seemed pretty good along the way, but I was still somewhat surprised to top out on Green in 49:34, a full 6 minutes faster than my last trip and it seemed sooo much easier for some reason.

After a short stop of less than a minute, I turned tail and headed back down, intending to carry on up W. Ridge to Bear, then over to S. Boulder. Along the ridge, the wind started to pick up and about then I ran into Ryan Cooper and we chatted a bit. He informed me that it was really cold up there, but how cold could it really be?

Sure enough, as I approached the summit of Bear, the wind was blowing pretty good, the temperature was cold and I was a bit chilled from my earlier efforts. I scrambled up the summit rocks, already having made the decision to skip S. Boulder, as I had no water, warm clothes and was thinking I would be better off in the long run to play it conservative for the sake of my IT band.

I slowly made the trip down Fern, going a pretty tentative pace, always aware of the IT, but it did not hurt too bad, and did not hurt at all once I got to less steep terrain which was encouraging, so I was able to cruise out faster than I have been able to run for some time.


Bear Creek TH: 0
Mesa Trail: 9:52
Start Bear Creek Trail: 13:25
W. Ridge Jct.: 34:19
Green Summit: 49:34
W. Ridge Jct.: 1:01
Bear Summit: 1:29
Bear Creek TH: 2:07:43

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday the 13th..... Sanitas

4.5 miles
1,700 vertical

Allison, Sierra and I got out for a fine winter afternoon stroll up Sanitas. After a nice run on Green yesterday, I was eager to up the tempo a bit, on the up at least and blow out some cobwebs. Started off fairly quick, but definitely saving a bit for the last half. Speed hiked the first steep section, ran quick tempo on the "flats" and was able to maintain a running motion most of the time, except for the steepest steps where I just power hiked through. I kept the intensity fairly high, but certainly not all out, maybe 90% at the most for a few minutes, maybe I just did not have that extra gear to go any harder anyways even if I tried. Reached the summit in 18:16. The final few minutes I was getting after it to go under 18, as it would have sounded nicer, but oh well, I was pretty happy with my time all things considered.

I walked back down to meet Allison and Sierra, as she had taken her time at the car while I went ahead. She was cruising and it was all I could do to stick with her on the finale and she topped out in 23:??. I think if she really worked at it (and was not keeping tabs on the dog), she could knock a few minutes off of this even.

We then went over to the true summit and lounged in the sun for quite some time as it was quite warm and peacful. Headed down the East ridge easily. My IT was OK, but I knew running would not be the best idea.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thursday, 3/12/09 Green Mountain

~8 miles
~2,600 vertical
55:20 up
1:50 RT

After a flatish 4 miles on Tuesday and a trip up/down Green with Allison yesterday with no pain whatsoever in my suspect IT band, I decided to take my first real run in a few weeks up Green via Bear Canyon. Since this route is one of the more gradual trails up a peak that I know of in Boulder, I figured it would be a good way to ease back into things.

I invited Tim at the last minute and as usual, he was game. It was nice to be out, but I was a bit tentative, not quite sure how my knee would hold up while hoping for the best and fearing the worst. Our "warmup" pace had me huffing it a bit. My knee was fine, but I was feeling the last month+ of erratic workouts.... easy hikes, half assed runs, days off, bike rides etc.....

Even though I thought I have maintained some fitness, I still felt sluggish as my legs, lungs and brain were all trying to get back into sync. Once in Bear Canyon, I started to get into a groove, feeling a bit better, but still not particularly good. I was careful to keep my effort at moderate and not do too much too soon, although once or twice I found myself at the high end of moderate, a few heartbeats from flirting with what I consider to be going hard and quickly backed off.

As the terrain steepened, I walked the bigger steps and just geared down for the remainder. Arrived on top in 55:20 from the car and took about a minute to take in the views and bundle up a bit. Tim was not far behind and I started gingerly picking my way down, knowing that he would quickly overtake me.

On the steeper/more technical sections of the descent, I could feel my knee talking to me a bit, nothing too bad, but I did not want to push my luck, so I alternated walking and jogging my way back out. Made it back to the TH in 1:50 total, getting down just a shade faster than I went up, so I was happy with that. All in all a great day, although I was hoping to run down a bit faster without favoring my left knee. Oh well, I am making progress.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sunday, 03/01/09 Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak
Sunday, 3/01/09
Northwest Slopes from Crags Campground
11.4 Miles RT
4,100 vertical
Jeff, Allison and Sierra Valliere, Steve Hoffmeyer, Ken Nolan, Carol Gerber, Joe Winters (and Emily Hale, Shep and Kiefer for a short part of the hike)

Flashback to August 16th, 2008. Pikes Peak Ascent, sub freezing temperatures, high winds, snow, hail, graupel, freezing rain, sleet, thunder, lightning…. In August???

Since then, I have often times remarked how that day got me prepared for the winter climbing season. Ironically, most of the winter climbs this year have been NOTHING compared to that day (although I am better dressed and often times choose my climbing days based on the weather).

Our climb of Pikes Peak on Sunday proved to be a stark contrast to that fateful (and disappointing) day last August. We had near perfect conditions with warm temperatures, minimal wind and dry ground to walk on, in fact I have had much less pleasant climbs in any of the summer months.

Allison and I have been hoping all winter to sneak in a winter ascent of Pikes and when Steve put out an invite to the Winter Warriors, we could not refuse. We started from the Crags campground at 7:32am and were able to easily walk the well packed trail to tree line without snowshoes.

The time went by fast as we all conversed about many topics (mostly mountain related of course).We took a long break at tree line, where Emily had to unfortunately turn around due to other obligations.

The six of us and Sierra continued on toward Devils Playground on mostly bare ground or packed snow. The route beyond Devils Playground only had several short patches of snow, none of which were the least bit of a hindrance. Often times, tourists driving up on the road would stop and take our picture, as if they had seen a Yeti, or Elvis. I got quite a kick out of this and occasionally waved a salute.

We made the summit at 11:27am and heading into the summit building to use the bathroom and eat. It would have been nice to eat inside, but we did not want to leave Sierra tied up, so we used one of the tables near the entrance that was nice and sheltered and relatively comfortable compared to most winter summits (although the views were less than stellar).

I had brought money, hoping to buy some French fries, but cheaped out at the last minute and stuck with just my hot soup.After a 30 or so minute break, we started down at noon. The descent was uneventful, other than my irritated IT band flaring up on the steeper sections. I think the entire hike took us just over 7 hours total at a relaxed pace with lots of stops.

The crux of the day ended up being the drive out on the iced up road from the TH to the Mennonite camp, as a car had slid off the road a bit and was blocking passage. We all go out of our cars to assist, which unfortunately resulted in Joe slipping hard enough to require a trip to the emergency room and Stevo also taking two good diggers. Conveniently, I had removed the studded snow tires from my car just 24 hours prior and instead was using my soon to be replaced worn summer tires. With the culprit car eventually out of the way, smooth, slow and careful driving saw us all through without incident.