Lake Isabelle

Lake Isabelle

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.

Pictures:

http://s147.photobucket.com/albums/r296/jeffvalliere/2009_03_01_Pikes/