Saturday, December 31, 2011

Friday, 12/30/11 Mt. Belford 14,197

NorthWest Ridge
7 miles/4,617 vert.
4:54 Round Trip
TH:  Missouri Gulch

Partners: John "Homie" Prater, Tony Krupicka, Jeff Kunkle
Start: 8:15am
Belford Summit: 10:50am
Finish: 1:09pm

We started from the Missouri Gulch TH at 8:15am on a well packed trail, following Kunkle's tracks, as he started before us (7:15am we would later find out). It was surprisingly warm, as we were wearing just long sleeve shirts, unusual for December in the high mountains. Microspikes worked great in lieu of snowshoes, but I was carrying a well loaded pack of gear in anticipation of the predicted strong winds above and potential long day. The trail after the creek crossing became less consolidated, but still did not necessitate snowshoes and we were happy with our decision to leave them behind.

At the cabin, we took a ~5 minute break to add some layers before we stepped out of the trees.  The valley between the cabin and the NW shoulder involved some up/down and some mildly circuitous route finding to not have to post hole in the willows.

It was a little breezy at times, but nothing like I expected and was very calm compared to my attempt on Rosalie on Wednesday.  We made decent time up the hill, never pushing too hard and generally maintained a quick, but still conversational pace, with perhaps a total of 15 minutes of stops along the way for gear adjustments.  I really enjoy the NW Ridge, as it is incredibly efficient and is just the perfect climbing gradient.  With the snow and frozen tundra, we were able to bee line it directly instead of sticking to the switchbacks of the trail which I much prefer (yet would not do in the summer months).

I felt pretty good for most of the climb, until I stopped at around 13,800 feet to put on warm mittens.  I was still in the shade, getting buffeted by the now increasing winds, my fingers had gone mostly numb and the exposure to perform the swap only added to the problem, at least for the short term.  My toes were also quite cold and I regretted not wearing my insulated boots.  Leaning over to rummage around in my pack, I also noticed that I was coming down with a pretty significant headache, though I felt a bit better as I stood up and got moving again.

We made the summit at 10:50am and took a 25 minute break in the most always calm alcove (though it did not offer much protection this time).  We all added more layers before we were to head to Oxford, but as I sat there, my headache came back and I was not really able to eat or drink, even though I knew I needed it.  I waffled the entire time whether or not I was going to head over to Oxford and ultimately decided that I just simply did not feel like doing it.

I bid adieu to John and Tony as they took off to catch Kunkle who was already somewhere well on his way to Oxford, as we never caught him on the ascent.  I took my sweet time heading back down the ridge, stopping often for pictures and just to relax in the warm sun as I got lower on the mountain.  No need to hurry up and wait.

Back at the van, I relaxed and was able to eat and drink, where I immediately felt much better and was of course regretting not tagging Oxford.  Either way though, I was very satisfied with the outing and just making the summit of Belford was more than I expected going into it.

Tony made it back to the van about 20 minutes after me and Homie and Kunkle were another 15 or so minutes behind him, so they made pretty good time on the descent.

I think I did a few things wrong that contributed somewhat to me feeling a bit crappy, some things beyond my control and some within my control.

1.  I simply was not acclimated.  Aside from a short hike to ~12,200 feet on Wednesday, I have not been above 8,500 feet since the Pikes Peak Marathon in August.

2.  My fitness is really lacking right now and I am probably 3-5 lbs above my usual weight.  My "training" for lack of a better term has been minimal and sporadic at best for the past 2 months or so.  Which is fine for the most part and I am OK with a bit of downtime this time of year.

3.  For the sake of efficiency, I ate Burger King for breakfast, 2 bacony, cheesy, eggy BK wrap something or others, as I was unable to go to the store the previous night and buy some normal breakfast food.  Although it tasted great going down and I thought it was giving me good energy on the lower part of the hike (I even commented on this to Homie), it eventually was not sitting well and I had a bout of dry heaves on the descent.  I am writing this to remind myself to never do this again.

4.  I should have worn warmer shoes and thus not have to worry about my toes.

5.  I was just not into battling the wind on top of all the aforementioned reasons excuses.  Even though I regretted it later, I know I made the right choice turning around.

Gearing up at the parking lot.

Heading up the NW Ridge

Looking toward Missouri Mountain


Tony on the summit of Belford


Off they go.  I almost yelled that I would join as they were walking away, but refrained.

Mighty Harvard in the distance.

Looking SW at the vast sea of peaks.

Looking North toward Hope, Quail, Elbert, etc...

Belford Summit

Missouri, Iowa, Emerald

Looking back up Belford and the NW Ridge

Looking up valley toward Missouri

Looking down valley

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wednesday, 12/28/11 Rosalie Attempt and 90mph Wind Abuse

8 miles/3,000 vertical

Prior to this attempt on Rosalie, I thought I have endured some severe winds.  I have been knocked to the ground, staggered like a drunk, leaned on my poles with all my weight to avoid falling, clung onto rocks and have had my breath taken away on numerous occasions in sub zero temperatures.  However, the winds we faced above treeline, especially as I peeked over the ridgeline as I attempted to make it to the consolation prize, ~12,200 foot Pegmatite Point, gave me a new found appreciation for the power of wind.

We were aware of the forecast for 90 mph winds near Mt. Evans and decided that perhaps we might luck out and get a bit of a wind shadow, or the forecast might not be as bad as feared.  Either way, the drive was not too much of a commitment, the forecast was the same on all other nearby peaks and we were all fine with just taking a hike and enjoying each others company, regardless of summit success.

The approach to treeline was pleasant and unseasonably warm, but we could hear the winds overhead and knew that the conditions would be tough above.  At treeline, we ate and drank as much as we could (knowing that there would be little chance of doing so above), donned full battle regalia and got down to business.  The wind was blowing hard, enough that we would occasionally have to hunker down to avoid getting knocked to the ground, but it was not particularly worrisome, as we were on grassy tundra and snow. I was well prepared for any conditions, was having a great time and was still 100% on board for attempting Rosalie.

Soon though, the writing was on the wall that it was not to be and everyone decided to hunker down behind some bushes and wait while Kevin, Sierra and I continued to ascend the ~250 vertical feet to the summit of very nearby Pegmatite Point.  On a calm day, this would have literally taken 5-10 minutes at the most, but with each step we took, the wind seemed to increase in strength exponentially.  This was further complicated by the fact that the ground now became blocky talus with surprisingly deep unconsolidated wind drifted snow between the rocks that made the consequences of a fall or misplaced footstep much greater.

Sierra and I made it to a false summit and though we were just about as high as the true summit, it was a surprising few hundred lateral feet away, but it may as well have been on the other side of the planet.  The will to go there had absolutely no bearing on the outcome, as once I crested that ridge, the wind pounded with such force, that movement was no longer an option.  I clung to the rocks, literally immobile and for the first time ever, was fearful of the wind and what it could do.  Who knows if my estimates are correct, but I would agree with the forecasters prediction of 90 mile per hour winds and would not be surprised if it were even more than that.

I slowly crab walked, crawled, rolled and butt scooted back down through the talus and then was able to stagger down across the tundra back down to the waiting group, where we retreated for the trees with our tails between our legs.  Despite not making the summit of anything (this was a repeat anyways), we all had a great time.

Here is a 2 minute video I took that gives a bit of an idea of what it was like, though I only had the camera out when there was somewhat of a lull in the wind.  25 seconds in is where I turned around and was the worst of it.  Turn the volume all the way up.

Emily, Sherri, Allison


Sherri and Kevin


Allison, Em, Sherri

Looks better than it is

Some cool bristlecones

Sierra was loving it.

Back down in the trees and relative calm

Monday, December 26, 2011

Monday, 12/26/11 Saddle Rock/Greenman/Gregory Loop

4.56 miles/1,618 vert. Garmin Data

Drove up Flagstaff intending to hike the upper half of Green with Allison, Sierra and the babies.  In a matter of 5 road miles it went from a nice calm, warm, sunny day, to cloudy, cold and windy.  Drove back down and was hoping to park in my usual spot, but it was of course full due to added pressure from the Gregory lot being closed and competition with sledders (not sure why they plow the Gregory lot, then close it?  I'm sure they have some twisted "logic" though).  We ended up lucking out on a spot at Chautauqua.  The entire area had a holiday feel to it with kids sledding and out of towners bumbling around in cars and on snowshoes, nobody really knowing where they were going or what they were doing.

It was still windy walking across Chautauqua, but once we got in the trees and started up the Saddle Rock Trail (skipping the usual Amphitheater approach), the day improved dramatically.  Once we got to Saddle Rock, the wind picked up again on the ridge and the trail was drifted over, so much so that we helped an out of town trail runner find his way.  At the Greenman junction, I gave the runner directions to find the summit of Green, while debating what to do ourselves.  I was of course pushing to go to the summit, but we would be stretching it as it was with the girls (not to mention the wind was a bit too much as well), so we headed down Greenman/Gregory, where the sun came out and it got really nice and warm.

Me and Isabelle

Allison and Amelie

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sunday, 12/25/11 Green Mountain

Up Front/Down Back

4.72 miles/2,278 vert./1:21 (45 up) Garmin Data

I was able to carve out a gap between holiday festivities for a late afternoon hike on Green.  Used poles and was disciplined enough to just go super easy on the up and down, walking ~90% of the up and much of the down with a little light jogging at times.  The trail/snow conditions do not get better than they are right now.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Saturday, 12/24/11 Green Mountain

Up/down front

4 miles/2,286 vert.

Homie joined Sierra and I for a nice snowy lap on Green starting a few minutes after 7am.  Perfect morning and we had a blast in the snow.



Sierra and I

Nice trench