Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wednesday, 06/08/11 Mt. Argentine, Edwards, Ganley, McClellan

Mt. Edwards (13,850)
Argentine Peak (13,738)
McClellan Mtn.(13,587)
Ganley Mtn. (12,902)
Start: Bakerville
Partners:  Aron Ralston, Joe Grant, Sierra
15.89 miles/6,314 vertical/8:36:08 Garmin Data

With an extra day off of work this week, a good forecast, great partners lined up and Allison’s encouragement for me to get away for the day, I could not wait to the high mountains for the first time in more than nine months.  My intent was mainly to just get above tree line, have a good time and get re-acclimated, not really caring where we went as long as it was Sierra friendly and I did not have to wallow in snow. I have previously climbed all of these peaks, but they were all new for Joe and Aron had only climbed Edwards.

Aron had afternoon commitments, so to be sure we had plenty of time for his goal peak, Mt. Argentine, we got a cracking early start, meeting at Neptune in Boulder at 4am after just a few hours of fitful and broken sleep. Despite the early hour, we were all quite chatty and interesting conversation ensued about a wide variety of topics, which made the drive go by quite fast.

We started up the Stevens Gulch Road a bit before 5:30am, walked to the 3rd curve in the road and headed up the generally N. facing slopes to get above tree line. The hillside is steep, but fun and we did a great job of avoiding the increasingly prevalent patches of rotten snow. Above tree line, there is an (avoidable) initial steep pitch of somewhat loose scree and talus, but beyond that, it is smooth sailing on rolling class 1 grassy tundra. Snow along the ridge was frequent, but generally solid and made for reasonable walking if desired, though we avoided it in general unless it was necessary to cross.

Even though the pace was very casual, the looong ridge seemed to pass quickly as we enjoyed the morning, took pictures and continued interesting conversation. Due to time constraints, once below the final slopes to the summit of Edwards, Aron decided to side hill toward Argentine Pass and skip Edwards (since he had climbed it before), where Joe and I continued to the summit with the intent of meeting back up with Aron on the 2 mile traverse.

Joe and I spent a moment or two on Edwards taking pictures and pointing out peaks near and far, then we boogied toward Argentine to catch Aron. Our pace was quick and efficient, but somewhat casual at the same time (as I was in hiker mode for the day, carrying a large and overloaded pack).  I found myself pushing hard over the final few hundred vertical to get to the summit of Argentine, trying to catch Aron and Joe and was pretty much maxed out with the added 20+ lbs. (we all summited within seconds of one another).

The trip back was enjoyable but seemingly a bit longer than we all remembered. I felt fine, but was a bit parched by the end having only carried 3 liters of water for Sierra and I. The weather could not have been better, as it was warm enough for just a light fleece pullover, sunny, crystal clear with hardly any wind.

I figured that I would be sucking wind after 9 months not going higher than S. Boulder Peak at 8,500 feet, but was pleasantly surprised to feel very good all day, as high as we went and considering we were above 13k for several hours (with no ill affects during or after).  I was not sure how Sierra would do either, after being so gimpy last fall and only having made weekly trips to Green Mountain.  Last fall, I was afraid that her days in the mountains were over because of the way she was having such trouble simply getting up and down the stairs, but she was awesome today and only lagged a just a little bit toward the end (which she would have done even at age 2), but I think that was mainly due to the warm sun and running out of water.  It meant so much to me to spend time with her in our favorite place.

What a great day with great company. Hopefully I can get out there again soon, as there is no better place in my mind than the high mountains of Colorado in June.

Our route outlined in red (descent variation in green)

Aron as we reached tree line


Torreys (r. of center), Grays (l)

Sierra could not have been happier cruising her favorite terrain

Grays and Torreys from Edwards

Still PLENTY of snow

Joe taking a few shots with Square Top in the background

Grays/Torreys/Edwards from just above Argentine Pass