Monday, December 30, 2013

Friday, 12/27/13 Mt. Evans

Mt. Evans, 14,264 ft.
Scott Gomer Gully/West Ridge from Guanella Pass
12.36 miles
3,934 vertical
8:32 (start 7:41am, finish 4:13pm)

Homie and I started from the Guanella Pass winter road closure at the Silver Dollar Lake Trailhead at 7:41am (which adds 3.5 miles for the round trip).  The temperature was 8 degrees and because of that, I opted to wear my warm winter boots instead of my Gore-Tex trail running shoes.  The problem with this however, is that my boots do not fit into my running snowshoes that I brought along on this day.  Having had remarkably good luck along Scott Gomer creek on prior trips to Gray Wolf and Bierstadt, I naively thought I might be OK without.  Little did I know how wrong I would be.

We made easy progress up the packed road to the pass and the temperature seemed quite comfortable for being in the single digits.  It helps when there is no wind, which is a rarity here.  Snow levels seemed generally minimal and once onto the trail for Bierstadt I was happy to find that the snow was packed reasonably well.  After crossing the creek, we followed the drainage toward Scott Gomer Gully and within a 100 feet or so, I knew I had made a bad mistake.  I kept pressing on while Homie geared up with his 30” snowshoes and he soon caught up to me and moved ahead breaking trail.  Sometimes I could stay on top, but without poles and the added weight of a winter pack, I was often sinking in knee deep and sometimes up to mid-thigh or worse.  I contemplated turning around and just hiking Bierstadt, but I knew Homie wanted Evans for a grid slot and I did not want to disappoint because of my poor planning.

Just moving though the sugary, unconsolidated snow had me close to being at my limit and the frequent extractions nearly did me in.  The effort was really making me sweat, despite not being overdressed and still being in the shade.  It was a real grovel fest, but we were making progress, albeit slowly.  We finally got to a point where we could start an ascending traverse of the south facing slopes on the north side of the drainage toward the gully, but the willows and snow were not much better.  Soon, we cleared the willows, but we were hardly any better off crossing talus fields with an unconsolidated layer of snow hiding many deep holes.  Once in the gully, the gradient increased, but the snow decreased, footing improved and I was feeling a bit better.  Above treeline, progress was easy, as the existing snow was fun to stroll across with Microspikes, or could be avoided entirely. 

As we gained the long west ridge of Evans, I was starting to feel the fatigue of my willow wallow and not having been above treeline since Labor Day weekend.  Though the ridge is easy, my wobbly legs were not up to the task of the rock hopping required to move as efficiently as I normally would and I took my time through here, carefully picked my way through the rocks and snowfields.  The weather though was what saved the day for me.  We were comfortable in light layers and did not even need gloves, it was so warm, clear and calm.  It is rare to get days this nice in the summer, never mind December.  I commented how it felt like cheating, but Homie reminded me of all the days out there where we have suffered greatly, so this helps to balance things out.  We topped out around 12:50pm, much later than I had predicted, but was happy to get there regardless.  This was my 2nd  winter ascent of Evans (1st was by bike in January 2009) and my 31st overall ascent of Evans.  This also filled a grid slot for Homie and I.

We spent about 10 minutes on the summit, although I would  have liked to linger if it were not for the late-ish hour (bringing lights never even occurred to me) and I knew I was going to be late for a long planned and rare date night with my wife.  I again took it easy along the ridge, not feeling all that coordinated and Homie was gracious enough to wait on me.  The descent beyond was easy, the gully required care, but was not bad.  I was not at all excited about the return trip through the willows, but hoped that our morning trail breaking efforts, plus the addition of one other climber with snowshoes who made an attempt would lessen the effort, but it was not to be.  The warm day softened the snow enough that the trip out was even more difficult, especially with the cumulative fatigue setting in.  I had no choice but to just power through and was thankful for good fitness and endurance.  Being any less fit could have proved to be a predicament.

I was quite relieved once we intersected the well packed Bierstadt trail and I upped the pace, occasionally jogging to catch back up with Homie, finally making contact a few minutes from the pass.  We made it to the pass a little after 3:30pm, made some gear adjustments and then enjoyed the easy walking back down the road to the car, finishing at 4:13pm for a 8:32 round trip.  I had originally figured 5 hours, maybe 6 if we took our time, but having it take so long was a real surprise and all day, our progress always seemed to be out of sync with the watch.  Had I brought snowshoes, or there had been less snow in the willows, we certainly would have shaved some large chunks of time.

Though this ended up maybe being my hardest earned winter 14er, or any 14er for that matter, I had a great time and was quite satisfied with the accomplishment.  As always, spending the day in the mountains with Homie is a blast and he is a great (patient) partner to have along.

Starting to finally gain some elevation

Homie changing his socks after dipping his foot in the creek.  It was so nice and warm here and the summit still seemed so far away, it was tempting to just call it a day here.

Homie on the summit.

Looking back along the always longer than remembered West Ridge.

Days just do not get much better than this at 14k, any time of year.


Putting Microspikes back on for the gully descent

Looking toward Square Top, Argentine, Edwards, Grays, Torreys

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thursday, 12/05/13 Green Mountain/Flagstaff

Green #159 on the year (#830 since Dec. 2004)
From Chat, up 1st/NE/Greenman, down Ranger/Flag.
6.36 miles/2,673 vert./2:02

Planned on getting in two laps, but soon into the run I knew that was wishful thinking.  With below zero temps, I was bundled up, feeling more like hiking than running as to not overheat, but I also did not feel too light and sporty with two layers of pants, wool shirt, hoodie shirt, thick Marmot softshell jacket, heavy shoes with Microspikes, balaclava, Nathan pack with backup warm stuff, etc....   Had some contact issues this morning on the way out the door, so scrapped that and was forced to stick with the prescription glasses, which as expected, was a disaster on a cold snowy day and was constantly messing with fogging issues.  I can see OK without correction, but I did not want to stuff the glasses away in a pocket and risk damaging them and I was absolutely incapacitated if I was in the open sun without them, so I was determined to make things right.

I was dressed perfectly and was quite comfortable, but even though I had waterproof eVent shoes (Saucony Razor 2.0) and thick wool socks, built in gaiters/additional gaiters, my feet got quite cold as I broke trail in the deepening, unconsolidated snow.

Made the summit in a very lackluster 1:04 (and noted how that is 4 minutes off my RT PR from Chautauqua for the ascent ONLY), uggh.  I spent a few minutes on top, taking in the better than average scenery and wished I had brought my camera.  Though my toes were cold, I was hoping to rally for a second lap, but soon into the descent of Ranger, my toes went from cold to painfully cold, to numb, to seemingly detached wooden blocks.  This got me a bit worried and I was kicking myself for not wearing my larger shoes in order to accommodate my warmest sock setup.  Thoughts of a second lap quickly vanished and all I could think of was getting down and warming my toes.  I even contemplated hitching a ride down Flag.

Once I got to the ranger cabin, my toes were feeling as though they were being tortured with scalding needles, so I knew they were coming back.  I contemplated that second lap, but I was running far behind on time at this point and I was content to just add on Flagstaff.

Despite the cold temps and colder toes, this was certainly one of the more beautiful runs in a while with all the fresh snow.  I was quite content to go slow and enjoy the beauty.

A few random thoughts:

I have gotten a kick out of the back/forth on the mountain between OSMP and the monkey wrenchers.  It started with police tape/plastic fencing/plastic signs, which within a few weeks of the flood, would quickly disappear, regardless of whether or not the trail was open or not.  It just became a free for all on the trails and was business as usual, families, retirees, dogs, out of towners.  I went weeks, maybe more than a month without ever seeing a sign or closure on Green (or just about anywhere else for that matter), until OSMP decided to up their game with thick cables and metal signs discouraging access to Saddle Rock and Gregory.  Within a day or two, those too disappeared.  Another week or so went by, then I noticed very thick padlocked chains pop up with metal closure signs in the middle.  I figured that was that, party over, as far as running those trails with total impunity.  But, now those are even gone.

I know I should be happy that only 8% of the trails are still closed, but to me, it is nearly 100% of what I normally run.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Saturday, 10/26/13 Monster Dash

There was a little Halloween race in downtown Louisville, so we decided to go check it out and enter the Spooky Sprint, the shortest of the race options (10k, 5k, 1/2 mile, 1/4 mile and 1/8 mile).  Amelie and Isabelle wanted to go dressed as Snow White and Cinderella, but miraculously, I was able to talk them into Tinkerbell and Fairy costumes, on the grounds that these costumes were faster.

We biked the 1.5 miles into town, got registered and then were told that the Spooky Sprint started on main street and headed back to the start/finish banner.  This was surprising to me, so I checked with the announcer at the start finish (which he confirmed) so with plenty of time to spare, we walked up toward Main Street to watch the 1/2 mile and 1/4 mile races go by.  After the completion of those races, we heard the announcer assembling the Spooky Sprint racers and I was struck at how few of us there were and was surprised that none of the nearby marshals were lining us up despite the fact that the countdown was on.

The start horn blows and we immediately realized that the race indeed started at the start line and we were starting from the turnaround cones.  Oops.  We, along with several others who had asked me where the race started, ran toward the oncoming rush of racers in our race, made it to the start line, where we saw some friends we knew and finally got our race officially started.

I don't think the girls ever really knew the difference as to what was going on vs. what was supposed to happen, but I was a little annoyed by the screw up by two different race officials.  I have raced enough to know that races usually start at the start line and finish at the finish line, so I was skeptical right away, but figured since this was a short kid's race, things might be different.

Either way, the girls were much more determined in this race than the Taste of Louisville race back in June (where they were tied for last), and they held their own here, mid pack roughly.  This race ended up being way too short and I should have signed them up for at least the 1/4 mile if not the 1/2 mile.  Next time, we will sign up for a longer race and be more sure of the start location.

Either way, we all had a great time.

Race Video: ( Password:  Sierra )
MVI 4380 from Jeff Valliere on Vimeo.

Heading to where we think is the start line.

Pre race jitters and fueling

Spectating the 1/2 mile race

The race is finally underway

Well placed at the turn around as I encourage them to rally for a negative split

Pushing hard

In the finish chute

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Saturday, 10/19/13 Buffalo Peak (Lost Creek Wilderness)

Buffalo Peak, 11,589
TH: Stoney Pass
Partners: Allison and Sierra
8.46 miles (starting from Wellington Lake)
3,755 vertical
6:43 Round Trip (~4 hours moving time, yeah, we stopped a lot)

Having made an attempt at Buffalo in May, 2008, I was simultaneously eager to get back there and finally make the summit, yet not too excited, knowing how slow and tedious the terrain is.

Allison and I had a full day and a half without the twins, so we were eager to get out to Lost Creek Wilderness for a hike and maybe catch some waning Fall foliage. We initially were set on a repeat of Bison/McCurdy, but after spending Friday afternoon/evening transporting 3 tons of crushed stone and a massive pile of woodchips to the back yard, along with all the associated landscaping work, I was too exhausted to even think about packing, getting up early or doing anything physical.

After 9.5 hours of solid sleep (amazing how well one can sleep without kids in the house), I felt refreshed, so we packed quickly and were out the door a bit after 8am. We still had no idea where we were going in LCW, we just headed up 285 with Roach book in hand. We narrowed it down to Windy (new for Allison, but a repeat for me), or Buffalo, which would be new for both of us and soon committed to Buffalo, as it is only 5.2 miles.

A few miles down Park County Road 68, South of Bailey we started to encounter snow and ice on the road and I suspected that we would not be able to make it to the trailhead on the steeper, North facing Stoney Pass. Just beyond Wellington Lake, there was a reasonably deep creek crossing, followed by a steep icy grade where I would have no momentum to even have a chance, so we turned around and parked, which would add an extra 3 miles to our hike. The walk up the road was a pleasurable warm up in the warming sun and led us through some brilliant aspen groves. The road, as remembered got steeper and as expected got icier, which validated my decision to park where we did. AWD and studded snow tires or chains would have been a must on this morning.

A beautiful start to the day

Some lingering, but very limited Fall foliage

Once at the pass, as Roach states “the hike is completely off trail and stark in its simplicity”.  “Bushwhack 2.3 miles SW up unrelenting slopes to 11,400, then it still does not relent”.

Having been here before (but only to 10,000 feet) we knew what we were in for and the fresh snow added to the challenge.  This route required constant attention to keeping on the proper track on a macro level and continually trying to find the path of least resistance over the continuous deadfall and at times thick trees and bushes.  There were numerous false summits along the way and we were constantly wondering where the heck this summit may be.  Though on paper the route is quite simple, it is almost entirely in the trees with very few line of site opportunities.  We did not have a map or GPS, so I was relying on my memory from 5 years ago and a good bit of dead reckoning/terrain reading.

Sierra sporting her finest Winchester hunting vest (yes, it is hunting season and we heard a lot of distant gun shots, but fortunately nothing close)

Looking North toward Mt. Evans with the Castle and Wellington Lake in the foreground

"Spiking up" on the ascent (Microspikes went on/came off numerous times on the up due to varying snow quality)

Starting to look like Winter

Almost there

Progress was slow and combined with our 10:08 am start, casual breaks and approaching turn-around deadline, I was starting to think we may not make it, but the prospect of having to come back for a 3rd attempt at this peak was gnawing at me.  At 11,400, there is a large meadow where we took a break to get a bit of energy and assess.  I knew we had to be very close, as we were just 100 vertical feet from the summit and the distance on my Garmin watch further hinted at this.  Sure enough, after pressing on for a few more minutes, the Eastern summit appeared and we were quite relieved.  The true summit though is the Westernmost of the twin summits, just a few hundred yards away, with a bit of a dip.  A few minutes of careful boulder hopping and scampering got us there and the views did not disappoint.  It was a perfect fall day and we of course had this remote and difficult to access peak to ourselves, spending 15 or 20 minutes enjoying the views.  At 2:25pm, we figured we should get boogying, as we knew the difficult terrain would be slow on the descent as well.  Microspikes helped tremendously and the descent went easier than expected, as I could follow our ascent tracks and just cruise on auto pilot.

Looking SE toward Pikes  

View to the South

The West (true) summit from the East summit (Windy Peak just beyond to the left)

Looking back at the East (lower) summit from the West summit

Looking NE with Wellington Lake far below

View to the West

Windy Peak ~4.5 miles away

At 2:25pm, we figured we should get boogying, as we knew the difficult terrain would be slow on the descent as well.  Microspikes helped tremendously and the descent went easier than expected, as I could follow our ascent tracks and just cruise on auto pilot. 

Buffalo is a bit of a challenge, but is really fun if you enjoy steep bushwhacks, routefinding and log hopping.  Was thinking it would be a blast to put together a Windy/Buffalo link up with a car shuttle someday.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thursday, 10/10/13 South Boulder Peak, Bear Peak, Bear Peak, South Boulder Peak

9.8 miles
5,645 vert.

Got out this morning for my first run/summits on open trails post flood.  Was quite happy to learn that Bear and SoBo opened yesterday morning via Fern and Shadow, accessed only by the Shanahan Trails, so I was eager to head over, since I had not yet seen Shadow Canyon.  Put in a moderate effort up Shanahan, South on Mesa, up Shadow to SoBo, across to Bear, down Fern, then back up for another dose of both peaks.  Steady pace today, not really pushing at all, just enjoying the freedom of moving along on open trails, without the worries of the only one new, human initiated post flood threat.

A few random thoughts.

  • I am stoked to be able to legally access Bear and SoBo, this is a huge step.  Although I think it took them a few weeks to long, I am glad those trails are now open, so moving on.
  • Moving on...  onto the still closed trails.  It makes no sense at all to have them still closed.  Shadow Canyon is very rough and eroded post flood and based on OSMP standards for safety and user friendliness, I am a bit surprised they opened it.  I personally do not mind at all though, it was fine before and though different now, a bit more technical, it is fine now.  I prefer technical trail over the buffed wheelchair accessible trails like they created on the new (last year) Green/Bear connector.
  • Regarding Shadow, I am not sure whether it being open now inspires confidence that the much less affected trails on Green and elsewhere will open soon, or if it being open now erodes my confidence that those making the decisions do not really know what they are doing.  Seems as though there is no rational consistency here.
  • Was thinking a bit today, with a chainsaw, some flagging and a pick/shovel, I could re-open Amphitheater/Saddle/Greenman AND Gregory/Ranger in a day, maybe a day and a half tops, by myself (taking into account that I have never performed trail work before).
  • Thinking about comments relayed to me from the OSMP Council meeting last night, I am a bit disturbed by much of what I heard, but two things jumped out at me, that were cycling through my mind today while running.  They say they are not sure what to do with the huge washout on the dirt road the connects Realization Point and the Ranger Cabin that comprises part of the Gregory Ranger route up Green.  Not sure why this is so tough, and again, I am no expert, but it seems very simple.  Route the creek back on it's original path (currently it is flowing through the washout where the road/trail once was) and get the dump trucks of dirt rolling.  No biggie.  OR, they could leave it as is, create a trail on the hillside on the North bank of the washout/creek and have it be foot access to the cabin.  Not sure why it is essential OSMP trucks need to make it there.  They could also re-locate the outhouse to the Realization Point lot, where it could be more conveniently utilized by more people, or just scrap the outhouse altogether.  BUT, that is all no reason to keep it closed to hikers, as it is all easy to bypass.  Another option would be to temporarily use the old, still in tact trail that begins at the top of Gregory Canyon that ends just above the Greenman/Ranger junction, which would avoid damage entirely and enable a complete undamaged route to the top of Green.  This could happen right this minute with no work.
  • One of the Council members last night mentioned that some trails may never re-open because of "fissures".  What are these "fissures"?  Where are we, Hawaii?  Vesuvius?  The San Andreas Fault?  I have no idea where they got this and why they would even embarrass themselves by saying such an ignorant comment.  It sounds as though some of these stiffs have never set foot off of pavement and these are the people representing our best interests?  Quite disturbing.
  • I wish I had the time and skills to help fight the good fight like Buzz and Peter have been doing for so many years.  A huge thanks to them for all they do/have done.  I for one really appreciate it, these guys are heros.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday, 09/16/13 Longmont Flood Photos

With all of OSMP closed and the remainder of the foothills essentially inaccessible, I was forced to do some flat running from work on my lunch break, so I got out for a quick scout around Left Hand Creek and the St. Vrain River.  As bad as the flooding is, it made for a bit of an interesting adventure trying to get around all the destruction, closed paths, standing water and closed roads.  I made the mistake of wearing road shoes and I was sliding all over, essentially hydroplaning at times on the fine silty mud.

Left Hand Creek at 95th

This house was among the most severely damaged along the creek (at least in this neighborhood).

A lot of these houses really lucked out, missing the wrath by literally a few feet.

Pike road underpass (bike path underneath)

This is normally ankle to knee deep, now it is eating away at the banks and knocking trees over.

Damaged, but probably repairable.

Under previous normal flow, you could probably cross in a few steps, now it is really wide.

Collapsed pool

Looking East from 287/Main.  The cement path is completely washed out, I think all the way to 119 from what I could tell.

287/Main over Left Hand.  Looks like a crack has developed in the center of that buttress.

Now along the St. Vrain River.

Still very angry

National Guard is all over protecting neighborhoods, blocking roads and helping however they can.

The industrial parks along the river got hammered.  Have to wonder what chemicals spilled into the river.

I could loosely follow the path along the river, but had to really work at it, take detours and be creative.

Standing water near the fairgrounds.  It really stunk here, as the floods cleaned out the vast stables and left deposits of poop all over.

This whatever area was really toppled.

I was glad I quit following the path when I did and crossed the river on a road bridge (Sunset I think), as this bridge would have caused me some serious detouring or backtracking.