Friday, June 7, 2013

Friday, 06/07/13 Summit County Trip

Had a great 4 day retreat to Silverthorne with the family and managed to squeeze in a little bit of mountain running when I could between carrying toddlers on hikes and pulling the Chariot behind the bike.

On Tuesday afternoon, while the girls were trying to nap, I headed over to Peak 1 for a quick attempt, but to my amazement, the sky darkened and it began to rain the moment I pulled into the parking lot on what was up to that point an very nice, warm and sunny day.  I headed up the hill anyways, optimistic that the weather would pass, but as I gained the ridge ~35 minutes and 2,000 vertical feet later, I heard a few distant cracks of thunder.  I tentatively continued on in a mild state of denial, ruminating over the fact that on this day, at this moment, after 9.5 months of daydreaming of getting back to the high country, that it has to storm, right here, right now.

Optimism waning, I looked up valley toward Copper Mountain to see a dense wall of hail marching straight toward me.  Then there was a quick succession of very proximate flash/bang strikes that had me bailing immediately and just worrying about getting myself and the dog back down safely.  Of course, 8 minutes later and 1,000 feet lower, the hail stopped and the sun began to shine.  Grrr...

I debated heading back up, but I was on a tight timeframe and once back at the car, I was quite pleased that the sky opened up with another barrage of thunder, lightning, hail and rain and I was happy to be heading home and not stuck on an exposed ridge above treeline.

Sierra bailing quickly

Wednesday morning (very early), I headed over to Quandary for a quick lap.  Homie informed me that he heard most of the route was snow, so I was eager for nice Microspike conditions before things warmed up.  I made good time to treeline, stopped briefly to put on the spikes and then headed directly up the fall line across the snow.  It was mostly solid, but soft enough in spots to punch through, so it became a bit of a head trip, never really knowing what step might drop you through.

Having not been to higher altitudes since Pikes last August, I was sucking wind a bit on the upper 1,000 feet, but managed to maintain a little bit of momentum.  As usual, the summit was a bit higher than I expected and I topped out in a somewhat lackluster 1:10 (7 or 8 minutes slower than my usual pace while acclimated).  Nothing great, but I was not too disappointed all things considered.

The views from the summit were amazing and I was in awe of how white the surrounding peaks looked, much like Winter.  I was so stoked to finally be back at 14k, it has been waaaay too long and it was an added bonus to have the entire peak to myself aside from the 3 people I passed on the lower mountain as I finished up.

I really wanted to rip the descent, but knowing that there were some punchy spots had my taking short quick cautious steps instead of striding it out like I had hoped.  I did punch through to my knees in spots, but fortunately, my tentative stepping technique paid off and I managed to avoid a fall or injury.  I was able to go a bit quicker on the more solid middle section, then went really cautious on the quickly warming/rotting snow near treeline.  I removed the spikes and just cruised the mostly dry trail back to the trailhead.  Despite the slower going, I was able to go 34 on the descent for a 1:45 RT and was finished by 7:30am.

So amazing, I had the biggest grin on the summit and descent.

Cloud bank covering South Park, extending toward the Front Range maybe? (Silverheels)

Decalibron/North Star

Looking North(ish) toward Pacific, Crystal, Dyer etc...

Black and white Silverheels

If I only had skis, conditions were perfect.

I got clearance for a Thursday morning outing and debated whether or not to hit up Buffalo Mountain, or return to Peak 1.  I knew a failed attempt would gnaw at me, so Peak 1 it was.

On the trail by 5:15am, I now knew the best way up via a series of locals shortcuts that head straight up the fall line and occasionally on the still very efficient trail.  The ascent to the ridge was much like Fern Canyon on Bear Peak and gained me about 2,000 vertical in a mile and took about 30 minutes at what felt like a casual pace.

There was still quite a bit of lingering snow to circumnavigate near and on the ridge and any attempts to cross it had me sinking to my hip.  It was a constant debate, which was more efficient, to try to go around or plow through in hopes of staying on top, or just saving time due to a more direct line.  Once above treeline, the snow became more solid or was easier to navigate around.

The view of Peak 1 from Mt. Victoria was a little disheartening and at that point, I was absolutely sure that I would not summit, but figured I would see how far I could get.  The copious late season snow appeared (from afar) to render the summit pitch impassable without crampons and axe.

The ridge was occasionally exciting, but never really dangerous, though the snow added a certain level of spice.

As I neared the final pitch, I could see that I just might make it, with the crux being just a not too exposed ~10 foot wall of snow at the top and I was sure my Microspikes would see me through safely.

I was very excited and surprised to make the summit and contemplated Tenmile Peak, but was in a hurry to get back before anybody missed me.  The upper section of the descent was a little tricky, nothing too exposed or threatening, just slow going, even slower than the ascent, but once I was below snowline, I was able to open it up a bit.

This was mostly a casual hike (all the way up and about half of the descent).  The 5.5 mile/3,679 vert. route took me 1:26 up and :58 down with my HR averaging 136.

Peak 1 looking distant

Dillon Res.

Buffalo Mountain

Not so sure of my chances at this point

Zoom of summit pitch




Copper Zoom

STEEP, my favorite, I wish all trails were like this.

From a distance


  1. Wow, beautiful weather for Peak 1 attempt #2. Spectacular. Been thinking about that summit for a while.

    Don't know if you've been up Buffalo Mountain, but I really enjoyed that trail, mainly the steep high forest and the boulder field rogjt above treeline. Had to turn back shy of the top, so I look forward to finally making it up there.