June 3 – 906/10/2013
Mon-AM: 2:37, 6000′ ~ Belford & Oxford
From the Missouri Gulch TH, out and back to Oxford, via Belford. Felt like I was still carrying some heaviness in the legs from Saturday’s big run, so just cruised up and down the hills. Feeling weak above 13k’ again on Belford, so I almost didn’t make the run over to Oxford, but was really glad I did as I felt surprisingly strong on the pair of 700′ climbs before the descent off Belford back down to the trailhead.
Tue-AM: 2:24, 5300′ ~ Mt. Princeton
Up and down Grouse Canyon. More Nolan’s 14 scouting, this will be the descent I take off Princeton in the middle of the night, which is kinda too bad because it’s a simply awesome line. Parked just off of FS Rd 292 and marched up the canyon, surprised to find an obvious use trail all the way to treeline. Gained Princeton’s southwest ridge right around 13k’ (right where it changes from a fairly mellow, grassy shoulder to a proper technical ridge) and enjoyed another 30min of jogging/scrambling to the summit of Princeton. Discovered that there is no skipping unranked Pt 13971 on the east side–it’s a fairly dramatic drop-off there–ah well, it’s only an extra 100′ or so of elevation gain. After reaching the summit in 1:35, the descent was one of the more fun lines I’ve experienced in the Sawatch, starting with the 24min of rock-hopping back along the ridge and then plummeting back down through Grouse Canyon; the footing just feels really good from the ridge all the way back down to the road. I think I dropped the 1500′ from the ridge to treeline in only 6min, sans snow. Hopefully Joe’s Ferei light will make this section feel like daylight during the attempt. I was also very pleased to see that I felt fully recovered from Saturday’s long run. Lots of energy, even above 13k’, way more than the last couple days.
Wed-AM: 2:27, 5000′ ~ Mt. Antero
Up and down from Baldwin Gulch. Ran the road up to the gulley at 12,000′ or so, which, with its current snowpack, made for an extremely expedient path up through all the road switchbacks on that shoulder. Not sure how well this gulley will go once the snow melts out, though. After ~1k’ of vert I left the snow and headed straight up the talus, shooting for the saddle/ridge just south of Antero’s summit. Didn’t pick a great line (should’ve been further left) so I had to cross some unpleasant ball-bearing-scree-on-hardpack slopes before taking the ridge to the summit (1:36). It still seems to me that a better line up this mountain would be to gain the rib at ~10,900′ (just after crossing Baldwin Creek) that goes directly to Antero’s summit. Will have to check this out, but it might just be a bunch of loose scree, which would make it terrible. On the summit, I was very disappointed that I’d decided not to bring the camera today as there was an epic inversion layer of clouds off to the east. Descended via the road so that I could get a gander at the traverse over into the Browns Creek Basin (which separates Antero and Tab/Shav)…looks to be a suitable, slightly grassy rib to ascend between the Tab/Shav saddle and the summit of Tabeguache. We shall see. Once I got to the snow-gulley at 13k’ I just flew back down that to the road.
PM: 1:34, 4000′ ~ Decalibron
Parked maybe a half mile below Kite Lake at 11,500′ or so, still a couple of snow drifts remaining that would take 4wd to bust through. Jogged a few minutes up to the usual parking lot and started my watch at the trailhead kiosk, thinking I’d give the circuit a solid effort despite this morning’s outing and the fact that 4pm snow conditions were predictably horrible, i.e. lots of plunging in and tons of mud and running water. Took me a minute for my legs to get going (and by a minute, I mean, like, 30min), but once I got on the solid talus I was climbing pretty well and tagged the summit of Democrat at exactly 38min flat. This can definitely go a few minutes faster sans snow. The snow descent back to the saddle (43:40) was non-ideal, lots of knee-deep plunging, and then a ridiculously strong wind threw me around on the grunt up to Bross (1:01:05); I almost gave up trying to go hard right then because of the wind and because snow was preventing me from taking the best lines on the ridge. Ran hard over to Lincoln (1:07:05), though, which is really hard to do above 14k’, and then tried to keep up the intensity over to Bross, too, but snow stymied a lot of my effort, and I was beginning to fade energy-wise, too. Tagged the summit of Bross at 1:21:55 and then threw myself down the 2k’ of vert back to the trailhead, dropping the first 1000′ on nice scree in only 5min and then taking another 7+ to descend the last 1k’ and posthole/plunge back across the stream just before the trailhead for a total time of 1:34:43. I guess it’s at least a standard for other people to chase now if so inclined, but in dry conditions (or firmer snow) I think I could definitely take it under 1h30. Especially with fresher legs.
Thu-AM: 2:27, 4500′ ~ Torreys & Grays
Parked at the 1.4mi/private property sign, like usual. Took the Dead Dog couloir up Torreys and felt like I was kinda pushing my luck with snow conditions, leaving the truck at ~6:15am, getting to the base a little after 7am and summiting at ~7:45am (1:16 from the trailhead). About a third of the way up a single fist-sized rock came whizzing by really close, but that was it for the whole route. That made me really glad to be wearing a helmet, though. Super warm on the climb, that chute is like a reflective solar oven with the rising sun. Legs were definitely slow and tired from yesterday’s efforts. Left my Kahtoola crampons on for the quick drop and climb over to Grays (snow the whole way), but after that things had softened up just enough to make running shoes sufficient for the descent back to the car. Total time trailhead-to-trailhead was 1:58. Way more snow on these peaks than in the Sawatch.
PM: 1:07, 3000′ ~ First Flatiron+Green Mt.
Typical afternoon outing: biked to Chat, scrambled the rock on the way to the summit of Green, descended the front. Notably, I had one of my faster efforts to the base of the rock (low-11min) without really trying—I could really feel the extra oxygen compared to what I’ve been breathing for most of the past two weeks. It also felt (comparatively) humid; I was sweating buckets.
Fri-AM: 4:16, 4500′ ~ Keyhole Ridge (Longs Peak)
This wasn’t really four hours of running. More like 2h30. Planned on summiting Longs via the 5.6 Keyhole Ridge and descending the Cables, but Joe and I were chased off the ridge about half-way up. Ran at a casual pace to the Keyhole with a 7.7x37m rope in my pack and some stoppers and four cams in Joe’s pack. Got there in less than 90min where we opted just kick steps in our running shoes across the snowfield leading to the 3rd Class ramp that goes to the False Keyhole. This ended up being a bit spicier than I anticipated as the snow as very soft and only a small margin of moss/loose rock was bare right on the extremely exposed edge of the ledge. We scrambled this carefully before roping up for a very easy pitch of climbing up to the escape saddle just before the first tower. Conditions were still brilliant, so we were quite jolly pitching out the easy rock that leads up the tower. There was still some snow on a lot of things, though, so we were happy to be roped up for the on-sight. Less than a pitch from the top of the tower, though, it was clear the weather was going to get nasty very quickly and we heard several rolls of thunder, which was more than a little unnerving. I refuse to mess with lightning, and we were in an extremely exposed position on a knife ridge near 13,700′. So, I quickly lowered Joe then rappelled/downclimbed off a pair of stoppers before scrambling back over to the escape saddle by which time the wind was raging and it was snowing hard. Another bank of clouds was moving in fast from the west so we scrambled west back down to the Keyhole and called it a day, running back down to the trailhead through drizzle.
Sat-AM: 2:52, 5000′ ~ Longs Peak
Up and down the North Face. After yesterday’s failure to summit, and anticipating tomorrow’s long outing, I opted to just cruise up and down the shortest line on the peak. There were crazy winds in the parking lot, but above treeline it turned out to be just a standard breezy day. Didn’t even put crampons on until I was half-way up the Cables dihedral, and then on the way down I didn’t even get out my rap cord or harness. Still a ton of snow above the Cables, but way less than last week. Great run, can’t wait to start hitting this mountain in just shoes and shorts again; it’s getting there.
Sun-AM: 8:21, 17,000′ ~ Missouri, Belford, Oxford, Harvard, Columbia, Yale
Pretty epic run. Started with Joe from Rockdale, ran the 4wd road up to Clohesy Lake and started the Nolan’s 14 line. Misouri, Belford, and Oxford are all cruises, but then the drop into the Pine Creek drainage marks the beginning of basically all off-trail running for the rest of the day. Nailed the descent to Pine Creek and the march up Harvard and then was psyched to complete the traverse to Columbia via Rabbit Ridge instead of doing the usual drop to 12,800′ on the east side. Staying on the ridge necessitates a fair bit of 4th Class and low-5th Class scrambling with a short, maybe 20ft crux downclimb that allegedly goes at 5.7. It was a vertical crack, but it felt easier than that to me, considering I was on-sight, solo, in running shoes, at ~13k’ after almost 5hr of running. The descent south off of Columbia marked the beginning of new territory for me and it went pretty well as I found a pretty good line in the trees, aiming for the base of a giant avalanche chute on the south side of N. Cottonwood Creek that would take me up to Yale’s northeast ridge. This felt like bumbling wreckage through heinous bushwhacking on extremely steep terrain and even a few cliffy outcroppings, but eventually–after much swearing and cursing–I found myself postholing near treeline and then it was just the endless ridge leading to Yale’s summit. Once on the summit I didn’t think I could stomach anymore bushwhacking, so I started out planning on just taking the east ridge down to the Colorado Trail, but a couple of perfectly glissade-able snow slopes lured me into the Avalanche Gulch basin between Yale and Mascot Peak and even though there was some more bushwhacking around 10,800′ or so through many many downed trees I kinda hit the line perfectly and was down at the Avalanche Gulch trailhead only 49min after leaving Yale’s summit and with legs that still felt like they had a ton of run left in them. 10 gels. Joe had a few navigational issues (as is wont to happen when traveling all day off-trail) and came in four hours later, thankfully before a headlamp was needed.
Obviously, a great week up high. Yesterday’s run has me seriously reconsidering my Nolan’s plan. Given how hideous the route-finding is in the North Cottonwood Creek drainage between Columbia and Yale, I think I want to do my best to hit this in the daylight, so will probably end up starting from the Fish Hatchery at 2 or 3am instead of my initially-planned 5am/first light start. A start in the dark will also help ensure that I take it easy for the first couple peaks. Other than that, Sunday’s run was great. Depending on what the sky is doing at the time, I’m pretty sure I’ll take the more technical Rabbit Ridge between Harvard and Columbia, purely for aesthetic reasons as I was only a minute or two slower on it Sunday than when I dropped to the east when linking them up last summer. Also, energy-wise I felt very solid yesterday and finished the run remarkably fresh, which is, of course, a boost to the confidence.
|The final ridge leading to Princeton’s summit from the SW. Taken just below Pt 13971.|
|Dropping down Princeton’s SW ridge, the nearly vertical mile climb to Antero looms straight ahead.|
|Dead Dog Couloir (center-right) offers 1500′ of 45-50 degree snow climbing to the summit of Torreys (14,267′).|
|Nearly to the top of Dead Dog.|
|No summit of Torreys is complete without standing atop Grays (14,270′) as well.|
|Longs Peak summit #13 for the year on Saturday.|