Bierstadt to Evans over the Sawtooth Traverse

Last week Delaney and I decided we wanted to hike one of the 14ers.  We settled on bagging two of them in a day by hiking up Mt Bierstadt and then take the traverse over to Mt Evans.  I pulled the route description off of (A great resource if you want to climb a 14er)

After picking up Delaney and George (he wanted to go hang out in the mountains) Sunday morning we got up to the trailhead around 8 AM.  This is a much later start than I normally would ever do, but it turned out okay as the weather cooperated through the day.


The hike up to Bierstadt though had most of the elevation gain took us under three hours to complete.  We hung out at the top of that Mt with the crowds of people.  It was very busy up top and you could see the steady stream of people climbing up the mountain after us.  Shortly after reaching the summit we decided to leave the crowds and make our way to Mt Evans.


I have mixed feelings about the Sawtooth traverse.  It looks like an impressive traverse that could be very dangerous and has high exposures.  But, if you take your time it is really not that bad of a climb.  It did take us a lot longer than I would have expected to complete the traverse (Around 5 hours) but we were taking our time making sure to be careful.  That, plus I had one hell of a headache and the altitude was doing a number on my body.  80% of our trip was above 13,000 feet.  There were a few class 3 moves where you had to scramble up a rock (I would have to push Zip up to where Delaney was and then climb up myself since Zip couldn’t get up some of it).


Once you reach the top of Sawtooth and look back at Bierstadt it does look quite impressive and it really doesn’t seem like it was the mountain you just came down.  I would hate to go up that section I can tell you that.

We made it to the summit of Mt Evans around 5 PM dragging our asses.  I kept getting dizzy from the altitude.  So, we didn’t linger long at the summit and descended down to Summit lake where luckily George was waiting for us.  As we had texted him when we got to the summit of Bierstadt with an alternate plan of having him meet us up at Evans instead.  Well, the road was closed to Mt Evans so we had to hike down to Summit Lake which was the farthest up the road he could drive.


All in all it was a great adventure and hike.  The views are amazing up there.  But it sure was more than I expected and sure did kick my Ass.

Beirstadt - Evans with elevation profile

Snowmass Lake / Snowmass Mountain

Last week I took off some time to head to Aspen.  I wanted to hike to Conundrum Hot Springs  Snowmass Lake and summit Snowmass Mountain I arrived in Aspen on Tuesday right after sunset.  I had taken the back way up through Leadville and over Independence Pass which I would recommend to anyone.

My Mom and Brother arrived Wednesday night pretty late.  After taking some more pictures of the Maroon Bells on Thursday Morning we headed to the Conundrum Hot Springs trailhead.  It turns out that dogs (Zip) are not allowed in the upper valley by Conundrum Hot Springs and the campground.  So, we headed down to the Ranger station for the Aspen area to get some maps and figure out where to go next (They had previously told me over the phone that the only restrictions for dogs were you had to have them on a leash …. GRRR)

We decided on heading to Snowmass Lake and then summit Snowmass Mountain the second day.  So we headed to the Maroon – Snowmass trailhead up above Snowmass Village.  After getting our packs ready and getting Zip all geared up we headed out for the lake.


The trail along the way was long (9 Miles) but sure was beautiful.  We passed quite a few horse riders and a few hikers but didn’t run into any large animals.   It was sort of disappointing to not see any Deer, Elk, or anything else.  We crossed over a big log jam and then headed up through some deep woods and after passing a few waterfalls we finally reached camp.

The views at the lake were stunning with the cliffs jutting out of the lake at the far end and some amazing peaks in the rear.  We set up camp and hung out until the mosquitos forced us to go in our tents.


Friday Morning we woke up just before sunlight to try and get some decent pictures of the lake and peaks.  After grabbing some breakfast we made our way to the summit of Snowmass Mountain.  This turned out to be quite the damn hike.  The summit raises 3,000+ feet from the lake in under Two Miles.  So we were pretty much hiking straight up the mountain .. no switchbacks, no breaks.  Zip didn’t quite make it to the top.  He freaked out when the boulders got bigger than cars and the cracks between them you couldn’t see the bottom.  I had to push him up on a ledge then when I got up there with him he decided to run down where I had just pushed him up and kept wanting to go down.  So, I had to tie him up to a boulder and listen to him yelp as we left him for the summit.

After reaching the summit at last (Probably the hardest time I have had summiting a peak .. I was wore out) we headed back down to rescue my dog get back to camp.  We had tried to take a different route down but after making it part the way across a boulder field with most the boulders the sizes of cars … we decided to head back down the standard route.

That night and the next morning Zip was pretty much beat and dead to the world.  When I would try to get him to come out and be social he wouldn’t want to come out of the tent or get up.  When I would get him to get up he would sneak back to the tent and onto my sleeping bag as soon as I wasn’t paying attention.  I ended up feeling sorry for him and carrying his stuff back out for him.


After getting back to the trailhead we found out that there had been a couple bear incidents over by where I had hiked back on Wednesday to take my pictures of Maroon Bells.  Two hikers were bit through their tents though there were no fatalities and both should be able to recover fine.







Backpacking to Chicago Basin with the Family

This past weekend I made the trip up to Chicago Basin again, only this time I did it with more of the family (7 of us total).

Thursday night I stayed at Orvis hot springs with my Brother, Mom, and step father.  It was a great way to relax and unwind after quite the past few weeks of stressful work packed on top of a 6 hour drive down to Ouray.  I would recommend the place to anyone (At least anyone that doesn’t mind a little nudity since it is a clothing optional resort).  I did wear clothes as it would probably be a little strange being naked around family.

Friday we met up with Mandy and Andrea in Ouray and picked up a few last minute supplies at a local store.  Then we went and checked out Ouray’s Box Cañon Falls where they do the ice climbing in the winter.  It’s pretty amazing watching the creek rage through that canyon.  After that short hike we headed over to Silverton and met the rest of the family.   After having lunch at the local Pickle Barrel, we gathered up our packs and 7 of us boarded the train headed for the Needleton train stop.  My Grandma, Sister, and two Nieces boarded another train a half an hour later and headed for Durango to stay the night.

That day we hiked most of the way up to Chicago basin but didn’t quite reach it.  Instead we stayed at a cool campsite that overlooked some thundering waterfalls.  Saturday we backpacked the rest of the way up to Chicago Basin.  That day we explored around the basin and took a look at some of the falls and mines, and got acquainted with the goats.  This year the goats seem to be less afraid of people and more addicted to urine.  Pretty unfortunate.  They almost act like crack addicts do.  They get all fidgety when you are around and are super paranoid, yet they will do about anything to just get a lick of those rocks.

Sunday Morning Spencer and I headed out for our attempts at summiting 14ers.  The first one we headed for was Mt. Eolus.  After hiking up to Twin Lakes we reached the base of some pretty big snowfields.  We watched as a group of hikers tried to make it through the snow and it seemed to take them forever just to gain a few feet since they were wading and post holing through the snow.  After seeing their struggle we decided to take a route to the right that was still in the shade and the snow was hard.  We strapped on our new crampons and made our way up the steep slope.  Trying to kick step into the snow I slid a few times since it was so steep, luckily I was able to stop myself with my ice axe.  Then I figured out if I side stepped up the hill my crampons held much better.

IMG_1069After reaching the top of the snowfield it was time to cross the catwalk which wasn’t too wide but both sides of it had a pretty extreme drop off on both sides.  If you look closely at this photo you can see a group of people crossing the catwalk to gain the upper part of Mt Eolus.

After this it was a fairly easy climb to the top of Mt Eolus where we enjoyed the views while hanging out with a few other climbers and one fat marmot.  After that we headed down and did a short hike to the summit of North Eolus.

Then it was time for the fun slide down the snowfields we had climbed earlier.  The slope was so steep it made it very difficult to control how fast I was going or where I was going.  But luckily I made it down with only a major case of frozen ass.  It took us hours to get up and only a half an hour or so to get back down to twin lakes.

After making it down to twin lakes it turns out we had perfect timing and met the rest of our group there who was just doing that as a hike.  We sat down and had lunch and chatted for a while before Spencer, Andrea, and I headed up for our attempt of Sunlight Peak.  Only to be turned back less than 1/4 of the way up by a nasty storm.

After a nap and hanging out at camp, we heard a helicopter fly up the canyon.  We all rushed out into the field to see what was going on.  The helicopter circled around the area for nearly 15 minutes trying to find whatever it was looking for and then finally touched down not far from our camp.  We all made way to see what was going on.

After finding the helicopter we learned that a 17 year old boy had fallen from a cliff and had been there for several hours since the ranger’s walkie talkie was out of batteries.  Luckily they had eventually found someone with a Sat Phone that was able to call for help.  Unfortunately the boy had to sit in pain for over 4 hours before the helicopter was actually able to reach him.  With the help of many of the hikers up in the basin they were able to get the boy off of the hill and down into the helicopter and off to the hospital.  I can’t seem to get those disturbing images out of my mind these days.  I just hope he will be able to make a full recovery from his many injuries.  Here is a link to the news story that the Durango Herald ran about the accident

The next day we made our way out of the back country and back into civilization.  I arrived in Denver with my nephew just in time to watch the fireworks light up the skies of Denver.  I made it home after picking up Zip just after midnight.  Boy am I ever dragging ass today at work…..

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Windom Peak in the Weminuche Wilderness Area

Over the 4th of July this weekend I went on a backpacking trip with my mom to the San Juan Mountains down by Silverton, CO.  I’ve been wanting to do this trip for quite some time now and since she ad some days off work, and I had just finished my last day working at my old job, we decided we should go give it a try.

The trip consisted of riding the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railwayup into the Weminuche Wilderness.  They drop you off in the middle of the wilderness area where Needleton Creek flows into the Animas River.  From there you pack up 6 miles with an elevation gain of 2,800 feet into Chicago Basin.  From there we set up our base camp for the next few days.

When we awoke in the morning we started heading up to hike Windom Peak.  Upon setting out at 6 AM to summit our first 14er (14,000 foot peak) we came across probably close to 100 mountain goats.  Most of them were hanging around in people’s camps.  They sure were curious buggers.  According to the forest service, and I witnessed it myself, they are addicted to urine (I know .. gross huh).  I guess they have become addicted to the salt in our urine.  Since this is the case the forest service asks you to make sure to pee on rocks for reasons that would become apparent to me later on.

We reached the Twin Lakes area where you can split up and go to one of the three 14,000 foot peaks right there in the basin.  Due to it being less technical and less exposure than the other two we chose to summit Windom Peak (14,982’).  The other two had some pretty damn sketchy places on them and since mom is afraid of heights (Though she did damn good on what we did) we chose not to combine Sunlight or Eolus in our trip.

From there we headed up the standard route to Windom Peak.  On the way up we didn’t really pass anyone.  Though at the top we did have a young kid come right up behind us.  He had previously hiked Sunlight and had far more energy than either of us had.  We sat at the Peak and snapped some photos then headed down off the mountain.  All in all it took us around 9 hours round trip.  Though we weren’t by any means rushing ourselves.

The next morning we slept in till around 9 or 10 AM.  After getting up and getting our stuff sorted out a herd of the mountain goats decided to pay us a visit.  It turns out that the head of the pack was hoarding the rock I had peed on earlier that morning.  Every time another goat would get near it would chase it off.  After it got it’s fill of all my salt they became curious of what I was doing.  I was down by the creek filling our camelbacks when I looked over my shoulder and one of them was creeping up on me with it’s ever watchful eyes.  I stood up and it continued to inch closer until it was probably 5 feet from me.  Then after a stare down of a couple minutes it decided to head back up to where the rest of the herd was.  I’m not sure if it was just curious what I was doing, threatened by me being there, or if it was just waiting for me to pee so it could get some more!

That day we decided to check out some of the mines in the area and just generally explore the area.  We headed up the trail that goes up over Columbine Pass.  We passed several camps, herds of goats, and a couple hikers.  We also passed one major camp that looked like it was a big base camp for workers on the trail.  I bet they had most of their stuff hauled in via helicopter since they were up by treeline and they had several big boxes that wouldn’t be easily hauled any other way.  We then came across some really cool mines but didn’t venture into any of them.  I’m sure they are very unstable these days.  We also had one goat with a radio collar that stalked us down the trail a half a mile or so.

The next day (the 4th of July) we got up early, packed our camp up, and made the hike back down to the railway.  The train picked us and 6 other backpackers up around 11:30 AM.  After getting back into town on that beautiful ride, we went and grabbed a beer and burger while watching all the interesting folk striding through town.

Quite the trip overall and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in a couple day outing to bag a 14er or three!

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