Trip reports and getting back to reality

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Above – Wildflowers below the summit of Humboldt Peak (East Ridge)

Bottom of post –  Sunset above Navajo Lake Basin

This past week I’ve had to face the reality that sometimes things don’t go to plan. I’ve been riding a high wave of luck lately, and its the first time in awhile that I’ve had my plans fail miserably. 

Its been two months since my last post. A lot has happened since then, so I’ll get to the fun stuff first, then some trip reports, then some plans in the making. 

First, i was really happy to see osprey packs take a submission i sent them for their blog. Its a little different from what i normally write, but it seems to have been well received. If you’d like to check it out, its here - http://blog.ospreypacks.com/2014/07/01/the-ride/

Issue 16 of TrailGroove magazine is now live, featuring some trip planning tips from me, and a review of a new sleeping bag i got, the sea to summit spark 1. Check out the free issue at TrailGroove.com here – http://www.trailgroove.com/issue16.html

Issue 17 should is also out, featuring my Rainier article and another tip on river crossings. – http://www.trailgroove.com/issue17.html

Getting to the trip reports.

As i said in my last post, i was in full training mode for a mid-July summit attempt on Rainier. The training went as well as it could too. My first weekend of true training, I hit up Shavano and Tabeguache, my last two 14ers in the Sawatch range. They went smoothly, and the next day i took a few newbies up Beirstadt just to push myself a little more. 

The next weekend I linked up with a new partner, Justin, and we took care of a few more San Juan 14ers, finishing off Uncompahgre, Matterhorn (13er), and Wetterhorn in a day, and San Luis the next day. Wetterhorn is probably one of my favorite 14ers now. Its last couple hundred feet is some of the funnest scrambling I’ve ever done. 

I wrote up both of these 14er trips in detail here – http://www.trailgroove.com/showthread.php/1083-Baggin-some-14ers-in-Colorado

After that weekend, I joined Aaron (from TrailGroove) for a 3 day backpack of the Wind River Mountains. I don’t know what bothered me up there, but my allergies went crazy during some of the sections. Even hopped up on Benadryl, I still managed to knock out some decent mileage per day, and the second day was absolutely amazing hiking just east of the divide. If I can manage it, I’ll be going back up for one more shot at the winds this fall, and I’m looking forward to it.

Then the weekend I was training for finally came. I can’t give away too many spoilers since the trip report is a feature article in the next issue of TrailGroove, but Sean and I had a successful summit with perfect weather. Keep and eye out for it in Issue number 17. Definitely looking forward to climbing with him again, and I have an idea for something exciting this winter if it works out logistically. We’ll see if that comes to fruition. 

After Rainier, I took a weekend “off” and just hung out around the house. It was kinda weird since I’d been going after trips pretty hard for since May. I spent the weekend with my daughter and we started looking at places to go. We decided that Mount Rushmore would be a fun trip, and we planned out the next weekend to be an adventurous “daddy-daughter” weekend since i hadn’t taken her to the sand dunes like I had originally planned, and the weather in Colorado wasn’t suppose to be that great anyways. The weather in South Dakota was perfect, and we had an amazing trip together. I also wrote up this trip on the TrailGroove forums, so a detailed trip report can be found here – http://www.trailgroove.com/showthread.php/1111-A-Whirlwind-Through-South-Dakota

I can’t wait for her to get a little bigger so I can take her on more of my trips. However the SD trip was still pretty good venture for her, and she handled every challenge I threw at her like a champ. 

That finished off a very eventful July, and I started August out with bagging another 14er, this time Humboldt, my second Sangre De Cristo 14er. Along the way, I scoped out the routes as best as I could for doing Challenger, Kit Carson, and the Crestones. We did a fun loop over Humboldt, descending the steep east ridge instead of going back the standard west ridge route. The weather was kinda iffy that weekend, but it held just long enough to get below treeline before dumping rain on us on the descent. 

The next weekend, I met up with Justin do get another hard set of 14ers done, the Wilson Group. Set in the far south west corner of the state, they are the farthest from Denver. I met up with him in Carbondale to carpool, getting there around 1am. Somehow I forgot my sleeping bag, so I shivered through both nights that weekend with just a blanket I keep in the back of my car for emergencies. We originally planned on getting all three of the giants in one day, but we ended up only getting El Diente and Mount Wilson the first day. We went up El Diente first, climbing a fairly loose gully to the ridge just east of the summit, then traversing west to the summit. We then did our first of the 4 great 14er traverses to Mount Wilson, staying as close to the ridge top as we could without needing to rappel or do anything particularly stupid. The climbing was definitely 4th class or easy 5th class, with some fun moves and sustained climbing over the entire ridge to the top of Mount Wilson. At the top of Mount Wilson we decided it was getting too late for a push to bag Wilson Peak, so we hiked out to the car and slept. The next morning we woke up, drove around to the other side to climb Wilson peak from the silver pick trailhead. We got a fairly late start, and still managed to pass a few people on the way up and get to the top for a nice lunch break, surveying the route we did the day before, then hiking out as fast as we could since we both had a long drive home. 

The next weekend all of my plans fell through, so I ended up staying around town. That brings us up to the last week. Earlier this week, I got laid off of my job after my project manager put in his two weeks to leave for a different firm. Either way, I think its for the best as I have insulated myself financially. It wasn’t exactly expected, so I took a few days to think and decided to still go on my weekend trip, another hard 14er bagging trip with Justin. Here’s where reality set in. Our goal was to nab the other 4 peaks in the Crestone group that I had scouted out at the start of the month. We backpacked in, hoping to get all 4 in a day, however understanding that if weather or something became an issue, we’d be happy doing them  over two days, camping near south colony lakes in between if needed. The weather was predicted to be mostly sunny, and ended up being extremely thick fog with strong winds, but apparently not strong enough to disperse the fog. Over the entire weekend, we only caught one fleeting glimpse of the peak we came there to climb, and ended up calling it Sunday morning when the fog started to get worse. Because of my new work situation, I thought I might be able to get in some more climbing in the Blanca group or the San Juans after the Crestones, but I decided to just call it a weekend since the weather didn’t look much better in those locations, facing the reality that the weather had gotten the best of me for the first time this year. I think my decision was wise, and for a consolation prize, I went out of my way to visit Bishop’s Castle, a fun tourist attraction in the wet mountains west of Pueblo. I had heard/read about about it back when I had a motorcycle, since the attraction its located on is a fun road to ride up and down, but had never seen it in person. I doubt I will go out of my way to see it again myself, but I bet Alex would like going there eventually. Maybe next summer :-)

For my plans – 

It looks like I’ll get a good 5-6 days next weekend for Labor Day, and the weather is tentatively looking good, so I’m going to head off to the San Juans to finish them up, and hit up the Sangres again to see if i can get some better luck than the last weekend. After that, I’m not sure what will lay in store. I’ll need to start working on the Elks at some point, and I still want to do the Blanca and Crestone Traverses. I don’t think I’ll be doing any more straight up backpacking trips till the fall when the desert cools off enough to get back to the canyons. Maybe spring canyon in Capitol Reef, or a longer trip to the Arizona Strip area. Either way, to quote Gerry Roach -

“Geologic time includes now, have fun, and remember why you started”

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Posted in Uncategorized

More Desert Stuff, Rainier, and the Winds

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Above – Sunset in Chesler Park

Bottom of post –  A long exposure of the Milky Way using the Polarie tracker in Chesler Park

Wow, it’s been a month and a half since my last post.

Lots of stuff happening, and I’ve been letting things come as they may.

My last trip that I wrote up about, Capitol Reef’s Lower Muley and Halls Creek Narrows, is now live in the newest issue of TrailGroove here - http://www.trailgroove.com/issue15.html?autoflip=109

I also wrote up a nice primer on water filtration and purification, and what options are out there. Hopefully it’ll lead to some informed decisions on what will work best for their trips. – http://www.trailgroove.com/issue15.html?autoflip=11

I am also giving away a Patagonia Houdini Jacket through TrailGroove this month. Check out Aaron’s Blog here for more info – http://www.trailgroove.com/entry.php/44-Patagonia-Houdini-REI-and-TrailGroove-Giveaway

Oh yeah, last thing. Check out that cover photo and back page photo for Issue 15. Yeah, that’s mine :-D

Alright, on to the trip reports.

Since my Capitol Reef Trip, I decided I needed a little bit of snow in my life, so I climbed La Plata Peak the first weekend of May. It was still fairly snowy, requiring snow shoes until it got steep above the trees, and even then, some sections were soft enough to require them, but we made do without them. My partner for that trip was very slow, and it took forever to get to the top, but we made it. He is planning on doing Denali in a year, but considering that was his first successful snow climb ever, and his lack of knowledge and his pace, I’m pretty sure it’s more fantasy than reality, but hey, who knows. I wish I had the time and funds to climb Denali next year, but I don’t.

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Above – On our way up La Plata – Shot with my Theta 360 camera

After that I took two weekends off before my Memorial Day trip. The whole idea was to backpack the Under the Rim trail in Bryce Canyon. After taking off after work, I drove to Escalante where I car camped and tried to see the newest Camelopardalids meteor shower behind intermittent clouds, finally giving up around 2AM and getting some sleep. The next morning I drove the rest of the way to Bryce, just to be told by the rangers that they closed down a significant portion of the backcountry because someone had food in their tent and a bear swiped at them in the night. In my defense, I had tried to call the day before to check on backcountry conditions, but nobody answered the phone, so I decided to go anyways. Apparently a lightning strike had knocked out the power and the phone lines for the national park, which is why nobody answered, and they were still out when I got there, so the whole thing was just pure bad luck. I decided to still stick with the plan and backpack the section that was still open, camping near Swamp Canyon. The next morning I hiked out, hitch-hiked back to my car, and then day hiked the fairyland loop in the northern portion of the park.

After day hiking, I decided I had had enough of Bryce and their backcountry shut down, so I headed towards Capitol Reef to finish hiking the upper portion of Muley twist canyon. I ended up camping at the west end of the major canyon that the burr trail runs through, and shot stars most of the night, waking up to my alarm a few times to get some different shots of the milky way with the help of my new polarie tracker.

The next morning I woke up, drove the rest of the way to Upper Muley. Instead of parking at the designated 2WD spot, I continued on along the stream bed, eventually making it all the way to the 4WD trailhead near the Strike Valley Overlook. Not bad for a 91 Honda civic with 4.5″ of clearance.

I day hiked Upper Muley, which was very cool. The upper section had no less than 5 significant arches along it, and the rim route was spectacular. I wish I would have had the time to backpack and camp along the north end of the rim route. It was amazing.

After getting back to my car, I drove the rest of the way home, begrudging the fact that I had to work the next morning instead of being able to explore the reef a little more. I think I have a new favorite national park.

The weekend after that, I headed back to Utah for my final desert trip of the season. I had secured an overnight permit for Chesler Park, and I wanted to explore the western section of the needles that I hadn’t seen yet. We decided to make the trip start/end at Squaw Flat campground instead of elephant hill, making the route a little longer, but allowing us to see some sections that we missed on our last trip. Chesler Park was beautiful. It had long grass, lots of wild flowers and flowering cacti, and some spectacular sandstone. We had our permit for CP5, which is the last campsite along a sandstone ridge in the middle of the park. Along that same ridge we found a historic cowboy camp, which just added to the experience of camping in the park.

After dropping off our stuff in camp, we day hiked to the joint, a narrow slot canyon like passage from Chesler Park to the area below it where the 4WD road allowed access to the park (from elephant hill to Beef Basin). After exploring some more, we headed back to camp to have dinner, watch the sun set, and shoot some more star photos (again, I brought the polar tracker) and woke up a few times during the night to shoot photos.  Unfortunately, it had to be a short weekend trip, so the next day we hiked out, and drove back to Denver.

Last weekend, Father’s day weekend, I continued my tradition of taking my daughter camping. This is the 4th summer I’ve taken her camping.  As always, it was a blast, with lots of s’mores, stories, and games.

Now, for the plans.

Sean O’Rourke, who I met in Ouray a while back while ice climbing, is an awesome guy with a climbing lifestyle that I definitely envy. Earlier this spring, he mentioned he was having issues getting a permit to climb rainier solo, so I made the offer that if he wanted a partner, I’d fly up there and climb it with him. I’ve done harder (see Operation Dark Snake in 2013 and my report about Gannett in 2010), but I knew it would still be a challenge. Sure enough, I got a few emails from him at the start of June, and we nailed down a weekend in July for a summit attempt. It’ll be my first trip to the Pacific Northwest, so I am definitely excited. I’m also excited to finally get to climb with Sean, although I know he’s going to dust me unless I train hard.

Other stuff in the bag is a few 14ers next weekend (trying to hit 10k feet of gain in 48 hours) and tentatively taking Alex on a trip to the Sand Dunes for some “Daddy/Daughter” time the weekend after that. It’ll be the first multi-night camping trip I’ve taken her on, so I’m hoping it goes well. She seemed to enjoy last weekend quite a bit.

Next comes the Wind Rivers. I’ll be heading up to Lander to backpack a new section of the Wind Rivers I haven’t seen before, and maybe catch a summit along the way.  I’ll be backpacking with Aaron, so I’ll have some good company for that trip as well.

After the winds and Rainier, I have no plans. At all….

I guess I’ll have to find something fun. Maybe spend a few weekends taking Alex on local trips or backpacking a few sections of the Colorado Trail, and I’ll figure out a Labor Day trip too. For Labor Day, a few idea’s I have floating around is Granite Peak in Montana, maybe another trip to backpack something in the Winds or the Tetons, maybe a 14ers trip (Chicago Basin could be done in a long weekend). Who knows?

MAKE EACH DAY A NEW HORIZON

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Posted in Uncategorized

Capitol Reef and the Waterpocket Fold

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Above – Just before sunrise just north of the Halls Creek Narrows in Capitol Reef National Park (looking northwards).

Below –  One of the many cactus blooms i saw during my latest trip to southern Utah. 

After three days down in the southern leg of Capitol Reef and the Waterpocket fold, I have decided that I am really impressed.

- Halls Creek Narrows is just awesome! As good as Buckskin Gulch and the Zion Narrows, but with no red tape for overnights (walk in permits are free at the visitor center).  It’s shorter at only ~3.5 miles through it, and the water during my trip was around 3 feet deep in the deepest sections you have to wade through.

-Lower Muley twist canyon is pretty awesome. Some of the largest alcoves I have ever seen. Almost completely dry, so I was glad that I stashed water at the upper trailhead.

- Brimhall Natural Bridge (a double arch) was actually a bit of a scramble to get up to, which wasn’t expected (but then again, I didn’t read up on the trail). It wasn’t too bad of a hike, just unexpected squeezing and friction climbing. The area near the arch was a great lunch spot.

- As good as my idea to self-shuttle with my mountain bike, I keep forgetting that any significant bike riding after hiking for three days isn’t the most comfortable activity :-P

I think I am going to write up this trip for Trailgroove for the next issue. It should be pretty sweet.

Also, Osprey will be posting a piece I wrote along with some photos. I think it’s a pretty good piece, so I’ll post a link to it when it goes live.

Unfortunately, no more desert trips have been planned from now until Memorial Day when I’ll be doing the under the rim trail in Bryce. However, I will be training for the Colfax Marathon between now and May 18th, so that’ll keep me busy. I also am apparently receiving an unknown 1 lb. package from Ricoh on Monday. Maybe it’ll be a Theta 360 camera for Spherical Report 360!!!

I wonder what i could do for the spherical report. Maybe a spherical photo from the tops all the peaks, passes, and canyons this summer.

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Posted in Backpacking, Biking, TrailGroove Magazine, Uncategorized

Desert Season

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Above – Just before sunset near the Dollhouse in the Maze

Below – Looking into Jasper Canyon in the Maze

Oh, how I love the spring desert season. It’s so nice to escape from Denver and head out to the middle of nowhere in southern Utah and northern Arizona, exploring bits and piece of the Colorado Plateau. My March trips turned out excellent, and I was treated to some amazing weather for both the Grand Canyon and for the Maze district of Canyonlands. It’s pretty crazy how remote the Maze district is, taking over 4 hours from Green River, UT to get to the golden stairs where we started my second trip. Aaron wrote up a trip report here with some awesome photos.  

Two weeks after going on those trips, I needed more, so I headed back out to Canyonlands, hitting up the Needles district and hiking Salt Creek from Cathedral Butte to Peekaboo, and then hiking west to see Druid Arch and out through Elephant Hill. I had hiked Salt Creek two years ago, and although it was familiar, it was fun to see it again, seeing even more Indian ruins and petroglyphs than I saw last time. However, I hiked downstream instead of upstream, which made navigation much easier, and instead of continuing along the salt creek north, we headed west into lost canyon, which was absolutely epic.

After getting back, I found out the next day that I had a new job offer, with some better benefits, so I decided to celebrate with another desert trip just before starting up the new job, this time exploring the lower section of capitol reef along the Bullfrog-Notom Road. The weather is again looking excellent for the trip. After that, I’m looking forward to finally doing the Under-the-rim Trail in Bryce, and finishing off the spring desert season with yet another trip to the Needles District to see the rest of Chesler Park. 6 desert trips should keep me satisfied till next fall, and until next fall, I can do some more exploring of the high country as it melts out from the winter.

In the latest issue of TrailGroove, I wrote up some tips for deserts trips for the trail tips section here.

I also got a chance to check out Pat’s Backcountry Beverage System and their brew and soda concentrates. Simply put, they taste like a fresh beer/soda, and its much lighter and eco-friendly than hauling around a bunch of cans/bottles around the backcountry. I also wrote up a full review for the magazine, which can be seen here too

There’s a few other things I’ve got in the works with Osprey Packs and Golite, so hopefully those will come to fruition soon enough. Let’s just say I’m excited about what the future may hold :-)

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Posted in Backpacking, Planning and Prep, TrailGroove Magazine

Grand Canyon planning

DSC04092Above – Grand Teton and Table Mountain, seen from Fred’s Mountain pass

It’s been awhile since if wrote up anything, mostly due to the fact that buying and then setting up a house is way too much work. I am now a homeowner, and now that everything has settled down, I hope to be able to bring some more trips for everyone to read about this summer here and in TrailGroove.

I was able to get out for a few small trips this winter including the Ouray Ice Festival which is always a blast. I also had multiple articles published, including my teton trip, my Utah highline trip, the 4 pass loop, layering in the cold (two parts), and how I put together my first aid kit (and why)! Check them out in Issues 11, 12, and 13.

My first trip of the spring/summer is another trip to the Grand Canyon. The route looks to be around 50 miles of backpacking, plus potentially up 14 miles of additional day hiking if feel up to it. The route is from Hermits Rest to Hermit Rapids, then along the Tonto Trail to the Bright Angel Trail, down to the Colorado River again to cross at the bridges, and then back to the south rim via the South Kaibab Trail.

Apparently the Grand Canyon backcountry rangers aren’t use to people wanting to backpack more than 10 miles a day, and I received multiple warnings from them that I should reconsider my trip. Quoting the email I received from Ranger Welles “The itinerary you proposed is difficult for even the most experienced Grand Canyon backpacker”. I wonder if they are oblivious to the multiple ultra-runners that run the canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim in a day (41-47 miles and over 10k’ of gain, depending on the route)

Last spring I backpacked to the river in 3 hours, and backpacked from the river to the south rim in 5 hours, with energy and time to spare. The only “difficult” day planned this spring is the last day, which is 14 miles and ~5k’ of gain from the river to the rim, which I anticipate taking between 7-8 hours at a mild pace.

After the Grand Canyon, I am planning to meet up with Aaron, the editor and owner of TrailGroove, for some fun in the Arizona Strip and then Canyonlands. We also decided to plan a second trip to the needles section to see Chesler Park in early April too.

As for my plans this year, I am eager to finally backpack the Under-the-rim trail in Bryce Canyon, run my first marathon (The Colfax Marathon), the Wind River Highline trail in Wyoming, and the Wonderland Trail in Washington state. I am also going to try to start section hiking the Colorado trail, which I had planned on doing before my surgery last spring, and throw in some 14ers for taste when I decide I need some altitude. If this summer turns out half as well as last summer, I’ll be ecstatic!

Posted in Planning and Prep, TrailGroove Magazine

Getting Educated

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Above – Buckskin Gulch, AZ

Winter has finally hit the Colorado high country, and I’ve been laying low for the last month since life has been pretty busy. This last weekend I headed up the foothills west of boulder and completed a Leave No Trace Trainer course. I have always felt like I practice good land ethics while in the backcountry; however the trainer course has opened my eyes to some better practices. Now I know that there were still a few things I should be doing a little differently, and will try to implement them on future trips. If you have the time, I highly recommend taking a course. Local courses can be found using the calendar on the LNT.org website.

I also decided to take a Wilderness First Responder course this fall. Even though I have had formal advanced first aid training through Lifeguarding, river guiding, and Boy Scouts, I have never actually taken a formal course on wilderness specific medical best practices, and again I have found it well worth the time. You are only as effective as the tools you bring with you, and the lightest tool you can bring is knowledge. As a result of the course, I’m going to be modifying my first aid kit a little bit. However I think I can get away with only adding a few items and keeping the weight down. Aaron has expressed interest in a first aid kit primer, so that will be coming down the road at Trailgroove.

Speaking of Aaron, he decided to write up part of the Utah trip we took last spring to buckskin gulch. The trip report along with photos from both of us can be seen here – http://www.trailgroove.com/entry.php/38-Hiking-Buckskin-Gulch-A-Belated-Trip-Report

Another cool thing I found was that I was selected again for September’s spot at FreePhotoCourse.com’s contributors’ gallery. I’ve already mentioned before how much I like how his site is laid out to help teach some basic photography skills, and I recommend reading through his primers.  – http://freephotocourse.com/contributors-photo-gallery.html

Right now the weather for the upcoming weekend is looking really good, so I think I’m going to get after a few more 14ers in the snow, and maybe break out the fat bike. Below are a few good photos of the fat bike during the gravel grinder last month. This thing is too much fun!

Posted in Biking, Planning and Prep, TrailGroove Magazine

Move

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I love the video below. It reminds me of last fall, I was training hard at the rock gym 4 days a week, and going out every weekend that the weather was decent, getting ready for the Bozeman Ice Festival and ice season.

Things are a little more complicated now since my shoulder is still healing up, but this just makes me feel motivated. Get out there and do something on a daily basis.

My shoulder is oddly feeling really well today, even though it was hurting enough last Thursday that i postponed the White Rim trip for a few weeks. I think the weekend of rest did it some good, so I decided to sign up for a 50 mile gravel grinder this Saturday, and I’m going to run a 10k race on Sunday.

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