Monday, September 29, 2008

Lost Creek Wilderness, Kick-Ass Mega-Loop

"Peak Y" (12,274')
"Zephyr Peak" (12,067')
"Peak Z" (12,244')
Payne Benchmark (11,780')
"No Payne" (11,789')
Shawnee Peak (11,927')
"Platte Peak" (11,941')
Foster Benchmark (11,871')-unranked
Mt Blaine (12,303')-unranked
N. Twin Cone Peak (12,323')

29 miles RT
7,300' gain
10 summits

With few 11ers and 12ers under my belt, I joined a group of peak bagging maniacs for a mega-loop in the Lost Creek Wilderness (LCW) on Saturday (Sept 27th). The Aspens were changing colors and the thought of undertaking such a tremendous bushwhack/tundra hike in a spectacular setting appealed to me.

Starting at 5:45am at the Long Gulch trailhead, we easily topped out on the summit of Peak Y and made our way over to Zephyr Peak. One by one the summits rolled before us. Up and down we traveled the undulating terrain, chit-chatting and catching up on each other’s lives while sharing this grand adventure.

By the time we meandered to Platte Peak, dark ominous clouds were building off in the distance. Mighty willows tried to impede our progress, however, we sucked it up and bashed through their thickets. At times our feet plunged deeply into soupy, marshy, muddy stretches of tundra.

On the summit of N. Twin Cone Peak the sky darkened and thunder began to rumble. On our way over to S. Twin Cone the sky darkened even more, as graupel tumbled down from above. Seeing successive bolts of lightening convinced me it was time to descend.

Ten summits is no slouch for a day out in the hills. S. Twin Cone (12,340’), Kenosha Peak (12,100’), “X Prime” (12,100’) – soft ranked (280’ prominence) and “Peak X” (12,429’) would have to wait until another day.

Bob and I descended the Rock Creek drainage, which challenged our navigational skills in the disappearing daylight. We eventually met up with the road for the last few miles of trudging back to camp. We arrived at 9:00pm for a 15.25-hour day. After some chocolate brownies and beer it was time for sleep. Another great day out in the hills.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mummy Range Summit Fun

September 20, 2008
Mount Chapin 12,454 feet
Mount Chiquita 13,069 feet
Ypsilon Mountain 13,514 feet
Fairchild Mountain 13, 502 feet

With summer days surreptitiously slipping into fall's spicy colors, I figured this would be my last attempt at “Mummy Kill” this year. Mummy Kill is a gigantic arcing route in Rocky Mountain National Park which begins at the Chapin Pass Trailhead and tags the summits of Chapin, Chiquita, Ypsilon, Fairchild, Hagues, Rowe Peak, Rowe Mountain and Mummy Mountain, finally exiting at the Lawn Lake Trailhead. At over 18 miles and 7,000ft elevation gain it is truly a tour-de-bliss for those who enjoy long outings!

Starting at 5:45am I made quick work of Mount Chapin’s summit. As the sun began to peek over the plains, there was enough light for me to see a lone set of elk tracks in the snow. To my surprise these tracks rolled over the tundra before me as if a to show me the way. Elk are plentiful up in the park and these majestic creatures are well known for their strength and stamina.

Plentiful are the tales of how native peoples would flush elk up onto the divide during communal hunts. Perhaps the terrain before me was prime hunting territory? The concept still intrigues me. Click here for more info on the rich history of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Pushing onward, the summits of Mount Chiquita and Ypislon Mountain offered breathtaking views and I continued to follow those elk tracks across a snowfield over to Fairchild Mountain.

After a brief rest on Fairchild's summit I swooped into The Saddle below Hagues Peak. Within minutes, the weather ceiling began to lower. About 500 feet below the Hagues summit, snow was dropping from already darkened skies.

As I retreated to The Saddle, the Thunder Beings roared loudly … shaking the entire Lawn Lake valley and drenching everything with rain. Seems my full Mummy Kill circuit would have to wait for another day.

Have fun and be safe out there!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Imogene Pass Run

For those folks who might be thinking about a mountain race - Imogene might be for you. Saturday, I did the up and down. That's a cool 17.1 miles 5,310 feet elevation gain. Basically you run/hike from Ouray up over Imogene pass and then down to Telluride.

I felt near-naked at the start; even though I was wearing running tights, a short-sleeved tech shirt, light gloves and a lightweight jacket. No backpack.....what a concept. (I didn't even bring a camera!) The weather was absolutely perfect. It never got too hot on the way up and the aid stations are well stocked. Every one was friendly and I traveled among a small band of veterans who shared their "Imogene war stories" with me.

One woman thought the uphill portion must be like the grueling hours of labor and childbirth. After laughing so hard that I had to stop and catch my breath, I assured this sweet woman (who has yet to experience motherhood) that the excruciating and near-death experience of labor and childbirth was definitely in a league of its own on any suffer-scale and that there was no way reaching Imogene Pass could even remotely resemble the passage into motherhood.

Since I am mortal, and rather slow by mountain running standards, my plan was to make the summit before the noon cutoff time. To my surprise I topped out at 10:38 am and felt terrific. With such an incredible view at the pass, I hung out there for a bit, marveling at the experience of being up there with so many cool people.

The descent into Telluride is described as being "technical" over loose talus. Maybe if you are a road runner you'd consider the trail "technical". I thought it was wide and very good. Sure there are some loosey-goosey rocky sections, nothing I would consider technical. The day was so beautiful, the other runners were so beautiful, the scenery was so beautiful that it made me feel beautiful. I had to walk some of the descent just to savor the outing. (Total time clocked at 4:31:37.89)

For more information see the Imogene Pass Run web site.