Stormy Weather on Jacque

My buddy Ben Conners texted me on a Saturday to see if I wanted to join the following day and skin/ski 13er Jacque Peak to the south of Copper Ski Mountain. Jacque Peak is fairly close to Interstate 70 and Highway 91 yet remains elusive to skiers due to its proximity to the Climax Mine, which flanks the peak’s east and southern slopes. I was itching to get back on the skins and skis and told Ben I’d meet he and his wife Anna-Lisa and their new dog Jax at 7am Sunday morning despite a not so ideal forecast as has been par for the course this spring. J and Derek joined me as well and we all three plus Kona rolled the 25 minutes over to Copper in my truck in a rain/snow downpour. Whatever…we were thinking at least we’d get a nice skin up Copper Ski Mountain and then if the weather was horrendous, just ski down. Plus, I was thinking perhaps I would fare better than my last adventure up Jacque from the east and Highway 91 not in terms of skiing and a gorgeous bluebird corn-filled day, but in terms of the aftermath when we returned to the car. That account can be read here. I believe we all agreed that the best possible method of approaching Jacque with the intent of skiing it is from Copper after the ski mountain closes. Copper doesn’t allow uphill travel during ski operating hours. We learned that in another experience up Copper Creek from Highway 91 and the Climax Mine area attempting Jacque in this report. It was wonderful to finally meet Anna-Lisa (AL) and their new dog Jax in the parking lot at Copper’s base. We then all started leisurely skinning up the resort gaining about 2,200′ to the summit of Union Mountain and the top of the uppermost lift in 2 hours or so. The weather was snowy and socked in somewhat but there were glimpses of sun here and there and the occasional blue sky.

Ben & Jax skinning up Copper Ski Mountain

Ben & Jax skinning up Copper Ski Mountain

However, when we reached the ridge, the stiff west wind battered us pretty hard. It wasn’t cold (air temp was still in the 30s), but the wind was pretty sustained and just plain brutal as it pelted us with hail and snow with the clouds moving across the ridge and Jacque Peak ahead. AL was on snowshoes and looked ahead at the long ridge with the wind whipping and decided to remain at the top of the Union Lift for a bit before descending down Copper’s ski slopes. Probably a good call as the weather was fierce the rest of the way up Jacque’s northeast ridge. Jax followed Ben, Kona followed me, and J and Derek pressed on as well over the bumps along the ridge. Thank goodness it wasn’t cold air temperature-wise as we would have turned around if not for ourselves then definitely for the dogs. We knew skiing the loaded east face was out of the question considering we could hardly see it, so we just all agreed to hit the summit and ski the northeast ridge back down. My only concern was Kona getting cold, but she had her Fido Fleece jacket on and I believed she would be ok considering it wasn’t that cold out. However, I didn’t want her to be miserable on her 8th birthday (yes, that Sunday May 17 was Kona’s birthday), but it was a quick up and down. Part of me just wanted to turn around with Kona as I had summitted Jacque previously, but then again I wanted to be with Ben, J, & Derek as this would be their first time up the peak. We continued upwards.

Ben & Jax motoring ahead where Jacque's northeast ridge  begins to climb

Ben & Jax motoring ahead where Jacque’s northeast ridge begins to climb

Ben & Jax making their way in not so ideal weather

Ben & Jax making their way in not so ideal weather

J & Derek

J & Derek

The entire northeast ridge is very skinnable and you can leave your skis/skins on the entire time. Ben & Jax topped out on Jacque’s 13,205′ summit, followed by me and Kona, and we took some pics and enjoyed what we could of the view.

Ben & myself on Jacque's summit (13,205')

Ben & myself on Jacque’s summit (13,205′)

J approaching the summit in a clearer spell of weather

J approaching the summit in a clearer spell of weather

Happy birthday, Kona! Sorry, we are on top of a cold mountain!

Happy birthday, Kona! Sorry, we are on top of a cold mountain!

Ben & Jax skied down while J and I waited for Derek to join us, took a few pics, and then Kona & I descended.

J, Derek, Kona, & myself on Jacque's summit

J, Derek, Kona, & myself on Jacque’s summit

J & Derek skiing Jacque's northeast ridge

J & Derek skiing Jacque’s northeast ridge

It was a fairly quick descent and soon enough after some skating with skis on and a final boot up to the summit of Union Mountain we were home free for 2,200′ of fun powder down Copper’s ski slopes. The ski down Copper was the most fun portion of the 5-1/2 hours out. 4″ of creamy powder on top of a hard base equates to one fun time.

Derek showing off my Mammut pants and his ski skills en route back down Copper's ski slopes

Derek showing off my Mammut pants and his ski skills en route back down Copper’s ski slopes

Back down at the base we headed to the Healthy Tomato for a sandwich and said our goodbyes. Other than a little wind burn on the cheeks and nose and a tired pooch, we all escaped Jacque fairly unharmed and had a good time to boot. I think Kona enjoyed her 8th birthday. At least, I keep telling myself that.

Kristine Earns her Masters Degree

Well, amidst completing the 7 Summits, have a full time job at Red Sandstone Elementary School in Vail, being pregnant, raising our 7-1/2 month old daughter, and doing countless other climbs and adventures, Kristine managed to close out her multi-year graduate school endeavor and earn her Master’s Degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder’s School of Education. To say it is a relief that the classes and papers is finally over is likely the understatement of the year, but it is just all so very impressive Kristine pulled this off with everything else going on in her life. However, I’m not surprised. Not one bit :) Anyway, Ken & Dianne made the journey out to Colorado to see their granddaughter and watch Kristine walk and receive her diploma on a very rainy graduation Friday in Boulder.

The graduate!

The graduate!

Sawyer catching up on the program itinerary with Dianne

Sawyer catching up on the program itinerary with Dianne

All the Masters and PhD candidates in the auditorium

All the Masters and PhD candidates in the auditorium

Kristien receiving her diploma

Kristine receiving her diploma

Dianne and myself took turns hanging with Sawyer in the lobby during the 2 hour ceremony, but overall Sawyer did extremely well. Had only the weather been better we could have all enjoyed the outdoor reception, but we made the most of it inside with fun pictures of the graduates and family.

In the lobby

In the lobby

The graduate & Sawyer

The graduate & Sawyer

The three of us

The three of us

The Oelbergers

The Oelbergers

So proud of Kristine!

So proud of Kristine!

Sawyer was ready to go and the weather was only getting worse, so we all loaded up the Oelberger’s rental van and headed back up the hill in a torrential downpour for 2 hours. With the Oelbergers in town, obviously they want to spend time with their granddaughter, so the next day Kristine, Kona, Rainier, & myself headed west to Grand Junction and Colorado National Monument to do some climbing just the 4 of us like old times. The weather was horrible all over the state and even all around us in Fruita to the north and Escalante Canyon to the south, but somehow we escaped any precipitation in Monument Canyon all day long though we could see it in every direction. It was a good day.

Kristine on the lengthy 110' 5.10a route called Wide Load

Kristine on the lengthy 110′ 5.10a route called Wide Load

Close-up of Kristine jamming

Close-up of Kristine jamming

Kristine in the offwidth portion of Wide Load

Kristine in the offwidth portion of Wide Load

Me & the dogs

Me & the dogs

Stormy weather all around

Stormy weather all around

Me leading the fun layback 5.8+ route called Left Dihedral

Me leading the fun lieback 5.8+ route called Left Dihedral

Kristine honing her layback skills

Kristine honing her layback skills

Me at the chains after leading long 120' Luhr's Route (Right Dihedral), which goes at 5.9 or so

Me at the chains after leading long 120′ Luhr’s Route (Right Dihedral), which goes at 5.9 or so

Kristine climbing the crux face climbing portion of Luhr's Route in Monument Canyon

Kristine climbing the crux face climbing portion of Luhr’s Route in Monument Canyon

Good to be out together

Good to be out together

The following day (Sunday) was Mother’s Day and we had an amazing brunch at the Wolcott Yacht Club. I had not eaten brunch there in 7-8 years, and boy was it awesome. I think we all wish we could go there every weekend for brunch.

At brunch

At brunch

Outside the Yacht Club

Outside the Yacht Club

One more of the Oelbergers

One more of the Oelbergers

All in all, a great weekend celebrating Kristine both as a graduate and as a mother. A husband can’t be any more proud of his wife than myself!

Crackin’ in Escalante Canyon

I have to say Escalante Canyon in western Colorado is my new favorite desert crack climbing destination. Very minimal crowds (closer to none at all), beautiful landscape and sandstone walls, Escalante Creek running through it, and potholes to swim in all make this canyon a great place to spend some time camping & climbing. So, when I moved my buddy Mike Santoro’s bachelor party from Indian Creek, Utah, to Escalante Canyon, CO, the day before our departure primarily because of a selfish reason to have running water nearby for Rainie & Kona, it surely didn’t disappoint and I think everyone was very satisfied and happy with the change of venue. Plus, it was a good 2 full hours closer to home. Spending almost 3 full days and nights in Escalante Canyon was special and afforded all of us the time to really explore the area whether crack climbing, hiking, or swimming. I think Mikey was more than pleased with the weekend’s fun & success. We had a motley crew most of the weekend with a few folks most of the crew had not yet met. However, we all quickly became pals and enjoyed our time together.

Escalante Canyon with the Elk Range visible in the distance to the east. photo by Dillon on his 4-5 hour dayhike to the canyon rim on Friday

Escalante Canyon with the Elk Range visible in the distance to the east. Photo by Dillon on his 4-5 hour dayhike to the canyon rim on Friday

The San Juan Range and Mt. Sneffels as viewed from the canyon rim by Dillon on his Friday afternoon hike

The San Juan Range and Mt. Sneffels as viewed from the canyon rim by Dillon on his Friday afternoon hike

Our camp way down below. Photo by Dillon

Our camp way down below. Photo by Dillon

Another view of Escalante Canyon from the other side of the rim. Photo by Dillon on Saturday's dayhike with J, Joel, & Lauran

Another view of Escalante Canyon from the other side of the rim. Photo by Dillon on Saturday’s dayhike with J, Joel, & Lauran

We had very spacious and luxurious camp

We had very spacious and luxurious camp. Photo by Dillon

The days generally consisted of climbing between 8:30am and 2pm, swimming in the “Potholes” area of Escalante Creek in the heat of the day, and then climbing again for a few hours in the evening. Gosh, if every day could be lived like these days. I think we maybe saw two other people climbing all weekend. My kind of crag. We had a lot of beginners new to crack climbing as well and they all did wonderful and I think had a good time. Then, a few of us definitely challenged ourselves to some of the more difficult and classic cracks of the area. One note on the relative grades of several (most) of the routes we have experienced at Escalante: the rated grades really seem to be “old school” ratings much like Devil’s Tower. In most cases, they will feel harder than the published grade. A 5.10 at Escalante may be a 5.11 at Indian Creek, which tends to showcase “new school” ratings. Bottom line is one cannot base a climb off the published rating – its all relative and subject to the individual climber. Yet, most of these climbs seemed to feel and climb much harder than they would let on. We climbed at two of the five major walls in the canyon – the Interiors Wall & the Cabin Wall. We climbed a few more routes we don’t have pictures of including the route called Key Hole on the Interiors Wall and an unknown 5.8ish climb next to the unknown offwidth we have pics of below. Pics sorted by the routes at each wall we climbed are as follows:

Interiors Wall

Mike leading the offwidth called Lieback (5.9) on the left while Jesse leads Right of Lieback (5.10a) on the right

Mike leading the offwidth called Lieback (5.9) on the left while Jesse leads Right of Lieback (5.10a) on the right. Photo by Dillon

Dillon climbing  the awesome cave route called Interiors (5.9-)

Dillon climbing the awesome cave route called Interiors (5.9-)

Me beginning the fun lead of The Shaft (5.10a) in the cave

Me beginning the fun lead of The Shaft (5.10a) in the cave

J climbing The Shaft (5.10a)

J climbing The Shaft, which was fingers/thin hands to perfect hands up higher

Looking up at J in the Cave at the top of The Shaft

Looking up at J in the cave at the top of The Shaft

Me leading this pretty tough route involving a little bit of everything - fingers, thin hands, hands, a fist or two, and offwidths. This one tore up my arms. I just saw that it had anchors 100' up and went for it. No idea what it is called or rated

Me leading this pretty tough route involving a little bit of everything – fingers, thin hands, hands, a fist or two, and offwidths. This one tore up my arms. I just saw that it had anchors 100′ up and went for it. No idea what it is called or rated

Me trying to find the gear on this same unknown offwidth

Me trying to find the gear on this same unknown offwidth

Tamra had a good time watching me, Jesse, Mikey, & Gracson on this unknown offwidth crack climb

Tamra had a good time watching me, Jesse, Mikey, & Gracson on this unknown offwidth crack climb

Mikey getting an "assisted" belay by Shawn in attempt to inch Jesse up the crack

Mikey getting an “assisted” belay by Shawn in attempt to inch Jesse up the crack

Gracson on the unknown offwidth. He did great on this route

Gracson on the unknown offwidth. He did great on this route

Cabin Wall

Racking up at the Cabin Wall on Saturday

Racking up at the Cabin Wall on Saturday. Photo by Dillon

Me giving Jesse a spot while beginning his lead of the route dubbed Unknown Flake (5.9)

Me giving Jesse a spot while beginning his lead of the route dubbed Unknown Flake (5.9). Photo by Dillon

Dillon on Unknown Flake

Dillon on Unknown Flake

Joel sending Unknown Flake

Joel sending Unknown Flake. Photo by Dillon

Me pulling the bouldery crux on the route called Unknown Awkward. This route is designated a 5.9+ online, but I would have to tend to disagree on this rating as would everyone in our crew. Feels much more like a 5.10+/5.11a. I don't know what 5.9+ has a bouldery start and a finger crack :)

Me pulling the bouldery crux on the route called Unknown Awkward. This route is designated a 5.9+ online, but I would have to tend to disagree on this rating as would everyone in our crew. Feels much more like a 5.10+/5.11a. I don’t know what 5.9+ has a bouldery start and a finger crack :) Photo by Shawn

Me getting through the bouldery crux on Unknown Awkward. Photo by Shawn

Me getting through the bouldery crux on Unknown Awkward. Photo by Shawn

Joel climbing TH Crack (5.8)

Joel climbing TH Crack (5.8). Photo by Dillon

Rock star Shawn Wright leading Rednekk Justus. This route is published as a 5.10+/5.11, but I think most of us would agree is more like 5.12-

Rock star Shawn Wright leading Rednekk Justus. This route is published as a 5.10+/5.11, but I think most of us would agree is more like 5.12-. Photo by Dillon

Shawn higher on Rednekk Justus

Shawn higher on Rednekk Justus. Photo by Dillon

Mikey cranking hard on Rednekk Justus. Photo by Shawn

Mikey cranking hard on Rednekk Justus. Photo by Shawn

Me leading the intimidating S-Crack (5.10c). However, I would tend to go with a 5.11 rating due to the lower bouldery finger section and 30' of off-width at the top. All I could think about while leading this was how Alex Honnold free soloed up and down this. I felt pretty inadequate, but then again it is Alex Honnold :)

Me leading the intimidating S-Crack (5.10c). However, I would tend to go with a 5.11 rating due to the lower bouldery finger section and 30′ of offwidth at the top. All I could think about while leading this was how Alex Honnold free soloed up and down this. I felt pretty inadequate, but then again it is Alex Honnold :) Photo by Dillon

Me leading S-Crack. Photo by Dillon

Me leading S-Crack. Photo by Dillon

J on S-Crack. Photo by Dillon

J on S-Crack. Photo by Dillon

Mikey giving Willy's Hand Jive (5.10) a solid lead attempt on Friday evening after a day of climbing

Mikey giving Willy’s Hand Jive (5.10) a solid lead attempt on Friday evening after a day of climbing

Shawn leading Willy's Hand Jive on Sunday morning

Shawn leading Willy’s Hand Jive on Sunday morning

Shawn pulling the awkward off-width pod crux on Willy's Hand Jive

Shawn pulling the awkward off-width pod crux on Willy’s Hand Jive

Mikey on Willy's

Mikey on Willy’s. Photo by Shawn

Mikey hand jiving

Mikey hand jiving

Me leading Willy's Hand Jive. This was probably my favorite route we did all weekend. 100' of hand jamming and a tough crux 90' off the deck - wow. Photo by Shawn

Me leading Willy’s Hand Jive. This was probably my favorite route we did all weekend. 100′ of hand jamming and a tough crux 90′ off the deck – wow. Photo by Shawn

I love these pics Shawn took of me on Willy's :)

I love these pics Shawn took of me on Willy’s :)

Hand jammin'! Photo by Shawn

Hand jammin’! Photo by Shawn

In the #3 cam section. Photo by Shawn

In the #3 cam section. Photo by Shawn

Me at the off-width pod crux on Willy's. Photo by Shawn

Me at the offwidth pod crux on Willy’s. Photo by Shawn

Jesse cranking Willy's. Photo by Shawn

Jesse cranking Willy’s. Photo by Shawn

Gracson in good form on Willy's Hand Jive. Photo by Shawn

Gracson in good form on Willy’s Hand Jive. Photo by Shawn

While I didn’t want to leave on Sunday, I was exhausted. Doing these kind of weekends wears me out much more than climbing peaks all weekend. The dogs were all tuckered out as well. Trevor’s birthday was Sunday, May 3, and we stayed up well past midnight on Saturday night to ring in his 27th birthday. Ah, to be 27. Though, he didn’t come into work until noon on Monday. But that could have been the 27 beers he drank for his birthday. All in all, a phenomenal weekend.

Saturday night group shot with a nice moonrise

Saturday night group shot with a nice moonrise

I still feel today like Rainie did on Saturday. Photo by Dillon

I still feel today like Rainie did on Saturday. Photo by Dillon

West Deming

I’m always looking for fun little half-day ski tours that are fairly easy to access. Even better if these ski tours are in the Gores. I’ve looked at the very moderate southwest face of this 12,736′ peak dubbed “West Deming” for well over a decade of living in the Vail Valley yet have never ventured up into the steep woods to access this face. It always looked like it would be a great ski despite its very mellow angle (25 degrees maximum). I noticed there was a runaway truck ramp on I70 West halfway between the top of Vail Pass and East Vail. This looked like the perfect parking spot (just below the runaway truck ramp in a very large shoulder off I70 West at about 9,600′) and it turned out it was pretty perfect. Not many hikes or ski tours you access by walking up a truck ramp – at least not many that I have found. Kristine, Kona, & myself did some recon over a week ago one Friday afternoon and made it to 11,600′ right at treeline before we had to start the ski down in order to pick up Sawyer from daycare at 4pm. However, it was good recon of the lower meadows and trees in finding a fairly efficient route up to treeline and the base of the southwest face.

Our route up West Deming's southwest face from I70 West

Our route up West Deming’s southwest face from I70 West

After dropping the youngest & oldest Chalk (Sawyer & Rainier) off at our good friends’ Sarah & Keith’s house in Edwards and picking up their dog Molly, we boogied up to Vail Pass this past Saturday morning to meet good friend Joel Gratz and give West Deming the good ole college try despite a not so ideal forecast. Joel was calling for decent weather at least for a few hours Saturday morning, which was good enough for us. It was extra special to get out again with Kristine as having a 6 month old doesn’t necessarily allow us to get out together as often as we would like. After hiking up the runaway truck ramp, we donned the skis/skins at the first open meadow down at the end of the bike path and began the route up we remembered from the week prior. The skinning was much easier this time around as Kristine and I were breaking trail through 6″ of heavy spring snow the week before. We skinned the 2,000′ up to exactly the same spot at treeline in about an hour and 45 minutes. There are actually some areas of steep skinning through the woods and one point where Joel & I carried our skis up a steep, bare (of snow) glade while Kristine again showed us up and kept her skis on.

Kristine early on in the trees

Kristine early on in the trees

Kristine & Kona hanging tough over the steep, dry ground

Kristine & Kona hanging tough over the steep, dry ground

Kristine showing Joel & I up by keeping her skins/skis on

Kristine showing Joel & I up by keeping her skins/skis on

Good to be out with this guy again

Good to be out with this guy again

The upper southwest face of West Deming above treeline was a very enjoyable skin with great views. The ominous dark clouds almost made for better light and pictures. It took us just shy of an hour to skin the remaining 1,200′ and 1 mile (as the crow flies) to the summit.

Kona & Molly and the route above treeline to West Deming's summit

Kona & Molly and the route above treeline to West Deming’s summit

Kristine heading out to the top with the dogs

Kristine heading out to the top with the dogs

Kristine & Kona

Kristine & Kona

Joel skinning the upper southwest face with the East Vail Chutes/Benchmark Bowl over his left shoulder

Joel skinning the upper southwest face with the East Vail Chutes/Benchmark Bowl over his left shoulder

Joel charging ahead to the summit

Joel charging ahead to the summit

West Deming’s summit was indeed a fantastic perch to view the southern Gore. In fact, in every direction we could point out past camping spots, such as at the Zodiac Ponds below Zodiac Ridge, and all the familiar peaks and ridges of the Gore Range. We remained on the summit for a good 20-25 minutes and admired our views and the good company.

Kristine, Joel, & the dogs up top West Deming

Kristine, Joel, & the dogs up top West Deming

The Chalks on top of West Deming (12,736')

The Chalks on top of West Deming (12,736′)

Mr. Gratz & myself

Mr. Gratz & myself

Summit view west to the Vail Valley

Summit view west to the Vail Valley

Close-up of our "Top of the World" campsite (right summit of gladed bowl) we frequent in the summer and fall

Close-up of our “Top of the World” campsite (right summit of gladed bowl) we frequent in the summer and fall

East Vail Chutes, aka Benchmark Bowl, off Vail Ski Mountain

East Vail Chutes, aka Benchmark Bowl, off Vail Ski Mountain

Looking east to Deming Mountain & Buffalo Mountain (left)

Looking east to Deming Mountain & Buffalo Mountain (left)

Looking northeast to Red Peak (right), Zodiac Ridge, & the Silverthorne Massif

Looking northeast to Red Peak (right), Zodiac Ridge, & the Silverthorne Massif

The very mellow, low-consequence ski down the upper southwest face was phenomenal. Spring-powder on top of a firm base made for awesome arcing turns. It was a lot of fun. Some ski shots:

Kristine

Kristine

Joel

Joel

The skies were just awesome

The skies were just awesome

Joel taking us home

Joel taking us home

And, one of me

And, one of me

Joel & Kristine relishing in the fun ski of West Deming's upper southwest face

Joel & Kristine relishing in the fun ski of West Deming’s upper southwest face

We made it back to my car at about 12:45pm, exactly about 4 hrs after we began. We dropped Joel off in Vail and boogied to Sarah & Keith’s house to pick up Sawyer & Rainier. Both ladies did very well all morning. This great moderate ski tour is a great addition to our running mental list of fun half-day ski tour outings. Even mid-winter, this would be a great ski tour as it is relatively safe due to the moderate slope angle. It would also be a nice summer half-day hike to get high and some great views. I believe the RT is roughly 3,000′ vertical and maybe 5 miles. Don’t quote me on that mileage, though. We are glad the weather cooperated, but really were we ever in doubt? I mean, c’mon, we had Mr. OpenSnow himself with us! In all seriousness, it was great for Kristine & I to get out with Joel again and especially for Kristine & myself to be together again on a fun little adventure like in our pre-baby days.

Sawyer Adventures

The past few weekends have afforded Kristine & myself some wonderful adventuring with little Sawyer as well as Rainie and Kona. While we might not be going out on all day outings either climbing or hiking/skiing peaks these days, these are the most valuable times where you really enjoy showing your children the beautiful outdoors and introducing them to your passions. So, from swiss bobbing to Cordillera’s nordic course pulk sledding to Escalante Canyon rock climbing to backpacking up our local Red & White Mountain, Sawyer has done it all these past few weeks and I think, for the most part, enjoyed herself. Obviously, there are the tougher, stressful times during these outings, but we believe it will all make Sawyer a bit stronger in the long run (hopefully). We sure enjoyed being with her.

Sawyer's 1st swiss bob

My 1st swiss bob

Hanging with Rainie

Hanging with my dog, Rainie

Wolcott Upper Tier climbing:

Hanging with Dad

Hanging with Dad

Me finishing the lead of one of our favorites - The Guru Crack (5.9)

Dad finishing the lead of one of our favorites – The Guru Crack (5.9)

Kristine at the crux on The Guru Crack

Mom at the crux on The Guru Crack

Rainie standing guard while Sawyer sleeps at the Upper Tier

Rainie standing guard while I sleep at the Upper Tier

Kristine & Sawyer at the Sunset Wall of the Upper Tier

Mom & Sawyer at the Sunset Wall of the Upper Tier

Red & White Mtn & Cordillera Pulk Sledding:

We hiked up to our favorite car camping spot on Red & White

We hiked up to our favorite car camping spot on Red & White

A beauty day

A beauty day

In the pulk, Julbo glasses on, ready to roll

In the pulk, Julbo glasses on, ready to roll

Dad pulling me around the couple mile course

Dad pulling me around the couple mile course

The downhill was exciting

The downhill was exciting

All the ladies

All the ladies

Escalante Canyon, Colorado:

It was a hot & sunny day in this remote canyon

It was a hot & sunny day in this remote canyon. Too hot for me (Sawyer) to take a nap, which made for a shorter day for all of us. However, we got a few climbs in and look forward to another trip to this area

Jesse working the tough 100' trad climb called Unknown Awkward at the Cabin Wall. While reported 5.9+, the consensus was that the climb was in the 5.11 range. We agree

Jesse working the tough 100′ trad climb called Unknown Awkward at the Cabin Wall. While reported 5.9+, the consensus on Mountain Project was that the climb was in the 5.11 range. We agree :)

Kristine on Unknown Flake (5.9)

Mom on Unknown Flake (5.9)

Kristine higher on Unknown Flake

Mom higher on Unknown Flake

Dad leading up TH Crack (5.8)

Me leading up TH Crack (5.8)

Jesse high on the fun TH CRack

Jesse high on the fun TH Crack

Back at home

Back at home

Able to sit up now

Able to sit up now

I do like to grin and silently laugh :)

I do like to grin and silently laugh :)

1st time in the backpack (6 miles RT and 2,000′ up Red & White Mountain to the base of the bald spot):

Ready to rock with Dad

Ready to rock with Dad

At the T-junction on the Red & White Mtn road (FS 779). This was our turnaround point

At the T-junction on the Red & White Mtn road (FS 779). This was our turnaround point

My CO hat and matching Julbos

My CO hat and matching Julbos

Heading down on yet another beautiful day

Heading down on yet another beautiful day

The backpack was a success!

The backpack was a success!

Easter 2015:

We went over to a friend's home for brunch

We went over to a friend’s home for brunch

Sitting up and playing in my Easter attire

Sitting up and playing in my Easter attire

The fam

The fam

With Dad

With Dad

Happy

Happy

Silverton Powder Days 2015

Well, its a month belated, but since its the only weekend this winter that I was able to ski some really deep and awesome powder, I figure I would post some fun powder pictures from our late March weekend down in Silverton. Our good buddy Gavin Chapman hosted us engineers on the always eagerly anticipated annual Silverton trip and this year definitely didn’t disappoint. This year was the 4th  year in doing this trip (my 3rd year) and somehow the stars align such that we honestly hit Silverton on their best powder weekend of the season year after year. I don’t understand it, but am certainly happy about it. We all packed into in the ever cozy Animas River House, had some great meals, rum drinks at Montanya’s, and of course plenty of laughs into the wee ours of the night. Yep, there was rarely any sun all weekend, and not a whole lot of visibility nor views, but we’ll take it when there is feet of new powder to ski. A huge thank you to Gavin for putting this on every year for all of us. A few pics:

Left to right: Jake, Billy, Gavin, Shawn, Nick

Left to right: Jake, Billy, Gavin, Shawn, Nick

Jake starting down one of the Tiger gullies

Jake starting down one of the Tiger gullies

I cannot recognize who this skier is, but he is part of our group

I cannot recognize who this skier is, but he is part of our group

Gavin dropping into Dolores

Gavin dropping into Dolores

Shawn on Dolores

Shawn on Dolores

Knuckledragger Billy on Dolores

Knuckledragger Billy on Dolores

Nick Timbie skiing Dolores with the Silverton Mtn valley below. This was one of our favorite runs.

Nick Timbie skiing Dolores with the Silverton Mtn valley below. This was one of our favorite runs.

Zac showboating on Twig Snapper

Zac showboating on Twig Snapper

Gavin in deep on Twig Snapper

Gavin in deep on Twig Snapper

Shawn in deep on one of the Tiger gullies

Shawn in deep on one of the Tiger gullies

Billy on Tiger Main

Billy on Tiger Main

Goodbye, Billy

Goodbye, Billy

Jake in the white room on Concussion

Jake in the white room on Concussion

Jake Blevins

Jake Blevins

Shockley spraying big with his monster fat skis

Shockley spraying big with his monster fat skis. Photo by Shawn Wright

And, one of me coming down Concussion

And, one of me coming down Concussion. Photo by Shawn Wright

Billy took this fun little video of me skiing the lower gully of Dolores:

We skied some good runs all weekend including a few of the Tiger gullies, Tiger Main, Cabin, Bowling Alley, Twig Snapper, Concussion, and our favorite Dolores. My quads were toast after this weekend as I had really not been telemarking all that much this winter. Trevor, Billy, Shawn, & myself topped off the weekend with a good soak in the Orvis Hot Springs in Ridgeway and then made the journey home. Until next year where we hope our luck in Silverton continues.

Sportswomen of Colorado

I first heard about this great organization called Sportswomen of Colorado a few years ago when our friend Christy Mahon from Aspen won an award for her ski-mountaineering accomplishments when she became the first female to ski all of Colorado’s 14ers. The primary goal of Sportswomen of Colorado is to promote women’s athletics by recognizing those exceptional achievements by very talented and wonderful women. It is the first community-based organization in the nation to do so. I always thought it would be fun to nominate Kristine for her 7 Summits quest, but at the time we were a few years off. Then, when we finally completed the 7 Summits in December 2014, I didn’t waste any time in the spring of 2015 to get the nomination rolling. Most of the awards really honor team-oriented high school athletics whether volleyball, track, swimming, or skiing. There are a few special awards for other fields of sports such as triathalons and, yes, mountaineering. And, then, the big award each year is THE Colorado Sportswoman of the Year, which the organization announces at the end of each year’s banquet. Last year, Vail Valley local Mikaela Shiffrin won the Sportswoman award for her professional ski racing accomplishments in 2013. Ironically, Mikaela was Kristine’s former art student at Vail Mountain School when Kristine taught there. After receiving wonderfully-written letters of recommendations by our great friends and supporters Rob Casserley and Diana Scherr, I submitted the entire nomination to the organization and the wait was on. Finally, just this past January we heard Kristine was to receive the special award for Dedication in Mountaineering for her 7 Summits accomplishment. We were all beyond thrilled! After all, I like to think of myself as Kristine’s biggest fan and I just wanted her to be recognized. Its not every day a woman (or for that matter an American woman) climbs the 7 Summits. In fact, as of now, I still only believe 20 or so American women have climbed the 7 Summits and Kristine is the first from Colorado.

The 2015 Sportswomen of Colorado awards banquet at the Denver Marriot Tech Center

The 2015 Sportswomen of Colorado awards banquet at the Denver Marriot Tech Center

So, we headed down to the Denver Marriot Tech Center on Sunday afternoon, March 8, to attend the very nicely done awards banquet. Only, we made one big mistake – driving to Denver on a Sunday afternoon. Fortunately, we never have to deal with skier traffic (and hopefully never will), but we hit it smack on. Good friends (Ben Conners & Brian Miller) have told us, “No one can tell you what skier traffic is, you have to experience it for yourself”. Well, we did. And, man, its awful. Nevertheless, we arrived at the banquet just a tad late for the dinner itself though we missed the hour long cocktail party. It was a fun evening, a great dinner & dessert, and really impressive to hear of all the award winners and their just plain awesome accomplishments. We were talking about how several of these high school women will likely be Olympians soon enough. The keynote speaker was Kate Fagan of ESPN fame. They had pictures circulating on the big screens throughout the dinner and we loved seeing the ones I submitted of Kristine ski-mountaineering in Antarctica and on the summit of Everest. Finally, Kristine was called on stage to receive the Dedication Award during which the announcers made a very nice introduction of Kristine, her accomplishment, and her teaching accomplishments here in the Vail Valley. I scooted near the back and took what pictures I could though the photographer at the front obviously got the goods. I was very proud.

Kristine receiving her Dedication Award from Kate Fagan

Kristine receiving her Dedication Award from Kate Fagan

There she is

There she is

Kristine on the big screen

Kristine on the big screen

The finale of the banquet was the announcement of this year’s Colorado Sportswoman and, not suprisingly, Mikaela won it again for her gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Hard to complete with a gold medal, we thought. I do wonder if adventure-type hobbies such as mountaineering, climbing, etc will ever compete with those spotlight media-hyped sports. Probably not. But, maybe that’s a good thing. Rob Casserley put it best when he said in his letter of recommendation for Kristine: “Mountaineering is not a sport replete with gold medals, cheering crowds, or podiums.” How very true. Anyway, it was nice to hear that the Sportswoman award would be kept local for one more year. Congratulations to Mikaela. We both wish we could have seen her, but she was in Europe for ski racing and could not attend. Though, she had a nice little video addressing the awards banquet crowd and thanked the organization for the award. We both have wondered if she’d remember Kristine as her art teacher.

We made a quick exit and arrived back home in Edwards around 11pm to find a sleeping Sawyer and Diana Scherr’s sweet 10 year old daughter, Piper, in the bed next to Sawyer’s crib. Diana & Piper had relieved good buddies J & Megan of baby duties halfway through the evening. We chatted with Diana for awhile and just thanked her (& Piper) so much for watching Sawyer. It was such a huge help. We got some really good friends, that’s for sure. We actually never took a picture of Kristine & myself at the banquet, so Diana was nice enough to take one of us in our living room with Kristine wearing her Dedication award medal.

Back at home

Back at home

Congratulations again, Kristine. Not only does your 7 Summits accomplishment deserve recognition and accolades, but all of your accomplishments throughout life deserve admiration and celebration. You will always be all of our Sportswoman of Colorado. Special thanks again to Diana & Rob for their outstanding letters of recommendation. You guys are really good friends. To nominate someone or learn more about Sportswomen of Colorado, check the organization out at http://sportswomenofcolorado.org/.

Sawyer’s 1st Upper Tier Outing

With temps in the 50s and the sun shining bright and warm among bluebird skies, we packed the Chalk family up and headed 6 miles west to Wolcott to take Sawyer to the Upper Tier for her first time. We were going to head to Monument Canyon in Grand Junction for the day for some crack climbing in the warm sun, but I checked out Wolcott early Saturday morning and being all dry and devoid of any snow, we chose the 6 mile drive one -way instead of a 150 mile drive one-way.

Sawyer taking her morning lounge on the couch

Sawyer taking her morning lounge on the couch

J joined us not too long after we set up shop at the base of the Bocco Area after the all-to familiar 30 minute hike. We carried Sawyer’s bouncy chair and slid it inside a collapsible, flexible mesh doggy crate Kristine had gotten for Kona years ago to provide some relief for Sawyer from the sun (and us). Despite being 7 years old, the crate is brand-spanking new. Sawyer sported her new Julbo glasses and sunhat. Sawyer has always really seemed to enjoy the fresh air and sights and sounds of the outdoors, especially this day with the gorgeous weather.

Kristine & sporty Sawyer

Kristine & sporty Sawyer

At the Upper Tier

At the Upper Tier

Sawyer in her abode

Sawyer in her abode with Rainie looking in

Kristine & I took turns watching Sawyer while the other climbed with J. Sawyer even took a good hour nap. After a few 5.8+ sport routes, we climbed this fun wide trad crack called Arrow (maybe 5.7) we had walked by for years yet never climbed. Then, J and I finished on our favorite sport route Osso Bocco (5.10+/11-) at the Upper Tier. A good 5 hours outside in some gorgeous weather with all the Chalks and J.

Kristine climbing Arrow

Kristine climbing Arrow

Wide angle of Kristine on Arrow, snow-covered hills, and the always beautiful I-70

Wide angle of Kristine on Arrow, snow-covered hills, and the always beautiful I-70 :)

J leading Arrow

J leading Arrow

Me trying to be quiet due to sawyer napping in her crate while belaying J up Osso Bocco

Me trying to be quiet due to Sawyer napping in her crate while belaying J up Osso Bocco

J pulling the crux of Osso Bocco between the 1st & 2nd bolts

J pulling the crux of Osso Bocco between the 1st & 2nd bolts

Adios, Upper Tier

Adios, Upper Tier

All About Me

June Creek Elementary School’s daycare in Edwards, which Sawyer attends two days a week, requested an “All About Me” poster for Sawyer. Kristine put together this fun little poster for Sawyer, which I thought I would share. Enjoy!

Sawyer Chalk

Sawyer Chalk

TN Pass Cookhouse & Monument Canyon

For Kristine’s birthday, the Chalks visited the wonderful Tennessee Pass Cookhouse at Ski Cooper again but it was our first time with Sawyer. Its always a plus to go on a nice, sunny day for the views and so the dogs can hang outside the yurt while we dine inside. We have always gone for lunches at the Cookhouse for the views, but I hear the dinners are awesome as well albeit more pricey. Reservations are required for either lunch or dinner. More info on the Cookhouse can be found here. Sawyer did great on the brief mile walk to the yurt at about 10,800′ and she had a ball inside always scoping out the scene and her surroundings. It was a nice afternoon.

Me & Sawyer on the Cookhouse's front deck

Me & Sawyer on the Cookhouse’s front deck

Homestake Peak (13,209') across the valley which we climbed and skied almost exactly a year go. Kristine was pregnant with Sawyer at the time, though we didn't know it yet

Homestake Peak (13,209′) across the valley which we climbed and skied almost exactly a year go. Kristine was pregnant with Sawyer at the time, though we didn’t know it yet

Taking in the scene

Taking in the scene

Love the big wood stove inside the yurt behind us

Love the big wood stove inside the yurt behind us

Sawyer observing her surroundings

Sawyer observing her surroundings

Mom & daughter

Mom & daughter

We think Sawyer is figuring out what her hands and fists are and that maybe they are hers? :)

We think Sawyer is figuring out what her hands and fists are and that maybe they are hers? :)

On the Cookhouse deck after lunch

On the Cookhouse deck after lunch

Mt. Elbert from the Cookhouse

Mt. Elbert from the Cookhouse

The Tennessee Pass Cookhouse

The Tennessee Pass Cookhouse

Back at home relaxing on the couch

Back at home relaxing on the couch

And, with that, I got to throw a few climbing pics in here. Last week I received an email from my buddy Ryan Masters to join he and his girlfriend Stephanie in Grand Junction for some warm crack climbing. I mean “you had me at hello!”. So, I drove down to Colorado National Monument for the day on Sunday and had a wonderful time in the warm high desert sun on the awesome sandstone with Ryan & Stephanie. Was great to see Ryan again and catch up on all things mountain-related.

Ryan leading Dihedral 1 - Left Dihedral (5.8+), an awesome 90' route

Ryan leading Dihedral 1 – Left Dihedral (5.8+), an awesome 90′ crack route

Ryan at the crux almost to the anchors. There is a second pitch to this route which goes at 5.12 or so

Ryan at the crux almost to the anchors. There is a second pitch to this route which goes at 5.12 or so

Me leading Luhr's Route - Right Dihedral (5.9), a 120' really fun mixed route involving some technical face climbing past 3 bolts into an awesome arcing dihedral

Me leading Luhr’s Route – Right Dihedral (5.9), a 120′ really fun mixed route involving some technical face climbing past 3 bolts into an awesome arcing dihedral. Photo by Ryan

Stephanie in the dihedral of Luhr's Route

Stephanie in the dihedral of Luhr’s Route

I then led this rather slabby, tough, and runout sport climb next to Luhr's Route called Circle, Square, & theTriangle (5.10a). Ryan then led it after me as seen here

I then led this rather slabby, tough, and runout sport climb next to Luhr’s Route called Circle, Square, & the Triangle (5.10a). Ryan then led it after me and did an awesome job as seen here. I believe its much easier & safer for taller climbers (in terms of clipping the bolts)

Ryan higher on Circle, Square, & the Triangle

Ryan higher on Circle, Square, & the Triangle

Me leading the pretty cool 120' dihedral called Wide Load (5.10a)

Me leading the pretty cool 120′ dihedral called Wide Load (5.10a). Photo by Ryan

Me in the off-width portion of Wide Load, which I climbed much better than my last 5.10a off-width at Tiara Rado

Me in the off-width portion of Wide Load, which I climbed much better than my last 5.10a off-width at Tiara Rado. Photo by Ryan

Stephanie at the crux of Wide Load - an overhanging hand jam into insecure finger jams

Stephanie at the crux of Wide Load – an overhanging hand jam into insecure finger jams

Me leading our 5th and final route of the day called Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fire (5.9). This was a very stiff 5.9 in our opinion and I've heard the face climbing at the bolts is more like 5.10

Me leading our 5th and final route of the day called Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fire (5.9). This was a very stiff 5.9 in our opinion and I’ve heard the face climbing at the bolts is more like 5.10. Photo by Ryan

Ryan climbing the initial fun 30' of arcing finger crack before the face climbing on Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fire

Ryan climbing the initial fun 30′ of arcing finger crack before the face climbing on Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fire

Beautiful Monument Canyon. It was a nice day

Beautiful Monument Canyon. It was a nice day

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