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

Happy 12th, Rainie!

I guess its only natural that we start aging from the instant we are born, but its just not fair that our loving & loved canine companions age so much faster than us. My first love, Rainier, turned 12 years old yesterday (January 11) and while part of me gets sad knowing she is in the latter portion of her life expectancy, I am very fortunate, grateful, and happy to have been a part of her amazing life thus far and to have had her be such an important part of my life. I have always loved her unconditionally and have thought many times I would be willing to trade my life for hers. I go would through and do anything to save and protect her. You know you love something so much when you love that something more than yourself. We have been on countless adventures, hikes, and climbs together and have made so many unforgettable memories. She is such a special gal, the sweetest thing I know, and has been my best friend since I picked her up at 7-1/2 weeks old in Charlotte, NC in 2003. I cannot imagine my life without her. I hope she feels the same. While she is of course slowing down and getting more aches and pains, she is still such a trooper and is able to hike very well. We have all been so fortunate Rainie has been such a healthy dog her whole life. Except for a malignant tumor over a year ago, which was completely removed and excised, she continues to amaze me and many others in her abilities & energy for being 84 years old in human years.  I have so many photos of our adventures over the years, but here are a few blasts from the past:

Rainie on Lavender Col after climbing Mt. Sneffels in July 2004

Rainie on Lavender Col after climbing Mt. Sneffels in July 2004

La Plata Peak summit (August 2004)

La Plata Peak summit (August 2004)

Rainie coming down the class 3 summit pitch on Wetterhorn Peak in 2004

Rainie coming down the class 3 summit pitch on Wetterhorn Peak in 2004

Mt. Harvard summit (August 2005)

Mt. Harvard summit (August 2005)

Tent-bound on a winter attempt of Challenger & Kit Carson Peaks in 2006

Tent-bound on a winter attempt of Challenger & Kit Carson Peaks in 2006

A friendly Kristine & Brandon with a young Rainier on the summit of Huron Peak in November 2006

A friendly Kristine & Brandon with a young Rainier on the summit of Huron Peak in November 2006

Rainie with a young Kona

Rainie with a young Kona

Me & Rainier on the summit of Blanca Peak (Memorial Day weekend 2007)

Me & Rainier on the summit of Blanca Peak (Memorial Day weekend 2007)

Me & Rainier on the summit of Mt. Wilson with El Diente behind (September 2007)

Me & Rainier on the summit of Mt. Wilson with El Diente behind (Labor Day weekend 2007)

Wilson Peak summit (Labor Day weekend 2007)

Wilson Peak summit (Labor Day weekend 2007)

Me & Rainie on top of San Luis Pk, my final Colorado14er, in August 2008

Me & Rainie on top of San Luis Peak, my final Colorado 14er, in August 2008

Her namesake

Her namesake

Crestone Peak summit in  July 2009

Crestone Peak summit in July 2009

She likes her beer

She likes her beer

Rainie & Kristine at Lake Powell in August 2009

Rainie & Kristine at Lake Powell in August 2009

Rainie ready to climb Pyramid Peak

Rainie ready to climb Pyramid Peak in August 2009

Rainie & I descending from Pyramid Peak's summit

Rainie & I descending from Pyramid Peak’s summit. Photo by Caleb Wray

Mt. Yale's east ridge climb in winter of 2010

Mt. Yale’s east ridge climb in winter of 2010

Rainier makes a high-speed descent of the steep north face of Crystal Peak (April 2010). Photo by Derek Drechsel

Rainier makes a high-speed descent of the steep north face of Crystal Peak (April 2010)

Photoshoot

Photoshoot

A 2011 Covergirl. Cover photo by Joel Gratz

A 2011 Covergirl. Cover photo by Joel Gratz

Rainie taking a rest on climbing Mt. Antero, Kristine's final Colorado 14er in August 2011. Photo by Joel Gratz

Rainie taking a rest on climbing Mt. Antero, Kristine’s final Colorado 14er in August 2011. Photo by Joel Gratz

Summit of the Spider, Gore Range, with Rainie in July 2012

Summit of the Spider, Gore Range, with Rainie in July 2012

An old favorite - Uneva Peak summit in the Gores

An old favorite – Uneva Peak summit in the Gores

Summit of Wheeler Peak, New Mexico in May 2014

Summit of Wheeler Peak, New Mexico in May 2014

So, last night, as I believe one of Rainie’s favorite activities nowadays (other than having a tennis ball in her mouth) is swiss bob sledding down a ski mountain in my lap, we hiked up Arrowhead at a nice, enjoyable Rainie pace and cruised down perfect corduroy for 1,800′ in less than 10 minutes. Not to toot our own horn, but we have pretty much perfected the human/70 lb dog swiss bob sled down a ski mountain together. She absolutely loves it. She wouldn’t think of walking/running down on her own. She just circles around me waiting for me to say I’m ready for her in my lap. It was a perfect birthday outing.

Rainie & I atop Arrowhead for the nth time before our birthday swiss bob run

Rainie & I atop Arrowhead for the nth time before our birthday swiss bob run. This was also a great outing to try and forget the Broncos’s horrible loss to the Colts an hour earlier. However, I still love my new Broncos beanie cap thanke to Ken & Dianne

Maybe a year or so ago, Joel Gratz took this iphone quality video showing Rainie & I pushing off from the top of Arrowhead on our swiss bob. While the video is dark and somewhat grainy, I think it does show Rainie’s comfort & enjoyment. I hope to borrow J’s GoPro soon enough and video the entire bob run down the mountain.

Happy 12th bday, Rainie. Love you and looking forward to the next few years together!

Fall with Sawyer

Its been a wonderful 2-1/2 months thus far with little Sawyer. Enjoy the pics.

Thanksgiving at the Ciluzzis

Thanksgiving at the Ciluzzis

Sawyer & her posse of kiddos

Sawyer & her posse of kiddos

Sawyer among her future climbing gear

Sawyer among her future climbing gear

At our local Milk Creek crag Thanksgiving weekend

At our local Milk Creek crag Thanksgiving weekend

Rainier babysitting...

Rainier babysitting…

...while Kristine climbs one of our favorite little 5.8s

…while Kristine climbs one of our favorite little 5.8s

Diaper change at the crag: no problem

Diaper change at the crag: no problem

Lounging in her swimsuit

Lounging in her swimsuit

With Gigi

With Gigi

Waking up in the morning

Waking up in the morning

Me & Sawyer

Me & Sawyer

Ready to roll to our Homestead Court Club's holiday Christmas party

Ready to roll to our Homestead Court Club’s holiday Christmas party

Very attentive

Very attentive

And, very relaxed with Gigi

And, very relaxed with Gigi

Mom and I on a little hike

Mom and I on a little hike

First Starbucks run

First Starbucks run

Racked out

Racked out

Yawn...

Yawn…

Rock climbing at Milk Creek again: Kristine on the awesome 5.9 layback

Rock climbing at Milk Creek again: Kristine on the awesome 5.9 layback

Kristine getting into the off-width

Kristine getting into the off-width

Sawyer hangin' again at our local Milk Creek crag

Sawyer hangin’ again at our local Milk Creek crag

Rainier racked out

Rainier racked out

Yep, winter is here - time to bundle up!

Yep, winter is finally here – time to bundle up!

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