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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
Its been a wonderful 2-1/2 months thus far with little Sawyer. Enjoy the pics.
A climbing trip can sure take a 180 pretty fast due to the ever-changing weather forecast. With Kristine & Sawyer back in Minneapolis visiting her sister & family, the dogs & I were planning on heading to the desert for some crack climbing. However, a planned trip to Indian Creek quickly turned to a local skin/ski of a nearby 12er called Outpost Peak in the Gores due to a wet forecast for the Moab area. It was all good & dandy though and good buddies Shawn Wright & Sylvan Ellefson joined me for a nice ski tour of Outpost Peak, which turns out to be a relatively accessible Gore peak from the Pitkin Lake trailhead even in winter conditions. I had circumvented and passed by Outpost Peak more than a half dozen times on several Gore outings, but had yet to crest its summit. Plus, I wanted to peer down its northeast face/bowl and scope it out for a potential spring time ski descent. A larger snow storm was to move in starting Saturday afternoon, but the morning was forecasted to be nice and sunny. After swapping Rainier for The Gus Dog with our good friends who just welcomed their baby boy into this world a week ago and running into buddy Elliot Halverson at the Pitkin Lake trailhead who I had not seen since last spring, we all set out booting up the Pitkin Lake trail at around 8:30am. Shawn & Sylvan’s good friend Zac joined us as well plus Shawn’s pup, Fitzy. About 400 vertical feet up the trail where it starts to flatten out, you leave the trail heading initially west and then northwest and bushwhack your way up Outpost’s broad south ridge through Aspen forests and shrubs. The morning was superb, and while the lower forested terrain was thin on snowpack in spots, which made for interesting skinning, above 10,000′ the snow was much more plentiful allowing for more efficient travel.
Its always a treat for me to head into the Gores. I love this range. You can be all alone with your little crew on a peak in the Gores yet look over at Vail Mountain where 20,000 folks are gracing its slopes. It was a fun and mellow skin up through the forested south slopes of Outpost Peak, which eventually narrows into a well-defined ridge. At around 11,000′ the heavily forested terrain gave way to open fields and glades, which afforded us our first real views of the day.
We crested over Point 11,637′ along the south ridge and then made our through more beautiful glades along the ridge towards Outpost.
I was having some serious skin adhesiveness issues (or lack thereof) the entire day. My skins are at the end of their life expectancy and honestly I didn’t think I would be skinning peaks this early in the season. Nevertheless, after my duct tape failed and they just fell off for the last time 200′ below Outpost’s summit, I just left my skis & skins in the snow and booted the rest of the way.
I believe we reached Outpost’s summit about 12:45pm and you could definitely feel the wind picking up, high clouds building, and a storm brewing in the distance to the west. Our bright sun and bluebird skies had given way to those pre-storm skies. Nevertheless, it was a nice summit and wonderful views. I think all of us enjoyed the perch.
We then descended after maybe 20 minutes on top, strapped into our ski setups, and made our way down the south ridge sticking close to our skin track for the dogs’ sake so they could use it. I loved the views of Bald Mountain and its northeast facing bowl as well as Vail Mountain.
We eventually made it back down to the cars around 3pm for a RT time of about 6-1/2 hours. I believe the RT mileage is maybe 6-7 miles with close to 4,000′ of vertical gain. Outpost’s south ridge made a for a very nice ski tour in very safe terrain. Thanks to all the boys and dogs for making it a memorable day. Of course I missed Rainier on this outing, but post-holing in deep snow and uneven terrain for close to 4,000′ is just not for a 12 year old golden retriever. I think she understands, but probably not. I am already looking forward to going back in the spring to ski Outpost’s northeast face/bowl.
Well, little Sawyer is now officially 1 month old and we celebrated by taking her on a 4WD adventure in my Tahoe and hiked up to one of our favorite campsites we have dubbed “Top of the World” at 11,710′, her personal altitude record thus far in her short lifetime. Its only about a mile and 600′ vertical gain to the campsite from the parking spot, but man what a view of all of our favorite Gore peaks to the north, Tenmile Range peaks to the east, and Northern Sawatch peaks to the south.
At about 2-1/2 weeks old, I took Sawyer up Arrowhead ski mountain with the dogs for her first time up this very familiar spot – one which she will undoubtedly go up and down on foot, skis, & swiss bobs hundreds and hundreds of times. She did so very well and seems to always love to be “on the move”. Its comforting for her. And, she didn’t fuss about being hungry until we got back to the car. Its about 2 miles and 1,700′ of vertical gain straight up the ski slope to the top of Arrowhead. This little first adventure for Sawyer allowed Kristine to finish her paper for her master’s class.
Then, the day before Sawyer turned 1 month old, Mike Santoro and I headed back down to Tiara Rado in Grand Junction for some more crack climbing.
Sawyer is definitely getting bigger, able to hold her head up, and growing on Rainier & Kona.
On October 12, 2014 at 6:45pm, our sweet little daughter, Sawyer Elizabeth Chalk, was born on her due date. At 7 lb 8 oz and about 19.5” long, she was a great size. Sawyer speedily came into this world as we arrived at the Vail Valley Medical Center at 5pm and Kristine gave birth an hour and 45 minutes later.
Apparently, Kristine was having contractions a lot of the day even though we both really had no idea what to look for in a contraction. At 3:30pm, her water broke and the apparent contractions were getting fairly painful soon afterwards. We then headed to the VVMC in a rain storm and our wonderful nurse, Andrea, measured Kristine at 9.5 cm dilated – “almost complete”, they said. Dr. Samuels arrived 20 minutes later, scrubbed up, and after some very painful contractions in which I tried to be her support stand, Kristine started pushing around 6pm to deliver sawyer 45 minutes later. Even if Kristine wanted an epidural, which she did not, it really wouldn’t have even had a chance to take effect as she was too far along and Sawyer would have likely already been born.
Kristine had done it. She did phenomenal and Sawyer was just perfect. I went out and got us cheeseburgers and fries afterwards per Kristine’s request just like we would get after a long day of climbing. However, I think Kristine would say having a baby, especially with no pain relief, was tougher than any climb.
We spent almost 48 hours at the VVMC and were then discharged on a Tuesday afternoon. We went and picked up Rainie & Kona from Sarah & Keith’s house and again were all home together with our new family member. Ken & Dianne came into town late Tuesday night and met their first granddaughter and stayed the night with us. They then left Wednesday on their 5 day road trip to Utah and the Moab area. This gave Kristine & I some good time together to try and get used to life with a baby before the real help from Ken & Dianne came our way. They had a wonderful trip visiting Arches National Park over several days and Colorado national Monument outside of Grand Junction on their way back to Vail. They arrived back at our house just in time for all of us to catch the Broncos whoop the 49ers and to see Peyton break the all-time TD pass record. Kristine, Sawyer, Rainie, Kona, & myself had a nice 5 days together and took walks down to the river and down to Wolcott for some bouldering. Sawyer really seems to enjoy the fresh air. It was definitely an adjustment period for all of us, and will be for some time now, but all for the better. I think Rainie & Kona still think we are essentially “babysitting”.
Ken & Dianne were a huge help, especially to Kristine, the following week while I was back at work. It was wonderful having family here. They then left this past Saturday to head down to the Front Range and then back to Maine this week. I feel like that had an excellent trip between their Utah & Colorado high desert road trip, seeing their granddaughter, and giving us so much support & help with everything.
Now, its just the five of us figuring things out as we go. I’m outnumbered 4 to 1 (females to males), but wouldn’t have it any other way. So, from here on out, we’ll have this blog for all of our climbing adventures as always but also for our adventures with the new lady on the block, Sawyer.
One local trail run I really got to doing fairly often this year is up the 11er Red & White Mountain north of Avon. I just wanted to post a few pics of the route and view from the top. I can’t think how many times we have visited its summit in summer and winter, but its always a gorgeous vista of the Gore Range, Northern Sawatch, Elk Range, Tenmile & Mosquito Ranges, and of course Vail & Beaver Creek ski mountains. I honestly cannot imagine a better view from an 11,000′ peak. Always looking for the buster trail run of lots of uphill and vertical, I thought of running the Red & White Mountain road from Wildridge earlier this Spring. Indeed, it turned out to be tough and by the time I crested the summit, I almost collapsed in exhaustion. But, oh how I do love that feeling. Its a superb run with 2,700′ of elevation gain in about 4.5 miles one way to its summit. There are a few flat sections, but for the most part its at a steady incline with the obvious steeper sections including the final 500′ from treeline up Red & White’s bald spot to the summit, which is barely run-able as its pretty steep. I’ve run this route twice in the last week and just love it. The round trip trail run from my car to summit and back down takes me right at about an hour and a half (if I’m feeling pretty good).
I also hiked up Arrowhead ski mountain with Rainier & Kona and got some pictures of the fading fall colors this past week. The weather sure has been beautiful out here in Colorado this October.
Jesse and I returned to our new favorite desert crack climbing crag in Colorado National Monument outside of Grand Junction this past Saturday. Its a very nice day trip for me from Edwards while a much longer drive for Jesse from Denver, but its all worth it.
Temperatures were in the mid 70s and the weather was just about perfect. We saw two other fellas heading for Oompah Tower, whom we later saw on the Tower’s summit, but that was it the entire day. This place is a real gem. We went onto attempt the classic line called 100′ Hands, which goes at around a 5.10a/b. It was a very enduring pitch for me to lead, as it was just so long with not many rests at all, but I led it clean and was happy with myself. It definitely ate up the gear – a lot of gear goes into a 100′ hand crack.
We checked out the route called Singles (5.10a) next door to 100′ Hands, but we did not have any #5 cams, so next time. We scoped out a few more future climbs and then concluded with the familiar Dirty Martini (5.10).
On the hike out, the two locals we met on the hike in had topped out on the Oompah Tower. The scenery is spectacular and we really felt like we were understanding our surroundings better on this second trip to the area.
Definitely looking forward to many more trips to Tiara Rado with Jesse & friends, Kristine, & our upcoming new little lady.
Rockinghorse Ridge is a smaller section of the main spine of the Gore Range connecting the 12,965′ Peak P and its taller 13,041′ neighbor, West Partner Peak. The difficulties of the ridge are probably no more than a half mile in length, but what it lacks in length it more than makes up for in quality scrambling in the heart of the Gore Range. It is one of the classic ridges of the Gores and gets its name from a large tower along its ridge crest dubbed The Rocking Horse. A few years ago in July of 2012, our little crew consisting of myself, J, Baba, & Chuck descended towards Upper Piney Lake from the ridge en route to West Partner Peak from Peak P’s summit before the real complexities of Rockinghorse Ridge. This descent was due to several reasons: 1) because it was later in the day and boomers were starting to build, 2) we had no tent, there was a fire ban, and we had bivied in the Upper Piney Basin the night before in the worst mosquitos documented since the Great Gore Mosquito Influx of 1808 (this event is not real – the mosquitos were just pretty horrendous), 3) because we did not have mosquito repellent, and 4) because we did not want to stay out another night with no tent nor mosquito repellent and a fire ban in absolutely terrifying mosquito country. We had climbed Peak H that day, traversed The Saw to Peak J, onto Peak P, and we were en route to West Partner Peak when the decision was made to descend. Needless to say, The Rocking Horse has been always in the back of my mind ever since.
Fast forward to last weekend and I thought Rockinghorse Ridge may make for a nice fall day trip from the Booth trailhead in East Vail. A few usual partners in crime joined me for the ridge including seasoned Gore enthusiast Brian Miller & recent Gore convert Dillon Sarnelli. Friends Jason & Becky Blyth with their golden retriever Taj joined us for the hike in and branched off to climb West Partner Peak via its manageable west ridge from just south of East Booth Pass. It was just perfect fall weather. The Aspen colors were really about in their prime and the Booth trail is always a nice hike. We got hiking around 6:30am or so and leisurely took our time chatting and catching up with one another. The plan was fairly simple: head up to East Booth Pass, descend/traverse over to a point below the Rockinghorse Ridge saddle, climb up to the ridge, summit Peak P, traverse Rockinghorse Ridge to West Partner Peak’s summit, and then continue south along the ridge over to Outpost Peak’s summit. Outpost was a requirement for Mr. Miller (and me too) as this low 12er is one of the few Gore peaks we have yet to top out on. Unfortunately, with the late day storms rolling in and thunder very close by, we chose to descend before tagging its summit. Nevertheless, Outpost’s northeast bowl will be a great spring ski for which we have already started game planning.
Becky, Jason, & Taj broke off for West Partner’s west ridge a few hundred feet below East Booth Pass and we said our goodbyes. I always love looking down onto the rarely visited Upper Piney Lake basin. The view down from East Booth Pass surely didn’t disappoint.
Brian mentioned he and Mike Rodenack had traversed from East Booth Pass across the west facing slopes below Rockinghorse Ridge years ago without dropping all the way to Upper Piney Lake and it had worked out well albeit they were on snow.
The route looked very doable and we made our way northeast across slabs with some class 3/4 scrambling thrown in for good measure.
Dillon took a higher road than Brian & myself for some reason and ended up topping out on Rockinghorse Ridge to the south of the deep notch marking the low point of the ridge. Brian & I made it over to the steep grass gully we were aiming for and climbed straight up to the ridge. We heard Dillon calling to us and waiving a map. He was stuck. Nowhere to downclimb to join us on the north side of the deep notch. I felt bad as he wanted to climb Peak P, but honestly downclimbing into the notch was low 5th class terrain and he was better off just staying put and relaxing a bit until Brian & I came over to him. At this point, we saw Jason Blyth on the summit of West Partner Peak and I think he saw us. Brian decided to cook up some pasta with pesto on the ridge proper (talk about brunch with a view) and I decided to just boogie up to Peak P. I love the views from Peak P. I feel like I’m really in the center of the Gore Range.
A few minutes on top and a few pics later, I scampered back down to Brian and he offered me some of his feast. Yum.
We then packed up and made our way south to the first deep notch inn the ridge. Fun scrambling down and out of the notch ensued and soon we were heading onto the second deeper notch which had stopped Dillon in his tracks.
Brian & I were both looking to take the reclimb out of the second notch head-on to meet up with Dillon. I attempted the lower portion directly, but really came to an impass which required me to surmount a small roof with some big exposure in trail running shoes. No thanks. I circled around to the east side of the ridge to find a nice class 4 dihedral which accessed the low 5th class upper portion of the ridge proper. Brian found another low 5th class route about 20′ to the west of the ridge proper.
We both topped out and met up with ole Dillon. Was good to meet back up with him. We continued south on Rockinghorse Ridge to The Rocking Horse tower. Some fun scrambling led up to the fairly mellow class 3 north ridge of The Rocking Horse.
Where the ridge really got exciting was after (south) of The Rocking Horse starting with the downclimb off The Rocking Horse’s south ridge.
Little did we know that Mad (Dad) Mike was coming down off Peak H at this same time (noonish maybe) and saw us on the catwalk after The Rocking Horse and shot a very zoomed-in picture of Dillon & myself. Thanks, Mike! Mike had traversed Ripsaw Ridge from Peak C to Peak H this same morning.
We downclimbed off the catwalk and then a few more towers presented themselves. While one could likely skirt most of these complexities with 3rd class scrambling a hundred or more vertical feet lower on the ridge’s west side, we stayed fairly ridge proper and encountered plenty of class 4/low class 5 scrambling.
We even found one nice looking crack up one of the towers that I was determined to climb. It looked oh so good. This crux could definitely be skirted to the ridge’s west side via class 3 ledges and join up with this more direct route on top of the tower.
It was a tough move with some air below, but as long as you could get a toe in the crack as a foothold and a right hand/arm jam in the crack it was manageable (if 5.4-5.5 is manageable in trail shoes).
The scrambling to the top of this tower didn’t end there as there was an exposed traverse, a small knife-edge, and still some 4th class moves to be had.
It was then a mellower downclimb off to our next set of towers, which mostly could be skirted ever so slightly to the ridge’s east side. Though, one could climb these towers as we did on a few occasions (ya know, for the views).
The terrain then eased off into more “hikeable” slopes and we made good time up the remaining north ridge of West Partner Peak to its lofty Gore summit.
West Partner Peak was a new summit for Mr. Sarnelli. It was familiar ground for Brian & myself, but always good to be back here especially having climbed a different route up this peak other than the class 3 south ridge or 2+ west ridge.
I think it was maybe 1:30pm or so and thunderheads were definitely already starting to build to the west and north. We then descended the class 3 south ridge of West Partner Peak en route to Outpost Peak. This south ridge is a nice scramble in itself and is featured in David Cooper’s book Colorado Scrambles.
I kept looking west at the building storms and then when we had reached maybe the halfway point along the ridge to Outpost, the thunder let loose and it was close. We decided to retreat back down to the Booth drainage via a steep grass gully and save Outpost for another day (hopefully, this spring as a ski-mountaineering outing). I believe the grass gully we used as a descent route is the ascent gully Cooper describes to access West Partner Peak’s south ridge in Colorado Scrambles.
The views down valley into Vail and of Vail ski mountain with Holy Cross behind were phenomenal.
We soon joined up with the Booth trail and hiked the 4+ miles back out. As we descended into treeline, it sure was hard not to stop and take pictures of the gorgeous fall foilage. Brian & Dillon did a wonderful job at capturing the views.
We met up with Kristine for high-end mexican food at Maya in the Westin and topped off a great day in the Gores with margaritas, IPAs, numerous tacos, and brisket nachos. Solid day, fellas! I’d rather be in the Gores than just about anywhere. I think the same could be said for Brian. Dillon? Well, he’s getting there.