Escalante Canyon 2017

A little behind in our blog entries, but the whole Chalk family made our annual trip down to Escalante Canyon, CO on Friday, May 19 for some camping and crack climbing with friends. Always fun to get down there in the Spring and Fall as the Summer is just too darn hot. Sawyer slept most of the 3 hr drive, which was great, and we arrived finding a nice campsite around 5pm. All of our friends trickled in over the evening and next morning hours.

Sawyer & Kristine in our big tent

Sawyer & Kristine in our big tent

The next morning in the tent vestibule

The next morning in the tent vestibule

I think this little gal likes camping in the high desert

I think this little gal likes camping in the high desert

It was chilly at night, but once that sun hit Saturday morning, things really warmed up nicely.

Rainie on point

Rainie on point

Sawyer displayed her desert energy by jumping off rocks

Sawyer displayed her desert energy by jumping off rocks

Most of us then went off to the Cabin Wall and likely our favorite route, Willy’s Hand Jive (5.10+). I led up Willy’s and set up the top rope for folks.

Grayson climbing Willy's with the gals in the foreground

Grayson climbing Willy’s with the gals in the foreground

Grayson again on the amazing Willy's

Grayson again on the amazing Willy’s

Kristine on Willy's

Kristine on Willy’s

Me and the Sawyer

Me and the Sawyer

Happy Sawyer at the wall

Happy Sawyer at the wall

Sawyer getting harnessed up for some 5.10s :)

Sawyer getting harnessed up for some 5.10s :)

Jesse & Natalie each took a turn to lead up the imposing Rusty’s Cave route (5.10-) next door to Willy’s. They did awesome, but the crux is the cave at the top where it got wide. Its a bit weird for sure. I finished it off for them and set up the top rope for everyone.

Me leading the last part of Rusty's Cave

Me leading the last part of Rusty’s Cave

Jesse on the Cave route

Jesse on the Cave route

Me taking a lap on Willy's

Me taking a lap on Willy’s

Me higher up on Willy's

Me higher up on Willy’s

At the funky offwidth pod crux on Willy's

At the funky offwidth pod crux on Willy’s

Dylan on Willy's

Dylan on Willy’s

I then took my camera and climbed up Willy’s again and anchored myself to take pictures of Jesse and Natalie climbing.

Jesse digging hard

Jesse digging hard

Natalie hand jamming

Natalie hand jamming

Natalie at the crux pod

Natalie at the crux pod

Cranking hard

Cranking hard

We wrapped it up and headed back to camp around 4pm. Sawyer was able to nap for an hour on Kristine’s back as she walked up and down the road. I then took Rainie and Kona down to the creek to let them swim since it was pretty hot outside. I drove them down to the Cabin Wall and parked on an incline. The automatic rear door lifted up so slowly that before I could grab Rainie to lift her down she had jumped out and went down hard on her right front leg and laid sprawled out in the dirt. I was terrified and grabbed her and felt around…It seemed that nothing was broken, but she was in pain and could put zero weight on it. I carried her to Escalante Creek and soaked her legs hoping it may help. I then carried her back to the Tahoe and we drove back to camp. Everyone was worried and gave their medical opinions on what to do and if it were broken or not. Eventually, I just made the decision I wanted to drive back to Edwards and see our vet later that night. So, we packed up everything and loaded it all into the Tahoe. However, before we left, good buddy Steve Cizik had set up this awesome zip line for his kids and Sawyer gave it a good crack. I think the video speaks for itself:

We hated to leave Escalante and the whole gang, but I had to get Rainie looked at. Its all I would think about until I could do so. We arrived back in Edwards around 9:30pm and saw our vet at 10pm. After some x-rays and an examination, nothing was broken. She had likely sprained her ankle. They gave her some morphine for the night and sent us home. It took a few weeks to really heal (or close to heal), but she is doing much better now. Always scary when a really old loved one hurts him or herself. Fortunately, she was able to bounce back for the most part.

Eiseman Hut & Lime Creek

Well, its been over a month since our family Eiseman Hut trip in early July, but it was a great time and had to share some pics of the fun experience with all of the young babies/kids. Thanks to J for spearheading this hut trip. I had never been up to Eiseman in the summer (always in the winter and a long 9 mile skin in), but it sure is nice to just drive the 4WD road to within 100 yards of the hut in the summer. However, despite only being literally 10 miles north of Vail Village, the feeling of being at Eiseman in the winter is something special and one of remoteness. The skiing is phenomenal in the northwest-facing bowls behind the hut a mile or two. A few pics from way back in April 2008:

 

Eiseman Hut

Eiseman Hut

A motley crew (Joel Mikey J, and J)

A motley crew (Joel, Mikey J, and J)

Kristine & Tim on the ridge

Kristine & Tim on the ridge

Rob Schnare & myself

Rob Schnare & myself

Tim, me, Mikey J

Tim, me, Mikey J

Kristine dropping the knee

Kristine dropping the knee

And, then 4 years later in April 2012:

Me & K

Me & K

Nico and the Gores

Nico and the Gores

Kristine swissbobbing

Kristine swissbobbing

The crew this trip

The crew this trip

The view of Vail Mountain & Mt. of the Holy CRoss

The view of Vail Mountain & Mt. of the Holy Cross

Sawyer just loves 4-wheeling and didn’t mind at all the 45 minute bumpy 4WD road up to Eiseman. We had a blast with all of our friends and their little ones, though lots of babies and adults in the same bunk room doesn’t lend itself to a lot of sleep. Some pics of the fun 18 hours up at Eiseman:

Joel, Kona, Lauran, & Celeste hanging on the deck

Joel, Kona, Lauran, & Celeste hanging on the deck

Chuck & Hudson

Chuck & Hudson

Megan, J, & Raina

Megan, J, & Raina

Sage, Sawyer, & a squinting Rainie

Sage, Sawyer, & a squinting Rainie

Hanging out in the new Cizik tent

Hanging out in the new Cizik tent

Sawyer is already a Bronco fan

Sawyer is already a Bronco fan

The Ciziks

The Ciziks

The Chalks

The Chalks

Rainie getting in on the playtime

Rainie getting in on the playtime

Dinnertime

Dinnertime

Out for a stroll

Out for a stroll

A gorgeous sunset

A gorgeous sunset

Sawyer waking up sporting her "bear hat"

Sawyer waking up sporting her “bear hat”

Breakfast on the deck

Breakfast on the deck

I love this one of Rainie, Kona, Sawyer, & Clara

I love this one of Rainie, Kona, Sawyer, & Clara

I love this little girl :)

I love this little girl :)

A few days later, Kristine & I took a half day and drove out to one of my favorite sport climbing areas called Lime Creek Canyon. Its about an hour and 15 minute drive from Edwards, but man its so worth it. Just wonderful limestone cliffs above the flowing Lime Creek.

Kristine climbing Old School (5.9)

Kristine climbing Old School (5.9)

Kristine leading Crowd Control (5.6)

Kristine leading Crowd Control (5.6)

Kristine climbing Sweat (5.10b)

Kristine climbing Sweat (5.10b)

Kristine climbing Rafting with Rednecks (5.10c)

Kristine climbing Rafting with Rednecks (5.10c)

Me rappelling off of Born on the Fourth (5.10a)

Me rappelling off of Born on the Fourth (5.10a)

Fun day together at Lime Creek

Fun day together at Lime Creek

It was a fun July with a few more trips to Lime Creek, lots of quality time with Sawyer & the dogs, some good trail runs, and enjoying the wonderful summertime that living in Colorado affords.

Sawyer’s 1st Successful Camp!

After two unsuccessful camping attempts with a much younger Sawyer in 2015, we were finally successful this past Memorial Day Weekend and let’s just say Sawyer passed with flying colors! As parents, Kristine & I were very pleased. And, we did it in one of our favorite car camping/climbing areas: Escalante Canyon, Colorado. One of these unsuccessful camping attempts was in fact in Escalante Canyon over a year ago. Sawyer’s sleep was disrupted by a heard of cattle “mooing” a few feet from our tent at 10:30pm, which forced us to abandon the trip and drive back to Edwards arriving home around 2am. Live & learn, I guess :) We packed up last Saturday morning and made the 3 hour drive to Escalante in our new 2008 4-door Chevy Tahoe, which we recently bought from my parents. Its nice for a change to have a reliable truck that can fit all of us comfortably plus not having to worry if the headlights will go out :) Our friends Keith & Sarah with their daughter Melodie (a month younger than Sawyer) and dog Molly were already down there as were friends Lauren & Steve (with their dog Scout) and our good buddy Mikey. After walking around with Sawyer in the backpack trying to get her to nap while Kristine and Keith set up our mega tent and pack-n-play, we returned having had no nap because of Sawyer’s new surroundings, sights, & sounds. Around 4pm, Lauren, Steve, Mikey, Rainier, Kona, Scout, & myself all went to the Interiors Wall and climbed 5 or so routes I was pretty familiar with including the “cave” routes called Interiors (5.9-) and The Shaft (5.10a). Keith came up to check out the cave as well. Arriving back at camp around 7pm, we all hung out around the campfire, ate dinner, and had a nice evening.

Me & Sawyer back at camp

Me & Sawyer back at camp

The Chalks

The Chalks

Sawyer

Sawyer

She looks like a camping county gal in her jeans and dinosaur sweatshirt

She looks like a camping county gal in her jeans and dinosaur sweatshirt

Our tent in an amazing setting

Our tent in an amazing setting

Sawyer & Mikey

Sawyer & Mikey

Kristine & Sawyer

Kristine & Sawyer

Sawyer stayed up late! I don’t think she went to bed until around 9:30pm. Definitely the latest she has gone to bed. She didn’t even wake up when Kristine, the dogs, and I came into the tent around 11-11:30pm. Gosh, she slept well. Must be that cool and crisp desert air. I slept well, too. I always tend to sleep better in the desert than just about anywhere. We woke up around 8am and Sawyer didn’t stir until 8:30am. Kristine & I looked at each other and we both noticed that “ecstatic” expression in each other’s faces. Maybe we need to do more camping!

Gorgeous Escalante Canyon from our campsite

Gorgeous Escalante Canyon from our campsite

Morning, Sawyer! She has much nicer Patagonia long underwear than I do!

Morning, Sawyer! She has much nicer Patagonia long underwear than I do!

Sawyer & Melodie

Sawyer & Melodie

The little gals and Rainier

The little gals and Rainier

We hung around and had breakfast and took the dogs down to Escalante Creek to swim while Kristine drove out to Highway 50 to get cell service and work on getting her condo under contract. When she got back, I had packed up the Tahoe and we were ready to roll whenever we were to be done climbing. Kristine was so wonderful to hang with Sawyer and the dogs by the creek while I took Lauren, Steve, Scout, & Mikey up to quite possibly my most favorite crack I’ve ever climbed: Willy’s Hand Jive (5.10+). Maybe that doesn’t say a whole lot, but I sure do love it. Keith came up with us as well to check out our crack addiction :)

Me on Willy's

Me on Willy’s

Jam, jam, and jam

Jam, jam, and jam

Placing gear before the crux pod

Placing gear before the crux pod

Negotiating the pod

Negotiating the pod

And....success!

And….success!

Mikey did a lap on Willy’s and then we went over to setup an adjacent route called Rusty’s Cave (5.9+). Lauren & Steve took a good stab at Willy’s and hopefully learned a few trick of the trade with regard to this thing called “crack climbing”. Its definitely very technique-driven and takes awhile to hone in on the various maneuvers that work or don’t work. We left the rope up on Rusty’s cave for Lauren & Steve as I needed to head out because Sawyer’s nap time was fast approaching. Mikey and I rolled back to the car by 2pm and we joined up with Kristine, Sawyer, & the dogs at the small picnic table in the shade. We met two nice women as well at the picnic table. One had a 14 week old son in the baby bjorn. We chatted for awhile as they were both originally from Austria. The woman with the baby lived in Ridgway and her friend was visiting from Austria to keep her company while her husband was guiding in Alaska. Turns out the woman with the baby’s name was Ava House, wife of Steve House, one of the most accomplished, respected, and skilled alpinists out there. Pretty cool. I had forgotten Steve House lived in Ridgway. Sawyer promptly passed out as soon as we started the 11 mile drive on the dirt road to Highway 50. She was exhausted, but a good exhausted. We arrived back in Edwards around 5pm very happy with how things went for Sawyer’s 1st successful camping trip.

Sawyer at 10 months

Kristine & I both cannot believe how big Sawyer is getting and how grown up she is becoming!

Playing at the river with the dogs

Playing at the river with the dogs (maybe 9 months old)

When we were back in Maine over July 4, Dianne Oelberger had a local photographer come and do family portraits and several of these came out really nice. A few of those pics are as follows (Sawyer was about 8 months at this time):

Diane Family_070915_9392

Diane Family_070915_9435

Mallary & John_070915_0009

Mallary & John_070915_0033

Diane Family_070915_9446

Photos from our weeknight camp up on Red & White Mountain a few weeks ago:

All decked out in her jean overalls

All decked out in her jean overalls

Fun

Fun

Hanging in her camp chair with Rainie

Hanging in her camp chair with Rainie

IMG_7647

Her hair is getting long enough we need to put it up a bit

Hanging out by the fire

Hanging out by the fire

In the big peoples' chairs

In the big peoples’ chairs

Our new big tent

Our new big tent

Getting comfy and biting her lower lip, which she seems to enjoy

Getting comfy and biting her lower lip, which she seems to enjoy

Reading in the tent

Reading in the tent

Dinner

Dinner

Always gorgeous views of the northern Sawatch rising above Arrowhead

Always gorgeous views of the northern Sawatch rising above Arrowhead

IMG_7695

IMG_7697

Kona wanted in a picture

Kona wanted in a picture

Back by the fire

Back by the fire

Actually, a good family pic we thought at sunset

Actually, a good family pic we thought at sunset

I like this one a lot

I like this one a lot

And, some more pics of what Sawyer has been doing as of late:

Watching the dogs eat

Watching the dogs eat

She loves to eat and loves to make a mess

She loves to eat and loves to make a mess

Hiking the East Lake Creek trail

Hiking the East Lake Creek trail

Bouldering at the Confluence Boulder at Dowd Junction

Bouldering at the Confluence Boulder at Dowd Junction

Hiking to Beaver Lake

Hiking to Beaver Lake

A good one of mother & daughter

A good one of mother & daughter

She always loves playing tennis ball with Rainie...

She always loves playing tennis ball with Rainie…

...and receiving kisses from Kona

…and receiving kisses from Kona

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

A Chalk Family Gore Outing

Having made several trips back east this summer and with several more upcoming trips to Oregon and Jackson Hole, Kristine & I wanted to get out together with Rainier & Kona for a fun backpacking/dog-friendly peak bagging trip. We didn’t want the trip to be too much for Rainier and I thought this would be an appropriate length and we could tag as many summits as we think she could physically handle. She would follow us to the ends of the earth whether her body would allow it or not, however we are the ones who have to limit her. So, we turned to our favorite local Gore Range and backpacked 3 or so miles into a camp at about 10,500′ in the Pitkin Creek drainage accessed from East Vail on a Saturday afternoon. I have had my eye on a few unranked 13ers and high 12ers on the east side of the Pitkin Creek drainage for some time now and thought they would be good Rainier & Kona peaks, i.e. nothing too technical or “scrambly” – just a nice mellow, class 2 ridge run. The highest peak on the ridge is Mt. Solitude (13,090′) and we had great views of the ridge from our camp.

Looking up at the Solitude ridge from camp

Looking up at the Solitude ridge from camp

Kona & I unfortunately walked into a beehive in the ground searching for a suitable tent spot and we both got stung several times – me on the ankle and her on the back and legs. The stinging soon subsided for me and Kona eventually felt better. Nevertheless, it was a fun evening and the weather really held off for all but about an hour of rain. Kristine & I were excited to break out our new Mountain Hardware EV3 high altitude expedition tent (not that we needed it for this summertime camping in Colorado), which I had recently pro-dealed and my parents had given it to me for my 36th birthday. It did very well in the rain and the 3-man tent is so very roomy for us and the dogs and all our gear. It will serve us well on many future expeditions in cold, dry climates.

My favorite ladies and the new tent behind

My favorite ladies and the new tent behind

Me and Kona happy that the bee stings have subsided

Me and Kona happy that the bee stings have subsided

Dog watch

Dog watch

Rainie and her hat

Rainie and her hat

Our little camp at about 10,500' in the Pitkin Creek drainage - who needs a home in Edwards when you can have this?

Our little camp at about 10,500′ in the Pitkin Creek drainage – who needs a home in Edwards when you can have this?

After the rain, I was able to get the fire started again for Kristine’s excellent s’mores roasting skills. After some yummy Kristine s’mores, we put out the fire and settled into our new tent with the dogs.

Our new, roomy tent

Our new, roomy tent

5am came early and after some oatmeal and coffee, we departed our camp for some bushwhacking up the steep western drainages coming down off the Solitude ridge. From the rain the previous night, the grass and willows were so extremely wet. We got soaked – our shoes, pants, gloves, everything. Fortunately, it wasn’t very cold out and we continued on just fine. Anyway, I spotted a decent looking gully interspersed with rock steps up to the saddle between Point 12,620′ & Skier’s Point (12,930′) and we aimed for this route. It was a steep, loose scree climb but we all managed to reach the saddle about 2,000 ft above camp.

High clouds over Vail & the northern Sawatch on a Sunday morning

High clouds over Vail & the northern Sawatch on a Sunday morning

The steep 2,000' climb up from camp to the Solitude ridge

The steep 2,000′ climb up from camp to the Solitude ridge

Kristine on the long, steep, & loose slope up to the Solitude ridge with East & West Partner Peaks behind in the distance

Kristine on the long, steep, & loose slope up to the Solitude ridge with East & West Partner Peaks behind in the distance

We all scrambled over moderate class 3 rock over to Point 12,620′ for some great views of the Pitkin Creek drainage and Vail ski mountain.

Point 12,620' from the saddle with Skier's Point

Point 12,620′ from the saddle with Skier’s Point

Point 12,620'

Point 12,620′

We then climbed up a few hundred feet to Skier’s Point and had excellent views again of our surroundings. It was a bit chilly with the high clouds as the sun couldn’t quite peak through to warm our damp bodies up.

Looking over at Climber's Point, Mt. Solitude, & Vista Peak (right to left) from the summit of Skier's Point

Looking over at Climber’s Point, Mt. Solitude, & Vista Peak (right to left) from the summit of Skier’s Point

View south from the summit of Skier's point to Vail ski mountain and Mt. of the Holy Cross beyond

View south from the summit of Skier’s point to Vail ski mountain and Mt. of the Holy Cross beyond

Skier's Point summit (12,930')

Skier’s Point summit (12,930′)

Rainie & Kona on the summit of Skier's Point with the northern Gores behind

Rainie & Kona on the summit of Skier’s Point with the northern Gores behind

Rainier was doing so well and I think she was having a great time. Like the good ole days. We brought a lot of water and snacks for the dogs. What really saps Rainie’s energy these days is the boulder fields and getting up and over large blocks and boulders. Its just not nearly as smooth and easy as it was for her a few years ago. There were a few of these sections interspersed with nice grass ridges on the way over to Climber’s Point, but for the most part she did extremely well. Climber’s Point was wonderful and we could look over to the east at Keller Mountain and its associated ridges, which we had climbed a few weeks prior.

Rainie on the summit of Climber's Point (13,005')

Rainie on the summit of Climber’s Point (13,005′)

We could tell at this point Rainie was getting a bit winded and tired but decided to hike over to the next point on the way to Mt. Solitude over a small boulder field. The good news was that the remaining half mile to the summit of Mt. Solitude was mostly grassy ledges and gentle slopes. We all made good time along this scenic ridge to the summit of Mt. Solitude.

On the ridge to Mt. Solitude (behind me & Kona)

On the ridge to Mt. Solitude (behind me & Kona)

Me heading up to Mt. Solitude

Me heading up to Mt. Solitude

Kristine & I were so proud of Rainie. However, she was beat and it was time to descend. The 5th peak for the day, Vista Peak, which was another half mile of ridge running to the north, would have to wait for another trip.

Rainie & I on Mt. Solitude's summit (13,090')

Rainie & I on Mt. Solitude’s summit (13,090′)

Close-up of Rainie & I on Mt. Solitude's summit (13,090')

Close-up of Rainie & I on Mt. Solitude’s summit (13,090′)

Mt. Solitude summit (13,090')

Mt. Solitude summit (13,090′)

After signing us into the register on Mt. Solitude, which I noticed had several recent signatures of familiar folks, and a few pics, we headed down to the low point between Mt. Solitude & Vista Peak and descended steep but grassy slopes down for about 1,500 ft.

Mt. Solitude summit register

Mt. Solitude summit register

Rainie heading down Mt. Solitude's west slopes back to camp

Rainie heading down Mt. Solitude’s west slopes back to camp

By the time we got back to camp around 11:30am, the dogs were pooped. They ate and rested while Kristine & I packed up camp and loaded up our backpacks. The 3 mile backpack out was pretty hot but we all made it back to the car around 2:30pm. It was a great 24 hrs out with Kristine and the dogs and it was a fun camp and loop of a few peaks for all of us. In the past, I had backpacked all the way into Pitkin Lake a few times and climbed the Partner Peaks from a camp there, but now we know we can access a few worthwhile peaks on the way into Pitkin Lake – peaks that are fairly mellow and dog-friendly. Yes, Rainie, was a bit tired and stiff after her big day, but its nothing that some cold river swims can’t cure. She swam her little tail off.

Our camp and loop is shown in green on the map below (the red route denotes the standard route up East Partner Peak):

Our route in green from camp

Our route in green from camp