Mt. Arkansas’ North Ridge

Kristine & I wanted to get another peak in together before the holidays and we’d always had ole Arkansas on our minds as a fairly quick outing especially since Kristine had not summitted this mountain before. I climbed this route a few years back in some fairly deep spring snow (report here) staying to the ridge proper adding some nice class 3/4 scrambling in mountain boots. Nevertheless, I was pretty excited to go back with Kristine. Good buddy Dillon Sarnelli joined us as well and it was awesome for the three of us to spend 6 hrs together up high in the alpine on a decently sunny December day. Our friend and my co-worker Chelsey Lange was gracious enough to come over at 8:30am and babysit Sawyer and look after Rainier while we went and did our thing. Dillon did a fun recap of the day over on his site at http://basecampcolorado.com/2015/12/22/mount-arkansas/, which I am sure you will enjoy. A few of my favorite pics of the day are as follows:

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Me battling the wind. Fortunately, the air temperature wasn’t all that cold. Photo by Dillon

Me, Kristine, Kona, & Dillon on the summit of Mt. Arkansas (13,795')

Me, Kristine, Kona, & Dillon on the summit of Mt. Arkansas (13,795′)

Looking down at the north ridge from the summit. Photo by Dillon

Looking down at the north ridge from the summit. Photo by Dillon

Happy holidays from all of us Chalks!

A Pair of Cs

Over the years, the initially intimidating Peak C in the Gore Range has become like an old friend. I seem to know it pretty well by now and thus feel comfortable on and around its flanks. Its one of those peaks many folks see from the first time from Piney Lake and let out a “whoa, is this what the Gore Range is about?” Well, in a word “yes”.

Peak C from Piney Lake. Photo by Caleb Wray in September 2011

Peak C from Piney Lake. Photo by Caleb Wray in September 2011

Peak C is special. It has steep snow climbing routes, a solid couloir for a ski descent, scrambling routes, and technical alpine routes. It has it all. Peak C really can be viewed from anywhere in Eagle County, but is especially visible from Vail Mountain with its prominent southwest couloir. The view of its technical north face and northwest ridge from Mt. Powell are always awe-inspiring. Its not easily discernible from other Gore summits to the south.

Rainier and Peak C (center of picture) from the summit of Red & White Mountain one February many years ago

Rainier and Peak C (center of picture) from the summit of Red & White Mountain one February many years ago

Peak C's north face and northwest ridge (right skyline) as seen from Mt. Powell's south slopes after completing the Eagle's Nest to Powell traverse in September 2014

Peak C’s north face and northwest ridge (right skyline) as seen from Mt. Powell’s south slopes after completing the Eagle’s Nest to Powell traverse in September 2014

My first climb up Peak C was via its southwest couloir in November of 2007 with Rainier, Ryan Aldrich, & Mikey Johnson. It was a great snow climb and had some great ridge scrambling including a class 4 headwall right out of the notch between Peak C and Peak C-Prime to start its south ridge.

Me & Rainier on the summit of Peak C on November 3, 2007 with Mt. Powell behind

Me & Rainier on the summit of Peak C on November 3, 2007 with Mt. Powell behind

Me downclimbing the class 4 headwall to the notch below where Mikey & Rainier wait

Me downclimbing the class 4 headwall to the notch below where Mikey & Rainier wait

Fast forward 2 years and Kristine, myself, J, Chris Carlsen, Rainier, & Kona climbed and skied the southwest couloir in May of 2009. Despite being sloppy heavy mashed potatoes in which Rainier set off a wet slide herself and ended up riding it down the couloir into the apron below chasing snow balls (think very slow moving) and an ominous thunderstorm forcing us to speed up our climb and ski descent, it was a great day.

J, Rainier, & Kona approaching the southwest couloir of Peak C in May 2009

J, Rainier, & Kona approaching the southwest couloir of Peak C in May 2009

J beginning the descent down the southwest couloir as a storm engulfed us

J beginning the descent down the southwest couloir as a storm engulfed us

Chris in great form dropping the knee

Chris in great form dropping the knee

Our crew back at Piney Lake

Our crew back at Piney Lake

Again, fast forward 2 more years to September 2011 and you have me, J, and Caleb Wray scrambling the Ripsaw Ridge traverse from Peak C to Peak G. This was the first time I had climbed the southwest couloir without snow and it is a bit tedious and dangerous with rockfall. However, once on the ridge proper, it was a solid day out with those boys.

J and myself climbing the class 4 headwall up Peak C's south ridge. Photo by Caleb Wray

J and myself climbing the class 4 headwall up Peak C’s south ridge. Photo by Caleb Wray

Me on the summit of Peak C before traversing Ripsaw Ridge. Photo by Caleb Wray

Me on the summit of Peak C before traversing Ripsaw Ridge. Photo by Caleb Wray

I had looked at the northwest ridge of Peak C for years wondering if there was a way up it. Then, that wonderment sort of faded away with all of the other adventures we had going on between 2007 and 2014 until my buddy Ryan Marsters and his partner Derek climbed the northwest ridge as an exciting start to their day of traversing Ripsaw Ridge. I remember reading their report and seeing the topo of the route and my interest was piqued once again.

Peak C Northwest Ridge Route courtesy of Ryan & Derek

Peak C northwest ridge route courtesy of Ryan & Derek. Click to enlarge

I thought it would be a great moderate alpine climb for Kristine & myself as it had been awhile since the two of us got out all day together. Fortunately, our friend Sabrina was willing to come over at 5am to start watching Sawyer. That’s the problem with what we like to do and having a baby. Rarely do babysitters like to come over during the wee hours of the morning. It was just so nice of her. Anyway, I had planned this for a week or two thinking the Sunday was going to be this bluebird sunny day of weather per the forecast. Well, it couldn’t have been more wrong. Let’s just say I was a bit frustrated with the weather gods. My good buddy Brian Miller calls NOAA “No Obligation to Anything Accurate”. He couldn’t be more right in that statement. I think its more frustrating for obvious reasons when you really can’t do this stuff together like in the good ole days anytime we please. And, when things don’t go according to plan, the frustration is amplified because you know we can’t just come out again the next day together because of our responsibilities at home.

A friend, John Danese, said this would make a good intro for the movie "Rocky Horror Picture Show at Piney Ranch"

A friend, John Danese, said this would make a good intro for the movie “Rocky Horror Picture Show at Piney Ranch”

Peak C from Piney lake engulfed in clouds at sunrise

Peak C from Piney Lake engulfed in clouds at sunrise

Kristine in Kneeknocker Basin below Peak C (in clouds) and Kneeknocker Pass (above her head in the picture)

Kristine in Kneeknocker Basin below Peak C (in clouds) and Kneeknocker Pass (above her head in the picture)

We got on the Upper Piney Lake trail by 6:30am and were at Kneeknocker Pass (almost 5 miles later and 3,000′ of vertical gain) at 9am. I was hoofing it just to keep up with Kristine. It was a fine pace we had going. Peak C had been engulfed in clouds all morning and the wind was whipping at the pass and it was fairly frigid. Based on the forecast, we really only had a lightweight layer each under our mini-down jackets. This was not nearly enough. We had one pair of gloves between us. We found some boulders at the pass to take shelter from the west wind, which helped a lot. However, we were both still shivering. Kristine was shivering quite a bit and so cold. I felt like when the forecast calls for sun and blue sky this stuff usually burns off. So, we waited for 30 minutes and then traversed south over the small hump to the upper saddle and found the base of the route and the 5.2 chimney pitch, which was fortunately on the eastern (leeward) side of the ridge proper. We still couldn’t see the upper portion of Peak C as it was still engulfed in clouds and the wind was whipping, but we had to give it a go. We broke out our alpine rack, harnesses, helmets, and my 30m/8mm rope and I began my lead up the pitch. After placing two cams at the small 5.2 crux sections, I set up a belay when Kristine called out that I had 5 ft of rope remaining. I then belayed Kristine up.

Kristine climbing the 1st 5.2 pitch on Peak C's Northwest Ridge

Kristine climbing the 1st 5.2 pitch on Peak C’s northwest ridge

She was still shivering uncontrollably and we both think the cold was sapping some of her mental strength and drive not to mention her physical strength. She belayed me up to the ledge another 40′ up placing one cam along the way and I looked around, but decided not to belay her up as we agreed it was time to turn around. Conditions were not good and neither of us wanted Kristine scrambling on 4th class terrain shivering and not being totally focused.  As hard as it was to turn back, it was the right thing to do. I downclimbed back to Kristine, lowered her down from the belay, and then I downclimbed/rappelled back to the base of the route. As defeated as we were for a bit, we soon realized we were lucky to get out together for 9 hours alone and enjoy each other and the Gore Range whether we tagged a summit or not.

Happy us back at Kneeknocker Pass with Peak C's northwest ridge rising behind us

Happy us back at Kneeknocker Pass with Peak C’s northwest ridge rising behind us

Kristine, being the wonderful and loving wife that she is, wanted me to go back for this route. J and I were contemplating going back for Capitol’s northwest buttress the following weekend, but Peak C was fresh in my mind so I convinced J to come with me. Plus, I wanted to check out a route up the north face of Peak C-Prime (the next summit south of Peak C along Ripsaw Ridge). The weather forecast again looked stellar. Fortunately, NOAA got it right this day. Just bluebird skies and sun all day long. Fall weather had certainly arrived. I picked J up at 6am and we were hiking along the Upper Piney Trail by 6:45am. I wish fall weather like last Saturday would last a few months – its the best. We cruised up to Kneeknocker Pass in about 2-1/2 hours as Kristine and I had done 5 days prior. The weather was a complete 180 from what it had been with Kristine the past Sunday. We ran into John & Jennifer Danese of Silverthorne right on top of the pass. We had never met, but had corresponded quite a bit and we both knew each other would be on the trail that day as they were gunning for Mt. Powell. They had inquired with me a year or two ago about “the next big thing to do” with regards to their hiking and mountaineering outside of Colorado. So, I connected them with my great friend Rob Casserley who runs Trek8848 for Everest basecamp treks and trekking peaks and they went with Rob last fall and had the time of their lives summitting both Lobuche East and Island Peak (20,000’+ peaks in the Khumbu Valley). It was great to finally meet them. So, after 30 minutes of chit-chat, J and I traversed south over to the start of the northwest ridge of Peak C and the Daneses went for Mt. Powell.

Profile of the Northwest Ridge up Peak C

Profile of the northwest ridge up Peak C

Most of our climb was in the shade and was quite chilly. Fortunately, there wasn’t a cold stiff wind like there was with Kristine. On the traverse to the start of the route we noticed a good looking Rocky Mountain Goat eyeing us intently as if saying “hey, why are you guys coming onto my mountain?” Little did we know he would follow us the entire climb and over to Peak C-Prime.

Mr. Goat

Mr. Goat

I won’t go into the route description here as Ryan & Derek do an excellent job with that on their climb here. J took the 1st 5.2 pitch, placed a cam, set up an anchor, and belayed me up. Normally, on solid rock, J and I would have no problem free-soloing this pitch, but the loose rock really makes this a scary proposition. The rope and a few pieces of protection are good insurance. Plus, we’re both dads now 🙂

Mr. Goat (take 2) near the base of the route

Mr. Goat (take 2) near the base of the route

We then swapped leads, I placed another cam on a sling and then set up an anchor on a ledge to belay J up to me. We only had a 30m rope, but with a 60m rope, you could do this entire pitch in one fell swoop.

J climbing the 2nd half of the 1st 5.2 pitch

J climbing the 2nd half of the 1st 5.2 pitch

J in action

J in action

We needed to get left into the class 3 gully somehow. We decided to stay roped up and swapped leads again and J took the headwall straight on placing a cam on a sling at the crux. There may be an easier way to get in the gully, but this was a fun little move. J belayed me up and we coiled the rope and climbed the easy gully for a few hundred feet before finding the grass ledge to the left which took us out into this really cool low-angled dihedral below a vertical headwall.

J leading into the gully

J leading into the gully

Maybe a low 5th move here

Maybe a low 5th move here

The low-angled dihedral

The low-angled dihedral

Instead of getting into the corner of the dihedral, we found the solid 4th class slabs just to the corner’s right side super fun. So, we didn’t break out the rope and just cruised these slabs for a hundred or two-hundred feet up to another ledge.

J climbing the 4th class slabs

J climbing the 4th class slabs

Fun scrambling here

Fun scrambling here

J on the slabs. The corner dihedral Ryan & Derek desribe can be seen on the left

J on the slabs. The corner dihedral Ryan & Derek describe can be seen on the left

Me on the slabs. Photo by J

Me on the slabs. Photo by J

At the top of the corner dihedral and slabs was a small little grass basin followed by awesome class 4 block climbing up to the 5.4 crux move at the top of the headwall. This was really fun scrambling on super solid rock. I just loved it. We didn’t feel the need to break out the rope on the 5.4 crux as the rock was super solid. We both topped out and took in the views.

J and the headwall with the 5.4 crux at top

J and the headwall with the 5.4 crux at top

Class 4 block scrambling

Class 4 block scrambling

J making the 5.4 crux move

J making the 5.4 crux move

Me climbing up to the 5.4 crux. Photo by J

Me climbing up to the 5.4 crux. Photo by J

Me in the sun after the 5.4 crux move. Photo by J

Me in the sun after the 5.4 crux move. Photo by J

Looking down the headwall

Looking down the headwall

Me on the Northwest Ridge with Piney Lake in the distance

Me on the Northwest Ridge with Piney Lake in the distance. Photo by J

Mr. Goat (take 3)

Mr. Goat (take 3)

It was then a few hundred feet of class 3 scrambling to the summit of Peak C. I believe we topped out about 11am.

3rd class upper portion of Peak C's northwest ridge

3rd class upper portion of Peak C’s northwest ridge

Peak C summit (13,220')

Peak C summit (13,220′)

Good to be on top of Peak C again

Good to be on top of Peak C again

Zoomed-in shot of John & Jennifer Danese atop Mt. Powell from the summit of Peak C

Zoomed-in shot of John & Jennifer Danese atop Mt. Powell from the summit of Peak C

We relaxed on top for a bit and then started descending Peak C’s south ridge to the notch between Peak C and Peak C-Prime. Peak C-Prime’s awesome north ridge/face was in view the entire descent.

On the Peak C descent. Photo by J

On the Peak C descent. Photo by J

J on Peak C's south ridge with Peak C-Prime behind

J on Peak C’s south ridge with Peak C-Prime behind

We hit the notch after the class 4 downclimb and I spotted a traverse on the ridge’s left (east) side that led to some fun looking north face cracks. After 30′ of class 4 climbing, we entered the center crack and the terrain got steeper.

Class 4 below the north face cracks above on Peak C-Prime

Class 4 below the north face cracks above on Peak C-Prime

J was eyeing the corner dihedral to the right (west) and not the center crack as he thought it looked more fun. He tried an airy move to get to the ledge below the dihedral only to realize he wanted the comfort of a rope. We roped up, he set two cams to protect the funky move, and soon enough he was on the ledge.

J just before the move right to the ledge

J just before the move right to the ledge

Trying without a rope

Trying without a rope

On second thought, I'll take that belay

On second thought, I’ll take that belay

I followed and am certainly glad J asked for a belay. Its a committing move without great feet and sloping handholds, especially in approach shoes. Maybe a 5.8 move. The dihedral above looked fun. But, so did the center crack. Choices choices. I led on up the far western crack/dihedral combo placing a #2 cam in the crack and then a smaller piece on a sling in the dihedral itself on the right. Maybe 5.7 climbing with a few fun hand jams and face features.

Peak C-Prime north face cracks. We climbed the crack right of center

Peak C-Prime north face cracks. We climbed the crack right of center

Our crack

Our crack

Me on lead up this fun little route. Photo by J

Me on lead up this fun little route. Photo by J

I slung a solid boulder and looked down to J only noticing behind him that Mr. Goat was downclimbing the class 4 headwall on Peak C’s south ridge! It was a sight to behold.

Looking down the 5.7 pitch to J on the ledge. Can you spot Mr. Goat?

Looking down the 5.7 pitch to J on the ledge. Can you spot Mr. Goat?

Impressive

A close-up

Impressive to say the least

Impressive to say the least

J cleaning the 5.7 pitch

J cleaning the 5.7 pitch

Once J reached me we stowed the rope and de-harnessed and scrambled easy class 2/3 to the summit of Peak C-Prime.

The remaining easy ramp to C-Prime's summit

The remaining easy ramp to C-Prime’s summit

Peak C-Prime summit (13,100')

Peak C-Prime summit (13,100′)

Our route up the north face/ridge of Peak C-Prime

Our route up the north face/ridge of Peak C-Prime

Mr. Goat had climbed down Peak C’s southwest couloir a few hundred feet and climbed up Peak C-Prime’s normal class 3/4 route to meet up with us. I guess he wanted to hang out with us because he climbed the class 3 slabs up C-Prime’s southeast face to within 20 yards of us.

There he is on the ridge

There he is on the ridge

Mr. Goat on Peak C-Prime with Peak G to the right

Mr. Goat on Peak C-Prime with Peak G to the right and Peak Q at far left above the goat

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J descending Peak C-Prime with the goat back on the ridge. Maybe he went onto Peak D

J descending Peak C-Prime with the goat back on the ridge. Maybe he went onto Peak D

We took the standard descent couloir down from Peak C-Prime, which feeds into Peak C’s southwest couloir.  The descent down the southwest couloir is obviously much better on skis.

J descending Peak C's southwest couloir

J descending Peak C’s southwest couloir

We then traversed northwest on the couloir’s apron to reach a small notch at the top of one of two northern couloirs leading back down into Kneeknocker Basin. It was a quick descent and before we knew it we were back on the Kneeknocker Pass trail. We saw the Daneses descending Kneeknocker Pass and decided to hang and wait for them to walk out together. They had spent an hour on Powell’s summit lounging and just talking in this gorgeous fall weather. It was fun hiking out together trading mountain stories back and forth with each other.

Kneeknocker Basin and Peak C's northwest ridge standing tall

Kneeknocker Basin and Peak C’s northwest ridge standing tall

Taking a break along Piney River with John & Jennifer and soaking the feet

Taking a break along Piney River with John & Jennifer and soaking the feet

We arrived back at the trailhead around 4pm and promptly headed on out back to Vail. A great day out in the northern Gore on some familiar peaks yet up some new routes. Just perfect. I told Kristine now that I know the details of the northwest ridge route up Peak C, she and I will go back for sure. She will totally enjoy it as we found it to be a very moderate and fun technical alpine route in our favorite range.

Red Diamond Ridge

After a little hiatus from Gore ridge traversing (primarily due to two little lovely ladies entering our respective worlds in the past 9 months), J and I finally got back out together and completed another solid ridge run in our favorite range. Honestly, I think my last Gore ridge run was before Sawyer was born on Rockinghorse Ridge with Brian Miller and Dillon Sarnelli, so I was excited to get back out, especially with J. We make a good tandem on these gnarlier ridge runs. We both love the route-finding, the exposed scrambling and alpine climbing feel, and the unknown – well, as unknown as you can realistically get this day and age. I had been corresponding with Stan Wagon on other Gore outings and adventures when I remembered he said he had traversed Red Diamond Ridge on the Red Peak massif and recalled it as one of his favorites and has done it three times since he and Bill Briggs’ likely first traverse of the ridge in 1994. I inquired as to the best approach for Red Diamond from Stan and the other beta I received was that he did use a rope. It was good enough for J and myself. The full Red Diamond Ridge stretches from the East East Red summit (12,885′) west over fairly mellow terrain to East Red (12,945′) and then west again through the “meat and potatoes” of the traverse to the main Red Peak summit (13,189′). I’ve seen Red Diamond up close a few times from Buffalo Mountain’s summit as well as from the north on Rain Peak’s east ridge and indeed it looked to be challenging. Even though the gnarliest section of Red Diamond between East Red and Red Peak is not even three-quarters of a mile, it is chock-full of spiciness.

Red Diamond Ridge on the Red Peak massif as seen from Rain Peak's east ridge in early May 2014

Red Diamond Ridge on the Red Peak massif as seen from Rain Peak’s east ridge in early May 2014. The far left peak is East East Red with What Big Eyes You Have Couloir dropping below its north face and the far right peak is the main Red Peak summit. East Red is the highest bump in the ridge’s center. Click to enlarge

After a not so great few hours of sleep the night before (like very little to none at all), I had trouble getting out of bed at 4:15am. However, I was determined to make this happen as J and I had not gotten out much together in the last while. And, with babies in our lives now, you have to make the most of what you got when you can. I felt sort of haggered most of the day from a lack of sleep, but still thoroughly enjoyed our outing. I mean what’s not to be excited about when adventuring in the Gores, right? I was completely gutted when I realized driving over Vail Pass that I left one of my most precious items in my car when we transferred to J’s car at 5:30am – my big Canon SLR camera. I was kicking myself as its always with me on my adventures. However heavy it is, its always worth carrying for the high resolution pics. Unfortunately on this day, we would be without it and rely on iphone pictures as our documentation. C’est la vie. I still have yet to be a phone picture convert – maybe I never will. I hope not.

We left the standard Buffalo Mountain Trailhead (Ryan Gulch Trailhead) around 6:30am and made good time up to the four-way intersection, stayed straight on the trail, and started descending down another mile to South Willow Creek and the intersection with the Gore Range Trail.  Per Stan’s recommendations, we left any signs of trail at this intersection (until Red Buffalo Pass 6.5 hours later) and continued due north through dense woods and began the off-trail bushwhacking. It actually wasn’t bad bushwhacking at all. Just a nice walk up through the woods albeit steep at that. We pretty much ascended Eat Red’s east ridge proper the entire time at times walking atop the steep southern cliffs above the South Willow Creek drainage all the while staring down Buffalo Mountain’s Silver Couloir.

J on East Red's east ridge looking down into the South Willow Creek drainage with Buffalo Mountain's north shoulder to the left and Deming Mountain in the distance

J on East Red’s east ridge looking down into the South Willow Creek drainage with Buffalo Mountain’s north shoulder to the left and Deming Mountain in the distance

We eventually broke through treeline and were able to view our options. We could have just remained on East Red’s east ridge over a few more bumps and another 1,500′, but we decided to descend a hundred vertical feet or so and cross the Middle Willow Creek basin to gain East East Red’s summit as a first objective. This was a beautiful basin with wildflowers galore. It cannot see much traffic.

Me crossing Middle Willow Creek drainage with East East Red's summit far above at top center. Photo by J

Me crossing Middle Willow Creek drainage with East East Red’s summit far above at top center. Photo by J

Looking down into the Middle Willow Creek drainage with Buffalo Mountain to the left from East East Red's south slopes

Looking down into the Middle Willow Creek drainage with Buffalo Mountain to the left from East East Red’s south slopes

We then made a 1,500′ climb up steep grass to east East Red’s summit topping out about 2 hours and 30 minutes after we began around 9am. I felt like we were making pretty good time. I wanted to be home my mid-afternoon so Kristine could go on a bike ride earlier than later in the day, but it turned out it needed to be an evening ride due to my lateness and ability to never seem to realize that things, especially traverses, take longer than they look like they will on a map 🙂 Very sorry about that, babe.

View of the Silverthorne massif as seen from the East East Red summit (12,885')

View of the Silverthorne massif (center), Snow Peak (left), and Rain Peak (right) as seen from the East East Red summit (12,885′)

J down to the left and Red Diamond Ridge stretched out in front of us from East East Red's summit

J down to the left and Red Diamond Ridge stretched out in front of us from East East Red’s summit

Nevertheless, it was a gorgeous morning and we made our way over the mellow bumps for approximately 3/4 of a mile to East Red’s summit arriving around 9:30am.

Easy cruising between East East Red and East Red. Photo by J

Easy cruising between East East Red and East Red. Photo by J

There were log poles sticking up from every little point along this section of ridge

There were log poles sticking up from every little point along this section of ridge. Photo by J

East Red summit (12,945')

East Red summit (12,945′)

Looking at the "meat and potatoes" of Red Diamond Ridge from East Red's summit over to Red Peak

Looking at the “meat and potatoes” of Red Diamond Ridge from East Red’s summit over to Red Peak

We didn’t stay long on East Red’s summit as we knew we had the bulk of the day ahead of us. Some minor class 3 scrambling led us down and up to the top of a large tower and a cliff edge. This was not downclimable at all. We could have rappelled and saw a few large solid blocks in which to anchor too, but we didn’t feel the need. We backtracked a hundred feet and found a class 4 downclimb to the south to reach the tower’s western base.

Initial scrambling. Photo by J

Initial scrambling. Photo by J

J at the top of the tower with Red Diamond Ridge laid out in front of us

J at the top of the tower with Red Diamond Ridge laid out in front of us

J on the class 4 downclimb on the tower's south side

J on the class 4 downclimb on the tower’s south side

J making a few airy moves to get back on the ridge proper from the ledge on the tower's south side

J making a few airy moves to get back on the ridge proper from the ledge on the tower’s south side

Looking east at the tower from below and our downclimb

Looking east at the tower from below and our downclimb shown in red. Click to enlarge

A relatively walkable section ensued until we came to some knife blade looking spires which were mighty enticing to try and climb, but for time’s sake and the fact that they looked extremely unstable as well as not gaining us anything (vertical-wise) because we needed to drop down anyway, we skirted just below them to the ridge’s north side on some class 3/4 rock.

J staring down these spires

J staring down these spires

Our approximate route just to the north of the spires

Our approximate route just to the north of the spires as seen from across the low point saddle of the traverse. Click to enlarge

It was then maybe two hundred feet of class 3/4 downclimbing to the low point saddle between East Red and Red Peak.

Me starting the descent down to the low point saddle of the traverse

Me starting the descent down to the low point saddle of the traverse. Photo by J

J almost to the low point of the traverse with the class 3/4 headwall that we downclimbed behind

J almost to the low point of the traverse with the class 3/4 headwall that we downclimbed behind

Me at the shady saddle. Photo by J

Me at the shady saddle. Photo by J

We then discussed our options as the direct route west of the low point looked to be extremely hard trad climbing and we only had a light alpine rack. Nevertheless, we spotted a steep gully feature about 10′ down to the saddle’s north that provided a weakness – the only weakness it seemed. To avoid a large boulder in the gully, which completely blocked upward progress, we strayed to the right and climbing a hundred feet of exposed 4th class/low 5th up a dihedral back to the ridge proper.

Me climbing the dihedral. Photo by J

Me climbing the dihedral. Photo by J

Looking down the dihedral and J on a ledge

Looking down the dihedral and J on a ledge

After a restful grass ledge, we glanced up at our next objective. A large 5th class looking tower with serious exposure on all sides. We searched for a viable route and I found a good looking 50′ dihedral on the tower’s northeast side in the shade. We scrambled to a very small ledge and roped up. The dihedral was probably no more than 5.4-5.5, but the exposure was very serious – thus the rope and rack. J and I were asking ourselves if we were getting a bit “conservative” in our old age, but then realized that we weren’t at all. I don’t believe we would have ever thought of free soling that especially not knowing if the holds were secure. I mean we’re family men now! A few good placements and we were up on the tower’s summit.

Me leading the 5.4-5.5 dihedral halfway through the traverse

Me leading the 5.4-5.5 dihedral halfway through the traverse. Photo by J

What came next looked to be simple enough until we realized the downward sloping nature of the ramp with very little holds on rock laden with lichen and big time exposure and drop offs on either side. Yes, we wanted the rope again. J belayed me from the tower’s summit and I placed a cam halfway down, set up an anchor where suitable at the end of the ramp, and brought J down to me.

J coming down the sloping ramp. There were some very awkward moves in here including a butt scoot with horrible holds

J coming down the sloping ramp. There were some very awkward moves in here including a butt scoot with horrible holds

We then downclimbed some class 4 rock to a small notch and made our way up to some nice grass ledges once again. What followed was a westward traverse over class 3/4 rock on the ridge’s north side as going to the ridge proper would not have gained us anything (vertical-wise). Plus, again, the ridge proper looked completely unstable with teetering blocks. This westward traverse on the ridge’s north side eventually led us down to another small saddle.

J coming out of the notch with the end of the downward sloping ramp behind

J coming out of the notch with the end of the downward sloping ramp behind him

The class 3/4 westward traverse

The class 3/4 westward traverse

J making headway

J making headway

The large headwall in front of us had a leftward-trending steep grass ramp that we took hoping it would lead somewhere. The ramp was downclimbale if we got completely stuck, but easier ground above it gave way to some exposed but doable low 5th class climbing on the ridge’s north side to the summit of this headwall tower.

The large headwall with the leftward-trending grass ramp we climbed

The large headwall with the leftward-trending grass ramp we climbed

Me on the ramp. Photo by J

Me on the ramp. Photo by J

J and the exposed north side of this large headwall tower

J and the exposed north side of this large headwall tower

From this point on the ridge proper, delightful class 3/4 scrambling continued pretty much the rest of the way up to the summit ridge plateau of Red Peak. There were many lines to choose from, but in general we stayed on the ridge crest or slightly on the north side.

J on the class 3/4 scrambling that ensued

J on the class 3/4 scrambling that ensued

Sort of a "Where's Waldo?" picture. Can you spot me? Photo by J

Sort of a “Where’s Waldo?” picture. Can you spot me? Photo by J

We were both saying to each other at this point that we felt pretty beat and just plain exhausted. We both believed we were a bit more tense (mentally) on this traverse than others. Obviously, being tense leads to expending extra energy. I chock it up to being just out of scrambling practice. It had been awhile. Nevertheless, we topped out on Red Peak’s summit ridge and traversed a few more ups and down before cresting the main Red Peak summit.

J and Red Diamond Ridge behind

J and Red Diamond Ridge behind

Red Peak summit (13,189') comes into view

Red Peak summit (13,189′) comes into view

A bit more scrambling

A bit more scrambling

Red Peak summit (13,189'). Our second summit of this peak. The first time was when we traversed the Zodiac Spires 2 years prior

Red Peak summit (13,189′) with the complete Red Diamond Ridge behind us. Our second summit of this peak. The first time was when we traversed the Zodiac Spires 2 years prior

It was a fine summit. However, it was a bit breezy and thus chilly. We had our sandwiches and some Gatorade and water and then continued west to descend the south ridge down to the beautiful Red Buffalo Pass where we took a much needed rest.

Descending Red Peak's south ridge to Red Buffalo Pass (left) with Deming Mountain and West Deming in the distance

Descending Red Peak’s south ridge to Red Buffalo Pass (left) with Deming Mountain (center) and West Deming (right) in the distance

It was such a gorgeous day and there wasn’t hardly a chance of any storms on the horizon. At this point, I got a text from good buddy Dillon Sarnelli who was on the Tenmile Traverse just on the other side of Buffalo Mountain and I70. What a day to do that traverse as well. Congrats to Dillon and Zambo. I had much more energy now and we cruised out the Gore Range Trail into the South Willow Creek drainage.

Red Diamond Ridge as seen from the meadows  east of Red Buffalo Pass

Red Diamond Ridge as seen from the meadows east of Red Buffalo Pass

It was a beautiful deproach until we made the right turn onto the South Willow Creek trail split (where we had left the confines of any trail 6.5 hours earlier) and started the few hundred feet of vertical gain back up to the four-way intersection. We just decided to book it and broke a good sweat and cruised back to J’s Volvo arriving at around 3:30pm for a 9 hour day.

I have no idea on the roudtrip mileage and vertical. Its probably somewhere in the 12-13 mile day with maybe 4,500′-5,000′ of vertical gain with all of the ups and downs, but who knows. I really don’t keep track all that much anymore. Its not what’s important. What’s important is that J and I got out again together in our favorite range and tackled a ridge we had long wanted to do and did it safely. We still felt like we were the only ones out there all day despite the few parties we encountered closer down in the valley on the Gore Range Trail and Buffalo Mountain Trail. Its special to us that we can still feel that sense of solitude. It may not always be the case. The mountains are indeed getting crowded. But, hopefully the Gore will continue to inspire and challenge those that seek adventure, relative solitude, lofty summits, and gnarly ridges. Many thanks to Stan for pioneering this ridge 2 decades ago. We both agreed it is one of the finest of Gore ridge traverses.

Our Red Peak massif loop shown in red

Our Red Peak massif loop via Red Diamond Ridge shown in red

Excitement & Disappointment in the Capitol Creek Valley

My good buddy Jesse Hill and myself spent an evening, night, and a half day or so this past weekend up in the beautiful Capitol Creek Valley. We were both so excited and a bit anxious about attempting to climb the spectacular Northwest Buttress on the 14er Capitol Peak. Its a route I had long wanted to try and climb. Climbers say its one of the better mountaineering routes on a 14er in the state. Having seen it now up close and personal, I would have to agree. The first pitch is 5.9 albeit at 12,500′ up a traversing crack system for a good 120′. The 2nd pitch is a long 5.8 chimney leading to easier (4th class) ground. 500′ or so of solid 4th class scrambling leads to the right (west) of Unicorn Spire from where low 5th class simul climbing typically ensues for several hundred feet up to a saddle. A final 5.7 pitch leads to 4th class scrambling to the summit. Descent is via the standard northeast “knife-edge” ridge route. Here is an overview of the route drawn by Stich on MountainProject:

Capitol's Northwest Buttress route

Capitol’s Northwest Buttress route. Click to enlarge

I had been up Capitol three times all via the standard route, which in itself is a classic route very worthy of all the hype. Jesse had climbed Capitol maybe 11 years ago and was excited to go back. We departed Edwards around 3pm on Friday afternoon and were hiking by 5pm on the Capitol Ditch Trail into the Capitol Creek Valley. Unfortunately, it was lightly raining on us the entire 6.5 mile backpack into Capitol Lake (11,500′).

Jesse hiking into Capitol Lake on a dreary Friday evening

Jesse hiking into Capitol Lake on a dreary Friday evening

It never even approached to crossing our minds that this rain was doing much more damage up high on our intended route, i.e. drenching the route and making the 5.8 chimney a small stream. What we didn’t know at the time didn’t bring us down, so we enjoyed the pack into the valley with good conversation despite the rain. We arrived at the lake 3 hours later right at 8pm and quickly found a site to set up the tent to get out of the rain. However, as soon as we put down our packs, the rain stopped and the skies cleared. Jesse went to filter water while I took pictures of Capitol’s north face in the alpenglow. That site never gets old.

Alpenglow on capitol's north face. The Northwest Buttress route is the right skyline

Alpenglow on Capitol’s north face. The Northwest Buttress route is the right skyline

I ate my burrito while Jesse cooked some Mountain House and we got in our sleeping bags around 9:30pm. I was still chilled a bit though warmed up within the warm confines of my zero degree bag. I slept horrible that night. I think it was a combination of using the climbing rope for my pillow, which in turn gave me a headache and hurt my neck, and a big root right under my pad. Anyway, I was a zombie at 4am, but after some coffee I was fired up to go. We left the tent with harnesses on and geared up around 5am. It was a nice hike up to Capitol Pass at just over 12,000′ and took us about 40 minutes. We then began the talus scramble up the steeper ground to the base of the technical pitches up the Northwest Buttress just as it began to get light enough out to see our surroundings.

Jesse on the talus cone with Capitol Lake behind

Jesse on the talus cone with Capitol Lake behind

We were excited. However, upon seeing the large black streaks drenching over the 5.9 crack originating from the 5.8 chimney, we paused for a moment. We thought it may just be a stain from previous water and the rock still dry. As we got right up on the face, we could see it was running water and the pitches were wet. Not ideal and very disappointing.

The upper half of the 1st 5.9 pitch was drenched from the previous day's rain

The upper half of the 1st 5.9 pitch was drenched from the previous day’s rain

We discussed things a bit and decided to give the 1st pitch a go primarily get a good look at the 5.8 chimney 2nd pitch. We traversed east out the small ledge to the base of the 5.9 crack. I racked up and Jesse belayed me on lead of the awesome finger crack start.

My finger crack start to the 1st pitch

My finger crack start to the 1st pitch

The views were great from the small ledge

The views were great from the small ledge

I believe there is an easier start located about 10′ left (east) of the finger crack I climbed. I worked my way up crack system traversing left placing a few cams, clipping an old stuck hex and a piton, and pulled the roof to a good stance about 60′ up from Jesse where an old bolt was located on the face above.

Me pulling the roof on the 5.9 1st pitch

Me pulling the roof on the 5.9 1st pitch. Photo by Jesse

A leftward trending off width crack leading to the final vertical finger crack to the anchors was the 2nd half of the 1st pitch and yet to come from where I stood above the roof. This is where the water was drenching the route. Instead of continuing on to the anchors, I decided to lower off the piton and hex below me. I could see the 5.8 chimney well from my position and there was a small waterfall pouring over the crux bulge to get into the 5.8 chimney above the anchors for the 1st pitch. If I had continued onto the anchors, I don’t believe I could have rapped back down to Jesse with a single rope, i.e. the pitch was too long. Ugh, I was gutted lowering back down collecting my gear. Honestly, the water issue and potential wetness of the pitches after a rainstorm was something I hadn’t remotely considered. There was a couple from Carbondale who had dayhiked in from the trailhead that morning arriving at the base of the technical pitches as I lowered down. They seemed deflated as they looked at the water on the route. They were gunning for the 5.10 start called Early Times, which seemed to be very wet and slick as well. We started down the talus cone back to Capitol Pass occasionally glancing back at the duo trying to figure out the drenched 5.10 dihedral start to Early Times. The fellow was on a ledge trying to figure out how to get into the wet dihedral for probably 30 minutes. I am not sure if they ever figured it out. We lost sight of them soon enough.

Jesse and Capitol's Northwest Buttress

Jesse and Capitol’s Northwest Buttress

I labelled the 1st two pitches of Northwest Buttress route

I labelled the 1st two pitches of Northwest Buttress route

The fellow can be seen just right of center trying to figure out the black stained (wet) entrance to the dihedral on the 5.10 start

The fellow can be seen just slightly down and right of center trying to figure out the black stained (wet) entrance to the dihedral on the 5.10 start

The Northwest Buttress from Capitol Pass

The Northwest Buttress from Capitol Pass

One more of the Northwest Buttress on the descent

One more of the Northwest Buttress on the descent

We arrived back at our tent by 8:15am and I was itching to do something else. I didn’t really care to go up the standard knife-edge route on Capitol again, but I had never been up the adjacent 13er Mt. Daly and so that was a plan. Jesse decided to nake a nap in the tent and chill at camp while I went solo up Mt. Daly. I was especially looking forward to the views of Capitol from the Daly summit. 1000′ of nice trail brought me to the Capitol/Daly saddle and I turned left and started up the south ridge of Daly initially bypassing some 5th class looking towers on the left (east) side via steep grassy ramps. I then scrambled to the ridge proper and went over a few loose towers to a small saddle and then continued on easy 3rd class scrambling to the mellow upper slopes.

Capitol from Mt. Daly's south ridge

Capitol from Mt. Daly’s south ridge

Mt. Daly's fun little south ridge

Mt. Daly’s fun little south ridge

Mt. Daly's

Mt. Daly’s summit comes into view

I arrived on Daly’s 13,300′ summit about an hour and 15 minutes after leaving camp and the views were wonderful. Capitol’s Northwest Buttress looked so amazing from this vantage point.

The backside of Mt. Sopris from Daly's summit

The backside of Mt. Sopris from Daly’s summit

Moon Lake and the Elk Range

Moon Lake and the Elk Range

Capitol Peak and its Northwest Buttress forming its right skyline

Capitol Peak and its Northwest Buttress forming its right skyline

Mt. Daly is a nice destination in itself

Mt. Daly is a nice destination in itself

After chatting with my dad and a good 15-20 minutes up top, I descended Daly’s south ridge back to the Capitol/Daly saddle and then down the switchbacks and was back at camp just shy of 11am. Jesse had taken down the tent and we departed camp by about noon to make the pack out. We arrived back at the trailhead around 2:30pm and boogied on home after stopping for a coffee in Basalt. We reflected on the decision to bail and considered it the safe thing to do. There is a reason we try and not rock climb in the rain 🙂 Climbing 4th class or even low 5th class on wet rock is one thing. But, when you are trying to climb upper 5th class pitches on wet rock, things are a bit different and things become incredibly slick, tough, and unsafe. Chalk the trip up to some good recon and seeing the Northwest Buttress up close and personal. One thing this trip did was amplify my desire to climb this route. Maybe we’ll give it another go come early fall when the weather tends to be much drier.

We shall be back!

We shall be back!

And, of course a few Sawyer pictures to end on:

Two teeth

Two teeth

That's some mighty fine hair there, little lady!

That’s some mighty fine hair there, little lady!

Sawyer and I bouldering in Wolcott on Sunday while Kristine was with good friends hiking from East Vail to Frisco via the Gore Range and then road biking back via I70 and Vail Pass

Sawyer and I bouldering in Wolcott on Sunday while Kristine was with good friends hiking from East Vail to Frisco via the Gore Range and then road biking back via I70 and Vail Pass

2015 Spring Ski Finale & My 1st Father’s Day

There is still a lot of snow up high (above 12,000′), but it is melting extremely fast given these 90 degree days in our mountain towns. It just makes me glad we were able to do what we did as far as spring skis this spring even though it didn’t compare to the frequency and quantity of spring ski descents from previous years. A few days ago, Kristine & I dropped off Sawyer at daycare at 8am (since we are paying for it anyway) and boogied on down to the Mosquito Creek drainage one basin west of the Kite Lake trailhead where J and I skied Mt. Buckskin 6 days prior. I remember seeing these peaks from the summit of Mt. Buckskin and put them to memory in case we could get out again since the driving access gets you high to almost snow line (around 11,500′) thus minimizing the time of hiking with skis and boots on your back. Now, I would never recommend starting a spring ski climb/descent at 9:30am, but we could only do what we could do with regards to dropping Sawyer off. We would just have to see how warm and sloppy the snow would get and plan our ascent and descent routes accordingly. We parked right at about 11,600′ and left the car with skis/boots on our packs walking in our trail runners around 9:30am. We casually hiked up the rough road towards the abandoned London Mine and left the road heading due west over tundra avoiding the snow where we could.

Kristine tundra hiking with the west face of Mt. Buckskin behind

Kristine tundra hiking with the west face of Mt. Buckskin behind

We reached a point where we felt the snow was continuous and donned our ski boots and skis. We contemplated heading up the ridge to Kuss Peak (13,548′) and then over to Mosquito Peak, but there looked to be a skinnable route up the east ridge of Mosquito and fully snow covered. It looked to be a good ski descent as well. So, well on our way to Kuss, we changed directions and headed due north to this east ridge.

Kristine heading to the base of the east ridge of Mosquito Peak

Kristine heading to the base of the east ridge of Mosquito Peak

It was late – maybe 11am – as well as very hot. We were very conscious of snow conditions and any potential wet slab activity. We picked a good line and up and up we went topping out on the 13,781′ summit around 11:45am.

Kristine skinning up the east ridge

Kristine skinning up the east ridge

The steeper portion of the east ridge - maybe 30-35 degrees

The steeper portion of the east ridge – maybe 30-35 degrees

Mellower ground to the summit ridge

Mellower ground to the summit ridge

Summit ridge

Summit ridge

Mosquito Peak summit (13,781')

Mosquito Peak summit (13,781′)

Looking south to Kuss Peak and beyond to the 14er Mt. Sherman

Looking south to Kuss Peak and beyond to the 14er Mt. Sherman

We didn’t stay long on top and after a few pics and packing our skins away we were off down the creamed corn summit ridge to the east ridge. Despite dropping down the line at noon, the snow held up fairly well. Let me tell you I expected worse, that’s for sure. It was special to get a ski descent in with Kristine. I think she had a great time and she looked good carving those turns.

Kristine carving turns on the upper summit ridge

Kristine carving turns on the upper summit ridge

Having fun

Having fun

Kristine on the steeper portion of the east ridge

Kristine on the steeper portion of the east ridge

Decent snow conditions for mid-day skiing

Decent snow conditions for mid-day skiing

Kristine way down on the bench of the east ridge

Kristine way down on the bench of the east ridge

We reached the base of the east ridge and found a little chute down to the lower basin in order to avoid the long way around from which we came.

Kristine skiing the exit chute to the lower basin

Kristine skiing the exit chute to the lower basin

We skied down until we couldn’t ski anymore and hoisted our skis/boots once again on our backs and hiked the rest of the way back down to the truck arriving around 1:15pm or so.

Kristine & Mosquito Peak on the hike out

Kristine & Mosquito Peak on the hike out

Eating our PB&Js on the 6 mile Mosquito Creek dirt road back out to Alma, we made it just in time to go home and get the dogs and go pick up Sawyer at 4pm from daycare. It was a great day to be out just the two of us.

The next day a bunch of my buds (Ben Conners, Brian Miller, Marc Barella, etc) were planning their annual 14er Torreys Peak climb/ski and I was wanting to join them, especially since it was on the way down to Denver for our good buddy Jesse Hill’s 14th annual Summer Solstice extravaganza as well. All of these ski mountaineering rockstars typically climb and ski the northwest face of Torreys, aka the Tuning Fork Couloir, and hearing its a great spring ski on one of the longest snow climbs in Colorado (3,000′ couloir) I wanted to try my best to join these guys. I had climbed Torreys a few times previously via the standard route and Kelso Ridge, but never on the Northwest Face.

The Tuning Fork Couloir on the northwest face of Torreys Peak as viewed from the summit of Mt. Sniktau exactly one year ago when Kristine, the dogs, and I hiked Sniktau en route to Jesse's Summer Solstice party in Denver

The Tuning Fork Couloir on the northwest face of Torreys Peak as viewed from the summit of Mt. Sniktau exactly one year ago when Kristine, the dogs, and I hiked Sniktau en route to Jesse’s Summer Solstice party in Denver. This day we ascended and skied the right branch of the Tuning Fork

Kona and I left the house around 5:15am and met the other 9 fellas at the Bakerville Exit at around 6:45am. We jumped in with Carl leaving my truck right off I-70 at the base of Forest Service Road 189. I usually drive my truck everywhere, especially on dirt 4WD roads, but I figured why not give it a rest for once. We took the right onto the Grizzly Gulch 4WD road a mile and a half up, crossed a few streams, and parked in the meadow before the road really gets bad maybe at about 10,800′. Packing the skis on our packs, we made our way up the 4WD road and then crossed (jumped!) Grizzly Gulch Creek, which made for some entertainment.

Me jumping the creek. Photo by Rick

Me jumping the creek. Photo by Rick

Shortly after the creek, we hit snow line and it was 3,000′ of nature’s stairmaster to the summit ridge. Fortunately, there was already a “booter”, i.e. previous boot steps in the snow, so it was simply one foot after another. The snow was pretty firm and made for good progress. Kona stayed in the booter most of the time because out on the face was fairly slick.  It was a fun climb and despite carrying both my skins and crampons, I used neither.

The boys beginning the booter

The boys beginning the booter

Marc, Rick, & Ben in the Tuning Fork Couloir

Marc, Rick, & Ben in the Tuning Fork Couloir

The booter

The booter

Ben making progress

Ben making progress with Marc & Rick below him

Carl

Carl

A few of us topped out around 10am for about 2 hours and 15 minutes to the summit. We all probably lounged on the summit for 30 to 45 minutes and enjoyed the views. It was a great time to be on a summit again with all these guys. Folks were impressed with Kona’s climbing and I gave her the 1/2 pound of food I had carried up the mountain as she definitely earned her breakfast this morning.

Lounging on the summit of Torreys

Lounging on the summit of Torreys

Looking down Kelso Ridge

Looking down Kelso Ridge, the northeast ridge of Torreys

Kona & myself on top of Torreys Peak (14,267') with Grays Peak behind

Kona & myself on top of Torreys Peak (14,267′) with Grays Peak behind

Another of us

Another of us

The crew on top

The crew on top

We then all clicked into our skis maybe 10′ below the summit and skied down the west ridge to the top of the Tuning Fork. The snow had warmed up nicely by 11am and we skied nice corn all the way down the couloir for 3,000′.

Some of the boys at the entrance to the Tuning Fork

Some of the boys at the entrance to the Tuning Fork

Ben

Ben

Ben slashing the corn

Ben slashing the corn

Carl spraying corn

Carl spraying corn

Carl

Carl

Telemark master Josh

Telemark master Josh

Josh

Josh

Rick

Rick

Rick again

Rick again

Josh & the Tuning Fork

Josh & the Tuning Fork

Kona was having some difficulty with how soft the snow was in the lower half of the couloir, so obviously I stayed with her and we took our time. She did great, though pretty exhausted. She was excited to get back to Grizzly Gulch Creek and get some water and cool off. We jumped our way over the creek once again. Only this time their was a casualty – my ski pole. Fortunately, it wasn’t my much more expensive whippet. I think I was so focused on not falling because of my camera, I completely lost focus on my poles. This is the second time a creek has eaten my ski pole and both creeks had the word “Grizzly” in their name. Maybe I should not try to jump any Grizzly Creeks anymore 🙂

Brian making the creek jump look easy

Brian making the creek jump look easy

We got back to the trucks at around noon and I realized all the boys were going to cook out and drink some beer in the gorgeous meadow by the trucks. However, Kona and I needed to get back to I-70 and my truck so we could meet up with Kristine, Sawyer, & Rainie in Silverthorne. No matter. We just hiked the 2.5 miles down the 4WD road to my truck. It was fine, as it was mostly downhill, just hot. The few creek crossings felt great on my feet and legs. I should have just driven my truck up to the 4WD parking, but c’est la vie. Kona & I met up with the rest of the Chalk gals, left my truck in Silverthorne, and we all headed to Jesse’s 14th annual Summer Solstice party in Denver arriving around 2:30pm. Jesse outdoes himself every time with this party. Its simply amazing. He is such a good guy to put this on year after year for all of us. He has adapted this party over the years from our single days with no responsibility to all of us now having families an kiddos to the tune of having a large bouncy castle this year. Sawyer loved it and its almost like a mini-reunion for all of us. Rainier stayed near the pig the entire time getting droppings of pork while Kona was passed out on the lawn. We ended up leaving to head back to the mountains around 8:30pm and both dogs and Sawyer were racked out for the entire drive back to Vail.

The next day was my 1st Father’s Day. Now, I know what it felt for my dad for these 37 (almost 38) years. Its’s wonderful. Between a great brunch at the Wolcott yacht Club, a much needed nap, and a little bouldering down at Wolcott, we all had a great and relaxing day. I just love my little Sawyer to the moon and back. She makes me the luckiest father on earth.

Father's Day brunch

Father’s Day brunch

At the Wolcott Boulders

At the Wolcott Boulders

Happy to be together

Happy to be together!

Mt. Buckskin Birthday Ski

On J’s 36th birthday, we went skiing. Yes, it was June 13, but the skiing up high was just most excellent. Kona and I picked up J at 6:30am and we all rocketed down to the Kite Lake Trailhead (well, maybe 3/4 mile short of Kite Lake) and made a beeline for the centennial peak Mt. Buckskin at 13,865′. We began skinning just after 8am from where we parked (approximately 11,800′) and it was already warming up pretty fast with the sun’s rays.

J & Kona beginning the skin

J & Kona beginning the skin

J skinning higher & higher. Kite Lake can barely be seen frozen far below

J skinning higher & higher. Kite Lake can barely be seen frozen far below

J approaching the summit ridge. 14ers Mt. Democrat, Quandary Peak, & Mt. Lincoln (left to right) can be seen behind

J approaching the summit ridge. 14ers Mt. Democrat, Quandary Peak, & Mt. Lincoln (left to right) can be seen behind

The northeast face of Buckskin is a great skin with a few pitches of maybe 30-35 degrees, but all still totally skinnable.

J & Kona skinning Buckskin's summit ridge

J & Kona skinning Buckskin’s summit ridge

After a fairly casual pace for 2,200′ up in probably 2 miles or so, we topped out on Buckskin’s summit after an hour and 35 minutes. There is still plenty of snow up high above 12,000′, that’s for sure. If you can find access that gets you close to this elevation such as the Kite Lake area, you should be good to go for the next week and have minimal carting your skis on your pack.

Mt. Buckskin summit (13,865')

Mt. Buckskin summit (13,865′)

After 20 minutes on top at around 10am, we were off down the wonderful northeast face of Buckskin. Creamed corn turns ensued for 2,000′.

J off the summit

J off the summit

A little further down

A little further down

Our turns

Our turns on the upper northeast face

J & Kona on a steeper pitch down lower

J & Kona on a steeper pitch down lower

Happy birthday, J

Happy birthday, J

It was tough for Kona down low as she was definitely punching through, but she persevered. We contemplated heading up Democrat for some turns on its south face, but the snow was just getting too soft. Back at my truck by 11am, we noticed a Denver family in their SUV driving right by us heading for the snowdrift that blocked the road. This wouldn’t end up working out for them. You could’ve seen this coming from a mile away. Trying to plow through the 12″ of snow/ice, they slid partially off the road and were stuck.  J and I ended up using our avalanche shovels to help dig them out and after 30 minutes they were able to back up and out of the snowdrift. Having done our good deed for the day, we headed back home for a pool party all afternoon with Kristine, Sawyer, Megan, Rainier, & Kona. It was a nice birthday for J who continued his fun activities into Sunday where he, Kristine, and several other friends rafted from Avon to Eagle. Sawyer, the dogs, & myself met them at Wolcott for their lunch stop and said hello. A little quick video of J carving some birthday turns on Mt. Buckskin: