Considering the little scare Rainie gave us last week only 2 days before her 14th birthday, I was so relieved and happy to say happy birthday to Raindog last Wednesday, January 11. She was diagnosed with old dog vestibular disease and when you don’t know what that is, it sure is scary to see it happening to your pet. She spent a day at the vet under the care of our wonderful doc and friend, Charlie Meynier, as well as his awesome staff at Vail Valley Animal Hospital. She is getting better every day with medication and support from all of us. I have her old climbing harness that we have used to help her with stability in walking in the snow and going the bathroom. Hopefully, she will make a full recovery in a matter of weeks. She wasn’t feeling too good on her actual birthday, but J, Megan, & Raina all came over to hang with Rainie.
The whole gang (meaning the people who know her best) celebrating Rainie’s 14th
Rainie is still hanging in there and while she obviously doesn’t run or climb peaks with us anymore, she is just the sweetest thing ever and my best friend (and first love ). She enjoys her walks with us to the park and laying in the snow with her tennis ball. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine life without Rainie by my side, but a week ago Monday sure prepared me for life without her. Fortunately, we got another chance to spend precious time together for however long it lasts. Kristine and I had long talks about losing Rainie and agreed that we need to provide her with the most comfortable and loving environment possible and enjoy our time together to the max. While a week ago Monday was one of my most stressful, emotional, and sad days yet, I see it as maybe a learning experience to hopefully let go of Rainie a bit easier than when that day finally does come. Nevertheless, no matter what, she has lived an amazing life.
Raindog and her ball. Photo by Dianne Oelberger
Hiking to cut down our Christmas tree
Recovering from her vestibular disease
Kristine got this awesome 4wd Radio Flyer wagon for Rainie. She loves riding in it.
This year’s Thanksgiving was a special one as we headed back east to the mountains of North Carolina to spend 7 days at our mountain cabin, Chalk Hill. Sawyer had never been to Chalk Hill and Kristine and I had yet to see the finished addition of the large great/game room. The new addition is incredible and really adds to the livability of the cabin.
The new addition under construction as seen last December 2016
The driveway side front entry of the new addition as seen last December 2016
During the first 2.5 days in Charlotte, Kristine & I went to Charlotte Country Day School to have lunch with my niece, Harper, who is in kindergarten. My sister and I both attended CCDS and was so fun going back especially to see Harper. Gosh, last time I stepped foot on campus was when I gave the Cum Laude Induction Ceremony speech in February 2013.
Leaving Eagle for Charlotte
Sawyer & Harper at Brixx Pizza on a Sunday night
Lunch with Harper at CCDS
It was so fun being with Harper at school
Love this little lady
Sawyer was so excited to be with the big kids that she lined up with the kindergarten class
We then drove to Chalk Hill later that day. I always feel right at home at Chalk Hill with dad and everyone.
In the new living room
On the front porch swing
Sawyer and the coyote
Me & Sawyer
Me and my gals
Me, Sawyer, Wesley, & Harper
Cuzins lounging on the back porch hammock
If only we could get those pacifiers out of their mouths
Sawyer & Wesley
Sawyer & Aunt Evon
Kristine and the little cuzins
My mom organized a 2 person bluegrass band to come over for 2 hours one evening and it was so fun especially for all the little gals.
We’ve never really had a personal show where we are the entire audience before this evening
Harper got to try out the banjo
My oldest niece
Kristine & I went on a few trail runs up my old favorite Bullhead Mountain, the highest mountain in Alleghany County (3,862′).
On top of Bullhead
Kristine running the road on Bullhead
Some of our best friends, Cashion & Eva, came up from Brevard for an evening to visit. It was absolutely wonderful to have them and everyone loved seeing them. Turns out Cashion & Eva have since moved to Carbondale, CO where Eva’s family is located. Again, it will be awesome to have them back in state and so close to us.
My dad, Maya, Cashion and their tenement on wheels, which always looks nice parked in the driveway :)
Wesley & Sawyer in the sprinter van
The crew with Cashion & Eva
Kristine & Maya
So awesome to have them up at Chalk Hill. Cashion originally helped dad and I clear hiking trails and camp on the land in the early 90s before the cabin was ever built
My dad and brother-in law, Ransome, organized another fun hayride as well all throughout our property. Everyone had a blast.
All aboard the trailer
Ransome was the captain driving the tractor, but Sawyer always seemed to find herself into the pics
Aunt Evon & Harper
The loving Foose dog, Finley
Sawyer loved seeing the cows, aka “moo-moos”
Sawyer & Gigi
So fun having a picnic in the pasture with Bullhead Mountain in the background
Cap’n Ransome, Wesley, & Sawyer
After the morning hayride, Kristine and I put Sawyer down for her nap and zipped down the mountain plateau to Stone Mountain State Park to do some rock climbing. Dad and I had hiked this beautiful granite slab of a mountain maybe 25 years ago, but I had never been back. Little did I know it has some of the best rock climbing in North Carolina. So, Kristine & I had brought our harnesses, shoes, rope, gear from Colorado hoping to get out for an afternoon on Stone Mountain. While Stone Mountain is notorious for its extremely run-out friction climbing on slightly less than vertical slabs, the most iconic route is The Great Arch right up the middle of the south face. I’ve heard its one of the best 5.5 routes in the county, which is funny considering we are talking 5.5. Nevertheless, we climbed a long 150′ 5.8 pitch called Block Route to get to Tree Ledge where we began the 3 pitch Great Arch climb to the top. It was a gorgeous afternoon and really warm. We got behind a party of 4 at Tree Ledge and waited for an hour until we could get going after them. We ended up passing them on pitch 2 as the sun was setting. Then, the party of 4 decided to bail off the route rather than continue to the top and their last climber, a gal named Lila, really just wanted to go to the top. We offered to just put her on our rope for the 3rd pitch and hike down with us, so she did and was very appreciative. We got to the top right at dusk around 5:30pm and hiked down in the dark for 30 minutes to the car to cap off a really fun afternoon together. I will always bring our rock gear from now on every time we go to Chalk Hill. Stone Mountain is so close and has great climbing.
Kristine approaching Stone Mountain’s south face. The Great Arch is the obvious dihedral up the center of the face
Block Route pitch (5.8) to get to Tree Ledge
Block Route pitch from above
Kristine balancing on the crux move of Block Route
The Great Arch from Tree Ledge
Kristine climbing pitch 1 of The Great Arch
Beautiful…climbing in the southeast on granite is pretty good
Kristine climbing pitch 2 of The Great Arch
Kristine taking in the beautiful sunset from the pitch 2 belay
It was a hundred or so vertical feet of easy slab scrambling after pitch 3 to the summit
Stone Mountain summit
Happy to be together
Beautiful NC mountains
It was a wonderful Thanksgiving together with my family.
Our good friend Chase Lochmiller, whom we met in Antarctica on our Mt. Vinson trip almost three years ago, was getting married on the Hawaiian island of Kauai in late September 2016. Having never been to any Hawaiian island, Kristine & I decided to make this happen with Sawyer and immediately Ken & Dianne Oelberger were on board to come with us. And, from everyone we talked to, Kauai was the least developed, most mountainous, and exotic of all the islands, which sounded right up our alley. Also, our friends from London, Harry & Halla Koppel, whom we met on Mt. Vinson as well, were making the long trip over and so it would be a great opportunity to rekindle our fun friendship we had in Antarctica together. We were so excited to spend this vacation with Sawyer,Ken, and Dianne. Definitely a different kind of vacation for us, but it turned out to be so much fun and memorable. Kauai certainly did not disappoint. We rented a functional beach house in Wainiha on Kauai’s north shore between Hanalei Bay and the Kalalau trailhead. It was a perfect location and was a 5 minute walk to the famous Tunnels Beach, where we went about every day for swimming with Sawyer and snorkeling.
Sawyer en route to Hawaii!
We flew from Denver to LAX and met Ken & Dianne there for the big flight direct to Lihue Airport on Kauai. We rented a van when we arrived and drove the hour+ up to the north shore and our beach house. It was an extremely long day with Sawyer, but we finally made it to the house around 4pm in the hottest part of the day. I think it was because we were all so beat from the travel and very tired and likely because the house had been closed up until an hour or so before we arrived, but we all sort of lost it when we arrived into the house due to the extreme temperature inside the house. I know I for one was thinking how the heck I could stay here, especially sleep at night in this hot of a house with no AC. It was unbearable. Ken and I immediately took off our shirts as did Sawyer to try and cool down. The property manager, however, did show us the portable AC units in a closet we could try and hook up to the windows at least to cool 2 rooms down. So, Ken and I jimmy-rigged one of the units in Sawyer’s room and it worked pretty well really cooling down her room to 70 degrees or colder. We did a less-inspiring engineering installation in the master bedroom where Kristine and I stayed, but it worked pretty well. It did cool down at night and was much more manageable. Ken and Dianne were stronger than us (me) and did well in the 3rd bedroom without an AC unit. Still, though, shirts off for the boys and Sawyer were still a staple for the week. Despite the initial shock of the heat & humidity, we adjusted and had a fantastic week.
Our house’s back porch
Sawyer & I adjusting to life in Hawaii
Sawyer on the way to Tunnels Beach with the front of our house behind
Walking to Tunnels
Awesome Tunnels Beach has a reef and is just perfect for swimming and snorkeling in calm waters
Sawyer loved it
Ken & Dianne so happy to be back on Kauai after 25 years or so
Sawyer & I at Tunnels
It was so much fun & special being with Sawyer here
Kristine & Sawyer at Tunnels
Rinsing off back at the house
Despite not having full AC in the beach house, this place really had about everything else. Toys for Sawyer, beach chairs, snorkel gear, etc, a downstairs outdoor shower, a master bedroom outdoor tub and shower, great views into the jungle, very private, and a great location. We soon learned from Chase that most of these beach houses do not have AC, anyway. One of the first afternoons during Sawyer’s nap, Kristine and I drove a few miles east to Lumahai Beach to check out some bouldering I had researched on the beach. It turned out to be really fun bouldering on volcanic rock with the soft sandy beach as a crash pad. Kristine doesn’t boulder very much, but I was extremely happy she went with me. We had brought our rock shoes and chalk bags with us.
Very scenic bouldering
Though after a bit, the volcanic rock really takes a toll on your hands
Me on a line called Problem D
Kristine on a line called Problem G
Lumahai Beach (north) bouldering wall. Routes can be found on mountainproject
A good afternoon together
That evening we took a drive to the Kilauea Lighthouse, but it was closed. That’s ok because we had a ball chasing roosters and getting some nice pictures in the evening light.
Sawyer chasing a rooster
Good family pic with the Kilauea Lighthouse behind
Cool shades, Sawyer
The sun going down on the drive back
The next day we all decided to give the famous Kalalua Trail a try (at least the first mile or so) to get some views of the amazing Napali Coast. We actually made it just over a mile in depite how rocky and muddy and wet it was and Sawyer walked a decent portion of it. She was beat about halfway back and in the pack she went and fell asleep. However, it was gorgeous scenery.
Sawyer & K hiking the Kalalau Trail
Dianne’s face says it all
Ken & Dianne and the Napali Coast
Kalalau Beach is the termination of the Kalalau Trail about 10 miles further down the Napali Coast
That evening we went over to Chase’s wedding party/friends house they rented in Hanalei Bay. Apparently, it was owned by the real life family depicted in the movie Descendants starring George Clooney. Also, the house in which the move was filmed on the beach was immediately across the street, which I definitely recognized. We had a great time catching up with Chase, meeting his fiance Devon, who grew up on Kauai, and checking out the home.
Sawyer walking around the home
The amazing home
The Kalalau Trail (Napali Coast)
The next morning we all woke up around 6am and K and I got ready for our big adventure of the week: trail run/hike the Kalalau Trail to Kalalau Beach and back in a day, which turns out to be about 5,000′ vertical gain and 23 miles RT. Ken & Dianne were so nice to hang with Sawyer for the day and I think they had a really fun time together at Tunnels Beach. Ken dropped K and I off at the Kalalau trailhead around 7am (only 2 miles west of our house) and it seemed like we beat the majority of folks that morning to get on the trail. Armed with a water bottle, Gatorade bottle, a backpack water bladder, and trail bars/snacks in our pockets, we went light and fast. We brought iodine tablets to purify the stream water as we had to refill several times throughout the day.
The Kalalau Trail map along the Napali Coast. Click to enlarge
We tried to slowly run the first 4-5 miles of the trail, but much of it is so rough, rocky, muddy, and wet it was pretty dangerous to do so, especially on the down. Good thing is there were no people on the trail to try and get around. I had never sweated as much as I did on the Kalalau Trail with all of the humidity. I looked like I had already swam in the ocean. Anyway, the morning hours were relatively cool and in the shade as the sun had not come overhead yet.
Early morning mud
Near the beginning of the trail
Crossing Hanakapi’ai Stream
2 miles and 30 minutes in we came upon Hanakapi’ai Beach
And leaving Hanakapi’ai Beach
One thing about this trail is it is A LOT of up and down. As soon as you get comfortable going up or down, the trail switches and you do the other mode. Miles 2-4 were some slow miles because of the overgrowth onto the trail and slick mud and rock. We came upon a lean-to shelter at mile 4 and I left my shirt hanging there as it was completely soaked with sweat. We chatted with a grizzled man at the lean-to laying on the bench from Oahu who had hiked this trail countless times in his 30 years of coming to Kauai.
Typical mountainous terrain along the Napali Coast
Kristine and a view. Kalalau Beach is still a good 5-6 miles out
A boat en route back from Kalalau Beach
We reached Hanakoa Valley at mile 6 (halfway point) and after that the trail really opened up, became much more runnable, and the views opened up as well. It was great.
Me and the mountains
Cruising along and still all smiles
I think around mile 7 was the fun and interesting portion of the trail that was pretty exposed down to the raging surf several hundred feet below.
One of the more exposed portions of the trail
Kristine chugging along
A panorama of a neat section of trail
The trail opening up after mile 8
Getting close. Kalalau Beach can be seen right of center in the distance
I see you, Kalalau Beach!
Nice meadows close to Kalalau Beach
The home stretch
So, after about 4 hours on the trail, we reached Kalalau Beach. It was such a treat to be there. Many campers were camped in the trees just south of the beach and were beginning to come out to the beach. It reminded me of Leonardo DiCaprio and the island dwellers all going to the secret, remote beach in the older move The Beach. In fact, many folks were in the nude heading into the surf. We decided to not join the ranks of the nude.
Kristine and Kalalau Beach
Panorama of Kalalau Beach
Happy to be here together. Someday, we’ll have to come back with Sawyer and camp a night
We ate one of our denser, larger snack bars we previously bought and rested for 20 minutes or so. We also gathered a few special coral pieces and rocks from the beach to remember it by. We said our goodbyes and began the slower return run/hike back the way we came.
The long, but beautiful way home
Coming back along the fun, exposed portion of the trail
A quick little video of Kristine on the exposed portion of the trail:
On the return trip, we decided to take a detour and go check out Hanakoa Falls, which said only a half mile off the Kalalau Trail. However, it was a rough and slow trail consisting of some bushwhacking and we began to think if we’d ever see this waterfall. Finally, we reached the falls and I guess it was worth the detour.
The last few miles were slow and we were hiking by then. Lots of folks on the trail once we got back to mile 2, but fortunately the trail had dried out quite a bit so it was much less slick. We were back at the trail by about 4pm with tired legs and feet, but feeling good about our adventure. We walked the road back to our house trying to thumb and hitch a ride. We were finally picked up by some nice folks we met along the trail and drove us in the back of their pickup the rest of the way back arriving around 4:30pm just in time to see Sawyer waking up from her nap. I immediately went out to get us some much needed ginger beers and guava drinks from the Wainiha General Store as we (me) were craving these the last few miles.
The Remainder of the Week and Chase’s Wedding
We all did some more swimming and snorkeling on that Thursday and Kristine & I made it to Chase & Devon’s welcome part at the St. Regis in Princeville that evening.
Sunset over Hanalei Bay from the St. Regis
At the St. Regis
The next morning we all went to Lumahai Beach for some exploring and swimming.
Sawyer scoping out the rocks and pools
Waves against the rocks
It was a good swimming hole
The gals loved it
Not often do you get to stand at the end of the rainbow :)
Harry & Halla had arrived late Friday night and came over Saturday morning to visit. We all went to Tunnels Beach and swam and snorkeled. It was so great to see them again. Its almost like we all had never skipped a beat! We definitely need to get together with them and their year old daughter soon on another vacation.
All of us at Tunnels Beach
That evening we got ready for Chase & Devon’s wedding and drove ourselves to the Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens for the wedding and reception. It was a great celebratory evening and was super fun to hang with Harry & Halla all night.
All dressed up as much as we ever do
Chase & Devon
The four of us on the beach at the reception
We did one more quick Tunnels Beach trip early morning to say our goodbyes. Sawyer was a tired gal after a big week.
One more of the three of us
After watching some early Sunday morning NFL games and a good Sawyer nap in my arms, we all loaded up the van and made our way to Lihue Airport. Little did we know that we were all in for a 2 day adventure to get back to Colorado. In a nutshell, due to limiting weight on the airplane because of turbulence, American decided to bump 20 folks off the plane. Kristine & I being two of them because we didn’t check-in the night before or early that morning. Ken & Dianne, however, did check-in the night before. So, after 6 hours at the airport that afternoon and a lot of tears and frustration, we were put up in the Marriott with food vouchers, we each got a $1,000 voucher on American, including Sawyer, and left the next day. We got home an entire day later on Tuesday evening. Ken & Dianne could have gone on without us and gotten home Monday evening, but we appreciated them so much hanging with us. Nevertheless, it was an adventure with a 2 year old, but really Sawyer did so very well. It was fun in retrospect to go through that adventure with her.
Sawyer loving her bus ride at LAX
And, finally, we landed at DIA
In conclusion, what a phenomenal family trip to a wonderful island. We would highly recommend this kind of trip and the island of Kauai to anyone looking to get away from the more developed islands. It was beyond special to share this trip with Ken & Dianne and especially to be able to bring Sawyer along and have so much fun with her.
Sawyer having a ball after eating at the Kilauea Fish Market
Our engineering firm, BG Buildinworks, formerly Beaudin Ganze Consulting Engineers, tries to participate in the Griffith Centers for Children sponsored 14er climb every year we can. Griffith Centers is a great organization that helps troubled children and their families. I have led this fun event for 12 of the 13 years I have been with BG and always enjoy the planning and getting folks to participate. This year I chose Mt. Massive, Colorado’s 2nd highest peak, and only an hour and 15 minute drive from the Vail Valley. The southwest slopes route is a good hike with almost 4,000′ of elevation gain in 4 miles to the summit. I hadn’t been up Massive since the day we returned from climbing Denali in June 2007 and wanted to get back on that mountain.
Mt Massive Summit (6-30-07). Left to right: Derek, Devon, J, Megan, Mikey J, with Rainier & myself kneeling
Kona & I didn’t arrive at our big group campsite along the North Halfmoon Road until almost 10pm, but everyone was gathered around the fire as usual beers in hand and laughing. I was up way too late because of some of the young guns and Kona and I crawled into our sleeping bags around 3am. However, I couldn’t stop laughing at Trevor, Dylan, Billy, & Tim around the fire and its quite possible we never went to sleep. Billy called it quits at 5am. I do know, for a fact, that Trevor & Dylan did not go to sleep. Out of our bags at 5:30am, we all piled in a few 4WD vehicles and motored up the 2 miles to the 4WD trailhead parking. Joel Lauran, & Alec joined us that morning as well as none of them had hiked Massive yet. It was fantastic having them along. The hike went well for everyone and a few folks summitted their 1st 14er ever!
Left to right: Dylan, Joel, Seth, Tim, Lauran, Britta with Mt. Oklahoma behind
Lauran, Tim, & Seth heading up the southwest slopes of Massive with the Independence Pass area peaks (Grizzly Peak just right of center) behind
Alec making headway
We reached the final summit ridge after maybe 3 hours, but wanted to wait for the rest of the crew. So, Kona & I & Alec took a long break while Joel and folks went up to the summit. I ran back down the trail a few hundred feet to see where everyone was and was delighted to see Billy & Larisa, Eric, & Brent, etc making progress up the mountain. I would guess everyone was on the summit together by noon.
Joel & Lauran and Massive’s final summit ridge
Its always wonderful having Kona looking over me
Billy & Larisa on the summit ridge
BG on the summit of Mt. Massive (14,421′)!
We probably spent 30 min on the summit of Massive and we certainly were not alone. Many other groups and families were on the mountain, which was great to see. It was a gorgeous day with not much of a chance at all for storms even later in the day (per Joel Gratz, of course).
Everyone was excited
Seth, Britta, & Tim with the Gratzes photobombing this pic as they love to do
Billy & Larisa. This was Larisa’s 1st 14er in 8 years well before they welcomed any of their 3 young boys into this world. I was very proud of her
The two goofballs, Eric & Brent. Massive was Brent’s 1st 14er
Alec & the Gratzes
And last but not least, Kona & I. This was Kona’s 1st summit of Massive
My mom also came into town this same weekend and was understanding in my going away for 18 hours for the Mt. Massive hike. However, she had a wonderful time, especially with sweet Sawyer. Here are a few pics of our time together:
Down at the river
Mom & Sawyer
Me, Kristine, Sawyer, and Rainie at the Scherr’s home in Minturn for a Sunday night dinner
Mom & I on the same hammock at the Scherr’s home in Minturn (before Rainie and I broke it – so sorry Diana & Matt)
My good friend, Jesse Hill, can sure plan a hut trip. He can plan most things in life to a “T”, but hut trips in particular are a specialty of his. So, when Jesse called upon our crew to take part in the Hardman Hut Trip in April of 2016 almost a year ago, 12 courageous dudes immediately jumped at the opportunity. Not only was this a hut trip, but it was a hut trip traverse between three huts in the northern Sawatch Range from the Basalt/Ruedi Reservoir area to the Sylvan Lake area south of Eagle. It was a fantastic trip and afforded all of us a great opportunity to just unplug from society and enjoy the outdoors, the wonderful 10th Mtn hut system, and the camaraderie. I mean we’re all close friends who have shared a lifetime of adventures, climbs, raft trips, ski trips, etc, but it was so cool for all of us to get back together as a group. This trip already has us scheming Hardman 2017.
The huts with the various routes marked. Photo by Joel
We began by leaving a few cars, including my Tahoe, at the Yeoman Park trailhead south of Eagle. Jesse organized a CME Sprinter van to take us all around to Basalt and then up the Fryingpan River past the Ruedi Resevoir to the Montgomery Flats trailhead.
Our shuttle van – not bad Photo by Derek
We picked up Brett at his home in Glenwood Springs as well. The van left us at the nondescript Montgomery Flats trailhead with no one else around. The only issue was that the trail was fairly dry so most of us packed our skis and boots on our backs for the first 2 miles or so.
Left to right: J, Jesse, & Chuck en route to the Harry Gates Hut
Left to right: Joel, Nico, Matt, & Brett upon reaching the Burnt Mtn Road
Following the power lines for a bit
The crew back on the Burnt Mtn Road
We then de-skinned at the summit of the Burnt Mtn Road and were able to ski about 1.75 miles slightly downhill on the same road to the Harry Gates Hut turnoff. After a a few hundred vertical feet of gain and 1/4 mile, we arrived at the hut around 5pm. It was so so nice out and we all relaxed on the deck with cocktails.
At the Harry Gates Hut turnoff
The Harry Gates Hut with the south face of Fools Peak (12,947′) behind
The views of Fools Peak were amazing and the south face isn’t even the “fun” side of the peak. The north ridge of Fools provides awesome class 3/4 scrambling. Kristine & I climbed this route back in September of 2010.
Fools Peak’s north ridge from Lake Charles
Kristine on the lower portion of the ridge
K climbing the class 4 headwall from the notch
Fools Peak summit (12,947′)
Anyway, back to our Hardman 2016, it was a fantastic evening at the Harry Gates Hut. Scotch, beer, and whiskey were consumed by many as were several rounds of hors d’oeuvres. Jesse made a phenomenal dinner that we all helped to carry into the hut, poker games were played, and late night antics and stories ensued.
Mikey chilling in the late afternoon sun on the Harry Gates deck
A great south-facing deck. Photo by Derek
Jesse in “suns out guns out” mode with cocktail in hand. Photo by Joel
Me enjoying the warm sun. Photo by Derek
Inside the Harry Gates Hut
The first night’s pasta dinner. Photo by Derek
I think we were all surprised at how efficiently 12 guys gathered themselves, made breakfast, organized gear, and cleaned up the hut each morning. After a delicious monster burrito made by Mikey, I finished packing and we were all out the door by 9:30am. It was another beautiful and very warm day even at elevations between 9,000′ and 11,000′. Harry Gates is one of the lowest huts in terms of elevation at 9,700′. We skied for maybe a mile and a half down the Burnt Mtn Road to Lime Creek at the head of the distinct Lime Creek Canyon. Lime Creek Canyon is a wonderful limestone sport climbing area. J and I climbed here last fall for a day and just loved it. It was really cool to see it all snow-covered and inaccessible by truck. I’m looking forward to going back to this secluded climbing area this summer and fall.
Leaving the Harry Gates Hut
Skiing back down to the Burnt Mtn Road. The Elk Range 14er Capitol Peak can be seen in the middle of the picture with Mt. Sopris at far right
Almost down to Lime Creek
Lime Creek Canyon and the sport climbing cliffs
Some of our crew switching to uphill skinning mode with Lime Creek Canyon behind
Beginning the lengthy 5 mile uphill skin to the Peter Estin Hut
The skin up to the Peter Estin Hut was really beautiful along ridges and through groves of Aspens. We took periodic breaks to snack up and enjoy the views.
Skinning along with the Elk Range in the far distance
Lime Creek Canyon down at far left in the picture
Left to right: Pyramid Peak, Maroon Bells, Snowmass Mtn (behind the right Aspen tree), and Capitol Peak. All Elk Range 14ers
Scott enjoying the “shorts” weather
Expedition leader, Doctor Jesse Hill
Group shot in the Aspens. Photo by Derek
Andy showing us the way with Fools Peak behind
Chuck on a steeper section of the broad ridge
Finally, after about 4.5 hours on the go, we hit the turnoff for the Peter Estin Hut at 11,200′
We arrived to find three other fellas relaxing on the deck whom we would be sharing the hut with that evening. The views south to the Elks and Northern Sawatch were phenomenal. We all unpacked and each broke out a cocktail or two and more hors d’oeuvres of salami, cheese, and Jesse’s canned octopus. It was yet again an awesome evening and J and Andy made the awesome tacos from the elk meat Jesse had organized for all of us. Yum.
Peter Estin Hut views. Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Bells are visible on the right
Appetizers and cocktail hour. Photo by Joel
Relaxing on the Peter Estin deck. Photo by Joel
Nico’s breakfast. Photo by Joel
Saying goodbye to the Peter Estin Hut the next morning
The weather on day 3 was very overcast and a bit breezy as expected and forecasted by the OpenSnow gurus. We had a 2,000′ ski down the Iron Edge Trail to the Fulford Cave/Lake Charles trailhead, which was fun for some and not so much for others. We passed a decent size crew who were all heading up to the Peter Estin Hut on the ski down. We then skied down the East Brush Creek Road about a 1/2 mile to the Newcomer Spring trail turnoff and skinned up for the long uphill. The weather definitely moved in and out all day graupelling on us, then getting some sunshine, and then heavy snow for the last few miles to the Polar Star Inn.
Mikey beginning the descent down to the Fulford Cave/Lake Charles trailhead on the morning of day 3
The crew heading up the Newcomer Spring trail
J and Chuck in some sunshine
Then, the snow came
Scott enjoying the skinning and snow
Chuck and Brett on the final mile push to the Polar Star Inn
The Polar Star Inn. Photo by Derek
We all arrived by 3pm making for about a 5 hour day of skiing and skinning. I quickly got a fire going in the wood stove to dry things out as we were all pretty drenched from the wet snow. Two more friends, Alec Hall and Sam Collentine, arrived at around 4:30pm from the Yeoman park trailhead as they just came for the final night. It was awesome having these two fine dudes come in and hang for the night with us. Two grad school physicists from CU Boulder were sharing the hut with us. They were very cool to put up with our rowdy crew of 14. Again, Jesse delivered with a phenomenal dinner of bread, salad, and jambalaya.
Day 3’s dinner. Photo by Joel
Joel’s day 3 cocktail. Photo by Joel
The OpenSnow dudes. Photo by Alec
Late night at the Polar Star Inn. Photo by Joel
The weather wasn’t supposed to be too stellar on Sunday, but Joel and a few others wanted to give New York Mountain’s summit a shot, so we set the alarm for 5:30am. Mikey and I had slept downstairs by the wood stove and we got a fire going immediately in the morning as we had left the windows open all night and it was pretty cold. Back in March of 2008, Kristine & I had skinned up to New York Mountain’s summit (12,550′) via the Polar Star Inn and it was a nice few hour jaunt in good weather.
New York Mtn summit (12,550′) in March 2008
The massive cornice along the northeast ridge as seen from the summit
However, this day was some rough weather. It was decent below treeline, but once we climbed to the northeast ridge the wind was pretty stern and the visibility was not ideal to say the least. Sam, Joel Mikey, J, Chuck, Scott, & myself ventured out for the morning but ended up turning around below the false summit likely at around 12,400′ just a hundred or two hundred feet shy of the summit though we still had some distance along the long ridge to cover. We really couldn’t see much of anything and with a monster cornice to our left, we just decided to save the summit for another day. It wasn’t very enjoyable anymore. However, the turns down from the ridge to the trees were very enjoyable with a few inches of powder over a firm base.
Chuck & J on Sunday morning skinning up through the woods behind the Polar Star Inn
Breaking out of treeline with some cool clouds down low
Joel high up on the northeast ridge. Nice day, eh buddy?
Departing our highpoint
Sam getting some soft turns
We regrouped back at the hut around 9:30am and packed up and cleaned the hut. The ski and skate out went pretty quick back to our cars at the Yeoman Park trailhead arriving at around 11:15am. A few dudes had some pretty nasty blisters, but sometimes that’s the price you pay for a good time.
Carnage – Andy’s heels
What a wonderful few days deep in the backcountry with a great crew. I literally cannot wait for Hardman 2017.
For those interested, here are Joel’s stats day by day for the adventure (you know, because he likes maps and technology and all that sort of thing):
Route Day 1 Thursday – To Harry Gates Hut
Route Day 2 Friday – Harry Gates Hut to Peter Estin Hut
Route Day 3 Saturday – Peter Estin Hut to Polar Star Inn
Route Day 4 Sunday – Morning jaunt toward New York Mountain
A weekend for just Kristine & myself is a rare occasion these days, but when it comes about it is indeed special for us and “rejuvenating” in a way. Ken & Dianne Oelberger came to town two days after my family left and again shouldered our responsibilities (Sawyer, Rainier, & Kona) for the weekend so Kristine & I could get away to our favorite place – Telluride. Through my wonderful Aunt Evon we were able to get a significantly reduced rate on her hotel room at The Peaks in Mountain Village, so this was just icing on the cake for a great weather weekend in Telluride. Even the 4.5 hour drive there and back was enjoyable and relaxing. Kristine’s #1 priority was to not get up at 3am to go climb a peak. No problem at all. We slept in on Saturday, drank our coffee, and relaxed. Packing our skinning gear, we drove down to the end of the Box Canyon and skinned up the road starting around 11am. After an hour, we reached the hydroelectric power plant/residence at the top of Bridal Veil Falls. Our thought was to head up into Ingram Basin and climb up Ajax Peak’s south slopes, which would make for a nice ski. The one-way road up into Ingram Basin was non-existent buried below a lot of snow. We started out with some very steep sidehilling on our skins and skis for a few hundred yards until we felt it was pretty darn steep and hard snow to be traversing without ski crampons and/or whippets. We decided to turn around and find some other activities to do for the remainder of the day.
Kristine switching back the road up to the top of the hydroelectric power plant/residence atop Bridal Veil Falls
Kristine making her way above the power plant/residence
Kristine skiing down the steep headwall
Back on the road getting ready to ski down the short, steep sections between switchbacks back to the car
The power plant turned residence
A bit of a bummer to turn around, but we’ll be back. Plus, we’ve been up Ajax numerous times just not in the winter. I believe the first time I climbed Ajax was way back in the summer of 2003 with my dad and a 6 month old Rainier. The summit has a stellar view of town.
Mom, Dad, Kristine, me, & Rainier on the summit of Ajax Peak (12,785′) in July of 2007
Left to right: Me, Chris Danforth, Ken Oelberger, Kristine, Kate Danforth, Carrie Oelberger, Thomas Oelberger, Rainier, & Kona on the summit of Ajax Peak on October 1, 2009 – two days before our wedding at Gorrono Ranch on the Telluride Ski Mtn
We then decided to go skin up the ski mountain only to be shut down 1/3 of the way up by ski patrol. We were asked nicely to turn around because uphill skinning is not allowed on the mountain during ski operating hours except on the runs below Chair 10 on the other side of the ski mountain. I mean I guess we do understand why “uphilling” is not allowed as the ski runs into town are very steep with only one blue run and during ski hours that blue run is a bottleneck of skiers making for dangerous “uphilling”. And, most folks aren’t skinning up double black bump runs, especially in Telluride where everything is steeper than other resorts. So, we skied back down to the car and drove back up to Mountain Village for some hot tubbing and swimming at the Peaks pool. Not a bad alternative. The weather was just absolutely stellar with temps in the 50s.
As far as we know (as we have gotten caught before) sledding is illegal as well on the ski runs even after ski operating hours. However, Kristine & I aren’t your ordinary sledders. We had thee idea of taking the gondola up to mid-mountain at Allred’s Bar and then swissbobbing down Telluride Trail (blue run) and Lookout (double blue run) to town for our 8pm reservation at the New Sheridan Chop House. Kristine wore her high heels and I had my nice jeans on and boots (to make it look like we were just going out) and our bobs were inconspicuously hidden beneath our jackets attached to the outsides of our backpacks. We got off the gondola at Allred’s and slipped out the door very fast right past the “Do Not Enter” sign. We cruised over to the top (Kristine still in high heels) of Telluride Trail evading Snowcat #1 to a spot where Kristine donned her running shoes and snow pants over her jeans.
Kristine in high heels ready to bob down Telluride
We then took off down the groomed road until we saw Snowcat #2 coming up the trail. There was nowhere to go. We merely got down off the road on the steep upper slopes of the double back bump run called North Chute and then hopped back on the road and bobbed off before Snowcat #2 knew what we were doing. We came to the intersection of the double blue run and saw that it was groomed corduroy and we got real excited as we knew it would be a stellar swissbob. Lookout would be a black run anywhere else, but its a double blue in Telluride.
Kristine heading off down Lookout with the alpenglow behind on the San Juans
I held my heavy DSLR Canon camera decently still and caught some of the action on the flatter “catwalk” portions:
We changed into our dinner outfits (and Kristine back into her high heels) at the restroom at the bottom of the gondola and walked up to the Chop House. After checking our backpacks with our down coats and a few strange looks, we enjoyed an awesome dinner together. A successful outing.
The next morning, we slept in yet again and it was amazing. We gathered our skis and skins again and skinned up the “legal” Chair 10 run Double Cabin. It took us about an hour to the top and called into home base to see how the Oelbergers and Sawyer and dogs were doing. Things were going well back home and so we decided to go boot up Bald Mountain or Baldy (11,868′) and ski one of its double black runs we have done so many times in the past. Then, we finished with a long run back down See Forever from the top to make it back to the Peaks for one last hot tub and water slide time in the pool.
Top of Baldy on yet another gorgeous day
A few scenic shots. This one of Campbell Peak’s southwest face, which is on the ski-mountaineering radar
Lizard Head & the Wilson massif
The Wilsons, Gladstone Peak, & Sunshine Peak in the foreground
The drive back together was just as great as the drive down as we were excited to see Sawyer, the dogs, and the Oelbergers. Thanks again to Ken & Dianne for wanting to spend so much time with Sawyer and the dogs that we are able to have a weekend away just the two of us. I know they all had just a good a time in Edwards as Kristine & I did in Telluride.