A Weekend in Telluride

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 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 making her way above the power plant/residence

Kristine skiing down the steep headwall

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

Back on the road getting ready to ski down the short, steep sections between switchbacks back to the car

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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 in July of 2007

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

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

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

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

Top of Baldy on yet another gorgeous day

A few scenic shots. This one of Campbell Peak's southwest face above Aldasoro Ranch, which is on the ski-mountaineering radar

A few scenic shots. This one of Campbell Peak’s southwest face, which is on the ski-mountaineering radar

Lizard Head & the Wilson massif

Lizard Head & the Wilson massif

The Wilsons, Gladstone Peak, & Sunshine Peak in the foreground

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.

Chalk & Foose Gals Come to Vail

My sister, Logan, had not been to Colorado since Kristine & my wedding week in Telluride in early October 2009. A lot has happened for her since then as in two wonderful little daughters, Harper (5) & Wesley (2). Logan really wanted to come back to Colorado so Harper & Wesley could get a taste of our life out here and so Harper could ski for the first time. Not to mention to visit us and their cousin, Sawyer. My mom accompanied Logan and the gals and they all flew into Eagle for 4 days with us Chalks. It was an action-packed weekend of good ole family fun and quality time together. From Harper skiing all 3 days at Beaver Creek, Logan skiing, dancing to music at the Westin Friday night, playing at the park, taking Harper bouldering at the WECMRD facility, attending a kiddos sing-a-long at the library, to everyone swimming at the Avon rec center, we about did it all except taking the gals swissbobbing. We’ll have to leave that for next time.

Harper (right) and Wesley's first time on a gondola

Harper (right) and Wesley’s first time on a gondola

Logan & Harper happy to be in Colorado

Logan & Harper happy to be in Colorado

My mom & sis

My mom & sis

Harper climbing on Sawyer's climbing wall

Harper climbing on Sawyer’s climbing wall

Harper on the WECMRD bouldering wall in her UGGs!

Harper on the WECMRD bouldering wall in her UGGs!

Harper at the Eagle River with me taking Rainie for a swim

Harper at the Eagle River with me taking Rainie for a swim

Wesley, Sawyer, & mom at the Westin Hotel

Wesley, Sawyer, & mom at the Westin Hotel

Doing some "kid" partying in the lobby at the Westin all the while listening to some great music

Doing some “kid” partying in the lobby at the Westin all the while listening to some great music

Sawyer getting her groove on listening to the band

Sawyer getting her groove on listening to the band

Harper & Sawyer

Harper & Sawyer

Sawyer was rocking out all over the lobby :)

Sawyer was rocking out all over the lobby :)

The Chalk & Foose gals

The Chalk & Foose gals

Wesley is hilarious

Wesley is hilarious

Me, my sis, and my neices

Me, my sis, and my neices

Wesley loved ole Rainier

Wesley loved ole Rainier

I love this pic of Wesley & Sawyer

I love this pic of Wesley & Sawyer

Cousins

Cousins

At the Avon library music hour

At the Avon library music hour

Harper would always take Sawyer under her wing

Harper would always take Sawyer under her wing

Sawyer loved the balloons

Sawyer loved the balloons

Logan, Harper, Wesley, mom, and myself went to Beaver Creek’s magic carpet area the first day and I attempted to do my best showing Harper the ropes of skiing and the “pizza wedge”. Having never had a ski lesson myself, I didn’t think I did a great job with Harper. I always thought Kristine would do better. However, it was wonderful to see Harper on skis for the first time. Kristine went with Logan & Harper the second day and did a much better job than I did as Harper made significant progress on day 2 skiing down the magic carpet hills with no help at all.

Kristine showing Harper the art of the "pizza wedge"

Kristine showing Harper the art of the “pizza wedge”

The Harpinator!

The Harpinator!

Aunt Kiki & Harper

Aunt Kiki & Harper

Logan & Harper

Logan & Harper

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Harper's new hairdoo

Harper’s new hairdoo

Harper’s 3rd day of skiing was super fun. I feel like if she had a few more days, then she could ski green runs down the mountain.

Harper

Harper

Harper & Logan

Harper & Logan

A video of Harper skiing:

Logan and I went skiing at Arrowhead & Bachelor Gulch on Sunday afternoon and it was wonderful to be together – just us. Kristine skinned up the mountain and skied a run with us. Logan even went down a black bump run for our last run, despite having not skied in 7 years, and we had a beer for a little apres-ski at the base of the mountain like the good ole days in Telluride.

Logan, me, & Kristine at the top of Arrowhead

Logan, me, & Kristine at the top of Arrowhead

Me and my sis

Me and my sis

Logan skiing down the black diamond named Wapiti at Arrowhead

Logan skiing down the black diamond named Wapiti at Arrowhead

What a wonderful treat it was for Kristine, Sawyer, Rainie, Kona, & myself to host my mom, Logan, Harper, & Wesley. It was so special for everyone. Special special thanks to my mom for coming out with Logan and watching the babies so much over the weekend so the rest of us could get out with each other and enjoy a little time doing more “adult” activities such as skiing, skinning, & bouldering. I think everyone was exhausted after the weekend, but that’s a good sign to know that we all had a great weekend together.

Rainier’s 13th Bday Swissbob

One of my most favorite activities is hiking up the ski mountain and swissbobbing down with Rainie. We’ve been doing this for years and have perfected her ability to sit on my lap while we rocket down the slopes. Its so much fun. She circles around me ready to hop on my lap when we reach the top and wouldn’t even consider hiking downhill. The older she gets, obviously riding down is better for her joints. And, she still gets the good cardio by hiking uphill. Joel Gratz, Lauren Alweis, and Megan Gilman joined us for her 13th birthday swissbob up on Arrowhead on January 11. J was going to as well but needed to descend with baby Raina as it was bitterly cold outside. Joel was so extremely helpful in skiing down beside us getting the “skier cam” perspective. I had J’s GoPro on my head for a bird’s eye view. Rainie & I have been up Arrowhead probably close to 1000 times in all seasons (skinning/skiing, swissbobbing, running, hiking) over the past 12 years, but had never videoed the fun swissbob descent. Well, this time we did. And, with the fantastic video editing by Thomas Oelberger, we have a fun video of Rainie swissbobbing down the mountain. Special thanks to Joel & Thomas. I hope you enjoy the video below and be sure to turn on the 720p HD setting:

Rainie turns 13!

Today is Rainie’s 13th birthday! To be able to say that feels so good considering the fall we have been through. We went through a few months of knowing Rainie had a splenic tumor and via ultrasounds and such we determined as best we could that it was benign. Yet, it was still a tumor and could rupture causing internal bleeding and ultimately death. And, it was getting larger. It was ultimately my call to put her through this surgery in order to have it removed. I was worried and worried and worried every minute of every day for weeks that it would rupture. Her belly was looking fairly distended as well. Knowing she was as healthy as an almost 13 yr old could be, I decided to schedule the surgery with Charlie Meynier knowing full well he would do his absolute best and take care of her. And, that he did. She was a rockstar and really did so well. She stayed overnight for monitoring, but her spleen and tumor were removed all together weighing almost 4.5 lbs. Imagine that in your gut! She has so much more energy now and acts like her old self once again. Hopefully, we have prolonged her life a bit longer.

Me & Sawyer visiting Rainie the morning after her big surgery. She was pretty chipper!

Me & Sawyer visiting Rainie the morning after her big surgery. She was pretty chipper!

Rainie has been by my side for 13 years. She is the best friend and companion a guy could ask for. I am so lucky to have had her all these years through the many adventures, tough times, and the happiest of times. She really is the best of the best. You know you truly love something when you love that something more than yourself. Here’s to Rainie and more happy times with us on this earth!

A much younger me and Rainie on the summit of La Plata Peak

A much younger me and Rainie on the summit of La Plata Peak

Mt. Harvard's summit over a decade ago

Mt. Harvard’s summit over a decade ago

The four of us on a winter climb of La Plata Peak

The four of us on a winter climb of La Plata Peak

Me & Rainie at the Sand Dunes a long time ago

Me & Rainie at the Sand Dunes a long time ago

My buddy Lee Hoffman took this great pic of Rainie with Mt. Aetna behind

My buddy Lee Hoffman took this great pic of Rainie with Mt. Aetna behind

An old pic of Rainie and I on top of Lionshead Rock with Mt. of the Holy Cross behind. This was one of our go-to hikes for years and years

An old pic of Rainie and I on top of Lionshead Rock with Mt. of the Holy Cross behind. This was one of our go-to hikes for years and years

The Spider's summit in the Gore rainge with Rainie

The Spider’s summit in the Gore rainge with Rainie

New 14er Dog Book

Well, after 7 years in the making and 11 years of climbing 14ers with his golden retriever named Sawyer, Josh Aho of Denver completed his wonderful coffee table-style book chronicling his and Sawyer’s 14er adventures together in an attempt to become the 2nd human/dog duo to climb all of Colorado’s 14ers. They were so close to completing their goal, but Capitol Peak, widely regarded as Colorado’s hardest 14er by its easiest route, eluded them. This book really is a one of a kind book and anyone who loves dogs and hiking mountains should buy this book.

Climbing Colorado's 14ers with Sawyer

Climbing Colorado’s 14ers with Sawyer

Years ago Josh reached out to me inquiring about Rainier’s 14er adventures and climbs with me. He was planning on doing a section of his book dedicated to the history of 14er dogs who had climbed a significant number of them and had done some of the tougher peaks. I was honored that he thought to include her in this section. Rainie was honored too :) Rainie and I have spent a lot of time together exploring the Colorado 14ers (and countless other peaks and areas) and she really was my #1 partner for so many years on these peaks. All said and done she climbed 45 different 14ers (of 54) and probably 150+ total ascents of 14ers with multiple repeats. She has probably logged 25 ascents up Quandary Peak south of Breckenridge not to mention 3 summits of Snowmass Mountain, 2 of Wilson Peak, 2 of Mt. Sneffels, 2 summits of both Challenger Point and Kit Carson Peak, the El Diente to Mt. Wilson traverse, 1 ascent of Pyramid Peak, 1 ascent of Wetterhorn Peak, and 1 of Crestone Peak just to name the highlights.

The History of 14er Dogs section. Can you spot Rainie?

The History of 14er Dogs section. Can you spot Rainie?

Rainie's section

Rainie’s section. Click to enlarge

I cannot imagine the effort and dedication it takes to pull off a book like this and my hat (several hats) are off to Josh on a monumental effort and wonderful success. He initially had 1,000 of these books printed and shipped to his home and I have no doubt he can sell them all. There are so many hiking dog lovers all over Colorado and the country that would love every page of this book. The pictures are outstanding and Josh chronicles each climb with Sawyer and even has a “paw” rating for how dog-friendly the 14er may be.

A typical two page spread for each 14er. This one is dedicated to their climb of Wetterhorn Peak

A typical two page spread for each 14er. This one is dedicated to their climb of Wetterhorn Peak

A few chapters are dedicated to certain climbs that took multiple attempts and extraordinary effort. One such chapter details their climb of Pyramid Peak, likely one of the top 5 hardest 14ers. I haven’t reached this chapter yet in my dissection of this book, but I can’t wait to get there as I have fond memories of Rainier and I climbing this same mountain.

Ascending the Pyramid chapter

Ascending the Pyramid chapter

I have to throw in a few pics of Rainier and I climbing Pyramid back in August of 2009 as this was one of my most favorite days in the mountains. Good friends Caleb & Jennie Wray joined us for this climb. This was my 4th time up Pyramid and I had climbed it just two weeks prior to when Rainie and I climbed it just to make sure I knew the route without hesitation. I was so very proud of Rainie that day. Well, I am always proud of her no matter what. She really stuck by my side (right on my heels) on all of the treacherous 14ers and if there was a move she needed help with she just waited for my help either ascending or descending. That’s what the dog harness was for – to help her in tricky spots,

Starting out with a view of the Maroon Bells. Photo by Caleb Wray

Starting out with a view of the Maroon Bells. Photo by Caleb Wray

Hitting snowline and she has her dog harness ready to go

Hitting snowline and she has her dog harness ready to go

The "Leap of Faith" move

The “leap of faith” move. Photo by Caleb Wray

The class 4 "Green Couloir"

The class 4 “Green Couloir”

Rainie on the summit ridge

Rainie on the summit ridge

Rainie and I on Pyramid's summit

Rainie and I on Pyramid’s summit

...and down we go. Photo by Caleb Wray

…and down we go. Photo by Caleb Wray

Anyway, back to Josh’s book. Weighing in at over 5 lbs, its a beefy book but is packed full of 350+ pages of wonderful photos and stories. As slow a reader as I am, its going to take me a while to read the entire masterpiece, but if you like mountains and dogs, you should order a copy. More details and ordering information can be found on Josh’s website at www.14ercanine.com.

Mom’s Visit & 6th Anniversary Trail Run

Mom came into town to visit us 2 weekends ago (well, really to visit Sawyer) and we all had a great time together. I think we all felt she really bonded with Sawyer and Sawyer really got to know Mom. Mom came to Aspen with us for Joel & Lauren’s wedding and was super babysitter for Sawyer while we partied down at Buttermilk with all of our friends.

Sawyer loves her Rainier

Sawyer loves her Rainier

And, Rainier loves Sawyer

And, Rainier loves Sawyer

Mom reading to Sawyer

Mom reading to Sawyer

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We all took a nice fall hike in Wilder Gulch at the top of Vail Pass one day and rolled over Independence Pass en route to Aspen to enjoy the awesome fall weather.

Wilder Gulch with Ptarmigan Hill behind

Wilder Gulch with Ptarmigan Hill behind

Sawyer loves this backpack

Sawyer loves this backpack

Great to be with Mom

Great to be with Mom

Who needs baby toys? Sticks, leaves, and rocks will do just fine

Who needs baby toys? Sticks, leaves, and rocks will do just fine

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Top of Independence Pass (12,100')

Top of Independence Pass (12,100′)

A bit chilly, but a good time and visit with Mom

A bit chilly, but a good time and visit with Mom

Then, our 6th year wedding anniversary was this past Saturday, October 3. Our good friend Sabrina was more than nice to come over and hang with Sawyer and the dogs while we had a 3 day activity planned. First was a trail run of one of our favorite trails accessible out our front door, the A10 trail, connecting Edwards and Arrowhead. This is a very popular mountain bike ride as you get a long 4 miles descent if biking from Arrowhead to Edwards. While we have both run, hiked, snowshoed this trail countless times, I have never really posted many pics of this fun loop. I believe the loop is about 10 miles Edwards to Arrowhead or vice versa with another 2+ miles on highway 6. I drove the car over to Arrowhead to leave it for us and ran the 2+ miles back home. Sabrina came over and Kristine & I departed up the trail around 11:45am.

An overview of the A10 as seen from Red & White Mountain to the north

An overview of the A10 as seen from Red & White Mountain to the north

A close-up of the descent down into McCoy Guclch and down the Arrowhead ski run

A close-up of the descent down into McCoy Guclch and down the Arrowhead ski run

This is such a great run with the first 4 miles from our house taking you up over 2,200′ vertical gain in about 4 miles to the high point of the trail at 9,425′. The views are outstanding of the Northern Sawatch Range and Lake Creek Valley.

Kristine on the ridgeline in the 4th meadow having done most of the elevation gain

Kristine on the ridgeline in the 4th meadow having done most of the elevation gain

Kristine topping out on the A10 trail

Kristine topping out on the A10 trail

We did pretty well this time around making it to the summit in about 50 minutes

We did pretty well this time around making it to the summit in about 50 minutes

On top!

On top!

Beautiful views looking back into the East Lake Creek Valley

Beautiful views looking back into the East Lake Creek Valley

Heading down to the saddle to get into McCoy Gulch

Heading down to the saddle to get into McCoy Gulch

Next stop: Arrowhead

Next stop: Arrowhead

We arrived at the car about 1 hour and 45 minutes after starting and quickly sped up to the Ritz Carlton Hotel at Bachelor Gulch for our 2nd activity for the day: a hour long couples massage that Kristine had set up! Let’s just say this was much needed and just plain awesome. We enjoyed the outdoor hot tub as well for 20 minutes afterwards.

Outdoor hot tub time at the Ritz

Outdoor hot tub time at the Ritz

Then, to top off our day, we changed, showered, and sped down to the Riverwalk Theater in Edwards to see the new Everest movie together at 4pm. We definitely wanted to see this together and actually really enjoyed it. Most other mountaineering-related Hollywood movies are a a bit far-fetched and unrealistic. However, Everest really seemed to be mostly spot-on with regards to the footage, camps, the story, etc. It is based on the 1996 Everest tragedy portrayed in Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air.  It was much more emotional for us than we thought. I think its a super sad story to begin with and the fact we have some attachment towards that peak, it was really tough and hit home seeing Rob Hall die just below the South Summit and leaving his wife and unborn baby at home in New Zealand. Makes you think about things no doubt. But, we thought it was well done and the footage was super cool. I think they portrayed the mountain’s aspects very well from Kathmandu to the the Khumbu Valley, basecamp life, to the upper camps, and the Hillary Step and summit ridge. Even the box on the summit and the mound of prayer flags on the summit was very realistic.

Everest summit pic we took that morning 6 years ago on May 25

Everest summit pic we took that morning 6 years ago on May 25

We had a phenomenal day together just the two of us as it should be on your anniversary. Thanks so much to Sabrina for watching the 3 other Chalks for most of the day! Love you, Kristine!