Chalk Hill Thanksgiving 2016

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 new addition under construction as seen last December 2016

The driveway side front entry of the new addition 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

Leaving Eagle for Charlotte

Sawyer & Harper at Brixx on a Sunday night

Sawyer & Harper at Brixx Pizza on a Sunday night

Lunch with Harper at CCDS

Lunch with Harper at CCDS

It was so fun being with Harper at school

It was so fun being with Harper at school

Love this little lady

Love this little lady

Sawyer was so excited to be with the big kids that she lined up with the kindergarten class

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

In the new living room

On the front porch swing

On the front porch swing

Cuzins

Cuzins

Sawyer and the coyote

Sawyer and the coyote

Me & Sawyer

Me & Sawyer

Me and my gals

Me and my gals

Me, Sawyer, Wesley, & Harper

Me, Sawyer, Wesley, & Harper

Cuzins lounging on the back porch hammock

Cuzins lounging on the back porch hammock

If only we could get those pacifiers out of their mouths

If only we could get those pacifiers out of their mouths

Sawyer & Wesley

Sawyer & Wesley

Sawyer & Aunt Evon

Sawyer & Aunt Evon

Kristine and the little cuzins

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 audience before this evening

We’ve never really had a personal show where we are the entire audience before this evening

Harper got to try out the banjo

Harper got to try out the banjo

My oldest niece

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

On top of Bullhead

Kristine running the road on 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 :)

My dad, Maya, Cashion and their tenement on wheels, which always looks nice parked in the driveway :)

Wesley & Sawyer in the sprinter van

Wesley & Sawyer in the sprinter van

The crew with Cashion & Eva

The crew with Cashion & Eva

Kristine & Maya

Kristine & Maya

So awesome to have them up at Chalk Hill. Cashion originally helped dad and I clear hiking trails and camping in the eback in the early 90s before the cabin was ever built

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

All aboard the trailer

Ransome was the captain driving the tractor, but Sawyer always seemed to find herself into the pics

Ransome was the captain driving the tractor, but Sawyer always seemed to find herself into the pics

Aunt Evon & Harper

Aunt Evon & Harper

The loving Foose dog, Finley

The loving Foose dog, Finley

Sawyer loved seeing the cows, aka "moo moos"

Sawyer loved seeing the cows, aka “moo-moos”

Moo-moos

Moo-moos

Sawyer & Gigi

Sawyer & Gigi

So fun having a picnic in the pasture with Bullhead Mountain in the background

So fun having a picnic in the pasture with Bullhead Mountain in the background

Horsing around

Horsing around

IMG_2486

Cap'n Ransome, Wesley, & Sawyer

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

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 (5.8) to get to Tree Ledge

Block Route pitch from above

Block Route pitch from above

Kristine balancing on the crux move of Block Route

Kristine balancing on the crux move of Block Route

The Great Arch from Tree Ledge

The Great Arch from Tree Ledge

Kristine climbing pitch 1 of The Great Arch

Kristine climbing pitch 1 of The Great Arch

Beautiful...climbing in the southeast on granite is pretty good

Beautiful…climbing in the southeast on granite is pretty good

Kristine climbing pitch 2 of The Great Arch

Kristine climbing pitch 2 of The Great Arch

Kristine taking in the beautiful sunset

Kristine taking in the beautiful sunset from the pitch 2 belay

It was a hundred or so vertical feet of easy slab scrambaling after pitch 3 to the summit

It was a hundred or so vertical feet of easy slab scrambling after pitch 3 to the summit

Stone Mountain summit

Stone Mountain summit

Happy to be together

Happy to be together

Beautiful NC mountains

Beautiful NC mountains

It was a wonderful Thanksgiving together with my family.

Monument Canyon Towers

My good buddy Steve (Stevo) Cizik and I have started making a habit of getting in a desert tower climbing weekend once in the spring and one in the late fall. We went way too late last year (as in mid December) and it was some darn cold climbing. Fun, yes, but cold. This year, we planned it about a month earlier when our schedules coincided and we recruited J to come with us and our good friend Mikey. Mikey had to cancel due to family health issues, but I recruited my young friend/co-worker Dylan Friday to come with us. Our thoughts were with Mikey and his family all weekend for sure. Dylan had never climbed a multi-pitch route, but he was a strong guy whom I climbed with all summer and fall around the Vail Valley. I knew he would do well. I had two towers and two routes in mind in Colorado National Monument outside of Grand Junction: Fast Draw (5.10+) on Sentinel Spire and The Long Dong Wall (5.11) on the Kissing Couple Tower. I had researched the routes and had always wanted to climb them. Now in retrospect, I’d love to go climb them again. They were good.

We all rolled down in my Tahoe Saturday morning around 8am after dropping J’s 16 mo baby, Raina, off at Aunt Julie’s in Eagle. We decided to do Sentinel Spire first on that Saturday as it would require less time. The approach to Sentinel’s north face is exciting. By parking at the Book Cliffs Viewpoint near the Saddlehorn Campground, we walked down to the edge of Monument Canyon and fixed a rope to a tree and rappelled down about 100′ to a sloping ledge. We left my old rope fixed and scrambled down a few hundred feet to the base of Fast Draw (5.10+) and laid our eyes upon the intimidating tower.

Fixing my old rope to a steadfast tree

Fixing my old rope to a steadfast tree

J rappelling off the canyon rim with Sentinel Spire behind

J rappelling off the canyon rim with Sentinel Spire behind

Sentinel Spire's north face

Sentinel Spire’s north face

Scoping out the 1st pitch - a 5.10 handcrack with a 5.10+ crux off the ground to get into the hand crack

Scoping out the 1st pitch – a 5.10 handcrack with a 5.10+ crux off the ground to get into the handcrack

I took off up the crux leading for Dylan & myself and actually led the crux finger-layback clean, which was exciting. I enjoyed jam after jam of awesome climbing for 80′ to the airy pitch 1 traverse left to two old fixed pins. I set up my belay careful to not put all my bodyweight on the two pins. I just didn’t totally trust them – it was indeed an uncomfotable belay. Dylan then followed and cleaned my gear.

Me leading pitch 1 of Fast Draw. Photo by Steve

Me leading pitch 1 of Fast Draw. Photo by Steve

Dylan following. Photo by Steve

Dylan following. Photo by Steve

Dylan climbing pitch 1 of Fast Draw with the J/Stevo team below

Dylan climbing pitch 1 of Fast Draw with the J/Stevo team below

J then led for his team and as I know J loves a good handcrack, I don’t think he was disappointed.

J on lead on pitch 1 of Fast Draw

J on lead on pitch 1 of Fast Draw

Pitch 2 was the offwidth pitch. I had bought a #6 camalot specifically for this pitch and it worked well. It will come in handy in the future I am sure. This was a fun pitch with some stemming involved and nothing over 5.10a in my opinion. The belay ledge at the top of pitch 2 was a paradise compared to pitch 1’s belay station.

Dylan climbing pitch 2 of Fast Draw

Dylan climbing pitch 2 of Fast Draw

Pitch 3 looked like it would be a breeze from below, but gosh it reared its ugly face about halfway up and I thought one small section was pretty darn difficult during the bolted section. Nevertheless, I made it and belayed Dylan up to me.

Dylan climbing Pitch 3 of Fast Draw

Dylan climbing Pitch 3 of Fast Draw

Dylan about to top out on Sentinel Spire

Dylan about to top out on Sentinel Spire

J leading pitch 3 clean and smooth

J leading pitch 3 clean and smooth

Dylan on top of Sentinel Spire with the canyon rim and where we rappelled from behind him

Dylan on top of Sentinel Spire with the canyon rim and where we rappelled from behind him

Me on the summit of Sentinel Spire with Independence Monument behind

Me on the summit of Sentinel Spire with Independence Monument and Kissing Couple behind. Photo by Dylan

J then brought Stevo up and we had a ball on the summit for a good 20 minutes. Some nice folks on the canyon rim spotted us and took some phone pictures of us on the summit and sent them to me.

Stevo and his notorious summit "bolt"

Stevo and his notorious summit “bolt”

Me, Stevo, & J on the summit of Sentinel Spire

Me, Stevo, & J on the summit of Sentinel Spire. Photo by Dylan

Picture of us on top of Sentinel Spire taken from the canyon rim

Picture of us on top of Sentinel Spire taken from the canyon rim

A close-up of me and Dylan on Sentinel's summit and J belaying Stevo up the last pitch

A close-up of me and Dylan on Sentinel’s summit and J belaying Stevo up the last pitch

What a great afternoon, but we still had a lengthy out to the car despite not being very far away (as the crow flies) at all. After a single rope and then a double rope rappel to the bottom of the north side of the tower, we scrambled back up to the fixed rope. Stevo brought his jumars and aid ladders and ascended the dynamic fixed rope up to the canyon rim in excellent fashion.

Scrambling out. Photo by Stevo

Scrambling out. Photo by Stevo

Getting dusk and at the sloping ledge at the bottom of the fixed rope. Photo by Stevo

Getting dusk and at the sloping ledge at the bottom of the fixed rope. Photo by Stevo

Steve jumaring out to the canyon rim

Stevo jumaring out to the canyon rim

Feeling like the rest of us wouldn’t nearly be as efficient as Stevo ascending the rope, we decided to haul our heavy bags up one at a time after I tried to free climb the roof on belay from Stevo above. It was a tough climb and I should have put on my climbing shoes instead of wearing my approach shoes, but I didn’t. I finally pulled over the lip and we began hauling all three bags up to us from Dylan & J below. Dylan free climbed the pitch and then J was last as darkness really set in.

J climbing out to the canyon rim

J climbing out to the canyon rim in the dark

We packed everything up and a room at the Super 8 motel in Fruita was in order. After some hot tubbing and swimming we hit up our favorite El Tapatio for generous heapings of Mexican food and giant blue margaritas. It was a good day with my boys.

After a warm and comfortable night at the Super 8 and an average continental breakfast, we found ourselves hiking up the familiar Monument Canyon trail for an hour and 15 minutes to the base of the Kissing Couple Tower.

Sentinel Spire from Highway 340 the next morning en route to Kissing Couple

Sentinel Spire from Highway 340 the next morning en route to Kissing Couple

It was warm on the way into the Kissing Couple. Photo of me and Indy Monument by Dylan

It was warm on the way into the Kissing Couple. Photo of me and Indy Monument by Dylan

There was a bit of a boulder problem to get to the base of the Long Dong Wall route and we lifted each other’s packs up because it was too hard of a move with a 40 lb pack on! Finally, we were at the base of the route on the tower’s south side in the shade. It was chilly even though it was around 10am already. The first pitch was said to be the difficult crux pitch rated at 5.11a. However, I have heard because of the sandy and insecure footing and hands, it could feel more like 5.11+. I share that sentiment in retrospect. It was a tough pitch. I was sweating so much halfway through leading it, I had to throw down my jacket to the boys. The biggest challenge for me wasn’t so much the moves but the insecurity of the route with little to no footing and what footholds/edges there were sand completely covered them making them extra slick. Its a long pitch too – maybe 100+’. Once you got through the bottom half, the finger crack and hand crack went much smoother until you get to the top crux face move, which is protected by a bolt. Yep, I hung, but figured the move out without french-aiding on the bolt :) I would definitely think because these moves were so slick, sandy, and smooth, the move felt much more like 5.11+ to me. I then set up and belayed Dylan up to me cleaning the route and trailing another rope so J and Stevo could just top rope the pitch. I would love to go back again to lead this pitch 1 better.

Me starting the lead up pitch 1 of Long Dong Wall. Photo by Stevo

Me starting the lead up pitch 1 of Long Dong Wall. Photo by Stevo

Me high up in the handcrack portion of pitch 1. Photo by Stevo

Me high up in the handcrack portion of pitch 1. Photo by Stevo

Dylan on pitch 1

Dylan on pitch 1

Good perspective pic by Stevo of me belaying Dylan up to me on pitch 1

Good perspective pic by Stevo of me belaying Dylan up to me on pitch 1

J at the face crux move of pitch 1

J at the face crux move of pitch 1

Pitch 2 went well with some easier 5.7 chimney moves up to a very runout stemming chimney (5.9ish-5.10?), which was a very exciting lead for me. However, there was no place for gear and its about a 30′ runout to where I could plug a #2 cam in a hole to make the final mantle move to the anchors.

Dylan stemming up the chimney on pitch 2

Dylan stemming up the chimney on pitch 2

Again, we trailed a rope so J and Stevo could top rope this pitch to be more efficient. Next up was the no-pro class 4/low 5th scramble up to the base of pitch 4. Its easy to belay the follower if necessary from the pitch 3 belay anchors. Pitch 4 was a wonderful pitch. I’ve heard its the best 5.8 in the desert. I don’t know about that, but it sure was fun. J led this pitch for the J/Stevo team and loved it.

J a third of the way up Pitch 4 with Dylan higher up climbing up to me

J a third of the way up Pitch 4 with Dylan higher up climbing up to me at the pitch 4 anchors

Dylan stemming up the final 20' chimney to the top of pitch 4

Dylan stemming up the final 20′ chimney to the top of pitch 4

Dylan topping out on pitch 4

Dylan topping out on pitch 4

We were now in the center of the “belfry” between the two halves of the Kissing Couple that appear to be kissing if seen from a distance. It was a cool position. In fact, someone etched in the sandstone “Far Out!” at the belay. It was a fitting statement.

Pitch 4 anchors

Pitch 4 anchors

The Belfry

The “belfry”

Looking out from the pitch 4 anchors

Looking out from the pitch 4 anchors

Pitch 5 was the coolest pitch of them all as you climb up between the two halves of the Kissing Couple inside the belfry, squeeze through a small whole, and “voila” you are at the pitch 5 anchors 5 feet below the summit cap. The first 15′ of pitch 5 is rated 5.10c and is protected by a piton, but you can get a piece of gear in after that. Climbing up the crack then to a roof and traversing left under the roof is just so cool.

Looking up pitch 5

Looking up pitch 5

Dylan following across the roof traverse

Dylan following across the roof traverse

J leading pitch 5

J leading pitch 5

J squeezing through the small hole

J squeezing through the small hole

After a quick unroped 5′ move to the summit cap,, we took in the amazing views of Colorado National Monument from a new summit. I think it was around 2-3pm, but who knows. It was so warm and windless.

Stevo pumped to be on the summit

Stevo pumped to be on the summit

Me on the summit of the Kissing Couple. Photo by Stevo

Me on the summit of the Kissing Couple. Photo by Stevo

J and I on top of the Kissing Couple

J and I on top of the Kissing Couple. Photo by Stevo

Dylan's first two towers - not too shabby, my young friend!

Dylan’s first two towers – not too shabby, my young friend!

A panaorama of all of us on the summit of the Kissing Couple

A panaorama of all of us on the summit of the Kissing Couple

We then double rope rappelled from the pitch 5 anchors to the tower’s east side (not down through the belfry) to the top of pitch 3 and easily pulled the ropes down. We had heard horror stories of ropes getting stuck, but honestly I believe its only possible if you rappel all the way to the top of pitch 2 and try to pull them from that location.

Dylan's 1st double rope rap too

Dylan’s 1st double rope rap

We then did a single rope rap from the pitch 3 anchors to the pitch 2 anchors and did a double rope rap all the way to the route’s base from the top of pitch 2.

Stevo on the easy single rope rappel down to the top of pitch 2

Stevo on the easy single rope rappel down to the top of pitch 2

We hiked out at dusk and reached the trailhead right at dark. I love evening hikes out like this recounting the day’s fun and excitement and telling stories. What made the hike out even better was the full “supermoon” rising.

The Kissing Couple on the hike out

The Kissing Couple on the hike out

Beautiful

Beautiful

The supermoon and Independence Monument

The supermoon and Independence Monument

After another awesome burger at Red Robin in Grand Junction and catching up on our NFL football, we made the roadtrip back home arriving back in Edwards by 11pm. What a fantastic weekend of desert climbing. My shirt even proves that a good time was had, especially during those stemming chimneys on pitches 2 & 4 of the Long Dong Wall.

The aftermath of my beloved Black Diamond tech shirt

The aftermath of my beloved Black Diamond tech shirt

Center Route, Cynical Pinnacle

My good buddy Mikey has repeatedly urged me to come climb Center Route (5.9+) on Cynical Pinnacle with him in the South Platte over the last year. Well, he had good reason. Frequently regarded as one of the best, if not the best, crack routes in Colorado for its grade, I have to say I now agree. Its wonderful. Great crack climbing, great gear, steep, sustained, long pitches, and super fun. Even better, we were the only ones on the route all day. I would bet the 45 minute approach and 1,200′ vertical gain deters the crowds. Mikey took the 1st pitch (5.9) and then I took the crux 2nd pitch (5.9+) and the 3rd offwidth pitch (5.9+). I was happy to have led them both clean and can honestly say following on the 1st pitch with our 2nd rope on my back was tougher than leading the 2nd and 3rd pitches :)

Cynical Pinnacle on the approach. Center Route literally climbs the crack where the sun meets the shade in the center of the pic

Cynical Pinnacle on the approach. Center Route literally climbs the crack where the sun meets the shade in the center of the pic

Mikey leading pitch 1

Mikey leading pitch 1

Pitch 1

Pitch 1

Mikey stemming on pitch 1

Mikey stemming on pitch 1

Looking out over the South Platte from the top of the 2nd pitch

Looking out over the South Platte from the top of the 2nd pitch

Mikey on pitch 2...sustained 5.9+ for 125'

Mikey on pitch 2…sustained 5.9+ for 125′

Just awesome crack climbing

Just awesome crack climbing

Mikey having fun in the sun

Mikey having fun in the sun

Looking down at Mikey at the 2nd belay from a rest up pitch 3

Looking down at Mikey at the 2nd belay from a rest up pitch 3

Mikey high on the 3rd pitch

Mikey high on the 3rd pitch

Finishing off Center Route

Finishing off Center Route

We topped out on Cynical Pinnacle’s false summit. There was still a 5.11b (old school rating) crack/sport climb to the actual summit of Cynical Pinnacle and I attempted to free climb this final pitch, but I could not get secure enough to climb to the 1st fixed piton and fell twice on my 0.4 camalot. It was hard. I could have pulled on gear and made it, but I decided to lower and forgo the summit pitch. C’est la vie. We came here for the crack climb (as the 3 pitch Center Route officially ends on the false summit) and decided to leave the goal of reaching the true summit for another time.

False summit of Cynical Pinnacle

False summit of Cynical Pinnacle

We then double rope rappelled from the false summit to the hanging belay bolts and then did a 2nd double rope rap straight to our backpacks below.

Mikey on the 2nd double rope rap

Mikey on the 2nd double rope rap

As some extra credit, we hiked around to the west side of Cynical Pinnacle and climbed the 100′ 5.9+ crack called Hand Job Direct to get one more long pitch in before we hiked down to the truck.

Hand Job Direct as seen from below. The 1 pitch climb tops out at about the midpoint of the picture

Hand Job Direct as seen from below. The 1 pitch climb tops out at about the midpoint of the picture

Mikey nearing the anchors on Hand Job Direct

Mikey nearing the anchors on Hand Job Direct

A super fun day with Mikey followed by some ice cream and me arriving back in Edwards by 7pm to see Kristine, Sawyer, and the dogs. Nice little Sunday.

Freya & Thor Towers

I’ve been a fan of Norse mythology for awhile now and everyone knows I’m a Gore fanatic. When J and I climbed the intimidating northern of the two east ridges called Asgard Ridge up Mt. Valhalla over two years ago, we always gazed upon the lower 12,000′ towers to our left while ascending Asgard. These towers are called Freya and Thor. There is a tower further on up the southern of the two east ridges of Valhalla called Loki, but honestly didn’t look nearly as interesting as Freya & Thor. I figure the next time we are up on Valhalla’s summit, we can go check Loki out. But, Freya & Thor looked like the real prizes in the basin in addition to the obvious Asgard Ridge. The veteran Gore hardman Stan Wagon from Silverthorne details his climb up Thor on his website and pioneered a one pitch 5.6 route up from the west col to Thor’s summit. Stan also details his west ridge climb/traverse up to Freya’s summit on his website as well. Stan gave me some approach beta on the simplest route to these towers via the Rock Creek TH north of Silverthorne. J and I approached Asgard Ridge via Boss Mine and some steep and pretty intense bushwhacking. I think the better approach to Asgard Ridge proper is to leave the Gore Range Trail and bushwhack south-southwest for a few miles outlined in the route marked below:

Approach to Asgard Meadows, Freya, & Thor

Approach to Asgard Meadows, Freya, & Thor

While Ryan, Mike, and I were targeting Capitol’s NW Buttress route on this spectacular fall day, 3 people on such a serious route with potential rockfall just didn’t seem like a good idea. So, I dug around in my mind for an alternate adventure and remembered these towers deep in the Gore at the head of South Rock Creek Basin. I was excited to get back in there for a visit. Mike needed a big day back in the mountains and it was a treat for Ryan and I to get out together in the Gore with a rack and a rope and see what we could do. We all met at the Rock Creek TH late Friday night and left the TH by 6:30am Saturday morning headed south on the Gore Range trail. We had Ryan’s 70m/8.4mm rope, an alpine rack, set of nuts, draws, and plenty of slings and biners. However, we did choose to leave behind the rock shoes in favor for just our approach shoes. I can tell you next time I will definitely be bringing rock shoes. It was not too bad bushwhacking at all for a few miles up to the grassy meadow slopes on the south side of Asgard Ridge. We descended a few hundred feet down loose rock into a small basin at 11,600′ called Asgard Meadows: a beautiful grassy/bouldery meadow-like basin with a creek running through it and granite towers rising above. It was perfect.

Ryan shooting me shooting South Rock Creek Basin and Freya & Thor Towers still a distance away on the far right in the picture

Ryan shooting me shooting South Rock Creek Basin and Freya & Thor Towers still a distance away on the far right in the picture. Photo by Ryan

Freya Tower is down low on the left. Thor Tower is in the center of the picture. Mt. Valhalla is the high summit

Freya Tower is down low on the left. Thor Tower is in the center of the picture. Mt. Valhalla is the high summit

Asgard Meadows with Freya in the center and Thor on the upper right

Asgard Meadows with Freya in the center and Thor on the upper right

Asgard Meadows with Thor at upper left and Asgard Ridge in the distance

Asgard Meadows with Thor at upper left and Asgard Ridge in the distance

Thor's east face is mighty impressive

Thor’s east face is mighty impressive

I do look forward to coming back to Asgard Meadows and setting up a basecamp to do a full day or two of alpine rock climbing. We were debating on what to attempt first as it was only 9:15am. I told Ryan & Mike Freya’s east ridge direct looked mighty tempting and that I’d like to give it a shot. Based on no prior information that I could find on the east ridge itself and in talking with Stan, we were not sure it had been climbed before. But, it looked doable even in approach shoes – we hoped.

Looking up Freya's east ridge from the base

Looking up Freya’s east ridge from the base

Getting set up

Getting set up

It looked like we could scramble up 50′ of 4th/low 5th class rock or so into a southeast facing dihedral, which seemed like it lent feasible passage up to perhaps a small ledge 80′ above.

Ryan on the initial scrambling

Ryan on the initial scrambling

I started up a crack system on south-facing rock east of the dihedral and soon realized I would prefer the comfort of a rope especially with approach shoes. It was getting into mid-5th class with big exposure. I downclimbed 15′ back to a small ledge and we roped up. I took off up our 1st roped pitch. It was indeed a pretty awesome pitch and after a 5.8 move on the face I made my way into the dihedral and definitely pulled a 5.8 move or two up to the small grassy ledge. I placed mostly nuts but a cam at each of the two cruxes. I set up an anchor system at a convenient grass ledge and brought Mikey and Ryan up to me all the while I scoped out how pitch 2 would go above me.

Me into the dihedral on pitch 1. Photo by Ryan

Me into the dihedral on pitch 1. Photo by Ryan

Mikey and Ryan following pitch 1

Mikey and Ryan following pitch 1

Ryan took the lead on pitch 2 up a 5.8 corner to the right. I hoped in the back of my mind that it went somewhere because it looked to be our only option with some protection to be had. He did awesome and found a nice belay ledge at the base of another headwall above to belay us up.

Ryan setting off up pitch 2

Ryan setting off up pitch 2

I thought this was a cool picture: my head, Ryan's feet

I thought this was a cool picture: my head, Ryan’s feet. The grassy meadows on Asgard Ridge’s south side we used on the approach can be seen in the background

Ryan climbing the right-angling crack into the unknown

Ryan climbing the right-angling crack into the unknown

Mikey following

Mikey following

I took the 3rd pitch lead which began with a funky unprotected stemming chimney for 25′ to a small ledge. I then balanced my way onto a very small corner on the right and was able to get a small Alien into a small pocket, but it definitely wasn’t reassuring. However, there were no other options. I then made a committing face climb move or two to the left and got a good jug and stance in order to get a much better #1 cam into a solid crack. It was then fun 5.6 climbing up to the top of the headwall and I built an anchor to bring the fellas up.

Mikey climbing the headwall up to me on pitch 3. Photo by Ryan

Mikey climbing the headwall up to me on pitch 3. Photo by Ryan

Another view by Ryan. The stemming chimney is immediately behind the large slab of rock in the foreground

Another view by Ryan. The stemming chimney is immediately behind the large slab of rock in the foreground

Mikey on pitch 3 with Ryan below

Mikey on pitch 3 with Ryan below

Young Ryan making quick work of pitch 3

Young Ryan making quick work of pitch 3

A wider shot

A wider shot

I belayed Mikey around the small tower I sat upon for the pitch 3 belay to a very small col just west of me. I lowered Ryan down to this same col and then after gathering my anchor gear, I downclimbed the 15′ to the saddle. We all scrambled up another 100′ to the base of our pitch 4. It looked to be a nice angling hand crack and Ryan took the reins.

Ryan coiling the rope after pitch 3

Ryan coiling the rope after pitch 3

The scramble up to pitch 4

The scramble up to pitch 4

Me belaying Ryan on pitch 4

Me belaying Ryan on pitch 4

Ryan getting into the meat of pitch 4

Ryan getting into the meat of pitch 4

I think we agreed there were some 5.8 moves on this hand crack

I think we agreed there were some 5.8 moves on this hand crack

Mikey making his way on the right-angling, slightly overhung hand crack

Mikey making his way on the right-angling, slightly overhung hand crack

From the top of pitch 4, it was easy and fun class 3/4 scrambling to the 12,121′ summit of Freya.

Ryan almost to Freya's summit

Ryan almost to Freya’s summit

Mikey almost there. It had been awhile since Mikey had scrambled, so he was back in the game by this point

Mikey almost there. It had been awhile since Mikey had scrambled, so he was back in the game by this point

Summit of Freya (12,161'). Photo by Ryan

Summit of Freya (12,121′). Photo by Ryan

Looking due west from Freya's summit down its "standard" west ridge to Thor

Looking due west from Freya’s summit down its “standard” west ridge to Thor

Summit of of Freya (12,161'). Man, what a day!

Summit of of Freya (12,161′). Man, what a day!

Looking down Freya's east ridge from the summit

Looking down Freya’s east ridge from the summit

Well, whether someone had climbed the east ridge before or not, just not having any prior beta or even knowledge that it would go was exciting in itself. Plus, it was a solid 4 pitch alpine route on granite in a spectacular setting. Hard to beat. Here is a route overview of our route:

Freya East Ridge route. Red designates our unroped scrambling sections

Freya East Ridge route. Red designates our unroped scrambling sections

What was almost equally as fun and exciting as our east ridge route up Freya was the descent down Freya’s standard “west ridge” to the Freya/Thor col. This is the route Stan Wagon and his partners climbed in 2010 rating the one crux move at 5.6. We didn’t rope up for this ridge, but it sure was some awesomely exposed scrambling. Makes Capitol’s standard knife-edge look like a catwalk and not very exciting. This was the best scrambling of the day by far.

Mikey heading off on Freya's west ridge

Mikey heading off on Freya’s west ridge

Mike and I approaching the knife-edge portion. Photo by Ryan

Mike and I approaching the knife-edge portion. Photo by Ryan

Freya's knife-edge

Freya’s knife-edge. Photo by Ryan

Such a great ridge

Such a great ridge

Mike and Ryan on Freya's west ridge

Mike and Ryan on Freya’s west ridge

Meke on a very exposed downclimb

Mike on a very exposed downclimb

Ryan at the same spot

Ryan at the same spot

Easy walking

Easy walking

One final climb up on the west ridge

One final climb up on the west ridge

Finishing up Freya's west ridge. Photo by Ryan

Finishing up Freya’s west ridge. Photo by Ryan

Looking back

Looking back with Asgard Meadows down to the left

We took a well-earned break at the Freya/Thor col for a PB&J and some Gatorade. I am not sure what time it was, but maybe between 12-1pm. Anyway, we decided to go for Thor Tower as well. We took Stan’s route up the loose southeast-facing couloir to the saddle west of Thor’s summit. What really excited me about coming back to this area were some of the seemingly solid 300′ crack routes on Thor’s south face visible on our approach up the couloir. Rock shoes and a bigger rack are a must on the next trip.

This large dihedral on Thor's south face was especially interesting

This large dihedral on Thor’s south face was especially interesting

Climbing up Thor's southeast couloir. Freya's west ridge can be seen behind

Climbing up Thor’s southeast couloir. Freya’s west ridge can be seen behind

Then, we traversed north along ledges to Stan’s 5.6 crack route. Ryan decided to scope out a different route to the right (south) of Stan’s route and described it as an airy 5.4 pitch. I tagged the rope on my harness and climbed Stan’s 5.6 crack, found his old webbing and rap ring at the top, and belayed Mikey up to me.

Ryan on his airy route

Ryan on his airy route

Me climbing Stan's 5.6 crack

Me climbing Stan’s 5.6 crack. Photo by Ryan

Me belaying Mike up. Photo by Ryan

Me belaying Mike up. Photo by Ryan

Mike climbing Stan's 5.6 crack up Thor Tower

Mike climbing Stan’s 5.6 crack up Thor Tower

Stan's old webbing and rap ring. Ryan added another piece of webbing through the rap ring.

Stan’s old webbing and rap ring. Ryan added another piece of webbing through the rap ring.

It was then easy scrambling to the summit where we saw Stan’s cairn and small glass jar with his card in it.

Stan's card

Stan’s card

Their summit register

Their summit register

As I didn't have a pen, I added a patch off of my pack. Its a made-up "Expedition" just for fun as our mountain cabin in NC is called Chalk Hill :)

As I didn’t have a pen, I added a patch off of my pack. Its a made-up “Expedition” name my dad thought up just for fun as our mountain cabin in NC is called Chalk Hill :)

Looking down Thor's east ridge to Frey'a west ridge below

Looking down Thor’s east ridge to Freya’s west ridge below

The Valhalla amphitheater from Thor's summit

The east amphitheater of Mt. Valhalla from Thor’s summit

The section of ridge between Valhalla & Hail Peak I have yet to scout

The section of ridge between Valhalla & Hail Peak I have yet to scout

Summit of Thor (12,500' or so)

Summit of Thor (12,500′ or so)

We stayed on the summit for a good 20-30 minutes and enjoyed the wonderful views and weather.

Ryan rapping

Ryan rapping

Me rapping

Me rapping

We descended down the other side of Thor’s west col towards the beautiful lake at about 11,900′. While loose in spots, it wasn’t too bad at all. Then, we continued to descend another 300′ of boulders back down into Asgard Meadows.

The small lake at 11,900' between Asgard Ridge and Thor Tower

The small lake at 11,900′ between Asgard Ridge and Thor Tower

Back in Asgard Meadows

Back in Asgard Meadows

I so wish I had these mini-10' walls in my backyard for Sawyer to learn on :)

I so wish I had these mini-10′ walls in my backyard for Sawyer to learn on :)

Ryan spotted this northwest buttress on Rain Peak across the valley. Maybe a future climb

Ryan spotted this northwest buttress on Rain Peak across the valley. Maybe a future climb

We refilled with water and relaxed for a bit. It was 3pm now and we (at least me) should be probably heading on out. We reascended 300′ or so back up the scree/boulder slopes to the grassy meadows along Asgard Ridge’s southern flanks and cruised on home arriving back to the trailhead by 5:30pm for an 11 hour RT day. Thanks to Ryan & Mike for helping to make this day one of my most memorable Gore adventures in a long time.

Cruising beautiful Gore meadows at 12,000'

Cruising beautiful Gore meadows at 12,000′

Soaking it in

Soaking it in

Eiseman Hut & Lime Creek

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

 

Eiseman Hut

Eiseman Hut

A motley crew (Joel Mikey J, and J)

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

Kristine & Tim on the ridge

Kristine & Tim on the ridge

Rob Schnare & myself

Rob Schnare & myself

Tim, me, Mikey J

Tim, me, Mikey J

Kristine dropping the knee

Kristine dropping the knee

And, then 4 years later in April 2012:

Me & K

Me & K

Nico and the Gores

Nico and the Gores

Kristine swissbobbing

Kristine swissbobbing

The crew this trip

The crew this trip

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

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

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

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

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

Chuck & Hudson

Chuck & Hudson

Megan, J, & Raina

Megan, J, & Raina

Sage, Sawyer, & a squinting Rainie

Sage, Sawyer, & a squinting Rainie

Hanging out in the new Cizik tent

Hanging out in the new Cizik tent

Sawyer is already a Bronco fan

Sawyer is already a Bronco fan

The Ciziks

The Ciziks

The Chalks

The Chalks

Rainie getting in on the playtime

Rainie getting in on the playtime

Dinnertime

Dinnertime

Out for a stroll

Out for a stroll

A gorgeous sunset

A gorgeous sunset

Sawyer waking up sporting her "bear hat"

Sawyer waking up sporting her “bear hat”

Breakfast on the deck

Breakfast on the deck

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

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

I love this little girl :)

I love this little girl :)

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

Kristine climbing Old School (5.9)

Kristine climbing Old School (5.9)

Kristine leading Crowd Control (5.6)

Kristine leading Crowd Control (5.6)

Kristine climbing Sweat (5.10b)

Kristine climbing Sweat (5.10b)

Kristine climbing Rafting with Rednecks (5.10c)

Kristine climbing Rafting with Rednecks (5.10c)

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

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

Fun day together at Lime Creek

Fun day together at Lime Creek

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

Quandary’s Inwood Arete

No matter how many times I have climbed the 14er Quandary Peak, there always seems to be new terrain to discover. The remote north face of Quandary harbors a semi-technical route that ascends an arete for 2,000′ to 13,800′ on the broad east face. Kristine & Sawyer were back on the coast of Maine visiting her folks for a week and so my friend Reid Jennings and I made a plan to hit this route as it would be a short half-day climb and not too much time away from Rainie & Kona back at the house. Plus, it would be a nice Independence Day scramble. I had been wanting to check this route out for some time and is even featured in David Cooper’s Colorado Scrambles book. Reid & I met at the main Quandary Peak TH at 7:15am and after driving the 2 miles or so on the dirt access road to the 11,000′ McCullough Gulch TH, we set off hiking up McCullough Gulch around 7:45am. It was very nice to leave the hundreds of folks at the main Quandary Peak TH, who would be hiking the normal standard east ridge, and have the entire north side to ourselves. I brought my 7mm tag line as our lightweight rope and a half rack of nuts and cams for the fun-looking initial 100′ 5.7 crack pitch. We both brought our harnesses, helmets, and rock shoes as well. After about an hour, 1000′ of vertical gain, and a delicate creek crossing, we reached the base of the route at the nice looking 5.7 crack.

Reid and the creek crossing

Reid and the creek crossing

The Inwood Arete. The 5.7 crack is in red and the remaining route denoted in blue is all 3rd, 4th, and low 5th class scrambling

The Inwood Arete. The 5.7 crack is in red and the remaining route denoted in blue is all 3rd, 4th, and low 5th class scrambling

Now there are 4th class and maybe low 5th class ways around this initial 5.7 crack, but what’s the fun in that?

Looking up the initial 5.7 crack

Looking up the initial 5.7 crack

Looking down at Reid at the crack's base

Looking down at Reid at the crack’s base

I placed 4 cams in about 90′, so its pretty easy climbing, but definitely adds a bit of fun to the route. I made an anchor at the top and brought Reid up to me. He enjoyed the pitch as well. We stowed our gear and traded climbing shoes for trail runners and took off up the class 3 scrambling.

Above the initial technical pitch

Above the initial technical pitch

I think the best part of the route and the most fun was the several hundred feet of class 4 and low 5th class scrambling on solid slabs above this initial class 3 scrambling. It was great. Very solid and fun climbing using various crack systems. This took us up to the base of the 1st tower.

Reid on the slabs

Reid on the slabs

Reid on a section of friction climbing with a great view down McCullough Gulch

Reid on a section of friction climbing with a great view down to McCullough Gulch

More scenic climbing shots of Reid on the slabs

More scenic climbing shots of Reid on the slabs

The cracks in the slabs really provided a nice route to the top

The cracks in the slabs really provided a nice route to the top

Reid almost to the top of the slabs

Reid almost to the top of the slabs

The towers would have been fun to hit head-on, but we just found the small gully up between the 1st & 2nd towers from the east and scrambled around just to the west of the 2nd & 3rd towers. These towers aren’t really all that impressive – mere bumps on a not so well-defined arete.

Reid coming up the gully which bisects the 1st & 2nd towers

Reid coming up the gully which bisects the 1st & 2nd towers

More scrambling awaits

More scrambling awaits

While the Inwood Arete is really not a sharp ridge as you’d think an arete should be, the scrambling is still fun and worthwhile, in my opinion. The route does sort-of meander up the remaining arete between steep, loose gullies and small cliff bands to the top at about 13,800′.

Reid up high on the route

Reid up high on the route. The three towers can be seen over his left shoulder down below

We then saw the hundreds of hikers marching up and down the standard east ridge. Another 450 of vertical gain and 20 minutes later we were sharing the summit of Quandary with probably 75 folks of all ages. Definitely not unexpected, but we didn’t stay very long.

Looking down from the top of the Quandary Couloir and Inwood Arete to its right

Looking down from the top of the Quandary Couloir and Inwood Arete to its right

Final push to the top

Final push to the top

Quandry Peak summit (14,265')

Quandary Peak summit (14,265′)

We descended the standard east ridge route until about 12,600′ where we veered northeast along the north edge of the large east-facing bowl in order to make a beeline for the car. While it was some steep off-trail talus hopping, bushwhacking, and grass slope descending, we amazingly popped out literally right at the car. Now, that’s some good navigation! :) It had taken us about 4.5 hrs roundtrip car-to-car and there were now well over a hundred folks at the McCullough Gulch TH. It was quite the scene with people trying to get to and depart from the TH via the narrow dirt road. We sat in some traffic waiting for people to backup their cars, but eventually got out. After all, it was July 4 and Breckenridge was nearby and obviously very busy and crowded. Back home at 2pm to take the dogs to the river, it was a nice half-day adventure with Reid.

Meanwhile back in Maine, my two favorite gals were having a wonderful visit:

Boating

Boating

Dressing up for parties

Dressing up for parties

And driving tractors

And driving tractors