Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Graduation- finishing the Collegiates

Mt. Yale 14,196'

RT distance: 9.5 miles    Elevation gain: 4300'    Difficulty: Class 2

On Monday May 21st I took a day off from work and climbed Mt. Yale with my friend Chris Sumey. Chris and I went to High School together and were both tenors in the Tour Choir our senior year. Chris lives in Aurora and occasionally runs marathons. Mt. Yale is my final 14er in the "Collegiate Peaks" which includes Mt. Belford, Mt. Oxford, Mt. Harvard, Mt. Colombia, Mt. Princeton, and finally Mt. Yale. So, in a way, I am "graduating" from the collegiate peaks. Chris had previously done (5) 14ers in the past and had no problems with altitude sickness. We met at the (paved) parking lot at 7:20 AM, and hit the trail about 7:30.

(1) Mt. Princeton (2) Mt. Yale (3) Mt. Columbia (4) Mt. Harvard as seen from Wilkerson Pass some 40 miles East.

Early in the morning all of the small snow patches were frozen over- making them easy to walk on.
The first part of the hike was a mild forest hike

Nice view in a break in the trees
I must take a moment to admit that we (I) lost the route in the trees due to blow down and large snow drifts. There were also footprints leading in many different directions! We decided that going up seemed like a solid plan, so that's what we did. If these next couple photos look "wrong" to you, well, they are.
We ascended this dry grassy slope directly. While steep, it was easy climbing on firm ground.
Looking back from the same spot on the slopes- we avoided crossing a lot of snow somehow.

We crossed over 50 yards of snow to the far right of this picture before turning left and going up to the saddle. The summit is visible on the right. This was due to an..ahem... navigation error

 We reached the summit in just over 3 hours, despite losing the trail completely in the forest right before treeline and ending up at least 1/4 mile off route. Pretty good time, all things considered. If you can keep to the actual trail, this is a fairly "easy" and straightforward 14er, with rewarding views from the summit. If you knew where to look, you could easily see over 20 other 14ers from this vantage. The weather was great, it wasn't terribly windy. We took our time, eating Reese's bars and drinking microbrews (from a can). I tried to point out as many 14ers as I could recognize.

The summit of Mt. Yale with Princeton, Antero, Shavano, and Tabeguache in the background

Chris surveys the scene. Missouri, Belford, Oxford, Harvard, and Columbia are seen. (L to R)
Looking WSW from the summit
I'm not sure what these 2 13ers are, but they look pretty awesome- NW from the summit

A jacket and shorts- must be Colorado.
Just a fat marmot, looking for some trekking poles to eat
Coming down on the great trail was about as good as you could hope for. The trail was easy to follow and never got very steep. I could definitely feel my quads burning though after about 30 minutes.

Recent blow down from 100+ mph wind gusts ripped this live tree in half.
We were blessed with fantastic weather for late may, with Bluebird skies and warm temps, followed by gathering clouds in the afternoon. We only saw one other group the whole time, and that was on our way down a little before noon- we had the summit to ourselves. Thanks to my great partner Chris for accompanying me on this trip. While I now know that he does in fact get tired like a normal human, I also know that he is a stud and could have smoked me had he wanted to. He was also not the least disturbed that we lost the trail and scrambled off-route for about an hour.  We decided that it wasn't a big deal because we were able to adapt and overcome. Round trip time, including the summit break, was under 6 hours.

Mt. Yale is a wonderful mountain with inspiring views and a very good trail. While it still requires a good deal of physical exertion, this is one of the "easier" 14ers you can do with just a little bit of scrambling (class 2+) near the summit.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Mt. Princeton, monarch of the Sawatch

Mt. Princeton   14,197'

RT Distance: 6.5 miles Elevation Gain: 3400'  Difficulty: Class 2

My climbing partner and I kicked off the "summer" climbing season with a spring climb of Mt. Princeton in the Sawatch range. At 14,197 feet, it towers over the Arkansas River valley. The iconic image of Mt. Princeton is best seen from US HWY 24 as you are driving down into the valley near Buena Vista.  Princeton is somewhat unique in that from the road, you can see the entire route from start to finish. We started at the "radio towers" area at 10,800' up a rugged 4WD road.

Mt. Princeton as seen from Buena Vista, later in the afternoon. "Tigger" is the left sub-peak.

Around 11,500' withe the summit in the background.

The snow drifts were receding and plenty of drivers made it past this point.

It starts off as a very mild "road hike". This could be brutally hot in the late summer.

The turnoff from the road is down about a 1/4 mile from here, in a patch of snow.

Leaving the road and gaining the trail. The nice sand/grass trail would not last long. This hike is somewhat unique in that the summit is visible much of the time you are hiking.

You can see hikers in the middle on the trail. At this point it was all rock, all the time.

Around 12,500' the summit tantalizes you, but it's almost 2 miles away.
We have gained the summit ridge, around 13,000', but have a ways to go.

So close to the summit, and the air is getting a little thin.

Scott charges up to the summit.

I celebrate, Platoon style. It was very calm and clear when we summitted.

Mt. Antero's huge massif dead center. Mt. Shavano and Tabaguache Peak distant left.

Looking NW toward the Elk mountains. Snowmass and Holy Cross visible.
Summit Panorama!

I decided to scramble up "Tigger" solo and take this silly self portrait.

Later on, exploring: below Cottonwood pass. The clouds were doing the usual thing.

Nearby Cottonwood lake, looking west. This is a popular place for fishing.
 It was a fun, exciting, scenic hike with awesome weather. Had we waited a couple more hours on the summit, we would have gotten blasted with winds and snowed on, as happened to our friend Joey. See what it looked like the next day:
Mt. Princeton with snow on it (left), taken the next day from Mt. Yale.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

2012 Climbing Schedule

Because engineers love lists, spreadsheets, and data, we have already scheduled our climbing season this year. Life permitting, this is what I/we intend to do. It encompasses over 130 miles of hiking and 62,000+ feet of elevation gain and loss.

May:  Mt. Princeton, Mt. Yale (Sawatch Range)

Mt. Yale (left Center) Mt. Princeton (Center back) as seen from Mt. Colombia

June: Mt. Shavano, Tabaguache, Mt. of the Holy Cross, Mt. Sneffels, Wetterhorn Peak, San Luis Peak

Mt. of the Holy Cross (Distant Center) from Quandary Peak

Wetterhorn Peak as seen from Handies Peak

Wetterhorn Peak from Uncompahgre Peak. Sneffels distant left.
Mt. Sneffels (middle left top) from Sunshine Peak

July: Grays Peak, Torreys Peak, Snowmass Mountain, Culebra Peak

Grays Peak and Torreys Peak (upper right) as seen from Mt. Evans

Maroon Bells, Snowmass Mountain (white in back), Capital Peak, Pyramid Peak (roughly L to R) seen from Castle Peak
Snowmass Mountain (back right) from La Plata Peak
Snowmass Mountain from Mt. Oxford

August: South Maroon Peak, North Maroon Peak, Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle, Kit Carson Peak, Challenger Point

Maroon Bells (Center-Right back) from Quandary Peak

Challenger point, Kit Carson Peak, Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle (L to R) from Mt. Lindsey

Crestone Needle (L) and Crestone Peak (R) from Mt. Humboldt

 September: ??

Saturday, May 12, 2012

What can photo editing do for you?

When we were climbing Mount Eolus, a group ahead of us captured a wonderful photo. [Photo courtesy of Ryan Marsters]. Here I will present the original photo and 3 different edits on it. Please tell me which you think captures the drama of the moment the best? Note- clicking on any photo will bring up a slideshow with larger, more detailed, and higher quality pictures that you can scroll through- I'd recommend that.

Origional Photo untouched.
Edit 1

Edit 2- 2 graduated filters top to bottom
Edit 3- more dynamic contrast and black level adjustment.