Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Meeker Ridge via Horse Creek Trailhead.

A few weeks ago I set out early one morning with Dan.  Our goal was to do Meeker and Longs in one day.  Unfortunately, that did not happen, and we didn't even end up summiting Meeker.
We met up in Lyons pretty early, and started from the Horse Creek trailhead.  Though there has not been much snow as of yet this year, I could see snow up there from my house, and we felt like this route had the best chance of being snow free or nearly so.
We were hiking for several hours and just making our way to tree line when the sun started to rise. 
Pretty neat to see the lights of the cities laid out beneath us.
A large cairn above treeline on Meeker ridge. 
I am not sure why, but I was feeling horrible.  My stomach hurt, legs hurt, lungs felt like they just couldn't get enough air.  I felt very nauseous as well, which doesn't help when you are doing a fairly strenuous exercise and need to eat throughout the day.  Every time I did eat something I felt like I was going to throw up.
But we pushed on, here gaining sight of Meeker from the ridge.
Looking south to Wild Basin.  Snow capped peaks.
The weather prediction called for wind, and it did not disappoint.  We eventually moved to the north side of the ridge even though the going was harder just to be out of it.
The day looks so beautiful, but with 40+ mph sustained winds and higher gusts, it got alot less fun.
The peaks of Wild Basin from the summit of Meeker Ridge, which at 13871 feet, is some 40 feet lower than the true western summit at 13911.
The ridge between the east and west summits is about 300 yards of highly exposed third class.  A place you definitely don't want to fall.  Note Longs Peak in the background.  With the wind ripping, we wisely decided to head back without gaining the true summit.
A feature called Ships Prow extends northeast from the Longs area.
On the way back down it was so damn windy.  I was following Dan and we looked like two drunk people struggling to stay upright.  There were times the wind was so fierce, all I could do was crouch down as quickly as possible to avoid getting blown over.   Still looks pretty though...
Again we crossed back to the north side of the ridge to get out of the wind.  It didn't always work, like when I stopped to pee and yeah.  It was like the scene in The Big Lebowski where they spread Donnies ashes, except instead of ashes in my face it was my own pee.  What fun.
We decided to go back over into the wind when it looked like we were getting to a tower we'd have to descend.  Dan went first while I gave myself a golden shower.  When I topped the ridge and stood up, a gust of wind hit me so hard it actually blew me back off my feet, causing me to fall and hit my left knee quite hard on a rock.  And in exactly the same place I had hit it descending a snow field during the Eagles Beak hike.
Immediate and intense pain flooded through me, and I thought I had broken my leg at first.  I hobbled and caught up to Dan and took a seat to assess the damage.  Didn't think it was broken, but it sure hurt alot.  Took some Advil, got out my ice axe and used that as a cane for most of the rest of the day. 
Once we got back to tree line, we lost the cairned unofficial trail back down and ended up somewhere north of it.  We eventually just decided to head for the south side of Horsetooth and know that we'd run into the trail eventually.  It was a great feeling when we did.  By now the pain meds had kicked in and I made the rest of the hike down feeling fine.  I was quite sore the next day however, and it has taken several weeks for it to go back to feeling almost normal.
Here is a look back as the trail crosses Horse Creek and starts to gain elevation.  It is only a few minutes back to the car from here. 
I am not sure why I felt so bad.  Everyone has off days I guess, and it was pretty good when I started feeling as though I could eat, but I think the hours of not eating anything certainly didn't help at all.  And we learned that this would be a good hike to avoid when the forecast calls for wind!
I guess the Meeker/Longs combo will have to wait for another day- probably next year.  We did discuss difficulty, since I had heard from someone else that he felt Meeker was more difficult than Longs.  When done this way, you do more elevation gain over a shorter distance, the class three is more exposed, and definite trail finding skills are needed.  Meeker is often overlooked being so close to Longs, but if you have done Longs already, try Meeker next year.  It is a rewarding peak to climb.
Meeker Ridge via Horse Creek trail head:
5 miles one way, 5171 foot gain. Some second class. Strenuous+.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Quarter to Five Peak, Mt. Neva, Jasper Peak.

Welcome to a Hiking RMNP field trip.  Since I have been so focused on Wild Basin the past two years, this marks my first real hike in Indian Peaks, of course besides the brief forays when hiking on the south side of the park.  This also marks the first hike I have made with a hiking partner who seems to love getting off the trail and out the of popular spots just as much as I do.
I got up at four, ate, got the final parts of my stuff ready, and rode my motorcycle to our meeting place in Boulder.  Dan was kind enough to drive both ways, and when we made it to Nederland in half an hour, I was thinking it might take less time than predicted to get to the trailhead.  Then of course the paving ended and there was several miles of rough dirt road to the Fourth of July trailhead.  I had read this was 4WD only, but we made it ok.
We started out just as the sun was coming up.  Dan knew the way, so he was in front for most of the day, and since I was suffering a bit I was happy for him to set the pace.  As opposed to the hikes I normally do, we got to and broke tree line fairly quickly- I'd say in only an hour or so.  While some good views were had on the trail up, this offered the first real glimpse of our eventual goal- Mt. Neva.
Mt. Neva as seen from the trail.
We decided to check out Quarter to Five Peak since it is on the way kind of. 
Mt. Jasper seen from the trail.
We noticed the haze from the smoke blowing in from various forest fires in the mountain states.  It made for some cool photos, but it was weird to not be able to see the horizon in any direction.
Arapahoe Peaks from Quarter to Five Peak.  The scramble looked intimidating, but of course wasn't bad in reality.
Looking northwest from Quarter to Five Peak.
We made our way back and started up towards the north ridge of Mt. Neva.  This is graded class four, with much of it being solidly in second and third territory.  We were surprised to find a well worn trail that took us right to the rocky ridge.
 And talk about intimidation.  This looked hard.  But we took our time and picked our way carefully.
 Back along the ridge holding Quarter to Five Peak.
 Lake Dorothy lies at the foot of Mt. Neva. 
This is nearing the crux of the climb- definitely don't fall here.  It was pretty neat to see the red banding through the cliff face up close.  For some reason I kept thinking of The Princess Bride..  The cliffs of insanity.
 Looking west through a keyhole lying right on the continental divide.  Pretty neat to stand right in the middle.
 Looking back along the north ridge of Neva. 
Past the hardest difficulty, Dan heads on to Neva.  We were talking about the class system in grading hikes because while this is fourth, neither of us felt it was too difficult.  He did make the point that most people could probably climb a 5.5 on their very first time out.  Consider that fourth class will be way easier than that, but may still require you to find foot/hand holds and essentially climb.
Down into the basin from the top of Neva.
North to one of Colorados most iconic views- Longs Peak and Meeker.
Lake Dorothy with Quarter to Five ridge and Arapahoe Peaks in the background.
A close up and far away.
Where we started on the north ridge of Neva.
At this point, we still had alot of day left and decided to ring the bowl and head for Jasper Peak.
Looking along the ridge to Jasper Peak.
Looking west from Jasper Peak.  The hike was pretty easy to get there, tundra, some rock, with a little second class.

Panorama shot from Jasper Peak, looking mostly north.
I brought along my winter jacket thinking I probably wouldn't need it, and then wore it for most of the day.

The summit of Jasper Peak.
Mt. Neva as seen from Jasper.
Arapahoe Peaks in the distance.
Small unnamed(?) lake at the foot of the peak.
The lake above and Lake Dorothy as seen from the ridge between Neva and Jasper.
We headed back towards Neva and were surprised to find another trail to descend the scree slope between the two peaks. 
At the bottom, we made our way around some of the ponds, hills, brush, when we saw this cool balancing rock.  We headed back toward the scree slope below the Arapahoe Pass Trail.  A short scramble brought us to the top, and from there it was all downhill back to the car. 
A good day, with three peaks over 12000 feet climbed.  And fun with a new hiking partner who likes doing the same sort of stuff as I do!
A field trip to Indian Peaks Wilderness:
Quarter to Five Peak(12300 ft):  2140 foot gain, 3.5 miles one way, 2nd class.  Moderate+.
Mt. Neva(12814 ft): 2654 foot gain, 3.5 miles one way, 4th class.  Strenuous-.
Jasper Peak(12923ft): 2763 foot gain, 4.3ish miles one way, 2nd class.  Strenuous-.