Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Alphabetizer.

Due to the weather, I was not able to get out this week.  But last week saw a fun hike in the Lost Creek Wilderness.  We decided to try a hike called 'The Alphabetizer' since it has you do Zephyr Peak, Peak Z, Peak Y, and Peak X.  Shouldn't that be the reverse alphabetizer if done in that order?  I don't know.
After another early morning meetup in Boulder, we started from the trail head just as the sun was rising.  A short jaunt up leads you to the Colorado Trail, just take a right and continue on.
Eventually you will top out and come to a gate.  We didn't meet any cows on the other side, though there was plenty of evidence of their existence around.  Continue on for another 20-30 minutes, and Zephyr Peak should start to become visible.  To avoid a bushwhack as we did, simply find a place where forest meets willow, and head up.  The going was pretty easy, though my lack of doing much of anything was catching up to me as we gained altitude.  
The opposite view before starting up Zephyr. 
As we gained elevation, the other peaks on our list became visible.  The terrain started to include some mostly solid talus.
In what felt like no time at all, we were atop Zephyr Peak, and looking at our next goal of the day.  A bit of rest and a quick bite to eat did us well.  Though the forecast called for steady wind in the upper teens, this was really the only place we felt it.  
 More Lost Creek Wilderness.
There isn't much elevation difference between the peaks, but the up and down can catch up to you.  Disappointingly, I was really feeling it in my legs.  I know the conditioning will come back easily enough, but it was disappointing to feel that I've lost something.
Interesting rock on the other side of Peak Z.  
Nice flat tundra hiking between Peak Z and Peak Y.
Looking from Peak Y to Peak X, which was our highest goal of the day.  There was alot of up and down between the two!
Peak X Prime lies farther northwest of Peak X, and we talked about adding it on.  
Near the top of Peak X.  The high point is a short and easy scramble on the talus pictured in the center.
We started toward X Prime, and then stopped and did a time estimate.  I had nowhere to be at any time, but Dan did have to be back in Boulder.  We decided it would take too long, and started to head down to the drainage between Peak X and Peak Y.
But not before we had a snack and a rest.  There wasn't too much snow, and the day was actually quite warm.  Hard to believe it was late October on this day.  Peak Y and Z as seen from Peak X.
Pikes Peak far away as seen from Peak X.  
Peaks Y, Z, and Pikes Peak.
From the drainage, I looked back up at Peak X.
And Peak Y.
Once in the drainage, stay on the southerly side of the creek and eventually you will stumble upon a trail which is not marked on the map called the Hooper Trail.  While it is unmaintained and therefore difficult to follow at times though dead fall and so forth, it is relatively easy to pick up again, and it will take you nearly all the way back down to the trail head, contrary to Gary Roachs description in his book.
It was so warm at this point we were down to base layers.  I had expected it to be pretty cold and didn't wear short sleeves!
When you reach the end, you will notice you are right at the intersection of the Colorado Trail.  If you desire to go up to Peak X first, this trail can be followed.  Just look for it behind the branches arranged in an X to block it off.
Here is a short video I shot while we rested on Peak Z:

Dancing clouds from Andy Rose on Vimeo.

Though I felt like I was moving slow, in the end I think this hike took us something like 7.5 hours.  It is a fun hike with some route finding required until treeline is reached.  If desired, you could do some scrambling on the rock ridges between some of the summits, but when following the path of least resistance, second class will be the hardest thing you'll encounter.
The (reverse) Alphabetizer:
9.6 miles round trip, 3670 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous-.
Peak Elevations:
Zephyr Peak: 12067 feet.
Peak Z: 12244 feet.
Peak Y: 12274 feet.
Peak X: 12429 feet.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Keller Mountain.

This week we set off for an adventure in the Gore Range.  On the north side of I-25 near Silverthorne, this range contains a wealth of 13ers and ruggedly beautiful scenery.  We started from the Rock Creek trail head right around 7.  The day was already surprisingly warm. 
The trail leads to an abandoned mine, and this is where we lost the official trail and just went up to gain the ridge crest and continue west.
Snow became more prevalent as we gained altitude, though I was still okay in trail runners.
And up...
Dan had suggested this peak due to the scrambling to get there.  As you gain the ridge at point 12840+, the next high point looks decidedly more difficult.  And it is.  Here is Dan down climbing a section.  This will be up to class 4, class 3 if you take the path of least resistance, and easier (though significantly looser) if you stay to the south of the ridge proper.
Views ever increasing in scope and breadth.
Another airy down climb.
Past the worst of the difficulties, it is now a short jaunt over to the true summit.
Which of course continues to offer spectacular views.
Contrail for perspective. 
Nearby peaks.
Back to point 13040+.
This looks back along the more technical ridge we'd climbed to get here to point 12840+.
Of course by now my feet were soaked and cold.  Toe warmers helped.
Back on the other side of the difficulties, we stopped for a rest and bite to eat.  Dan noticed a eagle catching a thermal up over the peak we'd just been on.  We could see a white tail as it looped around, and finally it came close enough that we were able to see it's stark white head.  My first Bald Eagle sighting ever!  What a spectacular animal. 
A great vantage point into the Rock Creek drainage as we descended. 
From here we stayed on the ridge, eventually finding the old abandoned trail leading back down.  This was a better way to go in my opinion.  No loose scree to deal with. 
We got back to the car around 4, giving us a nine hour day.  We'd forgotten how much more difficult snow makes everything, including scrambling with wet shoes!
My first trip to the Gore Range was very memorable.  Great scenery, good solid rock, and a fun summit.  I will be back!
Keller Mountain (13085 feet) via Rock Creek TH:
4.8 miles one way, 3585 foot gain.  Up to fourth class.  Strenuous-.