Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Two days in March.

I haven't posted at all this year; this doesn't mean I've stopped getting outdoors, in fact, much the opposite!  However, I've mostly been running the same trails over and over, and not doing many peaks.  Last week I got the email from Jamel:

Hello Gentlemen,
How about a 14er before the end of winter?

While I have been following a training schedule for the ultra I signed up for in July, with nicer weather coming I feel like I need to be flexible.  The week in question called for one long run of 27 miles, but I felt ok about splitting that up into a 7ish and 20ish mile day.  Gentleman?  I'm more of a dude.  And I'd get to spend some time outside with two nice people.  And Quandary is the only 14er I have done that I haven't done in winter.  
March 15, 2017.
The weather looked pretty good, but with predicted gusts up to 40 mph, wind would again be a factor.  Our hope was the the mass of the peak itself would help to block the worst of it.
We all decided to leave the snowshoes at home, and headed up in microspikes only.  The winter trail was well packed, with no postholing at all. 
We kind of slept in and started around 8.  The going was relatively easy.  In some ways, hiking in winter can be easier as the snow fills in all the rocks and gaps of the trail, giving you a nice ramp to walk up.  But in other ways, it's much more challenging.
We met and broke treeline, and could see a small line of people heading up.  While Gary and Jamel had been above 14k in elevation the week before, it's been almost two years since I've been that high.  I was very curious about how I'd feel, and worried that I'd be pretty slow since I haven't been at any elevation in quite awhile.
Some moody clouds added to the experience. 
The "trail" as it were, reaches a plateau around 13000 feet.  From here, things get steeper as you make the final thousand foot push to the summit.  I was expecting the suffering to kick in here, but the three of us passed every single person ahead, largely as we didn't have to stop to take many breaks.  To my surprise, this continued for me up to around 14000 feet.  I did have to take a few short breaks from there on, but the summit and wind came soon enough.
The summit is somewhat flat, and fully exposed to the wind.  It was some work to make the final few hundred feet.
Gary on the summit, about to measure the wind speed (44 mph) and temperature (23 degrees).  It really didn't feel too bad, and I was thinking I could have lightened my load for the day alot, but of course you never know that before hand.
North Star Mountain and points south.
We didn't spend long on the summit due to the wind, and enjoyed the hike down.  The temperatures were rapidly rising, unfortunately I'd dressed for the cold and could only shed so much.
The snow started to get sticky, and back at the car it felt good to change into short sleeves and jeans.  We made the drive back to Boulder and split up there.  A fun day with you dudes!
Quandary is considered one of the easiest 14ers.  In winter, that consideration remains true, however conditions make it more difficult than in summer.  Please make sure you are adequately prepared for the weather.
Quandary Peak, 14265 feet, in Winter:
7.03 miles round trip, 3269 foot gain.  Moderate+.
March 16, 2017.
Twenty miles planned for the day- originally I planned to go to Hermit Park and do Kenny Mountain and a few others in the area.  Fortunately, I checked Larimer County's website before I left and found the trail I would need to take wasn't open yet.  On to plan b.
Secret splendor.
The trail up is fun, steep at times, and technical.  It's one of my favorites to mountain bike.  It's quickly become a favorite to run.
Through the trees.
My first goal of the day was Button Rock.  I've done Button Rock Mountain before (just a few times), but I'd never climbed this rocky prominence that is visible from many points in the area.  I was going around a slabby outcrop when I decided to poke my head up and see where I was.  I could see the summit just a little bit ahead. 
Button Rock from the slabby point to the west. It certainly looks steep and imposing.  It's listed as fourth class on LoJ, but I'd agree with the trip report that it feels like something more than that, perhaps 5.don't tell mom.
Looking back to the slabby point west from the summit of Button Rock.
Here's the route I took up and down, on the north side.  The moss kept things interesting; the crux was a mantle and rock over on rounded edges.  The climb back down was even more interesting.  While I can't say this was the easiest way, it looked like it to my eyes.  To be fair, I also didn't explore all the aspects, so maybe there's an easier way. 
Back on some easier ground.
I picked up the trail again, and headed toward peak 7790.  There was some dead fall along the way to slow things down, but the distance went quickly.
Peak 7790 on the right. 
The loop was fun, though the uphill on the way back was a little difficult.
Button Rock from below. 
I took the trail until the four way junction.  Right would take me back to where I started, but by my estimate, wouldn't get me enough distance.  Straight ahead, a rocky and unfun descent.  To my left, some more climbing on fun trails and the summit of Button Rock Mountain. 
I originally planned to do the whole loop here, but started later than I hoped and I also forgot a headlamp.  So I decided to just hit the summit and turn around.
A short and fun scramble to the top, where I discovered that someone else had visited the peak this day.  A narrow miss!
The sun dropping on the horizon gave some interestingly long shadows. 
There is a short but steep climb on the way out, but soon enough it was all glorious downhill. 
I finished this twenty in just over six hours, getting around mid 18 minutes per mile, though in the low 17s if you don't count the time navigating the fifth class to Button Rock.  I'm ok with that.  It's reasonable with room to improve.
I feel like I normally have to go up higher and farther to avoid seeing anyone, but I did not see a single soul on this day, though I came close.  And I'll begrudgingly admit it: running is fun!
Button Rock, 7790, and Button Rock Mountain via ?:
Button Rock, 8039 feet: 5.5 miles,  1379 foot gain.  5.easy (or easier).  Moderate+.
7790: 8.07 miles, 1130 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate.
Button Rock Mountain, 8450 feet: 13.36 miles, 1790 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate.
As a whole, this day covered 20.08 miles