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Spring Break hiking 3/1- 3/6/14 All Repeaters

15 Mar
view from Evergreen Mt.

view from Evergreen Mt.

When my nieces came to visit me last year, their one request was more hiking.  I honestly had no idea they would like it as much as they did.  I wanted to get them out as much as possible while still giving them a break from school.  I had grand plans, hike 3/1, snowshoe 3/2, sunrise hike 3/3, break on 3/4, hike of their choice on 3/5 play 3/6 by ear…. our first hike fell apart quickly while the snowshoe on 3/2 was excellent as I mentioned here.

For our sunrise hike on 3/3 I was pretty uncertain we would ever be able to do it because the avalanche risk was so high all through the high country and I am not yet educated on avalanche safety and awareness.  I picked a mountain that I knew was a low risk but tricky to get to, Colorado Mines Mountain.  With the snow storm we had on 3/1 I wasn’t certain the road up would be open but it was so we got up at 2AM and headed out to attempt their first sunrise hike.  When we arrived at the Berthoud Pass parking lot I was not expecting the 15 foot high wall of snow all around the parking lot nor Aaron getting bad coffee from 7-11.  He hardly had the car in park before he was running to the warming hut vault toilets to be sick.  Which I might add is one of the most awful places in the world to have that kind of situation in…. And my old negative Nellie said out loud “oh yeah we aren’t doing this”.

At the top of the continental divide sign

At the top of the continental divide sign

While Aaron was being sick I told them to get their snow pants on and wait in the car while I scouted out the trail to see what we had to work with.  The snow was actually hard enough to walk on and the snowshoe trail was just like Butler’s Gulch the week before in that we didn’t need snowshoes where all the other snowshoers had gone before us.  I walked a good quarter-mile up without anything but my hiking boots.  That walk felt good so I went back, checked on Aaron and the 3 of us adventured up the trail a bit to get a feel.  I should have had them put on their snowshoes and just gone for it but I didn’t, and my lack of confidence probably contributed to their unease.  We went up about half a mile, shut off our headlamps and then turned around.  We decided we would wait for sunrise in the parking lot and then head back for naps as soon as Aaron could safely leave the bathroom.  We goofed around where we could and then as the sun started to rise the snow picked up along with the wind… it was almost a white out.  I took a look down Berthoud pass and we weren’t going to catch any of the sunrise from there the snow was so thick in crazy blowing winds.  I am still kicking myself for not just taking them up alone, I am perfectly capable but I let doubt rule me!  Regardless it would have been miserable at the top with absolutely no views.  I promised them that if they came in the summer we would do this again on a better mountain.

On Wednesday, we hit Staunton State Park and the weather was absolutely perfect, the views were amazing and my nieces were the perfect company.  We hiked about 8 of the miles Aaron and I hiked last fall.  We did the Staunton Ranch trail to Scout Line, took Marmot down and then Staunton Ranch back out.   The hardest part was the little bit of snow we had to contend with, it was just enough to have slipping and sliding more than we wanted too.

The best view on Scout line - see pikes peak?

The best view on Scout line – see pikes peak?

What I loved was just talking with my nieces about whatever, they are adults now and so incredibly smart it was a revelation.   I found myself wanting to study again so I could keep up!

pikes peak and views staunton view on scout line

We did the length of Scout Line trail and then headed down Marmot passage to get a little loop back to Staunton Ranch trial.  Overall it gave us 8-9 miles of hiking with perfect weather and amazing company.

marmot passage sign

Taking marmot passage

view 2

View on the way down Marmot Passage

Staunton view on marmot

too good to miss

After making them hike a lot on Wednesday, my nieces were still up for another hike on Thursday so we decided that the first hike we wanted to take them on- Evergreen Mountain– would be the one to do.  It was like night and day from just 5 days before.  The only downside was the snow on the path with the ice underneath that snow.  Once again Lauren and Anne proved how awesome they are!   It was supposed to a warm beautiful day, and while it was warm the sun stayed hidden which meant it wasn’t as warm as we had hoped it would be.

I love showing new people to this trail, when I do I usually take them to it before we hike much else only because the route up can be kind of boring after other hikes.  I felt that boring aspect the most this last time with no sun and the pesky snow making us slip and slide all over the place even more than the day before.   But the summit views were lovely to behold as always.  I think that was the redeeming part of the hike for us all after a struggle to get up through the melting, sloppy snow… that and the drinks afterwards.

us on evergreen mt. at the top summit of evergreen

This visit overall was so nice, having my nieces here made me both miss my family terribly and want to redouble my efforts to get them all to move here to Colorado…. now I am patiently waiting until my next family visit.  It needs to come faster!

ice castle moment

I hope you are experiencing some form of spring awesomeness and if you are, get out there and hike, life is too short!!!!

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Butler Gulch Snowshoe, Empire CO 2/22/14

26 Feb
The View to the East at the top

The View to the East at the top

On Tuesday when I came home to the huge box with our snowshoes, I kinda wanted to go out right then and to try them out.  Unfortunately there is no real snow here on the Front Range so I had to wait until the weekend to get my fix in.

The view South at the top

The view South at the top

I had hiked Butler Gulch( Hike Details here) in September of 2012 and had read that it was actually a more popular snowshoe than hiking trail.  This is the trail I knew I wanted to do as our first solo snowshoe.  It was one we had done before, the nature of the bowl we were hiking into made it safer from avalanche danger than most and it meant we could hit Tommyknockers on the way home.

When we pulled up to the parking lot, we were impressed with how many cars were already there and more were pulling in constantly.  Fortunately it was not all for Butler Gulch, but also for Jones Pass which is open to motorized vehicles(Butler Gulch is not), lots of snow mobiles were over that way.

Parking Lot

Parking Lot

We put on our snowshoes at the car and started up the road to the trail head, I don’t think we needed to do this as the trail was pretty stable and our boots would have been fine.  It was so cool walking over the gate to the trail, knowing it meant we were on 4 feet of snow, but again, I think we could have walked this all in our boots it was packed so hard.

Standing on the gate

Standing on the gate

The Gate in Summer....

The Gate in Summer….

We moved out at a nice pace and then as we climbed in elevation we definitely slowed down, I guess it had been longer than I thought since we were last at 10,000+feet.  Despite the struggle with the altitude I was so happy to be out there.  The weather was pretty good, just a little snow falling and occasionally we would hear big wind up above.

The start trail1 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAView along the trail 1

It took us longer than we expected to go just 2 ish miles, around 2 – 2.5 hours, and I think it took this long for 2 reasons. First, the altitude kicked my butt the whole way up while I practically flew down the gulch in the return trip.  Second, it was just interesting to get used to the snow shoes, we got mountaineering ones and went with men 30’s .  They are bigger and heavier than what we used 2 weeks before, but it was right for our weight combined with our backpacks.  It was like walking with those ankle weights on but we did float better.

snowshoes

The path itself wasn’t too steep until it was crazy steep, the last climb up was very challenging so when I fell heading up, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get up and it took me a couple of minutes to sort of wiggling around to get to a standing position.  Conversely when I fell coming down at the same point… I couldn’t get up so I just scooted on my butt down to the tree line.

Getting Steep

Getting Steep

Just a peek as we catch our breath

Just a peek as we catch our breath

It flattened out above that steep section and we could see the whole bowl in front of us with all the mountains north of us, it was beautiful!  I am so glad we stopped here to capture it because not 5 minutes after we snapped a few pictures the wind picked up in a wicked way and didn’t stop.  This is the challenge of being at 11,000ft, when the weather changes it is dramatic.  I got a few pictures of the snow blowing like crazy and then we hightailed it out of there.  The wind was coming hard enough that our path up was already being covered.

the way we planned on continuing

the way we planned on continuing

View Before it changed

View Before it changed

Changing

Changing

Changing

Changing

Changed

Changed

The trip down took maybe an hour and let me tell you the traffic going up was heavy, I think we easily passed a 100 people or more heading up.  Most were going up to do some back country skiing, with a couple of groups of snowshoers as well.  We passed one couple that had done almost the whole thing in just their micro spikes, they were so friendly, they had snowshoes attached to their packs and were holding out til the last-minute to put them on.   It was interesting to see that we could have done the same trail in our micro spikes without postholing… next time.  I think the only hard part is knowing when to switch it up.  I am not sure where the right spot to put on the snowshoes is at.  I think I did know where it wasn’t …. I am sure once I get more comfortable I will be able to figure out when I need to switch.

Moving down fast

Moving down fast

The day itself was pretty amazing, I never imagined I would be able to climb up to 11,000+ft this time of year and the snowshoes made it so easy!  I was surprised by the level of traffic on the trail but it is pretty close to Winter Park and likely a good break for skiers on a crowded Saturday.

I hope if you find yourself out this way, that you get a chance to check this one out!

Just as an FYI… I will not be posting for a bit, my nieces are coming out for spring break at the end of the week and we have a crazy schedule set up.  We are hiking, snowshoeing, seeing the ice castle in Breckenridge, doing a sunrise hike( their request) and lots of shopping and laughing.  I think my evil plan to make them love Colorado enough to want to live here is working! I will catch up as soon as I can!

In the meantime get out there and hike!

Mt. Flora Trail (Repeater) 9/29/13

20 Oct

1

I had grandiose visions of how this hike might turn out…lots of ooooohhhhhhhssss and aaaahhhhsss.  And while  when I planned out it made perfect sense, in the end, the weather sometimes just doesn’t cooperate.

We had a crazy good time in Breckenridge and it was hard to crawl out of bed to make our way to Mt. Flora (hike details here) on our way back to reality, so we moved a little more slowly then my perfect planning dictated, but I didn’t care because this was the 4th hike in 4 days and I was determined regardless…….. oh wait I am lying, I was totally done hiking and just wanted to veg doing fun touristy things for the rest of our time together.  Instead of telling Mary of where I was at, I said nothing and as we pulled up to the trailhead I started preparing her for a shortened hike.  It truly was windy in the parking lot and would be 10 -100  times windier at the summit…..

Mary for her part was a super trooper to the end.

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I made her point at the continental Divide trail as proof she hiked part of it…… I think it meant more to me then her

We had all we needed to get to the summit, crampons, gaiters, lots of extra clothes and poles….. what we didn’t have was the best conditions, oh and a guide(me) who was worried after the hike the day before with her guest hiker’s issues with heights.  Not worried about the trail but the person who was “uncomfortable” with heights. On any given day this trail is not hard but it is super high and after you turn a corner the views are REALLY expansive.   Lets not talk about the climb up…with snow …and wind.   There was a point where, when I looked back and poor Mary was so uncomfortable  that I am pretty sure she was shaking, just a little bit.  As a person who has been hiking up high for a while and has no problems with heights, this was a revelation.  I tried to see it the way she saw it, I imagine it looks like seeing through a fisheye lens with skewed blurry edges, everything else just looking off and too close while looking too far away at the same time.  It feels terrifying I imagine, fortunately for me I only get exhilarated when up high seeing the views.

When I got to the point where I was sure the snow would be less deep (and promised Mary this would be the case) and we would be traversing across the mountain, I saw the snow was still like 10+ inches deep.  It was too much and the wind was picking up so I turned us around, not because of how Mary was doing but because I knew after the traverse I would have to turn us around anyway because the wind would be super hard at that elevation to ever summit.  There was no reason to put her through more than she could take to only turn her around a half a mile later.

Turnaround point

Turnaround point

After we turned around she confessed she would have been ok if we had skipped hiking this 4th hike….. sometimes it is ok to trick everyone into a little workout even if no one wanted that workout.   The views were amazing but the trail small and so I kept moving around her taking pictures of us, the hard part was that she could not not move or not say careful careful….  I will tell you that we laughed A LOT.

seriously dont move....

seriously don’t move….

getting windier

getting windier

Seriously windy

Seriously windy

Heading back down she realized that it wasn’t as hard as she imagined it would be going down and that if I had turned her around a half mile later she would have been really mad at me….. It was the right choice.  We took in the crazy amazing views on our way back down and decided to get some yummy food in Winter Park.   I used Yelp to find something good and we hit this place on the main strip called Denos Mountain Bistro, we weren’t really all that concerned if it was good just as long we could enjoy the end of our vacation in style.   I think the shock was how stinking good it was….like seriously unbelievably good, been dreaming about it since I was there good…..  Have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE Colorado.  If you are in WInter Park, go there on a Sunday and get the Brunch Burger it is like heaven on a bun and I don’t even like burgers all that much!  Their Eggs Benedict was perfect too and more…. Mary got the Brunch Burger and I resented her for getting to enjoy the whole thing while I got just a piece of it.

Ok here are the last pics I got before the wind was just too much and a promise from Mary that she will try this hike again when there is less or no snow.

good view with a great friend trying for a selfie One more too cute

 

Colorado Mines Peak( 12,493) & Mt. Flora* Repeater *(13,132), Mt. Eva – Fail, Berthoud Pass Between Winter Park & Empire CO 6/22/13

26 Jun

View west

Continental Divide Trail to> Mines Peak Road> Mt. Flora Trail > Traverse to Mt. Eva

Starting Elevation: 11,315 Ft

Highest Elevation: 13,132 Ft ( We had a total elevation gain of approximately 2800Ft)

Trail Length: Officially, if we had finished 10 miles. We Turned around about a mile short of Mt. Eva so officially we got 8 miles but my fitbit said we got about 10 miles anyway. We spent 5 hours hiking total.

Trail Uses: Hiker only after the road

Degree of difficulty: Strenuous – Mostly due to Altitude & Length

Bathrooms: There is one at the Berthoud Pass parking lot, but keep extra supplies handy, it is popular.

Pets: Dogs are allowed on the trail but they must be leashed.

Fees: None

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We did Mt. Flora ( Details here) last September, it was our first and only 13er and a huge achievement for us. Unfortunately it was also our last because snow moved in, then moved in again and again. We are really close to our planned 14er and so this seemed like a good way to visit Mt. Flora again and do additional peaks, elevation gain, mileage while getting progressively higher in time to do our 14er next week. I read about this trifecta of peaks in my Colorado Mountain Club book, we had already done Mt. Flora so seeing the other 2 peaks felt right.

We started a little later than we wanted to at about 8AM but jumped right in, we cranked it up Colorado Mines Peak road in just 50 minutes. That is 1178 ft of elevation gain in just 1.3 miles.

Colorado Mines Peak Road past the Mt. Flora trailhead.

Colorado Mines Peak Road past the Mt. Flora trailhead.

Almost at the top of Colorado Mines Peak

Almost at the top of Colorado Mines Peak

The view West as we climbed

The view West as we climbed to Colorado Mines Peak

The top of this peak is not very exciting as it is full of buildings and antennas, but the views are beautiful. We didn’t spend too much time here but still managed to not find the official path down to the Mt. Flora trail so we just went down close to the ridge line since we could easily see the trail below. On the way back from Flora we clearly saw the correct path coming off of Mines, if I had to guess it is straight North from the main road once you get to the top.

We started down by this Pole, which would be the wrong way...

We started down by this Pole, which would be the wrong way…

It was is almost a 40o ft decent, and the wall of snow hanging off of the ridge line was impressive.

Wall of snow along the ridge line of Mines

Wall of snow along the ridge line of Mines

me coming down the side of Colorado Mines

me coming down the side of Colorado Mines

We pretty much had Colorado Mines peak completely to ourselves up and then again down, but as we were going down to Flora we could see 3 groups of hikers on that trail already. As we started on the Mt. Flora trail we keep our aggressive pace and in no time we made it to the top. At the point we hit the top of Mt. Flora we had been hiking for 2 hours 20 minutes, 25 minutes less than it took us last time and we had already added elevation and mileage to our hike.

on the path to Mt. Flora

on the path to Mt. Flora

Again we didn’t spend too much time on Mt. Flora as we were anxious to get over to Mt. Eva and to us it looked way further away then 2 miles.

Mt. Eva is almost perfectly in the middle, past the peak on the left but under the higher peak in the middle

Mt. Eva is almost perfectly in the middle, past the peak on the left but under the higher peak in the middle

A Quick capture of us on Flora

A Quick capture of us on Flora

There is no defined path to Eva you just follow your eyes over to it, we kinda went up 2 un-named peaks and then followed a couple cairns down the ridge line, again. Each one looked like an inverted path below but when we got there we were oh that makes sense and moved onto the next one. It took us an hour to work our way almost a mile over and when we looked over to Eva it still looked more than 2 miles away.

Eva is the peak a little left of center with the remains of a building on it

Eva is the peak a little left of center with the remains of a building on it

It was a tough call at this point, the way down looked REALLY challenging then having to come back up 6 hours into a hike seemed not the smartest for us. The wind had picked up and the smoke from all the wild fires was building up more, we decided that we would turn around and try it another day. We climbed back up to Flora even though we could have easily cut it off to get back to the parking lot, we just wanted a little extra mileage and elevation.

On the first un-named peak north of Flora, In fact Flora is over my shoulder

On the first un-named peak north of Flora, In fact Flora is over my shoulder

The view East getting smokey

The view East getting smokey

We felt great on this hike, the altitude was a factor but only in the beginning and then as we came to the top of Flora. We really moved faster than I felt we have for some time. On the way back down we encountered one snow field on the Mt. Flora trail and we were able to walk around with a little work.

Snow FIeld on the way back down Flora

Snow FIeld on the way back down Flora

This is a great hike and one I know we will do again and again. We felt awesome in the way we climbed and how quickly we moved, so much better than the first time we did this hike. One thing I want to note is that this trail is a busy one and mostly above tree line, opportunities to relieve yourself are VERY tricky and use lots of sunscreen ( just sayin). After the directions will be our favorite pictures from the hike. The ones with the shadows are from Colorado Mines peak.

Directions: Take I-70 west to exit 232, US 40 west. Follow US 40 for approximately 14.4 miles up through Empire to the top of Berthoud Pass. You will see Berthoud Pass Trailhead Parking lot there on your right and you are at the trailhead.

View North on Mines OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA In Shadows of the buildings on Mines View south of Mines OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA View of CO Mines VIew south west from flora OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA VIew North OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mount Flora Trail-Berthoud Pass/ Between Winter Park & Empire 9/29/12 ( Our first 13ner!!!!)

30 Sep

Continental Divide Trail > Mines Peak Road > Mt. Flora Trail ( Part of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail)

Starting Elevation:  11,315FT

Ending Elevation:  13,100FT (Total Elevation Gain 1800Ft)

Trail Length:  6.4 miles officially, my fitbit said 7.5 miles.  It took us 2:45 going up and 1:30 coming down.

Trail uses:  Hiker only after you get off the Mines Peak Road.

Degree of difficulty:  Difficult to Strenuous, mostly due to the elevation

Bathrooms:  There is one at the Berthoud pass trailhead parking lot and, but keep supplies handy it is heavily used, just in the time it took us to get ready to hike at least 10 cars pulled in off of Berthoud Pass just to use it.

Pets:  Dogs must be leashed

Fees:  None

I picked this one out of the Falcon guide: Best Hikes near Denver.  It was the perfect distance as well as giving us another increase in elevation to help get us more practice with high altitude hikes.  We knew this was likely to be the last weekend we could work on our elevation hikes and sure enough it snowed this past week above 12,ooo ft.  But the weather was going to be so perfect and we decided it was worth trying to get this last one in before it is all front range hikes focused on building our stamina until next spring.  When we pulled into the parking lot it was a mad dash to the bathroom/warming hut  and man it was cold outside about 35 degrees.

Park on either side of the lot, the trail starts both at the Continental Divide Trail sign( northeast side of the lot) and goes across the parking lot to the Mines Peak Road ( Southeast side of the lot).

We parked by the southeast side right at the Mines Peak road part of the hike, but our smooth move last week of adding a couple of miles on to our trip by not reading the book carefully had me being extra cautious.  This led me to walk over to the Northeast side of the lot, only to stupidly walk back across the trail to the Mines Peak road and past our car….again.  Fortunately there was only 3-4 people there to witness this awesome move in hiking navigation.  We hiked up the road through almost 4 switchbacks when the Mt. Flora Trail Head came up at the curve on that 4th one, we stayed straight on the single track.

From here it was pretty straight forward, as we got closer to the saddle between Mines Peak( on the right) and Mt. Flora( leftish- straight ahead) the wind really picked up and the snow was now regular.   Here we had a really pleasant surprise, one of my coworkers was headed down with her husband, and Wendy is my hiking superhero so seeing her there was a great rush.  The trail than climbs what other hikers referred to as a false summit, past this boulder bump just keep moving it is half a mile to the summit from here.  It is a pretty flat summit and there is a nice little wind shelter just to the left of the big cairn, which was a nice break at that point in time.   It was COLD!  Fortunately we had packed a lot of stuff to keep us warm, hats, neck warmers, mittens….. if we needed it, we also had long underwear tops and bottoms along with extra socks.  Aaron carries a nice backpack and it holds everything we need in case of multiple situations plus water for him.  I always joke that for every pound I lose, he has to add it to the backpack for him.   It works for me but eventually I will probably have to start working with my own backpack…. We did not take our time capturing images on this one because of the cold, we gave ourselves 20 minutes and then packed up and headed down to a warmer altitude.  So our pictures aren’t too great….

There are 2 real challenges to this hike, first and most important is the altitude while the distance isn’t great, 2:45 hrs to climb to the top seems reasonable as we had to keep stopping and getting some good breathes in.   The other was the wind and then snow that final mile, but we prepared for it.  I could not believe how many hikers we passed on the way down that didn’t look nearly prepared enough to make it to the top and that is a shame because the views were beautiful!   We turned around and went down as quickly as we could and the once frozen path with snow was now icy then muddy as we got further down.  After the directions I will post a few more pictures of our last altitude challenging hike.

Directions:  Take I-70 west to exit 232, US 40 west.  Follow US 40 for approximately 14.4 miles up through Empire to the top of Berthoud Pass.  You will see Berthoud Pass Trailhead Parking lot there on your right and you are at the trailhead.