Tag Archives: James Peak

James Peak (2nd time’s the charm!) Via St. Mary’s Glacier, Alice CO hiked 8/31/13

4 Sep

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James Peak has been haunting me since we had to turn around with the summit in view because of lightning.  I had figured doing a 14er over a long weekend would make more sense but I struggled a little bit at 12,550Ft last weekend so I decided to put it off one more week and worked this repeater/failed summit attempt into our schedule.

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Here are the details of the first time we hiked James Peak.

We got a very early start ( 6:30AM) and so pretty much had the trail to ourselves.  It was a perfect morning, cool with a slight breeze to keep me from sweating too much and almost no clouds in the sky.  I just missed sunrise itself but the sky was coming alive with sun while it set the mountains on fire.  It was awesome.

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The shocking part for me was seeing how dramatically different the Glacier itself was, like a third of the size it was just 2 months ago.  We ended up walking up most of the way on the glacier rubble  and only had to do a short stretch on the remaining snow.  Here are a couple of  pictures

2 months ago the snow came up to where I was standing taking this picture

2 months ago the snow came up to where I was standing taking this picture

No more glacier here just rubble and some running water from what is melting above

No more glacier here just rubble and some running water from what is melting above

The other amazing part of nature here was how vast all the flowers were throughout the glacier rubble given that 2 months ago it was all under snow and now these were so robust!

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This bush was covered in butterflies and bumble bees....also growing in Glacier Rubble

This bush was covered in butterflies and bumble bees….also growing in Glacier Rubble

The glacier wasn’t the only part of the hike alive with flowers, the flats had these beauties everywhere and they stretched up to the summit climb.

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I will admit I was not feeling so hot almost the whole climb up the glacier and once on the flats, I was pretty certain I was going to be sick.  I slowed it down and tried to drink as much water as I could and as we moved along the flats I started to feel better, until we hit the summit climb.  I can tell how bad I was feeling in that I completely flaked taking any pictures of it but we did keep going and little by little I started to get it under control.

We made it past our turnaround point from the last attempt with the skies looking beautiful and the wind stopping almost completely.   There are some steep parts through the switchbacks up but really it wasn’t too bad and before we knew it we had crested the ridge to the summit.

me on the summit

me on the summit

The Summit views looking North

The Summit views looking North

Summit facing East and a little North

Summit facing East and a little North

At the top we had it mostly to ourselves and one other couple, who were a wealth of hiking information.  Before I knew it, we had been talking to them for almost an hour!  We quickly got some pictures and then headed down as the summit started to get more crowded.  On the way down we saw this gentleman come up with his Lamas or alpacas, who were clearly very well-loved, I think he was a continental divide trail through hiker.  How cool to through hike with these companions!

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This hike was amazing, getting to the summit and see for miles was the best part of my week!  I also had great views of Grays and Torrey’s, which I think will be our next 14ers, we had amazing views of them throughout the hike.

The flats Grays n torreys

As always, I hope if you find yourself out this way, you can check out the hike it is worth every step up!  Now for some of our favorite pictures of the day.

to show how quickly things change weather wise...one the way to James peak beautiful blue skys

to show how quickly things change weather wise…on the way to James peak beautiful blue sky

Looking back on our way down from the same view point

Looking back on our way down from the same view-point we got to the car as it started to down pour

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Upper Mohawk Lakes, Partial Repeater-Hiked 7/4/13

20 Jul
Upper Mohawk Lake

Upper Mohawk Lake

When we started our vacation week in the mountains, the original goal was James Peak on Saturday(done), Mohawk Lakes on Sunday ( done Thursday), Quandary Peak on Tuesday ( Done), Upper Crystal Lakes on Wednesday (Skipped) and Thursday a drunken celebration (delayed), Friday up in the air since we knew the tattoos would be intense.  But that Saturday night was unexpected, Aaron had 3 bad blood sugar lows in the night, that 3rd one was especially bad at just 40 and I made the decision then we would change our hiking plans.   We slept in and headed back to town so I could work on Monday ( I didn’t have enough vacation for the whole week).

Tuesday and summiting Quandary Peak was a huge success, then we celebrated way too hard but had a great time!  When we got up at 5AM to attempt Upper Crystal Lake on Wednesday we couldn’t even eat and if we couldn’t eat we can’t hike.  It was a well deserved rest day and while Thursday was quickly upon us, Aaron graciously agreed to do this repeater because I was desperate to make it to that 3rd lake we missed out on the first time we did the hike.  We got up at 5AM and were on the trail to Upper Mohawk Lakes (hike details here) at a respectable 6:30AM.

It was a surprisingly slow start, not because we weren’t rearing to go, hung over or because we were struggling with the altitude, but because Aaron’s diabetes was just not cooperating.  He dropped fast and had to aggressively feed the insulin he had on board, since exercise helps lower blood sugar we had to just move slow.  Honestly it wasn’t a big deal to me because this trail is just crazy beautiful and since we started early, we had it all to ourselves.  Taking our time just helped me love it more and notice the changes from our first attempt last September.

Continental Falls from Spruce Creek Trail

Continental Falls from Spruce Creek Trail

Last year it had been a deep drought intense year and while we are still in drought conditions, they have let up some with our late snowy April and May, Breckenridge got like 8 feet of snow in those amazing 6 weeks.  The fact we could see the falls from way below and so far away is an example of our improved situation, last September they were nowhere to be seen until we climbed over to them.  This was a pretty joyous discovery, one we wouldn’t have necessarily noticed if we were trucking through like we planned, so yay forced slow approach!

I had to capture this reflection again on our 2nd attempt

I had to capture this reflection again on our 2nd attempt

The first time we came upon this pond I was amazed at the reflection, this time I still loved the reflection and was amazed at the additional ponds all around the main one.  There was lots of ohhhing and ahhing on my part, mostly Aaron was sick of eating to keep his blood sugar up but was handling it all like a champ.  I am so crazy proud of him and his fighting attitude!

This hike the second time around was a revelation, we were easily moving forward I am 20+lbs lighter than the first time and had a tremendous gain in stamina as well as strength.

As we came up to the scramble to the first lake, it was hardly the harrowing obstacle I remembered it to be, but simply lovely in its approach to the Lower lake and the flowers!  I mean ….WOW, they lined the trail like a parade and we were the floats.

FLowers

I cannot begin to explain how different I felt from that first time we hiked this trail but I can tell I was in a very happy place.  We made quick work to the 2nd lake and the snow there only made everything prettier, we took a couple of pictures and then got so excited about a huge Columbine bush along the lake, that we missed the correct trail to the upper lake but managed to make our own way up there.

As we got to the 2nd Lake

As we got to the 2nd Lake

Seriously....just breath-taking

Seriously….just breath-taking

The fish were jumping out of the water for attention

The fish were jumping out of the water for attention

Aaron quickly made his way to the Columbine bush we were spying, completely missing the trail on the far right

Aaron quickly made his way to the Columbine bush we were spying, completely missing the trail on the far right

Nature still does it best so worth missing the trail

Nature still does it best, so worth missing the trail

We just kept moving forward not realizing we missed the trail and made our way up over the ridge.  I guess all of new-found bouldering skills have made us blind, as we got to a hard part Aaron saw the actual trail to our right and we just laughed at our ignorance. Climbing to this 3rd lake, what I think is Upper Mohawk Lake, was so easy but the bugs were really intense. This was the view as we crested the ridge

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Us at Upper Mohawk Lake

Us at Upper Mohawk Lake

I have read there are 3-6 more lakes past this one and that they require serious climbing skills, but standing at this 3rd lake and seeing the trail over the next ridge made us seriously contemplate an attempt to go further.  What stopped us was a lack of real knowledge of what lay ahead and the fact that we could see 2 groups approaching this 3rd lake.   Oh and the mosquitos were a little too thrilled to have fresh meat….I know we are in short sleeves but it is maybe 55 degrees in the above picture so you know they were hearty mosquitos!  We stayed for a mere 5 minutes and then practically ran down to Mohawk lake and killed an hour taking pictures and eating some snacks.

It was an amazing day for so many reasons but mostly because you can’t beat scenery like this.  We got to actually hit every waterfall, got great pictures and this time I actually jogged down the part of the trail I fell down last time.  The only question I walked away with was is the 3rd lake upper Mohawk Lake or is the second….many passed hikers seemed to think the 2nd lake is in fact Upper Mohawk and most were only trying to get to that first lake.  Either way I am completely in love with this hike, there isn’t one bad part and the views from all over are just amazing.  It has made me realize the best thing I ever did was move to Colorado, the hiking here has opened up a huge new world to me.  I will post our favorite pictures, it should be no surprise that we took well over a thousand pictures between the 2 of us.  If you ever find yourself in Breckenridge DO THIS HIKE!

Mohawk -2 Us and east over lower mawhawk fav 2

Looking out East Over Lower Mohawk Lake

Looking out East Over Lower Mohawk Lake

Facing North from Mohawk Lake

Facing North from Mohawk Lake

Us at Mohawk Fav 4 Fav1

These Goats scampered up and the Fisher woman scared them up above her

These Goats scampered up and the fisher woman scared them up above her

They quickly climbed way above her and then stood in Judgement of her skills...she was pretty good

They quickly climbed way above her and then stood in Judgement of her skills…she was pretty good

Continental Falls up close

Continental Falls up close

Looking down and east fro the falls

Looking down and east from the falls

Some of the flowers by the falls

Some of the flowers by the falls

Same Pond and the PM Reflections on the way down

Same Pond and the PM Reflections on the way down

Aaron checking out the view east from half way down

Aaron checking out the view east from half way down

Views East From COntinentail fallsPacfici Peak and Mohawk GOod ROute picture

Quandary Peak 14,265 Ft (our first 14er!!!!!), Breckenridge CO 7/2/13

10 Jul
Views at the summit

Views at the summit

Quandary Peak Trail, East Approach

Starting Elevation: 10,995Ft

Summit Elevation:  14,295 Ft ( 3300ft total elevation gain)

Trail Length: 6.5- 7 miles miles officially ( my fitbit said 8 miles at the end)  It took us 6.5 hrs; 3:45 hrs going up  2:45hrs coming down

Trail Uses: Hiker, Biker, Horses

Degree of Difficulty:  Strenuous

Bathrooms: There are at least 2 parking lots and the first one does have port-o-potties, the one we parked at did not

Pets: On leash

Fees:  None

Summit Marker

Summit Marker

Quandary is really close to Breckenridge where we were staying and one of the easier 14ers you can do in Colorado.  I can’t lie in that I wanted to try a really easy one for our first 14er.  After our reluctant turnaround so close to the summit of James Peak a few days before, we made sure to not chance weather coming in at the wrong time when we tried Quandary, so we got up at 2:30AM and to the trail head at 4AM.  We have also heard that the trail is crazy crowded the later in the day you go and we kinda wanted it to ourselves so we could go at our own pace, breathing as heavily as we needed.   Plus we could barely sleep anyway because we were so excited for our first attempt  at a 14er!!!!

As we pulled up there were already 3 cars in the parking lot, we got ready in record time and right before we started , there were people in one of the cars and one came over to talk to us.  He said that he was a camp counselor that had brought a group of kids to hike Quandary to catch the sunrise and one of their kids got altitude sickness so he was sitting with him.  apparently this was a surprise since he had done Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive earlier in the week, just a reinforcement that you never know when altitude sickness is going to hit.

Here are the pictures I took of the parking lot and trail head when we got back down around 11:30AM

Parking LotTrailhead signs

Walk across the road to the trailhead

Walk across the road to the trailhead

Trailhead signage

There is something weird about hiking with your headlamp on, it feels strangely exposing in that we don’t know who or what is watching us.  At the same time, it forces you to only to pay attention to the trail lit up in front of you and not dread what you see up ahead which kinda makes the incline seem much easier, for me at least.  Plus it means coming back down will be like doing a loop hike because it will be brand new for us.

Proof we started while it's still dark

Proof we started while it was still dark

We actually made surprisingly good time to get for the first 2-2.5 miles and as the sun started rising we were just at the tree line.

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What it looked during the day

What it looked during the day

The colors as the sun rises always take my breath away, as we were approaching the gravel we could see the top of Quandary lit up in a beautiful pink gold.

Getting close to the traverse. Quandary looks beautiful

Getting close to the traverse. Quandary looks beautiful.

The trail at this point was a nice steady climb with some rocks mostly dirt, it did get steep on occasion but not too bad.

As we moved to the next part of climb, it is through a ton of rocks all sizes and gravel, to me it seemed like the steepest part of the trail.  Which coincidentally, is also the hardest part of the trail both going up and coming down.  The ground is pretty unstable and then the steep grade, well it makes the trip down more challenging.

Coming down the gravel part

Coming down the gravel part

Going up it around 7AM

Going up it around 6:30AM

After the gravel climb it levels out for a nice comfy traverse which lets you catch your breath and feel more comfortable with the altitude, in fact I felt so good that as we approached the summit climb I figured it would be cake.  We hit the summit climb a little before 7AM.

The traverse in the distance as we were climbing down from the summit

The traverse in the distance as we were climbing down from the summit

The path up the ridge to the summit is totally hidden until you are on top of it and I was kinda worried we would be bouldering up the 1000+ feet in elevation left to go, but as you follow what you are on, you see it clearly and it is very well planned out.  It is steep and you can find yourself bouldering a little on accident, but then spot the trail just ahead.  The hardest part was just plain old breathing, we found ourselves stopping every 20-30 feet just to catch our breath.

Super close to the summit

Super close to the summit

The last little bit was over a small snow field, it was well used and already slick.   Aaron’s issue with heights kicked in here so we did take the time put our yaktrax on but I don’t think they are necessary.  It did help us get to the summit, and put Aaron more at peace although once we took a few pictures together on the summit, he sat in a wind shelter and didn’t move until we went back down, asking me like 10 times to watch out….not so close… Trust me the summit is plenty big no fear of falling off.

Snow field Before summit

View East from the Summit

View East from the Summit

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It was pretty emotional for me when we got to the top, I felt so incredibly accomplished after losing almost 2/3s of the weight and training for a year and a half, we did it!  I totally cried happy tears!  Then I cried tears of amazement because of the views.  I am already planning for our next 14er!  We got to the summit right at 8AM, because we were so early we had it to ourselves almost the whole time, there was just one other person who came and went.  On the way down, the trail was super crowded, like I am guessing we passed over a 100-200 other hikers.  Going early was the best decision we made.  After the directions will be our favorite pictures!

Directions: From I-70, take Exit #203 for Breckenridge – Highway 9 and travel south through the towns of Breckenridge and Blue River. Travel 18.3 miles from Exit #203 to State Road 850( Blue Lakes Road) and turn right (west). Make an immediate right on McCullough Gulch Road (State Road 851 north) and travel .3 miles up the maintained dirt road to the trailhead. Spaces are limited, but roadside parking is permitted.  There is also a parking lot immediately after turning onto Blue Lakes Road with the port-o-potty but we opted to go to the Official trail head parking.

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Summit

Summit

VIews Northwest

Views Northwest

Views South

Views South

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A Momma goat posing so we ignore her kids

A Momma goat posing so we ignore her kids

Goat family

Goat family

Blue Lakes just south of Quandary at sunrise

Blue Lakes just south of Quandary at sunrise

Blue Lakes on the way down

Blue Lakes on the way down

James Peak Via St. Mary’s Glacier, Alice CO 6/29/13

7 Jul
James Peak

James Peak

The Glacier Hike> Jamaica Flats> James Peak:

Starting Elevation: 10,423 Ft

Highest Elevation: 13,294 Ft (2900 total elevation gain)

Trail Length: 8 miles ( It varies as you cross the Flats and start the summit) It took us 4 hours total.

Trail Uses: Hiker

Degree of Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult due to elevation

Bathroom: Port-o-potty at the parking lots

Fees:  $5 to park per day ( 2 lots near the trailhead – No parking allowed on the roads around it)

St. Marys Lake from the Glacier

St. Marys Lake from the Glacier

To start out our vacation week in the mountains, I wanted to do a trail on the way to our condo and this one was supposed to be beautiful.   It would take us over 13,000 ft, had decent mileage and was supposed to get us around 2900 feet in total elevation gain.   Plus we would get to climb on the Glacier, which was something I have always wanted to do.

Parking lot

We actually started from the parking lot down the road back to the trailhead, although if you have to park in the other lot you will have to walk up the road to the trail.

walking to the trailhead

walking to the trailhead

We tried for an early start but with the extra packing for our week in Breckenridge we didn’t get to the parking lot until almost 7:30am.  Normally that wouldn’t be all that big of a deal but there was supposed to be a storm rolling in sometime between 11-2 so it cut down on how long we could take to get to the summit.

Trailhead

Trailhead

The trail itself starts out as an old 4×4 Jeep Road with a ton of rocks and a nice incline up to St. Mary’s Lake and the glacier.  In just 3/4 of a mile we got to the lake and the Glacier,  it took just 30 minutes.

To the left is the lake and the trail to the right goes up the glacier to James peak.

To the left is the lake and the trail to the right goes up the glacier to James peak.

We did stop for a few minutes and took pictures of how beautiful everything looked.  At this point we were hoping that the rain would hit more around 2 then 11 and the sky was supporting our hopes.

St. Marys Lake and GlacierOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

From here we went back to the trail split, crossed over the stream and headed up the north side of the Glacier.

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We kept moving up and made it to the glacier part of the climb pretty quickly, then we slowed down.  Hiking up the glacier took longer then I thought it would, we were on it as long as it took us to get to the lake itself I had no idea it was so big.

As we reached the top of the Glacier

As we reached the top of the Glacier

After the climb up the glacier we reached the Jamaica Flats with James Peak directly in front of us.

James Peak

James Peak

The trail takes the flats on the left over an old jeep road.

The traverse to the peak

The view while we were on Flats

The view while we were on Flats

view before the summit climb

We started our summit climb looking at all the clouds starting to show up around the peak and all the peaks around us.  We moved as fast as we could while approaching 13,000Ft in altitude and so you know fast wasn’t really all that fast.  When we passed a few hikers coming down they said the clouds were all around on the other side as well and looking ominous not to make too many stops if we wanted to reach the summit before the storm hit.  It started raining on and off, then as we were maybe a quarter of a mile away from the summit we saw lightning just over the edge of the top.  That was a hike killer for us.  We turned right around and headed down, here is the picture I took just before we turned around:

View when we turned around

James Peak will always be there so no reason to risk getting hit by lightning when we can hit it again later.  Of course as we started to head down the storm got worse and then surprisingly better.  When we got back on to the flats, it was beautifully blue over James Peak which made us regret turning around.

James Peak as we were heading down.

James Peak as we were heading down.

The best part of this hike was the actually the beauty of the storms hitting all around us.

Storm over Grays & Torreys

Storm over Grays & Torreys

Storm over Mt.Evans

Storm over Mt.Evans

Overall it wasn’t too super tough just high up, on the way up we were pretty much alone and then on the way down the trail was super busy.  At the Glacier, it was insanely packed with lots of people partying at the lake before the 4th of July holiday week.  We did love the hike, it was beautiful and challenging!  We can’t wait to get back there and actually make it to the summit, we will leave much earlier next time though!   A few of our favorite pictures after the directions.

Directions:  Take I70 west and exit at Fall River Road ( Exit #238), turn right on to Fall River Road take it up 10 miles past the town of Alice.  Look for the Glacier Hike sign on your left; 100 yards past the sign is a public parking lot.  $5 to park.

Us on the way down

Us on the way down

The Lakes on the way up James

The Lakes on the way up James

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