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St. Vrain Mountain Trail, Allens Park CO 6/15/13 – Part 2

20 Jun
Southern view from the summit

Southern view from the summit

Check out part 1 here

When we finally got to the top of St. Vrain mountain, the views were really breath-taking and if the wind hadn’t been so bad we would have spent a lot more time up there.  We knew there was a chance of a storm rolling in so we kept a close eye on the clouds moving our way as the wind actually picked up in intensity.  At one point I seriously thought I was going to get blown over.

Just before I was almost blown over.

Just before I was almost blown over.

We took just 20 minutes of resting at the top and immediately started down.  If I was worried when I was climbing up the summit, going down I was incredibly nervous with how steep it was especially after falling the weekend before on the hike down off of Twin sisters.  Aaron told me to just take my time and follow him as much as I could.  We were also kind of following the couple who was in the wind shelter with us, they mentioned that following the border posts was supposed to be the easiest way down.  We were all of the mind that going down a slightly different way then how we went up might be a better idea and at first it was.

Me going down slowly.

Me going down slowly.

At least the views on the way down were beautiful

At least the views on the way down were beautiful

But we wanted to get around the snow field at the base of the summit climb and from up top it looked possible so we started heading right while they went left.  It took me longer to get down from the summit then it did to go up, for like the first time ever.  When we finally got to the bottom I was thrilled when we saw the trail that goes all the way past the mountain onto other trails and eventually the Continental Divide Trail, it was way south of the where we had turned up the mountain.  As we tried to get around the snow, trees and bushes we were moving downward and further down then we expected.  We weren’t getting any closer to our route down and the snow field was worse in this direction, ie the snow was deeper then we were tall.  We decided that the smart thing to was to get to a trail entrance of the snow field and try to get across it safely to get back on trail.  Neither one of us said anything to the other, but we knew that if one us went through the snow here there wasn’t much we would be able to do to get out or help the other because it was so deep at this part of the crossing.  Needless to say we didn’t take out a camera to capture it all.  We moved quickly and as lightly as we could, in short order we were back on trail.

Now things were changing very quickly, the dark clouds were rolling in fast over Long’s Peak, Mount Meeker, Lady Washington and building in over us while the sun was baking us.  Suddenly Aaron started to slow down and I couldn’t figure out why when he tested his blood, he was pretty low with insulin on board.  This was not a good time to stop and deal with it but we really had no choice, so in between he sugar feeding frenzy I got these pictures of the storm coming in.

Storm starting over Long's Peak

Storm starting over Long’s Peak

The sky closer to us still showing some sun.

The sky closer to us still showing some sun.

He was such a trooper and started moving as soon as he could so we could try to get off the pass before the storm started while I looked for places we could take shelter or at least not be the highest point on the pass.  I was pretty sure we were going to get soaked.  Surprisingly the storm completely passed us by.

We were both spent now 6.5 hours into the hike with more than halfway down still to get through.  We moved slowly but did keep moving, we passed about 6 or 7 groups of hikers just starting up and I bet they were treated to a beautiful sunset.  The snow fields we crossed earlier were melting and much harder to get through the runoff deeper.  Despite all that we were insanely proud of what we had accomplished because it proved to us both that we had come so far from last summer and told us we could do so much more!

There are those moments on the way down where you see stuff you don’t know how you could have missed on the way up, like this:

Nature's flower pot

Nature’s flower pot

And the bottom part of the trail was a bloom with these flowers:

Flower 1

We were probably about half a mile from the end when came across the final group of hikers we would see.  They casually asked if we had made it to the top we were excited to say yes and then she said so how long did it take you like 2.5 hours, because I have done this before, that’s how long it took me…. I was a little crestfallen when I answered, oh um we started at 8AM ( it was 4PM ) I started making all these excuses as to why we took so long but stopped, who cares how long it took us, we finished and that is all that matters.   We walked up to the parking lot and saw our wind shelter buddies just getting into their car, it lifted our spirits because they needed 8 hours too and were like 15 years younger than us.

Things you should keep in mind when you do this trail:

1. It takes a long time to complete and if you start the same time we did you will be in the direct sun as you climb from the East to the West.  Then when you come back down from the West to the East, the sun is still beating on you be liberal with the sun block and wear a hat.  My sunburned scalp is mad at me.

2. Bring lots of water as we ran out of our 100 ounces just as we walked up to our car. We also always have a water filtration system with us just in case, this is exactly the kind of hike we carry it for.  Plus we always have more water in our car.

3. Brings lots of fuel to keep you going over the course of the whole hike,  we were moving for almost 8 hours straight that is a crazy amount of energy to expend and you need to be able to keep going.

4. know the weather and watch the sky, you do not want to be on the mountain or the pass when weather changes.

Even if the Mountain itself looks too daunting do this hike to the pass, that alone is worth it.  You don’t get the amazing 360 views you can from the top but pass views are spectacular on their own.  Here are the rest of my favorite pictures, I hope one day you find yourself able to try this hike it will be worth it.

South facing view at the summit

South facing view at the summit

Southwest view from the summit

Southwest view from the summit

West view

West view

More West view

More West view

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Northwest View from the wind shelter

Northwest View from the wind shelter

Meadow mountain and Twin Sisters from the Summit

Meadow mountain and Twin Sisters from the Summit

The view to the East

The view to the East

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St. Vrain Mountain Epic Fail- Hall Ranch Park To the Rescue 5/18/13

24 May

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Last week was a perfect week here in Denver, very warm and sunny with the mountains taunting us all week with their insane beauty.  We really wanted to climb up high and see it for ourselves up close, I know it was our naiveté but we made the decision to try another high hike above 10,000 feet and one that was on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park which got twice as much snow as the Continental Divide.  I have been wanting to hike St. Vrain Mountain since last fall and by the time I had the confidence to even think about trying it, winter had settled in.   This was the hike we decided to try on Saturday.  We talked about it all week and so were extra anxious to get started but nervous we wouldn’t get very far.

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We were right to be nervous, it took us almost 2 hours to go just 1.2 miles and the last time I post-holed it was pretty bad, up to my hips and it took me like 20 minutes to get out…. What we did see was amazingly beautiful and just got us excited for when we could actually finish it.  In that 20 minutes of digging me out, we decided that the only way to salvage the day was to get down as quickly as we could and hit Hall Ranch (Hike Details here) which we had passed on the way up to this hike.

Here is the little bit we caught of what we could see of this trail:

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We rushed to the Hall Ranch trailhead deciding to just do as much of the Nighthawk trial as we could and we were kind of excited because the first time we were here it was in the middle of a snow storm so all of our promised views were obscured.

We started at noon and finished at 3:30, the trail had a surprisingly low volume of other hikers.  Which was nice in that it allowed us to cruise up the trail, I think this is the fastest we have ever hiked.  The wild flowers were amazing and the weather was perfect in that is was cool little cloudy but warm enough for us to wear shorts and short-sleeved shirts!

When we got to the top this time the views of Longs Peak, Mt. Meeker & Rocky Mountain National Park were really amazing.  Actually the views all around were amazing.  South, East and North all had different stunning views to offer more than I had hoped for to be honest.

Best view at the top

Best view at the top

Longs Peak & Meeker

Longs Peak & Meeker

In the end we made it exactly to the trail break of NightHawk ( 4.7 miles) and then turned around and headed back.   The whole day of hiking gave us a total hiking of 12 miles with 2300 total feet of elevation gain it was sadly 7 hours of hiking with a 30 minute gap to drive from one trail head to the other.  At first it was a little disappointing to have to turnaround on the first trail, but if I think about where I was 2 years ago or even last year, I never would have made it through one of these trails let alone stopping one after 3.5 hours only to do another one for 3.5 hours.  It felt pretty awesome!

Eastward view about halfway back down

Eastward view about halfway back down

We decided it was a pretty huge win and so celebrated with lunch/dinner at Oskar Blues Grill & Brew.

Here are some of our favorite pictures from the hike!

FavLongs a little outTotal 4

 

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