Monday, October 22, 2012

Whackin' 'round

Recently I've been getting back into the mountains and actually exploring the Front Range of Colorado. From out my Front Door, my drive to work, my time in Boulder; the entire time is spent gazing at the mountains right out the Front door. I'm grateful to live in such a uniquely geographic area. Where the plains meet the mountains and rise to the great divide. 

Eldorado Mountain - Monday, October 8
Over the course of 2012, I've tried (with no success) to climb Eldorado Mountain on two occasions. I knew that it was finally time to try again and I knew success was eminent. The first time it was snowy and my partner was a bit out of his comfort zone. The second time was during Sanitarado, where the sun went down and I was up high without a headlamp. And so, Jeremy and I headed out of Eldorado Springs and began our ascent of Eldorado Mountain. We hiked as high as we could on trail before traipsing onto some herd paths. Those paths soon ended and we were left with rock scrambles and all out climbing up what I would describe as a "Stegosaurus Ridge."

On our hike we hiked over top of a Union Pacific Railroad Tunnel. We scaled minor cliffs. We walked past old mines and evidence of old power lines from the late 1800's climbing steep slopes. As we walked past where I last bailed on a peak attempt, I wasn't surprised to find out that I was actually only 5 more minutes from success. Could have easily attained the peak that day and headed down with plenty of light. Perhaps next time, for now.. there we were, finally on the top of this prominent peak. Enjoying the views from near the communication tower. Stunned by the view of Boulder and Bear and South Boulder Peaks (Fire damage evidenced in pic below), and other parts of the Front Range. We actually really marveled at the vegetation on the peak and were surprised by what we had seen up there. A delightful walk at least.
Fire Damage is on the saddle between the two peaks.
After enjoying some time on the summit and GREAT conversation, Jeremy and I headed over to investigate the communication tower. Once over there, Jeremy suggested we bushwhack down off of the South East face of the peak. I peered off over the edge and noticed some very steep sections, a lot of residual snow and ice from a recent small storm, and quite a bit of sandstone ledge and slab. "Aw, what the hell. Let's do it." So we headed off the summit and tried out best to stay in the trees. Walking out onto any scree slopes was quite a bit unnerving given the ice and snow. What we didn't expect, was the number of tiny thorn bushes that were about. At one point, I slipped on some snow and put my palm flat down on one of them, and my hand was instantly full of tiny thorns that I spent the next half hour trying to rip them out.

Somehow, some way.. we managed to avoid all the slap. I found a sandstone rock vein that allowed us to descend safely a few hundred feet, and then we traversed over to the rock field below the famed Mickey Mouse Ears climbing site. I couldn't believe how tall this climbing tower actually is. You can see it from most everywhere in the Front Range and yet, it always seemed like a small place on a map. Heck no.. this was like the Sistine chapel of climbing. We could hear climbers, but finding them was a chore given the true size of the place.
Can you spot the climbers? There's three. 
The view of North Golden, Jefferson County, and Denver from the ears.
While sitting in the rock field and enjoying the views of Denver and Jefferson County, Jeremy took his phone out to take pictures of his own, his car key (the only one he has for said car) came flying out of his pocket and flew out into the Boulder field. So we started to search for it.. and I managed to find it, take a photo of it sitting about 2 feet down in a bad place, before retrieving it for him.
We came down through the yellow trees, off the top.
After a brief stop in the Boulder Field, we scrambled to the bottom by following a tiny herd path. This led us right down to the Union Pacific Railroad where we elected to walk on the tracks, through two tunnels, and eventually back over to the Rattlesnake Gulch Trail. One of said tunnels was long enough to promote complete darkness inside it. Eerie stuff. We even managed to find another old mine from the 1800's where it was evident, a few miners were using hammer and pick to break off the rock in their search for gold.

Jack and Crescent - Saturday, October 20
A bit of a lackluster tale from my birthday. I wanted to continue bagging these peaks in the surrounding area. Many of them have no trails to their summit though they still have canisters on top for bushwhackers to sign their name into. We started by driving up Cattle Trail Rd in Coal Creek Canyon. There was a gate at the end of the road with a small sign that said "Private", I believe that it was but still... there was a dang road sign, so we proceeded. Thank god we took Jeremy's truck and not my car. We need high clearance and 4x4 drive to get up this thing which was easily the worst road I've been on in Colorado thus far.
After parking near a home build site, we leisurely got out onto the mountain by steeply climbing a grassy slope up around the west side of this rocky peak. We climbed the summit cone with was a jumble of sharp granite rocks to find a small cairn and a canister. I thought, based on the canister, that we were on Crescent. Upon finally opening the canister, we learned that we were on a peak named Jack's peak, which bears no name on any map. Sweet! Unnamed peak has a name!
While looking through the summit log we noticed a guy named Haikudude had logged in x3, x4 and x5. Well then, we needed to write this guy a haiku, below is a pic of our creation.
From the top of Jack's peak we headed for Crescent. It started with a sketchy and steep scramble down some rocky outcroppings. Once in the saddle, we gently worked our way up the ridge. Upon finally rising onto the summit the view was as grand as any as I'd been on recently. I looked over at Coal Creek Peak (the next on my list) and beyond that, the plains and the city of Denver. It really is stunning how the plains come to Colorado from forever, and then BOOM.. mountains. After our time on the peak, no canister found, Jeremy was a bit tired so.. we headed back to the truck by whacking straight there as directly as we could. All told, we walked less than 2 miles and it took us 2 hours. A great time, bagging 2 more obscure summits.