Pikes Peak Hike to Dawn

Alpenglow on the Devil’s Playground

With a 24 hour window and the weather looking ok, it was time to hike Pikes. My friend Jay was up to it but our last minute scrambling set the departure back a bit. Its ironic that the hikes and climbs up Pikes Peak are so long when there is a road and a cog railway that you can take to the top, Still we knew there would be hardly anyone there at night on a night hike to the top in the dark. it wasn’t too late when we rolled into the Crags campground, which is to the West and North of Pikes Peak near Woodland Park. The beta I had read on 14ers,com had estimates of the route up Pikes from here as being 11 miles roundtrip and 4k elevation gain, so we we departed the campground trailhead in the dark after midnight it seemed about right to catch the dawn on the summit. Bringing along a GPS revealed that it was a good deal longer than that if you took the trail the whole way, we recorded 7.55 miles each way for a 15 mile round trip. One of the great experiences of this hike is seeing this intense artificial starlight beacon that shines from the peak at night. When we came over the crest at Devil’s Playground it was stunning to see. On the summit you can see the contraption set up at the very end of the cog railway tracks. You better stop that train before that light.

Weird Masonic Time Capsule

On the top there are awesome views all around, and a bizarre Masonic time-capsule worth a look.

Time to make the Donuts!

We hung around to see the shop open up and get some fresh coffee and donuts, which after that long night hike were exceptionally good. We could hear the Cog Railway coming, so it was time to get going back down.

If you stop to play at the Devil’s playground, is that bad?

We had to stop and climb around in the Devil’s Playground on the way back down. If you drive up, stop here and check it out. Great bouldering formations up in the high tundra to clamber on.

That’s why its called the Crags

We also got a better look at what the campground was named for, “The Crags”, on the way back, with lots of clearly great climbing all over it.
All in all, a great half night/day in the high mountains!

2012 Crashreel

The 2012 winter season has come and gone leaving me longing for the  big powder days that never really came. Still, even thin snow is a blast. I thought it would be fun to piece together a crash reel from one afternoon at Keystone just to experiment with GoPro Video and some basic editing…

I love my commute, little Spring Bear.

Came across this little bear on my way home after work.

One of the many things we love about living in the foothills of Boulder county is getting to enjoy the abundant wildlife.
My commute is often like a ride through a wildlife preserve though actually its a ride through a few different National Forests which surround our small town. I love my commute.

GoPro Helmet Cam: Eldora Salto Glades

Took out a GoPro cam for the first time at Eldora and was impressed. Pretty harsh environment and it performed well. Went down hard a couple of times and never popped off. The wide angle distorts a bit making the steeps flatter etc but gets in a big picture with is more than worth the trade off in distortion. Sound record quality is hampered by the waterproof case but the sounds can take a back seat to the video. Smaller and lighter than my waterproof digital still cam, I’m sure I will be bringing this along on many missions…

On the Amazon

Some highlights from our 2010 trip to the Brazilian Amazon (right after the jump)

A little under two weeks in the Amazon. Flew in directly to Manaus which is right at the meeting of the waters. (The Rio Negro and the Rio Solomes). We went up river to the Anavilhanas jungle lodge which is right in Brazil’s largest freshwater archipelago of river islands. From there we explored on foot and in canoes, caught piranha, swam with piranha and ate piranha, learned about the jungle from local guides, met the pink Boto dolphins and the beautiful people who live there. Could spend a lifetime there and still only skim the surface. One of the most beautiful places I have ever been fortunate enough to visit.

It’s North Pole Season!

Enroute to the North Pole at ABasin

Enroute to the North Pole at ABasin

Spring is showing in Boulder, daffodils in bloom and sandals and shorts all over the Perl Street Mall. Every ski resort in Colorado is closed, save one. And with the holiday season mostly past and snow starting to fade, children no longer dream of visiting the North Pole.
Oh but how I do dream of it, and here’s how it goes:
You see a landscape completely blanketed in snow, the air as well is full of white. The only dark shapes are the cliff bands and rock exposures that are too steep and sheer for the snow to stick. There is almost no-one else around, most would cringe at the idea of being out in weather like this. Then you hear the words uttered with reverence, “The North Pole is Open”.
Its usually closed most of the year. Conditions have to be just right, and at this time of year, that happens and hopefully happens often!
Ahhhh yes, thankfully this is not a dream, its ABasin, which has the peculiar aspect of being open longer and later than any other resort in CO with some of the steepest gnarliest runs being open only in late spring. The weather patterns change this time of year and upslope or North-East fronts run through and can leave massive amounts of snow on the East Face of ABasin where the North Pole can be found. Just the hike up is amazing. For those who know, its that time of year!

Mt. Antero Family-Style via Baldwin Gulch

August 11th, 2009.

While on our two week loop of Southwest Colorado we planned three days around Buena Vista which sits at the foot of several Sawatch 14ers. The two big attractions to staying nearby were the natural hot springs and the peaks. The most well know hot springs are the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs, which is a hot spring and spa resort that seems to lately be on the upswing. We also found that there are nearby cabins that have there own private hot springs at the “Antero Hot Springs” and we decided to stay there. Personally I find it much more relaxing to not have a lot of other folks around and having our own hot spring just outside our cabin was just fantastic and worth it.

Since there is a 4wd road up Baldwin gulch we took the short drive up to it to get a sense of what kind of condition it was in and take a guess at how long it would take us to get to where we wanted to hike from. With Anna being nine years old and my wife not having done any 14ers yet it seemed wise to try to drive up close and leave just the last mile and a half to climb up. So we guessed at 2 hours for the drive and 3 hours for the hike. The weather looked great for us to give it a shot and we decided to head out at a reasonable early time of 7am.

Getting there:
We drove west toward St. Elmo on Chaffee County Road 162 and another 10 miles on the dirt road to reach the signed Baldwin Gulch Jeep Road (also listed as the 277 Road).

You can park here, there are plenty of pull-offs along the road. This is the lower trailhead and its a long way from here. Short, high-clearance 4WD vehicles can drive up the 277 road, our stock 04 Jeep Liberty did fine. Above the river crossing (10,850′), there are dispersed camping spots along the side of the road as it leads to multiple switchbacks up to the saddle. We parked at the saddle and made our way up the ridge line to the top.

I took a chisel-peen hammer to prospect for Aquamarines and I think we actually did find some Garnets. It was a great trek for Chris and Anna to get on top of their first 14er with the added bonus of Gem-Hunting near the summit. If you want to see some of the nicest aquamarines found on Antero, stop at the “Rock Doc” back on US285. We picked up a few carats of Aquamarine there and they have nice examples of the things folks prospect for on Antero.

The Hobitat, San Luis Valley, and Howling winds.

We took a two week family vacation loop through Southwest CO and had a fantastic time moving from place to place sometimes camping and sometimes staying in hotels/cabins/resorts. One stop along the way was the Great Sand Dunes Nat. Park. We didn’t have time to be flexible with a campsite there since we had a long driving day so we were keen to reserve something. This is actually kind of hard for the Great Sand Dunes Park proper, but nearby San Luis State Park, just 10 minutes down the road, lets you reserve a spot online ahead of time.

The San Luis State Park just down the road from the Great San Dunes has free hot showers for campers, electrical hookups at each site (no need), and nearby trails around the San Luis Lakes which is an incredible birding/wildlife watching location. We also had stunning views of the Crestones esp. with the sunset light on those peaks.

The Great Sand Dunes are Huge. You have to be there to experience the immensity. Then there is also the reason for their existence, which is of course, the wind. The geography is perfect to supply a constant blowing wind which over millions of years has left the piles of sand behind we all enjoy clambering over. If you stay near here for a few days, you will start to find fine sand in just about everything.

The campsites themselves had no cover from the wind other than oddly shaped lean-to’s that sheltered each picnic table. I was of course aware of what havoc the wind might play on our tent, which is a monster car-camp Hobitat 6. That puppy was staked down with the extra fly tie downs and all. Even so, when a nearby thunderstorm brought winds with accompanying fierce gusts I was stunned to see the tent get blown into a weird ellipse shape before snapping and getting blown flat! Yes, FLAT. There was no fighting against the storm so I pulled the pole ends out of the grommets to end the tent’s misery and let it lay flat without more warping or breaking or bending the poles anymore. It was of course too late for one of the poles and the others had some wicked bends. After the storm passed it was clear that we were going to need to repair the tent pole with the provided pole repair sleeve and add some more tie downs. The problem with the Hobitat 6 and its tie downs are that the tent is quite tall and the design does not hold up to high winds. I added more tie downs attached up high on the poles, 2 extra ones in each corner, and that did the trick. It would take hurricane force winds to tear that puppy up and thankfully we didn’t encounter those! Next time if wind is a factor at all I will add the high-ties to this monster tent.

Colorado Upslope, Or “When it Smells Like Snow”.

Living near Boulder Colorado I’ve gotten used to hearing the expression “It sure Smells Like Snow” from the fall through the winter and into the spring.
The reason why is called “Upslope” and when we have upslope conditions we often get pounded with new snow along the front range. The reason people say “It Smells Like Snow” is that there are huge Pig Farms east of Boulder towards Greely and eastern parts of Colorado, and during real upslope conditions the air starts to stink a little bit! Upslope conditions exist when surface air flow forces a given parcel of air uphill in our case from the East toward the West. When this air parcel travels back uphill, the ambient pressure decreases, because pressure always decreases with altitude in any fluid. Look up your Gas Laws. In a hurry, you’ll see that if the ambient pressure is lower than that of the parcel’s, the volume of the parcel must increase, and then the temperature must decrease so the parcel can assume the same pressure as its environment. The parcel is introduced into a new lower pressure. It wants to be at that pressure too, but in order to that, it must cool down. In nerd-ease, this is called adiabatic expansion. In the winter this equals a Big Powder Day.
In the Animation above you can see what a winter upslope condition looks like on radar. Notice how you can see the pattern of the weather moving counter clockwise backing into the Rockies. Time to get the board out!