7/15/2013Mon-AM: 7:58, 12,000' ~ Chicago Basin 14ers (Eolus, N. Eolus, Sunlight, Windom)
Started from the Purgatory TH. Animas River bridge - :37; Needle Creek bridge - 1:26; New York Creek bridge - 1:47; turn to Twin Lakes - 2:36:30; Eolus summit - 3:45:30; N. Eolus summit - 3:55:30; Twin Lakes - 4:12; Sunlight summit - 4:45; Windom summit - 5:11; turn back on to Needle Creek trail - 5:46; New York Creek bridge - 6:15:30; Needle Creek bridge - 6:28:30; Animas River bridge - 7:14:30; back at trailhead - 7:58:34
It'd been a really stormy few days in the San Juans, but I fortunately awoke to clear skies. After waiting for it to get light enough to run sans headlamp, I took off down the Purgatory trail toward the Animas. This trail descends ~1000' down to the river, but rolls up and down along the way, so it takes a minute. The next 50min of running were flat and quick along perfect, groomed path until I crossed Needle Creek and started heading up that drainage into the Chicago Basin. It was surprisingly wet back in there--moss dripping off of trees, humidity in the air--and the creek itself was exceptionally scenic with lots of water flowing over slabs and down drops. Finally turned on to the trail up to Twin Lakes and decided that I would take the southeast ridge up to the summit of Eolus to make a cleaner loop of the 14ers. Roach calls the south ridge "Discovery Ridge", and it is good fun with lots of 4th Class scrambling, maybe a few 5th-Class moves if you don't take the time for judicious route-finding, and a couple of significant notches that were a little tricky. Tagged the summit under sunny skies (but with clouds building) and scurried down and over the famed Catwalk to the summit of N. Eolus. I took a direct descent off this down into a steep scree couloir that deposited me right at Twin Lakes and then it was lots of slab scrambling to get up to the summit of Sunlight. Dark clouds were building and moving in at that point, so I didn't linger long there before heading over to Windom. I took the most direct line possible up Windom's jumbly northwest face and was slightly relieved when I'd hit the summit and begun descending back to treeline. The clouds never rumbled or really threatened, but after the long run back down to the Animas the skies eventually started rumbling and the final 20min or so of slogging back up to the Purgatory TH I enjoyed a welcome, cooling drizzle. I pushed this last climb hard to sneak in under 8hr, so I was happy it wasn't any hotter than it was. Apparently this whole outing is ~42mi and about 30-32 of that are 100% trail running, so it was nice to get that kind of effort in the legs.
Tue-AM: 2:05, 3700' ~ Mt. Sneffels
Started from the Imogene Pass Rd turn-off on Camp Bird to make it a little longer run. Up the SW ridge and down the south slopes. It was a really foggy/cloudy/cool morning, so there were no views from the summit and the rocks on the 3rd Class ridge were quite slick. On the descent I was taking a narrow/steep side-couloir to access the standard descent couloir when a microwave-sized block came tumbling down from above. The gully was quite narrow, so I had nowhere to go and just hugged the wall as closely as I could with my hands covering my head. Luckily, it exploded on a small ledge just above me and my neck/shoulder was hit by only a softball-sized rock along with a bunch of smaller stuff. Afterward (and days later) my shoulder was super sore, but the whole thing could've been a lot worse.
Wed-AM: 4:44, 7500' ~ Little Bear-Blanca-Ellingwood Pt Traverse
Parked the Roost at ~8000' on the Lake Como Rd (~2mi in from the paved road) and ran from there. The run up the 4wd road was pleasant and I reached the east end of Lake Como (where the stream comes in) at 1:14. Continued on up the road and decided on-the-fly that the NW Face of Little Bear looked more appealing/direct than the standard Hourglass route. Crossed the stream higher up at 1:22 and reached the "black hand" at the base of the NW Face route in 1:35. The crux of the whole thing was definitely surmounting the headwall right at the base. The line I picked was probably no more than 4th Class but it was very exposed---there would certainly be a lot more of that later on! After the initial bits of 4th Class the route moved back left into the broad/shallow gully and eased to 3rd Class before kicking back up to 4th Class before gaining the ridge and hitting the summit of Little Bear (2:06). Now for the mile-long low-5th Class traverse over to Blanca. This ridge is super aesthetic and classic and I was excited to get to it. Some 4th Class slabs led down to what I felt was essentially the crux of the route--traversing around Capt Bivwacko tower. I knew to go on the left side of it but was a little shocked at just how narrow, steep, and exposed the ledge was. It made Broadway on Longs look like the comfy superhighway it is. Hands were mandatory on this traverse and I was uncharacteristically gripped. Somewhat surprisingly, the whole first half of the traverse pretty much lived up to the hype with innumerable knife edges (all way more airy than Capitol's much-vaunted Knife Edge) and a couple more hyper-exposed north/west side traverses. It all required way more focus and attention than I had expected. I didn't feel like I was moving very quickly or smoothly, and definitely wasn't getting into the nice flow that I usually enjoy about scrambling. Eventually, though, the large gendarmes on the second half of the ridge showed up and I reached the short talus/scree traverse at 2:46. After this, things seemed considerably more moderate (or at least less exposed) and I moved a lot more efficiently, soon reaching the summit of Blanca at 3:03. Some wispy, swirly clouds had moved in and with the abundant and brilliant sunshine the whole scene was pretty magical. The rest of the day was much less gripping with a fun traverse over to Ellingwood Pt (3:23) and then a descent of its SW ridge (more Class 3) before dropping down a talus chute to the extremely well-maintained trail down in the lake basin. I reached the end of the 4wd road at 3:53, was back at the east end of Lake Como at 3:59, and then it was just a casual run down Como Rd back to the Roost. Awesome morning.
Thu-AM: 3:21, 6000' ~ Harvard & Columbia (Rabbit Ridge traverse)
Started from the N. Cottonwood TH and had a lot of fun on the long running approach up the Horn Fork Basin. Unlike last summer, I feel like I've been able to get in some longer runs with a lot of true running this year, which is nice. Hit the summit of Harvard at 1:34 and noticed that there were actually already a few clouds building, in the east, oddly enough. I felt on-point for the ridge and it felt like it went quite quickly. I did some investigating around the short 5.7 downclimb notch, but I think the beta I gathered the first time is still the best and it actually goes quite easily. On the second half of the ridge I started bonking really hard, so the hump up to Columbia was a bit of a slog, but I made the traverse in :58, hitting the summit at 2:32. The summit was crazy crowded and clouds were moving in quick so I hustled down Columbia's south ridge, taking the most direct line I could. I spent some time frustratingly 'shwhacking around through young aspens in an avy gulch, but still made the Cottonwood Creek bridge in :37 from Columbia's summit and then just cruised the trail back out to the cars, under increasingly dark/thunderous skies. Glad I was off the peaks/ridge when I was.
Fri-AM: 2:17, 4000' ~ Flatiron Quartet (1-2-4-5)
Ran from Chat w/ Joel, going 1st, 2nd, 5th, 4th before descending back to Chautauqua. I would've liked to have scurried to the summit of Green, too, but didn't have the time. Super hot morning on the slabs, but, thankfully, some clouds and a cool breeze rolled in toward the end making things tolerable.
Sat-AM: 2:33, 5200' ~ Longs Peak
Up Kieners, down Cables. Within about a minute or two of the trailhead, my legs felt great and I charged up to Chasm Lake having one of those lovely days where the footing is spot on and nearly any grade seems runnable. However, once I started scrambling up the Glacier Rib, it became obvious that all the hot weather in the past month had shrunk Lambs Slide to a chunk of hard, blue ice and I had definitely missed the "tent peg" window on Kieners for the year. Ah, so it goes. I still got to the Broadway level on PR pace for me, but had to spend an extra 10min climbing up a couple hundred extra feet, traversing across the couloir, and then downclimbing back to Broadway before I could continue on my usual path. Broadway itself was in exceptional shape--dry with only a couple convenient rivulets of water and absolutely bursting with wildflowers. What a place. The scrambling up Kieners went smoothly and was only occasionally damp. I emerged onto the summit to find a veritable mob up there enjoying the perfect day, so only lingered long enough to tally my 17th signature in the summit log before scampering down to the Cables. They turned out to be wet but not icy, so the downclimb was simple, and then it was a fun run back down to the trailhead. I decided to dial in the descending skills heading through Jim's Grove and had a blast plummeting through the forest to finish off the day feeling great and with a descent just under 48min. These are the days I live for.
PM: 1:08, 3000' ~ 1st Flatiron+Green Mt.
Did the customary evening lap. There was a whole bunch of people on the summit of the First, so I didn't even pause and just moved right into the downclimb before heading to the top of the hill. Hot and humid (compared to the high country).
Sun-AM: 2:53, 5000' ~ Longs Peak
Up Loft/Clark's Arrow/Notch/Stepladder, down Cables. Ran easy with Joel. Clark's Arrow is always a little frustrating because you drop a couple hundred feet from the Loft to get into Keplinger's Couloir, but I think we scoped out Gorrell's Traverse (the downclimb into the Notch from the summit of the Beaver), so I'll try that tomorrow and get the full Skyline Traverse. The Stepladder was a really fun pitch up to the skyline finish leading to the summit; wish it was longer. On the way down, the Cables downclimb seemed to be even more dry than yesterday, and then we just cruised mellow back down to the trailhead.
Really fun week. Ticked a couple significant summer objectives, especially the Chicago Basin 14ers and the Little Bear-Blanca Traverse.
|Heading up to the summit of Eolus via the south ridge. The Catwalk leads to N. Eolus in the distance.|
|Summit of Eolus.|
|Looking back to my orange descent couloir (and N. Eolus) from Twin Lakes.|
|Sunglight, Sunlight Spire, and Windom as seen from Eolus.|
|Jagged Mt and the Grenadiers from the summit of Sunlight.|
|Eolus and N. Eolus (and Pigeon and Turret) as seen from Sunlight.|
|Base of Little Bear's NW Face. The route goes up the talus slope and engages the rock just right of the "black hand".|
|Summit of Little Bear with the mile-long connecting ridge leading to Blanca behind me.|
|Looking back to Little Bear from the summit of Blanca.|
|The traverse to Ellingwood Pt as seen from Blanca.|
|Blanca and Little Bear from Ellingwood Pt.|
|Rabbit Ridge---the connecting traverse from Mt. Harvard to Columbia.|
|Looking back at the crux downclimb crack halfway across Rabbit Ridge.|
|Wildflowers on Broadway.|
|The direct line through the Loft headwall. Photo: George Barnes.|
|Joel downclimbing the Cables on Longs' North Face.|