Tuesday, June 28, 2011

West Spanish Peak -- Attempt Number 1

Driving up and down I-25, one can't escape the majestic view of the Spanish Peaks southwest of Walsenburg, and then start to get a strong desire to climb these beautiful mountains...at least that is how I've felt during the last few years. I finally found some time to drive from Oklahoma out to southern Colorado and make an attempt on West Spanish Peak during late June. Unfortunately, my timing was awful, as a strong upper-level storm system moved across the region during the day of my summit attempt. I made the easy hike on the West Spanish Peak trail to treeline, and was immediately greeted by snow squalls, swirling clouds, and very strong wind gusts. West Spanish Peak was covered in a bank of thick clouds, and I decided that making an attempt for the summit may include the risk of loosing my route either going up or down the steep slope. Knowing that the mountain would still be there for another day, I decided to turn around and make the long depressing drive back to Oklahoma.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pikes Peak

My mother and friends Wayne and Angie along with myself hiked from the Crags campground up the northwest slopes of Pikes Peak on June 15th. Not only did we avoid the grueling standard route on the east side of Pikes, but we were also treated to a much more scenic view of the Sangre de Cristo mountains and other central Colorado ranges to the west and northwest (which are obviously more interesting to look at and photograph compared to the flat uninteresting high plains of eastern Colorado). There is nothing difficult about this trail. It ascends around 4000' over a distance of 6-7 miles in order to reach the summit. The trail appeared to be well maintained, and we only encountered a few snow fields which were lingering into mid June. The crux of this hike was a boulder strewn slope at around 13,500', which requires scrambling upwards in order to reach the summit. However, it is easily tackled, and actually made the trip more interesting...its always fun to use your hands a bit on any hike.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Royal Gorge

There isn't much to say about the Royal Gorge bridge and park, except that it is a tourist trap, and probably isn't worth the $25 admission. After avoiding the photographer at the front gate, and ignoring the kiddy carnival rides, my mother and I made our way to the expansive suspension bridge. I do admit that it was pretty impressive to walk across the rickety wood planks located nearly 1000' above the Arkansas River...and yes, looking down towards the river from that height was somewhat exhilarating...but the crowds, carnival atmosphere, and dodging the cars driving across the bridge took away from a natural setting that is otherwise truly awe inspiring.

Mount Evans

After failing to reach the top of Mount Evans the day before, I returned to bag the peak on June 13th. I had to be in Colorado Springs later in the afternoon, so I took the easy route up by parking at Summit Lake, walking about 0.5 miles southeast, and then turning up the steep eastern slope. It was a fairly uneventful hike, though the trail upwards was difficult to locate initially, so I had to find my own route across talus and snow fields. After about an hour or so of intense exhertion, I reached the top. Similar to Mount Spalding, the view was outstanding, with Longs Peak off to the north, and Pikes Peak observed to the south. I also met a nice group of people, a couple, and the wifes parents visiting from Denmark. After chatting with these folks for 20 minutes, I snapped a few more pictures and then started the descent, which was a pretty quick ordeal as I glissaded for about 500' on the intermittently spaced snow fields.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mount Spalding

Set out on June 12th for Mount Evans with my mom, sister, and my sisters friend Christina. We decided to take the Evans Loup, which starts at Summit Lake (elevation 12,830 feet). This was a fun trail, which included scrambling up class 3 ledges, and post holing up snow covered slopes. After a few hours of hiking, we reached the summit of Mount Spalding (elevation 13,842 feet). The view from the top was of course outstanding as we gazed south, west, and northward at the many snowcovered ranges in central Colorado. We then set off to complete the loup which tops out on Mount Evans. We glissaded down the southern slope of Spalding and then reached the saddle between Evans and Spalding. Unfortunately, the weather made a turn for the worse, with 50+ mph winds developing and ominous bubbly looking midafternoon cumulus forming overhead. We gave up Evans due to the weather, and retraced our steps back to Summit Lake. It was a fun hike despite not achieving our goal...and plans were immediately made to finish off Mount Evans during the next day.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Humboldt Peak

For those who don't own a 4 wheel drive vehicle, the approach hike from the Wet Mountain Valley to Humboldt Peak is an exhausting ordeal in itself...which I found out a week ago. In hindsight, I should have made this hike a two day outing, taking one day to hike to the South Colony Lakes and then camp overnight, and then obtain the summit of Humboldt the next day. Instead, I hiked up to South Colony Lakes, and made the mistake of following a trail which branches to the right of the 4WD road. This trail is easy to follow until it reaches an expansive area of brush. From the brush, you have to bushwhack in order to obtain the trail which leads up to the Humboldt-Creston saddle. The day was starting to get late, and I didn't want to spend another hour getting past the brush, so I turned around and made the long trip back to the car. If I had to redo that hike, I would have continued to follow the 4WD road, which would have been longer, but would also avoid any bushwhacking. After finally reaching the car, I drove north through Westcliffe. Shortly after, I blew a tire, likely due to the very rough gravel road I drove on to get to the Humboldt trailhead.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Sandia Crest-New Mexico

I hiked the La Luz trail to the top of the Sandia Crest yesterday. This trail is well maintained, and only got difficult near the top as it switchbacked multiple times across a boulder field. On the way down, my foot smeared across a rock and my face was planted into a stone...I have a small cut on the cheek, but otherwise came out unscathed. It took me 3.5 hours to gain the 3,775 vertical feet to the top of the ~10,700 foot peak. I considered the 7-8 mile hike back down to be more strenuous than what I experienced going up due to the constant pounding on my feet. Regardless, the Sandia Mountains were a fantastic range to hike through, and are worthy of another visit in the future. Now on to Humboldt Peak in the Colorado Sangre de Cristos tomorrow.