July 18, 19, 20 and 21,
This was the beginning of a four-day adventure! For about a week we’d been planning a trip down to the Sangre de Cristos to try some Class 3 bids up Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle, and Humboldt Peak. Wednesday, the first day of our journey, began with a quick stop at REI to pick up a bear canister and get some tasty dehydrated camping food for easy dinners. From there, it was a sprint down I-25 to Colorado Springs where we dropped by Chipotle, thinking some burritos tonight would be a great way to start our 3-night camping trip.
By the time we’d made it up the reasonably challenging dirt road to the trailhead, it was about 4pm and we were already daydreaming about eating our burritos. But we put aside our hunger and donned our heavy packs, knowing we only had a short 1.5-mile hike to the South Colony Lakes where we would establish a “base camp.” Or so we thought…
After what our aching shoulders and growling stomachs told us was definitely more than a mile and a half, we crossed a stream and reached a sign indicating that we had reached the upper 4WD trailhead. It was then that we realized we had made it up to the old 4WD trailhead, from which the mileages in Gerry Roach’s 14ers book begin. So much to our dismay, we still had 1.5 miles to go until we reached Lower South Colony Lake and were able to devour our Chipotle delicacies. Fortunately, the rest of the way was relatively flat and on easy footing, so we reached the lake quickly. We selected a campsite, threw down our packs, and tore into the best burritos any of us had ever had.
It was a somewhat rude awakening as the alarms in both tents went off simultaneously, but it did the trick. After we’d each stumbled off into the dark woods to use the bathroom, we were ready to go. By the light of our headlamps, we found the trail that leads to both the Crestones via Broken Hand Pass. Today, our goal was Crestone Peak and possibly the traverse from Peak to Needle.
We scraped through some slightly overgrown bushes before emerging above treeline. From there, it was a series of long switchbacks and impressively large cairns leading to the base of the pass. Shelby needed to eat and Matt needed to relieve himself, so we took a short break just as the sun was beginning to peek over the horizon. It was just light enough now that we could put away our lights and we began the tough part of the pass. The trail became much steeper and the footing more like gravel, but we pushed our way up to a short section of Class 3 climbing before gaining the pass. The views of the sunrise were now spectacular. The surrounding clouds, colored in misty pinks and purples, were reflected in Cottonwood Lake about 1,000 feet below.
Our path led right past the lake and along some flat ground until we reached the Red Gully, which we would take nearly all the way to the summit of Crestone Peak. So we began our way up the Class 3 pitch, careful to avoid any wet or rotten rock. Zack, the faster climber, pulled ahead of Matt and Shelby and made it to the summit a little less than 10 minutes before the others.
Most of the way up was straightforward and easy, but much more exciting than the Class 1 and 2 walk-ups we’re used to. Due to our early start, we were the first and only people on the cozy summit. It was remarkably calm, and warm, so we stayed a while at the top, snacking and considering our plans for the rest of the day. After very little discussion, we decided today was not the day for the Peak to Needle traverse. Only Matt had on any kind of appropriate shoe and he was also the only one with a helmet, making it a more dangerous trek across Class 4 terrain than we were willing to make.
So we headed back down, stopping to chat with a few groups heading up to the Peak themselves. Today, instead of burritos, we distracted ourselves by dreaming of dipping our aching feet and ankles in the cool water of Lower South Colony Lake.
Once we had down-climbed the gully, it was a fairly easy trip down until we once again passed Cottonwood Lake and were faced with re-ascending Broken Hand Pass from the other side. It was a struggle gaining another 1,000 feet after some difficult climbing already that day, but we all eventually made it. And Lower South Colony Lake was in sight! Everyone walked down the steep, loose trail at their own pace and reconvened at the lake. Shelby and Matt immediately stripped down to their underwear and waded out into the lake, excited to be rid of their sweaty clothes and hot shoes. Zack remained on the shore, considering whether to relax and enjoy the lake now or to take advantage of the good weather and climb Humboldt. Eventually, Shelby and Matt convinced him to join them in the water and assured him that we would all climb Humboldt together the following day after the Needle. The frigid water and silky mud covering the lake bottom were just what we needed after a good day’s hike.
Before too long, our stomachs started to remind us that we hadn’t really eaten yet. We redressed and walked back to camp where Shelby got to work making macaroni and cheese, Matt went down to the stream to refill our water, and Zack, who’d been so willing to climb another mountain only minutes before, pulled his sleeping pad from the tent and took a nap.
Next, we learned a very important lesson: One box of Annie’s macaroni and cheese is not nearly enough food to satisfy the hunger of three 19- and 20-year-olds on a camping trip. Just like the burritos the night before, it was the best macaroni and cheese any of us had ever eaten. As it turned out, we weren’t the only ones around who liked mac ‘n cheese. For the rest of afternoon, our campsite was plagued by cute, yet annoying mountain goats! Unfortunately, we had to be rude and scare them off so they wouldn’t come back the next day to eat our food while we were gone.
With some food in our stomachs, we all laid around for the rest of the afternoon. It wasn’t long before we were hungry again, though, so we had an early dinner. We all boiled some water and devoured our now rehydrated food, played some cards, and then went to bed while it was still light out.
Another early 4am start got us going on Friday morning. Today’s plan: Climb the Class 3 standard route on Crestone Needle and then come back down to the lakes and head up Humboldt, a 2,400 foot climb in a little over a 1.5 miles.
Again in the dark, we followed the path up and over the familiar Broken Hand Pass, making slightly better time than the day before since we didn’t have to make a pit stop. Fortunately, getting to the Needle does not require going down to Cottonwood Lake and then up again as we’d had to do the day before.
Instead, we turned right at the top of the pass and followed a climbers’ trail for about .3 miles until we reached the bottom of a gully. From here, we had to make a decision. Route finding is supposed to be the most difficult part of climbing Crestone Needle. Many people get stuck in places that have become too steep and wind up down-climbing dangerous pitches. Our research said we should begin climbing in the East Gully and then cross over to the West Gully after a few hundred feet. The trick was locating when and where to cross.
After a bit of debate, we started the upward journey. The general consensus is that Crestone Needle is a harder climb than Crestone Peak, but the conglomerate rock was so stable and fun, we all cruised up in no time. Luckily we found the spot where we change gullies without any trouble. Previous climbers had left some helpful orange ribbons marking the best place. There’s one scary step to make it over a huge drop below, but once across and into the narrower West Gully, it was smooth sailing. We gave each other some space and enjoyed the steep rock climb to the summit.
Once again, we had the small, dramatic summit to ourselves. The views were incredible! Even from just a part of the way up the gullies, you could see over to the Great Sand Dune. Even further in the distance were Little Bear, Blanca, and Ellingwood Point. And of course, we could see where we’d been yesterday, the taller Crestone Peak just a little ways over, and Humboldt Peak, where we would be later today.
Despite the beautiful views, it was a short summit break for everyone. Zack, who’d been suffering from a stomachache all morning, headed down after only a few minutes. Shelby and Matt stayed on top to eat a little and take some pictures, but started the tedious down climb just a couple minutes after Zack.
Nonetheless, Matt and Shelby made it down ages after Zack who was waiting for them at the pass. We started down and began to plan our off-trail route over to Humboldt. We figured we would save ourselves some time, distance, and from the temptation of stopping at camp if we wandered off the trail and climbed up a grassy slope to reach Upper South Colony Lake instead of going all the back down to the lower lake and back up. There was no clear path in the direction we wanted to go, so we just chose the straightest line.
After a bit, we split up. Matt decided to down climb a cliff while Zack and Shelby elected to slide down a rocky slope. Matt’s route proved faster, so he carried on up to the lake and began the switchbacks to the base of the summit ridge. Shelby and Zack were a good ways behind when they finally reached the lake, but Zack wasn’t about to let Matt beat him to the summit. He left Shelby in the dust and blazed through the switchbacks. Meanwhile, Matt could see Shelby and Zack below him on the mountain and was determined not to let them catch up. Shelby, however, was unconcerned about who won this test of manliness and trudged slowly along, trying to distract herself from the pain in her legs by singing John Denver songs.
Zack did eventually catch up with Matt near the summit, where they then waited for Shelby. It was a long time before she emerged near the summit, but she finally did it. We could only afford a brief rest once Shelby made it to the top because of threatening clouds. Anyways, we were all eager to eat and lay in our tents.
The descent was quick and uneventful. It drizzled only a little, but the temperature had dropped noticeably. It was still early afternoon, so we ate some snacks and relaxed for a while before making the last of our dehydrated food. It was a well-earned meal indeed. We played a few hands of Rummy again before going to sleep. No alarms set this time!! Just waking up with the sun.
After a night of good, long sleep we started to stir. What a change for the sun to be up before we were! Shelby emerged first and made a big pot of oatmeal for everyone, our fist hot breakfast in what seemed like ages!
We’d accomplished everything we’d set out to do, so there wasn’t much left to get done but to pack up and go home. No one was too excited about carrying our heavy packs the 4-5 miles back to the car, but it went quicker than expected. We packed up the car, enjoyed some fresh, organic cherries from a fellow hiker at the trailhead, and drove into Westcliffe for a quick bite to eat before heading back to Boulder. Everyone agreed it was an amazing trip! Perfect length, good food, good friends, and good progress!
Elevated Feet Gained: 10,501
Distance Traveled: 13.9 miles
Total Elevated Feet Gained: 48,447
Total Distance Traveled: 108.4 miles
Only a day after climbing South Arapaho, Shelby drove south to enjoy a day summiting four fourteeners: Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross. She was thrilled to be joined by Mike, a college friend of her dad’s whom she’d lived with in past summers spent in Boulder. As this was his first hike of the season, we were both looking forward to a somewhat leisurely pace.
After a two-hour drive, we made it to the Kite Lake trailhead at 12,000 feet by 7am. We slathered on some sunscreen and headed out. The first portion of the hike was supposed to be the toughest, and it certainly was. We crawled up the switchbacks on relatively easy terrain until we reached the saddle between Democrat and Cameron. From there, it was pretty much a straight shot up some steep rock fields to the summit of Democrat. We rewarded ourselves with a summit snack while we entertained ideas of how Republicans might feel climbing Mt. Democrat.
A couple snapshots later, Mike and Shelby were headed back down the way they’d come in order to then ascend Cameron. It is debated whether Cameron is considered a ranked 14er because it lacks prominence among its fellow peaks, but we made the slog anyways. Regaining all of the elevation we’d just lost on the descent was a little rough, but the trail was fun and we made it to the summit in great time! It felt good knowing we were already half way done…and with the easier half left, too!
The easy traverse from Cameron to Lincoln made us feel like we were walking on the surface of Mars. The gravel-covered ground was a reddish color and extremely barren. Most of the journey is flat until you are right at the base of the short summit ridge. We bounded quickly to the top and took a longer break to consider the weather before continuing on to the final peak, Bross. Even though it looked like some clouds might be rolling in, we decided the best choice was to go for Bross. Even if we didn’t make it to the summit, it was the fastest way back to the car.
So after refueling with some more good snacks, we started the 1.5 mile trek over to Bross. The clouds seemed to be holding off a little, so as we got closer to Bross we decided to go for it. It was a gentle climb to the top compared to the other three peaks, and the summit was massive! We agreed that a game of regulation football could easily be played on top of this 14,000 foot peak. Locating a wind shelter on the east end of the summit, we headed over to sit and rest before the journey back to the car.
Eventually, the clouds became more and more threatening and scared us off the peak. As we headed down the steep right side of the gully back, it began to drizzle on us. We stopped only to investigate what looked like an abandoned mine hole and empty pebbles from our shoes, eager to get back to the car and into town for some coffee and grub. Once out of the gully and within easy sight of the car, we decided to be disobedient hikers and cut across the field instead of following the path as it went in what looked like the wrong direction. In the car, awaited some tasty treats that I’d made the day before: banana-coconut-chocolate chip muffins! After enjoying a few bites, Mike suggested they would be better with some coffee, so we packed up and headed into town for some well-deserved caffeine and bites to eat.
Thanks Mike, for joining me on such an enjoyable hike!
Elevated Feet Gained: 3,700
Distance Traveled: 9.5 miles
Total Elevated Feet Gained: 37,992
Total Distance Traveled: 94.5 miles
After a little bribing and arm-twisting, Shelby managed to convince Zack to go hiking on what all the weathermen predicted to be a rainy Sunday morning. Neither of us were up for a long drive, however, so we headed along the dirt road to the Fourth of July trailhead for a go up South and North Arapaho Peaks. When we started hiking around 7am, it was bright and sunny with only a few clouds in sight.
The first mile or so of the trail follows a series of long, easy switchbacks through fields of gorgeous wildflowers, including the Indian Paintbrush and the Rocky Mountain Columbine. It wasn’t long before we reached treeline and our destination came into view. So far we’d managed to steer clear of any rain, but that didn’t mean we weren’t getting wet. The rain from the past few days had created huge puddles of mud, widened all the stream crossings, and turned large portions of the trail into a small river! Nevertheless, we trudged onwards, splashing each other with mud as we went.
From treeline, it’s just a short walk across some flat ground to another set of switchbacks leading to the saddle between Old Baldy and South Arapaho Peak. We pushed through to the saddle in no time, took a short break to admire the view of Arapaho Glacier, and started the final ascent up South Arapaho.
From this vantage point, it was difficult to tell how much further we had to the top because the entire summit was concealed by a dense cloud!
The trail through the boulders was fairly clear, though. A good bit of scrambling and a false summit later, we’d both made it! It felt good to make it to the summit in good time and with near-perfect weather. Even though we couldn’t see any of the famously stunning Indian Peaks views, it was surreal to be sitting on a mountain in the middle of a cloud. Plus, check out our awesome new shirts!!
From here, though, our day was only partly done. We still had to tackle the Class 3+/4 traverse to North Arapaho Peak! We began the gentle descent a little ways down from the summit, following the helpful arrows on the rocks once it became steep and the route-finding more difficult. When we reached a 15-foot wall, though, we began to reconsider our plans. Both of us were wearing only worn-out tennis shoes with sketchy grip in dry conditions. Because of the rain and condensation from the cloud, the rocks were dangerously slippery. We decided to go up the wall and see how things were, but once we made it to the top, there was an even more precarious path to take. So, we thought it best to end the day early and not risk falling off the ridge and onto the glacier a few thousand feet below.
On the way down, we passed a few other groups making bids up to the shrouded South Arapaho summit. We wished them luck, but hurried back to the car and into Nederland since both of our stomachs were giving us impatient reminders of how hungry we were. Shelby remembered eating at a German place called the Black Forest Restaurant years ago, so we decided to give it a shot. It turned out to be a good choice, especially after trying the applesauce. Both of us headed home feeling accomplished after our hike and pleasantly full from a delicious, authentic German meal.
Elevated Feet Gained: 3,295
Distance Traveled: 8.9 miles
Total Elevated Feet Gained: 34,292
Total Distance Traveled: 85 miles
While fellow-founder Zack and friend Matt were off on their own climbing adventures in the San Juans, Shelby was stuck back home, going to work, attending classes, taking tests, and doing homework. By the time Thursday rolled around and she was done with tests and labs for the week, her jealousy overtook her ability to reason, so she decided to go into the mountains after class and climb Pawnee Peak.
After changing and quickly packing, she made it up to the Long Lake trailhead at the Brainard Lake Recreation Area by 5:30pm, and hit the trail soon after. Having hiked the majority of this trail before, she decided to push the pace for the first two miles up to Lake Isabelle, concerned about making too much of the return journey in the dark. Ten minutes in, she had to stop to admire some wildlife: two moose were idly grazing in the marshy areas around Long Lake!! Only 50 feet away! But there was very little time to spend standing around, so within 45 minutes, she’d made it all the way to Lake Isabelle. Shelby took a quick break to take a few pictures of the gorgeous Apache, Navajo, and Shoshone peaks that surround the lake and retie her trusty old tennis shoes before carrying on, knowing it was already 6:20pm and she still had the harder 3 miles to the summit (not mention the descent) to make before sunset!
From the lake onward, Shelby had only marmots, pikas, and her own shadow for company. While it made for a rather lonely journey, it was a rare and unique experience in the ultra-popular Indian Peaks Wilderness. Beyond Lake Isabelle, the trail finally begins to gain elevation, crossing over to the north side of a ridge for views of Mt. Audubon and the destination. After a few creek crossings and some switchbacks to the top of a rocky outcropping with spectacular views of the lake, the trail flattens out again for a solid half mile. Then the real work begins. Amid the squeaks of marmots, Shelby ascended long switchback after long switchback, making it to Pawnee Pass about an hour after reaching Lake Isabelle. She snapped a few quick pictures of the sun beginning to set to the west, and then plodded over to the base of the summit ridge to ascend the final 500 feet and half mile to the top. By 7:45pm, she was standing on the summit, taking in unbelievable views of the continental divide, the setting sun, and enjoying the serenity of complete solitude in such gorgeous natural surroundings. Few people are so lucky…
… Or maybe, she began to think, few people are so stupid. While she was happy to have made the 5.5 mile trip up in just over 2 hours, she still had 5.5 miles to get back to the safety of her car. Suddenly, being all alone in the wilderness with darkness approaching didn’t seem like such a fun time. After quickly eating a Mojo bar for dinner, Shelby put on an extra layer and began as speedy a descent as she could manage. As beautiful as it would have been to remain on the summit to watch the sunset, it would not have made for a pleasant journey down.
Her pace back down to the lake was only slightly faster than her pace up, so by the time Shelby made it back to the familiar Lake Isabelle, it was nearing 9pm and getting quite dark. About a quarter mile later, she decided it was time to pull out the headlamp. The final stretch back to the trailhead was by far the most stressful. Armed with nothing but mace, she began to feel very vulnerable in the woods. Alone. In the dark.
But thankfully, after what seemed like the longest 40 minutes of her life, she made it back to the car just after 9:30pm, completing the 11 mile roundtrip journey in a little over 4 hours and making more progress for Feet for Fillings.
Elevated Feet Gained: 2,532
Distance Traveled: 10.1 miles
Total Elevated Feet Gained: 30,997
Total Distance Traveled: 76.1 miles
June 20th and 21st,
The route to San Luis veered off the main highway not too far from Lake City, where we found ourselves on a well up-kept dirt road. Overall it was in great shape, and speeds of 25+ MPH were easily sustained. I met a hiker on Shavano a few weeks earlier who had climbed all the 14ers in Colorado, and reaffirmed San Luis was the most secluded 14er in Colorado. According to him “San Luis is the only one you can’t see a house or telephone/power line from the top of.” With that said, we expected the dirt road to be fairly long, but what we encountered grossly exceeded our expectations. Over two hours passed before we reached the trailhead!
Upon arrival the car was caked with fine dust, and after unloading the car, we too were covered. The night was pretty unpleasant. The food we bought for the trip included two packs of bratwursts, because they are easy to cook on a camp stove. Thus far in the trip, we had finished off the first six-pack of brats, and went to open the second one for dinner. When I reached my hand into the cooler and grabbed the plastic wrapped raw chicken, I noticed the water at the bottom was unusually murky. One look at the pack of bratwursts in my hand, and I knew the cause. The water had leaked through the plastic wrapping on the pack of brats, contaminating everything in the cooler with raw chicken water. We decided to cook the brats and deal with the cooler issue in the morning. Having been awake since 4:45 a.m., hiking our third 14er in two days, and planning on waking up at 5:00 a.m. the next morning, it’s needless to say we were tired, and fell asleep early.
When the bongo drums woke us up on what turned out to be our last day (thanks to the raw chicken water), we were sluggish to start the hike. I read for 30 min or so while Matt rolled around half asleep before we finally convinced ourselves to get out of bed.
The beginning of the hike was very scenic, beaver damns blocked the river numerous times up the river running parallel to the Stewart Creek Trail. As we weaved through the forest, pine needles littered the trail, giving off a spectacular aroma.
When we reached the ridge line leading to San Luis, we encountered our first fellow hiker, who obviously had superior motivation earlier that morning. A brief hello as we passed each other was our only exchange. The top of the ridge had a good view of the rest of the trail to the peak. Before we knew it we reached the summit of San Luis!
The top was spectacular; the quiet we experienced was peaceful, and the temperature comfortable. We could not see a house, telephone line, or even a road (including the one we drove in on)! The seclusion was amplified by the fact that San Luis peak, and the few mountains around it, were the only ones for miles. For this reason I nicknamed San Luis the Lonely Mountain, home of Smaug. We enjoyed some cheese, salami and crackers, which were a few of the only food items not soaked in chicken water. Another climber snuck up on us who followed a different trial to the top. We greeted and congratulated him on his summit, and then he vanished just as quickly as he appeared. Unlike the previous decent (of Handies), we encountered something worth writing about!
Just as we were emerging from the denser part of the forest, and on the verge of being able to see the trail head parking lot, we saw a group of animal that looked like elk roaming the meadow ahead. As we got closer it became apparent that the animals we were seeing could not be elk, moose, or deer, since none of them had antlers. Once the creatures became easily visible, we realized it was people on horses accompanied by giant mules! I said “hello” when they reached us, and they informed me they were assisting the a team of researchers who were setting up camp in the valley below San Louis. We stepped aside to let the caravan pass, then finished the last of our hike. Our return to the trail head marked the end of the trip. We soon made our way down the long dirt road, and back to Boulder.
Elevated Feet Gained: 3,600
Distance Traveled: 13 miles
Total Elevated Feet Gained: 28,465
Total Distance Traveled: 66 miles
June 18th, 19th, and 20th,
Driving to the Redcloud and Sunshine trailhead was long and tedious; two-lane interstate dominated most of the route. After driving through Lake City, we turned off of the highway onto a beautiful mountain road. We weaved our way through a deep valley with steep, treacherous mountains encompassing the route.
The road was paved for many miles, but became steep and rocky very abruptly, which made us happy. The bumping and bouncing off road felt like more of an adventure than the humdrum city streets. It wasn’t long before the dirt road turned into a shelf road, with our tires grazing the edge of a 100-foot cliff. The path turned sharply in places, and the mountain blocked our sight up the road. Luckily we did not encounter any traffic coming down, and reached the end unscathed.
The sun was dropping behind the mountains when we reached the Silver Creek-Grizzly Gulch Trailhead, the gateway to three Colorado 14ers in the San Juan mountain range, commonly exemplified as a haven from crowds and trail traffic. Taking that into account, and the fact that we were arriving on a Monday, we were hoping to have the trails to ourselves: we didn’t. We were lucky enough to have a boy’s cross-country team from Minnesota camping at the trailhead the same days we were there. All fifteen or twenty of them were roaming what we called Tent City in their underwear, so we opted to drive further up the road to find a spot to set up camp for two days.
There was a quaint camping spot nestled in-between tall pine trees a few hundred yards from the trailhead. The proximity to the trail and the privacy from the naked boys made for a perfect spot. Pitching the tent and cooking dinner didn’t take long. Soon we were setting the alarm for 5:45 a.m. and dozing into sleeping.
We have grown to love the Timba alarm on my iPhone lately; the gradual, mellow beating of the drums is a relaxing way to be woken up. Anxious to get on the trail after a seven-hour drive the day before, we skipped breakfast and left camp ten minutes after awakening.
Upon inspection of the trail map we realized we would be walking east up a valley. As usual, the west side of the large mountains was shady and windy all the way up to the ridge, where it was sunny and windy. Climbing over the ridge and emerging from the shade, the sun warmed our skin, and jackets were shed for the first time that day.
The rest of the way up Redcloud was beautiful, with views of the entire Uncompahgre plateau. We soon discovered how Redcloud got its name.
Sunshine was almost jumping distance from the Redcloud summit, so we quickly took pictures, skipped a food break, and made our way to the neighboring mountains summit in less than twenty minutes. With two 14ers conquered, we took a seat to enjoy the views atop Colorado’s shortest 14er (14,001 feet).
We made small talk with two fellow climbers at the summit, and quickly became friends with Ben and Erik, who met each other the night before at the trailhead. Ben is a hotel manager in Vail whose voice, beard, and sense of humor reminds me of Zach Galifianakis. Erik is an RN in Durango, and welcomingly asked Matt and I to join them on the decent. It was a little windy as we started descending, but I noticed some cool rock formations I missed on the way up.
In the trough between Redcloud and Sunshine we encountered this sign.
This is where we descended. After a steep initial down-climb through loose rock, the rest of the trip was fairly uneventful.
It was only mid morning when we reached camp. For the first time in a long time we had down time to relax on a camping/hiking trip: revolutionary! After some good food and reading Erik and Ben invited us over to have a few beers. Ben drinks a different microbrew at the top of every 14er, so naturally he brought extras. Time flew as we hung out in an abandoned wooden cabin trying to avoid the high school boys at large around us. We decided to meet at 5:00 a.m. the next morning and climb Handies together. It was still light out when we hit the hay, but morning would still come too early.
It was dark out when the alarm sounded, but we were eager to beat the cross-country team onto the mountain, so we packed up and dragged out feet to the trailhead where we met Erik and Ben. Still partially asleep, we began the short accent up Handies. The first part of the hike consisted mostly of pointing our headlamps down at the rocks to avoid tripping. Hiking on the east side of the mountain, the sun warmed the air early, which made much of the hike more pleasant than the day before. It wasn’t until reaching the ridge leading up to the summit that we encountered uncomfortable weather. Here the wind blew strong enough to move our feet in between steps. We found shelter from the wind on the east side of the mountain, and Ben enjoyed his microbrew beer while the rest of us snacked and rehydrated on the summit.
The hike down was fairly uneventful, but scenic.
By 10:00 a.m. we were back at camp taking down the tent, and preparing for the next leg of our journey. We exchanged emails with our new friends and parted ways. After a brief stop in Lake City to refuel and fill up on water, we began making our way towards San Luis, the most secluded 14er in Colorado, hoping once again to have the trail to ourselves.
Elevated feet gained: 7,783
Distance traveled: 16.7 miles
Total elevated feet gained: 24,865
Total distance traveled: 53 miles
The Summer Fundraiser has been underway for nearly a month now, so it’s time to show you guys how we’re progressing towards our goal:
So, as it’s looking now, we are a little behind schedule. But never fear!! Founding member Zack is currently out in the mountains, climbing as much as he can by the end of the week. So if everything goes smoothly, we should be right on track by the weekend!
Wish us luck,
Feet for Fillings
This weekend Feet for Fillings had another successful day of climbing and fundraising. Shelby was again joined by Matt for a bid up Kelso Ridge to Torreys and eventually Grays Peak in the nearby Front Range.
We decided to leave Friday night to beat the crowds in the morning and secure a parking spot at the trailhead. Shelby’s relatively low-clearance but courageous Subaru managed the steep and rocky road with only a few scrapes. We arrived at the trailhead about half an hour before sunset and were in awe of the light reflecting off the ridge surrounding us.
After snapping a few pictures, we quickly pitched the tent and grabbed a tasty treat of chocolate chip cookies that Shelby made using her dad’s Top Secret Recipe. A perfect way to end the day. Hitting the hay early, we set an alarm for 4:30am since the weather was supposed to turn stormy around 11am the next day.
It took a little time to convince our bodies to leave the comfort of their sleeping bags, but we managed to take down camp, get dressed, and put a little food in our stomachs in good time. By 5:15am, we set out along the trail, excited for our first Class 3 route!
The start was a little chilly until the sun came over the cliffs, but we were lucky to have very little wind the whole day, a nice change from our gusty trip up Yale. After about an hour of walking through the meadow while Matt identified countless flowers and other plants, we arrived at a trail junction. We eagerly took the path to the right and began the ascent up Kelso Ridge.
What an awesome climb! It was perfect for us first-time Class 3 climbers. Route finding was not too difficult, but there was a good amount of exciting rock climbing, scrambling, and exposure to keep it interesting. We reached the crux of the climb, the Knife’s Edge, around 8:30am. While straddling a hunk of sharp, exposed rock isn’t the most comfortable thing, we agreed it was an awesome feeling and were glad to make it across safely. From there, it was only a quick jaunt up to the summit of Torreys. We remained only briefly on the summit, knowing we still had another peak to climb before the storms hit.
By 9:15am, we were already heading down to the saddle between Grays and Torreys. Determination set in, and we pushed through the Class 2 slog up Grays, reaching the summit in 20 minutes! We paused again to take some pictures and have a snack, but we were wary of the clouds starting to form overhead. So we started down a little sooner than either of us would have liked. Plus, it was a busy day on Grays and Torreys and we were concerned about traffic on the dirt road back to I-70.
As usual now, Matt decided to run back to the car upon reaching the basin while Shelby opted to continue walking. But about 20 minutes later, Shelby caught up with Matt and knew something was wrong. Matt was limping, favoring his right leg. He’d landed badly on a loose rock and sprained his ankle. We were still about a mile and half from the car, so it was a slow hobble the rest of the way, fearful of the thunder that kept sounding behind us. By the time we made it around noon, Matt’s ankle was a baseball-sized lump, so we decided to stop in Idaho Springs on the way home for some food and ice.
All in all, it was a successful day. Matt and Shelby had a blast on their first Class 3 trip and made it up two 14ers, gaining more Feet for Fillings. 😀
Elevated Feet Gained: 3,600
Distance Traveled: 8.1 miles
Total Elevated Feet Gained: 17,082
Total Distance Traveled: 36.3 miles
We had a non-founder of Feet for Fillings join our hike this weekend, making our group three-strong for our third 14er of the summer season! Thank you Matt Bitters for your support!
We left Friday night, around 6 p.m., after everyone got off of work. Luckily we were just in time for rush hour! The drive from Broomfield to Golden was slow, but it was smooth sailing once we merged onto highway 285.
The first and only stop of our drive was in Buena Vista at K’s Hamburgers, as it always is when we drive through town. After stuffing ourselves with delicious cheeseburgers and milkshakes, we resumed our journey in search of a camping spot for the night.
The road to the trailhead of Mt. Yale was completely paved. Unfortunately the accessibility made finding an open camping spot at 9:30 p.m. a little tricky. We struck gold with a spot just a half-mile down the road from the trailhead, where we parked the car and began setting up camp. After the tents were erect and our sleeping pads filled with air, we heated some water for Ramen and reviewed the route we would take in the morning. We decided to hit the hay around 10:30 p.m., which I am sure made our neighbors happy.
At 5:30 a.m. bongo drums quietly roused us from my iPhone’s alarm. After a brief discussion we decided to take down camp before the hike, since we did not want to pay the camping fee. After that minor delay, we drove up the road to the trailhead and parked. The first ever Feet for Fillings sticker was slapped on a sign in the parking lot next to a 14ers.com sticker.
Everyone filled their camelbacks, packed their lunches, and skipped breakfast. The approach through the trees was very pleasant, and surprisingly fast. Once we broke through tree line, the wind picked up and made it a bit chilly. We all anxiously awaited the sun rising over Mt. Yale and warming the west side of the mountain (which is where the trail was). After fifteen minutes of cold hiking, it happened…
By the time we made it to the west face of Mt. Yale at 12,200’, we had caught up to the other hikers that left at a proper, earlier time. Matt and I decided to finish the hike without stopping, while Shelby elected to rest and get something in her stomach before climbing the steepest part of the mountain.
In the end we all reached the summit in about 3 hours, and had plenty of time to enjoy lunch at 14,196 feet above sea level.
After relaxing on the summit for quite some time, we began to talk about the second half of the hike. Matt and I decided we were going to run down, while Shelby walked. We joked about taking the car keys so we could drive back into Buena Vista to pick up burgers while we waited for her to finish the return journey.
I wish I could say the down climb was uneventful, but I can’t. Matt and I had a swift jog from the summit to the trailhead parking lot, where we laid in the shade to wait for Shelby. It wasn’t long before she turned the corner and came trotting down the trail. We smiled and greeted her, but the look on her face was not happy.
“Did you guys take my car keys?” was the first thing she said to us. After quickly confirming that we were both joking about taking the car keys, chaos ensued. Tears were shed as the realization that we were stuck in the mountains without cell service or a car set in.
Shelby explained to us that she had the keys on the summit, but could not find them when she checked her backpack part of the way down the mountain. She was torn between which of the two possibilities caused their disappearance: The keys falling out of her backpack, or Matt and I taking them. To all of our dismay, the latter was immediately ruled out when she discovered neither Matt nor I had the keys, and thoughts of climbing the mountain again in search of the keys entered our minds. That’s when I thought of a third possibility.
“Where in your backpack did you have the keys?” I asked.
Shelby reached for the mesh pocket on the strap of her backpack, and there they were, right were she left them.
We all had a good laugh, filled ourselves up with celebratory burgers and shakes, and drove back to Boulder. Overall the trip was fun, minus the whole key incident. We nailed another 14er and raised almost 40 dollars for Feet for Fillings!
Elevated feet gained: 4,296
Distance traveled: 8.5 miles
Total elevated feet gained: 13,482
Total distance traveled: 28.2 miles