Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The 2 greatest sports in the world, together at last!

Yesterday, I climbed another fun peak in the Elk Range: Pyramid Peak, elevation 14,018 ft. It was a fun climb up with enough class 4 scrambling to make it exciting. We walked across fun narrow ledges and scrambled up exciting, crumbly sedimentary rock.

Don't be fooled, though. This was no ordinary climb. This was a history-making climb. At the summit, we combined the two greatest sports in the world: mountaineering and beer pong! As far as either of us knew, nobody has ever played the sport of kings atop a 14er. As we approached the summit, I spotted a short rock spire a few feet away that would serve as a perfect table. Here's a picture of the game:


This was probably also the most dangerous game of beer pong ever played, which is why we only had half a beer each. Given that Gabe's perch was small and overlooked a precarious precipice, he was allowed to lean over the table for safety purposes. Anyway, the climb down was a lot of fun too. Maybe I'll write about it later.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Snowmass and Maroon

I climbed Snowmass Mountain yesterday and it was a lot of fun.



On Wednesday I climbed Maroon Peak with a group from 14ers.com. It was also a lot of fun. I don't feel like writing a lot.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Castle and Conundrum

To climb these, I met up with Gabe again at his house on Friday afternoon where he promptly informed me that the weather on Saturday would be terrible, and we decided not to even try to climb that day. We had a 3-peak weekend planned, but with the weather so bad on Saturday, we ended up just climbing Castle and Conundrum. So, Friday night we drove 50+ miles on dirt roads trying to find a party that he'd heard about. Alas, it was to no avail. We did see the moose that night though, which I think is as good or better than a party.

Anyway, on Saturday morning after a 2:00 AM wakeup call, we picked up Gabe's friend Dan and started driving toward the Elk Range. The Elk Mountains are near Aspen, or Ass-pain as Gabe calls it. We got a chilly start around 6 AM, surrounded by clouds left over from Saturday's horrendous weather. We hoped the sun would come out and burn off the clouds, but we were greeted with this view from the summit at around 9:00:



We took advantage of a rare moment of (relatively) little fog to snap this summit pose:



The plan was to hold a beer pong tournament on the summit, however two factors were working to our disadvantage:

1) We forgot to get cups and ping pong balls
2) It was really cold. Like well below freezing and windy at times.

From the summit of Castle, we spent a good hour debating whether or not we should continue to Conundrum. The conditions weren't ideal, and we were concerned the fog would hinder our route finding. We took the opportunity to bone up on our juggling skills:



After an hour of debating, we decided to go for the gusto and try to hit Conundrum too. We're glad we did this, because it was a quick 45 minute walk that would have been tough to get lost on. Additionally, the route down from Conundrum provided the opportunity for a really good glissade. The most important part of this glissade was braking fully before getting to the crevasse above a small lake. Somebody told us the crack in the earth is caused by a glacier flowing under the scree


(the crack is covered with snow where we would have hit it, had something gone wrong)

The rest of the route back to the truck involved a lot of glissading on the still plentiful snow. Overall, it was a pretty easy day but a lot of fun.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Moose!

Gabe and I saw 2 of 'em last night while driving on a dirt road just north of Vail. It was dark, and Gabe told me not to get too close because they're dangerous animals so the picture I got of the bull is far away and dark and not too intelligible.






See, the bright spot is the eye and the body goes to the right. You can kind of make out the antlers above the head. Most photos of bigfoot are better than this.
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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

1 More down!

After something like 4 days of inactivity, I was itching to climb something and the weather was perfect yesterday. I decided to climb Quandary Peak (14,265') last night for the following reasons:

1) Night climbing suits my biorhythms much better than the normal 5 AM start.

2) Hiking after dark might make a relatively dull climb more interesting. You never know when a rabid marmot or sex-crazed hillbilly (as in the classic film Deliverance) might be hiding behind the next rock.

c) Last night was the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, which I thought might be fun to observe from atop a mountain.

Reasons 1 and 2 worked out pretty well, but the summit was so cold and windy I didn't stick around to watch the meteor shower. I did see a few on the way down, though.

Anyway, here I am all bundled up on the summit:

Monday, August 11, 2008

The weather has been truly awful

There's been some sort of system keeping all the mountains here pretty well socked in, and it's been doing nothing but raining for the last few days. The peaks are all in clouds. Hence, when I wake up at 5 every morning to climb, and it's raining, or about to rain, or just finished raining (and it's invariably one of those) nothing seems better than going back to sleep. So, due to a lack of ideal conditions but mostly my own laziness, I haven't hit a summit since Humboldt last Wednesday. It's not that I couldn't climb, because the mountains I've been quasi-attempting are easy walk-ups and no real danger if they're wet.

In the mean time, here's a picture taken from the top of Humboldt peak:

And video from Little Bear:


video

Friday, August 8, 2008

Weather...

I got back from my trip to Lake Como with Michael's family, where I successfully climbed Little Bear with Gabe. I was really glad to get this one out of the way, since Little Bear is usually considered one of the hardest and most dangerous 14ers. It was also a lot of fun, especially since we were able to rappel down "The Hourglass," which is probably the most challenging part of the mountain.

After that, I headed to the Crestones (part of the Sangre de Cristo range) where some epic fail started to happen. I met up with a girl named Jamie and we climbed Humboldt Peak on Wednesday, 1 of 5 mountains we intended to attack from a single base camp at the South Colony Lakes.


Scott came up Wednesday afternoon to climb with us Thursday and Friday. Thursday we had planned to climb Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle, but it rained continuously from about 4 PM the afternoon before until 4 AM that morning, when we needed to start climbing. We figured we shouldn't try to climb, as the ridge traverse between them is a bit technical and the rock would be wet and slick. As it turned out, nobody we saw going up the trail all day was able to climb the Crestones because of the weather. While we were sitting in camp, I introduced Jamie and Scott to the fantastic game of Scrabble and they both hated it.

It rained again all Thursday night and into Friday morning, with fog covering the mountains all morning. Again, the rock would be too slick and we wouldn't be able to see far enough to do any route finding. That makes 2 frustrating days of no climbing. To console myself, I came back up to the Sawatch range where the climbing is easier (basically just hiking) and I'm more confident I can climb in less than perfect conditions.

Friday, August 1, 2008

I hate tourists.

I'm too lazy to do any video, so READ! (Don't worry, there are pictures.)


This is a picture of the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, one of the main tourist attractions in the area. I had to buy a grossly overpriced ticket and ride it to the trailhead for 3 of the 14ers. It was kind of fun riding on an honest-to-god coal-fired steam locomotive, but the long (2.5 hour) ride reminded me why I hate tourists. On the way there, I was stuck in a gondola with the world's biggest douchebag. He spent the whole time hooting, hollering, and waving at people (while his video camera was running) from the train like he was so fucking special that everybody needed to recognize him. Hey buddy, guess what? You're just on a train ride. THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of people have ridden this train. You're not special. The train leaves Durango 2 or 3 times a day, filled with hundreds of people. You're not doing anything unique.

At one point, while the train was going through a very nice canyon, this guy remarked between primate-esque grunts that "this is nature at its finest." Apparently he missed the irony of the entire situation: That he was riding on a meticulously engineered manmade contraption upon a track whose existence owes itself to the blasting and removal of several thousand tons of "nature at its finest." Idiot.

On the train ride back from the trailhead, I met another stupid person who has obviously never traveled beyond the standard tourist attractions. As I boarded, she asked if I was hiking. "Yes, some hiking and mountain climbing" I responded. She then asked if I was camping out there, to which I again responded in the affirmative. As a follow-up to the camping question, she asked if I spent the whole night out there. (as opposed to camping out for part of the night, I suppose) I explained that yes, I had in fact spent two whole nights out there. Then, as if to confirm her stupidity, she asked if I ate any food while I was camping. I did a quick double-take, then repeated the question back to her as if to say "seriously, you can't be asking something that stupid." She nodded, and I explained that I carried food with me. She went back to her beer.






Ha! That must be where all women live!


Goats invaded my campsite. Whatever delicious plant life was growing there, they really found it tasty.

Since I am no good at waking up early (i.e. 3-4 AM) I only managed to summit 1 of the 3 14ers in the area. (An early start is necessary to avoid the almost daily afternoon thunderstorms. A high peak is a likely place to be hit by lightning) This seals my fate: I will not be finishing the 14ers this summer, because 2 summits are not worth the moronic tourists and $75 price tag of riding the train again.