Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Week Ending September 9

Mon - 1 mile (500') hiking. Tooled around in the lower Big Thompson above the narrows after aborting an approach on Larimer ranked peak 6,674' due to private property lines that were posted in an extremely aggressive fashion. This one might have to be a night summit.

Tues - Noon: 5 miles (1,000') easy. Falls loop.
PM - 8.5 miles track. 800 open, then 600-800-1000-800-600 with 200 jog after 600 & kilo, 400 jog after 800s. Motivation was low tonight, so kept things comfortable: 2:51, 1:56, 2:38, 3:23, 2:40, 1:58. 2.5 mile up, 3 mile down.

Weds - Noon: 8 miles (2,300') easy. Horsetooth north summit via north gap. Actually thought I was in the south-center gap, climbing the center tooth, so was somewhat surprised to clamber up and be on the north summit. There is a doable line from this gap up to the center tooth, but I deemed it too sketchy to attempt without protection when looping back around for a second look after the north summit. Southridge/Audra up, Wathan, Spring Creek back.

Thurs - AM: 14.5 miles (6,100') mountains. Mount Ida (12,880'), Chief Cheley (12,804'), Point 12,820' (Chorier Point), Cracktop (12,766'), Julian (12,928'), Terra Tomah (12,718').
L-R: Terra Tomah, Julian, Cracktop, Chorier Point (12,820'), Chief Cheley, Ida
Gorge Lakes loop.
Steph, Mike and I got an early start for this one from the Milner Pass/Poudre Lake trailhead off Trail Ridge Road. The circle of peaks that we were heading for are probably among the most photographed in the whole park, given their striking prominence above Forest Canyon and their visibility from Trail Ridge Road. Given the relatively scant internet beta on the route, however, they are apparently far less visited, which is somewhat surprising as access is actually very good from Milner Pass. Indeed, the trail from the TH to maybe 500 feet below Ida's summit is one of the best that I've ever had the pleasure of running. The views of the cirque peaks heading out are substantial and the cruise back to the trailhead is about as cushy as it comes, and made all the better by the consistently stunning views of the as-remote-as-it-gets-in-RMNP Never Summer Range. For whatever reason the trail is not marked on any maps, which helps - I am sure - to keep this route a hidden treasure.

Mount Ida from Chief Cheley
Anyway, as stated, the four miles or so of trail leads you to just below the Ida summit, after which it is a very straightforward mix of talus and tundra to the top. Ida offers views of the whole line all the way around to Terra Tomah, with the intermediate peaks and connecting ridges of Chief Cheley, Cracktop and Julian along the way. As a bonus, the ridgeline (12,820') between Chief Cheley and Cracktop is one of three Larmier County ranked high points on the route (along with Ida and Julian). The descent off Ida is steep but straightforward, as is the 400-500 foot climb up Cheley. From there the high point on the 12,820' ridge is also easy, with the ascent of the two Cracktop summits a little more involved, but still no more than class three maneuvering.
Top Cracktop
Cracktop Descent Ridge
Mike, Steph on Cracktop
The ridge between Cracktop and Julian slows progress a bit, with some route finding to be done, but again things can quite easily be kept class three, with a class four move thrown in here and there for the impatient. Once off the ridge the climb up Julian is stout but uneventful and then it's no more than a pleasant rocky tundra traverse over to Terra Tomah to round off the circle peak action.

In order to completely encircle the beautiful lake-filled basin we decided to roll the dice by dropping down a steep and loose gulley on the not-insignificant northwest face of Terra Tomah. With no beta and an uncertain cliffy-looking edge 500 feet down the gulley, we were prepared to reascend if necessary. As it happened, a series of tufty ledges and class-four rock slabs opened up and kept the route alive all the way down to the Doughnut Lake drainage. With that said, this was by no means a trivial descent.

Scoping the Terra Tomah descent. Rest of pics: Steph Lynn.
Terra Tomah descent line with slight variations. Red: Nick; Blue: Mike, Steph.
From there, it was an easy ascent on firm rock to the bench above Lake Arrowhead, then a grunt back up to Ida's northeast ridge and a tundra traverse to the Continental Divide and the Mount Ida trail. As previously described, the rolling alpine descent along the Divide was an absolute classic and left me with an unquenchable desire to hit the full Never Summit traverse from Mount Baker on the southern end all the way north to the stunning summits of the venerable Baron von Richtofen and the Nokhu Crags.

This one gets a Rocky Mountain two thumbs up. 

Arrowhead Lake, Terra Tomah, Julian.
Azure Lake

Highest Lake, Chief Cheley, Cracktop

Arrowhead, Julian, Cracktop
Never Summers
Steph, Nick above the shores of Lake Arrowhead with Ida, Cheley, 12,820' and Cracktop behind
Fri - PM: 6.5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth south summit via crack towards the north end of the east face. 

Sat - 35 miles (8,500') hills. Ran up and down Towers 4.5 times during the second annual 24 Hours of Towers. Added an ascent of Horsetooth to the first Towers summit (40 mins from campsite), with a line up Slush's Slit - an easy chimney on the north side of the south tooth. Mike took an unfortunate fall while we were scoping other lines up the north summit from the middle gap, so we had to cut further exploration short to get him back to his vehicle so he could get a gash on his thigh attended to. Needless to say, we hit the shortest line possible from Horsetooth back to Soderberg via Wathan and Herrington. A text an hour or two later confirmed that Mike was fine after a total of 18 stitches (wowzer). A lesson or two learned there.

The rest of the morning was spent trying to catch up with Cat who was by now a lap and a half ahead of me. After two more Towers summits (38, 41), I took a 3.5 hour break to play with the kids down by the lake before pounding out another quicky before the 'family lap' (37 up, 22 down). As it turns out, pushing a jogging stroller with flat tires up Towers on tired legs with an ornery six year old in tow isn't that much fun. We cut it short at Herrington after two miles and let Mom get on with her lap while we headed back for food and fun at the campsite. I had no further interest in running up Towers, even with 12 hours left on the clock. Rob would go on to knock out a further 4 summits through the night (after taking the day completely off) to take the 2012 crown with 7 summits, 50 miles and 12,000 feet of vertical.

Sun - 4 miles (2,200') peak baggery. The original plan was to run a 20 mile road run as a bookend to the vertical from the day before, but on waking up I had zero motivation, so took the easy option with the time that I had to go bag a couple of Larimer County peaks. I decided on a couple of neighbors up the North Fork of the Big Thompson.

From the Upper North Fork picnic area on Devils Gulch Road, I found a steep scratch trail that led to the Triangle Mountain ridgeline, which I then followed to the summit. A very faint trail leads the whole way to the summit, but it is very easily lost in the scrub, grass and rocky outcroppings that define the terrain up on the ridge. Nonetheless, the summit was very straightforward given the lack of tree cover and offered killer views of the Continental Divide, Mummies, Crosier, and east down the Big T to Round and Palisade Mountains. A most worthy - and highly recommended - peak.

By contrast, point 7,470, some two miles down the North Fork, was a total 'schwak fest through thickets of nasty prickly stuff by the river and heavy tree cover above. Having no beta on this particular summit, I wasn't really sure where to start, so I chose a random (large) pull-off on the south side of the road by an aggressively posted private log bridge over the river. The private property (aside from the bridge) appeared to mainly be off to the right once I was on the south bank, so I cut a line straight up the steep hillside veering slightly to the left. After 400 or so feet of very steep bushwhacking, I gained a connecting ridge for the 7,470' summit, which I had to traverse for a quarter mile before pushing out the last 300 feet for the true summit. As expected there was no register, although there was a small cairn just below the summit. The top was lightly treed, which allowed me to confirm from topographic landmarks that I was in fact on the correct summit, so I built a more substantial summit cairn for future LoJ peak baggers before heading down. I took a slightly different route off the summit heading in a northeasterly direction through more open terrain for the first 200 feet of the descent before cutting due north for the river through heavy tree cover on a very steep line. It took me a little while to find a suitable spot to cross the river (eventually finding a downed tree trunk over the river) and then it was a short quarter mile jog back up Devils Gulch to the car.         

Total: 82.5 miles (22,100')

I failed again to put in any kind of course-specific training for UROC this week, but with 11 summits on the week (8 new, 9 unique), I can't complain. I guess I'll have what I have for the Blue Ridge Parkway in three weeks.


  1. But more fun, no? Good luck at UROC, Nick.

  2. now I have to climb that thing since you named it after me, thanks for nothing.

  3. Thanks for spotting it, Slush (sweet unicorn!), it was pretty fun and better than what we were first trying to do which was getting sketchy. There's also a route on the North Rock that I don't recommend!

    Thanks for helping me get down, Nick, and clearing the snakes out of the way as well.

  4. eh, UROC specific road training is overrated, anyways. I'm sure Max will agree...

  5. Peak baggery. I like that term. As far as specific training ... yeah, it is important but first ya gotta do what you enjoy. And you are clearly doing that.