Saturday, August 30, 2008

8/27-29/2008: Capitol Peak, Climbing a 14er...

On the spur of the moment, Dave and I hopped in the car and drove several hours to climb Capitol Peak which is the northernmost 14,000' Peak in the Elk Mountain Range in Colorado. According to Gerry Roach (1992, Colorado's Fourteeners: From Hikes to Climbs), Capitol Peak (14,130') is "singular and stoic". Further, he states that "Capitol has been called Colorado's hardest fourteener." This is due to the northeast ridge that must be climbed - including the "knife edge" to reach the summit. The knife edge is a 100' long part of the northeast ridge.

We arrived at the trailhead where we could see the Peak in the distance. We gathered up our camping and hiking gear and headed in. It was a 6.5 mile hike with a gain of 3,000' in elevation.

The hike in provided many beautiful views. It also offered some funny views of Dave while hiking. Ha!

It took about 3 hours to hike in to Capitol Lake. Once there, we were surprised to find absolutely no one else around. We had the entire lake area to ourselves!

We looked around the area before settling on what was a perfect campsite.

From our camp we had a spectacular view in every direction. In one direction was the lake, and above it the peak. The ridge extends to the left of the peak.

In the opposite direction we had nice views of the valley we'd just hiked through.

Once settled, we made and ate dinner while watching three adult and two young elks grazing in the field in front of us. As the sun set, the alpenglow on the peak was beautiful as were the clouds.

We went to bed at a decent time knowing we'd be getting up early and it'd be a long day summiting. We fell asleep listening to the howl of a wolf.

We were up early-ish - about 7am - the next morning to prepare to go. The weather could not have been more perfect.The first leg of the hike required a steep hike up to the saddle between Mount Daly and Capitol Peak.

This was a steep but beautiful area - wildflowers of every color were everywhere!

Upon reaching this saddle, we had about 12 or 13 snow fields to cross. To my surprise, I did not wipe out on any of them and take a ride.

Once through the snow, we climbed to the top of K2, (aka Point 13,664'). I read somewhere that K2 is a little point on a pile of talus. No joke! I got a nice photo of Dave talus-hoping to the top of K2.

From here, the view of Capitol Peak and the surrounding area was quite stunning. In addition, we could see many other lakes, and peaks in almost every direction.

We started to notice that the air was getting really foul. It seemed there must have been a fire in the area. Later, on the summit we could see this fire - what a mess it'd made of the air. We could see nothing toward the north as a result of the smoke.

All that remained was to hike the ridge, cross the knife edge and summit.

While I certainly did not walk across the top of the knife edge (that thing is thin, and the price of a trip is an 1,800 fall to the base), I did manage to stand up in a few spots. I also managed to butt-scoot in some other spots as well. All-in-all though, it was not nearly as bad as all the literature had made it out to be.

During this final section crossing the ridge, we ran into someone who'd summitted before us. He was on his way down.

Finally, the summit was ours. From here, we could clearly see the fire in the distance. While on top, we could see that the fire was squashed too. It was amazing how quickly the air cleared out.

Dave signed the summit register and we lounged around on the top for about an hour we estimate. Given the time stamp on our photos, we think it took us about 3.5 hours from camp to summit.

After a while relaxing and after having a snack we started the long journey back. After passing K2 again on the descent, we saw a party of two men about to summit K2 on their way to Capitol. We were a bit surprised at their late start. At least the weather still looked solid.

I fell and slid a good 100,000 times crossing the snow fields on the way back. In some cases, this was pretty fun and an efficient way to lose altitude. In other cases, it was just annoying!

Finally, we got back to camp. We washed up in the local creek. Made dinner, and just enjoyed the evening. Neither of us were psyched on hiking out the 6.5 miles and driving home so we opted to stay the night.

As the evening went on, we couldn't help but notice that the two men we'd passed still hadn't come down. Finally hours after I started worrying about them, one did return at about 8pm. Seems he and his buddy and become separated at the knife edge shortly after we'd seen them. He was not willing to make the moves across it, but his buddy wanted to continue. So they separated. He waited for his friend to return for hours and hours and hours.

Realizing something may be wrong and that it was getting late, he opted to descend. They had no gear with them so he had to walk the 6.5 miles back to his car. He was a bit distraught fearing his friend was injured, or worse had fallen to his death.He was heading back to the car to contact SAR to initiate a rescue.

We encouraged him to wait until morning to make the call since SAR wouldn't be able to do anything in the dark anyway. No doubt this guy spent a long, fretful night in his car.

We watched for his friend all night long and he never came down. I didn't sleep well worrying about him. Finally, at about 7am, the other guy hiked by veeeerrrrrryyyyy slowly. He clearly had spent a very unpleasant, and likely sleepless night on the peak somewhere. Arg. Not fun! Still, we were glad to see him return.

We made some breakfast, packed up and hiked the long hike out to the car. After some lunch in Glenwood Springs, we drove home. Great trip!

Monday, August 25, 2008

08-25-2008 - Dinner on the back porch, sort of!

After a long day of work, we decided to have dinner on the back porch. Well, not exactly our back porch, but something we can see from the back porch - the third Flat Iron. Dave has climbed this countless times. It would be my first - an onsight solo. Weeeee!

According to the City of Boulder website, "Earl and Floyd Millard made the first known ascent of the infamous 3rd Flatiron in 1906.

The website continues "Since then, the rock has been the destination for climbing enthusiasts world-wide. Some of the more notable ascents include Dale Johnson and Phil Robertson on roller skates (!), a blind man led by Ernest Greenman (who climbed it 101 times), Baker Armstrong without hands, and Baker again at age 60 in 16 minutes."

And, "But don’t let these feats cause you to lose your guard: in its long history, the 3rd has also brought many careless climbers to their deaths. It is a multiple-pitch climb that is difficult and time consuming to escape from in bad weather."

Instead of wearing roller skates or climbing in bad weather, we decided to just eat dinner on top. We went to Wild Oats and purchased some sushi, beer and a chocolate desert and headed to the trail head. We hiked over to the third flat iron, and took off. The climb is about 900' high and had only one other group on it.

In no time, we arrived to the top at dusk. (I think it was more than 16 minutes though). We enjoyed our food and desert though the wind was a bit pesky. Then we huddled under a blanket and looked over the city lights. In the distance we could see enormous lightening bolts pummeling some farm land.

After dark, we rapped the three rappels and hiked out in the dark. Our next adventure is to climb a 14er. Looks like we'll head to Aspen and climb Capitol Peak. Should be a blast!

Friday, August 22, 2008

8/22/08 - Henri's really bad day.

Today was one of those days that goes in completely unexpected direction. I had a 9 am vet appointment for the birds to get their nails trimmed. It was their first trip to their new vet in Boulder.

Things there went as expected. Henri was happy and flirting with all the girls. Grace was very angry and puffed her head up like a hawk-headed parrot looking tough grumbling at anyone who passed. Ferne and Clover just hung together and Gabbie clung to me like a piece of a gum.

Things went well for a while. I was discussing Henri's history with the vet. He's 30 years old and has some heart damage to his left ventricle. Because of this he has fluid on his liver and it means his heart has to work extra hard. As a result, he sometimes has these terrible pass-out episodes. Each one it seems he'll surely die.

Today at the vet, for no reason, he had a series of several of these episodes. The next would start before he'd recovered from the last. He didn't "come out" of them either. More so than ever, it was clear he was dying. We spent the day in the animal hospital with him in ICU in an incubator getting oxygen.

He was very weak, hardly able to stand. It was clear he wouldn't be coming home.

He did come home tonight, but he is still very weak. He did eat some scrambled egg, but other than that, he's not eating much. He's in bed now. He didn't even want to come out and say goodnight.

At least he's not in any pain. Hopefully he makes it through the night and gets better. He's such a good bird.

**Update from the next morning. Henri pulled through. While he's still weak, he's eating and acting more normal. Hopefully he won't have anymore episodes (wishful thinking).

Here is a short video of him feeling better. He may be feeling and looking better, but you can see that I'm still a wreck over the whole thing!

8/19-21/08 - Lumpy Ridge Climbing! Woo Hoo!

Some friends of mine decided to spend their annual vacation in Estes Park - just a stone's throw from here. Sam and Kim invited me to Yosemite early last September in what turned out to be a roaring good time complete with funny colored cars, bears trying to snuggle in bed and excellent climbing with Karl Baba.

For that fun Yosemite trip report, see

They are among the nicest folks so I was really psyched they'd be close so we could visit and they could meet Dave.

So, on the 19th, we loaded the car and headed to Estes Park to hang out with them. We arrived in time to grab dinner at a local Mexican restaurant (the Grumpy Gringo). Then we returned to the condo, indulged in some delicious wine and watched Dave's climbing movie "Gray Hairs and Gravity" (see:

The next morning Kim went to do her thing and we all headed out to climb in Lumpy Ridge. Sam had asked that we do some two to three pitch 5.7/5.8 climbs. He's not been able to get out climbing much lately so his fitness has declined a bit. Dave selected some good stuff we hoped he'd like.

Sam had a friend - Paul - with him on the trip that was coming out as well. He was game for anything. I had no doubt they would enjoy what Dave had selected.

We arrived at Lumpy and hiked in to the Left Book area. On the way, we were greeted with the standard cattle skeleton in the meadows. Ew! Plus, we were blown away by the immense amount of snow on Long's Peak. It had been there about 10 days, and we heard much had already melted. Nonetheless, there was still a LOT of snow there.

Our goal was to climb Hiatus. This is a three star, three pitch 5.7. It was a fun climb and both Sam and Paul really enjoyed it. Great time!

After scrambling down the gully, it was clear the weather was deteriorating so we decided to stick close to the ground on climbs that would allow a quick bail if it started pouring. First we climbed the first pitch of Back Flip. This is a 5.9 climb characterized by liebacking and jamming. Sammy didn't think he was in shape to do this, but he surprised himself (none of us were surprised) by climbing it well.

Next up was the first pitch of Loose Ends. This is a sustained 5.9, three star climb up a thin, left facing flake/dihedral. Sam and Paul both worked hard on this and conquered the pitch. It was great fun watching them. I felt they both exceeded their expectations. Like every pitch before, this was declared "The Best Climb Of the Trip!!!"

Though the weather was pretty marginal, we thought we'd squeeze in one more pitch. Given the weather, Dave led it and Paul followed only. This pitch, includes some flaring hand cracks. It looked like loads of fun. Maybe next time Dave and I are there, we'll do the entire route. Paul did a great job on this route as well. He also did a good job of cleaning and rapping in some wind and rain! :)

Following this, we hiked out (the rain went away as quickly as it started) and went back to the condo to find Kim. Happily, she wanted Italian food for dinner. All day long I was thinking of Italian food. So we headed to a local restaurant.

While waiting for our table, we all raced down a tall, undulating slide. Too bad we didn't have the camera for this. It was hilarious. Especially the way some of us ended up dead stopped in the middle of slide flopping around trying to get back to the ground. Little friction issue on that slide!

After dinner, we headed back to the condo for some quality hot tub time and everyone headed to bed.

The next morning, after another delicious breakfast prepared by Kim, we headed to the Pear in Lumpy. We ended up climbing two multi-pitch climbs here. First up was La Chaim. This two pitch 5.7 (two stars) is described aptly as "delightful" in the guidebook. Not a lot of gear, and what was there was "meh" on the first pitch made it extra fun for Dave no doubt. One wouldn't know this from watching him though. He's as cool as a cucumber.

Next we did the first two pitches on Magical Chrome Plated Semi-Automatic Enema Syringe. This two star 5.7 proved great fun and great photo opps for the crew.

It was getting a bit late so the last climb of the day was selected: Pitch 1 of The Whole Thing. This 5.10- three star was super entertaining as it had a roof to be pulled at the top.

The book states "Climb the steepening rock to a notch in the roof band...Pull over this on good horizontal "Gunks" edges, which unfortunately disappear on the final hard move." The book doesn't mention how polished the bottom part of the climb is, or the cruxy face move a bit below the roof.

Dave climbed up and fired it providing excellent entertainment with his one hard hanging monkey-routine. Paul was up next and, as he put it, engaged in a "battle with gravity." He worked hard at the roof, even trying some swimming type maneuvers to pass the roof before coming down with a huge grin.

Next I went up. I tried the roof the strong-guy way and was shut down. A second time was successful as I found multiple excellent crimpers to use. This move was such fun I did it again and repeated it in my head falling asleep later. I love that kind of stuff!

The hike out was a lot of fun due to some silly photo sessions. Unfortunately my camera battery died during mid-day so I didn't get any photos of the last few climbs or our silly photo sessions. I should get the pics from Paul soon. Plus, they should show up soon on a trip report on

We all headed back to the condo and visited a bit. Kim, Sam and Paul headed to dinner and we headed home. The trip was a blast. The three from Memphis loved the Estes Park area. Paul wants to come to law school at CU possibly, and Sam and Kim are hoping to move near here sooner than later.

I hope they all get their wishes!