Monthly Archives: August 2011

Collegiate Peaks High Adventure 2011 – Day 5

Find the rest of the week’s trip reports here:

Day 5

Missouri Gulch TH – Belford summit – Oxford summit – Missouri Gulch TH (day hike)
12 miles
5800′ climb


Today would wrap up our summer tour of the Collegiate Peaks with our longest day of the week.  We were tired, but acclimated to the workload.  We got an early start and were on the trail by 05:30, just as it was getting light enough to see without a headlamp.

Mount Belford and Mount Oxford

The trail started off climbing steeply up a forested hillside, averaging over 1,000′ of elevation gain per mile for the first several miles.

Corbin is awake, not sure about the other two

Guardian of the Gulch

Once we made it further up into the valley, we could see the rest of the route before us.  The climb to Belford was a switchbacked monster of a trail that weaved its way tightly up a ridge.

Belford is the little bump left of center

I fell in behind Malcolm as he set an excellent pace.  Slow and steady ended up catching and passing all of the faster starters ahead of us.

Up we go

Looking back down

After a few discouraging false summits, we topped out and soaked up yet another amazing view.

Old man and the boy

Mount Belford - 14,197'

It was mighty cold at 14,000′ and still early in the day.  We tried to take some shelter from the wind but eventually had to bundle up with everything we had before we got moving again.

Starting the trek to Oxford

Still quite a bit of snow around for late July

Strange looking thistles

The traverse from Belford to Oxford was a little longer and more difficult than it looked on paper, but we made it over just fine.

Had to lose a bit of elevation, then gain it all back

Soon enough we were on the summit for our fourth 14er of the week.  Job well done, guys!

Mount Oxford - 14,153'

Which way?

Say oxygen! (credit: Tyler Lofgren)

More flowers

We decided to head back via a slightly different route than we had ascended.  A little longer, but more gradual.  Plus it would give us a chance to see some new terrain.

Upper Missouri Gulch

Bees and flowers everywhere

We took our time and savored the last miles of the trip.  It was a spectacular day with no threat of storms, so we had no reason to hurry.

Getting that classic Colorado shot of a marmot next to a Marmot tent

This marmot didn't live in a tent...

Time to move on

Several stream crossings and a very steep descent were all that stood in our way now.  We passed several groups heading up the trail with huge packs on, they were not looking too happy in the afternoon heat.

A final stream crossing (credit: Tyler Lofgren)

And just like that, we were finished.

Done. Let's eat!

I was seriously impressed with our group this week.  They took on a very challenging route and made it look easy.  No big problems, drama, or meltdowns.  It was truly a pleasure to spend time in the mountains with them and observe how well they did.  I am at a bit of a loss as to what to throw at them next year.  40 miles and 17,000 feet of climbing was apparently not enough!

Collegiate Peaks High Adventure 2011 – Day 4

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Day 4

Hartenstein Lake – Yale trail junction
1.8 miles
900′ descent
drop packs
Yale summit
5.6 miles round trip
3400′ climb
Yale trail junction – Denny Creek TH
1.2 miles
800′ descent
Pick up shuttle car
Dinner in Buena Vista
Drive to Winfield  (~30 miles)

Today would have a little bit of everything.  We broke camp and hauled our packs a couple of miles down the trail where we stashed them in some trees and made ready for the Mount Yale climb after sending Henry on his way.

Hartenstein to Mount Yale trail

Mount Yale


We were in store for a great day weather wise, and the mood was good in the group after having our fill of great food the night before.

Time to head out again

The routine of waking up in a tent, breaking camp, and getting out on the trail was a familiar one now.  I was amazed at how well everyone was holding up and excited to think that we might actually pull this off.

Easy downhill going made for a nice warmup

Once we switched to our day packs we were all business for a while as we motored up the steep climb.  Knowing that we had a long day ahead helped to spur our pace, as well as the thought of pizza waiting for us in Buena Vista!

All smiles now

When we climbed above treeline the massive views opened up to us once again.  By now the landscape was very familiar to us and we could easily pick out the surrounding peaks and other landmarks.

Loving the climb

Ben cresting the ridge

Tyler and Malcolm

A little boulder-hopping (credit: Tyler Lofgren)

Cool cairn

Bryant and Corbin

After a final pitch through the boulders we topped out and enjoyed the second summit of our trip.

Made it!


We all passed around Tyler’s phone again (his was the only one to get signal) and made the requisite celebratory calls and text messages.  Different world we live in these days…

Malcolm and Ben

Made all the 14er ascents in my Merrell Trail Gloves

Mount Yale - 14,196'

All too soon, it was time to start the trip down.  The hiking was enjoyable as we had an immense landscape sprawled out in front of us.

Tyler on the switchbacks

Looking back towards Ice Mountain and yesterday's route

The heat really started to build the lower we went.  I ran out of water and was super happy to refill my bottle once we made it back to where we stashed the packs.

Just a mile to go

From there it was about a mile and a half to the trailhead where we had dropped a car on Monday.  It seemed a LOT longer than that, but we made it out just fine.  Then we had to go grab the other car from our starting location before we could head into town for some much needed grub.

Pizza Works - Mmmm...

We destroyed 3 large pizzas in short order and then made our way north up the highway for our final campsite at the ghost town of Winfield.

A little leg soaking was in order

Our filtering system worked well

A puddle of alpenglow

Winfield is a great place to camp.  You are surrounded by high peaks all around and there is a nice meadow and lots of space.  It is also the 50 mile turnaround point for the Leadville 100 trail race.  We hit the sack early in anticipation of a 4:30 wake up and our biggest day yet.

Goodnight Winfield, see you in a month

Collegiate Peaks High Adventure 2011 – Day 3

Find the rest of the week’s trip reports here:

Day 3

Kroenke Lake – Hartenstein Lake
5.3 miles
1600′ descent
1600′ climb
This day was scheduled to be our easiest of the week.  Just a short trip up and over the Continental Divide and then on to Hartenstein Lake.

Kroenke Lake to Hartenstein Lake

It was kind of a strange morning.  We purposely slept in a little, but then had to hustle around camp to get packed up before being hit with what looked like a really nasty storm.  Thankfully the storm blew over and we were treated to nice blue skies for the rest of the day.

On our way up the climb to the Divide

The climb was initially very steep and then eased off a little bit.  It was nice to not have to hurry to our destination, and have plenty of time for looking around, stalking marmots, etc.

Malcolm crosses the final snow field of the trip

We took off the packs and relaxed for a while up on the pass.  Other than being a touch cold, it was really pleasant.  The mountains and clouds around us were very striking.  Ice Mountain looked amazingly cool, and was put on the ever growing must-do list.

Ice Mountain and the Three Apostles

Chris, Tyler, Malcolm, Bryant, Ben, and Corbin

The dominant flower in the area was the Alpine Sunflower.  The grow slowly for several years (10+?), concentrating on storing up as much starch as they can in the taproot during what is a very short growing season.  Then, when conditions are right, they bloom once – then die.

Alpine Sunflower

Blue skies, puffy white clouds, crushed granite trails, and lots of flowers.  Good day on the trail.

Love this trail!

The next photo shows my 1993 Mountainsmith pack.  Still going strong.

Buy good stuff, it lasts

We made camp in the early afternoon and had plenty of time to lay around, explore, and generally goof off.  I took up my favorite high alpine lake passtime of using a dead stick to smack rocks way out into the water.  If you find just the right ‘bat’, you can hit those rocks pretty far!

Lazy afternoon

Columbine with Mount Yale in the background

Soon dinner arrived, on Henry’s back!  He had made the drive from home picking up deli sandwiches, chips, candy bars, along the way and hiked in to meet us.  Wow!  We gorged on some good grub and shared some laughs.  That was awesome!

We couldn't quite finish them all

Then the binoc’s came out and we spent the rest of the evening spotting critters waaaay up on the mountainside.  Amazing what you can see if you know where to look.

Yep, spotted another one

That deer is four years old, and his name is Bob