Monthly Archives: August 2011
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.
The trail started off climbing steeply up a forested hillside, averaging over 1,000′ of elevation gain per mile for the first several miles.
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.
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.
After a few discouraging false summits, we topped out and soaked up yet another amazing view.
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.
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.
Soon enough we were on the summit for our fourth 14er of the week. Job well done, guys!
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.
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.
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.
And just like that, we were finished.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
After a final pitch through the boulders we topped out and enjoyed the second summit of our trip.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.