A strong appetite, average palate, and weak writing, mixed with outdoor adventure.

A strong appetite, average palate, and weak writing, mixed with outdoor adventure.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Marrow Donation–Follow Up

The marrow people, not to be confused with the blood suckers or just the cash strapped needy, sent me a cheek swab kit.


Does a bear shit in the woods?

In a fit of volunteerism smugness I ran off to the bathroom to swab up. I will be remembering this post and the two glasses of wine that led to my blasé attitude about marrow donation when they  are extracting it from my hip. Until those tears are shed, here is to a feeling giving back without having yet given back!


Yes, this swab is ridiculously long! I am actually holding the end of it with my toes.


I am now being added to a DNA database.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Awesome People Hanging Out Together

Yep, I am simply regurgitating web content, but this site is pretty fantastic and has been showing up in a lot of places, so I thought I should hop aboard the bandwagon!


It is exactly as it is described, awesome people hanging out together. Admittedly, it does not sound fascinating, but see the humble sampling below.


Robert Redford and Paul Newman as the sexiest ping pong duo of all time


Tom Wolfe and Kurt Vonnegut, writing novels in their head


Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein, science overload.

I do not read People Magazine, have not seen a movie in the theater since January, and in general am out of the loop on celebrities. This site seems to transcend that, simply offering up great pictures without any backstory. Enjoy!

Crestones (Needle and Peak)


  • Route: Standard Routes from South Colony Lake
  • Distance:
    • Approach (South Colony), 8 miles round trip
    • Climb, 6.5 miles round trip
  • Elevation Gain:
    • Approach, ~1,700
    • Climb, ~5,500 feet
  • Start time: 7:00 AM
  • Time:11 hours
  • Climbers: Alan, David, Seth, Angela, Sandy

I reminded myself that loosely made plans are always fun. With that Alan and I left the trailhead at 7 PM, knowing that the Texans would be hiking up in the dark that night, finding our site, making camp and then be ready for the Crestones the following morning.


Lets go for hike! Alright, but only if we can dress the same!

We were 5 minutes down the trail when I looked left and noticed a bear. As trained we immediately raised our packs above our heads, made noise and stood close together to appear larger…that is a complete lie. In true tourist fashion we immediately reached for cameras. We were fast, the bear faster. All we got was one blurry image, which could actually be a yeti.


That black blurry thing in the middle? Bear, thankfully running away.

We found a great campsite. The Texans found us. Morning arrived. We hiked.


Left to right: David, Seth, Angela, Sandy, Alan, Crestone Needle

The climb up to Broken Hand Pass was dry at the base but snowchoked as it neared the top. Crampons were unnecessary, but an ice axe needed. As an admitted gearhead, standing in such a beautiful basin, necessary equipment and knowhow at hand and watching friends move across the snow as the morning sun gathers strength, it is impossible to not smile.


David and Angela on the first snowfield of the day


Sandy crossing snow


Alan as the climbing steepens


The team atop Broken Hand Pass

From Broken Hand Pass we followed the obvious trail and were quickly in the East Gully. The crossover to the West Gully is easy to find, especially with the photo from the 14ers.com route description. The gullies both had a thread of snow, which could be avoided and/or were located in areas where they were of little consequence.


Alan skylines himself while route finding

As someone who is comfortable with exposure, I found the climbing fun. This peak was a little intimidating as the last time I was in the area there was a fatality on the Needle. This was always in the back of mind, but also served to sharpen focus, but anxiety turned to joy with each upward step.

We spent 30 sun soaked minutes on the summit. We had seen one climber descending and otherwise had the Needle to ourselves. As the trailhead lot was full it begged the question: Where was everybody?


Alan on the summit, with the next objective, Crestone Peak in the background.

The original plan was to do the traverse from Needle to Peak, but we did not have 100% buy-in from the group, and frankly I did not want to carry a rope, so I used this an excuse to call it off. Instead, Seth, Alan and I decided we would leave from Broken Hand Pass and climb Crestone Peak via the standard route.

The descent back to Broken Hand Pass was uneventful, but an exercise in methodical downclimbing.


Sandy and David on the descent


David, Angela and Seth crossing over a rib

Alan and I have gotten a lot of hiking in this year and Seth is the type of guy who runs ultra-marathons and occasionally wins them. We meshed perfectly as we dropped off the pass, quietly consuming distance, cruised by Cottonwood Lake and made the hard right towards the Red Gully. Snow streaked, flowing with water and the snow softening in the sun, we quickly discussed the route and then ascended without pause.


We stayed in the rocks to the left side in the lowest snow field, switched to right midway, crossed an unavoidable snowfield and then cut back left, ultimately reaching the summit left of the upper snowfield. This kept us out of soft snow, but put us on steep terrain.


Approaching the base of the Red Gully, note the running water


Hugging the left side of the lower snowfield


Alan and Seth high above the basin floor


Seth and Alan crossing a small but steep snowfield, en route to dry rock

Two hours after departing Broken Hand Pass we reached the summit. We laid into our food supply, finished our water (damn it!) and drank in views of neighboring peaks, the Sand Dunes and the expanse of the San Luis Valley. Then summit goofiness began.


Alan throwing down the “farmer flex shot” with a hat he found at 14,000 feet.


The classis pose, note the socks, so much for “waterproof’ boots. The Full Monty showed up too but is not safe for viewing as it requires immediate administration of eye bleach.


Seth and Alan


Kit Carson and Challenger

The descent was a thirsty affair, luckily the exposure was such that one did not notice the dry and scratchy throat. After the initial scramble we were able to transition to snow and plunge step.


Alan downclimbing


Seth and Sandy plunge stepping


Water water everywhere

We filtered water at Cottonwood Lake, climbed back over Broken Hand Pass and hit camp for ramen and rest. Tempted by the lure of sleeping in our own beds, Alan and I packed and drove back to Denver.


Climb complete


Cottonwood Lake


The sun slips behind the Crestones


The road home


Second dinner!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bike to Work Day

The annual bike-love-fest known as Bike to Work to Day was today. Vendors and sponsors set up breakfast stations at strategic locations and hand out free food, coffee and a variety of bars, fruits, and other schwag for cyclists.

I was having such a good time riding that between before and after rides I logged nearly 40 miles. I began at 6 AM, and found surprisingly empty streets. Streets that would be bumper to bumper in another 90 minutes. It is so much fun to have a whole road to yourself. Especially one that is downhill as you can carve large slalom turns.


Tracy, Scott and I went to the Bike from Work Bash, which featured free beer and food. Below Tracy is double fisting beers, she tried to convince this is the first time in years that this has happened. I am not sure I believe her.


The dog statue outside of Denver’s new animal shelter. It is at least 20 feet tall and covered in dog tags.


Sunset from Washington Park


Basking in the evening light


Women walking her malnourished Holstein.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lindsey Peak, Iron Nipple and Huerfano Peak

In an act of reverse migration, in the face of birds headed north along the Rocky Mountain flyway, Alan and I headed due south, lured by the airy heights of Mt Lindsey. The drive saw the sun slipping behind the foothills, casting long golden rays across agricultural fields, with the rolling hills a patchwork of light and shadow. Even with something as mundane as interstate driving, Colorado rarely disappoints.


The bumpy approach road led to a trailhead where level ground was a premium. It was a truckbed bivy with Alan sliding into the side of the truck and compliments of gravity, me slowly moving towards Alan. Between the two of us we may have picked up four hours of sleep, but were excitedly walking by 5:20 AM.

The trails drops (uphill finish!) into a broad valley carved by the Huerfano River. It is gladed terrain with the high peaks hidden by the conifers.


Almost full moon

We crossed the Huerfano River, which had been described as ominous, so Alan and I expected the worst. We even carried sandals, but to save weight we each carried one, with the intention of tossing them to one another across the river. Alas, we rock-hopped, but joined the lightly membered club of “those who carry a single sandal to three summits”.

The trail through the trees is thin, braided and sometimes hard to follow. Of course, if I had been looking down instead of at the wall of peaks in front of me it may have been easier. The two tall points in the middle are Blanca Peak (left) and Ellingwood Point (right), summits for another day.

blanca pano

We hugged the edge of a talus field and continued uphill. After some joyful boulder hopping and occasional near slip we realized we were off route, sort of. The word lost is not appropriate as we knew uphill took us where we needed, we just did not know where the trail was in relation to us. Taking heed from the tagline of the Mountain Gazette, “when in doubt, go higher”, we ascended through boulders of increasing size.


Up there?


Over here?


I’ll check here

Was there an energy cost? Sure, but it was filled with a bit more adventure so worth it.

Upon finding the standard route we quickly hit the saddle between the Iron Nipple and Mt Lindsey. There are a few options on Lindsey, but the crux of the decision was a Class 2+ gully chock full of loose rock or scrambling on solid Class 4. There was no decision to be made, only holds to pull as we climbed upward. This section is a bit of choose your own adventure, with no clear route, and the pictures make it look steeper than it is, but the focus associated with exposure in high and beautiful places is delicious. With the methodical test hold, weight, move and repeat, there was significant gain in both elevation and elation.


Straight up that!


A downclimbing traverse. I avoided this section on a wider ledge below.


It is hard to see what is happening here, but I am pulling over a very small roof at the top of a “chimney”.

This section was too short and the windblown run along the ridge had us sheltered behind the summit windbreak in short time. Once again, dignity was safely stowed in the truck at the trailhead, so the flexshots, which have evolved into shirtless entertainment, began in short order.


Alan throwing down a heel tap


Me and the cartwheel

The descent down the standard route is a mix of ledges, rock hopping and loose dirt. It felt more likely to end in injury than the solid ridge we had ascended 30 minutes prior. Back at the saddle we kept our backs to Lindsey and headed up the Iron Nipple, along the connecting ridge.

The ascent of the Iron Nipple and the following climb to Huerfano Peak took approximately one hour. There were a few Class 3 moves, but the terrain mostly gentle, allowing for speed.


Alan on the ridge to the Iron Nipple


Atop Huerfano Peak

There was another peak on the docket, Unnamed Point 13,555. The connecting ridge was sinuous and our legs were jello, so we bailed on it. In fact, at this point a nap was in order.


Actually, Alan is searching for marmots.

The descent to the trailhead was uneventful, but since we had missed a portion of the trail on the way up it was new to us. Crossing the basin at 12,000 it was perfectly calm, no one around and our moods expanded to match the grandeur of the setting. It is these moments, maybe equivalent to the runners high (?), that every labored breath working our way upward is worth it. Fully immersed in the moment and not wishing you were anywhere else.


I have begun carrying a cooler on weekend trips again. It is a bit of a bother when packing, but after hours on the trail the taste of bread, pesto, pasta and cold beers stacks up well against the effort of an James Beard awarded chefs.


A few parting shots…


Hanging out in high places




Nice peaks, get the hairy guy out of the way.