Friday, June 25, 2010

Bear Peak run/hike

View fom the summit of Bear Peak
Yesterday (6/23) I did a quick run/hike up Bear Peak via Fern Canyon. This is a standard (and excellent) hike in Boulder and is certainly the steepest trail in the area, climbing about 2800' over just 2.8 miles (1000 ft/mile or averaging a 19% grade!!!). It was a beautiful day out, but a bit hot so I waited until 6:40 to hit the trail and I still overheated quite a bit in the beginning of the hike. I felt like crap most of my way up the canyon until I got up higher and started cooling off a bit. I'm feeling pretty strong these days and this was actually a pretty good time despite the miserable ascent. Great day and a great hike with a lot of bang for your buck.

The stats: 5.6 miles, ~3000 ft elevation gain, 1hr 56min

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Longs Peak to the Keyhole

The Diamond, Longs Peak (photo from August '08)
Yesterday was a beautiful day out, the finish to a week of awesome weather on the Front Range. After spending the morning doing some work inside I decided it was too nice outside to miss out on. I quickly stuffed some extra clothes in my pack, grabbed some water and drove up to the Longs Peak trail head in RMNP. The goal for the day was to get well above treeline and spend several hours at altitude in one of the most beautiful places on earth. I didn't bring a camera so the photos here are from a previous trip in August, 2008.

Due to the outstanding weather and lack of threatening clouds over the mountains I decided to head up the Longs Peak trail even though I left the trail head around 2:30pm. The trail was in pretty good shape with a bit of water in places and without the horse crap I experienced last time. There was no snow until I was above the trees and in the krummholz. Even then, there were only a few short snow fields before Chasm Junction and the trail passed quickly. There were quite a few people headed down the trail, but once I reached Chasm Junction I only saw a few people for the rest of the day.

Views at Chasm Junction were awesome. Peacock Pool is free of ice and there were clouds blowing over the Loft from the south and swirling in front of the Diamond. After a short break to eat a granola bar and empty the sand from my shoes I headed up trail toward Granite Pass. There were two longer snowfields on a fairly steep side slope here, but no real issues. I soon rounded Granite pass (windy here) and headed up to the Boulder Field. There was no more snow until just below the Keyhole and I made my way up to the area of the Boulder Field campsites.

The top half of the Diamond as seen from the Boulder Field.
The Boulder Field is ENORMOUS! There are people at bottom right.

The Boulder Field had been my intended destination, but when I got there I still felt good, the weather was fine and the Keyhole, with its promise of views into Glacier Gorge, seemed to be beckoning. I sat and soaked in the scenery for 20 minutes or so while I tried to gauge the time, my watch, cell phone and camera had all been left behind. I finally decided to push for the Keyhole and soak in some more solitude and spectacular views. I had a headlamp anyway so it was no big deal if I ended up hiking down in the dark.

The Keyhole, Agnes Vaille Shelter is just below/left of the keyhole.

I headed left and then switched back to the right between the snowfields lingering in the Boulder Field and scrambled up to the Keyhole without setting foot on snow. The view into Glacier Gorge was well worth it. I just stood there in the wind and sun for ten minutes or so, enjoying the solitude and the incredible scenery spread before and behind me. Mills Lake and Jewel Lake were free of ice, Black Lake was partially melted and the higher lakes were still frozen. I could also pick out Hallett and Otis Peaks near the Divide to the west. There's something about Longs Peak that really appeals to me. Maybe it's the fact that it towers above the Front Range like no other peak does, but I love nearly everything (aside from the usual crowds) that comes with hiking on this mountain. The solitude of the late afternoon was really incredible. For me, there's no better feeling than being alone in the mountains on a gorgeous day. Feeling strong and confident and without a single other person for miles around.

Eventually I headed down, across the alien landscape that is the Boulder Field and down the switchbacks to Granite Pass. From here I decided to take the Jims Grove shortcut to save some time and distance on the descent, and also to explore a new trail. To find this trail while coming down, continue a short distance below Granite Pass and look for two prominent rocks on the left, just a few yards off the trail. There is also an old, broken wooden post sticking out of the ground. You should see a faint trail and some wooden timbers which form steps leading down to the left of the main trail. This trail saves quite a bit of time and distance compared to the long arc out to Chasm Junction. It drops you back at the main trail at the sign which points to Battle Mountain.

The hike below treeline was uneventful, but for the first time didn't seem endless. I finally arrived back at the car at 7pm, much earlier than I would have guessed it was. All in all it was a great hike and I met all my goals for the day. I planned on taking it easy, but I wasn't able to help running some of the flatter spots on the way down. I think I probably ran less than a mile of the whole trail and I took lots of breaks to just sit and soak in the scenery. Even so, I made pretty good time and I felt really good when I got back down. I think I brought just enough food and I finished the water in my 72oz. Camelbak on the drive back to Boulder.

Also, as I mentioned briefly, I didn't bring a camera. In some ways this was liberating since I didn't even think about taking pictures. Anyway, I certainly enjoyed the views and the pictures would never do it justice. However, that means no one else gets to see the sights in this post, just pics from a couple years ago. Too bad for you!

Once the top of the mountain melts out (the trough was still a full on snow climb) I'll be back to do a fast ascent. Looking forward to more great days in the alpine tundra!

My best guess at the stats: ~12 miles, ~3800' of vertical, ~13100' high point, 4hrs 30min

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Green and Bear it

Green Mountain and Bear Peak are the two most prominent peaks immediately west of Boulder and home to the Flatirons. I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous weather yesterday and head out for a long hike after work. I headed up to NCAR after leaving the CU campus and hit the trail at 5:25 with the intention of summitting Green Mountain, Bear Peak, and South Boulder Peak in one long hike. I set out with a goal of finishing in 3 hours and running as much as I could manage.

Yesterday's beautiful weather, Bear Peak on the far left and Green Mtn in the center

The jog from NCAR to Bear Canyon went quickly and I headed up Bear Canyon to the Green-Bear trail junction. The three days of rain we got last weekend had turned the usually small stream in the canyon into a raging torrent slightly larger stream which sounded a lot bigger than it was. Also, I never noticed how much most of this trail looks like a recently wet stream bed until I got to the part which was a currently wet stream bed. As you climb higher up the canyon the trail starts to wind through some small aspen groves and crosses back and forth over the stream several times. I was able to rock hop over all these crossings except for one without trouble. The one crossing I couldn't make on dry rocks resulted in a wet right foot and a new found disappointment in the water draining efficacy of my trail runners.

My Route

I finally hit the Green-Bear trail junction and headed north up the hill towards the west ridge of Green Mountain. There's a fairly significant amount of vertical gain here (nearly 1000ft) and the thought of losing all that altitude on my way back toward Bear Peak was a bit depressing. After what felt like a long time, I hit the west ridge trail, stopped to eat some Gu and finished the last bit to the summit by 6:45 (3.8 miles). At this point I thought I still had a chance to hit my goal of 3 hours if I could make it to S Boulder Peak in an hour and get back down to NCAR in 40 minutes. After taking a few minutes to empty the sand/pebbles from my shoes delay the inevitable descent, I headed back down the Green-Bear trail and then up toward Bear Peak. This is definitely my favorite stretch of trail in the Boulder area and I didn't see a single person after leaving the Green Mtn summit until I was on the saddle between Bear and S Boulder Peaks, about 3 miles of perfect trails. The last push toward the summit of Bear Peak gets really steap, but it's an easy jog over to S Boulder peak from there. I hit the S Boulder Peak summit at 7:55 (7.1 miles), ate some more Gu and decided I wasn't going to make the 3 hour goal since I was pretty exhausted, 3.5 miles from NCAR and only 1/2 hour to go.

To descend, I hiked back over to Bear Peak and went down Fern Canyon. It's been about a year since I was on this trail and I had forgotten just how steep it is. It's by far the steepest trail in the Boulder area and my ears were popping the whole way down. On the way down I caught my toe on a rock and nearly took a face plant three separate times. I guess that's what happens when you start getting really exhausted and loose focus. I ran a lot of the downhill where it wasn't too steep, but finally ran out of gas and had to walk the last mile back to NCAR. I arrived at 8:53, totally exhausted, but still feeling better than after my last long hike. I ate enough and drank plenty of water (almost 72 oz.), but my legs just ran out of fuel near the end. Nothing some food, a couple beers and a dip in the hot tub wouldn't fix.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with the hike. Great views, perfect temps near 70 deg., no crowds and a nice evening in the mountains. This route has a pretty punishing amount of vertical and I'm happy with my time even though I didn't make the 3 hour goal. The stats: 3h 28min, 10.6 miles, ~4600ft elevation gain.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New wall at The Spot

I finally got over to The Spot yesterday to check out their new wall, The Beach, and I thought I'd share my first impressions. This is the wall that was used for the Battle in the Bubble at the Boulder Reservoir and later reassembled in The Spot

The new Beach wall at The Spot, photo from The Spot Route Setting Blog
First of all, wall designs have obviously come a long way since people started building climbing walls with plywood and 2x4's and this is obviously a very cool wall. The colors add a nice effect, the texture is great and the prefabricated (fiberglass?) panels line up seamlessly and create some very cool shapes.

For now, I think just the novelty of the new wall makes it a lot of fun to climb on. Also, it's super tall, but the padding system is great and a fall from the top is no problem at all. However, I've always found that the best walls for training have simple shapes with consistent angles. It's also a lot easier (for me at least) to set fun, consistent problems on simple walls. The Spot probably has some of best setters in the country and they've done a great job of setting on this wall, but I'd be really interested to hear their opinions on setting on the new wall with its complex shapes.

La Sportiva Testarossa
On a related note, I was also able to try out my Testarossas for the first time after a resole. I've got to say, the guys at Rock and Resole really did a great job with these and I'd recommend them 100%. The down turned toe is back in full effect (much better than before the resole) and they seem almost as good as new. What's more, I had a two day turn around for the resole, dropped off Monday afternoon and picked up Wednesday afternoon. These are the original Testarossas from summer of 2003 (7 years!) and this is the first time I've had to resole them. I figure since I didn't climb much at all during some of that time and much more heavily at other times I may have averaged around 1 climbing session per week. That's well over 300 climbing sessions with only one other pair of shoes to use! Needless to say, either I have incredibly precise footwork (well, decently precise) or these shoes are seriously built to last (undeniably). Definitely the best pair I've ever climbed in.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Quick Update

The weather in Boulder has definitely been warming up as we've had several days of near 90 degree temps over the past couple weeks. As the temps go up, my motivation for climbing typically goes down. On the other hand, I'm pretty psyched on hiking and trail running right now.

My route (traced in black)
So far this year I've only been out hiking a few times, but I got out for a nice long hike/run last Sunday. Parked at NCAR and headed up the trail at 12:03 with the intention of hitting Bear Peak and South Boulder Peak. The shortest route to Bear Peak is about 2.8 miles and ~2800 vertical feet via Fern Canyon. I opted for the Bear Canyon trail which loops around the peak to the west ridge and adds quite a bit of distance. The trail up the canyon was pleasant and surprisingly vacant. The stream which often runs along the path adds a nice soundtrack to the hike and the trail would be almost completely runnable for someone in better shape (maybe later in the season for me). Near the top of Bear Canyon, the Green-Bear trail branches off toward Green Mtn and I thought about hitting up Green Mtn too, but passed on that. This would turn out to be a good choice. Eventually I hit the crowded summit of Bear Peak and then headed the .7 miles over to the less crowded S Boulder Pk. You have three different descent options from S Boulder peak to get back to NCAR: down Fern Canyon (3.5 miles), down Bear Canyon (5.4 miles) or down Shadow Canyon and north on the Mesa trail (5.0 miles). I opted for Shadow Canyon to make a nice loop.

The downhill went quickly and I ran most of the flat sections of the Mesa trail to be back at the car at 3:35. I was pretty exhausted by that point and the last 1/2 mile or so was painful and slow, but all in all this is one of my favorite routes to hike in the Flatirons area. I'll definitely do this again once I'm in better shape. Stats: 10.5 miles, ~3500' (?) of climbing, 3 hours 32 minutes.

Alpine trails should be coming into season soon and I can wait to get up high and do some runs up in The Park. I particularly want to do Flattop, Hallett and Owens Peak plus a run/fast hike to the boulder field of Longs Peak. I also want to do a fast ascent of Longs Peak a bit later in the season (August maybe). Can't wait.

Nothing really new on the climbing front. I've pretty much decided to get some new shoes since I haven't bought new climbing shoes in 7 (!) years. It's just hard to cough up the $100-$150 for it. I'm planning on going with the La Sportiva Solutions since the fit is excellent. I'm a little concerned about the durability of the velcro and straps so if anyone has comments on that I'd love to hear them.

Finally, there's a bouldering World Cup event this weekend in Vail. Unfortunately I'll be at my brother's wedding so I won't be able to attend. I'm sure it will be a great event though. Good luck to all the USA climbers!