Wednesday, September 26, 2012


I just completed the Sports Authority Rock ‘n’ Roll Denver Marathon this past Saturday, yet I hadn't planned to run it. I spent my summer climbing, cycling and traveling and had done little running in preparation of a marathon. I did run a marathon in May 2012 and I figured it was going to be it for the year. Nonetheless, when Team Refuel offed me the opportunity to run the marathon for free, I signed up. I'd run seven previous marathons and figured I'd find a way to get through it. My goal was simply to finish before the course closed and figured even that might be a challenge given that I'd run less than 26.2 miles cumulatively in the previous 3 months. Amazingly, I finished well ahead of the course closure with a time of 4hrs 43mins and never had to walk once. Moreover, the marathon felt much easier than past marathons and I never felt sorry and fatigued in the days that followed. At first, I started to think that Allen Iverson may have been on to something (practice?!?!). After have more time to ruminate on my performance, I've come to realize that my cross-training over the summer had kept me fit, I never over-trained and I stuck to my race day plan. I thinks these things had been problems for me during previous marathons, especially the sticking to my race day plan. It seemed like I'd do too much the day before, eat the wrong things the night before or morning of the race, or would forget to eat and drink at every aid station. I definitely plan to train for my next marathon, but I think I spend more time listening to my body during my training and will keep to my plan.

Early December climb of Northwest Ridge of La Plata

 Peak:  La Plata Peak  -  14,336 feet

 Date Climbed:   12/05/2010

 Early December climb of Northwest Ridge of La Plata   

Image #1: La Plata Trailhead
La Plata TrailheadView Larger Image

I arrived at the La Plata trailhead off of Highway 82 at shortly before 7am on Sunday December 5 and waited for a partner I met through Climbing Connection. He showed up at about 7:15am and we were soon on the trail.
Image #2: View of La Plata Peak
View of La Plata PeakView Larger Image
Image #3: Bridge at begging of trail
Bridge at begging of trailView Larger Image

The weather was surprisingly calm and mild as we started along the trail and I ending up shedding a lay about 10 minutes into the hike. The trail was was fairly well packed and easy to follow up to treeline. Given that the winter route up to the Northwest Ridge winds for a long stretch through dense trees, I would highly recommend a GPS. We made steady progress up toward the base of the ridge but I eventually decided to put on my crampons since the trail pretty much went straight up the steep hillside and I got tired a slipping. About a quarter of a mile before treeline the snow got much deeper. I wish I had brought my snowshoes for this stretch for I was postholing to the mid-thigh and the going was both slow and tiring.
Image #4: Talus slope leading to top of Northwest Ridge
Talus slope leading to top of Northwest RidgeView Larger Image

We reached the base of talus slope just above tree line shortly before 10am. After a quick breather, we started the slog up to the top of the ridge line. It was not as difficult as it looked but it was important to fan out since several large rocks did get knocked down the slope. Once on the exposed ridge top, it got colder and windier but nothing too daunting. We were rewarded with some beautiful views.
Image #5: View down ridge towards trailhead
View down ridge towards trailheadView Larger Image
Image #6: Sayres BM
Sayres BMView Larger Image
Image #7: Mount Elbert
Mount ElbertView Larger Image

The next mile on the ridge was pretty gentle and had mostly good footing. However, once we reached the point where the standard summer route reached the to of the ridge, then the route steepened considerably. We were able to follow the summer route for the most part, but we sometimes deviated from the route when snow or ice on the trail left better options off-trail. There were also spots where the trail was lost entirely due to large snow drifts. We were still able to spot the occasional cairn to basically keep us on route. The ridge was fairly wind-scoured though it was certainly not free of snow. We did out best to stay on the rocks, which made it easier but we still had to battle some sections with deep snow. The last half mile to the summit was pretty slow. We were pretty tired from the climb.
Image #8: Nearing the summit
Nearing the summitView Larger Image
Image #9: Reaching the summit
Reaching the summitView Larger Image

We summited at about 12:45pm. The wind wasn't too bad so we actually spent about 20-30 minutes resting, hydrating and snacking on the summit. The weather looked like it was starting to turn so we started our descent. Given the snow and ice, the descent was much more tiring and slow than the typical summer descent. We were fortunate to have the weather clear again once we reached the spot where summer trail leaves the ridge for the valley below. It was a beautiful walk back down along the ridge and the views of Elbert and the Ellingwood Ridge were breathtaking.
Image #10: Stunning view of Ellingwood Ridge on descent
Stunning view of Ellingwood Ridge on descentView Larger Image

The descent through the trees seemed to take forever. I was very relieved when we finally got back to the trailhead at 4:30pm. This was just about the most exhausting 14er climb I'd ever experienced. This was much harder than your typical summer climb. Nonetheless, it was very rewarding and worthwhile.

Late spring on Sneffels

 Peak:  Mt. Sneffels  -  14,150 feet

 Date Climbed:   05/29/2011

 Late spring on Sneffels   

Mount Sneffels has long been a peak I've wanted to climb. On Memorial Day weekend, my friend Rob and I headed down to southwest Colorado to do just that. We arrived in Ouray not knowing just how far we'd be able to get up the Yankee Boy Basin road, given the tremendous snowfall the state had received this year. I left Ouray at about 4:15AM and picked my friend Rob up at a campsite along the road just after 4:30AM. The road had been plowed to a spot about a quarter mile below the restroom parking area. We put on our snowshoes and started up the Yankee Boy Basin shortly after 5:30AM, ascending primarily along the standard route. Apart from a good wind in certain spots the weather was clear and not too cold. The snow was still quite deep but solid enough that we had no trouble staying on top of it.
Image #1: Yankee Boy Basin at first light
Yankee Boy Basin at first lightView Larger Image

Image #2: Looking down Yankee Boy Basin
Looking down Yankee Boy BasinView Larger Image

Rather than follow the jeep road up to the upper parking area, we went up the right (east) side of the basin which seemed to be the shorter and better route given the conditions. I was amazed by the scenery and stopped many times to take pictures.
Image #3: Gilpin Peak from approach to upper trailhead
Gilpin Peak from approach to upper trailheadView Larger Image

An hour or so after starting out, we finally reached the upper trailhead, which was still quite buried. The upper trailhead granted us our first view of Mt. Sneffels summit and the route we would follow to the base of the first gully.
Image #4: Upper trailhead
Upper trailheadView Larger Image

The recent abrupt warm-up made us a bit concerned about the snow conditions. We could see dozens of wet surface slides throughout the basin, but no slab avalanches. When we finally reached the broad gully leading to the saddle, we were delighted to find that the snow conditions were ideal (though we suspected it would soften considerably by the afternoon).
Image #5: Ascending broad gully to saddle
Ascending broad gully to saddleView Larger Image

We cached our snowshoes and poles by a large flat rock at the base of the gully, broke out the crampons and ice axes, and headed straight up the gully, reaching the saddle just before 8am. Upon reaching the saddle, we turned north and began climbing the steeper, narrower gully leading toward the summit.
Image #6: Narrow gully toward the summit from saddle
Narrow gully toward the summit from saddleView Larger Image

Seeing a set of tracks exiting the gully less than a quarter of the way up, we contemplated following, but instead elected to continue upward. It was easy climbing on good snow all the way to the notch at the top of the gully, but it was here that we encountered our first challenge.
Image #7: View down narrow gully from notch
View down narrow gully from notchView Larger Image

As we neared the notch, there was no obvious exit given the heavy snow along the western edge of the gully. The only option seemed to be a 10-15 foot rock and snow climb directly up from the top of the notch. This proved to be somewhat challenging in crampons and I moved very cautiously due to the fair amount of exposure. After reaching the top of this section, we could then see the summit only about 100-150 feet away.
Image #8: Final approach to summit
Final approach to summitView Larger Image

We made our way along the ridge leading to the summit and reached it at about 8:40AM. The views of the the San Juans were spectacular, as was the view of the Western Slope to the north.
Image #9: View north from summit
View north from summitView Larger Image

Reaching the summit was very satisfying and I was glad to have been able to do it as a snow climb.
Image #10: On the summit
On the summitView Larger Image

We did not descend the same way we had come up, for down-climbing the section at the top of the notch was not very appealing. We instead descended the southern face parallel to the upper gully and then traversed into the gully at the same point we had thought about exiting it earlier. Once back to the saddle, we chose to glissade most of the lower gully and we soon got back to where we had cached our gear. By this time (9:45AM), the snow was getting quite soft. We headed back down the increasingly warm basin the same way we had come up, reaching the car at 11AM.

Apart from a few windy areas, the day could not have been better. We were not the only ones who got to enjoy the day on the great mountain. We saw at least 12 other climbers on the mountain, most of whom were planning a ski/board descent. It maybe a few weeks before the restroom parking area is plowed and perhaps more than a month before the upper trailhead road is plowed, but the mountain is definitely accessible.

Here's a rough rendering of the route:
Image #17: Rough rendering of route
Rough rendering of routeView Larger Image

Extra Pics:
Image #11: Potosi and Stoney
Potosi and StoneyView Larger Image

Image #12: Gilpin Peak
Gilpin PeakView Larger Image

Image #13: Gilpin Peak and Telluride
Gilpin Peak and TellurideView Larger Image

Image #14: Yankee Boy Basin
Yankee Boy BasinView Larger Image

Image #15: Lower south face of Sneffels
Lower south face of SneffelsView Larger Image

Image #16: SW ridge of Sneffels and slide
SW ridge of Sneffels and slideView Larger Image