Unemployment Has Its Benefits

So I have applied to over a dozen jobs or so this past week, but I haven’t gotten a single call back (and one “not gonna be a good fit” straight to my face). Luckily, this provides plenty of free time to get back into the mountains and do stuff that is almost free, except for the whole gas and food thing.

Castle & Conundrum

Last week, since I had to go home and take care of my dog for a bit, I decided to invite my buddy Chris to go climb some of his first 14ers in the Elk Range: Castle Peak and Conundrum Peak. So, after hanging out with my awesome Parents & Grandparents & aunt and seeing friends in the ever-popular town of Breckenridge, Chris and I made it to Glenwood for some sleep before a 4:00am wake-up to get to the trail head. We stopped the four-wheeling at the Pearl Pass intersection, but probably could have made it up to 12,800 feet in the car, seeing how the two toughest parts of the road were right before the intersection. But, knowing Chris and I’s past experiences together driving, I was willing to stop after the going got rougher.

Chris on the way up
Conundrum Couloir holds the type of climb and ski descent that dreams are made out of

We made quick work of both peaks, and summited Castle in almost exactly two hours from the car.

Almost to the top of Castle
Castle Summit Shot

The clouds looked pretty fierce over the top of Pyramid and the Maroon Bells, so we didn’t linger too long on the summit of Castle to make sure we capped off Conundrum. The clouds did make for some really cool light though.

Cathedral Peak in lighting

In about 45 minutes we found ourselves on top of Conundrum Peak.

Conundrum Summit

It appeared that the storm system to our north was going to hold off, so we down climbed to the snow field and got to practice some self-arrests with my ice axe.

The glissades down the snow fields that followed the self arrests were awesome with my new mountaineering boots, the stiff soles were practically snow-blades. We had to be weary of crevasses though the sooner we approached Glacier Bay, one of which I accidentally stepped in down to my knee (I fell into my first crevasse I guess).


We were back at the car before noon, making this a quick 6 hour push for two summits that were much, much easier compared to anything else I’ve climbed in the Elk Range.

Bierstadt & Evans

When I returned to Denver to “officially” move in, I was able to sneak out on Sunday with Darcy, Jenny, Mark and Lucy to go try to get up two of the most traveled 14ers in Colorado, Bierstadt (probably one of the easiest) and Evans (featuring a paved road to the top). Once again, I was able to cruise to the top of Bierstadt in about two hours, starting roughly around 6:30am at the trailhead.

Lake during sunrise
Shadows of the group
Bierstadt Summit

After the summit, we kept going towards the infamous Sawtooth traverse. After most of my experiences last summer I was not too worried about it, but we did have a rather sporadic dog and Darcy, who had not only summited her first 14er on Bierstadt, but who happens to have a fear of heights. We headed down the difficult class 2 face of Bierstadt, negotiated the gendarme, and got our first view of the Sawtooth.

The Sawtooth Traverse

With a little scare when Lucy ran to the edge to take an extreme poop, we finished it quickly, and the crew was all smiles afterwards.

The group after the Sawtooth

The rest of the climb was uneventful, save for the longer-than-expected path to the summit.

I didn’t know what to expect at the summit of Evans. I have heard a lot about the parking lot on the top and how disheartening it is to do something gnarly like the Sawtooth and a really long hike only to see minivans of kids and old people enjoying their 50 yard railroad-grade walk to the summit of something you just hiked so hard to get to. At the same time, the summit seemed like a summit you could find in Europe. The summit headwall looks to be full of sweet snow, ice, and mixed climbing routes, while on the other side, spandex-clad road bikers struggle spinning to the top of the highest paved road in North America while they get passed by mini-vans, groups of Harleys and the occasional Italian sports car. If there would have been rugged ice climbers decked out in full gear walking amongst the people struggling to breath after standing up from their leather Ferrari seats, I would have sworn it was the summit of Aguille du Midi when I was there in 2006. Perhaps, given the accessibility of the Headwall and where I want to take my climbing skills, I might be up there next June when the road opens to check out some of these routes.

The long path down was entertaining at times when Lucy would take off at full speed to catch taunting marmots, and also annoying at times when we had to deal with overgrown willow and boot-deep black mud.

But there was some beauty to be had in the Columbines.

The 9 hour day ended with some high-fives, a big hug to Darcy for knocking out her first two 14ers in a day, and a quick drive back to Denver.

More mountains and general out-door recreation on the schedule, I just have to find a job so I can pay for the gas to get back into the mountains! Any leads in the Denver area? Feel free to share…


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