14er Slayage

Posted on August 13, 2009

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The 14er Quest goes on. The last 5 days have been super, super fun, seeing how I’ve spent most of them outside in the mountains. Between August 8th through the 12th I made my way up to 5 summits, racked up close to 22,000 vertical feet, and got some pretty cool ideas for the upcoming ski season. I’ll leave out the return to Missouri Gulch for my “Two for Two” with Darcy, but the other two days I had in the mountains were pretty badical.

Pikes Peak: A Marathon in Hiking Boots

After the Oxford/Belford domination on August 8th, I decided to hang out in Colorado Springs until Tuesday with Darcy. The only problem was that she is fortunate enough to be employed these days, so I needed something to preoccupy myself with on Monday and Tuesday while she was at work. I came up with the perfect solution: solo my first 14er on the Barr Trail at Pikes Peak Monday, and sleep all day in recovery on Tuesday. A 4:00AM start, 7,300 foot vertical gain and 13 miles each way was sure to exhaust me enough to sleep for a day.

Colorado Springs by night

By 6AM, the alpenglow on Pikes was pretty cool, but the mountain still looked really, really far away.

6.5 miles away, in fact.

I stopped at the timberline shelter for some Cliff Bar action, and afterwards I found out this older lady who I had been leap-frogging for the lead on the trail was an REI employee training to climb a peak in Nepal this Fall. I had been moving at a really solid clip, so I was surprised to see someone keeping up with me with such silver hair. She said her record to the top was 5 hours and 22 minutes, and really just wanted to break 5 hours. I was amazed she was right behind me, and also amazed she was going to Nepal, but I guess that’s just what 14ers are these days for many Colorado residents: training grounds for bigger things.

Timberline Shelter

Anyhow, she stayed only a few hundred yards behind me for the next two miles, but I lost her when I got to the final summit push. I summited in about 5 hours and 20 minutes myself, not a bad clip for 13 miles uphill!

Pikes Peak Summit

The summit of Pikes Peak can be summed up in two words: It sucks. The smell of carnival donuts as you near the summit makes you want to puke, and the sounds of construction equipment, tourists, and vehicles is even worse. The dust is suffocating and the views are pretty lame. The only highlight was the cloud cover over the famous “Amber Waves of Grain,” making the view seem as if I were in an airplane. I only lingered for a half hour on the summit and started the walk down. The cog train pulled up as I departed, delivering a fresh round of tourists to the highest place they’ll ever visit outside.

Pikes Peak Train

I trucked on down the trail in the same time, making for a total of 26 miles in about 11 hours. Something I was pretty stoked about!

Harvard, Columbia, and the Rabbit Ears

Two days later, a 3AM wake-up, and another drive over Kenosha Pass to Buena Vista, and I found myself once again accompanied by Chris for a couple more summits. This was to be my first more technical route of the season, and it was Chris’ first one ever, so we were both pretty stoked about the coming traverse between Harvard and Columbia.

On Route to Harvard and Columbia

The hike to Harvard through the Horn Fork Basin was gradual and beautiful, and we made it to the summit of Colorado’s third highest peak in about 4 hours.

Harvard Summit

The view from Harvard is probably the best I have seen in the Sawatch Range, and the Horn Fork Basin is just another beautiful approach, similar to Missouri Gulch but without the switchbacks.

Yale and the Horn Fork Basin

The moons was also out, giving some stoke for Chris before the Rabbit Ears.

The Power of Moonlight

The descent to the saddle was pretty basic rock route-finding, and when we neared the low point of the saddle we were faced with our first class 4 slope. A brief explanation of the three-point rule to Chris and he made quick work of the pitch.

The Ridge to Columbia

Chris on Route

We were soon presented with the Rabbit Ears, which are some pretty cool rock formations on the ridge. We went around them on the East side, where we were forced to ascend the loose, easy class 4 slope.

Chris coming up next to the Ears

After this pitch and some more route finding, we made it out of the long crux in the saddle and were punched in the face by Columbia and the ascent that remained.

Final Scramble up Columbia

Quick work of the rock scramble was made, and the summit shot was taken.

Columbia Summit

Believe everything you’ve read about the standard Columbia descent, “a steep trail made out of loose marbles” is a good way to describe it. Eleven hours after we started and we were back at the truck for the drive back to Denver.

During each one of these 5 ascents I did this past week, all my thoughts consisted of (well, almost all of them) were about skiing. All the ski movie trailers are out, and I have unlimited stoke about the upcoming season. During my descent of Pikes, I came up with a winter project that I still need to hammer the details out for, it will involve two new records, Africa, and skiing as many as eight 14ers in three days. I’m working on this project, so stay tuned for more info!

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