Mt Wilcox 13,408 & Otter Mountain 12,766

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RT Length: 8.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 3221’

I’d already considered this a successful Memorial Day weekend:  I’d climbed 3 peaks in the San Juans without (major) incident.  Saturday I did all the “mom” stuff:  Washed all the sheets, did the laundry, went shopping, vacuumed, re-planted a few plants destroyed in the storm last week, and took my daughter ice skating.  As we were having dinner I asked my 16 year old what she wanted to do tomorrow?  Sleep and study for finals.  Hmmm… it looked like I had another morning free to hike!  I didn’t want to do anything too far away because it was Memorial Day and I wanted to make something special for dinner, so I did a very quick search of peak conditions and settled on a peak I didn’t need much info to hike:  Mt Wilcox.

Mt Wilcox is generally done as a loop with Argentine Peak and Square Top Mountain, but I’ve already done both other peaks previously and just needed to tick off this one in the area, making it the perfect choice for this morning.

Yes, Mt Wilcox seemed like a quick and easy 13er, and there was a close 12er I could hike if all was going well.  I didn’t do much research but I also couldn’t find much information in the 10 minutes or so I spent gathering information.  I looked at a few trip reports, printed out a shaded topo map and was ready to go.

I arrived at the Guanella Pass Campground / Silver Dollar Road trailhead at 4am and was on the trail by 4:15am.  I put on snowshoes in the parking lot and kept them on for the entire hike.  I did not regret this decision:  they were a bit overkill in the morning, but very helpful on my way back.

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I followed the Silver Dollar Road Trail for a little over a mile.  The road was still covered in a few feet of crunchy ice.

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I followed the road all the way to Naylor Lake, which was covered in ice as well.  I steered clear, but it looked like others had recently tried to ski across it?!?!?

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There were a few cabins here, some mostly covered in ice.  There were footprints and ski tracks everywhere.

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At the lake the trail ended and I headed Northeast through the trees and up a small gully to treeline

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My beta told me to ascend here, to which (in the dark) I said nope.

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There had to be an easier way!  I decided to trek along the small basin to see if there was an easier way to get up and over this part.  I knew from looking at my topo map once I got above this area the terrain would just slope.  I came to this point and thought to myself “this is doable”, picked a line, and made my way up.

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It was still pretty steep, but nothing as dramatic as the suggested route.  It’s amazing how snow changes things!  On the topo map this area looked very similar to Elkhead Pass, which I was unable to downclimb, yet this was manageable.

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I made it up this difficult area and then was greeted with a long white climb up snow

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Every so often I’d look back, waiting for the sun to rise.  The Sawtooth looks pretty cool!

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I kept heading west until I could see the summit of Mt Wilcox.  When it came into view I thought to myself “That’s it?  That looks too easy!”

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What I didn’t realize was it’s much further than it looks.    I had a hard time focusing on the path ahead of me because I kept turning around to watch the sunrise.  Alpine sunrises are the best!

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They turn the snow pink for 5 minutes or so

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The snow here was very consolidated and easy to navigate.  I wasn’t making any tracks though

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This hike wasn’t very challenging, but it didn’t seem like I was getting any closer to Mt Wilcox

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I’d climb over one area, just to be greeted with another slope

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The summit was snow covered, with amazing views!

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The hike to the summit hadn’t taken me very long and I wasn’t tired, so I decided to head over to Otter Mountain.

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This was very easy.  I hiked northeast down the slope of Mt Wilcox to about 12,300’ (losing about 1100’ in elevation) and then just ascended Otter Mountain

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Here’s a look back at Mt Wilcox from the base of Otter

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The only downside (besides the 400+ feet in elevation gain I had to regain) was the sun was rising as I was hiking up Otter Mountain.  I was hiking directly into the sun, which was less than ideal

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I kept trying to race the sun, trying to make it to the shadows, hiking faster than it was rising, and when I was almost to the top I won!

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The last 100 feet or so in elevation gain were on dry tundra, so I took off my snowshoes and hiked the rest of the way with them in my hands

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Yay summit views!

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I summited Otter Mountain at 7:15am

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Otter Summit Views: 

One thing I really like about 12ers is it’s easy to breathe while you’re hiking to the summit.  I turned around to look at Mt Wilcox and the path I’d taken

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Time to head back.   I knew I could just take the slope of Otter Mountain down to the parking lot,

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But I wanted to get day pictures of the hike, so I made it a loop.  I stayed high to avoid the drainage area (which was a serious drop from every angle).  Here’s the path I took back

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Just Because…

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And a look back at Otter Mountain and the route I took from the Mt Wilcox ledge area

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Time to try and find my tracks and head back down!  Another reason I wanted to make this a loop was to see how difficult the downclimb would be.  I can climb up terrain no problem, but the downclimb still puts me on edge sometimes, and I considered this great practice without too much commitment (a fall wouldn’t be too far and it would land me in the willows).

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I hate saying this, but once again, it’s steeper than it looks

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I made it down successfully to the willows

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And trekked back to Naylor Lake.  It looked like someone had been skiing in the area recently.  As I passed the cabins I noticed a “No Trespassing” sign near an open gate.  Note: in the dark on the way in I hadn’t seen the gate OR the “No Trespassing” sign.  It wasn’t reflective and had been covered in snow.  The gate was 90% covered in snow, open, and had tracks going straight through it.  The rest of the hike was done in slushy conditions, even though it wasn’t yet 9am.  I was glad I’d worn snowshoes.  I made it back to my truck at 9am, making this an 8.5 mile hike in under 5 hours.  I made it home by 11:30am, 30 minutes before my promised 12pm arrival.

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OK, so obviously all I thought about on my way home were those “No Trespassing” and “Private Property” signs.  I was mad because I hadn’t realized this was private property and because I’d been following tons of footprints (meaning others hadn’t been respecting private property either).  I was mad at myself for not doing more research before the hike (I hadn’t checked maps that would have given me this information) and I was upset all the trip reports I’d looked at (although few) hadn’t mentioned private property and I’d taken their advice.  Also, I kept seeing NFS trail signs, so I had no idea I was on private property.

The first thing I did when I got home was look up a map and find a way to fix this.  I didn’t have this map on my trek:  I made it when I got home.  (The topo I had just had slope angle and terrain, and didn’t include the lakes (etc)).  Please don’t take my route (the dotted line).  There’s another route you can take to the left of Naylor Lake that will get you around the lake, looks easier than the route I took in some areas, and will keep you on public lands.

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Also, I will gladly donate tons of Girl Scout cookies to the Naylor Lake Club as penance (and you should close your gates and put up reflective signs for us early birds if you don’t want trespassers… just sayin’).

The best part about my hike?  I met some friends by the side of the road on my way down!

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Relive:

Oh, and Memorial Dinner was a great American dish:  Beef with Broccoli (but at least I grilled the beef on the grill before adding the glaze… ).

New Mexico Highpoint – Wheeler Peak 13,161

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RT Length – 14.2 miles

Elevation Gain – 4467’

The Colorado winds were high so I decided to head down to New Mexico this week to do some highpointing. Taos is actually closer to my house than many Colorado peaks, so the 4 hour drive wasn’t too demanding.  In fact, it was kind of fun.  When I made it past Ft Garland I saw a road sign indicating there were bighorn sheep in the area.  To my surprise I immediately encountered a herd of bighorn sheep standing along the side of the road.   A few minutes later I saw a sign warning of cows, and wouldn’t you know it?  Cows on the road.  The same thing happened with the deer and elk warning signs, and a few minutes later, even horses!  I hadn’t realized there were wild horses in the San Luis Valley, but yep, there sure are!  With all this good luck with animal sightings I kept hoping to see a sign indicating buffalo or elephants or zebras were in the area, but alas, wild horses were about as exotic as it got.  Kudos to the group that placed those signs so accurately.

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I made it to the trailhead at 4:45am and was on the trail by 5am. Oh, and I did a terrible job parking (without realizing it). I actually made it to the trailhead about half an hour earlier than expected, and only recognized I was there because I saw the “Bull of the Woods trailhead” sign as I was driving by, so I backed up, parked, and was on my way.

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It wasn’t until I was on my way down I saw there was a real parking area directly below where I’d parked. Oops!

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The full moon was absolutely amazing! Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a good picture, but it was so bright I didn’t need my flashlight.  I brought my snowshoes but didn’t put them on until I’d almost made it to treeline.  There was quite a bit of snow on the trail (4 feet or so) but the snow was consolidated so I was able to just walk on top of it.  There were also tracks to follow.

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I could hear a stream to my right, but in the dark I wasn’t able to see the water. There were numerous trails criss-crossing the trail I was on, but as long as I kept hiking in the same direction (northeast) and aimed for the ridge I knew I was on the right track.  I stayed on the widest path, or what looked like the widest path.

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I knew I was supposed to cross the stream at some point, but never saw a bridge. It turns out I crossed the stream without knowing it!  Here’s a look at the “stream crossing” from my way back.

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Yes, that moon was full!

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I made it to the Red River Canyon Overlook just as the sun was beginning to rise

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At the overlook I turned right and followed the trail to the Bull of the Woods pasture (which didn’t resemble a pasture at all. Maybe it was the snow?)

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The footprints stopped, so I was breaking trail from here on out. I got lost a few times trying to stay off private property, but there was so much snow it was impossible to know where the trail was on the mountain.  (Hint, go left)

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I stopped and put on my snowshoes and followed the ridge, making my own trail.

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The section after cresting this hill was much steeper than it looks. I had to swing around to the right in order to safely climb through the snow.  Here the crampons on my snowshoes came in very helpful.

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Until the snow just kind of stopped. I knew more snow was coming, so instead of taking off my snowshoes I followed the faint trail of snow around Bull of the Woods Mountain. Here there was either very little snow, or large, steep drifts of 20+ feet.  I was glad to have my ice axe.

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I rounded Frazier Mountain and could smell sheep. I looked all around, but not seeing any figured they must have passed the area recently (but that smell was strong!).  I was now presented with the La Cal Basin, which included a 300 foot loss in elevation.  This is also where there was quite a bit of snow, which I decided to take advantage of.  I needed to cross the basin, avoid those dicey avalanche areas, and then re-ascend the switchbacks on my left.

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Crossing into the basin was a bit sketchy

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And I was glad to make it to the switchbacks on the other side. Here there wasn’t much snow, so in keeping with my goal of not taking off my snowshoes (just to put them back on again) I stuck to the snow lined trail.

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About halfway up the mountainside I saw a few bighorn sheep

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And when I looked across the ridge I saw even more!

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From here I saw what I thought was Wheeler Peak, but it was instead Mt Walter (Wheeler is beyond). I stuck to the snow to make use of my snowshoes

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Sticking to the snow looked like this

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And from the top of this point (13,045) I could see Mt Walter and Wheeler Peak. Sticking to the ridge (and the snow) was the way to go!

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I passed Mt Walter and took a few quick photos of the signs and a selfie to prove I was there.

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From here you can clearly see the summit of Wheeler Peak

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Once again, I stuck to the ridge

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And summited at 8:45am

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Here’s the Summit Video, which I’m excited to say is the first summit video I’ve been able to take all year! I’m so glad it was warm today and sans wind.

Video: Wheeler Peak NM

OK, time to turn back. Here’s what the route looks like back from Wheeler Peak… just stick to the ridge

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Yep, lots of snow! I was glad to have my ice axe.   Snowshoes were a must the entire way back down.

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I started crossing the basin again, and unfortunately the sun had warmed up the snow. Snow kept collecting under my snowshoes and I had to keep stopping to kick it off. I made it back to Frazier Hill and saw those sheep I’d smelled earlier (I KNEW they were there somewhere!)

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Following the trail in the light of day proved much easier than in the dark, with the added bonus of being able to follow my snowshoe tracks.

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I made it back to Bull of the Woods pasture and once again found footprints. Lots and lots of prints, both human and animal.

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The only downside to the warmth of the sun (besides clumps of snow in my snowshoes)? Rollerballs the size of dinner plates

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As I followed the trail back to the stream I was actually able to see the stream

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I didn’t see anyone all day until I was about half a mile from the trailhead on my way back down. I talked with a gentlemen about the conditions on the trail. He said he’s hiked these trails for years and was surprised I’d summited today. He was even more surprised when I told him I’d started at 5am.  In fact, he didn’t entirely believe me.  I made it back to the trailhead at noon, and when I stopped my Strava tracker I was told I’d sent a new app record for completing this hike.  Pretty cool!  I’d hiked the 14.2 miles of 4467’ in elevation gain in 7 hours.

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Just for fun, here’s the relive of my hike. Note: Obviously I summited today, yet the tracker shows my high point was just shy of Mt Walter at 13,139’ (not Mt Wheeler at 13,167’), which is one of the reasons I take what these trackers record with a grain of salt.  I’ve had people tell me because my tracker doesn’t show a summit that I didn’t summit.  I call those people summit snobs and unfollow them from my account(s).  No one needs that kind of drama in their life!

Relive:  https://www.relive.cc/view/2302667578

Oh, and the good news? I was finally able to get my New Mexico Starbucks mug in Taos!  I’ve been trying for years to get a New Mexico mug to add to my collection, but they’re always out when I visit.  Funny, the mug doesn’t mention aliens at all…

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Also, the ski season in Taos is over, which was a real shame because there was so much snow! And, Taos is beautiful!  Majestic even.  I had no idea!

West Spanish Peak – 13,631

 

West Spanish Peak – 13,631

RT Length 7.9 miles

Elevation Gain 2400’

I’ve been eyeing this trail for weeks, and was finally able to make the hike!  I don’t do well in the cold (or wind) so I’ve been looking for a relatively clear, wind free day.  It’s been clear but the wind hasn’t cooperated, so instead of 14ers and 13ers I’ve been hiking 12ers, 11ers, 10ers, 9ers, and 8ers for the past month and a half: I needed to get above treeline again!!!

Today’s forecast at the summit was 38* with 15mph gusts, which I figured I could handle.  I’d been keeping an eye on the Webcam, and the peak looked pretty barren from snow:  http://www.keno.org/colorado_web_cams/cuchara_cams.htm  (side note:  If you use this link, know the best time to view for clarity is around 3pm, and the bottom webcam is only updated once a week, the others usually every half hour).

I found several directions to the trailhead, but none of them were ‘exactly’ correct.  This is the exact route I took:

I25 South to Walsenburg, Exit 50 (the second 160) turn right

Continue on 160 for about 13 miles

Turn Left onto CO12

Continue on CO12 for 21.8 miles

Turn Left at Cordova Pass CR46

The trailhead is exactly 6 miles on the road, near the campground

The road in was a 2WD road, but iced over in a lot of areas, making it an easy 4WD road for this point in the year.  Just be careful:  there are 3-foot-deep drainages on either side of the road filled with snow so they look like they’re level with the road (but they’re not), and driving into one of those isn’t fun to get out of, even with a 4WD.  It was obvious many had made this mistake.

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The trailhead is the West Peak Trailhead.  I parked here.  There are restrooms but they’re locked.  I was told to pay a fee, but all signage and fee envelopes (etc.) were gone, presumably closed for the winter.  I gathered my gear and started on the trail at 8am.

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A few yards in I came upon a trail register.  The last entry was from December 28.  I was pretty sure I wouldn’t seen anyone else on the trail today.

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I hiked for about a quarter mile before coming to a meadow.  I’d seen quite a bit of cow patties along the trail up to this point, and figured there were cattle in the area.  When I reached this meadow I thought I saw cows on the saddle ahead of me.  I made a mental note to look out for them, and stopped to put on my gloves and hat because I could hear the wind picking up.  The wind didn’t stop for the entire hike!

What I thought were cows ended up being bighorn sheep!  So cool!  They were a bit skittish and ran up and over the hill as soon as they saw me.

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When I’d entered the meadow I thought I was out of the treeline, but the trail dipped back down and I walked for about 2 more miles through the trees.  Most of the path was clear, but there were a few snow covered areas.

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This trail is super easy to follow the entire way to the summit.  There’s only one trail junction, and it’s clearly marked.

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The trail is also very easy until you get to treeline, but make no mistake, most of those 2000+ feet in elevation occur during the last mile of this hike, so it is still quite a workout.  Once you hit treeline you turn right and see what’s ahead of you:

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The trail follows the ridge on the left (but stay to the right while on the ridge).  It’s all loose rock until it becomes scree, and it’s straight up for over a mile.  Since there are so many rocks there are tons of cairns and the route is easy to follow.  About halfway up I saw a small wind break made out of rocks, which was filled with snow.  There was no other snow on the mountainside.

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After hiking for what seems like forever you’ll come to a false summit, but it’s ok to be happy about it because the rest of the trail is very easy and is only about another 100 yards or so.  This was also the only spot I saw snow above treeline (besides in that small shelter).

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I was able to make that little bit of snow look like a lot of snow…

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Here’s a view of East Spanish Peak from the summit of West Spanish Peak

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And photo proof I summited.  I started at 8am and summited at 9:45am.

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The summit was very windy and cold.  The weather predicted 38* with 15mph wind gusts, but those winds were actually closer to 20mph and sustained.  I didn’t spend much time on the summit before heading down.  Here’s a view of the ridge back down.  Crazy huh?  It’s January 5th and there’s no snow!!!  Check out those dry ski runs…

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About halfway down I noticed a very small heart on a rock.  It was less than 2 inches in diameter, and randomly caught my eye.  At first I thought it was moss, but upon closer inspection noticed someone had painted it on the rock.  I have no idea why they did this, or why they chose this particular area:  it wasn’t on the main trail and it wasn’t very visible.  It made me happy to see it, and I took a picture of it before reminding myself LNT.  So, to the person who painted this, it made me happy, but it’s really not cool to do this stuff so please don’t do it again.

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Here’s a photo of what it looks like when you get to treeline.  See that meadow in the middle?  That’s the one that I crossed that had the Bighorn Sheep.  The entire hike above treeline I kept that meadow in view in case I got lost (although this is such an easy, well maintained trail I didn’t foresee that happening).

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The hike back down went quickly.  When I reached the meadow again I looked for those sheep but didn’t see them.  Well, that is until I’d made it all the way across.  At that point I looked back and saw them about 100 yards away from me.  Never one to miss an opportunity, I backtracked and tried to get a few photos.  The wind was blowing towards me so I was able to sneak up on them pretty close before they saw me.  By pretty close I mean about 15 yards away.  I stood in the shade of a tree and tried to get photos of them before they noticed me and ran off (about 3 seconds).

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I continued on, and during the last part of the hike I actually saw a pair of birds.  They were about 10 inches long, much bigger than this picture suggests (I still need to identify them…)

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I made it back to the trail register and signed out.

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I reached my truck at 11:40am.  I hadn’t seen another person on this trail.  It’s funny how it usually takes me longer to hike down than hike up:  must be all that elevation training I do everyday…lol!

 

 

 

Troop 2393  Backpacking Pikes Peak

I don’t care how old you are, or how great of shape you’re in, Pikes Peak is a difficult hike.  Strenuous.  Probably the most difficult thing you will ever do in your entire life.  It’s 26 grueling miles, 13 of which are uphill, 6 of which are above the treeline, exposed to the elements.  It’s difficult in any condition, but Troop 2393 did it with 30lb packs!

A week before the trek I talked with the girls to let them know what they were getting into.  I told them it was difficult, explained what would happen at each point in the hike, and told them they would want to give up.  In fact, they’d beg me to give up.  They’d curse me as well for making them continue.  Did they want to summit?  If so, I’d do my best to make sure they all summited.  They did.

Since this was their first big hike we started out earlier than usual.  I woke them up at 2am, we had our traditional muffins for breakfast they’d cooked the night before, and we were on the trail at 3:17am.  The girls were really excited!  We wore our headlamps around our necks instead of on our heads, and moths were attracted to us like flames.  We were batting them away until the sun rose.  

I knew this hike was going to be difficult almost immediately.  About half a mile in the girls started complaining this was harder than they’d thought, and one of the girls was having difficulty breathing.  We took many more breaks than I would have liked and for much longer periods to compensate.  It took us 2 hours to go the first 2 miles (it usually takes about 45 minutes).  

After the 3 mile mark everyone was back to “normal” (breathing was fine, etc.) but we still took it very slow.    I was glad we’d started extra early!

We made it to Barr Camp and the girls collapsed by the stream.  They were already exhausted!  I tried to remind them this was difficult, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t listening…

It was 3 more miles to the A-frame, and we were in a bit of a hurry to make sure we were able to “claim” it.  Otherwise we’d be sleeping in caves tonight (one of which leaks due to snow).  I told myself I’d adjust the hike depending on the next 3 miles.  There was a big chance we wouldn’t be summiting at all.  Even with all the prep work it was much harder than they’d anticipated.  Around mile 7 I had a girl pretend to faint.  Yes, I’m sure she was pretending and looking for sympathy.  However, she’s relatively new to the troop and didn’t realize that was the wrong game to play with me.  I totally understood she felt she’d bitten off more than she could chew, but as far as I’m concerned you don’t joke around with safety.  I let her know how I felt.  She didn’t have any more issues after that.  

Every 30 seconds or so I’d look over my shoulder to see how the girls were doing, and around mile 8 I had a girl actually faint. Right in the middle of the trail! She had been in the back of the line and none of the other girls had heard.  Luckily we’d only gone about 30 feet or so.  I told the girls to sit down, and ran to the one who’d fainted.  Her skin was clammy and she was a bit cold.  After gently tapping and nudging her a few times she woke up very confused.  She didn’t remember falling.  She must have done so gracefully because she wasn’t hurt at all, just confused.  I’d been “pushing” water on the girls, so I knew she was hydrated, so that wasn’t the issue.  Her body was just really tired.  We took a long break until I was sure she was feeling better and we set off at a slower pace.  I like to lead (so I’m the one who runs into that snake or slips on something), but I figured at this point we’d all take turns leading and I’d be in the back so I could watch the girls better.

It was a tough next mile, but the girls made it!!! Look at their excitement upon making it to the A-frame!

Here we took a REALLY long break.  Over an hour.  The girls relaxed, wrote their names on the walls to record their achievement, and consumed a lot of calories.  Some girls refilled their water (filtered it), but everyone relaxed.  We went over the journey so far, and the girls admitted it was harder than they’d anticipated, but (after their break) they all said they wanted to try to summit.  

So we left all the gear we didn’t need in the A-frame, and set out with just the essentials to hike the remaining 3 miles to the peak.  

I knew this was going to be challenging for them, so I tried to think of a game to keep their minds off the difficulty. Most of the girls had never seen a marmot before, so I asked them to count how many they saw.  Some we may have counted twice and I’m sure there were some we missed, but we ended up counting between 40-50 marmots!  They make a really annoying chirping sound…

After the first half mile the complaints began again. I had one girl adamant she no longer wanted to do this.  She’d brought her cell phone, and wanted to call her mom to come get her (as if that were even a possibility at 12,500 feet 11 miles from the car).  I’m 95% sure she was texting her mom at this time, telling her what an awful person I was.  However, I’ve done this hike many times, and I know this behavior is “normal” at this point in the hike, so I encouraged her to continue.  I knew there’d be more nasty comments to come, and I knew while only one (or two) girls would actually say they were tired, wanted to stop, couldn’t breathe, etc., everyone was thinking the same thing.  This is the part of the hike where I get to be the “bad guy” in the nicest way possible, encouraging them to continue.  Some of them said they really didn’t want to continue, but I knew how upset they’d be if they gave up, so I kept cheering them on. After all, if it was easy everyone would do it and there wouldn’t be bragging rights!

Since a lot of the trail was covered in snow and we had to get creative to continue climbing. We looked like we really knew what we were doing, and had several first timers follow us on the hike.  It’s really cool to have things like this happen!

The changing point to the hike came about a mile and a half from the summit.  At this point the “complainers” realized I wasn’t giving in, and this is also where a lot of the trail was covered in snow.  The girls had to be very careful and work together to navigate the trail. I guess for them this is when it became fun!  

Make no mistake, they were still sore and tired, but from here on out they trudged on without my constant encouragement and even seemed to enjoy the experience.

The small streams on the trail were fun to navigate as well.  The girls asked me to take this picture for fun!

Once we made it to the Cirque (just under a mile from the summit) the trail became unnavigable.  No worries:  I did this hike last week.  All we needed to do was head towards the “16 Golden Stairs” sign and then head straight up to the summit. It was difficult, but the girls seemed to have fun!  We had another first timer follow us on this route as well.

The final push to the summit was really hard, but not one of the girls complained even once!  It was as if a switch had been turned on, they all realized how close they were, and they WANTED to summit.  It wasn’t easy:  we had to scramble on the rocks and make our own trail.  

About halfway to the top from where the rock scrambling started someone shouted “Look!  Bighorn Sheep!”  Indeed, there were 3 bighorn sheep traversing the ridge next to us!  They were robust, confident animals.  We watched them until they were out of sight (about 5 minutes). As an added bonus it was a nice break! The girls commented on how they made rock climbing look easy!

After about 20 more minutes of losing our footing, cheering each other on, and mini-rockslides we made it to the summit!

We tried to stay a good distance apart from each other to minimize rock slide injuries, so the girls who made it first waited for everyone to get to the top before all holding hands and crossing the cog tracks together.  This was their idea:  I love these ladies!!!

The girls were all smiles, enthusiastic, and PROUD of themselves!  They were glad they’d continued on, and celebrating their personal and physical victories.

We immediately went inside the summit house and got donuts and fudge. The girls commented how only hikers who’d summited should be allowed such luxuries…  They’d EARNED it!

After a break of about 15 minutes we went outside for pictures.  

Emily truly wanted a picture with me to show she’d hiked Pikes Peak.  Her smile was all the thanks I needed!

You expend a LOT of energy just breathing at 14,000+ feet, so it’s dangerous to spend too much time at the top.  Adding to that it was starting to get cold and the girls wanted dinner.

After the fun of last week getting down the mountain we decided this time to go down the same way we’d gone up.  I explained to the girls how to keep their center of gravity low while navigating, and we began our decent.  

It was slow going the first half mile or so for safety reasons, but after that we practically skipped back to the A-frame, high fiving ourselves the entire way.  The girls were a bit upset we hadn’t “glissaded” so we found a safe place to do so.  On purpose.

Dinner was terrible.  We had Mountain House backpacking meals, and I’m not sure if it was the altitude or how they were prepared, but the consistency was either way too watery or not watery enough.  They tasted OK, so the girls with extra watery meals added their ramen and were fine with that.  Apparently it was an improvement for the ramen!

Samantha and Olivia were in charge of the fire. Check out what an awesome job they did! One match!

I’m REALLY GLAD we were the first ones there because there was serious competition!  At least three other groups were interested in sleeping in the frame that night, but luckily had brought back-up tents as well.  We made several friends at the A-frame, and invited them to join us in our fire.  

Although this was the warmest night I’ve ever spent at the A-frame the girls all said they had trouble sleeping because it was so cold.  We all set our alarms to watch the sunrise, but due to the fires in the area it was difficult to appreciate, so we all went back to bed.

At 7:30am we got up and quickly dressed.  We were running out of food and needed to get back down the mountain.  We ate our cheerios as we descended.  While better than the hike up, the hike down was still a challenge.  It was hot, the girls were tired and very sore.  We had blisters on top of blisters, and needed frequent breaks.

We stopped about 6 times each mile to rest, and every 3 miles we took an extended break and took off our packs.  However, at the 1.5 mile mark the girls got their second wind, asked if we could stop taking breaks, and booked it the rest of the way down. They were exhausted and excited to be done with the hike!  I told them to pose for this picture describing how their bodies were aching at this point…  They have blisters on top of blisters, and I know every muscle in their bodies ache, but they should be proud!!!

Congratulations Ladies!

Pictures of the journey can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/Girl-Scout-Troop-2393-130509316441/photos/?tab=album&album_id=10153424760671442