Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Colorado Trail -- 127 miles from Lake City to Durango -- July 25-30 2007

DAY 1 - 9pm
I am hiking with Mark from Denver. Last night we camped near Spring Creek Pass after dropping food at Molas Pass near Silverton (end of Day 3). I parked my car at the end of the trail in Durango at Junction Creek and Kase drove us 3 hours to the start. Thanks Kase. We hiked 16 miles today. We passed the Colorado trail yurt where Rocco and I went last winter. It was cool to see the same landscape in the summer. We continued south along the ridgeline. Red Mountain, Sunshine, Red Cloud and Uncompagre Peaks tower across the valley to the west. I am carrying my Garmin eTrex Vista Cx Gps and our moving time for the day was 6.5 hours and 8 hours overall. We arrived at camp at 3:30 with tired legs but no other problems. Rocco ate all his food today and is now sleeping soundly at 9pm.
Just as I left camp this morning four large Elk stags with huge antlers came up to the top of a ridge near me. They stopped and stared at me for a bit. They reminded me of my self and my buds out for a walk in the mountains. Saw a large herd of elk at some distance about mid-day. Heard the coyotes howl and bark again tonight at sun down. We expect that we will not get rained on during these seven days. (Power of positive thought) Today the cumulus clouds built and were massive by early afternoon but we did not get rained on.
"The mountains are calling, and I must go..." My heart and passion lies among the spruce and rock under the blazing sky. I am at home under this tarp on the ground. My mind is focused as I walk or climb. I feel the presence of nature; I am protected and enfolded, soaring, open. It is always a marvelous adventure and my body, mind and spirit grow and mature. I learn many lessons about life here. Everything I need to learn is here.

DAY 2 - 5pm
I am sitting with Rocco at 11,600, on a hillside overlooking the Bear Creek Valley. There are high peaks in the 13,000 ft range all around to the south, east and north. Each stands alone with a massive rock summit like majestic temples. We are camped here in a forest of Blue Spruce. Tomorrow we will cross the ridgeline at 12.600 to the west and enter the Wamanuche Wilderness.
Today we hiked about 16 miles in 6 hours. Our route took us 8 miles on a gentle downhill grade through the cow-infested Pole Creek Valley, then 5 miles gently upward through the Bear Creek Valley to old site of Bear Town. Not sure why its named that - must be a bear shaped lake around here or something. Today was a valley day.
There is blue sky now and we are drying our only slightly moist gear in the sun. There are large billowy clouds, but none that look threatening in our immediate vicinity.
We awoke this morning to clouds and, although we did not expect any rain this entire trip, we did have to walk through a brief shower about 11am. I am using the Gatewood Cape from Six Moon Design for shelter and rain gear. It worked nicely during the shower.
I tried to cross the Pole Creek twice by hopping rocks, I slipped twice and got my shoes and socks wet but they are dry now.
It is my third night in the wilderness, which is the longest I have ever been out.
My favorite wild flower is the Indian Paintbrush. In the last several days I have seen it in a dozen colors. I have seen bright red, dark red, magenta, fuchsia, orange, pale orange, yellow orange, yellow, light yellow, white with green, white with purple, light pink, pink and salmon. 14. I also saw the flower that looks like little elephant heads with trunks. Pretty cool.

DAY 3 - 10pm
I am writing from the Alma House B&B, Room 3, in Silverton, CO. At 3pm today just as we reached the track bed of the Silverton Railroad it started to rain. It was 4 miles to Molas Pass, and 2000 elevation gain in the first two miles. We figured we will stay warm climbing and the rain will let up by the time we reach the pass. But it did not stop. Cold and wet we decided to bail to Silverton (7 miles) for the night. We got a ride pretty quickly.
Mark and I seem to be on different schedules and we were crabby with each other tonight. I had a cheeseburger, fries and salad bar for dinner and took a walk down the street to digest. At the Empire Hotel an old played the piano as everyone sang along, The sign said, "This is not a player piano". A punk kid made fun of my "pink (Croc) shoes". I let him know that they were mauve. There were some groovy dudes hanging in a bar with folk music playing into the street. On the side street there was a bar called "Shady Lady" with mannequins dressed as hookers peering from the second floor windows.
Tonight I will sleep in a queen size bed with 10 pillows and two down comforters. I am tucked in already.
Our hike today took us two miles to a high mountain ridge, which we hiked along for a mile. There were 360-degree views of high mountain peaks in all directions. Then we ascended into the Elk Creek Valley, which is in the Wamanuche, for 13 miles. First we descended into a gorge with massive granite walls on either side. Then we walked through lush forest of Fir and Blue Spruce. We saw several waterfalls dropping 500 over rock to the valley floor. Across a tranquil beaver pond, bright green with moss, we passed the stunning vertical rock peaks of the Grenadier Range. I want to return to climb in this area soon. The Silverton train passed its whistle filling the gorge. Then it rained.

DAYS 4 & 5 - 6:30pm on Day 5
I am now poised to finish my hike a day and a half early. It is 20 miles to Durango. I am shacked up for the night in an old miners cabin. Probably lees than 50 years old, it has no windows or doors, but it has a good floor, roof and sleeping platform. Sweet. From the start of Segment 28 the cabin is just beyond the pass a half-mile away. Look left up the hill from the pass. Rocco and I are at 11.500 and I can see all of the San Juans to the east - Wilson Mastiff, the Needles and the lights of Durango to the south. The massive rock faces of Shoshone Peak are close to the southwest. From here the trail drops rapidly and descends into Durango.
Day 4 began with a divorce. Mark woke up at the B&B put on his stuff and said "good bye". I was surprised but indifferent to the change because we were not getting along that well. Mark taught me a lot about through hiking, about pacing myself with consistent breaks, taking care of my feet by putting them in snow or a mountain stream and to wipe myself down with water at night to clean the salt off my body. Feels good! Thanks Mark. As Mark hit the trail, I went downstairs for my breakfast of sausage, eggs, potatoes, granola, yogurt, coffee and a banana to go. I hitched to the trailhead and set out at 8am. I decided to try and finish the trail in 3 days instead of 4. I would try to make it 30 miles today through Segments 25 and 26. That would leave two 20-mile days. I decided I would rest every two hours for ten minutes and try to make 6 miles between rests. I had to really move and not stop but well rested and fed, I was able to keep the pace quite easily. I expected to finish in 10 hours at 6pm.
There is a fat marmot staring at me. I think he lives here. I will go hang my food and after he looks around (and sees the dog) I am sure he will go away.
Anyway, back to the story. About 1 pm it started to rain and that slowed me down a little. I made it 27.5 miles by 7:30 pm. I hiked 20 miles to the west and 7.5 miles to the south. I walked through many beautiful forests - including a mysterious forest of Lindeman Spruce, over several high passes and saw many beautiful waterfalls. At 7:30 I ran into a couple of guys camped. We started chatting and I decided to camp there with them for the night. Aaron from Denver had started from Durango two days earlier headed to Denver. Mike, also from Denver, had started two months earlier and was slowly making his way to Durango. We all demonstrated our gear for each other and compared calories. My Mountain House, Macaroni and Cheese impressed everyone with 960 calories and 70 grams of fat. Aaron said he would like to get together and climb once he gets home. I will keep him in my thoughts over the next month.
Day 5 - After an uncomfortable nights sleep on uneven ground with a dehydrated meal for a pillow, I awoke at 5am. My new strategy is to leave camp at first light in order to beat the rain. It is 23.5 miles to the end of Segment 27 and the cabin that Aaron has told me about. I left camp with Mike and we hiked and chatted for several hours. Under my system I should be able to make it in eight hours. Hopefully I will beat the rain to the 12, 500 section of trail at miles 17-19 of Segment 27. I ate gorp for breakfast and paid for it. At noon I ate my granola and felt fueled up. I learned not to skip breakfast. There is very little water in Segment 27 because the trail runs along the top of a ridgeline. I drank a liter of (treated) red clay puddle water. Is that bad for you? I moved along to the south at a good clip when at 1pm as I approached tree line at 11,500 it started to rain. Then it got much worse with buckets of rain and small hail. Rocco and I found good cover under a large Fir tree. There was much thunder and lightning within a mile. I have learned a lot on this trip about how to stay warm and dry. If it is not raining too hard you should layer up and keep moving because if you stop you will get cold which means you will have to set up camp and get into your sleeping bag. The rain and long distance has been hard on Rocco too. He has a waterproof raincoat from Canine Equipment that wraps his body. It keeps him warm and dry. The last too nights I have wrapped him in my sleeping bag when we have arrived at camp. He falls right to sleep and doesn't move until morning.
Anyway back to the story. So the rain slowed and I heard no thunder for 20 minutes. We made our break for the pass. It seemed wrong to run for the tundra after that storm but I could see that the dangerous weather had blown its load. The rote was very long - 2 miles above tree line crossing summit after summit. The hail was several inches deep in places and the wind at the edge of the ridge was powerful. This was definitely my "Man vs. Wild" moment of the trip. I ran as much as I could and made it over the last summit in about an hour. I descended into a beautiful valley and walked through chest high wild flowers - Queen Anne's Lace and Liatris. I got water for the night and then found my new house.

I awoke at 5 am and was on the road by 6. I had eaten some granola in the middle of the night and more in the morning. Ahead was 6 miles of gentle downhill followed by 4 miles up and 10 more miles down. I decided to try running the downhill sections. I did that and coved 20 miles in just over 6 hours. The spruce turned to aspen and then to ponderosa pine. I reached my car at Junction Creek at about 12:15. I cried victorious as I had beaten the rain that day. I washed up in the stream. Then I drove into town and ate a steak burrito followed by a mud pie blizzard. Rocco and I drove home and arrived back in Denver by 10 pm.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Eagles Nest Wilderness -- July 6 thru 8, 2007

Rocco and I headed up to the area of Mt Powell and Peak C on Friday afternoon. At the trailhead is the Piney River Ranch, an old style camp sorta place in a gorgeous setting with Mt Powell and Peak C at the end of the valley. From the trailhead I could see the col I would cross the next day into the Black Creek Valley en route to the summit of Powell. I could also see the snow couloir on the south west face of Peak C which is the classic route to the summit. Only Class 2 for me on this trip because of having Rocco along.
This trip was my trial run for the 120 mile hike of the Colorado trail into Durango at the end of July. I am ultra-light. My pack is about 8 lbs plus food and water. This was my first time sleeping under my 1lb poncho tarp on tybek ground cover and 3/8 inch thick blue pad. The ground was pretty hard but I figure that most of the time I have to lay on it I am asleep. All my gear worked out well. I especially like the Pepsi can stove that burns denatured alcohol.
We started hiking from Piney Lake at about 6pm. The first thing I noticed was the wild flowers. Everything was in bloom at every altitude. Ever the high tundra at 12,000 feet and above was on fire with lush flowers and plants. We hiked about 3.5 miles, just past intersection of the trail that goes to the col, to a nice campsite next to the Piney River near the falls. There were several good camp sites in this area.
I got up at first light, packed up, and headed up the trail to the col between Powell and Peak C. There is a good trail that climbs and winds over rock, brush and stream. It turned out that there are many flat areas, with water to camp between 10.780 right up to 11,220 at the base of the talus slope that leads to the col.
From the col Peak C looks like a 1500 ft black surf board sticking up from the sand. The mountains of the Black Creek Valley are dark, dramatic, pointed and imposing. The lakes are bright blue. The route to Powell is just to the left 1600 ft up the grass ramp. First you must descend 100 ft to get to the bottom of the ramp. I did so by glissade. I noted that the snow was pretty soft already at 8:30 am.
I climbed to the summit and met a fellow from Steamboat Springs there. He was out on his own camping and climbing. We identified all the surrounding peaks together and off he went toward Peak C. My plan was to descend via the north face of Powell into the cirque below Powell and Eagles Nest, then work my way over the ridge into the Black Creek valley to the south and camp there somewhere.
But, the four summits of Eagles Nest were calling my name and regretibly I fell under their spell. The summit is one mile away and the most direct route is a clas 3 and 4 ridge line. According to by guide book, Joe Kramersic's Mountaineering in the Gore Range, there is also a Class 2 route. From the summit of Powell you would head west and drop about 1500 feet into the Cataract Creek Valley, then head north along the ridge for about a mile to just beyond the low point in the ridge. From there you can climb to the summitt on Class 2. But I was stubborn and refused to descend. So Rocco and I scrambled for several hours over Class 3 rock mostly above 12,800. About the time we finnally got to the Class 2 access, the dark clouds were building and it was clearly time to descend. So I ended up in the Cataract Creek Valley for the night. It was pretty and I camped near the upper lake. But I was really angry with myself for my terrible decision making for I have learned all these lessons before: Don't be a peak bagger!! Don't set out on a 3 hour trek to a nearby peak at noon!! Get on your route and stick to your plan. On the positive side it was some excellent route finding experience and some good strenuous climbing.
The next morning I woke up and hiked out by 11am. Eagles Nest was calling again but I didn't listen this time. Who wants to slog up 2000 feet of talus for a view I've already seen. I was proud of myself for resisting. I enjoyed a rather thin cheeseburger at the Piney River Ranch. I was going to take Rocco canoeing but $25 per hour was more than it was worth.
One day I will return to the area. I will leave Rocco at home, I will camp in the Black Creek Valley, I will climb technical routes on Peak C and the surrounding peaks. Perhaps in September. Any takers?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Dead Dog Couloir by Beth Bershader

Saturday June 2, 2007
Torreys Peak 14,267 ft.
Dead Dog Couloir

BMS Hard Snow Day
Senior Instructor: Brian Murphy & Darrell Johnson
Assistant Instructors: Steve Cassin, Beth Bershader
Students: Sharon Adams, Katie Goodwin, Kevin Linebarger, Stuart Paul, Chris Bartle, David Young, Mollie Young
Others: Greg Olson & Lisa ?

I've always wanted to climb the "classic" Dead Dog but every year we seem to wait too long & it's melted out. So when it was decided we would climb it for our BMS Hard Snow Day I was pretty excited.

We drove up Friday evening & parked within 3/4 mile from the Stevens Gulch trailhead. There are still some snow drifts past that that will probably be melted out in a few weeks before the true TH can be accessed. We backpacked in the rain, then sleet, then hail, then grapple, then snow to 12,800 ft. near the base of the coulior in a little inlet out of any avy danger if any should occur. Snowshoes weren't really necessary. There were spots of dry ground & spots of snow with minimal postholing. Although once I put my snowshoes on I was too lazy to take them off & kept them on the whole way in with much ribbing from Brian. We camped at the base since we knew we'd need an early start since the couloir gets an early sunhit & warms quickly. We set up camp as it got dark in the windy conditions. Boiled water & prepped our packs for the next day then ate dinner. To bed between 10-11pm.

I wouldn't say we really slept since it was so windy causing much noise in the tent. It was colder than I was expecting. Isn't it summer YET?!* But we did at least rest our bones & gave our bodies the needed amount of horizontal positioning for the next day. The alarms were set for 4am but about 10 minutes till we hear "Housekeeping" as Darrell our usual senior & Kevin a student hiked into camp. Darrell was stuck in an airport with a delayed flight most of the night & Kevin had family in town so they started out around 2am to meet up with us. Now that's dedication! Freakin nutballs!!

Anywho, we lazily woke up & got ready. We left camp around 5:15a.m. & headed towards our couloir. We began ascending in towards the base as the sunrise lit up Grays & Torreys in orange & pink lighting. The golden sun slowly rose. It was incredibly beautiful & peaceful. Once we reached the base of the couloir we took a quick snack break & stripped some layers by a rock outcropping since it was warming in the sun & we were blocked any breeze.

We started from the base at 6am. Steve led the group as Brian sat in back giving advice then moving up beside the group helping the students. I took up the rear to keep the group together. We ascended slowly but surely.
The slope felt between 35-40 degrees for most of the climb with a section of 45 degrees. My calves were a burnin! The snow was warming quickly & small rocks that were frozen in the snow from the cold night were now shooting down the gully like missiles. There were 2 people approaching the bottom of the couloir & we yelled "rock rock" many times for them as they wizzed down. One hit a student in the leg giving her a pretty impressive gash.

Onward & upward we went. As the coulior doglegged right, we ascended the last section over a short 50 degree baby cornice. Brian chose to top out to the right of the white tower on Kelso's ridge since the snow to the left was unconsolidated. Although this did give us a short challenging exposed traverse at the base of the white tower to get back to the ridge proper. From there it was an 100 yard ascent to the summit. Many high fives & hugs were given. We donned more layers as the wind kicked up & we ate snacks. Took the crampons off for the downclimb, radioed the camp to let them know were on top, then headed off. Down we went through the rock & snow. We passed many skiers on their way up to the summit. I've actually never seen so many backcountry skiers anywhere in CO.

At the saddle we headed on the regular route descending about 100 ft. to where we had our 1,000 ft. glissade. Wahoo! After a small flat section, we had another short glissade then a 5 minute walk to camp! More hugs & smiles all around. We quickly packed up camp & headed out before the snow got too mushy to avoid postholing. The snow was pretty warm though & a few postholes were had by all but not enough to earn a PHD! We finally reached the cars. Cold Schlitz & Pringles from Greg & Strawberry Shortcake from Mollie for Katie's bday were enjoyed by all. I never thought a Schlitz could taste that good!

Another awesome trip with our awesome team!!

Escalante Canyoning by AJ

May 24th thru May 27th

Pics: http://www1.snapfish.com/thumbnailshare/AlbumID=174454511/a=38054161/t_=38054161

Wednesday 5/23:

A group of us went down to the Escalante over the long weekend, which we made longer by a taking a few more days off. The plan was to have one group that would break into two canyon groups. Mine would tackle the bigger and more challenging
canyons; and there would be a less aggressive canyon group as well. We headed out on Wednesday after work, and drove down
to the Egypt Bench road. We set up a meeting spot on Egypt Bench, and saw a car and tent there already. Turns out that
they weren't with our group, so we apologized if we woke them (it was late.) It was a nice night out so we just threw down
our sleeping bags and bivvied for the night.

Thursday 5/24:

We woke up around 6:00am, and met up with a few more from our group. Marty was down with his family, and he and his son
Derek would join the less aggressive group. We packed up our bivvy gear, grabbed a quick cold breakfast, and headed toward
the E3/E4 start. Everyone met there, and we divided into two groups. Five of us would do the more aggressive Egypt 4.
Brian, Ben, Rom, Richard and I set out to the head of Egypt 4, and got there around 9:30am. It was already quite warm.
Egypt 4 was quite the warmup canyon for the weekend. A very fun, but strenuous, canyon with lots of off the deck stuff;
some quite high, up to around 100 feet off the deck. The canyon is quite sustained, with a few silo crossings; you aren't on
the ground for very long at all for most of the first section of canyon. The footing seemed a little loose in the
beginning, with some sand on the walls; but felt comfortable the rest of the way. Most of the silos had decent footing, but
a slip would definitely mean serious injury or death.

All the Egypts seemed to have decent water. Egypt 4 certainly didn't require a wetsuit though; you would be insanely warm
with all the climbing - and most of the time you were at least 30 feet above the water anyway. Although, the additional
padding from a wetsuit on the lower back would be nice; we were all quite sore there. There was a spot where the canyon
finally opened enough to get to the ground around 11:30am, but shortly afterwards had around a fifty foot upclimb. Fun!

A bit over halfway through the canyon, Brian, Rom and Richard had enough. They weren't enjoying all the effort and they
were sore from all the stemming and chimney work. We all had sore red spots on our lower backs. We found a spot where they
could exit around 1:30pm. Ben and I decided to continue, as we were still enjoying the scenery and the challenge. I gave
them my backpack though so Ben and I could travel light, and we kept just an emergency cord and a few other emergency items.
Unfortunately, we were low on water as it was pretty hot out in the mid-80's, and all the climbing was definitely making us

The second half of the canyon was more of the same. Lots of off the deck, high stemming, with some intermittent up and down
climbs. We ran out of water just before hitting the end of the canyon; thanks to Ben for sharing his. The last section was
a cool little chained pothole section. We scooped some decent water from a pothole, but my water purification tablets were
in my backpack. Crap. We'd drink it if we had to, but started the hike up to meet the others around 3:30pm. Thankfully,
they waited for us where the E3 and E4 exit routes meet up. There were a few from the Egypt 3 group there too. We got some
water from them, and all hiked back up to the trailhead. There were a few cool rock pedestals on the way out. We made it
back to the trailhead around 5:30pm.

Note that Egypt 4 is NOT a beginner canyon; be careful if you head there. However, it would be possible to start upclimbing
from the bottom (though even more strenuous), and head up as far as you felt comfortable. Otherwise, we saw three
different exits on the way down. One prior to the one Kelsey mentions; it was a ramp on the right LDC, then Kelsey's exit
when the canyon opens with ramps on both sides, and the lowest section has many exits as it's much more open with potholes.
Although, if you go from the top, and made it to the bottom section, no need to exit as the final section is comparatively

The Egypt 3 group said the lower section had a long swim in cold water. The water was clean and refreshing on the warm day.
No wetsuit needed, as the long hike back is just afterwards.

We then drove to the Egypt Bench trailhead, packed up, and then hiked down into Fence canyon that same day. Jen was feeling
a little tired, so I first took her pack as well. After a bit, I gave her pack back and then hiked quickly ahead to camp
while she hiked with Brian and Richard. I arrived at camp just as the sun was going down, dropped my pack, and hiked back
up to her and took her pack for the rest of the way down. We made some dinner with the group, talked about the next days
canyon, and visited. It was great to visit with everyone; it had been a while since I saw some of them, including Sharon
from SLC.

Friday 5/25:

We woke up at 6:30am, and started to get everyone else up. The entire group would be doing Neon today:

We hiked up to the standard entrance, and Jen and Misty wanted to start here. Tim and I downclimbed with them, and took
them to the confluence with the main Neon canyon. We gave them instructions on "what if" scenarios, and then upclimbed back
to the rest of the group. The rest of us then went past the normal long route (passed at 10:45am) mentioned by Shane and
Tom. We went up to the next side drainage. It's still not at the canyon head, but it adds about 3-4 hours round trip to
the normal Neon route. We dropped in around 12:15pm.

To get to the confluence with the main Neon canyon, there was a few downclimbs, a wade through a corridor, and then a
handline down into a swim. We hit the upper main Neon canyon around 12:45pm. At the confluence, there was a really cool
sculpted pothole section.

The canyon section above the long route is quite fun with a variety of downclimbs, swims through narrow tunnels (many can be
bypassed, but why?), some tight squeezes, fun jumps, and some open canyon walking. We met up with Jen and Misty around 3pm,
and continued down into the normal Neon canyon. Neon was better than I had remembered it from the last time. Great canyon
with lots of variety and lots of beauty. We also came across a few young ravens that were trapped in the canyon. I carried
a few to an open spot in the canyon.

We dropped into the first deep keeper pothole around 4pm (near the bolt bypass on the left LDC) by sequencing/partner
assists and got out using 2 potshots with rocks from the pothole and one pack toss. Threw the rocks back into the pothole
after we were all out. Fun! Some decided to do the rappel bypass. We took a snack break in the nice warm sun around
4:45pm. Did a few more downclimbs, wades and a swim to get to the second keeper pothole (around 5:30pm.) We used a macrame
knot around the window for a handline or rap into a pool. The second keeper was a climb out on a slick large branch/small
log. The final rappel was awesome as usual. Rappeling through the window into the Golden Cathedral pool is just
spectacular. Glad Jen and the others were able to experience it. Fun stuff. Most people wore 3/2 full wetsuits and were
fine. The warmer blooded went without a wetsuit as it was in the upper 80's during the day. We finished the rappel around

We hiked back to the confluence of Neon and the Escalante. We again broke into two groups. Six of us (Rom, Stuart, Ben,
Jonas, Tim and I) hiked down the Escalante and did a bivvy to be closer to the Bakers. The flies on the hike were horrible;
and seemed to favor me more than the others. At our bivvy spot, we spread our wet gear out in the tamarisk trees to dry out
overnight. The rest headed back to the Fence canyon camp and would do something less aggressive the next day.

Saturday 5/26:

We woke up at 5:30am, and made breakfast. We finished the hike over to the Bakers, seeing some amazing destruction from the
awesome power of the October 2006 floods: http://uutah.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3719 We started up the slickrock and
debated whether to do West, East or both Bakers; and which one to do first if we were to do both (like I wanted to.) We
decided to do West Baker: http://www.climb-utah.com/Escalante/baker.htm

We would then see what time it was when we finished. We would then drop in to East if we had time. West Baker was awesome.
We dropped in around 9am, and shortly came to a murky pool. A few of us (including me) wanted to jump it if it was safe,
but people were taking longer to get ready, so I did a handline into the pool to check it out. It was a little shallow at
just over 4 feet, but still able to jump if careful. Some jumped and others rapped.

The canyon was very fun with lots of variety. Some swims, a jump or two, fun downclimbing, a very tight squeeze, some mossy
sections, and beautiful sculpting. Most wore 3/2 full wetsuits, the warmer blooded wore 3/2 farmer johns, and were fine;
but it was in the upper 80's during the day. The canyon had raps to 55 feet, some from natural anchors, some from a single
bolt. Some natural anchors could be built near the bolts, but the bolts were in decent shape and were pretty clean so we
used them. We hit the confluence with East around 11:15am. So far, we were making decent time. We hiked up East for a
bit, and it looked pretty awesome.

We continued back and down, and saw a possible exit on the East side of the canyon around Noon. We discussed our options.
We could try to upclimb here, and it might be a shortcut to hit East Baker. Or it might burn enough time where we would no
longer have enough time to do East. We could skip the possible exit and hike out and go around; but the entrance to East is
not supposed to be very straightforward. Or we could just head back to camp. Several people (including me) wanted to give
the possible exit a shot; it would be awesome if it went. Would be quite a shortcut. The first upclimb into a subway was
challenging, but not too bad. The next section was long and pretty exposed. With some rock gear, it might be decent, but
we didn't have enough to protect a climb. We also didn't know if there was more obstacles after the climb. We decided to
play it safe and not risk a possible serious injury. We downclimbed back into main Baker, and headed downcanyon.

The lower section (after the confluence of West and East Baker) was still a great canyon. Still some downclimbs, swimming
and awesome scenery. We hit the final rappel around 1:30pm. It was early enough that we still had a chance to do East.
However, we would likely be hiking back to camp in the dark if we did. We then had a big and early day as we were planning
to do Choprock tomorrow. We decided to play it on the conservative side and save East Baker for another time, and hiked
back to camp. We got back to camp around 4:30pm, and relaxed and chatted with the group.

We found out that another group who camped near us had gone into Choprock today, from one person that was with that group
that didn't go in. They weren't back when it started to get dark and he was starting to get concerned; and was debating
hiking out to get help for a rescue. I let him know that we were heading into Choprock the next day, so we would get there
before any rescue team would. I told him to just wait, and hopefully the group would be out tonight. If not, they likely
would have gotten held up from difficult conditions or possibly an injury (sprained ankle, etc) as the weather had been
great all weekend. If it was from difficult conditions, they would likely be out early the next day. If it was an injury,
when we went through the next day, we could help them if they needed it. I let our group know the situation, that we might
be in for some difficult conditions in Choprock and/or a possible situation where we would need to help other canyoneers.
It turned out that we heard the other team get back around 10:30pm, after we were already in our tents. Glad they made it
back, but I figured this meant we were in for some difficult conditions the next day and was glad that we skipped East

Sunday 5/27:

Sunday was Choprock: http://www.climb-utah.com/Escalante/chop.htm One of my favorite canyons. Long, beautiful, and not to
be taken lightly: http://www.climb-utah.com/Escalante/chop1.htm Seven of us would drop in; Rom, Brian, Ben, Diane, Stuart,
Tim, and I.

We woke up early, just after 4am, because we were expecting issues from what we heard from the field and since we knew it
took the other group of canyoneers a long time to complete it the day before. We had breakfast, prepped, and started the
long approach hike around 5:30am, and were dropping into the canyon around 7:30am. We suited up prior to a few downclimbs
into pools; still above the Riparian section. We did the rappel into the Riparian section around 9am.

The Riparian section seemed to be even more lush than last time, with a LOT of poison ivy plants. Some were like trees,
towering around 15 feet high. Incredible. We then hit the Happy section around 10:15am. The Happy section is wonderful.
Beautiful and clear flowing water through sculpted canyon and subway sections. We played around a bit, climbing up and
jumping into some awesome pools. Not too long though, as we were anticipating difficulties in the Grim section.

We hit the Grim section around 11:15am. There was a large log jam in the first tight section. I first climbed over, and it
was easy to go around; but it's a really cool section. I climbed back around and dropped in. Pulled a few of the logs out
and the rest of the jam came crashing down. Cool. Now the whole group could experience this cool, dark, tight and twisty

The Grim section seemed to have more log jams than previous years, but all the upclimbs were from dry spots, with the walls
near the upclimbs were quite condusive to easy climbing. There were many swims, including two longer swims in the canyon.
The first long one is an awesome swim through tight twisty narrows for a hundred yards or so. All of us were in full
wetsuits; minimum of 4/3mm and were fine. I was a little chilly because of a cheap wetsuit, but not too bad.
Unfortunately, my waterproof camera case opened on one of the upclimbs, and my camera plunged into a pool of water. Got it
back, and hoped it would work again when it dried out. Didn't get any more pics after that happened though.

We hit the end of the canyon around 1pm and were pretty surprised. I thought Choprock was a lot easier than previous years,
and others agreed. Since we still had plenty of time left in the day, Ben and Tim wanted to see how far they could upclimb
the canyon. I was kind of bummed, and didn't really feel like doing the upclimb. They headed up, and the rest of us rapped
down, and lounged around in the sun, drying our gear. We then leisurely strolled the river floating our packs behind us
back to camp. I wish we knew we could have made it through that quick (less than 10 hours tent to tent, including LOTS of
leisure time on the return) as we could have added East Baker the previous day. Oh well, better safe than sorry. East will
be there next time.

We got back to camp just before 3pm. We talked with the rest of the group; and lounged around by the river. Everyone got
together for dinner, and we spent the rest of the night visiting around camp. We discussed the plans for the next day. We
would try to hike out early, and possibly fit in one of the shorter Spooky/Peekaboo/Brimstone canyons. I'd love to do the
Spooky/Peekaboo loop, but don't know if we would have time; since we still had the long drive home as well.

Monday 5/28:

I woke up around 6am, and started packing up camp. Others were moving pretty slow. Jonas and I had taken some of the load
from Jen and Misty (who had hiked out the day before) and hiked up to the vehicles. Made it in less than 1:45. Pretty good
timing. We then waited for the others. They were taking a LONG time. We decided to leave a note on the car for them;
saying to meet us at the Kiva Coffeehouse. Just before leaving, Amber (from the other Choprock group) came up asking if we
had seen two of their group. They hadn't shown up for an Egypt canyon that morning. Unfortunately we hadn't. Bummer, they
were having a rough time this weekend. We told her that we would check with the others. We then headed off to the Kiva
Coffeehouse for breakfast; hoping the others would get there early enough to do another canyon; maybe a rap down Calf Creek.

Unfortunately, they didn't get there until around noon, seems like people just wanted a leisure return day. Thus, we just
enjoyed the company and the awesome food at the Kiva. It was still an awesome weekend with some really great canyon
experiences and great friends. I'm looking forward to getting back there soon...

We did hear back from the other group, and all of them made it out safe as well. That's the most important thing, followed
by people having a good time...


20070524D1-31 Egypt 4 - Chimney and Long Way Down.MOV

Pics: http://www1.snapfish.com/thumbnailshare/AlbumID=174454511/a=38054161/t_=38054161
Group Room (multiple albums): http://ajoutdoors.snapfish.com/snapfish

Mt Bancroft Trip Report by Beth Bershader

Saturday 5/19/07
Mount Bancroft 13,250 ft.
Arapahoe National Forest, Clear Creek Co.
TH: Loch Lomond
Route: Ascent-East Ridge, Descent- SE Bowl
Start: 6am
Summit: 2pm
Finish: 5pm
Total Mileage: 6 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 2,850 ft.
Total Fun: 100%
Gear: ice ax, harness w/ belay device, prussik, personal anchor system, helmet, slings, 4 rap rings, 2 60 meter 10mm ropes, small rack of gear, snowshoes

CMC BMS Routefinding Day
Senior Instructor: Darrell Johnson
Assistant Instructors: Beth Bershader, Steve Cassin, Rob Nevitt
Students: Sharon Adams, Chris Bartle, Katie Goodwin, Sarah MacDonald, Stuart Paul, Dave Young, Mollie Young

Everyone was half asleep but wide eyed with anticipation. We knew it was gonna be a good day. You know how you just get that feeling. The sky was clear with no hint of a breeze & it was already warm. We started off parked about 1.5 miles from Loch Lomond (10,400 ft.elevation) due to a gate closure on Stewart Rd. The road was dry to the 2nd gate which funny enough was open. The road was covered with hardpacked snow from here. A few of us carried snowshoes on our packs as we walked across the hard snow to Loch Lomond where Darrell insisted we stop for a quick break & reconnoiter the route since that was where the view is. "I'm all about the view" he kept saying. Alright alright, calm down!

We stashed our snowshoes here & headed for the SE ramp covered in snow that the students kicked steps up that led to a small saddle off the eastern ridge where Lake Caroline lay in front of us. Another quick break here for snacks, pictures, a scan of the route. In the SE bowl you could see gigantic cracks that had produced slab avalanches. I mean GIGANTIC! We could see a runout from a mid sized avy leading to Lake Caroline.

We started up the eastern ridge. We could see James Peak & Jamaica from the ridge, I never realized how flat they both are, especially the summit of James. We had some 2nd class & low 3rd class scrambilng with a sprinkling of good ole fun 3rd class with a few short snow ridged sections to walk across. It all had a great alpine feel from the get go. I love ridges & I love scrambling! I hadn't scrambled since last fall so it took a little to shake the dust off. We reached the rappell notch around 10am & set up the anchor. There is a bomber rock to sling here. It looks downclimbable to the climbers left if you're comfortable with exposed 4th class. I went first down the approx. 80 ft. rappell setting up a piece of webbing on a wimpy flake for students to clip into when they got off rappell. There was quite the knife edged snow traverse across the notch & a slip into the coliour below looked unentertaining! Stuart came down next & stomped out a good path across the snow.

When Rob came down I headed over to Stuart to scout the route while Rob helped others rappell down. In retrospect, it would've made much more sense for Rob to go with Stuart. I followed Stuart up the left of the notch forgetting what an experienced climber he is & an unexperiened climber I am. Needless to say he upclimbed the 5.2 crack unroped while I hung out on a ledge trying to figure out what to do with myself. So I sat down & ate a snack & cheered the students on while they rappelled feeling like an idiot getting myself stuck. After a while Chris replaced Rob & Rob met Stuart to prep a belay station for students to upclimb the right side of the notch which is exposed 4th class with 1 low 5th class move in the very beginning. As Katie reached the other side of the notch, she looked slightly worried. After some friendly harrassing from Darrell & worrying about Katie, this motivated me to downclimb to help her out. Down I went, wow that was easy, why did I wait so long to do that! I helped the students tie into their harnesses & prepare to climb as they each came & went. Finally my turn & up I went, not bad at all. When we were all gathered back together almost 3 hours later we began moving along the ridge again.

After some more fun scrambling we reached an interesting rock tower where the only option was downclimbing then traversing a snowfield facing into the snow with our ice axes in center front of us to reach a 4th class gulley. One at a time slowly & carefully we made it. Now for more fun scrambling some of the rock being bomber & some of the rock being pretty dang lose. It was mostly 3rd class with some 4th class here & there with a little exposure now & then. There was even a short minor knife ridge like before the white tower on Kelso Ridge.

We finally reached grassy rocky ledges that turned into grassy ledges, the going was getting easier. The clouds were starting to build & people were starting to slow. I think we were all getting tired now. It was feeling like a long time. We had some people pop gu's, the miracle of quick energy. We just kept slowly moving now hoping no one would stop & just keep moving even if slowly. We finally reached the false summit as the snow started. We added some layers & had another quick bite. We were hoping we'd reach the summit but weren't sure due to the dark clouds, but we were soooo close! As we reached the saddle, the snow squall passed us rumbling some minor thunder as the sun came back out. A quick 5 minute kick stepping up the snow to the summit & we were on top. Hugs & smiles & high fives all around. Excellent views into Winter Park, to Gray & Torreys, etc. We took some quick pics, had some quick bites, & donned the glissade pants getting ready for our descent. We figured we shouldn't hang on top too long since it was already 2pm & there were more clouds coming.

We retreated to the saddle & did some alternating fun glissades & traversing plunge stepping. Down down down we went. We quickly reached the minor saddle on the east ridge for some final glissading. A few postholes & falling into creeks & we reached Loch Lomond. Those that didn't have snowshoes carried on & those that did donned them as the rain started & the thunder/lightening storm began. We moved quickly into the trees. I emphasis quickly! As we reached the road, the storm was over & the sun was out to warm us up & dry us off for the final 1.5 miles. Excellent! We reached the cars at 5pm. A change into dry clothes, a cold beer, & more hugs. Dinner in Idaho Springs at Buffalo Restaurant. Perfect ending to a perfect day.

Afterthougts: We were very lucky with the weather. This route takes much longer than you'd think especially with such a large group. I had never been to this basin & was suprised at the beauty of it, absolutely stunning. The students did AWESOME, for most of them it was their 1st technical alpine climb of a peak. It is a great feeling seeing the smiles on their faces when they reached the top. We even had a student from another group, Sarah, and she fit right in. My fellow instructors, like usual, rocked. This peak was just too much fun & I will definitely do it again & again!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Lost Creek Wilderness Trip Report

When my friend Ted bailed on me for our easy one night backpacking trip to the Lost Creek Wilderness. I decided to ramp it up a bit by going solo, going farther and going an extra day.

Fortunately my pup Rocco (a Weimaraner) didn't bail so I had a trusty companion.

It has been a goal of mine to do some back country camping by myself just to have that experience of being alone in the wilderness. This trip was also my first trip going ultra light which I have been learning about and re-gearing for over the last several months. I wouldn't say I am ultra light yet. But very light. My pack was down to about 20 pounds. Rocco carried about a 10 pound pack with all his food and some of mine.

We left Friday morning on our two night trip. A 1.5 hour drive from Denver to the Goose Creek Trailhead at the SE corner of Lost Creek Wilderness. The route takes you through Pine CO where just to the south there is the most beautiful (inhabited) valley I have ever seen in Colorado. The Swan Heffer something ranch with a wide grassy valley floor, horses and a 20 ft wide river making exagerrated bends back and forth from side to side. The last part of the drive and the first 1/4 mile of the Goose Creek Trail are through the Haymen Fire burn. Miles and miles or desolation on all sides. Really astounding.

The Lost Creek Wildernness is characterized by dramatic rock formations and walls made from bomber (pink) granite. The walls are stacks of round bubbles sort of like the Michelin Man. There are giant domes (like a mini Yosemite) and valleys and canyons filled with room size and even house size granite boulders. The Lost Creek disappears many times into aquafers underneath these formations and boulder piles.

My plan was to do the entire 27 mile loop counter clockwise. But I was apprehensive because I had spoken with a Ranger who had told me that there was quite a lot of snow along the west side of the trail at the higher elevations. This would be the second half of the trip. I was trying to decide whether to wear boots or trail runners when I met a guy coming out who had been up near Hawkins Pass at 10,000 ft. He said the snow was two feet deep and he was post holing. At that point I decided to wear trail runners and just do an in and out route up Goose Creek staying at lower elevation out of the snow.

We left from the trailhead (8100') at 9am. A three mile hike northbound on the Goose Creek Trail #612 to the shafthouse turn off gained about 600ft and took me past high rock cliffs and formations on the left and past a dramatic (and very rare) granite arch. Look to the left and slightly up at about mile 1. The shafthouse and several standing employee housing buildings are all that is left (beside a bunch of cement in the aquafer) from a half baked scheme around the turn of the century to dam the lost creek by plugging the underground aquafer with cement.

I turned left at the shafthouse turnoff. I checked our the historic buildings and continued a quarter mile up the trail to the old shaft house. I became surrounded by a strange and wonderful world of giant round granite boulders and high rock walls of all shapes. There was a large rock ledge on the left near the top of the hill that overlooked the entire valley to the south. A good campsite. Beyond the shafthouse was a very beautiful grassy valley also an excellent campsite. I continued a little further headed upstream NW over the aquafer with the Lost Creek below. I wanted to find where the creek goes underground because then I would have a water supply. After a short stretch through a section with room size boulders that create a maze and boulder caves I came to a boulder ledge with a large flat area behind that overlooked an entire remote valley. i could hear the water of the Lost Creek entering the aquafer below. I had found my campsite. I set up camp about 2pm.

I found this picture of the valley on the web. I can tell it is exactly where I camped by the three holes in the rock in the right forground. This picture was obviously taken later in the summer. The bottom of the valley was not green yet when I was there. This would be the valley that would be filled with water had the turn of the century dam scheme worked.

I spent the rest of the afternoon hiking around the valley exploring the various aquafers. It was very hard going because climbing over room size boulders it is very easy to dead end, especially with a dog. The scope and size of things was very confusing as was the maze of canyons that all converged. Thanks to Rob Nevitt I carried a GPS which saved me at least once. I was happy I had changed to long pants because of the thorny brush near the water.

Here is another picture I found on the web of some people among the giant boulder like those near the shafthouse.

The next morning I awoke at 7am and was on the trail at 9am. I returned to the main Goose Creek Trail and headed further in to the north. At about 2 miles I came to the intersection of the McCurdy Park Trail #628. I turned left on 628 headed for Regrigerator Gulch. After a few hundred yards a beautiful, large pine tree filled valley came into view on the left. This is the area of the gulch and looked beautiful to camp in the bottom. I continued down 628 for another 1/2 mile. My intention was to leave the main trail and follow the gulch to the south about 1/4 mile to where it intersects the Lost Creek looking for a campsite here near one of several aquafers. Where 628 crosses the steam that flows at the bottom of Refrigerator Gulch in some tall brush, 628 continues to the northwest, but behind you there is an unmarked trail that goes off tho the southeast. Perfect! This trail was tougher going and at times faint. It lead through some aspen groves with lots of tree fall then up and over a steep hill next to a giant rock formation on the right. The stream goes underground here. On the other side is a large valley and the stream has gotten much larger. Aha the Lost Creek has joined the other creek under the rocks. I followed the path along the east side of the river headed south through some brush and up and over a hill behind a rock wall. I began to see the green pines getting thicker as several canyons diverged. As I followed along the east side the Lost Creek takes of the the SE. Gradually the valley became a narrow canyon with 200 ft rock walls. 50 yards wide with a 20 yard wide stream rushing through the bottom. It reminded me of Dream Canyon outside Boulder although at 9000' the trees were different. It was lush with green forest and moss. Here the Lost Creek disappeared under the rock for about 100 yards. Just beyond the aquafer there was a large flat grassy area next to the stream. Couldn't be more perfect. I set up camp here for the night and spent the rest of the day exploring the canyon, rock hopping and bushwacking up and down both sides. I found that the canyon was impassible about 300 yards downstream from my camp. I slept with the canopy off my tent that night under the stars.

The next morning I awoke at 6am packed up and hiked out about 6 miles to my car. I arrived at my car at 1pm and returned home.

This was a magical trip. I really found absolute paradise twice. Thanks to CMC Backpacking School I felt really good about my skills and was totally confident the whole time. I was not bothered by any local sasquatch.