| Darn you Dsunwall!!
A look back on 2011…
Actually, it was very nice meeting Dsunwall on Pt. 13,153 in the Sangres this past Spring; however, this unplanned encounter was the only time I saw another climber on a summit (besides those in my climbing party) in 2011. Family obligations limit my mountain time to once per month and December is generally a wash with multiple birthdays in the house on top of the normal holiday craziness. Nevertheless, I was able to manage 29 ranked, 2 soft and 2 unranked summits above 12k in 2011. More importantly though, I was able to visit every (major) range in the state (no offense to Flattop/Park enthusiasts) as the Front, Indian Peaks, RMNP, Gore, Elk, San Juan, Sawatch, Tenmile/Mosquito, and Sangres were all represented. And perhaps the best memory of 2011 was getting my 4-year old up for a 2 night backpacking trip that, while we fell a little short of Neva’s summit via it’s NW Ridge, left her begging for more trips to the backcountry.
October 29, 2011 Englemann/Bard/Parnassus
Finding something that Chicago Transplant hasn’t climbed is becoming increasingly more difficult. Luckily, he’s willing to tag along on some repeats though and he still hadn’t been up Englemann so 1 out of 3 isn’t too bad for him. We met at the Urad mine around 7:45 and were on the trail shortly after 8:00 am. The trail is an old mining road that continues past the sign warning of extreme avalanche danger ahead. Even though they are very close to Denver, I avoided these mountains for this very reason. I’m not one for tundra slogs in summer and I don’t particularly like the idea of sliding down a mountain being chased by a wall of snow either. So, the “mud season” as Lord Helmut referred to this time of year later in the day seemed to be the most logical time to give them a shot. I needed to bump my “November” climb up a week to address some family obligations (which also turned this into a birthday climb for me) and all was shaping up to be a perfect day until the forecast took a windy turn about 48 hours prior to the climb. We were now looking at -9 wind chills and 30-40 MPH winds with gusts as high as 60.
So, on up the trail we went until we spotted a gully leading up the western flank of Englemann. Here, we bailed off of the nice snowboard track on the road for what looked like a quick/easy bushwhack. The terrain was pretty mellow and we followed a creek up the bottom of the gully. Either side (maybe 30 feet above us) was essentially void of snow but we stayed low, trudging through anywhere between 6”-2’ of snow to avoid the winds that were already howling around us. Random Nat’l Lampoons’ Christmas Vacation and SNL quotes kept our attention off of the slog for the most part. We still had about 500 feet to the ridge from the end of the gully and this stretch required several profane outbursts to deal with the 1 foot forward, 6 inch backward routine. After the loose gravelly mess, we hit the ridge to get the full brunt of the day’s winds. Luckily, we were only about 100 yards north of the summit and, after a quick tap of the summit cairn around noon, we found some respite in a small snowfield just to the south. We dug in and hunkered down for about 10 minutes while we choked down any food/drink that wasn’t frozen solid.
Why do we do this to ourselves?
There is actually blue sky up there
Cursing my way up the scree (photo by Brian)
Brian cutting through the wind
All smiles on Englemann (photo by Brian)
Blowing snow off Englemann (photo by Mike)
Bard/Parnassus (photo by Mike)
The descent to the saddle is extremely gentle and we avoided Robeson (unranked) to the east to avoid the winds as much as possible. During the hike:
Brian: “My hands are freezing”
Me: “Do you want my extra pair of gloves?”
Brian: “You have 2 pair?”
Me: “Yeah… This IS the Rockies”
We avoided the winds for the most part, but every now and again we’d get close to the ridge line and have to brace ourselves accordingly. I’m not one to guess wind speed but it was hard enough to blow my hiking poles horizontal if I let go.
Mike leading the way to Bard
After a little debate as to which summit is higher (it’s the north one and it’s not even close), Bard came easy enough and we assumed our positions for the day cowering behind whatever shelter we could find. The views over to the Sawtooth and G/T are quite nice, Emperor was already filled in, we could make out Navajo/Apache to the NE, but the real star on the day was Citadel and the rough ridgeline of the Continental Divide.
Heading off of Bard (photo by Brian)
My legs aren't feeling to fresh about now. (photo by Brian)
Looking back on Bard
Citadel and Pettingel
All that was left was a walk over to Parnassus but it was going to involve walking dead on into the oncoming wind. Also, the ridge is more sustained class 2 and was holding a lot more snow than the others. I was getting pretty tired and I have come to the conclusion that the more tired I am the more I sink into the snow. Mike/Brian would float right along and my leg would crash right through their footprints sinking about thigh deep at times. Those patches were few and far between so at about 4:00 we topped out on our final summit of the day where we got to discuss the craziness surrounding Tebow and other random NFL topics.
The descent off of Parnassus was steep but grassy so it went fairly quickly and we found a grassy shoulder just east of the Woods saddle down to Ruby Creek. About half-way down to the basin Mike went left and Brian and I took a snowfield to the right. After descending a bit, we could see Mike circling back to our meeting point and he was post-holing to his thighs while we enjoyed a nice plunge step back to treeline. We avoided the willow field at treeline and hiked the creek for a while until we got fairly close to our ascent gully from the morning. We broke off to the right where we picked the snowboard track back up which led us to our cars at 5:00.
Mike heading for home (photo by Brian)
I’ve thoroughly documented my gluttonous habit after hikes and this one would not be an exception. If you haven’t been to Smokin’ Yards in Idaho Springs, make it your next stop when on I-70. Brian/Mike shared a $35 coupon I picked up and I used the other for me. Ribs, Hot Links, Brisket, Pulled Pork, a Carolina BBQ pork sandwich, fried okra, sweet potato fries, spicy slaw, topped off with a Diet Cream Soda – Happy Birthday to me. Actually, I was quite disturbed I grabbed a diet soda from the fridge. Kind of reminded me of the first time that I ordered a triple baconator from Wendy’s and the drive-thru attendant asked if I wanted mandarin oranges or fries with my frosty meal. I gave it my all, but my stomach couldn’t take the last 3 strips of brisket and half of my cole slaw. I must be getting soft in my old age.
Brian's meal (photo by Brian)
Happy Birthday to Me!
This wrapped up a great year of mountains for me. I hope you guys hold great memories of 2011 as well. Happy New Year 14ers.com and I hope our paths don’t cross in 2012!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):