January 28, 2012
~13 miles round trip
Start time: 5:22am
This whole thing started last week when I attempted Humboldt solo. It took me close to 6 hours to break trail to timberline (via East ridge). The snow was the consistency of a slurpee and breaking trail required enormous effort as much of the snow was knee deep or deeper. I got to treeline around 12am and the wind which had been howling all morning was 60+mph. I could only imagine what it was like higher up. Having taken too much time in the trees and lost both of my gloves I decided it was prudent to turn back.
A look at the snow on my first attempt.
S. Colony Road.
I'm not even going to tell you how long it took me to get my car out of this.
This past week I decided to give it another shot. The weather looked good so I called catmandingo and he said he was in. For the record the forecast called for "breezy" conditions with 20-25mph winds gusting to 40mph. That would have been fine with me, but that's not what we got.
We met in Castle Rock at 2:30 and departed for Westcliffe. We arrive at the winter trailhead at 5am and we were hiking at 5:22. Spikes were suitable most of the way up. As we got higher in the trees we switched to snow shoes because the snow was warming up.
Image #6 (not yet uploaded)
At treeline catmandingo and I split up.
photo credit: catmandingo
photo credit: catmandingo
We had hiked together thus far but now that the route finding was essentially over, we each went our own pace. I started up the ridge the way the route goes, but for some reason I got impatient and instead of going up and over I decided to go around. I ended up skirting the ridge on the south side (which was much slower because of the angle and because I had to traverse it and couldn't walk straight up). I intersected the summit ridge at it's lowest point and started heading up.
I met a woman coming down who said the winds (it had been calm to this point) had picked up substantially. She wasn't kidding. Hiking along the summit ridge I got knocked around a good bit. At this point I hadn't seen catmandingo in a while. I wondered if he had turned around. I figured he might be ahead of me because my route was so much slower.
As I approached the summit the wind speed increased severely. I had to crawl to get on the summit and once on the summit I could not stand up. I took cover behind the first wind block and just sat for a few minutes and marveled at how strong the wind was. Shortly thereafter I made my way off.
Image #13 (not yet uploaded)
so stinkin windy
I stopped and just sat below the summit taking cover as best as I could and watched catmandingo make his was up the ridge. This was the first time I had seen him since we split at treeline.
Catmandingo coming up the ridge. You can just make him out in the neon vest.
He took a few minutes on the summit and then we egressed rapidly.
catmandingo's self portrait
It was now 12:15pm. In that short window where I had hit to the summit ridge to when I summited the winds went from iffy to dangerous. Having worked at a camp at the base of Longs Peak for several seasons and experienced many 100+mph wind storms my best guess is that we were in the 90-100mph range.
The wind gradually receded the farther we got from the summit. We passed a herd of big horn on the way down the flat part of the ridge ridge before it goes down hill to the trees. I was shocked how pleasant of a route I had missed by being impatient.
Bighorn again on the way down
We made it back to the car by 4:15 and were happy to have safely summitted in high winds. I was happy to have made it up after having to turn back a week prior.
Crazy wind cloud
Image #22 (not yet uploaded)
Side note: On my first attempt I had lost both my gloves on the way up but found one on the way down. This most recent trip I recovered the other glove. On the rainbow trail one of the fallen trees had snagged it. Glad to have my gloves back.
Tree grabbed it.