| Where is spring?
Via Northwest Slopes, Crags Campground TH
Departure 6:30 am
Return 4:00 pm I think...
Turned Around 1:30 pm before Devil's Playground, at break in the rocks, almost 13k
Conditions VERY SNOWY! Snowshoes necessary
I checked TRs, Peak Conditions (the latest was March), the weather the night before and confirmed in the morning, it was going to be a great day today! Lesson Learned: Check the weather report for a couple days before to get a sense of the snow accumulation!
I left Denver area around 4:30 am planning to get a bite to eat on the way. Lesson Learned: Starbucks (near Divide) does not open until 6am on Sunday!
On my drive in, as the daylight started to arrive, I noticed the trees around me had snow in them. While a beautiful sight, I thought certainly the snow would be thinner as I got in higher elevations (usually it's thinner as you get out of the trees, where there is wind exposure and no shade). Instead I focused on my excitement with finally getting back into 14k and finishing up the Front Range peaks.
I arrived at the TH and was ready to hit the trail by 6:30 am. Two guys came wandering out from the trail, confused. One explained to me they had hiked a bit in when they lost the trail in the dark. So I showed them the route I planned to follow, the one here on 14ers.com, and then off they went. I was happy to have footsteps to follow, my route on my iphone, my GPS track, the sunrise, and beautiful snow all around me. I realized the conditions were fine for snowshoes and instead of carrying them, I put them on about 1.25 miles into the hike.
Welcome Committee near start of trail
About 2 miles into the trail, I crossed paths with the guys again. They couldn't find the trail anymore and decided to turn back, not wanting to continue postholing even though I had the route. Their loss, I thought to myself... I won't let some snow stop me!
On my lonesome, breaking trail
Now it was my turn to break trail... and even though I had my GPS, I still managed to lose my way, get off course, and work my way back losing valuable time and of course expending even more energy. I tried not to get discouraged and just continued on; afterall I am still in the trees where a slip would be halted only a few feet down. And I very much looked forward to getting out of the trees to the thinner snow. The snowy-slope traverses were still a bit nerve-wracking for me, even with snowshoes.
I finally started to get out of the trees and head up the ridge. That took longer than I expected because I aimed for the wrong saddle! I seriously pondered what the source of my confusion was – was my GPS acting up or was it the user? Usually it’s operator error for things like this, so I started to wonder if the altitude is getting to me? I felt fine, though, and just shrugged it off, although it was quite frustrating.
Getting up the ridge
Gaining the ridge, clouds coming in
As I gained the ridge, I started to see the clouds build up. But I was relieved to kind of see the trail, finally! I could also see the road and decided that if I make it to the road, I’m just going to hike up the road – forget this trail-breaking.
The summit and the trail ahead
As I made my way to the first pile of rocks (they were there somewhere under the snow) where I was going to break for a snack, I noticed the strain of the hike so far taking its toll on me. I realized the exposure I had and how a slip here, even though I could self arrest with a hiking pole, would take a lot of energy to recover from assuming I wasn’t hurt. There was nobody around. But only if I could make it to the road! I’ve come too far to just turn back. And I could see the summit!
Lunch break spot, first group of rocks.
I took a rest at my break spot and looked at the next part of my climb. I set the next goal for the break in the rocks, near what I think is the Devil’s Playground area. The photo below shows my trail from my break spot and the exposure. I was already tired and slipping on this traverse, getting worried.
A look back at my trail, at my break point
Looking ahead, summit through the walkway. This was my turnback point
So I got to my turn-back spot, the walkway in the rocks, looked again at the summit 2.5 miles away and less than 1500 feet and how near the road seemed to be… looked at my watch… looked at the clouds coming in… looked at what kind of fall I’d have if I slipped… I calculated what time I might reach the summit and checked for my headlamp (got it!), then looked at everything again a few more times, and begrudgingly, disappointed, decided to turn back. The summit of Pikes Peak was not to be mine today and I followed my (correct) tracks back.
When I got to the other side of the ridge, closer to the treeline, I noticed that my tracks were deeper; I didn’t recall postholing here, or here, or there! Then it occurred to me that someone else had also been out there! Apparently they knew the trail better than me, or had better GPS skills, as their tracks followed the GPS route much better than mine! The descent was nice, although I did keep doubting my decision, thinking if only I had made it to the road, I would have just been able to walk up it (I didn’t see cars the whole time on it and assumed it was closed).
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):