| Fat SurfNTurf Goes Hiking
RT TIME: 7.25 hours
RT DISTANCE: ~8 miles
RT GAIN: ~3,900'
CLIMBERS: John Y., Adam S., Kate B. (binvers2), Jeff G. (SurfNTurf)
I've spent the last six weeks sitting on my ass, eating junk food and drinking too much beer. By the time a minor knee injury had nearly healed up, I managed to dislocate my shoulder playing in a charity kickball tournament. At least my team raised more than $1,000 for Make-A-Wish? Karma isn't real. Anyway, as sad as I was to miss the Fall Gathering/Steve Gladbach Memorial Hike, I couldn’t realistically do anything outdoors until this past weekend. Instead I gained 8-10 pounds and fell woefully out of shape. Champing at the bit once I regained full range of motion in my shoulder, I was lucky to get a decent weather forecast and a solid team in Kate (+Remy), John and Adam.
Never slide head-first. Ever.
We decided on Mt. Silverheels because it was close and John had to be back in Denver by the early evening for a wedding. I also wanted to keep it short and sweet because of my (lack of) conditioning and lingering injuries. Given the forecast and Silverheels’ reputation for wind, it probably wasn’t the smartest choice. Oh well. You can’t expect many windless bluebird days this time of year. We decided to mount our attempt from Hoosier Pass, which past TRs have heralded as the best option during the snowy months.
Hoosier Ridge is viewable from the parking lot, which we left at a gentlemanly 7:40 a.m. Treeline is gained in no time, and except for a solitary hunter, we were surprised to be the only party on the route on a sunny Saturday. The wind began kicking up immediately. It wasn’t anything too terrible, but a steady 15- to 25-miles-per-hour is enough to be an annoyance. Remy wasn’t doing too well in the windchill and Kate turned around with him around the crest of Hoosier Ridge. It was a good decision. Next time, pup!
Kate modeling her new soft shell. I'm teaching her the importance of bright colors.
Hiking up toward the crest of Hoosier Ridge.
Obligatory dog photo 1. (Photo by Kate.)
Obligatory dog photo 2. (Photo by Kate.)
First view of Mt. Silverheels.
Adam, John and I continued on with Silverheels finally in our sights. The options at this point are to drop a few hundred feet and make a straight line for the North Spur, or take a meandering path along the bowls to hiker’s left with minimal elevation loss. Either way, you’re aiming for the power lines. We elected to go for the more straightforward option, though we took the longer/easier route on the way back and it was preferable. Once the area gets much more snow, careful evaluation of avalanche terrain will be required.
We enjoyed a wind break for a while, but our protection faded the second we started up the North Spur. It really hammered us, with some gusts approaching the 50-mph range. Any exposed skin stung and burned within seconds. It made for really slow-going, and being a lard-ass didn’t help. Before long I found myself falling behind Adam and John. The ascent up to the ridge was ho-hum, just switchbacking up steep talus and snow for a little more than 1,000’.
Completely unnecessary creek crossing.
Looking back at our up-and-down path.
Oink Oink Oink. (Photo by John.)
Adam and John survey the route ahead.
The North Spur.
Adam and John lead the way.
I shouldn't have made so much fun of Tyler. (Photo by John.)
Adam battling the wind. (Photo by John.)
Once on the ridge proper, the wind gusts reached even more hellish levels. We were being pushed every which way, stumbling around like drunkards. For about 30 seconds we looked at each other, wondering whether to press on, but only gentle slopes remained between us and the summit and we had the gear to safely keep going. As long as we were physically capable of putting one foot in front of the other, it was sort of a no-brainer. We topped out somewhere around noon. My altimeter watch read 15,049’, so I guess Silverheels should be more popular.
The summit itself was partially blocked from the wind, and we sat down to enjoy the views for a few minutes. I gorged myself on celery and a thimble of tomato soup. The rewards of success! We started down after taking a few photos and entered the most miserable part of the way. I’m pretty sure I invented a few curse words, some of which would make a Viking blush, as we descended head-on into the worst of the wind. The good news is once about halfway down the North Spur, we again reached a partial wind block.
The gentle slopes to the summit.
The most appreciated wind block in history. (Photo by John.)
Allowing myself a small dose of tomato soup. (Photo by Adam.)
I'd like to say I'm trying to look tough, but I'm just excited I can lift it this high.
Bross and Lincoln.
Grays and Torreys.
Rather than descend and regain the 600ish feet on our original route, we stayed high and navigated the long way in the bowls below Hoosier Ridge. This probably wouldn’t have been feasible in more dangerous avalanche conditions. The high route is shorter than it appears, and before long we found ourselves crossing back over Hoosier Ridge and descending toward the car, where Kate and Remy were waiting. She had promised to have coffee waiting for us but failed in the execution. Women. You just can’t trust them.
Despite the wind, it felt great to return to the high country and both my knee and shoulder held up well. It’s time to get in shape for winter and shed these injury pounds. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go woof down a handful of raisins for lunch.
Final look at Silverheels, a hard-earned summit.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):