| East Slopes Standard Route: Beautiful Fall Hike!
Date Climbed: Saturday, September 19, 2009.
Companions: Tbnike27, TSOL, and Kevin8020, and Taiga.
Route: Standard Route (East Slopes from just below the stone staircase, ~11,700)
Weather: About 47* at the start, warmed up quite a bit (above 65) by the time we were descending. Bluebird skies, clouds rolled in closer to noon.
I went to bed the night before at 7:30 pm and set the alarm for 1:30, but of course it took a while to finally fall asleep. I woke up before the alarm, got dressed, grabbed my food, gear, and dog and jumped into the car. As I turned the key I realized the clock said 12 am, not 2 am, which is when I planned on leaving. I trudged back inside and crawled into bed for another hour of sleep. When I woke up at the correct time, I was ready to go. Driving to pick up Tbnike27, I realized that the entire college population of Boulder was awake and partying. I weaved through the sea of yellow shirts and finally saw someone with a backpack, hiking boots, and a Gore-Tex shell. Bingo! Tbnike27 and I left right at 2 am and chatted all the way to Buenavista (via 285). We arrived at the Best Western to carpool with TSOL at 4:30, and spotted him right away. Fortunately, TSOL still had his hotel key, and we were able to nip in quickly to take advantage of the breakfast buffet that was just being set out. The manager also let us leave my Forester in their parking lot. So if anyone is in Buenavista and needs a hotel, I'm going to put in a pitch for the Best Western on 24. They are great people and it got our morning off to a nice start. We loaded Taiga and all our gear into the back of the truck and started towards the trailhead.
We reached the lower TH and said a collective "oh no" (or some variation of that). The entire parking lot was completely full at 5:15 in the morning. We hoped it was due to overflow parking from the ranch next door (which turned out to be correct) but it was a little intimidating. There were also a number of SAR vehicles. I hadn't seen any posts on the forum about a rescue, so we were all curious. Hoping that we were going to find parking at the top, we continued up the road. There is no doubt, a 4WD with high clearance, an ATV, or a dirtbike is absolutely necessary if you want to get up that road. Halfway up we ran into part of the SAR team, which said that they had spent most of the night extracting someone from the top. I have all the respect in the world for SAR volunteers, they do great work. They told us to expect to see the rest of the SAR team and the victim coming down as we hiked up. We continued up, paused at the radio towers to look for our other hiking companions, and then decided to go as far up the road as we could to try to find them. Sorry guys! We never did find them on the road, and we ended up parking at the stone bench. We got started at 6:08 am just as the sky was beginning to turn red.
We continued up the trail and had a fairly uneventful hike until about a mile in, where we met the SAR team descending with a walking, but dazed, victim. We moved over to let them pass, and a couple of the rescuers stopped to chat and pet Taiga. Unfortunately she was a little shy of the guys covered in ropes and reflective gear. It was good to see that they were successful in getting the gentleman out. Again, great work SAR folks!
Sunrise on Princeton:
We hit the switchbacks and started to feel the altitude. Once you are on the ridge, it is fairly hard to find a true trail and the cairns are scattered. Taiga took over as our trailfinder; I'm pretty sure she was following the scent of the two ladies who we could see summiting as we were coming along the side of the ridge.
Princeton with alpenglow:
We continued at our casual pace as the temperature started to climb. It turned into a spectacular morning. We ran into two ladies coming down the trail just as we were going to make the final, steep ½ mile or so push to the summit. They had been there for what I'm sure was an incredible sunrise from the peak. They also warned us that there wasn't too much of a trail to follow, so all three of us started picking our way towards the top. It was pretty much an every-man-or-woman-for-themselves scramble for the rest of the way.
The view from a small saddle ridge about ¾ of the way up:
The last pitch to the summit is fairly steep and be careful if you're climbing the looser dirt trail, it can be quite slick. The summit seemed to be teasing us, and it felt good to finally reach the top.
Looking down the west ridge:
The views were spectacular and the temperature was quite pleasant. Everyone was happy to have a snack and a look around. Taiga was excited to play in the first new snow of the season and ate what was left. I'm sure it melted by the time we got down to the bottom, it was only a small dusting. Kevin8020 soon reached the top as well, and we had a mini 14ers.com summit party in the sunshine. Some shots from the summit, you can see the aspens turning in many of these photos.
Yale with a dusting of snow and aspens in the valley:
Taiga wants to know what is on the other side of the wall:
One of the best summit shots yet, thanks Tbnike27!
Taiga on the summit:
14ers.com members on the summit: Kevin8020, TSOL, tbnike27:
TSOL, Snowgirl + Taiga, Tbnike27 on the summit (courtesy of TSOL)"
One more shot of the aspens:
The four of us plus dog started down, and until the saddle we seemed to be on the right track. Then we realized we were following some lower cairns leading us to the "old" trail. We reasoned we were too far down at this point and we would be o.k on our chosen trajectory. Ha! The talus was rough on everyone, especially 75 lb Taiga. I threw on her dog booties, but not before her paws got a little scuffed. However, once they were on she became much more comfortable and sure-footed. After stumbling along this ephemeral path for what seemed like hours, we finally reached the "true" trail right were the switchbacks began, and directed people trying to take our route up the switchbacks. It saves a lot of trouble to stick to the upper route as much as possible, and we certainly learned that lesson.
Stopping to look at the valley, with the morning haze gone:
At this point we started passing more groups of people, including a large group of 15 or so. Everyone was in a good mood because of the weather, but there were some clouds building (which always makes me a little nervous). Once we were on the lower part of the trail, we struck out at a good clip with Taiga in the lead and reached the trailhead right before noon. We said our goodbyes to Kevin8020 as he walked back towards the radio towers and then stopped to chat with a couple thinking about taking a short hike to see the views.
We then bumped and bopped our way down to the bottom and the Best Western. Tbnike27, Taiga and I said our goodbyes to TSOL and started the drive home. The weather was patchy, sunny in parts and rainy in others. Through Fairplay we kept our eyes peeled for pronghorn (saw two groups) and tried to name the 14ers we were seeing. We rolled into Boulder right around 3. A perfect day with a great group of 14ers.com members!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):