Back in January my wife and I decided to head out to the IPW from Leavenworth, KS, over my spring break from KU. After two months of waiting and picking up gear, namely a new tent, baselayers and a stove to melt snow, we were on I70 from Lawrence headed to Denver. We arrived at my Uncle's in Aurora at 0345 on saturday morning and slept a few hours before heading to Boulder for a few last minute pickups at the REI and to rent our snowshoes.
We got to the winter trailhead for Brainard Lake at about 1 p.m., geared up, and headed for Audubon. We made it the 2 1/2 miles or so to the Mitchell Lake TH, where we stopped to melt some snow, in about 2 hours (we were taking our time as we had been below 1000 feet less than 24 hours prior).
Here is where the first lesson learned from this trip comes: Routefinding on snow in the winter isn't the same as following a worn trail in the summer with no snow! I think a map that has relief lines over satellite imagery would have been EXTREMELY helpful in this case, or even just satellite imagery in addition to the map. The trail that we followed to Mount Audubon out of the Mitchell Lake TH (a telemarkers trail) ended after about half a mile and we were breaking trail from then on. We eventually came out of the woods at a 45 degree slope of boulders and scree and decided to climb right up it, which took about 15 minutes.
After getting only maybe another 1/8th of a mile farther, we decided to stop and set up the tent, as we needed to melt 2 liters of water to fill our bottles before dark. Lesson two from this trip: don't forget a light if you plan to spend the night on the trail (actually, this should be part of any pack, whether you plan to spend the night or not, but it should especially be remembered if you plan to camp). Turns out we were only about 50 feet to the east of the trail when we camped, something I would have known if I had taken this same route last summer when I did Audubon.
View from the tent of the Niwot Ridge with Kiowa Peak on the far right:
Another view from the tent, this one of the south face of Audubon and of Paiute Peak:
Putting up the tent:
Making water with the snow peak giga power stove, which worked awesome the whole trip, I recommend it highly:
Lesson 3 from this trip: Don't neglect to buy a sleeping pad when you plan to sleep on the snow! We spent 12 miserable hours in the tent on the snow, something that I will never let happen again. When we woke up at 0600 on sunday morning (we hadn't been asleep all night but we did sleep in short stints) the tops of all the 13ers that we could see, or should have been able to see (Arikaree, Apache, Kiowa, The Niwot Ridge, Paiute Peak, Audubon and Navajo) were in the clouds, and since we knew the forecast for the day was snow, we decided to head back down to the car, which was quite a bummer.
Looking up at Audubon:
Looking across the valley towards Brainard Lake and the Niwot Ridge:
All in all, it was a great trip, being my first time ever snowshoeing and my wife's first time ever doing any hiking what-so-ever. We made it to 11,070 feet, which is where we camped, and neither of us suffered any altitude related ailments or any other ailment for that matter. This December we are moving out to CO, as I am getting stationed at Fort Carson, and there will be many days of hiking, camping and snowshoeing to follow!!
Here's a link to the video.
And another video from the trip taken on our way down to Denver from Black Hawk.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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