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Aspiring Aplinist

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Aspiring Aplinist

Postby jsaunders » Tue Mar 08, 2011 11:17 am

Breaking into alpine style mountaineering has been a dream for some 15+ years of mine. Originally beginning as a rock climber for about 6 years, I lost my partner due to marriage.. Stepping away from climbing for the next few years into skydiving ultimately lost its thrill and back to the mountains I went. Having been climbing hard (for me) again, leading 5.10s and cragging constantly around NC, I had the opportunity to get into ice climbing this season with a younger friend of mine. This reminded me of why I began climbing, and I have been hell bent on breaking into more alpine/mixed climbing. My friend and I have decided on coming to Colorado in early June this year. He's had a trip or two already climbing things like Dead Dog and Dreamweaver. My experience is limited to small roadside waterfall ice (and rock, of course), but I feel confident in some of our potential objectives. The ultimate goal would be to do the Notch Couloir via Broadway from Lambslide after spending some time acclimating and giving Dead Dog a go. Question is, does that seem reasonable from others with much more 14er experience? I have all of the gear, obsessed to find every bit of textbook knowledge, the commitment to spend a lot of time focusing on cardio training prior to, etc., but I'm not afraid of criticism or advice since I'm so new to the experience. I'd be happy to hear that this is an ambitious, but also glad to know if it's ridiculous :)

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Re: Aspiring Aplinist

Postby TomPierce » Tue Mar 08, 2011 12:10 pm

J: Personally I think it's do-able, assuming you were fit and acclimated. If you're leading 5.10 and have done some ice climbing I think technically you'll be very comfortable on the Notch route. Just not that hard. What seems to be lacking on your resume is higher mountain experience, e.g. knowing how to read the snow that time of the year, routefinding, climbing lower 5th in boots on wet cold rock at 14,000, etc. My opinion is that it's not rocket science, just do a lot of homework & practice where you can. You and your buddy seem to complement each other, sounds like he may have more alpine experience? If he was comfortable on Dreamweaver he should be fine on Broadway, the Notch, etc.

A few route tips: Early June almost certainly will see snow on Broadway. In a good year it's relatively easy to kick steps across, but in some years the snow is spooky. I recall once it seemed hard to read and I had a bad feel so I backed off; when chatting with the climbing rangers down at the hut on the way out they said a guy had taken a 20' fall there the day before. So it's easy climbing on Broadway, just exposed. In early June I'd rope up and simul-climb it; there are places along the wall to plug in protection. One last tip: if the weather rolls in the top of the Notch is a logical decision point for retreat (and of course earlier on the route as well). You can rap into the top of Keplinger's there and beat feet down quickly. If a nasty storm was brewing I would not continue to the top, you'll be a sitting duck for lightning. But thunderstorms aren't all that common in June, but certainly possible.

Finally, look at the trip reports here (and elsewhere) for both the Notch and Keiners, which is identical to the Notch for the first half or so. Good photos, etc. Another edit: There are at least two very good videos on youtube of the Notch climb. Gives you a sense of what the climb is like.

Good luck, be safe,
-Tom

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Re: Aspiring Aplinist

Postby jsaunders » Tue Mar 08, 2011 3:45 pm

Tom - Thanks very much for the reply. This is great information and I appreciate you taking the time to provide it. As far as nearby climbs to help acclimate - do you have any recommendations? Our original plan of Dead Dog seems like it will add quite a bit of driving into the trip. Are there others nearby that would help to give us a chance to acclimate and for myself to practice movement skills, etc.?

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Re: Aspiring Aplinist

Postby TomPierce » Tue Mar 08, 2011 4:47 pm

J: Sure, lots and lots and lots of mountains near Longs. Fwiw, a drive from I-70 (near Torreys/Dead Dog) isn't all that far to Longs, but other options abound nonetheless. Near Longs, of course, there's the entire Park. Lots of stuff there; Meeker comes to mind for a mountain hike/scramble, lower hikes exist up Battle Mountain, etc. Lumpy Ridge is very nearby for rock climbing. The Indian Peaks Wilderness area is also nearby. In the level of difficulty of the Notch there are the N Face of Navajo, Mt. Toll, Dickers Peck is fun to play on (although harder than any single move on the Notch, IMO). All are day climbs that have good access and are in a drop dead gorgeous area. For Navajo you'll need to be proficient with an ice axe, the Navajo Glacier is relatively steep, but so is Lambs Slide. Good practice.

As for acclimating, personally I would recommend ramping up the altitude vs going straight to a high camp, e.g. Denver>Estes Park, do day climbs out of Estes, then maybe go higher. Hopefully you'll have the time. If you fly into Denver then pack in that day to 11K you might regret it.
-Tom

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Re: Aspiring Aplinist

Postby Theodore » Tue Mar 08, 2011 4:58 pm

For "warm up" climbs, search for a recent thread of mine titled 'Longer Couloir Climbs'. I think it will be exactly the info you are looking for.

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Re: Aspiring Aplinist

Postby Winter8000m » Tue Mar 08, 2011 11:05 pm

Tom said it all. 8) Broadway can be both a spooky and amazing place depending on the snow. Make sure to get a very early start as Broadway is not a fun place when the snow is sunbaked.

There also is Martha Couloir. I have no clue if it will be in when your here but it usually is climbed in May. It sports WI2+ ice and lots of steep snow. A few mixed moves in lean years. Beautiful route.

Here is my trip report on the Notch. Maybe it will help
http://www.summitpost.org/view_object.php?object_id=627282&confirm_post=12

Have fun!
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Re: Aspiring Aplinist

Postby RockyRaccoon » Wed Mar 09, 2011 8:39 pm

J - I am in a similar situation as yourself. I lived in Nashville, lead 5.10 sport routes at Foster Falls and ran half marathons. In addition, I routinely did multi-day backpacking trips in the Smokies. Needless to say I was in pretty good shape.

I moved to CO last August and was able to complete 3 14ers prior to the snowfall. Here is my $0.02.

Don't be misled by the use of the word easy on this form. Easy is relative. Even the easiest 14er is still a long 6-8 hours in the mountains. Depending on road conditions, the walk to the base of Dead Dog could be longer and tougher than you imagined. Remember, walking down is equally as hard as walking up.

I feel like I have adjusted very well to the elevation, after seven months. However, some days are still a struggle in the mountains. Stay hydrated. You cannot drink to much out here and drink more than just water. Go easy on the beer. It works much faster out here.

Go with somebody that understands the snow conditions, route finding, and weather. These are serious mountains. I have not experienced anything back east that compares to even the easiest 14ers. Everything out here is on a much larger scale and mistakes can be much costlier. For myself, it would have been tough to fly out and climb a 14er within a couple of days.

With all that said, I don't believe your plan is unreasonable. I'm just saying be honest with yourself on your level of fitness and your training. If you can do more, do it. Once in CO, ease into to the elevation to see how your body adjusts. Don't over do it the first couple of days.

Good luck and play safe.

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