14erQuest- My Attempt to Summit All 59 14ers in Single Calendar Winter

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mountain_stoke
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14erQuest- My Attempt to Summit All 59 14ers in Single Calendar Winter

Post by mountain_stoke » Sat Dec 24, 2016 4:24 pm

I thought I would create a thread on here to continually update with brief progress/ trip reports on my calendar winter project of summiting as many 14ers as I possibly can. So here is the first one:

14erQuest Episode 1- North Maroon Peak - "I am a s**tshow"
Route- W Coulior to Gunsight to NW Ridge
Climbers- Jim (Yikes), Jeff (Mickey's Grenade), Myself (mountain_stoke), and I_man

With a decent weather and avy forecast, I left Snowmass Creek Winter Trailhead at 3:55 AM on Dec 21, 2016 with my *trusty* sled, aka Jeremiah Johnson after a not so good night of sleep in my truckbed. I wanted to get an early start breaking trail to make as much progress as possible to enable going for the Bells Double Traverse. Loaded down with 3 15m ropes, an assortment of climbing gear, and avy gear, and all the usual winter gear, the going was slow. There was more snow than I had anticipated. The other guys were planning to start a few hours later.

Wow, so many bear tracks. Holy cow. Either there was a tribe of bears here all running around OR there was one berzerk bear who decided to pace all over the place for miles and miles. Crazy. I now regret my decision to leave my heavy bear can behind. I thought it was winter and those guys hibernate?! Apparently not. Jeremiah Johnson kept flipping over on the winding trail and after 6 miles of obscenities floating through the dark snowscape, I decided to ditch the sled. 8 miles in, no more trail. Time to get shwacky, following the creek bed (as best as possible?). 9 miles in, the dense forest with deep-snow pillows and those strange type of evergreen trees with threadlike green branches was creepily reminding me of a scene from "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". I realized that my Delorme InReach device was no longer attached to my pack, and started wondering what my parents must be thinking - "what on earth is he doing, taking a nap? I figured the InReach fell off when transferring gear from my sled to my back. I desperately hoped one of the other guys would find it and bring it up later. 10.5 miles in, I decided I had had enough trail breaking and set up camp around 10,600'.

Yikes and Mickey's Grenade rolled in awhile later and thank goodness, Mickey's Grenade had found my InReach. Phew. Turns out that the strap on it broke. The other guys stamped out their sleeping platforms and decided to keep trailbreaking to treeline. I_man showed up in camp as it was getting dark. I told him I was going to bed and asked him to kindly wake me up at 3:15 for our 4AM start (I no longer carry my GPS watch with an alarm since I just carry my GPS now- need to figure out an alarm thing). I fell asleep whilst listening to discussions of Himalayan Climbing... that is how tired I was.

At 3:45 I rose from a very deep sleep. I_man had apparently been pelting me with snowshoes trying to wake me up for 30 minutes. A deep sleep like that is a very unusual thing for me.. how timely. So I scrambled to get my stuff ready, and was still running around like a chicken with my head cut off when the other guys left camp to ascend at 4AM as planned. It took me my full 45 minutes to get ready so I was moving at 4:30ish.

I caught up to a headlamp after maybe 30 minutes and it was I_man. He wasn't feeling too well and decided to head back down. Such a bummer. I was really looking forward to climbing with him. We all have to have off days sometimes. Catch you on the next one I_man! After some more time elapsed I caught up to Yikes and Mickey's Grenade above treeline at last.

I decided to check the weather on my InReach and see what was in store for us and also ate my 2 Bobo's Oat Bars - my breakfast of choice. (They are delicious, have healthy ingredients, and don't freeze in the cold which is friggin awesome). They are kindly sponsoring my adventures this winter. I learned two things- 1) that the weather was going to be kind of crappy for the Bells Traverse since I wanted to be able to see. and 2) don't eat Bobo's Oat Bars while trying to snowshoe and check weather at the same time. I inhaled a large chunk of oat bar and stood half choking and coughing for about 5 minutes. Pleasant. There are a Million Ways to Die in the West you know.

Since I was not going to be doing the Bells Traverse anymore I didn't want to lug all the ropes and extra stuff all the way up N Maroon and I cached my gear in a nice little shrub. I marked a waypoint on my GPS.

Once we reach the entrance to the coulior to the Gunsight, I reach for my GoPro to take a photo of the thing. It is dead. WTF? That's just great. How am I supposed to document 14erQuest with a dead GoPro?

The snow felt super stable, supportive, and firm up to the Gunsight. The traverse around the west side of the ridge pinnacles was a bit airy. The scrambling of the ridge was pure awesome. It was snowy, visibility not so great, a bit of wind, and temps a bit warmer than I had gotten used to in my past few couple weeks of 14eering. We summitted at noon to a view as Jeff described as "the inside of a ping pong ball". Real nice summit weather!

At some point on the descent, I realized my GPS had gone missing. I guess after doing 50 some-odd 14er climbs in the past 2 months to prepare for 14erQuest, the strap securing my GPS finally decided it was time to kick the bucket. 400 dollars of GPS gone. Superb. I was pissed, but not that pissed because I just had summited North Maroon.

Near the bottom of the W facing Coulior below the Gunsight, I stopped to remove my facemask or something, and accidently dropped my helmet. We watched it roll downslope for like FIVE MINUTES. Beginner mistake. I am ashamed. Yikes spotted its location and we were able to retrieve it.

Since I didn't have my GPS and our tracks were covered, I was unable to locate the $200 of climbing gear that I cached. Looking for it would have been like trying to find a needle in a haystack. That brings total gear losses for 14erQuest to $600 so far. And for the record, I am a huge proponent of "Leave No Trace" Ethics. I hope to go back and retrieve my stuff in the summer.

Back at camp I decided I would have dinner and take a nap before hiking out, but no. It turned out that a bear found the bag of food I buried 2 feet below the snow surface. Incredible. I'm sorry for this mistake, I know a fed bear is a dead bear. I will be carrying a bear can from now on, all winter long. I tell the other guys, "man I swear I am usually not this much of a s**tshow!!". So I got in my sleeping bag and went to sleep. I woke up a few hours later with 8 inches to a foot of snow on my bivy sack. At 2 AM, I think to myself, "oh crap, better get moving now or you won't be able to see the trench". Well I got my stuff together and guess what? I couldn't see the trench. The 10.5 mile "descent" was a combination of trailbreaking AGAIN in the snowy darkness, headlamp slowly burning out as the batteries went kaput, being too lazy to replace the batteries for awhile, finding the old trench, losing the old trench, and cussing out Jeremiah Johnson. It was almost as hard hiking out as it was hiking in.

Despite hunger, losses, and expensive lessons learned, great trip, great mountain, great people, great workout. Excited for what is next. I'll put up photos when Yikes gives me permission to use his. If anyone ever ventures up that way before I do again and comes across my climbing gear and GPS, please please hit me up.

-mountain_stoke
Last edited by mountain_stoke on Sat Dec 24, 2016 5:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
They say, "mountaineering is the art of suffering". I don't think so. If you are suffering, you haven't prepared well enough. I think that mountaineering is the art of managing risk and fear.
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Re: 14erQuest- My Attempt to Summit All 59 14ers in Single Calendar Winter

Post by BillMiddlebrook » Sat Dec 24, 2016 4:29 pm

Since I didn't have my GPS and our tracks were covered, I was unable to locate the $200 of climbing gear that I cached. Looking for it would have been like trying to find a needle in a haystack. That brings total gear losses for 14erQuest to $600 so far.
Wtf?
That's a tough start. Good luck and be safe
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Re: 14erQuest- My Attempt to Summit All 59 14ers in Single Calendar Winter

Post by SoCool » Sat Dec 24, 2016 4:34 pm

Thank you for the update on your project, keep posting! Everyone makes mistakes, it takes humility to admit them.

I will assist in finding your lost gear cache in the spring.
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Re: 14erQuest- My Attempt to Summit All 59 14ers in Single Calendar Winter

Post by Joe W » Sat Dec 24, 2016 5:00 pm

Leave No Trace ! .......take the time to pack it out .
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Re: 14erQuest- My Attempt to Summit All 59 14ers in Single Calendar Winter

Post by TomPierce » Sat Dec 24, 2016 6:01 pm

Wow, talk about a perfect storm of problems. Nonetheless, way to stick with it and get at least one summit. I admire your perseverance, good luck with your project.

-Tom

PS Re your electronic losses: IMO all lanyards on all devices are junk, destined to fail. I replace mine with reflective tent cord (MSR, Kelty, etc) Looped long enough you can carry your device bandolier-style, allows it to be used without leaving your pocket/pack. Tie with a fisherman's knot and a drop of superglue, it's bomber. Again, best of luck.
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Re: 14erQuest- My Attempt to Summit All 59 14ers in Single Calendar Winter

Post by dillonsarnelli » Sat Dec 24, 2016 7:46 pm

BillMiddlebrook wrote:Wtf?
That's a tough start. Good luck and be safe
what Bill said! I'll add, holy crap. Sounds like a hell of an outing though!! Nice work and good luck.
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Re: 14erQuest- My Attempt to Summit All 59 14ers in Single Calendar Winter

Post by globreal » Sat Dec 24, 2016 10:58 pm

This kinda sounds like the movie, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, where one bad thing keeps happening after another.
Glad you were successful.

I hope your quest gets easier....or a least has less curve balls thrown at you!

Good luck and yes....be safe, exercising good judgement.
Last edited by globreal on Fri Jan 06, 2017 10:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 14erQuest- My Attempt to Summit All 59 14ers in Single Calendar Winter

Post by spiderman » Sun Dec 25, 2016 2:44 pm

What an amazing quest to climb them all! I can't imagine the difficulty of getting to all of the peaks in a single calendar winter. If you run out of time, just post a few pictures from a previous year... we will never notice :^o BTW, which unranked peaks are you including in the list of 59?
Last edited by spiderman on Sun Dec 25, 2016 6:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 14erQuest- My Attempt to Summit All 59 14ers in Single Calendar Winter

Post by Stratosfearsome » Sun Dec 25, 2016 5:38 pm

Way to persevere and climb a hard one out of the gate! Hope your tech turns up. Knock on rock!
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Re: 14erQuest- My Attempt to Summit All 59 14ers in Single Calendar Winter

Post by CreekRunner » Sun Dec 25, 2016 7:04 pm

spiderman wrote:What an amazing quest to climb(ski) them all! I can't imagine the difficulty of getting to all of the peaks in a single calendar winter. If you run out of time, just post a few pictures from a previous year... we will never notice :^o
=D>

If you need more money to buy new gear, just make a book called Losing Gear on the Summits.

...Just kidding, I hope you recover, get over the rough patch, and finish strong!
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Re: 14erQuest- My Attempt to Summit All 59 14ers in Single Calendar Winter

Post by boudreaux » Mon Dec 26, 2016 8:41 am

mountain_stoke wrote:
The snow felt super stable, supportive, and firm up to the Gunsight. The traverse around the west side of the ridge pinnacles was a bit airy. The scrambling of the ridge was pure awesome. It was snowy, visibility not so great, a bit of wind, and temps a bit warmer than I had gotten used to in my past few couple weeks of 14eering. We summitted at noon to a view as Jeff described as "the inside of a ping pong ball". Real nice summit weather!
Enjoyed your 1st report, agonized over the arduous journey you had to make, winter mountaineering is not for the faint hearted!
But you gotta give us more than a small paragraph on the climb of the peak! NW ridge in winter is not common knowledge for most of us mere mortals, I gotta believe there is more to this than "pure awesome". The details must be burned indelibly in your mind, I want to hear what you went through and how you overcame it. This is a big project for you, I hope you are very successful, you got a long trip and a short time to do it, a lot of us want to live vicariously through your story, we're all behind you! I want to feel the pain, the fear, the triumph, the agony, Don't trivialize your accomplishments here.
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Re: 14erQuest- My Attempt to Summit All 59 14ers in Single Calendar Winter

Post by spiderman » Mon Dec 26, 2016 11:02 am

100% agree with your post Boudreaux!
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