Rocky Mountain Winter

Got some good hiking in this morning, now working on staying ahead of the curve by getting some more winter pictures done. Have to say, these images of our Mount Elbert winter hike in January of 2016 have to be some of the most memorable shots I have ever taken.

It was a beautiful morning and we were climbing the east face of the mountain with the sun at our backs so the snow and the entire mountain was brightly lit. Those pictures were really nice, I got some good ones of the Mosquito mountains up by Leadville from the mountainside and a few of Twin Lakes far below us. We had a beautiful mountain jay following us part of the way, and then judging by the footprints we also had a mountain lion to contend with. But by that time we were above tree line and could see for miles all around with no lions in sight. Still, a bit unnerving but we forged ahead. We hoped the lion might be more interested in the bighorn sheep we could see far in the distance.Mount Elbert Summit in Winter

The hike was more difficult than we were hoping for, the 14ers.com guide said it would be snow packed all the way and all we would have to do is follow the micro spike tracks. But that turned out to be a bit of an optimistic view as it had snowed a bit the night before and a lot of wind had covered the tracks in some key places. We had a large clearing to cross and it was completely snow covered. We somehow found the trail under the snow and by poking our ski poles around we were mostly able to stay on the trail, but one wrong step and you were buried up to your waist in powder and it was very difficult and time consuming to get back out.

Summit Mount Elbert in WinterThen there were no less than three false summits, so early estimates on a summit time were way off and we were about to give up when all of a sudden we found ourselves on the summit. Very strange… we were just walking along wondering how much further the summit was going to be while discussing turning around and suddenly there was no more mountain in front of us. And it was the most amazing scene before us, nothing but snow covered mountains as far as the eye could see. By that time it was about 2:00 p.m. and the lighting was very strange… At 14,439 feet of elevation the late afternoon light was very bluish and hazy. And totally quiet except for the breeze blowing. I could have used Photoshop to take the blue out of the images, but when it comes to art I am a bit of a Realist and want my pictures to show what it was really like. The temperature wasn’t bad when we first arrived, but about 20 minutes later after we had enjoyed the summit experience for awhile it started getting cold, really cold! It had taken us about eight hours to summit and we only had three  hours to descend so we thought we had better skeedaddle! It took about an hour for the burning to subside in my fingers and toes from that last few minutes at 14,439 feet.Steve Krull at the summit of Mount Elbert Colorado in January 2015

The full collection of those images, at least all the ones I have done so far can be found in my Rocky Mountain Winter gallery. There are also tons of other images from snowshoe hikes in snowstorms, wildlife in the snow, blizzards and beautiful lighting on Pikes Peak in that gallery. The images can be purchased as glossy wall art on metal and acrylic sheets, canvas, traditional framed prints, and as gift items including coffee mugs, phone cases, greeting cards, t-shirts, household items, lifestyle gifts and more. Commercial stock versions of the art can be purchased by clicking here for the image licensing portal.

 

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items

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Solstice 2016

The new year holiday is meaningless to me, based on nothing but someone’s idea of a chronological date indicating an arbitrary division of time developed centuries ago. However, the Winter Solstice is real, something significant in the alignment of stars, planets, the sun and the earth. It is a mark in time that has a profound effect on my life as I squeak out a life here in the mountains of Colorado. It is the day when the hours of light stop becoming shorter, a day when I can count on more time under the beautiful light of the sun even if it is only a few seconds more than the day before. There is something psychological about knowing that the next day will be longer, perhaps warmer and without a doubt a bit lighter. It is also a day we can count on, a day that we can say without a doubt will be a division in time, the day that identifies an exact moment in time where something changes for the better.

Summit-HikerFor me, in two days it will be the new year… a time to reflect on the previous year and look with hope towards a new one. It is also a time to review whether the previous year will be a year in which I will receive the only thing that really matters, the words of the Almighty, “Well done good and faithful servant.”. I could not bear to hear the words in my mind… “Of him will I be ashamed… ”, speaking of those who were ashamed to speak His Name.

2016 was supposed to be simple, beginning with a trip to REI, my happy place, to invest my yearly dividend on some new bike riding gloves. A year when I was going to prosper, to enjoy life after years of caring for my wife of 25 years as cancer ravaged and eventually destroyed her body. A year that was going to be free from conflict and strife, pain and struggle. A year that began with a great victory, a winter climb to Colorado’s highest peak…

But it was not meant to be so… The war rages on, if not in my life in the lives of others. Early in the year I prayed to the Almighty, let the struggle be over let me just enjoy life now. Fortunately He did not listen to my prayer… the war is not over and neither is my part in it. As I look back it is hard to comprehend that the events in less than 365 days could be confined to just one year. You would have to go back and read all my blogs to gather it all in, but the short story is without my participation it is very possible that two lives and two souls may have been lost. I don’t know for sure, but I hope that as a result of my efforts some suffering may have been averted, a few lives made better and for some there will be new hope and a new chance for a future.

SummitIn spite of the struggles of life, the year also found me in two more of my greatest moments, summiting the three highest peaks in Colorado, counting the winter climb to Mount Elbert my buddies and I also summited Massive and Harvard in the summertime. The west face of Pikes Peak in wintertime has continued to elude us, but also resulted in an experience of a lifetime. Buddy Ralph and I were literally blown over by the strongest wind I have ever experienced… followed by a quick and desperate struggle for survival that will be fuel for stories for years to come! I wish we had some pictures of our frozen faces and beards but the sprint to lower elevations didn’t allow for time for that. However, now when we see the snow blowing a thousand feet in the air over the top of the Peak we can look at each other knowingly… well aware of what life is like on the Peak when that happens!

mariah-steve-summitThe year also yielded another first… my first drive to the summit of Pikes Peak on the Pikes Peak Highway. Barely squeaked that one in on a work day with my friend and co-worker Mariah. A beautiful day down at the base of the Peak was followed by a very cold and windy visit to the summit, but for sure it was a day I will never forget!

But the end of this year finds me tired, injured, and in doubt for my own future. For the next year I must depend on the blessed words of scripture, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”. I have to know that my efforts this year on behalf of others will not go unrewarded, and that “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”. I have to know that He is watching over me and that there are plans for my life that I am not yet aware of. This year saw the demise of the news company I was writing for as well as any hope for a future with my main photo agency iStock / Getty. I have begun anew with a fledgling portfolio at a newer agency hosted by well known media giant Adobe, but it is only hope at this point. At this time I am out of pictures to upload, out of ideas for new ones and left praying for ideas.

For the new year, I am devoid of ideas for my own plans… spiritually drained and wondering how to start over yet again, but I am confident that the Author of the Future is not taken by surprise, not discouraged and not deterred. I go into the new year knowing that the Blessed Hope has plans I don’t know about and that my best days are before me and not behind… Knowing in my spirit that the next year will be a better year than the last.

 

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items

End of Summer 2016

The annual mass migration out of the mountains on Labor Day is in full swing… Thousands of cars, RV’s, and camper trailers streaming out of the mountains on their journey back to the cities. Can’t say I’m sorry to see them go. I know they are supposed to be good for business in the state but not many stop here in Woodland Park. They mostly just pass through and clog up the only route through town and it will be nice to have our quiet little laid back mountain town back again as the cool of autumn settles in and the aspen leaves begin their transformation into autumn gold, which by the way is my favorite time of year for picture taking.

_MG_0966-Team

Bill, Ralph & Steve on Mt. Massive

The summer is now but a blur and I can’t believe how fast it went by. I had planned to climb several 14ers this summer and collect tons of wildlife pictures… I guess it was not meant to be but I’m thankful for the wonderful memories of the two climbs we did accomplish, Colorado 14er mountains Massive and Harvard, which by accident turned out to be the number two and three highest peaks in the state, so when I include our winter climb of Mount Elbert last January I have knocked out the three highest peaks in one year 🙂

Summer started slowly enough with a new job, some new friends and a very laid back 4th of July celebration at Woodland Park’s Symphony Above the Clouds. Also got to climb the Crags for the first time in my life with my friend Debbie and hike the Dome Rock Wildlife area, both items to check off my to do list that I have been  wanting to accomplish  for many years!

Debbie Crags

Debbie & Steve at the Crags

The two climbs and the hikes were in July which now seems like a lifetime ago for some reason. Maybe it’s age, time is a funny thing when youth is behind you, days are slow, weeks are fast, and months are like a vapor… The physical demands of my new job ground me down to the point that the job was all I could do, and I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to do that… However after shedding 12 pounds and a lot of perseverance my strength seemed to bottom out around the end of August and about when I was thinking I was going to get fired for being too old and slow, I was offered full time, which may be just the blessing I need to get into some decent digs for the winter.

When I think back on the blur of chaos that was the summer of 2016 I see so many things undone, so many things lost in a harrowing outpouring of jealousy and evil that I would not have believed possible in America prior to this year. A family that I cared about was destroyed, a neighborhood ruined and several six year friendships thrown away in what was clearly a spiritual conflict that can be comprehended only by the strongest of believers. Also lost, thanks to my vindictive evil neighbors is sweet Kitsune, the little red terrier I was no longer allowed to leave in the safety of my air conditioned camper trailer while I was gone to work… Sonny the big guy came back, but little Kit is still lost. Even after three days we are still fervently hoping for someone to find her and reunite her with a very sad and lonely Sonny 😦 Perhaps I will write of all that sometime but I need to let it all bake for a bit while my mind tries to process it. Unrelated to all of that I am also saddened that my close friend Apryl is leaving Colorado on a one way journey to the east coast to start a new yet old life with a new job close to her family roots.

Biker-Chicks

New Friends 🙂

So I can look back at the summer of 2016 at what was lost or I can choose to celebrate what was not lost. I still have a solid employment situation, my health and my ability to scale the tall mountain peaks. I have not lost my place in the magnificent Colorado Rockies and I still have my climbing buddies. Most importantly of all, I have a new friend to hang with, laugh with and while away the hours of days when there isn’t much to do besides enjoy the rare company of a person that doesn’t mind the hours that are about nothing much, just time spent together.

Summer 2016 had two additional high points, my sister Alyson and nephew Brady whom I haven’t seen in about a decade made the journey to Colorado to see me in the early summer and my Cousin LeAnn and Danny came out as well. The years

Alyson & Steve Manitou Incline

Alyson & Steve at the Incline

LeAnn & Steve.jpg

LeAnn & Steve

since the ’08 crash have not been kind and reconnecting with family the last couple of years has been an amazing experience! Will also get to see my parents again this fall after the lost decade so I’m pretty happy about that too 🙂

Goat-PeekingAnd I am also looking forward to my favorite two months in Colorado, when the storms of August are over and the mountain air dries and cools. The aspen trees and the high mountain tundra turn to gold as the foliage and wildlife prepare for the long Rocky Mountain winter. The pleasant weather and beautiful colors make for the best hiking, climbing and photo opportunities of the year. And with the summer hordes back in their home states I also look forward to some much needed solitude high above the treeline with the marmots and the mountain goats 🙂

 

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography.

Balance

Working on the right life / work balance… I’m finding that four nights on the loading dock and a 14er on the weekend may be just a little bit much for my chronologically challenged body … So I asked my boss to cut me back to three loading dock marathons per week and thankfully it appears my wish was granted 🙂 This should be the perfect balance of steady money and physical exertion. More time to make money with my photography and less time and less money unfortunately, trying to keep up with the young whipper snappers on the docks!

SunriseSo it turns out that I now have this next Saturday off and the next adventure is being planned as we speak. Talked to Ralph tonight about pushing an Oxford / Belford 14er 2fer up to this next weekend with something else for the 20th, maybe Columbia. The Oxford trailhead is on the dirt road to the ghost town of Winfield, which will be heavily populated by Leadville 100 crew vehicles on the 20th, so I’m thinking the smart money might be on doing that this weekend instead of during the race.

So we are looking at two peaks on one trail, three actually since we will have to climb back over Belford again on the way back. 6000 feet of elevation gain over 11 miles or something like that, a daunting challenge for sure. We may have a good sized group for this one, three or four maybe from our little Divide, Colorado group of hikers 🙂 Spent tonight looking over my gear, only to find out that I forgot to clean my water bottles after the last climb and had to tackle a sticky Gatorade mess 😦 Better tonight than Friday night though!  Thinking it might be a good idea to leave my big zoom lens home and replace it with an extra 32 oz Gatorade. Another balance to worry about, liquids versus weight. I’ll still carry my filter pump though, just in case.

Tomorrow is a day off… will I carry through with my planned day doing laundry, or will I blow it off and get in a day of training in preparation for the big weekend. Hmmm… Probably no one ever on their death bed said, “I wish I had done more laundry.” 🙂

Hiking Mount Harvard Colorado

Wasn’t quite physically ready to climb another 14er just one week after Mount Massive, but I didn’t get the days off I wanted and that’s the way the chips fell. I didn’t want to wait until the 20th to climb another one, so I called Ralph to see if he was ready to give another one a go. It doesn’t take a lot of talking to psyche Ralph up for a climb and a few minutes later the plans for a 14,420 foot Mount Harvard summit were in the works 🙂

WildernessAccording to 14ers.com, the Harvard route we wanted is 12.5 miles long so an early start was in order. We decided on a 3:30 rendezvous in Divide at the usual place, so I set my alarm for 2:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, July 30th. By 3:35 a.m. we were drinking coffee and on the road for Buena Vista. Sunrise came a few minutes later than on our last adventure, so it was still pitch black when we got to BV and we decided on a pit stop at Loaf and Jug for more coffee and power food.. some donuts 🙂 By the time we hit the trail head at about 5:30 there was a hint of light in the eastern sky which illuminated a packed parking lot! We did find a spot however and decided to start the long hike before sunrise.

It wasn’t too long before we were greeted by a beautiful clear Colorado sunrise, and a confused looking guy near a Y in the trail, apparently camping. Friendly fellow though, wanted to know where we were headed. Harvard we responded… and with a slow southern drawl he commented, “Oh, I wasn’t smart enough to get in there.”. As it sank it what he said and occurred to me that he wasn’t joking, I commented to Ralph, “I’m not sure he knows where he’s going?”. Ralph replied, “I’m not sure he knows where he is!”. Well anyway, he wasn’t there on the return trip so he must have figured something out 🙂

As the beautiful morning light began to illuminate the peaks a particularly large monolith came into view on our right. We wondered if that was our summit and after we got tired of discussing it and wondering, Ralph checked the GPS and we determined that one was probably Columbia, which would make it sort of on the way back from Harvard and a candidate for a second 14er in one day, adding only two or three miles to the return trip. Our destination had not yet come into view.

The trail had climbed to about 10,000 feet by the time it was getting light enough for pictures and we found ourselves along a beautiful stream in a high meadow surrounded by rugged peaks. The GPS indicated that Mount Harvard was directly ahead and there was indeed a series of high peaks in the distance, one of which was certainly our summit. We began to encounter other hikers at this point, all hoping to be on right trail to Harvard. We assured them we were hoping for the same 🙂

SummitingFinally the summit became obvious and we whiled away the next hour or so mapping out possible routes the trail might take to the summit. Perhaps up a ridge and around back. The face we were looking at looked way to steep and rocky and there was no discernible trail. But soon we could see a couple of hikers heading right towards the south face and Ralph says, “It looks like it goes right up through the rocks!”and I’m like… “Naaaaaa …”. Well as we got closer we could start to make out the trail, going right exactly where earlier I said, “There’s no way the trail goes through there!”.

And for the last two miles or so, up it went, one of the steepest trails I have been on yet! I couldn’t decide what was going to explode first… my knees or my lungs! But we just kept forging ahead walking when we could, resting when we had to. The boulder field was long, but the trail through it was well defined and relatively easy to follow. The difficulty there is the sheer steepness of it. Finally the summit party came into view so that we could see our exact destination. Up until that point there were several high points that were possibilities for a summit. Suddenly we were there, but the people who were writing the trail reviews that indicated a Class I trail all the way to the summit except for a few rocks at the top,  were apparently suffering from oxygen deprivation, the Class I trail disappeared into a steep wall of boulders with some cracks in it, and a pile of trekking poles at the bottom. Ralph abandoned his poles there, and I put my camera in my pack and strapped my monopod onto it’s holder on the back.

Boulder ClimbingThis was my first summit where there were hikers standing around with ten feet left to climb, wondering if they were going to attempt the last ten feet, and some didn’t. Some were content to almost make summit. Ralph was already on his way up and I didn’t stop to look too long or to even think about it. There was no way I was going to come that far and let a couple of boulders stand in the way of making summit, so I just grabbed a hand hold and hoisted myself up. The route through the cracks was fairly obvious, but the hand and footholds not quite as obvious. My arms were tired, but still able to do the job. My new leather gloves I found at Walmart proved invaluable in the last few feet of this climb. The leather protected my hands from the usual beating and bloodying that the boulder fields offer and I noticed my grip was better too. A pair of Wells Lamont gloves with pigskin palms and some sort of breathable backing. $10 at Walmart, one of the best investments I’ve ever made 🙂

Steve at HarvardSoon we were both on the small summit area for the usual selfies and picture taking, lunch and coffee. We made summit in record time for that distance, 6.25 miles in six hours. Ralph has a “Jet Brew” or something like that he makes coffee with and got some water boiling for instant coffee. We also sent out the usual summit texts and calls, Facebook posts and ETA’s  for the arrival back at the bottom. I of course received back the usual encouraging words, like “Glad you are still breathing, lol!”. Ha, well breathing we were, but dark clouds were approaching from the west and a hoard of people from the south. We decided to have an abbreviated summit party and get back through the cracks before the weather and before the traffic jam.

Getting back down through the rocks wasn’t as hard or scary as I thought… There was one place where I couldn’t actually see if my foot was on a foothold, but the guy behind me said I nailed it. Ralph was like, “lol… good thing that guy wasn’t mad at me for some reason!”. Come to think of it, that is a lot of faith to put in someone you have never seen before in your life! Anyway, we were glad to be on our way back down to the trees when the hail hit… Most of it wasn’t too bad, but it was amusing to hear the occasional “ouch”, as nearby hikers were getting hit by a particularly big hailstone. Many were still headed for the summit, but few showed signs of giving up. We did come upon one party who had given up at the bottom of the approach, before any of the steep climbing. Don’t know where they were from, but they were talking about “sea level”. I can imagine 14,000 feet might be a bit rough for someone acclimated to sea level!

The remainder of the hike proceeded without incident and the storms that were threatening to form never really amounted to much. The “death march” to the bottom when you are worn out and all the rocks are jumping at your feet and bashing your toes was actually not as bad as sometimes, and we were back at the truck by 4 p.m., with plenty of time for me to get home and make it to little Charity’s two year birthday party 🙂 followed by the usual monthly Motown dance at the Crystola Bar and Grill with the band Sugar Bear.

I haven’t checked my work schedule yet, but I think I should have August 20th available for another climb with Ralph. We are thinking Columbia looks like a good 14er to climb next!

 

Hiking Mount Massive

The 14,421 foot summit of Mount Massive Colorado was the latest peak to be checked off as done in Ralph’s quest to climb all the 14ers in the state of Colorado. I was glad to be able to participate, completing my sixth 14er on a beautiful Colorado day in the high country. Buddy Bill also joined our little expedition, completing his first 14er in many years. From the looks of his boots, he may have worn the same ones he wore the last time, I think he said 17 years ago 🙂

Untitled-1Well anyway our day started early, 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 23rd at the rendezvous point in Divide, Colorado. It was a warm night in Colorado, even for summertime and I walked out the door in just a short sleeved shirt. No coffee was needed, the adrenaline rush from waking up in the middle of the the night in anticipation of a new adventure is enough of a surge to get out the door! Fortunately though, Ralph brought along a thermos of coffee to keep my heart pumping once the monotony of the two hour road trip in the dark set in. A few minutes later we picked up Bill in Lake George and headed over Wilkerson and into Buena Vista and on to Highway 300 where we turned west to the Halfmoon Road entry into the Mount Elbert / Massive camping areas.Sunrise

Once past the two wheel drive area, the road became pretty rough. I would not recommend driving onto the four wheel drive area without some pretty beefy off road tires. At one point about a half mile from the four wheel drive trailhead we decided to just pull off and hike the remainder of the way to the trailhead on foot. However as morning began to descend upon the forest it became apparent that if we had just gotten over the small rough spot it would have been clear sailing to the parking area at the Half Moon Trailhead.

Massive-SceneryFortunately I had thrown in a sweatshirt at the last minute, because the temp at the trailhead was reading 42 degrees. I always have a wool hat and a pair of gloves in my pack, but it wasn’t quite cold enough to need them. After a quick sign in at the wilderness checkpoint, we were off on the difficult journey to the summit. I initially took the lead, and after about a mile there was a fork in the trail. One way was down and across the creek, away from where we thought the summit should be. The other up over a small rock obstacle that required a short climb onto the main trail towards the summit. After a short debate, we decided on the rocks… going away from the mountain down to the stream didn’t seem right.

The trail soon became steep and rocky. Ralph thought he had read that there were two routes from Half Moon, one steep, the other not as steep but a bit longer. We decided if we were on the easy one we didn’t want to see the difficult one! Minutes turned into hours and the air became thin. Eventually we were getting pretty high, the GPS indicated aboutJoanne.jpg 12,500 feet and although the summit was not yet visible, some interesting features had come into view. There was a saddle on the false summit that looked like it might be the last obstacle to actually being able to see the summit. Below we spotted a young woman carrying two little dogs. We proclaimed that the “girl with the dogs was not going to pass us”. Unfortunately, youth won out and she eventually caught us and left us in the dust, Joanne I think was her name. We let some other youngsters pass as well, just to be polite of course. However that group passed us and promptly sat down on some boulders and we passed them back and never saw the again, at least on the ascent.

Summit.jpgAs we neared the summit, the trail became more crowded. Some people going up, some going down already. As we neared the summit and of course the inevitable onset of “summit fever”, we encountered one group carrying some sort of music device playing some inspiring tunes. Now Bill claims at this point I broke into some sort of thin air induced dance to the music, but there is no record of it on film so I retain plausible deniability 🙂 As we scaled the first hump resembling a summit, the real summit and summit party came into view. Ralph actually ran a few steps toward the summit at this point, but soon discovered that running at 14,400 feet is a poor idea and abandoned the idea of a sprint finish 🙂

_MG_0966-Team.jpgSoon the rocks became too treacherous for me to want to continue with my camera swinging around at my side so I stopped and packed it away along with my trekking pole so that I would have both hands free to scale the rocks. Eventually we all made summit and reconvened at the top. It was a magnificent day so we spent more than an hour at the summit taking pictures of the stunning scenery, eating and drinking, and Ralph even heated up some coffee with his portable burner.

Mountain-GoatEventually we had to start the trip back down the mountain so we packed up and began the painful steep descent. Five hours to the summit, so I estimated three hours back down. Some people still on their ascent mentioned that there were some mountain goats ahead, so I took off my pack and got my camera back out. Also decided at this point to attach my good zoom lens, an F4L 70-200 so as to get the highest quality captures of the elusive four footed climbers. The effort paid off as a small herd of the critters, including a couple of really cute mountain goat toddlers came into view and allowed us to hang with them for a while.Baby-Mountain-Goat.jpg

The descent was brutal… it was hot and there was no relief from the high elevation sun. I knew the trail was rocky from our experience on the ascent, but it seemed all the rockier on the way back down. I can’t tell how many times I stubbed my toe and rolled my ankles on loose rocks. Marmot sightings broke up the arduous journey however, and we even saw a rare white colored marmot who seemed quite curious about the camera. Most of the marmots scampered away when they heard the gyro motor stabilizer in the lens come on, but the white one was fearless and just struck a few poses for me 🙂

MarmotMy estimate of a three hour descent proved fairly accurate, so we were back at the truck by about 3:45 p.m., well ahead of any lightning storms that may have been forming behind the mountain. The Mount Massive summit is one of the most interesting peaks that I’ve seen, and well worth the effort to climb it.  For anyone wanting to bag this summit, I recommend first scoping it out on 14ers.com.

I  also recommend plenty of sunscreen, sunglasses, rain gear and some good boots! There were a couple of spots where snow runoff was available, so a filter pump could help reduce your liquids load. Bill doesn’t look too confident about wanting to do another 14er in the near future, but Ralph and I are thinking Mt. Harvard looks like a good possibility for my next Saturday off work in a couple of weeks. Someone once said about these adventures, “You gotta love the pain!”. Perhaps he was right and Bill doesn’t love the pain quite as much as some 🙂 Or maybe after a couple of days he will find he is addicted to the adventure of it all… Stay tuned!

 

Getting High

Been a busy week getting high… high on elevation that is 🙂 The week started last Friday with a six mile hike through the rugged hills of Section 16 in Colorado Springs with the Pikes Peak Adventures Meetup Group. The trail was great as were occasional views of Red Rock Canyon and the mountains of Southwest Colorado Springs. It was a great group, great trail and a great time!

The next big moment for the week was a visit from my brother Jim and Robin. Haven’t seen Jim for quite a few years and it was great to finally get to meet Robin! Anyway, we got to take a nice hike in Red Rock Canyon, all the way to the top of the south ridge followed by some great brew at the Colorado Mountain Brewery 🙂

Incline

Jim and Steve at the top of the Incline

Then this Wednesday at the last minute we decided to tackle the Manitou Incline. I have been looking at that thing for many years and decided this was the time to do it. It proved to be the hardest mile I have ever hiked. Two thousand feet of elevation gain in one mile, from 6500 feet to 8,500 feet at the top. It was tough, but it looked like every person on it was having a tough time. At the summit we decided that the smart money was on a trip back down the Barr Trail and a pleasant return journey through the Pike National Forest.

Surprisingly I wasn’t completely dead on Thursday, so after checking the weather forecast I decided to try to climb fourteener Mount Yale in the Collegiate Peaks. So Thursday night I packed up my gear, including my water filter in case my supply of liquids proved insufficient. Set the alarm for 4:00 a.m. to give myself plenty of time to have breakfast and to arrive at the trailhead by sunrise. Breakfast was at the only place in Buena Vista open at that time of day, Jan’s Restaurant. Excellent omelets there by the way, and the most fluffy looking hash browns I have ever eaten 🙂

From there, up Cottonwood Pass to the Denny Creek Trailhead. Checked the time and my boots were on the dirt at 7:00 a.m. on the dot. I wasn’t too sure about this endeavor. Five miles one way with 4,300 feet of elevation gain was more than I have tried in many years. So I set my sights on summiting at around noon. Much shy of the summit at that time I determined would be time to rethink my goals for the day.

The trail was steep and rocky, no question about that. I knew it would be dark in the canyons so my strategy was to keep the camera in the pack and refrain from picture taking until after reaching summit. Of course the stray mountain goat or bighorn sheep would have changed those priorities in a heartbeat! But there was no wildlife to be seen on the trail at all. I knew I was making good time and reached the treeline by 9:00. I was starting to get a little more confident that I could conquer this one after all. It didn’t seem that long before I was standing at the base of the giant boulder field with plenty of time before my noon deadline, so I just started climbing.

Summit Yale

Summit of Mount Yale in the Colorado Collegiate Peaks

The boulder field was difficult for me, the worst one I have encountered. The cairns were not always easy to find and the trail at times was indistinguishable. Fortunately I had found a group to negotiate the boulders with, so when one of us got stymied, another managed to find a route. I forgot to look at my watch here, but I’m guessing just the boulder field took an hour to climb. And it was not without casualty. One slip garnered me a bruised rib and another a bruised knee cap. Leather gloves would have saved my hands from a couple of bloody mishaps and I was thankful for my mid height hiking boots which preserved my ankles a couple of times. Near the top the boulders became a bit smaller and easier to negotiate and by 11:30 a.m., I had conquered the summit of Mount Yale, 14,196 feet 🙂

So it was time for a break and some picture taking at the summit. I took shots with both lenses of the 360 degree view before starting back down. The journey back down through the boulders seemed harder than the journey up, but I eventually made it out and was thankful to have my feet back on the dirt. As I looked down the steep switchbacks I could not believe that I had made the climb. From the top, the trail looked like it had been etched into the edge of a cliff. Once on it of course it didn’t seem that bad, but it was still a knee wrecker to get back down.

The sun had of course by this time made it over the peak and the scenery was fantastic. Excellent views of Cottonwood Pass, plus fourteeners Harvard, Columbia and Princeton. The tundra taking on its fall glory, displaying beautiful red and yellow mixed with some of the usual green plants. By the time I had reached treeline again I had managed to snap 264 pictures, hoping that they would be every bit as beautiful as the magnificence I was experiencing with my eyes. Once I descended through the treeline the trees obscured the light and I decided to just get back to the car as quickly as I could. I was out of water and was tempted at several creek crossings to put my filter to use, but didn’t want to take the time. I knew I could make it to the end without water and I had more to drink at the car so I just kept going. At 4:00 my feet were on the pavement in the parking lot and I was just glad to have the mountain behind me. My climbing team that I had befriended had made the parking lot just ahead of me and were happy to offer me a beer to celebrate our victory. I don’t think there is any better way to commemorate an awesome hike, so joined them for a while and toasted some new friends.

Soon the snow will be flying and the high peaks covered in a beautiful but dangerous blanket of snow. My big hikes are probably done for the season, but there are still autumn landscapes to be captured before the winds and storms of winter turn the gold into white. I think I’ll concentrate on capturing as much of that as possible from the car in the little time that remains of a glorious autumn in Colorado. Stay tuned to my Examiner News feed as I provide hiking tips and the specifics on how to reach these trails and complete them.