Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Angel

Mt. Shavano(14,229') via the Angel of Shavano
"Esprit Point" (13,630')
9.0 miles
4,650' gain
~6 hour RT

Fun, "easy" day with Jake.  Last time we were up Shavano was a little...hairier.  Some pictures from the day.

The Angel runs out at about 12,100'.  The right arm melts first, but the left is good until 13,300'

Is it the socks or the shorts that make the man?

Dirty, dirty snow

Found this in my mitten.  Nice surprise.

I had a couple extra minutes upon topping out on the Angel to reach 13,620' Esprit Point

Same peak, more fun.
Jake's sailboat

The bottom 200' or so was dirty

Colorado Trail near the Blank Cabin TH

Spring Mountain

Sunday and Monday were some easygoing play days.

Spring Mountain (13,244')
~10.0 miles
~4,200' gain
~7 hour RT

After Saturday's hike, I slept like a baby in the back of my jeep.  So much so that I didn't even hit the trail on Sunday until 9:00.

Original plan was to do a counter-clockwise loop:  Comanche Trail to Comanche Peak, Spring Mountain, Venable Peak, and back on the Venable Trail.  I wasn't sure if this was feasible, as the valley portion of Saturday's hike gave me more postholing fun than you can shake a stick at.  Sure enough, I saw what appeared to be continuous snow coverage on the Comanche Trail starting at about 10,600'.  I immediately turned right and gained Spring Mountain's loooooong east ridge.

Horn Peak.  Snow covering the north-facing headwall into the Hiltman Creek basin
At about 11,100' on the ridge, I found this abandoned cabin.  Unlike other ones, this cabin had no visible trails leading to or fro.  There were some sizable new trees growing inside the cabin.  When I finally did find a faint trail leading away from the cabin, it was so faint I couldn't imagine many people had been here in the past 50 years or so.  A hunting cabin, perhaps?

Middle-of-nowhwere bed and breakfast

A few snow climbs?
 The final pitch to the top of Spring Mountain was a little more engaging than anything else I had encountered during the day.
The fun class 2+ summit pitch leading to Spring Mountain
I got some bad news once I topped out on Spring.  My original plan to circle up and around Venable, then take the southerly-exposed Venable Trail back.  The view below convinced me that finding a way back might be challenging.  With some clouds building and the Hiltman Creek basin to the south snowed in fairly well, I opted instead to punt and head back the way I came.

Boo.  Coulda been done with axe and 'pons.
I got back to the TH around 4 and high-tailed it for Salida.  I booked a night at the Simple Lodge Hostel in Salida, showered up, and devoured an entire large pizza for the second night in a row at Moonlight Pizza.  

Spread Eagle

155 days.  That's the longest stretch of mountainlessness I've experienced in the better part of a decade.  Luckily, this terrible streak came to an end with three consecutive days of getting up high in the beginning of June.

Spread Eagle Peak (13,423')
"Peak of the Clouds" UN 13,524
Rito Alto Peak (13,794')
Hermit Peak (13,350')
June 1, 2013
10.9 mile loop
5,483' gain

My goal was to get in the jeep and disappear for three or four days.  My climbing partner Jake wouldn't be free until Monday, and we hadn't yet decided on a plan, so I packed the kitchen sink in preparation for anything - car camping, snow climbing, ridge running, hiking in, you name it, I was ready for it.  As I 'waited' for Jake over the weekend, I thought it might be a good time to head to the Sangre de Cristo Range and dip my toes in the water.  After all, I hadn't been above treeline since December.  The Sangres, as usual, are closer to snow-free than their northern counterparts.

Alarm went off at 2:00.  After a bit of dilly-dallying, I was on my way out by 3:30, and in Westcliffe by 5:00.  I finally settled on a group of peaks - I would park at the 9,800' Taylor Road "trailhead" (if you can call it that), ascend 13,423' Spread Eagle Peak, circle around to the west and south, hit peaks until I got tired, then drop down to the Rainbow Trail and take it north back to the jeep.

Taylor Road TH, 9800'.  The last mile of road is pretty rough.  The TH is more of a dead end than anything else, but if you're looking for solitude, you'll find it here
My experience in the mid-Sangres from last May left an impression on me - during this time of year, it's hard to avoid postholing.  Making matters worse is the depth (1-4 feet depending), range in elevation (on northern aspects it was continuous from 10,800' to 11,800') , and concreteish quality of the snow.  I departed with the intention of leaving valley trails for ridges early and often.  On this particular day, I think I made it about 400 yards before making a beeline up Spread Eagle Peak's SE ridge.

It was a nice trail...really!

Living tree, Spread Eagle Peak, Dead tree
 Upon gaining the ridge, I settled into a rhythm.  I enjoyed the direct line and quick elevation gain, as it afforded me the usual breathtaking views of the Wet Mountain Valley.

Living up here is tough

Spread Eagle's SE ridge

Spread Eagle's summit, looking west.  Hermit is on the left, Rito Alto in the center, and "Peak of the Clouds" (UN 13,524) is on the right
The route from the summit of Spread Eagle was straightforward.  No surprises or difficulties other than my need to adjust to altitude.  By the time I made it to the top of Rito Alto, my head was starting to throb.  Taking a look into the Megan Lake valley, I thought some of the snow would be avoidable once I got down there.  (oops)  I made work of one last bump, Hermit Peak, before making some quick glissades to Megan Lake.

Rito Alto's east face, seen from the UN 13,524/Rito Alto saddle

Rito Alto's summit.  Looking south to the Crestones...the view that never gets old!
Shortly after Megan Lake, I found what I feared - concrete everywhere.  The trail was rough and obscure enough that it was tough to locate as it intermittently exposed itself between blobs of snow.  I'm not sure which was more of a pain - postholing or bushwhacking down the river valley.  Eventually the snow gave up and I jogged the trail back to the jeep.  I felt pretty terrible by the time I was done.  Eight hours above treeline when you're not acclimated will do that to you.  However, just being in a place I love made it a GREAT day.

Spread Eagle, UN 13,524', Rito Alto, Hermit from Taylor Road TH

Once back at the jeep, it was time to regroup.  I managed to eat an entire large pizza at R's in Westcliffe.  I then made the quick drive to the Comanche/Venable TH to prepare for Sunday's adventure.