4,000 meters is an unrecognized altitude threshold within the United States. However, it is as well known where the metric system is used, as 14,000 feet is known in the US. This page is dedicated to climbing those peaks in Colorado that rise above 4,000 meters (13,123 feet)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Sea Change in Photography Gear. I Hope Its Everything I Wish For.


The Panasonic G3 with the Olympus (Zuiko) 14-54 f2.8-3.5 Lens. The Small Gray 4/3rds to Micro 4/3rds Adapter can be Seen Between the Camera and Lens.

Ever since I owned an Olympus OM-1 35mm film camera several decades ago (I still have it) I have been enamored of tiny SLR cameras. Ever since I owned a spectacular digital Sony R-1 a few years back I was enamored by cameras with an electronic view finder (EVF) and mirrorless design. Now if they could just put a hi-rez EVF into a tiny camera and give me great fast lenses and a descent sensor…well that would be a sea change…indeed.

One of the biggest reasons I have been pining for a decent mirrorless EVF camera is the amount of data that can be displayed in the view finder…live! Most importantly the histogram. Why the histogram? Because, with digital cameras the histogram is the essential tool I use to judge my exposure. I am not going to get into a discussion here of how they work. Or exposing to the right (ETR). But if you are a serious photographer I expect you know what the histogram is and how to use it.

Without the live display in the EVF, one is left to chimp the histogram AFTER the shot is taken by looking at the image playback. Does that seem idiotic to anyone else? Doesn’t it make sense to look at the histogram LIVE before you shoot? I mean, you don’t look at a light meter after you shoot an image. With a trad SLR I suppose it is not possible, or difficult, to display the histogram in the optical view finder. Nikon refuses (for some incomprehensible reason) to even show it in their live view display. The histogram is just another piece of data that can be shown live using an EVF. Like gridlines, highlight clipping, typical exposure data, and damn near anything else you would like to slap into that EVF.

Mirrorless cameras are also very very small. Manufacturers are able to make the cameras less complex, smaller, and cheaper by eliminating the mirror and mirror box. There is a lot of complexity tied up in slapping a mirror up and down inside an SLR. Additionally, mirrorless cameras use somewhat smaller sensors (but not always) therefore allowing the lens diameter to decrease. Less size. Less weight.

Why does any of this matter? As a high altitude hiker/climber I am always trying to lessen the size and weight of the load I am carrying say 4,000+ feet up a 14,000 foot mountain. Its hard to carry even myself, much less several pounds of bulky SLR gear up a mountain. I typically carry only a single lens with my Nikon D7000. The Nikkor 17-55 f2.8. This lens is exception but it is a HUGE hog of a lens. This lens combined with the D7000, which is not exactly svelte, although a brilliant camera, I am left hauling a large and heavy setup into the mountains. This setup weighs in at just under 4 pounds. This combination of lens and camera is hard to beat in terms of performance and photographic quality. True. But, what if I could find a similar setup that gave me most of what the Nikon does at say half the size and weight.

So, I have been watching the mirrorless designs. I am partial to Olympus because they have been producing exceptional cameras and lenses for decades. I also like a lot of the products that Panasonic has been producing. As luck would have it both Pany and Oly teamed up to produce the Micro-4/3rds standard for mirrorless cameras. It actually started with 4/3rds but that standard still had a mirror. Anyway…

Their cameras, particularly Pany’s were brilliant. High quality, functional, and small. Unfortunately, they seemed to be catering to a more entry level audience by using plasticy slow lenses like the 14-42 f3.5-5.6. Optically descent but S-L-O-W.

I prefer 2.8 constant f lenses but alas there were no micro-4/3rd fast constant f lenses in a zoom range I wanted. So…I stayed on the sidelines and watched and waited.

One day it occurred to me that Oly made an exceptional 14-54 f2.8-3.5 zoom. (28-108 35mm equiv.) I have owned and shot with this lens when I owned 4/3rds cameras. It is a great lens. Optically incredible. Weather sealed and with very good build quality. It runs around $550.00 which is a steal for this lens that has accolades from nearly every review and user.

I knew that both Pany and Oly made 4/3rds to micro 4/3rds converters for lenses but often a lot of the auto stuff like auto focus (AF) does not work. Then I learned that Oly had revved the excellent 14-54 f2.8-3.5 lens to a mark II version that included functionality with contrast detection (CD) AF. CD is what all of the mirrorless designs use for auto focus because they are always in “live view” mode. Granted, the 14-54 f2.8-3.5 is not a constant f2.8 lens. But it looses less than half a stop from wide to tele. This has the effect of making the lens smaller. It also gives me a 35mm equiv zoom range of 28 to 104 with a 2.0 crop factor. That’s huge! Its a great lens.

After looking into using this Oly lens with a 4/3rds to micro 4/3rds converter on a Pany G3 body I figured, from what I could tell, that it should all work. Could it be that I could finally have all the benefits of a great small SLR-like camera, an excellent fast lens, AND have everything like AF work?

I ordered that trio, the Pany G3, Oly 14-54 f2.8-3.5 zoom lens, and the Pany 4/3rds to micro 4/3rds converter from Amazon. And I waited…

The trio finally arrived on my doorstep. I carefully unwrapped everything and without reading a single instruction manual assembled the camera, lens, and converter. I then impatiently charged the tiny lithium battery for the G3. Finally the battery completed charging and I put it into the G3 body.

I hit the power switch on top of the G3 and…It all worked perfectly. AF, metering, aperture, EVF readout…Everything! This odd mix of Panasonic, Olympus, 4/3rds and micro 4/3rds worked! Yay! It is not that often that I am so lucky.

I now have a kit that goes from 10,000 feet to well over 14,000 feet. It weighs two pounds less than the Nikon! It sports a fast zoom from 28-108! Optics that are at least as good as the Nikkor 17-55 if not a bit better. Both cameras use 16 megapixel sensors although the Nikon has a larger APS-C (1.5 crop) size while the Lumix has 4/3rds (2.0 crop). This sensor size difference shows up mostly in noise as the smaller 4/3rds sensor is more sensitive to noise than the larger APS-C. Although, in my testing the Lumix can be pushed to ISO 800 with no problem at all. At ISO 1,600 I hit it with a little NIK Dfine 2.0 noise reduction and prints beyond 13”X19” are easy. Noise is not nearly the issue it used to be with smaller sensor. At least regarding 4/3rds sensors.

Nik-Pany Front Proc

Size Does Matter. Not Only is the Nikon D7000 Considerable Larger than the Lumix G3, It is Two Pounds Heavier


Nik-Pany Top Proc

Another Size Comparison from the Top. The Mass of the Nikon D7000 is Quite Apparent. The Lumix is Considerably Smaller in Every Dimension.

What do I give up going from the Nikon to the G3? Not much really. Both systems are capable of producing incredible images. As mentioned, one has to work with slightly noisier images with the G3. I can also shoot 14 bit RAW with the Nikon while I am limited to 12 bit RAW in the G3. I am guessing that the G3 also has somewhat less dynamic range because smaller sensors generally have narrower DR. But the G3’s DR is still many many stops beyond what we ever had in film. I am guessing it gets somewhere between 9 – 12 stops. But that is just a guess. The Nikon is also faster in most aspects including AF, buffer processing, and burst speeds. The G3 is no slouch however and keeps up with whatever I need it to do.


100 Percent Crop of a G3 Image Shot at ISO 800. No Noise Reduction.

The build quality of the Nikon gear is full-on pro. All metal chassis and lens. Weather sealed, etc. It’s a tank. And almost as heavy. The G3 and Olympus lens sport more plastic but both are built quite well and feel very solid. The Oly lens is weather sealed. Oh yah…The G3 has image stabilization built into the body.

Both cameras produce images that can be processed in Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop. I was even able to find a Lightroom auto lens correction profile for the Oly lens. Both systems produce beautiful images with depth and color, contrast and sharpness. There is nothing to complain about regarding image quality from either system. In fact, both are excellent photographic tools.

When I want the absolute best best image quality, flexibility, low light capability, I reach for the Nikon (I also have more lenses for the Nikon). If I want to haul something a lot smaller and lighter, will not be shooting in low light, and don’t want to induce scoliosis from carrying around heavy gear on one shoulder, I reach for the G3. The Lumix G3/Olympus 14-54 is a truly competent system.

So is it everything I wished for? I don’t know yet. But the early results are truly excellent. I still have to see how the Lumix G3/Olympus 14-54 performs in cold weather and at altitude. But in terms of general performance and image quality the Lumix G3/Olympus 14-54 appears to easily meet my needs as a photographic tool. I’ll post more as I use the system in the mountains.

Monday, October 31, 2011

What’s In Your Hiking Emergency/Survival Kit?


Why Write About A Hiking Emergency/Survival Kit?

Ahhh…Finally some time to do some writing. I wanted to get a post up about emergency/survival kits for the typical day-hiker for a while now. I want this post to spur some thought and comments that could, perhaps, make sure that we all carry that stuff that hopefully never gets used but is invaluable if we ever get into one of “those” situations. This is not a listing of the “10 Essentials.” Just those items that are in my emergency/survival Kit.

First off, let me go into some of my credentials. I have been an instructor for the Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) Denver Group (http://www.hikingdenver.net/) for about 8 years teaching Wilderness Trekking School (WTS) (http://www.hikingdenver.net/schools/wts). Additionally, I am an assistant instructor for the Denver Group Wilderness Survival School (WSS) (http://www.hikingdenver.net/schools/wildernesssurvivalschool). I am also Wilderness First Aid certified and have several other related classes under my belt. I have made 56 summits of Colorado 14ers on 40 peaks and also climbed many 13ers, etc. This is not to say I am an expert in survival or emergency preparedness but that I do have a good deal of formal and practical training, learning, and experience in the discipline. However, I am posting this article in order to: 1) share my current knowledge, and 2) see what others have to say so that I may learn.

Enough intros, lets have a look at what I carry in my emergency/survival kit. Please keep in mind that this article does NOT cover in detail my 1st aid kit. That’s a whole separate post. Lets just say I carry an appropriately stocked 1st aid kit and it is but one component of emergency/survival preparedness.

One critical aspect of every tool in your emergency kit is that is MUST work First Time. Every Time. If a tool fails to light, deploy, burn, signal you may die. Maybe you will be lucky and just loose some toes to frostbite. Who knows? My point is that everything you carry you need to make sure you know how to use and that it will work in all conditions. Give fire starting or shelter setup a try in your back yard in the middle of Winter at night when it is 18 degrees with a 15 mph wind. Its good practice. I guarantee you will learn something. Know how to use your stuff BEFORE the emergency.

Always consider your type of hiking when constructing your emergency/survival kit. I carry a bivy because I typically hike above tree line where there is mostly rock and wind. There is no building a shelter there. I need to carry a shelter that is ready to go, fast. Consider your uses as you put your kit together. The emergency/survival kit, like the 1st aid kit, should be customized for you.

One last factor to consider is risk management/risk acceptance. You can decide to accept all the risk for a given hike and throw caution to the wind. For those of you who do this your risk management is to ignore the possibility of something unexpected happening and hope for the best. Perhaps you carry a small kit with a space blanket and a compass. A little risk management and a lot of risk acceptance. If you carry a mobile home you are micromanaging and accepting very little risk.

Determine how much risk you are willing to accept. Then, manage those risks by appointing your kit with those tools that minimize those risks that keep you up at night.

Special note: The information in this article is for general information only and is not intended as a complete or definitive listing or explanation for emergencies or survival. Mountain climbing is inherently dangerous and anyone should seek training before engaging in these activities. I am not paid by nor endorsing any specific products below. You should choose your gear based on your needs, budget, and specific uses.


Why Carry and Emergency/Survival Kit?

Why carry an emergency/survival kit in the first place? Well, for emergencies of course. But what might that be? Many people think that an emergency on the trail during a day hike is rare. And they are mostly correct. However emergencies do of course happen. Your reactions and preparedness to that emergent event determines if you will have a happy ending that makes a great story over beers later. Or a tragic outcome that you never get to tell anyone.

An emergent event can span such a wide range of stuff that it would be a waste (and impossible) to cover each one. And that is why your emergency/survival kit should have broad application to cover a broad set of scenarios. A high value proposition indeed. Something as common and seemingly benign as a sprained ankle could lead to a night out, at 14,000 feet, in high winds and dropping temps. Are you ready for something like that?

In general your kit should cover those things that keep humans alive including, fire, water, shelter. What no food? We humans can go a long time without food. Three weeks +. It sucks and is very uncomfortable but you won’t die. Not right away at least. Plus you probably have some food that you brought along for the hike anyway. Maybe bring some extra…just in case.

Lets have a look at the Rule of Threes. If you go beyond any of these “threes” you will most likely be dirt-napping.

  • 3 minutes without air
  • 3 hours without shelter (in bad weather)
  • 3 days without water
  • 3 weeks without food

Keep in mind that these are gross measures meant to be easily remembered and your mileage will vary. Air is typically not a survival mechanism in the mountains so I will ignore that one. That leaves shelter (and heat) and water. So, your kit should be sure to have those things that you need to put up a shelter and secure water, among other tools.

I carry most of my smaller survival stuff in a small nylon kit. The bigger stuff like shelter and 1st aid get their own kit.


My Survival Kit. Notice how it is Clearly Marked in Case Someone Else Needs to Dig it out of My Pack

This kit keeps all of my smaller survival components in the same place and well organized. As can be seen below, the kit has pockets and zippered compartments to keep all the items organized and safe.



My Kit Opened Up. It Is Compact and Well Organized

The picture below shows a detailed accounting of all the contents of the kit. There are several other survival items not pictured that I carry such as a bivy, 1st Aid, knife, ect.


The Survival Kit Components (Labeled)



Lets start with my shelter. Shelter is meant to get you out of the elements. Usually cold temps, precipitation, and wind. These things can kill you quickly…3 hours-ish (see above). A shelter keeps you from being exposed to these nasty environmentals that can cause hypothermia. A mild case of hypothermia will reduce your thinking, coordination, and ability to cope with other problems. A severe case will…you know…well, too long and again and you will be dirt-napping. A good shelter is small, light, easily deployed, and protects you from wind and precipitation and provides a bit of thermal insolation.

I have one of two types of shelters that I ALWAYS carry. The North Face Backpacker Bivy or the SOL Thermal Bivvy. See below:


The North Face Backpacker Bivy. It Weighs less than Two Pounds

Photo Courtesy of The North Face



The SOL Thermal Bivvy.

Photo Courtesy of Survive Outdoors Longer (SOL)

Which bivy (one “v” or two “v”s…I don’t know) I carry depends on forecasted conditions. If the weather where I will be hiking is forecast for anything but hot, I will carry the North Face. If I am willing to accept a bit more risk in milder conditions I will carry the SOL.

I have seen many shelters made from space blankets (real space blankets, not the Mylar type). However, for the type of hiking I do, shelter construction is not an option. I need a self contained ready made shelter for hiking at high altitudes above tree line. Anyone who has hiked for a season or two in the high country knows that the winds above tree line can reach horrific velocity. Just try to set up or build a shelter in a constant 25 – 35 miles per hour (or 55 mph). You will die before you get an acceptable shelter constructed and they will find your space blanket in Kansas. Below tree line a space blanket or similar, plus found material will most likely work if you know what you are doing. But not high up on a 14er. And that is why I carry a bivy. Open it up and climb in. Done.

The North Face Backpacker Bivy is less than two pounds and is absolutely wind and water proof. It can be set up nearly instantly by just throwing it down and climbing in. If I have time, I can set it up with the poles and have a cozy shelter. The SOL Bivvy, while not as bomb-proof, is acceptable in milder conditions and is lighter and smaller than the North Face. Pick one or the other.



Fire hot. Fire good. Fire can warm you up. It can dry wet clothing. It keeps all the boogey men away who lurk in the dark. It can serve as something to stare at. Try it…On a dark night a nice fire is as fun to stare at as a TV. As a note, where I hike there really is no reliable “stuff” to set on fire. Above tree line there is typically…uh…no trees or other fuel sources. Just rocks. So if I happen to be stuck high up on a peak there really will be no fire making options. That makes reliable shelter even more critical for me. However, if I am below tree line then I will have lots of forest material as fuel.

There are many ideas on what to carry for fire but you need two general categories of fire making. Fire starter and an accelerant. The starter will be something like matches, lighter, metal match or all of those. Accelerant is something you light on fire with the fire starter to get your larger fuel burning.

I swear by and carry REI type storm-proof matches (http://www.rei.com/product/617046/rei-stormproof-matches). These matches are like tiny flares. You can dump them in water and pull them back out and they will light. You can light them and dump them in water and they will relight. After you light them they will burn until they are consumed. You can get them in a dandy little container too! http://www.rei.com/product/820267/uco-stormproof-match-kit. I also carry lighters and regular matches. They are small and light so why not. Additionally, I carry a metal match. If everything else fails at least I have the metal match. Again, small and light. So I have lots of options to get fire started.

Second, for the accelerant I carry Trioxane. Ahhh yes Trioxane. This stuff will damn near light concrete on fire. Trioxane is a post-Vietnam era military meal heating tablet similar to Hexamine. It comes in various sizes but is usually packed in a military olive drab foil pack. Once the foil is opened the Trioxane tablet will deteriorate over the course of a few days/weeks. Trioxane will last forever if the pack is sealed. Most of my Trioxane was made in the 80s and all of it lights like crazy! This is my First Time, Every Time accelerant. They don’t make it any more but it can be found in surplus stores, Jax, and online.

To use Trioxane you simply open one end of the foil pack. You can break a piece of the tablet off or use the whole thing. If you use only part of the tablet you can reseal the foil and the remainder will last for a few weeks. Light the Trioxane with a match, lighter etc. and dump your fuel (kindling) on top. You are off the the races. It burns with a barely visible blue flame so don’t get burned.

This is the first choice for accelerants in my WTS and survival classes. There are other accelerants such as fire ribbon. But I don’t really want to carry a large heavy tube of flammable goo in my pack. But I hear it works well. Whatever you carry make sure you know how to use it in all sorts of conditions. First Time, Every Time!

Along with fire there are other self-explanatory comfort items to help keep you warm. I also carry a small space blanket. The one I carry, sold by SOL is not the noisy easily torn Mylar type. Its some sort of plastic. I would never depend solely on a space blanket, but again, its small and light and could be very useful to keep in body heat or reflect the heat of a fire. I also carry extra chemical toe warmers.



For water, all I can say is, carry some. You always do. A typical survival situation lasts at most a few days. Use the water you carried then you will have to find more water that needs to be purified. You can carry whatever you want to purify water. Pumps, chemicals, pens, whatever. I carry the chlorine tablets. They are safe, effective and very small and light. In dire circumstances you can drink untreated water you find in streams, lakes, or wherever. Most water born pathogens in Colorado like cryptosporidium or giardia take several days to weeks to activate in your body. Even if the water you drink has these pathogens you will hopefully be long rescued and at home when you get sick.



So what do you do after you have your shelter and fire built and your just sitting around waiting for rescue? How do you signal a rescuer? Two excellent tools are a whistle and signal mirror. There are MANY other signaling methods but these two should always be carried. Signal mirrors and whistles are reliable, effective, small, and light. Signal mirrors can send a bright flash of light miles and miles away to someone on the ground, the air, or wherever. This flash is unmistakable to rescuers. Or anyone really.

Whistles are great because they are very loud, carry a very long distance, and can be blown for hours. Try yelling and screaming for a few hours. See what that gets you. I recommend a whistle that can be used by hypothermic lips and easily grasped by hypothermic hands. See the Scotty below.


The Scotty Whistle.

Photo Courtesy of Scotty Firefighter


The Scotty is a really loud dual-tone whistle that is small but has good grips and a flange on the mouth piece so that it is easier to hold. I carry this whistle externally on my pack where I can get to it if I happen to be too injured to get into my pack. Keep it close, just in case.


Other Tools – Don’t take a Gun to a Knife Fight

I have a penchant for sharpened tools; Knives, multi tools, or Swiss Army Knives. I love them all and knives are invaluable in emergency (as well as everyday life) situations. For folding knives I really like Spiderco (http://www.spyderco.com/). Spiderco makes brilliant high quality knives and as an extra bonus they are located in Golden CO right off of Route 93. Check them out. Visit them at their outlet store. They are very helpful.

For a fixed blade knife I like SOG (http://sogknives.com/). They make a LOT of knives. some are crap. Others are very good. Their fixed blades are decent for the price. Another company who makes a fine albeit large fixed blade is KA-BAR (http://www.kabar.com/). The Becker Campanion is a bullet-proof fixed blade and its beautiful. Weighs a pound though. Check it out.

There are likely thousands of Swiss Army Knives. They are decent and I’m sure you will find one that works for you. I like the larger knives as they are more robust. I particularly like the Victorinox One-Hand Trekker. It’s a beefy (for Swiss Army Knives) useful knife that discards all the trendy useless crap and keeps a decent size knife, saw, can opener, etc.


Miscellaneous Tools

Another rescue tool I will begin to carry as of next season is a PLB or Personal Locator Beacon. I’m not talking about SPOT. SPOTs are not particularly reliable. Remember, First Time. Every Time. And as the PLB is your very very last hope for emergency rescue you want something that is damn near guaranteed to work…like a PLB. A PLB works through the global SARSAT – COSPAS systems. These systems are maintained 24 X 7 X 365 by several countries and provide GLOBAL monitoring via satellite coverage for receiving emergency signals.

One PLB device that comes to mind is the ACR RESQLink Beacon, however there are other capable devices. RESQLink has a built-in GPS receiver and a radio transmitter broadcasting on the SARSAT – COSPAS frequencies. In an emergency, like a dire, “I’m going to die” emergency you activate the beacon. The RESQLink automatically picks up your GPS position and transmits your personal ID code and position to the The SARSAT – COSPAS systems. This results in a search and rescue to your position. Yay!

When your chips are really REALLY down, a PLB can provide that piece of mind that may just help keep you sane and panic at bay until help arrives. These devices are not toys. They carry a hefty fine and possible jail time for misuse. Because these devices use the global SARSAT – COSPAS systems it is nearly guaranteed to work and activate a rescue. This system is far, far more reliable than the SPOT system which uses an entirely different method of operation.



The ACR RESQLink, This Device is About the Size of a Cellphone, Photo Courtesy of ACR

Also consider carrying a cell phone. They don’t always work but they do work quite often. If you have one, carry it hiking but do not count on it.

The other stuff like the compass and headlamp are part of the ten essentials and should already be in your pack already. But you better know how to use them. A compass and map are worthless unless you know exactly how to use them. We teach all of these skills in WTS from fire starting to map and compass and much more.

Another very useful emergency item is 550 Paracord. This stuff is great. As the name implies, the cord has a 550 pound capacity. It consists of 7 inner strands and an outer sheath. Cordage in an emergency situation is invaluable. It can be used for anything from shelter construction, fishing line, to securing loads and a host of other uses. For its size and weight it can’t be beat. Carry at least 50 to 100 feet of the stuff. Its cheap too! That sounds like a lot. But it goes fast when you put it to use.

Finally, purchase and carry a Colorado Search and Rescue (COSAR) Card. http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/DOLA-Main/CBON/1251592090523

Some folks call this rescue insurance. It is not insurance but it will reimburse portions of the rescue and transportation cost if you need to call out the cavalry to save your backside in the backcountry. Just check out the web site above for details and buy a card. Its only 12 bucks for 5 years.


First Aid

I did not coverer 1st aid kits in this posting. 1st aid is one of those things that compliments the emergency kit and stands alone. You can have a medical issue that is not an emergency and visa versa. The 1st aid kit is a post by itself. But I can say, as for the emergency kit, carry one and customize it specifically for your needs. But take one for sure and know what's in it. Make sure its contents are fresh and that you know how to use everything in it.



To reiterate this is not an exhaustive article on emergency and survival. It is meant to touch on the subject and give you my perspective on what I carry and why. It comes down to your risk acceptance and how much you are willing to carry. I believe that it sucks to carry all the stuff I do. But it would suck WAY WORSE to need something in an emergency and not have it.

Give the issue of emergency and survival some thought. Then plan your tools accordingly. You also may want to read the book, “Colorado 14er Disasters: Victims of the Game”, http://www.amazon.com/Colorado-14er-Disasters-Victims-Game/dp/1555664318/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1321546146&sr=8-1

This book is an excellent narrative on Colorado 14er accidents. Its well researched, well written, and an interesting, if short, read. Colorado 14er Disasters will give you some perspective on what can go wrong and how rescues are organized and executed.

I would love to get feedback on this post. I do not claim that what I carry is the “right” answer for everyone, or even me for that matter. My point is that I have given this issue some thought and put together a emergency/survival kit that I believe works well for my activities.

Get out there and hike, climb, have fun, and stay safe.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Boreas Mountain – Sometimes, Just A Little Dab Will Do Ya’


a Late Season Climb

Late Summer, early Fall…The best time to hike and climb. The weather is more stable. The colors more intense. The shadows are longer, and the trails less crowded. It was with this late season character that I began searching for a peak to climb that might provide an easy, fun, and relaxing summit.

Sometimes you don't actually need a big mountain to get that big mountain climbing experience. Sometimes you are just looking to get out and up into the high peaks and not be so summit oriented. That's not to say one does not want to stand on a summit. But rather, that the journey to get there does not have to necessarily be “Everestian” in effort

Originally Mike O’Hearn (14er Platinum Team lifetime member) and I had planned on climbing Mt. Buckskin on the 24th. However, construction on the Kite Lake access road and associated closures made that goal unlikely. But Buckskin remains listed as a future climb. After looking for a while at other peaks I finally settled on Boreas Mountain located off the summit of Boreas Pass South of Breckenridge and right in the heart of some damn fine looking terrain.

Mike and I made final plans and I was able to rope a past WTS student (and partner on Elbert this season), Laurence Hoess to join us for Boreas. This was a fine group to hike with.

Boreas Mountain is by no means a long or particularly difficult hike. Our route ended up being a pinch over three miles (round trip) and 1,600 feet elevation gain. But, I was specifically looking for a relaxed “stroll” in the mountains and to just have a fun time without all that bothersome challenge, rushing around, alpine start, and wading through tons of people with the same goal as you. We accomplished our goals well.

Boreas Mountain is a beautiful peak with alpine tundra at the trailhead and rugged rocky talus near the top providing a fun, scenic, and that “all mountain” experience all delivered through easy logistics and a celebratory meal in Breck.

Mike and I met at the CMC in Golden around 2:30pm on Friday and drove down 285 in perfect weather. We were headed to the Forest Service Selkirk campground. This campground is located close to Boreas Pass road below the summit of the pass. It is perhaps a 10 minute drive from the campground up to the pass.

We wanted to get to the campground relatively early to maximize our chances of getting a site. I was worried that the campground would fill up fast with the Fall colors and Boreas Pass being a popular viewing spot. But I was wrong. The campground never did fill up. It was perhaps at 60 percent full even by Saturday afternoon.

Selkirk comes highly recommended from me. It’s a naturally scenic place thick with healthy pines and wonderfully large and flat sites. The site had been previously “groomed” as we could see rake marks where the camp host had apparently made the site as homey as possible before our arrival. $10 bucks a night per site and it has a clean pit crapper as well. What else does one need? A swim-up bar would really top things off but…


Our Site at the Selkirk Forest Service Campground. Scenic, Roomy, Flat, and Clean…Two Thumbs Up!


Seeing Stars, Satellites, Meteors, and Andromeda

We arrived at Selkirk around 4:30pm. Mike and I scouted site 8 and found areas for each of our tents, unloaded the car, and generally relaxed shootin’ the shit and cracking jokes. Copious jokes. Mike knows lots of BIG words and he talks real good. We were also waiting for Laurence as he had to leave the Denver area later than Mike and I did. I had no idea when Laurence would arrive but I figured that it could be around 7ish.

I rehydrated my meal (teriyaki chicken) while Mike ate a gargantuan sandwich that he had trucked in from King Supers. We took a torque wrench to some beers and and sat back. After eating we felt like taking a walk around the campground. We walked around the short campground loop road and then out onto route 801. It was there that we happened upon Laurence wondering around looking for the campground. We directed him to site 8 and then studied the incredible view of Mount Silverheels.

Finally we were all present and in camp. The night was incredible. The Milky Way was obvious. We were able to pick out several transiting satellites. We also saw one of the brightest and longest lasting meteors I had ever witnessed. It fell North to South lasting about 1 to 2 seconds and had bluish-green colors. It could possibly have been, or related to, the NASA satellite that took the plunge about that time but I am not sure. Whatever it was, it was quite impressive and most assuredly gone now. We were also able to just make out the Andromeda galaxy. Impressive indeed.

The forecast called for severe clear for several days into the future. Because this was to be a “therapeutic relaxation” hike we decided not to wake until 6:30am. Much later than the usual 4:30am wakeup call. Heck…6:30 was down right sleeping in late!

We all awoke the next morning and readied for the hike in a sort of slow sloth-like manner. It was about 35 degrees and totally clear. This would be (and was) a great day. Mike who is usually more…uhhhh…”efficient” with his time before (and during, and after) a hike was oddly relaxed and really quite unmotivated to rush out to the trail head. Its all part of the new nearly-retired Mike. A more relaxed, unhurried, and just darn pleasant-to-be-around Mike.

We slowly arrived at the summit of Boreas Pass around 8ish I think. The entire Boreas Pass road is easily drivable by any sort of vehicle. We hopped out of Mike’s Honda CRV and geared up in the cold morning.


Boreas Pass Summit is Populated By Several Historical Buildings and a Boxcar



Boreas Mountain Rises About 1,600 Feet From the Pass Seen here in the Background Behind the Historical Plaque


Trail, What Trail?

The trip report from 13ers.com indicated “Leave the trailhead and walk past a building. Look for a small trail that heads east behind the building.” Well…we never did find the trail. I am sure its there. Pretty sure…I guess. In any case, anyone with a modicum of skill or talent related to outdoors route-finding could make their way to the summit of Boreas Mountain with or without a trail.


A Look Back to the Pass and its Buildings from just a Short Ways up the Slope Towards Boreas Mnt. I Don’t See Any Trail.

And so we did. It was straight forward to pick a line up the slope to the summit. The line that we did take was steeper and shorter than the alleged mythical trail. However, there is nothing difficult about taking a more direct line. Its just a bit steeper.


The Route We Took Was Pretty Much Straight Towards the Lighter Scree Slope (center frame) in the Distance and then Directly Up to the Bump on the Ridge

The three of us, Me, Mike, and Laurence started off, and up, across the mostly benign alpine tundra, which was studded with hundreds of tree stumps. The stumps had turned white-gray with age and made for a visually interesting landscape. This section of the climb eventually led to a steeper section of talus.


A look From Higher Up on the Slope Back Towards the Pass


Boreas is Really a big jumble of Talus

Boreas Mountain, despite it demur appearance, is really a giant jumble of busted up talus-sized rock above the tundra. You will be climbing over rock piles all the way to the summit once you enter the talus section. You can, of course, find high alpine tundra here and there while ascending but the terrain is predominantly rocky. Its fun…It gives this mountain a much more rugged “mountainy” feel.


Looking Northwest to Bald Peak. The Talus you Encounter on this Hike is Apparent in Foreground

It was hard to get images of Boreas as we climbed because the sun was rising directly over the peak. In fact we saw several sunrises as the sun peaked over the summit. We would then climb a bit more and the sun would drop below the summit only to reappear as it caught up with us again.

We picked our route through the rock and headed towards the ridge top that ultimately leads to the summit. Again, route selection is not difficult. The peak is obvious. We just made our route through the terrain that suited us.


Jumbled Chaotic Piles of Talus Nearing the Ridge Top. We Climbed the Mound Center Background.

Finally we made the top of the ridge and we were afforded incredible views to the North and East. The day was Blue-bird. The steepest part of the climb was behind us. We simply had to follow the ridge to the triple summit of Boreas Mountain.


Approaching the Top of the Ridge. From Here We Followed the Ridge to the Right (South south east)



Taken Along the Rolling Ridge, Mike Takes in the Views to the North and East. Bald Mountain in the Background.


Gaining the Ridge and on to the triple summit

We were about 12,800 feet as we climbed to the top of the ridge. Boreas is “only” 13,082 feet so there are just a few hundred feet to make from the ridge. Following the ridge you will encounter a few minor false summits but they are rather short in stature and fail to inspire much anxiety or frustration.


The Final Summit Hump Leading to the Rather Linear Summit Ridge(s) and the Highpoint That is Boreas Mountain’s Summit. The Trough is Located Between the Two Parallel Ridges.



Laurence (left) and Mike (right) Climb Over the Ever Present Talus on the Ridge to Boreas’s summit

This is a bit of a strange peak. It is comprised of two parallel ridges that make up the summit with an odd wide and flattened trough separating the ridges. Whence you finally gain the summit ridge you are nearly there. There are two high points on the higher Eastern ridge. The second, slightly farther, high point is the actual summit and it houses the register within a small crescent rock shelter.


Mike (front) and Laurence (rear) Make Their Way to Boreas’s Summit in the Distance

Its just a few minutes of easy hiking to the actual summit. And its quite scenic. The weird flattened trough is below and to your right. Vast views to the left. And the summit shelter at the top. There was no hurry to get there. It was a perfect day. Great company, and an incredible mountain with a ruggedness that belies its rather diminutive importance. We all reached the summit register and reveled in our scenic and relaxed success.


Mike (standing) and Laurence (sitting) Relax After We Made Boreas’s True Summit. Bald Mountain in the Distant Background. Bald Mike in the Foreground.



Summit Shot! Left to Right – Mike, Laurence, and Me

We all sat back and took in views, food, and hydration. It was about 11am. We had taken a good long while (2 – 3 hours?) to get to the top but we were all really happy. There was no hurry this day. Just enjoyment of the climb on a fine mountain accompanied by friends. The return route was was pretty much a direct descent in a nearly straight line from the ridge back to Boreas Pass, still hoping to find the elusive and stealthy “actual” trail. We never did find it. When we arrived back at the pass the parking area now full with cars and people seeking the fall colors.

Boreas is Highly Recommended. Its an easy climb. Its beautiful, and it is constructed such that it gives you the feel of a much longer tougher mountain. Do it before Boreas Pass closes.

If you liked this trip report. Or even if you didn’t, please have a look at my 14ers book, a common experience at:




GPS Route for the Boreas Climb. The Northern Route Was the Ascent.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mt. Antero, The Reward is at End of the Road


Its been a long long time. Blanca Peak, September 18, 2010.

That was the last time that Don, my usual hiking partner, and I last ascended a 14er together. This year he and his wife celebrated the birth of the their daughter right in the middle of climbing season. I mean really?! Who has babies during climbing season?

In any case, things had settled down enough for Don and family that Don’s wife graciously granted Don a weekend pass to climb. We had planned a few earlier dates but there was either too much snow or just bad weather. August 27 was to be the lucky day!

Don and I left the Denver area on Friday afternoon. By the time we got to South Park the clouds had started to fill in and it was sprinkling. When we got to Buena Vista (BV) it was raining and as we drove deeper and higher into the mountains towards Antero’s high trailhead it was pouring and looked pretty menacing. It appeared, at least then, that we may just have a night out camping in the rain and breakfast somewhere in BV the next day.

The local forecast called for 40% chance of thunderstorms for several days so we figured we would give Antero a shot if we got a good weather window. With the rain at campsite arrival however it appeared that the only climbing we would do would be back into the Jeep in the morning to head back down to town.

We arrived at the camping area at around 5:30pm near 10,850 feet just beyond the first stream crossing. We found a great spot and set up. We had enough tree cover that we could remain relatively dry. We set up our tents and rehydrated our “food.” Chili Mac with MEAT! and Beef Spew. Honestly they were pretty good. Well…they were good for freeze-dried at least.


Camp at 10,850 feet. This Shot was Taken After the Climb…That’s Why it isn't Raining.

Later in the evening the rain relented a bit and were were treated to one of the most intense sunset alpenglows we had ever seen. It was magnificent and Don was feeling pretty chipper to be back in the mountains after such a long absence.


A Preposterously Intense Sunset as Seen from our Campsite

Don and I agreed on a 4:30am wake up in order to get up and down Antero, hopefully, within a good weather window. We would wake up and see if it was raining at 4:30am. If so we would go back to sleep and try again in an hour.

As it turns out, it was not raining. When we popped out of our tents the sky was completely clear and the Milky Way and attendant stars were painted across the sky quite remarkably. We in fact did remark on its magnificence! The climb looked like a go.

We both attended to our morning duties and were ready to hike by around 5:30ish. We began hiking up the mining road and swiftly crossed the second stream crossing, at which point I realized I had left my hat back on the headrest (to dry) of the passenger’s seat in Don’s Jeep. So I dumped my pack and went back to camp then meeting again above the stream crossing about 15 minutes later.

Again we started off up the mining road. Below tree line it was so humid that my glasses were constantly fogged up. No breeze. Warmish temps. Plenty of humidity. It was rather frustrating. As soon as we ascended above tree line there was a slight breeze and there air seemed to dry out a bit. It was MUCH more comfortable.


A Typical Early Morning View of the Mining (Jeep) Road Just Above Tree Line

Walking on the road was not too bad. Roads can be, for those who have done this, a pretty crappy way to climb a 14er. They are not typically scenic. They can be uneven and rutted out, and rocky. As far as roads go however, the road up Antero is rather pleasant. It’s in good shape and it actually gets better as you ascend.


Point 13,870 Glows Against the Dark Foreground

The road seemingly winds back and forth and back and forth…for miles up towards Antero. Actually, seemingly is not the correct word. It really does wind around for miles as it ascends. Don and I were able to make great time on this part of the hike cruising up the road in what seemed like an improbably short time. The gloom and fogginess of early morning gave way to giddy cheerfulness. The weather was good but there were high altitude clouds beginning to blow in around the area providing a subtle warning that we had a specific time window in which to climb this thing.

We made our way up through 13,000 feet as the road takes a long loop around the South West shoulder of Antero. At 13,000 feet there is coincidentally a cairn built next to the road. As there were no other cairns to this point I can only guess that a thoughtful person built this cairn as a milestone for that altitude.

As we made our way around the loop we came upon a Forest Service informational sign. It describes many things including the Native American Chief Antero, wildflowers and gems which, can be found on or around these mountain.


Forest Service Sign on the Big Loop at 13,100 Feet



Don Rifles Through His Pack With A Colorful Point 13,870 in the Background

We stopped here for a break and for food. The remainder of the climb from here would be more steep. The weather still looked good although it was very slowly building by now into fair weather cumulous.

At about 13,200 feet the road turns a little nastier and steeper. It was at this point that we met two friendly girls who had left the Denver area at the insane hour of 2am in order to make the drive…all the way to 13,200 feet! We stopped and chatted as we smeared ourselves with sunblock. Our own selves…not each other.


Sharon (black) Tina (purple) and Don look at the Remaining Route up Antero



At this Point the “Road” Switchbacks Up Between the Two Points and Drops You at the Narrow Ridge Leading to Antero. The Brown Marker Center Frame is the Forest Service Route Maker – Route 278A

From here the road is much steeper, rockier, and narrow. It is still not too bad for the hiker but it sure slowed me down. Its really not all that bad. I am just not as fit as I would like and also I am carrying an extra 25lbs of unneeded bodily mass. It was also pretty hot.


Climbers Grinding Their Way Up the Rougher Portion of the Climb Towards the Ridge

At the top of the switchbacks we were thankfully delivered to the near-end of the ridge to Antero. The ridge may look a little imposing but it is never more than an easy Class 2 hike. There are a few portions where you have to use your hands to haul yourself up narrow, but short, rock crevasses, but it is enjoyable in a mildly challenging way.


First Close Look at the Ridge with Antero In the Background. This is the End of the Road, Literally.

The road ends here and even has parking for several vehicles. This is as far as many people ever come. From here they spread out to various portions of the mountain hunting gems. Peak Baggers continue on towards Antero over a beautiful ridge liberally sprinkled with interesting spires and other rock formations.


The High Point on the Ridge is Chemically Altered, Nearly White, Rock. It Contrasts Strongly to the Surrounding Geology.



Three Equidistant Spires Along the Ridge. This Ridge is a Beautiful and Fun Scramble.

Don and I continued on to the ridge with Antero well in sight. The weather was holding and it certainly looked as though we would make this summit. Don was energetically, but carefully, cranking his way along the ridge. The entire ridge took perhaps 15 minutes or so to traverse.

From the ridge and most of the final pitch we could see happy successful climbers on Antero’s summit. I would not call this a crowded peak. In fact it was rather more deserted than I thought it would be with just the “normal” number of climbers on the route. After completing the ridge we were delivered to our final pitch at the base of Antero. There were two choices. One route zig-zags easily up Antero’s southern slope. The other route blasts directly up the southwest shoulder to the summit.


Seven or so Climbers Ascending the Direct Route to Antero’s Peak

On the ascent Don and I elected to take the marginally longer but somewhat easier Southern route as I was feeling a bit winded. Don pulled ahead drawn by the urge to stand on his first 14er of 2011. I dawdled up the trail until I apparently took a wrong turn somewhere at a switchback. At this point I didn’t bother to find the actual route and I simply made a direct line up the last 100 vertical rocky feet to the summit. I arrived just a few minutes behind Don at around 10am.


Don (above) and Me (below) on Antero’s Summit Around 10:15am


I relaxed on the smallish summit of Antero with Don and just one other person. Amazing. Just one other person to share this summit with. We watched as the cumulous clouds began to build into something just a bit more exciting than the fair weather clouds that had been with us most of the day. It didn’t look like bad weather was imminent but we still had the down climb to, and then along, the exposed ridge. We both agreed that we did not want to be on that ridge if something more sinister were to develop from the formerly friendlier clouds.

Don and I descended the direct route down to the ridge passing a few groups of folks and exchanging some friendly mountain chatter. We crossed the ridge and then headed down. At about 13,200 feet we were surprised to see a small weasel. It was skittering about in the rocks then ran across the mining road where I got a good look at the thing. It was not a pika. It definitely had a long slender body and small ears. Interesting…I had never seen a weasel before outside of a courtroom. We also saw three ptarmigan near this area during our ascent.

Don and I finally reached camp a little after 1pm after endlessly negotiating the long switchbacks, dodging ATVs and 4X4s. It was a hot day. And little if any breeze. The heat really zaps me on these hikes. It was a great hike and Don was quite happy (relieved) to have a new 14er under his belt. The clouds really started to build and there was even the rumble of thunder as were packing up camp .

We stopped at the Coyote Cantina (http://coyotecantina.com/) in Johnson Village (near Buena Vista) for one of the best burritos in the world and a beer, then the long drive home to the Denver area through the vast expanse of 285 and South Park. Another great hike and it was great to be back in the hills with Don.

If you liked this trip report and photographs please check out my book at:


AnteroTRK, Aug 2011

GPS track, Aug 17, 2011. Round Trip Length About 10 Miles, and a Little Bit Better than 3,400 Feet Elevation Gain.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Mt. Elbert, Solitude It’s Not. But It Is Thoroughly 14,433 Feet Wonderful


Finally! 14+ feet and its already August. Crazy! Crazy I tell you. Last year I made it to 14+ feet at the end of May. But last year there was not the snow on the summits that we had this year. There is STILL snow up there now. It seems fitting that I would climb the highest Colorado peak after waiting so long to get started.

Mt. Elbert, 14,433 feet. The king of the 14ers in Colorado. And just a few feet shy of the highest continental 14er, Mt. Whitney located in California. While Elbert is indeed the highest peak in Colorado, it is not exactly challenging…technically. It is, pretty much any route you try, a long hike with plenty of steep portions. But it is essentially a walk up.

We chose the South Mt. Elbert trail originating near Twin Lakes. It’s a great trail with the typical long, steep, hot, aspeny approach. Its about 4.5 miles from the trailhead to summit. But you traverse aspen forest, krumholz, alpine tundra and rock. All along the way there is much to look at. It’s a rather pleasant hike.

It’s a good thing too. Cause you are likely to be hiking with many, many “friends.” Laurence and I started this hike at around 6:15am from the trailhead and still had a bunch of company. Typically when starting a hike this early there are few people. But, as Elbert is “easy”, close to Denver, and the highest summit on CO, it does attract the crowds.

I originally climbed Mt. Elbert in August of 2003…eight years ago. Things have changed since then. There are now a LOT more people on the trail. I finished my 40 X 50 14ers last year, and the proceeding years, with more distant and less travelled peaks including, Handies, Blanca, Uncompahgre Peaks. These are not as crowded as the closer-to-Denver-easier-hikes-that-anyone-may-drive-to mountains.

But I am not saying the crowds are a bad thing…always. Sometimes you need that remoteness and solitude that a high peak can provide. And sometimes its fun to tear up a mountainside with tons of folks. For some reason I rarely meet someone I would classify as a wanker in the mountains. Usually they are interested in the same things as me. They cooperate on the trail. And are generally pleasant to be around in those regimes above 13,000 feet.

Laurence and I were going to climb Elbert the weekend before but the weather was locked into the monsoon flow and there appeared to be a very high chance of thunder and lightening on Elbert. So we postponed one week to much better weather.

I found a campsite at the unexpectedly nice Forest Service Whitestar Campground near Twin Lakes. We had a great walk-on site. It oddly had no bugs. We got a late start on Friday 5th. And then there was a bunch of traffic. We stopped at the Dam Brewery in Silverthorne for dinner. It was excellent. We finally arrived at the campsite at around 9pm. It was dark. We wondered around a bit till we found the site and then were pleasantly surprised by it large size, levelness, and general layout. It was really quite nice. We set up our tents. Then took some time to look into the dark starry night. We saw the light of several satellites and the Milky Way in beautiful clarity. Around 10pm we retired to our respective tents for a 4:45am wakeup call.

4:45am came pretty damn early. Laurence and I roused ourselves, ate, organized gear, etc. We climbed into Laurence’s Forerunner and headed off for the trailhead just a couple of miles North past the Twin Lakes Campground arriving around 6am. After last minute preparations we were “boots-on-trail” around 6:15.

The hike starts out through some pretty dense foliage crossing a creek and finally climbing into a thick and beautiful aspen forest as it climbs steeply uphill.


The South Elbert Trail Winds its Way Through Some Rather Dense and Beautiful Aspen Forest

There are, as is typical of the Sawatch range, some pretty steep portions within the first mile or so of the hike. As you gain altitude you are afforded a beautiful view of Twin Lakes now increasingly below you.


The Trail Ascends Up Providing Views of the Twin Lakes Area Below

Finally the aspens begin to thin out and open up into alpine meadows near tree line. It feels good, for me at least, to get out of the trees. I much prefer hiking above tree line. I like the open rugged solitude of busted up rocks and high altitude alpine tundra. So it is with great anticipation that I welcomed the open meadows.


Laurence Stops just Above Tree Line for a Few Pictures. Twin Lakes in the Background

And finally the meadows transition to tundra. The trail in this potion of the hike has been widened and duplicated. At some points there are three or four distinct braided/parallel trails. But the way is clear and well travelled.

There were several groups of folks that we were “leapfrogging” along the trail(s). We would stop to rest. They would stop chat and move on. Then they would stop to rest. Repeat, for hours, and you get the idea.


Well Into the Tundra at Around 13,000 Feet We were Never Far from the Crowds. Elbert’s Summit in the Background.

The climb above 13,000 feet relented somewhat. Its still a grind but nothing too steep. Great scenery comes into view and we both got a good look at the people coming up the “standard route” about a half mile to the North using the Half Moon trail. You will be thankful to be climbing via the South Elbert Trail when you see how steep that trail is.

The trail turns to the SW to West and contours gently around the the upper portions of the peak just above 13,700 feet. At 14,100 feet the trail finally turns for its final summit pitch. At this point the climber STILL has over 340 feet vertical to ascend.


The Crowds are Visible Even From a Few Hundred Feet Below the Summit

At this point, Laurence and I slogged through the last switchbacks up the trail to the whooping and hollering crowds at the summit. The weather was great. It was warm and just a little breezy. Immediately below the summit I saw the precise point where the Half Moon Trail and the South Elbert Trail join, at right angles. I just found it amusing and interesting to stand on that spot. Maybe it was hypoxia. I don’t know. It seemed cool at the time that these trails that start miles apart and thousands of feet below finally meet just feet under Elbert’s summit.


The Exact Point where the Half Moon and South Elbert Trails Meet. Climbers in Background Ascending Half Moon. Climbers to Extreme Right Ascending South Elbert.

From the trail junction I turned for the last few feet to Elbert’s crowded summit. I could literally hear several conversations and people whooping in celebration at arriving upon the highest point in Colorado and indeed the second highest point in the Continual US. Mt. Whitney in California is about 72 feet higher. But heck, Whitney is in Cali.


Two Climbers Walk the Last Few Feet to Elbert’s Summit on a Well Worn Trail



Laurence (right foreground in green and black jacket) Takes in the Views and the Summit “Party”

I walked up the last few feet in total exhilaration at FINALLY reaching 14,000! Indeed 14,433 feet! It was August 6 and here I was finally tottering around on a 14er summit this late in the year. What the Hell!? It felt great! Laurence and I had had a great climb. Excellent conversation. Incredible views and meeting many MANY friendly folks along the way. The weather was perfect with just some fair weather cumulous drifting by above. Not even that far above.


A Bunch of People on the Summit. There were More Dogs on Elbert’s Summit than I Usually see People on Other 14er Summits.



Another Look (NE) at the Summit Crowds. Two Ladies We Met on the Summit (Julie left in red, Jodie right in purple)

Laurence and I talked with lots (LOTS) of folks on the summit. It seemed we were in the prime photo spot as group after group asked if we could snap their summit picture…Which we did, happily.

One pair of folks who we met was Jodie and Julie shown above. Very nice ladies from Grand Junction who we ended up talking with on the summit. Elbert was Jodie’s first 14er and Julie’s 4th.

I (and I am guessing most 14er climbers) typically poo poo crowded hikes. But Elbert is different. I guess because we expected that it would be crowded. Well…maybe not this crowded. But anyway, it was absolutely fun. Everyone was joyful, almost manic as is often the case in the thin air of 14,000+ feet. But as Jodie said, “it was fun to be a part of the energy of the crowd.” I completely agree.


The Heroic Summit Shot of Me (left) and Laurence (right) on the Summit of Elbert

The trip back down was uneventful. We followed our ascent route and passed a lots of people still coming up. The hike, as hikes often do, dragged on and on…and on. This was a nine mile round trip. While not super long, it is not trivial, especially if you factor in the 4,000 foot ascent. And it was a rather hot day.

We arrived back at the trailhead around 2:30pm. Not a bad time considering the 6:15 start and the time spent on top. Laurence and I drove back to the Whitestar Campground from the trailhead where we struck camp and then headed off to the Golden Burro in Leadville to fill our pie holes with a burrito. The Golden Burro has been hit or miss in the past. But on this day it was a definite hit!

The service was excellent and the food fantastic. And the waitresses were all dressed in period clothing (which was oddly alluring) because we were coincidentally in Leadville during “Leadville Boom Days.” See http://www.leadvilleboomdays.com/ for more info.

Elbert was a great climb and Laurence a great climbing partner. Along with the “cast-of-thousands” this late (in my season) 14er hike was a success!

If you enjoyed reading this trip report, and honestly, how could you not, please have a look at my recently published book, “a common experience.” You can find information here: http://4000meters.blogspot.com/2011/03/please-have-look-at-my-recently.html.

Elbert Aug 6, 2011

GPS Route of the Elbert Climb