26 May 2014

Stardate 2014.400

Turret Ridge, West Fork Cimarron River

Rose of Cimarron

Well, here I be, in front of a screen on a three-day weekend. What's this all about? So far, it's been a wet, windy, muddy and lightning-infested weekend. I'm a bit bored, reminiscing about fun stuff. Sooooo..., how about a climb? Coxcomb Peak? It's one of my favorites. The climbing is lower 5th-class in a spectacular location. I've climbed it only once. On the other hand, I've spent a lot of time in the Cimarron area and have enjoyed Coxcomb's diverse seasonal moods.

Redcliff 13,642 ft (L) and Coxcomb 13,656 ft from the summit of 12,152 ft Courthouse Mountain at sunset

end of the season for these sunflowers on the slopes of Courthouse Mountain

Coxcomb is a stately mountain at the head of the ridge separating the West and Middle Forks of the Cimarron River in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Rising to 13,656 feet, Coxcomb makes Colorado's high 200 list at number 171. Several miles to the east, Colorado's sixth highest, Uncompahgre Peak, pierces the sky at 14,309 feet. Wetterhorn Peak, a little over a mile to the southeast, rises to 14,015 feet and is Colorado's 49th highest peak.

Coxcomb and Snowcatcher proposal area

Alpine Sunflowers, Middle Fork of the Cimarron, Red Cliff, Precipice Peak

The San Juan Mountains, often referred to as the American Alps, tickle the belly of southwest Colorado's wide open sky. The range consumes a large area and in my opinion is Colorado's eminent range. It's a mountain utopia where the tundra blanketing the alpine appears to have its own shade of green. Myriad wildflowers grace the landscape throughout the lush monsoon season of July and August. The rusty brown, red and yellow earth tones of fading fall tundra provide yet another patchwork of color as well.

Coxcomb Peak's Northwest Face

Frosty Lupine in the Middle Fork of the Cimarron

Geologically, exposed strata of Precambrian granites can be found as well as sedimentary Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic Era rock. Topping things off are glacial till deposits of the Pleistocene Epoch. As stated by geologist Donald Baars, "the San Juan Mountains are, then, the antithesis of the Grand Canyon in that a greater section is exposed in a mountainous rather than canyon setting. Both are magnificent."

Preparing to rappel into Coxcomb's summit ridge cleft

West Fork of the Cimarron River from Coxcomb's ridge cleft 12,152 foot Courthouse Mountain and 11,781 foot Chimney Rock  in photo center

Climbing out of Coxcomb's ridge cleft

Coxcomb's first known climbers summited in 1929. In that year, San Juan mountaineers Dwight Lavender and Forrest Greenfield made it to the large cleft along the summit ridge. Two days later, Henry Buchtel and party, armed with a rope, cleared the crux cleft and cruised to the actual summit. In August of 1965, Dick Yeatts, Mike Stults, Dick Guadagno and Martin Etter set a route on the north face of Coxcomb. There are two (probably more) routes — the north face and the southwest chimney. I have not found any record of a first winter ascent, although, by now, there's a good chance it's been pulled off. Throughout the year, climbing problems may include wet, icy, snow-covered rock, thunderstorms (almost daily during the monsoon season), climbing exposure, loose rock and avalanche.

Looking down Coxcomb's summit ridge toward cleft (top center photo)

Hamming it up on Coxcomb's summit

Easiest access is via either the West or Middle Fork of the Cimarron River. The West Fork makes for a delightful day trip. The Middle Fork is longer and the climb could be done in a day. However, backpacking in to take in all the upper Middle Fork has to offer may be better. It's a magnificent area even if you don't climb.

Fairy Primrose, Coxcomb, Red Cliff, Middle Fork Cimarron River

The Middle Fork of the Cimarron

13,642 ft Redcliff (L) and 13,656 ft Coxcomb wide angle from treeline while ascending 12,152 ft Courthouse Mountain for a sunset view.


Descending chimney on Coxcomb's southwest side

22 May 2014

Stardate 2014.389

Captain Ahab

From hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee. Ye damned whale...

Each year Snowcatcher and I pilgrimage to the land of sandstone for my birthday. By then Moab usually is flirting with temps into the 90s. Not so this year, as it was a wee bit wet with lows into the 30s and highs touching the upper 40s and low 50s. But that's okay, the deserts mystical magic is at its finest when assaulted from above.

Desert flowers were approaching full bloom and robustly soaking in their lifeblood. The Fisher Towers were even more spellbinding in the swirling mist. Left to right is King Fisher, Echo Tower (in the shadows), Cottontail and The Titan. It would have been a good day to kick back and read the exploits of Layton Kor, the first to lay a route to the summit of Titan. I've been fortunate to visit the Moab region a lot, having grown up two hours to the northeast. However, I haven't mountain biked a handful of newer trails. On the list this year were Hymasa and Captain Ahab, both of which are located on Amasa Back, but don't use much of the Cliffhanger jeep trail anymore.

After a stream crossing of soupy sediment that was a bit below hub height in depth, it's up, up and away on Moab's magnificent sandstone. The Hymasa trail steeply rises above Kane Creek Canyon and is a two-directional trail (you can ride both directions).

Exquisite views of the Behind the Rocks area fill your senses.

Princes Plume

As storm Zephyr slowly cleared, the sun began to play. However, the La Sals maintained their shrouded tops. As for flowers, yellow Princes Plume were having a very bright year.

At the end of Hymasa, Captain Ahab(one direction downhill) takes off and wraps around the west edge of Amasa Back before zig zagging back down toward Kane Springs Canyon. Ahab rejoins Hymasa and the jeep road just above the stream crossing.

I didn't see any white whales, but certainly felt like a whale on some of Capatin Ahab's techy stuff. It's a beautifully designed mountain bike-specific trail with lots of technical riding. Spending too much time on the road bike and want to reclaim some of your tech skills? Visit Captain Ahab. It graces the current issue of Mountain Flyer as well.

Vibrant beds of violet aster presented a picturesque end to an outstanding ride. Yet again, Moab delivers.

18 May 2014

Stardate 2014.378

I'm Back

Fire on Ice

Hi, all! After a several-year hiatus, I'm back for some blogging. As with my previous effort, this endeavor won't be a daily journal. My goal is to share activities as they happen. At times I may not be very consistent and flowy, as compared to the exquisite sandstone layering found in the Coyote Buttes/Wave/White Pocket region of southern Utah and northern Arizona. Rather, I'm hit and miss. Nonetheless, for me, it's a great way to keep-up on writing and maintain HTML/software skills.

The Wave Proper

Cosmic Sandstone

Venturi Effect

Arroyo Lizard is the nickname I acquired in the late '80s while performing geomorphic field work for Colorado State University throughout the Colorado Plateau region of the southwestern states. Put simply, I enjoy basking on warm sandstone and the nickname kind of stuck. It was shortened to Lizard in the early '90s by workmates, and it's been as such since.

Long long ago, in a place far far away...

Bicycles probably are my main gig in terms of time spent engaged in leisure activity. I have a two-wheeled relationship that went into high gear back in 1968 on a green Schwinn Sting Ray. As I entered my teens, I discovered motorcycles and contested motocross and desert races, soon discovering it was out of my budget. Then it was off to University and bicycle commuting to class and work; a rekindled affair with the bike began.

The Lizard left his Iron Horse number on his bike until he could get some altitude.  Had to earn the number!

Almost to the Top

Touching the sky is another form of enjoyment in which I've participated for many, many moons. Currently, I've summited 43/54 of Colorado's peaks rising above 14,000 feet. I could easily finish them, and probably should. However, my interest in mountaineering has changed a bit. I'll leave that for blog fodder down the road. I've also visited interesting 13,000-foot summits, interesting 12,000-foot summits..., you get the picture. Graduate studies took me to Oregon, where I summited Mount Hood, Oregon's highest, twice, including a day attempt on Oregon's second highest, Mount Jefferson. Regretfully, photos from 1980s Oregon are unaccounted for at the moment. Although, I could bore you to death with slides of my field work in Oregon's Coast Range. Etched in my mind, however, is the view across a sea of Pacific Northwest clouds. Seemingly buoyant in the clouds and basking in the sun were Mounts Rainier, Adams, St. Helens and The Three Sisters. Absolutely Beautimous!


Wheeler Geologic Area

14ers Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn from Coxcomb's summit

Coxcomb's summit

As the above indicates, it doesn't take much to appease me. Moreover, I'm privileged to live in the middle of it all with a beautiful wife with which to enjoy it. I like to help her catch snowflakes. Perhaps you know her.

However, what really gives me warm fuzzies inside, almost to a spiritual level, is the canyon country of southern Utah and western Colorado; especially when visiting aboard a bike. Perhaps it's because I grew up in Colorado just a stone's throw from Utah. I don't know. But I still have impatient, sleepless nights prior leaving for the canyon country. I get fuzzies before an alpine adventure, too. But not warm fuzzies. There's a difference; it's not the same. I hope to post a plethora of photos from the eroded and slotted land of sandstone.

Fire & Rock

Petrified Dunes

Ancient Stone Steps

the Titan, Fisher Towers, Utah

I do have one other skill of note. Professional Elk Charmer.

elk charmer

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