29 September 2016

Stardate 2016.745

Padilla Bay catches early light at a low tide. In the background float the eastern San Juan Islands.

The MS 150 – Washington Style – Concludes

Welcome back, ladies and germs. Are we ready for Day Two? Let's go...

No islands today; we stay on the mainland and start by heading north toward Bellingham, Washington. I hope you enjoy the pics as much as I did shooting them! You have to love early morning light. Top o' the day to ya!

This ride was through some very pastoral settings.

We just made a turn and are heading west toward the coast.

To the northeast rise the foothills of the serrated north Cascade Mountains.

The opposite side of Padilla Bay houses another mill of some sort (possibly wood products).

It's the Snowcatcher shadow dancing.

That's it for the MS ride. There's more Pacific Northwest to come though; stay tuned.


27 September 2016

Stardate 2016.740

The Deception Pass Classic

Day One's ride sped off to a good start. Our route took us to the port of Anacortes on Fidalgo Island. Then we rolled south toward Deception Pass and Whidbey Island for lunch. The return to Mount Vernon was a different, albeit scenic coastal route. I like riding on the coast. However, sometimes I feel like there's too much air. Maybe it's because I live at 5,700 feet, I don't know. (Yes, you can roll your eyes!) I seem to ride rather sluggishly at sea level.

The overcast skies released an occasional droplet of water and kept things on the cool side. Ambient coastal conditions also helped with Fahrenheit control. Below is one of Day One's morning views north while en-route to the port at Anacortes, Fidalgo Island.

Another morning view south while heading to Fidalgo Island and Anacortes.

I'm pretty sure this is the Swinomish Channel, which is the eastern separation of Fidalgo Island with the mainland.

It's time for breakfast! Thanks, volunteers and Swinomish Tribe.

The bike route crossed a portion of Fidalgo Bay. The bridge is about 0.5 mile long and not very high above the water. I'd like to see what it looks like at high tide. A volunteer was sweeping broken shells off the path to mitigate any potential tire punctures.

The eastern San Juan Islands come into view.

The only picture I took of Deception Pass during the ride. It was a madhouse of bikes and traffic. Vehicles were stopped by state troopers to allow large groupings of bikes to safely cross the narrow bridges. For context, the opening blog photo is of Deception Pass and was taken in 2014.

What's for lunch? How about roasted chicken, sticky rice and salad? Mmmm... Good stuff, Maynard!

There's something about being in a temperate rain forest. The wet season is right around the corner.

This is probably some sort of wood-products mill. I was too lazy to pedal over and see for myself. There's a very tall reason this area is a global logging center.

My final stop for Day One was again along the Swinomish Channel at the Swinomish Tribal Center.

Stay tuned. More Northwest to come.


24 September 2016

Stardate 2016.732

MS-150 – Washington Style

Snowcatcher and I recently returned from a whirlwind trip to the Pacific Northwest. If you've never been there, you should try to visit sometime. It's a hoot. And scenic, too. Our main objective for the trip was to visit good friends and participate in the MS-150 fundraising bike ride. To shake it up a bit this year, we chose to volunteer for the Colorado Multiple Sclerosis Chapter and ride for the Washington Chapter. Moreover, I attended graduate school in the Pacific Northwest, and it's always nice to visit again.

We left after work, and our route took us from Denver to Casper, Wyoming. The next morning we made a B-line to Yellowstone National Park – a very cool place! Following Yellowstone, we had an easy Interstate drive across Montana and Idaho to Spokane, Washington. In Spokane, we had our finest room, and I'll leave it at that! The next day was a long drive across Washington and up the coast to the Mount Vernon / Burlington area for the ride. At Mount Vernon, we were about 50 miles due south of the Canadian border. We also were due west of the jagged, snow ramparts of the north Cascade Mountains.

After checking into our hotel, we returned for the pre-ride spaghetti dinner at the Skagit County Fairgrounds. The fairground was the staging area for the event both days. The only thing missing were Future Farmers of America and 4H kids and their stock. Following are some pics from the eve of the ride. I'm used to parking in dusty gravel and/or dirt lots. The grass was pretty nice.

By the time we left for the evening, the lot had filled up, as had the tent camping area.

One of the most important and unsung jobs is in the hands of the Honey Dippers. They deliver and maintain Honey Buckets. Love 'em or hate 'em, they're extremely important.

The U.S. Navy had a strong team. There's lots of Navy stuff in these island areas – I love it!

Hydrangeas were everywhere. Here at home, we're expecting mountain snow this weekend.

These two friends of mine are among thousands of recipients of services provided by all your wonderful donations each year!

Thank you donors!

It takes lots and lots of volunteers to pull off these events. Thanks, volunteers!

Well, there's a preview. Up next on the docket is the Day One ride. Later gator!


12 September 2016

Stardate 2016.699

Teakettle before it lost its spout (July 1993).

Tea Time

Once again I’ve a bit of summit fever today. I'm not sure why. The good weather riding and mountaineering season edges up the difficulty stick over the next several months. Often, as difficulty increases, so does the fun meter. Maybe my subconscious is trying to tell me something. Who knows! Nonetheless, while perusing old photos and trip reports, I started reminiscing about a favorite summit, an itty bitty summit that comfortably allows only two climbers. That alone warrants a cup of fine tea.

Teakettle Mountain sports an elevation of 13,819 feet, ranking 98th in elevation in Colorado. Peaks on the 100-highest list are known as Centennials. Teakettle holds the number two altitude slot in the Sneffels Range, an east/west sub-range of the northern San Juan Mountains. If you have traveled Colorado's Highway 62, Teakettle is one of the numerous points serrating the sky in the rugged row of summits shadowing the highway between Ridgway (no e in this Ridgway) and Dallas Divide.

Teakettle (left) and Potosi Peak (13,786 ft) touching the sky in June 1993.

The igneous rock in this region provides a glimpse into the Lower to Middle Tertiary Periods, dating 20 to 70 million years ago. The prehistoric volcanic activity was widespread and violent. From many vantage points, Teakettle is aptly named. However, during the 1998-1999 winter, the spout fell off. Teakettle is one of several Centennials that are technical by their easiest route.

Teakettle's airy summit; Potosi provides the backdrop.

Tidbit: The monarch of the area is 14,150-foot Mount Sneffels, probably my favorite 14er to climb, especially the deeply inset snake couloir poised on the north face. The name Sneffels originates from the Jules Verne classic Journey to the Center of the Earth. In 1874, while crossing Blue Lakes Basin, directly below Mount Sneffel’s southwest face, a member of the Hayden Survey compared the high basin with the hole in the earth in Verne’s classic. Dr. Frederick Endlich, a scientist with the survey, exclaimed, “There’s Snaefell,” in regards to the Icelandic mountain located in the vicinity of the hole (Bueler, 1986). Having spent numerous days in Blue Lakes Basin, I can vouch that not only is it a delightful hole, but arguably harbors one of the finest wildflower displays in the state. It’s a magical place to lie and watch peaks and clouds spar with each other.

Majestic Mount Sneffels (left) rises above Blue Lakes Basin in fall.

Teakettle was first climbed in 1929 by Rolfe and Alonzo Hartman. Yet, by the mid-1970s, Teakettle was one of the few peaks with only several pages of names in its summit register. In fact, its neighbor Dallas Peak (13,809 ft, rank 100), did not entertain a third ascent until 1976 (Bueler, 1986). I didn’t find the technical portion to be difficult; it’s a short one-pitch hop onto a tiny summit — a tiny 3- by 7-foot summit. The overall climb consumes time; the rotten volcanic rock covering very steep slopes can be tedious at best. Hence, a serious undertaking from a weather and potential rockfall standpoint; there are no easy bail points. We were blessed with a blue bird day.

Todd, my climbing cohort, gives some context to Teakettle's handle hole.

Until we meet again...


Literature Cited
Bueler, William M. 1986. Roof of the Rockies: A history of Colorado mountaineering.
Cordillera Press, Inc. 251 pp.

07 September 2016

Stardate 2016.685

Take a Peek at Capitol Peak

I'm in a reminiscing mood; how about a change from riding and visit one of Colorado's loftier heights? Capitol Peak is a 14,130-foot peak located in west central Colorado's Elk Mountains. Capitol is the third-highest peak in the Elk Range and one of the reigning monarchs of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area. The peak is located 39  09.012' N, 107  04.970' W. and is the 29th tallest peak in the state. As the crow files, Capitol is 14 miles northwest of Aspen, 20 miles north of Crested Butte, 79 miles east of Grand Junction and 119 miles southwest of Denver.

The peak is considered one of the more challenging 14ers (a peak over 14,000 feet in elevation) to scale, if not the most difficult. The complexity has something to do with a tasty knife-edge arĂȘte separating its upper northeast ridge and point 13,664 (known as “K2”). By its easiest route, Capitol is rated class 4 when dry; you'll be doing some hand and foot work. Some parties pull out a rope. On the other hand, the airy ridge has been "tight-roped" by a handful of fearless souls. Personally, I thought the knife edge to be solid and fun. I had more concern with the crumbly upper east face. In any event, Capitol is a time-consuming peak and should not be taken lightly. Unlike the reddish, diseased and rotting terra of the Maroon Bells, Pyramid and Castle, which touch the clouds several miles to the south, Capitol boasts several technical routes on its stunning north face. Nonetheless, the rock is still quite loose.

The tall grass and meadows of wildflower displays in this range are eye-catching. Former Aspen resident and
singer John Denver had it right when he penned "Rocky Mountain High".

Following is a fun write-up from my mountaineering past.

13 July 2003
Capitol Peak, 14,130 feet

My climbing partner Todd and I have been hoping to ascend Capitol for a while, and a climbing club trip report further fueled the desire. Zeus and company always beat us back on previous attempts. We decided to try and climb it as a day trip. On Sunday, July 13, we attained our goal.

At 11 p.m. Saturday, we left Grand Junction, Colorado, and headed toward Aspen and the Capitol Creek trailhead. At 1:45 a.m. we entered the quakies via the ditch trail under a fantastically bright full moon. Our headlamps were left off much of the time, and the tug of a moonlit Capitol Peak was not only strong, but bordering surreal. After crossing Capitol Creek, we entered a small clearing in the riparian area. In the dim, creamy light, the clearing was speckled with odd, yet similar rocks rising about three feet. "Weird," I thought to myself. At that same instant, all of the dark shapes changed form, catapulting upward in a chaotic flurry! Having jumped out of my shorts, I was already halfway to the moon. In our game of "I spook you, you spook me" we realized we had startled a group of bedded cows and couldn't have been more centered amongst them. Turning on headlamps, Todd offered me one of his walking poles as we worked our way through the bovine without getting squished.

At 4:15 a.m. we arrived at mystical Capitol Lake (11,580 ft) and stared in awe up Capitol Peak's glowing north face. After pumping water and savoring a snack, we headed up to the pass that splits Mount Daly (13,300 ft) from Capitol. So far everything had been smooth sailing. We continued up onto the snowfields of the basin leading to "K2" (13,664 ft) and found the snow had somewhat froze overnight and required a bit of care. We had ice axes, but not crampons.

A little after 7:00 a.m., we topped "K2." The view is something you have to see for yourself — pure and simple. This was the farthest I had ever been, and I was excited for the remainder. We dropped off the north side of "K2" and swung west around to the famous knife-edge ridge. The knife was easier than anticipated and a lot of fun. However, throw in some weather, et cetera, and it may be another story; you are very aware of the exposure. After the knife-edge ridge we worked our way up the east face. Several routes were cairned. We followed a route that heads out onto the east face at the same elevation and slowly works its way up to some sandy, debris-covered ledges. From the west end of the knife ridge, there is another cairned route that works its way up the ridge a short distance before heading out onto the east face. We used this latter route on the descent, and I thought it went better. However, it looks worse when viewed from the end of the knife ridge. Both routes merge in the vicinity of the debris-covered ledges. The view of Snowmass Mountain, Pierre Lakes and the Maroon Bells from this perch is astounding. At 9:10 a.m. we reached the top after taking an airy route along the upper portion of the northeast ridge. For me, scrambling up the east face was dicier than the knife ridge. The views from the summit are worth every drop of sweat shed to get there. The first peak to catch our eye was 14,092-foot Snowmass Mountain. I climbed Snowmass in 1993 and often get the urge to visit again.

Four Elk Range 14ers rise left to right: Pyramid Peak (14,018 ft), North Maroon Peak (14,014 ft), Maroon Peak (14,156 ft) and Snowmass Mountain (14,092 ft).

This is a nice tidbit. Minutes after reaching the summit, a young guy came flying up the northwest ridge. We knew of another party doing the Northwest Buttress route, and this guy wasn't part of them. As it turned out, he had soloed the Northwest Buttress route. The part I like is that he left Capitol Creek trailhead at 5:00 a.m., started climbing at 7:00 a.m., and reached the summit at 9:10 a.m. Four hours! Yeah, that's motoring! Soon it was time to go. Todd is seen finishing a descent of the knife edge with K2 in the background.

The trip back to the trailhead was enjoyable; yet, the tired bug was beginning to have a strong bite. All in all it was a fantastic day, mosquitoes not-withstanding. We didn't hear a gurgle of thunder until we were well into the trees. Our total trip time was 14:20 hours over approximately 17 miles, including 40 minutes of summit time, and some lounging and playing during the descent. If you do this in a day, state law requires you make sure you have a barley pop waiting so you can sip and savor Capitol from the trailhead — an excellent savoring site in itself.

Capitol has a rugged west face.

Capitol has a very rugged south face as well.

I hope you enjoyed Capitol Peak!


01 September 2016

Stardate 2016.668

The late 1800s rail-grade up the South Platte River is a nice portal into Colorado's Front Range.

Another Quickie...

I took advantage of some time and jetted up Waterton Canyon to the start of the Colorado Trail. It had rained well into the previous night, and the forest was a bit on the humid side. I grew up in the high desert plateaus of western Colorado, and I can tolerate 15 to 25 percent. Up the humidity to 50 percent or more and I get real cranky. I can only imagine what humidity in the 90 percent range must be like. I guess you get used to it. Humidity aside, it was a very nice ride.

The South Platte River appeared a bit high for this time of year, indicating a possible large release from Strontia Springs Reservoir in order to catch last night's storm water. From a wildlife angle, I thought rattlesnakes would be out sunning post-deluge; I didn't see a one. Following are some pics from the ride.

Late summer blooms enjoying the rain and humidity.

Approaching the summit, wheeze, wheeze.

There is delightful singletrack high above the South Platte River and Strontia Springs Reservoir.

The aptly named Bear Creek descends on the left toward its confluence with Strontia Springs Reservoir.

That wasn't so bad. See you next time.

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