Thursday, October 1, 2009

Carpe Diem

So lacking motivation is something that I've corrected, like every other phase I fall into I've now been bitten by more technical climbing. I still can't find the motivation to write a trip report even though I aspire to one day compile them for a tribute like rendition of Halfway to Heaven.

Though I've swore off technical climbing just like a free soling purist swears off a day fighting the elements just to turn back because of it didn't feel right. I've given it a chance and found that it motivates me in a different way, not unfamiliar but lost.

While I find gratification in my endevour to reach the limits of fortitude, technical climbing or what I've experienced has brought out the competative spirit again. It's nice to be in a place where others have something to offer in terms of a challenge. Not in an egotistical sense but because I'm just the kind of person that strivea in the situations that I apply. It's nice to be humbled, to watch a 12 year old girl move with grace and ease through a move that you've spent more than a week studying and muscling. To not be concerned with being the best because it ain't goona happen right now. Kind of like when I began the martial arts, only interested in the knowledge.

All of this comes on after a few good weeks of "re-motivation" Lake Como did it for me. The two day excursion up a very long road, if you could call it that... harder than many of the 14'ers I've seen. Little Bear was a trial. I don't know if I forgot what mountaineering means because I've been bathing in the gluttony of sunny skies, warm nights and care free decisions but Little Bear was a reality check. From miss estimating the time of sunrise to free soloing well above my safety level. Regardless it reminded me of why I started mountaineering, the enjoyment of being in dangerous situations.

Following Lake Como, I took some down time which started as a tourist ascent of Cameron, Lincoln and Bross and ended after a true to winter turn around from the summit of Cameron and a re-ascent of Bross from the trailhead. As much as I dread winter (only for the driving) it's nice to get back into that survival mentality.

Did some technical climbing in Clear Creek this weekend and found after climbing the hour glass in the conditions on Little Bear, being on a top rope and making the crux is the least I should be afraid of. An interesting story concerning this climb, at the start of the route we did we were on a ledge about 30 feet above a class 4 section into Clear Creek. Nothing to be afraid of but not something you would want to fall down, we even went as far as to tie into some pro while we belayed and stood around. At the end of the day I dropped my helmet which fell to the river and floated downstream. As we left Leo noticed it submerged on the opposite side of the river. We ended up doing a tyrolean traverse to the opposite side to retrieve it.

And finally bouldering has continued to progress, I'm now onsighting most of the rec problems which are typically in the V4- range and completing multiple intermediate ones, the latter being up in the V5-V8 range. That's up to and including 5.13 moves and for those that think it doesn't count when you're not humping over the 5.7 terrain to get there, I seen many "bad ass" climbers in the gym that blast up the hardest routes, take a step off some of the easiest problems. A crux from the first move. Blisters and wounds have moved from my palms to my knuckles and now to my finger tips. I open doors with with two fingers only on the tips, lift weights using only the inside of my knuckles but still am put to shame by that damn 12 year old girl.

But I stuck a dyno all night tonight.

The unibomber is back.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Just a General Lack of Motivation

Not only am I lacking in motivation when comes to writing up climbing reports, which at this point must be at least six months and 10 climbs behind, I'm lacking in motivation for climbing in general. This past weekend being the second weekend in a row that I didn't climb, I think it's a combination of many factors. This break coming after a sprint of around 10 weekends straight of climbing, all but 2 being overnighters. Obviously I needed a break.

To be truthful, though I haven't written any reports up, I've now climbed 4 of the most challenging/exposed/exciting 14ers and at this point I just don't have the motivation to climb anything that isn't at least class 4 or difficult class 3. I surely don't want to walk up a class 1 or 2 ridge with a bunch of tourists that drove their 4wd's up to the trialhead to bang out the hardcore accomplishment of the decalibron in summer, a capstone to finish off their 5th 14er. Fortunately the winter is coming again and the easy routes will be mostly empty.

After driving up to the capitol peak trailhead in my Lexus sedan I have a bit of a sour taste for any trailhead that doesn't have paved access or easy 2wd description. Unfortunately if the trailhead has paved access than I feel it's a waste to do the route in summer, should be saved for winter. I'm actively working to solve the 2wd/low clearance problem though, should have a solution by early next year.

I still consider technical climbing (that isn't required on an alpine route) to be a sport activity. This with the caveat that I'm not good enough to climb anything more hardcore anyway. Despite this I've developed an excessive preoccupation with gym bouldering. For the past month I've been going at least 3 times a week. I've really taken to it. At it's easiest its like climbing a 5.11 route compacted into only the crux. You step up and within one move you're already on an overhang with a heal hook. Anyway, the downside is that being new to the activity I have perpetual open sores between every knuckle on both hands. God I hate noobs.

Next weekend will be a litmus for motivation, haven't decided whether it'll be a day climb, maybe Longs or another overnighter. The following weekend will be the crux of my summer climbing, labor day weekend, 4 days off, 2 nights at Lake Como. Blanca/Ellingwood traverse and Little Bear.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Why Don't You Just Jump Out of an Airplane?

I've said it before and I'll say it again, climbing is not about getting an adrenaline fix. I'm not some danger junky that seeks out situations on the edge so that I can come home saying holy shit I was walking the line with death. I imagine like a painter or musician finds their true nature in their medium, I do in climbing mountains. It brings out a full sense of focus, puts me into a scenario that requires absolute attention of all the senses. I've strived for and achieved excellence in most the major hurdles in my life thus far though none has challenged me in as many ways or to such a magnitude. I've also been told that death is only a matter of time, for the most part these are opinions of people that have no comprehension or knowledge of the lifestyle. People that could not tell you the class of a climb any better than they could climb it. In a sense though they're right death is not only a consequence but an intimate friend. Like a fighter pilot it's a consideration that is weighed heavily, to ignore it would be naive and dangerous. I'm not suicidal nor do have a death wish but when it really comes down to it yes, I'd rather fall to my death while climbing a mountain than die of cancer in a hospital. But that's a little over dramatic. Next weekend I'm just going to head out and do what has become an obsession.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Motivation and Training, SWAG Part 1 - Mar. 18

Being bit by the mountaineering bug this past summer I was dreading the onslaught of the winter season. I normally loath the winter, icy roads, less daylight, rejoicing in a cultural obligation to consume and provide materialistic gratification, all culminating in a state of obese depression brought on by a lack of motivation to reach beyond my remote control. Each winter adding a little additional mortar to the wall of complacency. This winter was different though, I'd found a compulsion that doesn't pack into the closet or hang in the garage. To the contrary, mountaineering thrives on adverse conditions, adds to the reward. Until this point my adventures as a weekend warrior wondering up well oiled grooves with 10 essentials neatly packed into my Walmart backpack could scarcely be considered mountaineering and would likely offend those who call themselves mountaineers.

Winter was just what I needed, the opportunity to transform a hobby driven by the pursuit of aesthetics and physical achievement into a lifestyle motivated by introspection and to the greatest degree exploration of personal boundaries. I say lifestyle because as it seems, I've become the type person that I used to quietly laugh at, the kind that hugs trees. I had long before attempted to swear off Christmas on principal alone but now I find myself refusing plastic bags, carrying reusable totes made entirely of hemp, if only I could smoke them life would be complete. Don't be confused though, I'm not a hippie, you don't find hippies climbing mountains. Without clarity of mind, mountains will make you dead.

Winter Mountaineering Clinic Part 1, X-Rock Durango Co. Knots, Rocks and Ropes - Mar. 18

I was fired up about the chance to continue my pursuits testing my metal against the elements, I was also a little scared. Even the easiest of climbs, or hikes for that matter are a whole different game in the winter. For a few months I'd been researching different schools for more technical alpine experience, specifically winter mountaineering. Skills and cost were my primary concern, I don't have the kind of money that adventurous doctors and lawyers shell out for a trophy ascent of Everest nor do I want to participate a dude ranch equivalent of a winter camping trip. A few schools stood out, Colorado Mountain Club's winter mountaineering course for one. Overall this seemed like a reasonable school for my requirements, probably the best bang for the buck but I had a few reservations. The first of which was their prerequisite of participation in more remedial outdoor courses prior to winter mountaineering. What I discerned as the like of hiking 101, basic compass skills, etc. While these are important skills, I was looking for something a little more advanced and frankly could be using my time more efficiently. Secondly, CMC structures their courses over a longer period of time, typically five weeks with field trips on the weekends if I recall. While this works well for the working professional I was more interested in an slightly more immersive experience, one that would give a more realistic taste of expedition. Finally, a bit of deal closer for me was an encounter with a CMC guide (not currently guiding for CMC) I had on a previous climb of Andrews Glacier. In short of what I described in my write up of this trip, I felt both the man and a fellow climber had made an extremely poor decision to venture out onto a frozen lake. Later in the day I caught up to the pair on my descent and learned that one was planning a guided trip back to this area, my impression was that man was not in the physical shape to be leading a strong group nor was he acting in a very responsible way. Overall to me this reflected poorly. By no means do I feel CMC is not a reputable school, just not what I was looking for.

Ultimately I decided on Southwest Adventure Guides and was enrolled in a 5 day course to take place in Durango Colorado. Over the next month I made preparations buying any remaining gear which I hadn't already purchased and on the afternoon of March 17th I was on my way. Arriving in Durango I set up at a hotel where I would sleep the first two nights, each day spent learning and practicing technical skills. My initial impression prior to beginning the course was good, I was pleased with SWAG's followup, ensuring that all preparations were made. I was a little concerned that SWAG had indicated that it wasn't necessary for me to meet them at their offices the day prior to the course to go over logistics of the trip (which is customary for out of state participants). I had a course itinerary but wasn't sure what if not all gear I would need for our first day or where we be spending it. As a result dressed for full winter conditions and brought my entire extended day pack to the first meeting. Shortly after arriving I met Keeton Disser office manager, and Matt Pickren our technical climbing guide, both of whom made me feel quite welcome. Finally I met Mike Nault the only other fellow client, this was a pleasant surprise as it made the guide to client ratio one to two. After a quick gear check we were off to X-Rock a local Durango trad hot spot.

We spent the remainder of the day in a crash course leaning technical rock skills including knots, rope management, anchors, etc. Climbing trad routes ranging from 5.7 to 5.9. In retrospect it was a great first experience with technical rock climbing, my only regret was being dressed for winter on a summer like day at low altitude...

Friday, June 12, 2009

You're Not Realy Climbing

So I like to alpine climb, anyone who is seriously into alpine climbing or technical climbing for that matter has at some point faced the battle between alpine and technical. Some who technical climb look at climbing a 14er like it's not really climbing, you're just walking up a long hill so what makes it a challenge outside of endurance anyway right. Those who alpine climb fail to see the beauty of technical climbing... you're just driving up to a wall scaling it then heading home right?

The thing about alpine climbing is that it's a battle of attrition, just like technical climbing challenges your calculations, you situational awareness, alpine climbing challenges you logistically, makes you think of the overall picture, you're not just in it for the crux, you're in it for the summit. Many have come before you and each has battled the internal will to continue.

I also enjoy technical climbing, though I thoroughly enjoy technical alpine climbing. What I find disheartining about technical climbing (referencing a recent read of climbing magazine) is that unless you're getting first ascent of a route, every step is planned out, you're either doing it the most efficient way or you're wasting energy. Up until the crux then your faced with a complex problem of which you need to find the solution, many of which before you have faced. If you're skilled you solve the riddle in the same way or even better. With alpine climbing you are the riddle, many before you have faced the same problem but ultimately the solution is personal fortitude.

I really don't like to read that John is climbing this route and he is now at the two move crux of the climb. If he grabs left and jams his right foot above the shoulder he'll have it. To me this is contrived, the solution has already been determined. Rather I prefer I solutions that test the will.

I also prefer the consequences of alpine climbing, when technical climbing your almost exclusively in situations where given a gear failure you would most certainly fall to you're death. But in a sense the consequences are a crutch, because it would be crazy to climb this portion unprotected you can rely on the rope as safety mechanism. Whereas in many cases while alpine climbing it's not technical enough to require a rope but a slip, be it on a non vertical slope would result in the same conclusion. Take walking a flat knife edge with 1500 ft. vertical drop on either side for example. The traverse may only be a walk but the fall is just as fatal, except in this case more often than not you're safety net is you not the rope.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Mt. Yale (Southwest Face), 14,196 Ft. - Feb 21, 2009

After taking some down time from my last climb in January, weather was looking good and I was looking for another climb, preferably in a new neck of the woods. Having never seen the Sawatch mountain range or at least no memory of I decided Mt. Yale at 14,196 ft. would make a good adventure for this Saturday morning. In true fashion I prepped Friday evening and around 4:00AM Saturday was up and on the road to Buena Vista. Initially I was a little nervous about the day in general, the weather forecast was showing some activity towards the North but nothing as far south as Yale and it's neighbors. Leaving my apartment the roads in Denver were slushy and slick and with a three hour plus drive ahead of me I was a little uncomfortable with driving through mostly unfamiliar lands. With the weather in mind I chose to take US285 to US24 (adjacent to Yale) rather than I70 to US24 as I suspected the the high mountain passes would be bit harder driving that far North. This was a good choice, as it turned out once I passed Bailey the weather cleared up, opening the sky to a nearly full moon. After a few hours I was nearly In Buena Vista and was greeted by my first views of the collegiate group including a spectacular view of Mt. Princeton and a mostly obscured view of Yale. I pulled off the road to snap a couple shots shortly after sun rise.

Arriving at the trail head shortly after 7:00 I was suited up and started on the approach. Mostly easy going, I snowshoed recently broken trail though Denny Creek following the Western slope of Yale. Beautiful landscape though unfortunately not very picturesque being hard to see the forest through the trees. Nearly an hour or so into the approach the tree cover began to thin as the trail ascended more directly up Yale's West face. About this time I began to hear the familiar sound of snowshoes crunching on hard snow but I'd yet run into another person. I briefly stopped to survey the surroundings hoping to identify where the nose was coming from. It was a bit odd because I would occasionally hear the crunching but I couldn't see anyone nor make out the directing the sound was coming from.

Continuing on I came to a point where the trial that I'd been following split, one path continuing on, another heading East in a quite direct route up the adjacent slope. Scanning the terrain ahead I could see that the tracks had stopped about 50 yards ahead and the split heading up the slope was actually the same tracks after back tracking. It was here I first noticed a fellow climber, now nearly at the top of the slope which mind you appeared a daunting task and definitely not the standard route towards Yale's summit. I began to wonder what could have been his motivation for choosing to climb here? Did he go further and find the terrain unmanageable, maybe he was game for a challenge? I was faced with a typical decision, should I follow or continue along the standard route? One thing that I learned very early on my back wood challenges is that you shouldn't follow tracks just because they're there and appear to go in the right direction. Despite knowing this, there was an instance when I was following a winter trail system, mind you on a climb yet to be done from the perspective of this blog, where I chose to follow what I thought was obviously the path to where I was planning on camping for the night. Camping after a quite long approach and prior to a big climb that I'd been salivating over for some time. As it turns out in this instance I ended up in the wrong place well after dark. This was a real problem because I was now separated from my destination by a very steep ridge line, backtracking was definitely not an option given the time nor was climbing the ridge, at least not with a full camping pack. But with writing like climbing it's important to keep focus on the current situation. I you climb a typical weekend hot spot peak you will without doubt come across someone who despite being on the same peak as you and heading in the same direction, is most certainly not heading to the same destination. I took a moment to check my GPS and confirmed that the standard route would intersect the top of this slope so ultimately I would end up where I wanted to be. With that in mind I scanned the terrain looking for a good line and determined that though difficult it was doable, off or up that is I went.

This portion was a bit difficult, route finding was challenging with many downed trees and steep snow, but still early in the day I was fueled and mustered through it. Reaching the top of the slop I paused to snap a few photos of the climb and surrounding mountain peaks. Those of which I now had a spectacular view.

Shortly after I could see that I was nearing treeline and got my first view of the summit of Yale, still quite far. Pictures hardly ever do justice to distance nor exposure. For example, a shot down a highly exposed ridge often appears as a gentle slope, whereas a slip on this gentle slope would likely end in a serious problem. In this picture, the summit which is "right over there" is actually at least two or three hours away. Someone could be climbing this slope and would be completely indiscernible.

From here Yale's summit grew as I approached, the snow became less and more wind blown so I opted to loose the weight of my snowshoes. As I approached what would surely be another even more daunting portion of the ascent I noticed that the sky, completely clear, had taken on a dark blue hue. I've read stories of how when climbing peaks as high as the seven summits, you can actually see the curvature of the earth and being that high the atmosphere thins out enough to give the sky a dark blue appearance. There have been days climbing that I too saw a noticeable difference in the color of the sky. Then again 14,000 feet is no 5,280, your eyes see it, you lungs feel it and unfortunately this day so did my skin. About this time I began to notice that skin was burning. Not the kind of burning you feel sitting out at the pool, where you feel strong radiant heat and know you're getting crispy. This is actually quite different, you don't feel heat like on a hot day, you feel UV, and its not till it's too late that you typically even notice. Comparable to sunburning your eyes (which despite excellent sunglasses I still do on occasion) while skiing.

Now that the views had opened up significantly I could again see the fellow climber, bobbing up and down behind small concaves in the terrain and large rocks. For a short time I followed him far in the distance until I could make out that he was in fact coming back. This isn't rare, as I recall on almost every bigger climb I've done, someone ahead of me has turned around. After about 15 minutes we met up, he was from Oklahoma, visiting to do some skiing the following day in Breckenridge and figured he crab a 14er today. He proclaimed that he'd had enough, surmising that the summit was at least another 2 hours away, now being noon. I quietly disagreed with this thinking "no way I can make that ridge in a half hour and the summit within the hour". We parted ways and I continued on... and by the way I was wrong.

Nearing the ridge, I again paused to snap some shots of the adjacent false summit, the remaining climb to the ridge and the surrounding basin, now looking like the view from an airplane. As the other climbing had guessed the ramaining climb to the summit took a little over two hours. From the summit view were spectacular as always, including a great view of Princeton to the South, and Harvard (among others?) to the North.

On the summit I was joined by another climber who told me that he was along with friend who had decided to stay down below the summit to take a nap, to exhausted to continue. He, as well as two others who joined shortly after had skinned up and fortunately for them would be skiing out. I was envious as the climb taken a lot out of me. I rested a bit then began the second half of the trip. The descent is a mixed blessing, often easier always challenging. You have gravity and momentum working for and against you and it's well understood that the majority of alpine climbing accidents happen on the descent. Think about climbing a latter, it's tough climbing up but how often do you descent the latter facing out? And for good reason.

Stopping about a half hour down from the summit now around 3:30 I ate lunch resting and refueling. As always it was a time for reflection and internal gloating. Uneventful up until the descent of the lower slope which had been difficult earlier in the day. Now wet from the days sun the slope was very slick, not enough snow for a wet slide but too little snow to get any worthwhile penetration which made for many falls a few that were dangerous. One fall in fact sent me glissading some and tumbling more than I would like to. I immediately attempted to self arrest, my butt, back and elbows smashing on rocks as I made unwanted but quick progress towards the bottom of the slope. Pictures of Bear Gyles tumbling end over end flashing though my mind I eventually arrested. Not hurt more seriously than bumbs and bruises I was a little shook up from this, realizing that an injury this far out would not be good. I composed myself and continued on. Finally making it back to relatively flat ground I mustered my way back out constantly thinking I should take up skinning.

As I later described it six hours up, one and a half "controlled fall" down.

Additional Photos

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Torreys Peak (West ridge), 14,267 Ft. - Jan. 17, 2009

Everyday life is full of people just waiting to explain to you what's holding them back and why they can't accomplish their endeavors, you don't find these people climbing mountains. Just like any other walk of life, the people who share a love for this kind of adventure have common traits. Traits like fortitude, perseverance, words that you see on walls of an HR manager's office. Fortitude is a concept I came to know well on a winter ascent of Torreys peak from Loveland Pass. I can't brashly say that yet again, against the elements, I fought my personal limits and pushed through because I'm strong or because I'm that kind of person. Instead, for the first time I found myself in a situation that I knew afforded me no choice but fortitude. I know it now and I knew then, I was in deep and there was only one way out. I'll quote myself in a post I made soon after this trip.

"At times while being faced with decisions that carry very final immediate consequences you perform at the peak of endurance, mental strength, nirvana."

A week to the day after my trip up Quandary, I was feeling confident, weather was good and I was back to the top of Loveland Pass to finish what I had started. Now a standard, I was at the trailhead before the sun, met by few with the desire to trek through the elements in pursuit of proving that it can be done. I've been asked "Why don't you just jump out of an airplane?". This is like asking a painter "Why don't you just take a picture?", as if the motivation for painting a picture is merely documentation. Mountaineering is personal experience, providing clarity of mind, extending your palette, opening your senses to the appreciation of things which can't be provided at will, intangibles that are earned.

Setting out before sunrise, I made my up the Western edge of Point 12,850 with a feeling of familiarity. The slow grind of a nameless ridge to a nameless summit. The kind of place that makes for a wonderful accomplishment for the wife and kids on a Sunday afternoon, surrounded by the beauty of the forthcoming basin and awe of the seemingly towering Grizzly and Torreys. Nearing the top, the sun began to rise over the Tenmile and Mosquito ranges lighting the tops of the numerous 14er's where other aspirations were about to unfold. With clear skies and nearly limitless visibility I made my wat first over Point 12,850, Cupid, and finally up the difficult ridge of Grizzly Peak. The ruggedness and difficulty of the terrain on Grizzly and Torreys was the price for panoramic views of snow covered ridges, the like of which I had only only ever seen in photos.

From the summit of Grizzly which in itself was an accomplishment and the turn around point for the only fellow hikers out for this journey, I could see Torreys and Grays separated from me by the quite arduous descent (and return ascent) of Grizzly's Eastern ridge. Despite being tiny in comparison to peaks of which professional climbers face, it's always shocking to get the first glimpse of a 14er and just how massive it is in the context of its surroundings.

Hidden from view in the photo and not too hospitable a place for casual photo taking is the horseshoe shaped Eastern ridge leading to the saddle between Grizzly and Torreys. Rife with cornices, mixed terrain and high exposure, the ridge is exactly what I've come to know as classic, descending around 800 ft. to the North and around 1100 ft. to the South. With at sometimes no more than a foot or two room to navigate, I found myself straddling, seated with a leg a few feet down either side. It was here I made a critical decision which could have been my last. As the ridge descended it flattened out into a broad saddle, clearly my objective. Seeing the distance required to follow the ridge as it snaked Northward then South before ending safely in the saddle, I began scanning the terrain for a reasonable path of descent which would take me to the saddle but skipping the long haul around the Northern aspect. Ultimately I chose to make a more direct descend down the steep but manageable Southeastern aspect of the bowl shaped face. About 50 ft. down I began to realize the condition of the snow, now wet from the morning sun. Looking back up my path It was clear that given the time, aspect and grade of the slope, I was descending a very likely avalanche slope. Fortunately I realized this soon after starting my descent and made quick work to regain the ridge, although the distance down that I traveled and the time it took to return are really of no consequence in terms of avalanche danger. One I was back on the ridge I tried to get a shot which would accurately reflect the exposure though a camera never does justice.

From the saddle I began to make my up the Western ridge of Torreys, loose rock and talus were the themes of the climb. A thin vein of snow worked its way from the saddle to nearly the false summit so I decided to try my luck ascending it, which now was much more stable then the talus. Unfortunately I'd left my crampons in the car due to the conditions of the snow and relative angle of each ridge I'd be climbing and so was forced to chop steps out of the snow using my axe as I ascended. All in all this wasn't much of a setback, the slope was not too steep to ascend without the crampons (otherwise I would have chosen another route) nor was chopping steps too much work. After about an hour I had made the false summit and was approaching the the summit proper.

Views from the summit were spectacular, feelings of being well above the surrounding mountains, but in this instance with the exception of Gray's all the other peaks were so far below it gave the feeling of being in an airplane. I thought it would be great to continue on to Grays but given the time, my energy level and the fact that the return would require the re-climbing of Torreys, Grizzly, Cupid and 12,850, I opted for a few photos including a good shot of Evans and Bierstadt, both being previous accomplishments, and started my descent.

The snow path which I had ascended made for a great Glasside and significantly shortened the descent time. Nevertheless as I reached the saddle and began the ascent back up the Eastern side of Grizzly the time was nearing 3:30PM I was beginning to question weather I was going to make it out before sunset. I wasn't too concerned with light as I had as packed a headlamp, rather I was concerned with at least making it to the summit of Cupid before sunset. Ascending Cupid in the dark was not a delightful prospect, having just come down this morning I knew the terrain was a little sketchy in places and this in conjunction with the amount of energy I had remaining was starting to unravel my nerves. It's hard to describe the feeling, I knew I was a long hard trip from the car and a feeling of oh fuck begins to take over. This part of the climb has been the motivation for much metaphysical introspection into my life since. Hardly in dire straights, I was in a situation that I knew was going to take a lot hard work to get back out of and if I couldn't muster the strength to do it, I was going to be left far from anyone for the night. It was time to clear the mind and focus on what was most important, getting to the top of cupid by dark, from there it was a walk out. A final solace was that if things didn't go as planned I knew that once I made it to bottom of the opposite side of Grizzly, to the West, I could bail down the Western slope towards Loveland Pass and end up in Keystone Ski area and catch a cab back to the car. These are the things that you always have to keep in mind when do this type of activity.

On the topic of Keystone, as I ascended Cupid, probably around 5:30 I could hear the sound of a chopper in the distance. This isn't out of the ordinary, in fact it's out of the ordinary not to hear a chopper in areas like this. It seems that there are always SAR choppers out training, saving, scouting, etc. but in this case I could hear the chopper constantly getting nearer but couldn't see it due to the setting sun in the West. Finally the sound ended but quite near to me, I was relatively sure that the chopper landed in Keystone and around fifteen minutes later up it started. This time with the sun lower I could see it taking off from the park. It was one of the orange flight for life choppers (which I've also flown on). As it left the park it headed straight East, towards me. Passing over the saddle between Grizzly and Cupid so near the ground that I surely could have tossed my axe up and hit it, close enough to see the mustache of the pilot.

Now fairly relaxed knowing that I was going to make Cupid by sundown. I did in fact but shortly after had to dawn the headlamp, making my way up 12,850 and back down to my car at Loveland Pass around an hour after dark. Reflecting on this trip is interesting because for a short time I had to make an effort to keep a level head. Not the first time I've been in a dangerous situation but the first time I was in real danger.

Additional Photos

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Quandary Peak (East ridge), 14,265 Ft. - Jan. 10, 2009

More than a month now since my last outing the weather was looking good and I was aching to get back out out onto another climb, or walk, or trudge. I did a bit of research looking at the easier of the 14'ers for winter and Quandary is well known to be an easy and safe one in any season. That being relative. In order for a 14'er to be rated as a 14'er there must be at least 3000 vertical ft. gain from the the saddle of it its adjacent peaks to the summit. Now I don't think that means all adjacent peaks or peaks like Torrey's and Gray's wouldn't fit the bill, rather at least one adjacent peak I assume. But that's semantics. I've read some interesting discussions on the criteria for which one can say that they've climbed a 14'er, for example; It's pretty universally accepted that there must be at least 3k ft. gain and you must achieve this under your own power. So after driving to the top of Mt. Evans, then walking the 50 ft. required to reach the summit, its not fair to say that you've climbed a 14'er. How about riding your bike? Obviously the bike affords you some amount of mechanical advantage but is it traded off in carrying the weight of the bike? I can speak from experience and say that I've been on bike rides where walking would have been greatly easier than riding, so it's necessarily always easier to ride. My favorite is the question, what if someone runs on a treadmill that stores an electrical charge, doing so long enough to save up enough energy to power an electric vehicle all the way to the top? Once again I digress.

Quandary and good weather.

The weather forecast was for highs in the 30's and blustery above 13k. What is blustery? Is it winds stronger than a breeze, lesser than windy? If blustery described the conditions on quandary that day, I would say extreme wind. I arrived at the trailhead, about 9 miles south of Breckenridge and directly off the main highway so I wasn't surprised to find about 15 people there before me at nearly 8:00AM. I was getting a late start due to just not getting my shit together in good time. In contrast with climbing in the summer, when it completely typical to find no parking and a steady stream of people moving up and down from base to summit, probably nearing 200 people at a time in places like Bierstadt or Quandary. In the winter it's I find it welcoming to see others on the same climb. This drastically increases the rescue index, i.e. chances of getting pulled out if you're in trouble. So in a sense I was relieved to find some company. Again as with Grizzly, beta on this trip said to be careful with route finding, specifically in the area between the summit and the top of the first eastern slope. The standard route takes you in almost a straight line up the eastern ridge, moving too far towards the North leads into some very sketchy terrain. I read a report of a climber who on the descent moved too far North and ended up descending onto the North face. Being unable to climb back off the face he was stranded and forced to spend the night, eventually be plucked out by a chopper. knowing the topo. and now having been there I find it very had to believe that it was a mistake that put him there. On the descent, even in a whiteout keeping a few things in mind keeps you on the right path... You're always descending, the terrain is never difficult and there's a slight elevation gain to climbers right. Assuming that you get too far to the North, the inability to easily descend should be evidence that you have went astray. But after being in situation where I've lost my bearings, I hold my opinions.

After gearing up and dawning the snowshoes I began a typical steady ascent to treeline and for nearly the entire way was enjoying a very nice peaceful day.

Fortunately, or shamefully in what felt like an excessively out of shape state, the other climbers out were breaking trail for me the entire way. As I approached treeline the climb ahead became visible along with the slight indication of stronger winds above. Looking closely you can make out the other climbers on the forthcoming ridge.

Continuing upward along the South edge of the Eastern ridge views, views of the surrounding mountains were spectacular, Grays and Torrey's in the far distance.

And NorthStar with the summit of Lincoln directly behind.

As the elevation increased so did the wind, giving way to incredibly forceful gusts from the Northwest relentlessly pushing me back, pausing only briefly to spin around and push from the South causing balance on some portions of the ridge to become a concern. The continual battle against the wind was beginning to drain me physically as well a make my face uncomfortably cold. I began to pull my balaclava up over my mouth witch ultimately was a mistake as the moist air that I exhaled began to freeze into a block of ice directly over my mouth. This wasn't so much a problem of my mouth being cold but rather the problem was that the balaclava became rigid with ice I no long had the ability to alternate it between shielding my nose and my neck. Eventually I was reserved accept only cover for my moth and nose leaving my neck below the chin exposed.

As I ascended along the South side of the upper bowl which is very broad and nearly flat from North to South, the combination of wind and blowing snow made for a sight and feeling that I have never experienced. It can be be described as being in the middle of a white desert.

Continuing upward from this point became painfully difficult. By now the due to the exposure of my lower chin and now the back of my neck, I could no longer feel the difference between the balaclava which was nothing more than a block of ice, my neck and the upper chest of my soft shell. When I say this I don't mean that my chest and neck all felt cold, I mean that with my bare hand, from my chin to my collar bones everything felt like a piece of ice. Other than numb everything felt fine. The last quarter mile of the ascent took nearly and hour while fighting the wind and as the slope began to increase I found it very difficult to make every ten feet. Goals, which I typically break down into small units like, "Lets make it to that next ridge" became baby steps like "lets make it to that rock" being only three steps in from of me. In this last push I began to meet the others on their way back down, all telling the same story, "if you have anything that you need to do before the summit do it now. You wont have a chance up there." They weren't mistaken, crossing the final lip onto the summit, they winds increased two fold. To point where instinctively I felt that I should crouch way down or crawl in order to move forward. These were winds were by far stronger than any other I have ever encounter previous or since. My summit of Quandary was nothing more than walking to the highest point then immediately turning around for reprieve. Unfortunately the last picture was my final opportunity given the winds. On the descent heavy blowing snow and cloud cover made for less than a photogenic experience.

The descent was very easy, wind at my back, the weather clearing with lower elevation. I made it back to the car in about 8 hours round trip, which for many of my winter climbs was good time. Back in Denver I followed up the day with a ritual night out at the brew pub, enjoying wings and cold beer. Noticing my neck was very wet I retreated to the restroom to take a look and found that the entire front of my neck from below my chin had blistered up and the back looked like a sunburn. When all was said and done, I had moderate frostbite on the back resulting the appearance of an odd tan, and severe frostbite on the front which scabbed and sloughed off leaving a fairly gaping wound for days to come... good times.

Additional Photos

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Grizzly Peak - Dec. 6, 2008

So after many months of being lazy, at least when it comes to writing up my trips, I've decided that if I'm ever going to get caught up and really use this blog as a journal, I need to make a concerted effort to post all my backed up trips. Which brings me to a cold day on Cupid and the birthday of a good friend.

The initial plan for this trip was to make an attempt on Torrey's peak from the North starting at Loveland Pass. This would include the ridge line traverse of numerous other peaks both out and back, including Point 12,850, Cupid and Grizzly. The topo for this trip is actually incorrect because at the time, being under nearly whiteout conditions I'd thought that I had made it as far as the bottom of the Northeast ridge of Grizzly. As I came to realize on a later trip I was a bit off and after successfully making this traverse I now feel that it was probably a good thing.

On the morning of the sixth I woke for a typical alpine start at around 4:30AM and was on the road near 5:00. Making my way up the I-70 corridor the weather was good and just what I would expect for a pre dawn mountain drive in the winter. The first indicator of the conditions to come was terribly icy roads on I-70 just prior to the Loveland Pass exit. Fortunately as I made the exit and began the ascent up the pass, the nagging slush and sleet subsided for a very peaceful though snow packed drive to the summit. Nearing 7:00AM I was at the summit and to my surprise found a few other people already parked there. From their gear and the direction they set off it was evident that they were getting an early start on a ski descent of the bowl directly adjacent the ridge line I was to about to climb. By the time I was geared up, including a heavy winter coat in addition to the normal 3+ worn and packed winter layers, snow shoes in hand I was on my up the West ridge of Point 12,850. Beta on this trip had indicated that once reaching the summit of the first peak (12,850) care should be taken, possibly marking the location of the trail as in a whiteout situation the trail may be hard to locate given the broad summit of the peak in conjunction with the broad saddles between each of the coming peaks. At the time the weather was fairly peaceful barring a strong wind moving South by Southeast which had been a minor nag for the duration of the initial climb. Though I was quite comfortable in terms of temperature regulation I was beginning to be a little concerned about a heavy cloud cover that had developed... or a least become visible since sunrise. Given the fact that I was going to be traversing multiple ridge lines, particularly up and down Grizzly, the threat of walking of a cornice was a consequence that I needed to be aware of.

A side note on the usage of the term consequence; Generally in the world of mountaineering, or climbing and likely many other disciplines, consequence is used as a way of relaying the evaluation of danger in the prospective situation. So when I say that walking off a cornice is possible consequence, it's not meant to be a retrospective description, like "wow, I chose that ridge and walked off a cornice as a consequence" but rather an evaluation of the action like "my current consequences are a 500 foot free ride off the mountain, lightning could strike, etc".

By the time I had made it to the Northeastern side of the first ridge the weather had changed from thick cloud cover to heavy blowing snow or possibly a snowstorm, all being relative. I took a moment to snap a few photos of the current conditions and well as an ad-hoc shot of myself all bundled up.

From here I began to question if I should continue given the weather but ultimately decided that visibility was good enough and that due to the short distance that I had traveled, if conditions worsened I had an easy trip back, so I mustered on. Continuing down off Point 12,850 toward Cupid the remainder of the trip up Cupid's ridge line, the conditions remained unchanged with low visibility and difficult trip finding. At some point after my descent from Cupid I made a critical error. In retrospect its hard to determine what caused it, possibly cold on the brain or the unanticipated difficulty of ascending the minor peak just below the West ridge of cupid, nevertheless I had at the time mistaken Cupid for Grizzly Peak which I was now approaching and thought the West ridge of Grizzly was the West ridge of Torrey's Peak. By this time the terrain was becoming increasingly difficult, class 3 under normal conditions but now made for a bit higher pucker factor. I continued to descend further down the ridge line stopping to rest and get a shot of the climb.

Once I completed the descent, the West ridge of (Grizzly) though I thought Torrey's was now visibly across a broad snowfield. Looking at the snow field and feeling a little uneasy about both the visibility, allowing for the potential to walk out on to a cornice and slow slope of lower portion of the ridge I had descended I decided to stop and re-evaluate my situation. The ridge line had begun to thin out and had given way to a noticeable drop on either side, I felt that the center would provide adequate protection from cornices but in moving in that direction I would be directly below the previous slope and was worried about the avalanche danger. I stopped and took time to dig out a trench with my axe and perform a compression test. Not surprised to find that the snow pack indicated high stability but going off instinct I felt that I should call it a day and turned around for the return climb. Up until this point my error in route finding had caused no immediate problems, but as I previously described I was now one peak West of where I thought I was. By the time I made my way back across the ridges towards Point 12,850, my tracks were long blown over resulting in now reprieve in terms of route finding. Making my way up to the top of 12,850 which I my mind I had though was the first peak North of Grizzly... Cupid, I continued on to the North expecting to reach the top of the adjacent peak and head West back down to Loveland Pass. Along the climb of the next ridge I encountered two other climbers on their way down. We stopped to do the normal swap of stories and plans, and to our surprise we both relayed that we were heading back to the Loveland Pass trailhead, me going up, them down. We took some time to compare notes and fortunately the other group had a GPS device which they had used to mark the trailhead. Low and behold I was already too far north and moving away from the trailhead. As dire of a situation as it seems, I was really not in that bad of a position. I had already begun to question my direction as I didn't recognize the terrain and had made up my mind that if I couldn't find the trail leading West from the top of the following peak I would double back to the previous peak and retake inventory of my position. Though I failed to mention previously, on my descent from Cupid I ran into two additional climbers that I felt given the terrain would likely turn back near where I did and I was likely to encounter them again.

Given the current situation myself and the two hikers with the GPS decided that it would be safest to stick together until we made it back to the main trail up to 12,850. Shortly after the three of us ran into the other two of whom I had encountered and as I suspected they also had turned around near where I had. As I made my way back to the car atop Loveland pass I was surprised how much visibility had improved, now a few miles or so and quite surprised at the hoards of skiers and snowboarders now packing the top of the pass.

Reflecting on the day I decided that a GPS was mandatory for future trips. In the topo above the red line shows my digression from the planned route.

Additional Photos

Saturday, January 31, 2009


Climbing a mountain is about putting yourself in adverse conditions whether technical 5.9 routes or 5 mile approaches. It's not about being the first or climbing higher than another because truly, others cannot be the metric by which you measure your achievement.

They lack a sense of forgiveness forcing you to become more realistic or in a very real sense, true to yourself. At times while being faced with decisions that carry very final immediate consequences you perform at the peak of endurance, mental strength, nirvana.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Andrews Glacier - Nov. 22, 2008

Despite snowy slopes increasing as Fall begins to look more like Winter, my obsession with reaching difficult places has not subsided and in fact has grown. Due in part to the idea that one of the primary driving forces behind my enjoyment of these ventures is rooted in overcoming adverse conditions, so as the season adds to the complexity of mountaineering it also throws fuel on the fire.

Over the past few weeks I've been aching to purchase an ice axe and crampons so that I can continue to gain mountaineering experience, specifically winter mountaineering and now the time is right. For the axe I choose Black Diamond Raven, light and rough textured as apposed to the Raven pro which is smooth textured. For my particular application I'm interested in a mountaineering axe rather then a technical axe although undoubtedly at some point I'll probably want to get into technical ice climbing as well, but for the time being I'm doing mostly solo ventures and have no need to technical gear. As for the crampons, the same holds true... nothing specifically designed for technical climbing but in the case of weight I opted for the heavier of the options (non aluminum), finally to fit my boots I required hybrid or newmatic style attachments. I could have went for completely strap on style but I felt that hybrids provided a little more secure fit.

With axe and crampons in tow I once again returned to the Bear Lake trail head in Rocky Mountain National Park, not so much due to the familiarity of the location but because it's easily accessible with my 2wd passenger car and the many destinations available from this starting point. Today I was going to make an attempt on Andrews Glacier, clearly visible on the ridge line from Lock Vale as seen from a previous trip made in October to Sky Pond.

Andrews Glacier is considered to be a good training ground for the techniques of glacial and snow travel such as self arrest, which is obviously the action of stopping yourself from continuing to slide or more extremely fall downward in a situation where you lose footing on a snow or ice covered slope. Self belay, which a rock climber friend of mine once me gave me a confused stare when mentioned is specific to winter mountaineering and is merely a technique of walking or moderate climbing where your axe is used as a temporary point of protection as you ascent and provides an anchor against a fall. Keeping in mind that in such a case a "fall" is not like a fall when rock climbing where you sail through mid air until caught by a rope or impact below in very bad situation but rather a fall is brought on by a mere loss of traction. In other words you may be on a slope that's only 25 degrees but merely slipping can cause you to slide uncontrollably to a great distance below. Additionally, Andrews glacier is considered to be a safer (relatively) climb as its slope is mostly between 22 and 30 degrees and thus has lower avalanche danger.

When I arrived at Bear Lake I was surprised at the number of other hikers/climbers who had also chosen to head out on this trail. Seeing that many were carrying technical axes and ropes I recalled my previous trip to Black Lake and the sheer wall adjacent to it which at the time was partially covered by a frozen waterfall, many of these climbers were likely heading there or to Taylor glacier which is also accessible from above Sky Pond. I set off up the Trail continuing past Berthoud falls along the now quite familiar path, passing the junction where the trail breaks towards the Boulder Field below Longs Peak and onward until a half mile or so south of Loch Vale where the path heads North towards the glacier. From here the trail began to drastically ascend as I postholed up through the trees towards The Gash, a narrow channel between Andrews Pass and Otis Peak. To this point I had been following tracks set in the snow previous to me but obviously not from today. I was quite thankful to have a bit of a course to follow. Not in anyway was I worried that I wouldn't find my destination but it's psychologically easier to follow the path than it is to feel assured that you're continuing in the right direction.

Now around 11:30am I reach my first major decision point in The Gash as the path upward broke into two options, to left I could continue up navigating through significantly less steep rockier terrain or continue right up a steep snow slab. Ultimately I chose to go right as slab was not large enough to provide any real avalanche danger and moreover would make for a less decisive line up the slope. For a few moments I made my way up the slab over snow that had no problem supporting my weight without failing, but traction as I climbed was becoming an increasing problem so I found a large exposed rock that I could perch on and dawn my crampons and axe. It was now that I caught the first glimpse of other people since I had set out on trail from my car. Two hikers whom were quite a ways down from me in The Gash and appeared as no more than moving colored dots. With gear in hand and on foot I continued up the slope with an unanticipated ease, expecting an awkwardness of walking on 12, one inch spikes I found it quite easy to kick step and make my line up the angle in ease. As I ascended I frequently looked back to gauge the distance towards the other hikers and take note of the path they chose to continue up, but as I approached the midpoint of the slope I noticed that they decided to turn around and head back down. Coming this far into the wilderness and as close to the glacier with no other real destination to be found I can't help thinking that the sight of me climbing the slope with an ice axe may have forced them to second guess their plan to continue on... this of course was probably the result of my ego inflation brought on by the ascent of a slope with snow tools.

Since reaching the Northern end of Loch Vale, Andrews Glacier had been obscured from view by Andrews Pass and the slope that was now challenging my endurance. As I achieved my own little mini summit of what had been the greatest challenge so far I was awestruck by the site of the glacier which was now vastly filled in with the plume of blown snow and was much larger than any photos I'd seen.

Standing at Andrews Tarn and reveling in the sight of Andrews Glacier I now began to question my gumption to continue upward, after approximately five miles I was facing what was probably going to be the largest challenge of the trip. The time was around 1:00pm I thought to myself, I've made it this far, had some fun with my crampons and axe, and wondered if I really needed to go any further. But it wasn't excuses or settling for less than my goals that got me here. Now this wasn't the kind of summit fever thinking that gets people in over their heads. This was me rationalizing that I could do it. The weather was great, I was still feeling energetic and in good spirits so I continued on deciding that I was going attempt to climb the left edge close to the rock line. This was for a few reasons, the glacier had been described as being between 22 and 30 degrees thus safe from avalanche danger. Being later in the fall the area had seen a good amount of snow which at this altitude was blown from the adjacent peek and settled into the groove of the glacier and made the slope closer to 45 degrees along the center line, optimal for avalanches. Additionally and previous to even starting out on this trip was the concern for crevasses, although not a large glacier I had seen photos of a 12 foot deep crevasse that spanned nearly the entire glacier. Now cover with snow therein lies the potential to fall into hole which is concealed by blown snow. Being alone I obviously wasn't going be roped up so I figured my safest bet would be to stick to the edge of the rock line where the depth of snow below me would be inches rather than feet.

Making my way up the glacier it became immediately apparent that crampons, at least at this time of year were mandatory. Each step echoing the sound of spikes ripping into ice, similar to the sound of biting down on an ice cube. Nearly half way up I paused to document the angle of the climb as well as my path ascended thus far. An un-arrested slide from here would most definitely end in a sudden meeting with the rocks below.

As I neared the top I stopped to snap a few shots of the view upwards.

Finally, hard work had payed off and I reached the flat wind scoured Continental divide to be immediately met by winds that made it very difficult to stand. After getting some shots of the of the top and few of the Loch Vale below, where hours ago I stood pondering if I was going to make it here I decided it was time to head back.

The climb down which potentially could be very difficult considering what it took to get up, to the contrary was very easy. Well earned and deserved I glissaded down in about ten minutes the path that took around and hour to climb. As with my previous trip as I descended I encountered what I saw as completely dangerous behavior from fellow hikers. This time below at Andrews tarn two people were making their way across the frozen lake below. Now when I describe what I do on these hikes and climbs to people like my parents, I'm frequently met with contempt as if what I'm doing is running naively into the woods on some adrenaline fueled odyssey, throwing caution to the wind in order to satisfy some craving to triumph over danger. Yes while much of what I'm doing is dangerous and at time has very serious consequences, many people fail to realize that for every day I spend doing these things, I spend countless hours researching, planning and learning as much as possible about what will keep me alive not only under normal circumstances but in cases of emergency. Like how to build a shelter, what plants to eat, how to make a splint, how to navigate using a compass (not that it's only for emergencies), and the list goes on... but I digress, in the case of the two hikers below I found it incredibly dangerous to be walking on the frozen lake, call me paranoid but unless I'm in Fargo I really don't feel comfortable walking on a frozen lake.
Additional Photos

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Black Lake - Nov 8, 2008

The weekend following my trip to Twin Sisters I decided to head to Rocky Mountain National Park for my first taste of winter conditions and give my new winter boots a good test run. With weather getting colder and snow becoming a progressively constant fixture I decided it was time to invest in a good set of winter mountaineer boots. After researching and trying many different styles, weights, etc. I opted for La Sportiva Trengo S EVO GTX, a complicated name for a super lite leather and Gortex combo. I chose these for many reasons, the primary being weight, fit, and hybrid crampon compatibility. Initially I was a little concerned with the warmth that the boots could provide given that these and simalar boots have been reviewed and recommended as 3 season boots whereas double plastics like Scarpa Inverno would fit the bill for winter climbs including technical ice. I have to say I'm quite satisfied with the warmth that these boots provide, in fact I have a hard time thinking of an instance at least in Colorado that these boots wouldn't be sufficiently warm. Unless the plan is sub zero temps for an extended duration... like days, these work fine.

Anyway, Black Lake and winter weather was the plan for this day. I had heard that this is a pretty good hike and gets a little more strenuous towards the end of the approach to the lake. From the image it's obvious that this was a lengthy hike as well. At around 8:00am I set off into the trees and across frozen track and fresh snow. To my surprise I was treading over recent cut tracks which were obviously set earlier this morning. For the most part this was a fairly non-photogenic hike moving in and out of the trees and along a few lake sides.

After about two and a half hours I made my way nearly to the lake and was beginning to work my way above the tree line
when I encountered two sets of other hikers which were responsibly for cutting the trail I had been on. Following some short conversation we parted ways, the two groups going down as continued up, stopped at this point I also felt this was a good opportunity to dawn my gaiters as the snow was now around thigh deep. As I continued on the trees began to give way to an amazing view of clouds coming over the ridge line that I was approaching.

As I approached Black Lake I began to realize why it's named Black Lake, the water appearing nearly black. After resting briefly I was still yearning for more so I decided to continue on ascending up through a gully between a nearly sheer wall on the opposite side of the lake and Half mountain to my East.

Reaching the top of the gully I found a spectacular view of the coming clouds over the distant rugged ridge line. This view had sparked my interest and I later decided to check out what exactly I was looking at and to my complete astonishment this was the Keyboard of the Winds directly south of longs peak and I was generally just West of the Trough on the West side of Longs. Realizing this now I understand just how close I was to the Homestretch on longs and have made a commitment to return to this location to camp and finally ascend Longs via thie trough next spring.
By now I had continued up along the ridge opposite Black Lake as I had approached, considering the time now near 1:30pm and the ominous weather coming from the South I decided to head back, but as true to my nature I needed a little more excitement so I decided to descend the rock wall back to the lake. This turned out to be a length commitment as I carefully chose my line down the modest class 4 face.
Once I reached the bottom of the rock wall the trip once again returned to a trail of endurance as it typically is, remembering that I now am roughly 3 hours from my car. For the most part, the trip back was a snow trudging trip which provided ample opportunity to listen and learn from the environment, an opportunity to become closer to my goals and gain better understanding of myself.

An additional noteworthy point along this trip was on the descent as I approached the lake just South of the Loch Vale trail junction, I ran into a cute young couple... funny I call them young as they must be in their early 20's or so. The guy asked me "Is this it? Is this the lake?" I responded that I wasn't sure of the lake's name but it's the last until Black Lake, unless you're planning on going up there as I pointed up towards the ridge that I had just come down which was now barely visible through the storm that I felt was good reason to head back. The guy assured me no, they were not planning to go any further plus both were quite preoccupied with the difference in our dress, me with boots, gaiters, balaclava, heavy gloves, etc. they with jeans and possibly a leather coat between them. They explained that they were not as prepared to venture further as I was. I agreed proclaiming that the weather "up there" is quite a bit colder than "down here". What I didn't mention was that despite that they realized, or at least I had given them reason to not continue further, in my opinion they were both grossly under prepared for conditions even where they were. By my estimation we were now at least an hour, hour and a half from the trail head and given a situation where the weather changed drastically for the worse, this was more than enough time to create a very serious situation. I'm not an advocate of venturing into the woods unprepared, layers, water, etc. but to me I consider it a general rule that if in easy terrain you don't venture far enough out that you can't return safely in under the time that it takes for the situation to become serious. Now I'm aware that the weather can become serious in a matter of minutes, and by serious I mean white out conditions and severe temperature drop, but the situation doesn't become dire for at least an hour or so in this case as you can still tough it out until you reach safety. In the case of these two hikers, which by my account are still just around an hour and a half from safety (in best conditions) could easily become disoriented or even exhausted trying to make their way back... in less time than it would take to enter hypothermia.
Additional Photos