Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Wilson El Diente Traverse

On September 12th Amanda and I pulled into the Kilpacker trailhead parking lot around 9:30pm and crawled into the back of the vehicle to sleep.
We had tried to climb these two 14,000' peaks together multiple times between 2004-2006, but every time the weather would turn ugly and some combination of rain, hail and lightning would turn us around.  Our weather this time however looked splitter.
We woke at 3am and left the TH at 3:30.  Amanda set a fast pace in the dark and before long we were in Kilpacker Basin and then heading up El Diente.

As we ascended the southern
slopes of El Diente the terrain got gradually more exposed and technical.  Just below the ridge we paused to put on our helmets.  At the ridge the wind picked up a little and the cold bit through our clothing so we kept moving, summiting El Diente at 8am.  The traverse as always requires route finding and caution.  There are many places with loose rock and big exposure.  Amanda did amazingly well for not having been in that kind of terrain in many years.  We finished the traverse and the short section of ridge to the Mt. Wilson summit.  Arriving just before 10:30am.
We descended a slightly easier route back down to the Kilpacker Basin.  If you haven't been to Kilpacker Basin it's basically one giant talus pile. To offer our feet and legs some relief we aimed for the small patches of snow that were still sticking around from last winter.  Boot skiing on the snow was much easier and faster that negotiating the talus.  We got back to the TH at 1:45pm, jumped in the car and headed back to Durango.  My dad was flying into town that afternoon and we had to get back to meet up with him.  What a great day! It was a beautiful day in the mountains with the best wife in the world!


2015 Elk Hunting

For the 5th year in a row family from Michigan came out for the muzzleloader elk season.  We had learned a lot in past years and this year things finally came together.   My cousin Mick who had been out in 2012 shot a 6 by 5 on Tuesday at 6pm.  With everyones help we had the elk quartered and up to the truck by 9:30pm.  I can't imagine how long it would have taken if it was just one guy doing all the work!
Mick's 6 by 5.
On Thursday morning we got some bulls bugling and my cousin Bob who had never elk hunted before got a 5 by 5.  This time we had everything up to the road in 4 hours.  I'll tell you, its a lot of work to haul that much meat up 1,100' to the vehicle!
Ben, Bob, Don Jr., Randy, and Ed.
(Mick came later and Bill supported from the car) 
I always look forward to seeing the Kiessel family during the Elk season.  I'm already looking forward to next year!

Friday, August 7, 2015


With all the rainy weather this spring, there was a lot of canceling of planned climbing trips.  So when Matt and I flew to Calgary on our way to the Bugs we hadn't climbed together in over two months.  In fact we hadn't been climbing much of anything even separately.  My motto was that climbing ability wasn't going to slow us down in the bugs, overall physical fitness would.  So we focused on overall fitness and hoped that we would remember how to climb, place gear, manage the rope, etc.  Matt picked me up on Friday evening at the Calgary airport in the rental car he had picked up earlier that afternoon.  We drove west past all of the cheap hotel options and all the expensive hotel options, until the only options were to keep driving or sleep on the side of the road.  We chose the latter.  Periodically throughout the night a semi would drive by and we would wake up in a panic thinking we were going to be run over.  In the morning we continued on, stopping in Radium Hot Springs to pick up some last minute supplies.  We got to the trail head and exploded our duffels and packed our backpacks for the hike that was only a few miles but also gained a few thousand feet in that distance.  Our packs weren't large enough for all our gear so we were looking pretty gumby hiking up with half our stuff strapped to the outside of our packs.  We got to camp and started scheming about what to do tomorrow.
The forecast for Sunday called for weather in the afternoon. So we left camp at 04:45.  Two and a half hours later we were on top of Crescent Spire having climbed McTech Arete.  We descended Crescent Spire's West Ridge route until we were under Bugaboos Spires NE Ridge.  We were on top of Bugaboo Spire at 10:30 and back at Applebee Dome camp at 12:30.  Having not climbed in awhile and wanting to make the most of the good weather, we were bummed that we hadn't brought wide gear with us so we could have climbed Sunshine Crack on Snowpatch Spire after descending the Kain route.  We consoled our selves with the fact that the weather on Monday looked awesome.
Monday morning dawned to rain.  Solid rain till noon.  Our main objective while in the Bugaboos was 'All Along the Watchtower' on North Howser.  We decided that morning in the rain to stop screwing around at Applebee Dome and head over to East Creek so we would be set to have a go at North Howser.  When the rain stopped at noon we packed up our climbing gear, wet tent, and some food and headed to East Creek.  At the East Creek camp we met a crew of 6 from Colorado that had gotten a helicopter ride into camp.  Talk about a plush camp! They had it all from coolers of food to a propane tank.
We woke on Tuesday morning at 02:30 to a star filled sky.  We were walking out of camp at 03:15 and were probably off route twenty minutes later.  Luckily we recognized our mistake and corrected our course without loosing too much time.  The rappels down to the base of the West face of North Howser went smoothly and we were soon on a small chopped snow ledge with crampons on and axes out, standing above a big black drop off.  Luckily, back in Durango when Matt had said he wasn't going to bring an axe with him to Canada I not only brought mine, but one for him as well.  The snow was steep enough and hard enough that we did a couple rappels while traversing over to the base of the route.  Once on the rock things went smoothly up to pitch 7 where we once again got off route.  For some reason I decided to traverse left two pitches early.  To get back on route we had down climb 150' feet and do a 200' rappel.  Then again we got a little off on top of pitch 11.  When, thanks to my route finding I directed Matt to the wrong crack.  He belayed and I lead past him 20' to his left on the correct crack and he was able to pendulum back on route while seconding the pitch.  Even with the glitches in route finding we made good time up to the base of the dihedral with all the simul-climbing we were doing.  We started to get tired when the pitches started to get harder in the dihedral.  The pitches were great fun but were getting harder and harder to onsight as we went higher.  I aided the crux roof and Matt french freed the last dihedral pitch.
I lead the whole summit ridge to the top in one huge simul-climbing pitch.  We topped out at 19:15, ate a bar and headed down to find the descent route.  We didn't like what we saw when we were walking from Applebee Dome to East Creek.  The bergschrund looked sketchy to say the least.  As often happens in the mountains things look scarier from a distance.  The rappels to the glacier went super smoothly and the glacier was less steep and less sketch than it had looked from afar.  We were back at East Creek camp at 21:45.  18.5 hours camp to camp.
Wednesday was a well deserved rest day.  When packing up food to move to East Creek from Applebee Dome we decided that we wouldn't need much food on the planned rest day because we wouldn't be doing anything.  It made sense at the time but what we didn't think about was the fact that our bodies would be trying to recover from 'All Along the Watchtower'.  So as we were in our sleeping bags on Wednesday night shivering because our bodies didn't have enough calories to stay warm.  We heard someone from the helicopter crew say, "Man! We have so much food we're going to have to fly out with a bunch!".  At that Matt jumped out of his sleeping bag and hiked up the hill to beg for some food.  Thanks to the kindness of our fellow Colorado peeps, he came back with a gold mine!  Franks and beans, Gumbo soup, chocolate, and oatmeal creme pies!  We stuffed ourselves and slept nice and warm.
Thursday's weather didn't look that great but we decided that we better climb the mega classic 'Beckey-Chinouard' route while we were camped right under it.  We were standing on top 4.5hrs after leaving camp and were back at the Howser-Pigeon Col before noon.  It had snowed some on top of South Howser and the weather didn't look great but we decided it was too early to quit. So we headed off to go climb the 'Cooper-Kor' route on Pigeon Spire.  Matt and I were both a little hangry but we ate nothing and continued.  Twenty minutes later a misunderstanding about which side of a crevasse to travel on turned to yelling.  It's amazing what a few calories will do.
The 'Cooper-Kor' ended up being less than stellar and we got hit by a sleet storm on the summit.  But we made it back to camp at 17:25 cold, wet, tired and satisfied with a big day.
Friday-Monday was forecasted to be crap weather with everything clearing up again by Tuesday.  So on Friday morning we headed out to the car to rest and prepare to come back in to the Bugs for one last climb on Tuesday or Wednesday.  During the next week of rain we drove to Calgary to try and fly out early.  Failing to fly out early we grudgingly spent a few rainy afternoons climbing at Grassi Lakes near Banff, and Behind the Lake at Lake Louise.  They were great climbing areas but were hard to enjoy when we were spoiled by and dreaming of the Bugaboos.  Unfortunately the weather never cleared and we flew out that next Thursday.
I sure am glad we went big on the good weather days we had in the Bugs.  You never know when it will turn to crappy weather.  Below is a short video from our time in Canada.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Noname Basin

I was able to get out and guide a little bit at the end of June.  Tim has been coming out for years and we always have a great time.  As he had done last year, he was bringing along 3 friend so I brought along Bill.  The plan always starts out big.  Like we are going to climb everything in the area in 2 days big.  Usually it might get pared down a little bit, but this year it go pared down a bunch.  Luckily it was still and great trip.  We hiked up Noname Basin and set up camp at around 10,900'.  Just before dark Rodger yells, "a marmot stole my boot!" Sure enough.  We spent the next thirty minutes searching the area with headlamps until Bill finally spotted it halfway down Marmot hole.  Luckily it was still functional.
Looking up Noname toward Knife Point and Jagged
The next morning we hiked up to Jagged Pass and decided to change plans and climb Leviathan instead of Jagged.  Then ontop of Leviathan, we decided we might as well climb Vallecito Peak too.
Although we bailed on our primary objective of Jagged, we still got two great peaks and had a great time.  Jared had been struggling with blisters since day one, so on day three I took him out while everyone else climbed Knife Point.
Short break before the last mile to camp.
As usual, it's hard to have a bad trip in the mountains when you are with great people!

Popes Nose

This spring was rough.  There were too many planned climbing trips that got cancelled last minute because of weather to count.  So when there was a weather window I did everything I could to make sure I got out.  Ryan and I were originally going to hike in and climb Grand Gulch Spire but the forecast was for 100+ degree days in the desert.  So instead, we decided on a more alpine objective.  We left the trail head for the Popes Nose in the late afternoon.  We made good time and 13 miles later were at our little campsite just before dark.  It was fun to hike past Flag Mountain Falls again.  The last time I had been up that direction was when Eric and I climbed it in the spring of 2014.
Ryan following low on the route.
The next morning we got an early start and started up the Central Buttress.  We were climbing the last pitch to the summit when the sun finally swung around and started to cook the Central Buttress.
Ryan leading.
Luckily the heinous descent gully turned out to be pretty mellow.  By the time we got back to Flint creek the icy waters from the night before had transformed into nothing more than refreshing.
Crossing Flint Creek
The last few miles of the hike out were nothing short of brutal.  Between 26 miles of hiking and 1000' of climbing our feet were beat!  Flip flops have never felt better!


Amanda had a break from PA(Physician's Assistant) school in the end of May and we were able to get away to SoCal for a bit.  Before I showed up, she spent the weekend at a festival called 'Lightning in a Bottle', and then picked me up at LAX when I flew in.  The Brandewie Family drove down from  Three Rivers and camped with us at a campground in Malibu State Park.  It was great fun to see how fast Owen and Maya are growing up!  And as always it was great to hangout with Koren and Brad.
Maya, Owen, Koren, Brad
Amanda and I were able to go climbing for a couple hours, and go to a museum called the Getty Villa.
 Brad, Amanda and I went out one morning on the Pacific to fish for Rock Fish.  Since we we didn't have a freezer, Amanda and I gave most of our fish to Brad to take home.  We did keep a little that we fried up on our camp stove that night.  Delicious!

 Amanda got to go surfing a few days and obviously had a great time.  (Side note, she had bought an old board a couple years ago that she didn't love.  Recently however she upgraded by trading her board for something that will work better for her.  I'm excited for her to get out and try it!)

After Malibu we drove down to Costa Mesa and stayed at a friends house.  Amanda got to surf again, we did some road riding, and took some long walks on the beach.  On the Drive back to Phoenix we detoured down to San Diego to visit Stephanie, Hannah, Louise, and Max.  It had been way too long since seeing them!
The real highlight of the trip though, was getting to hang out with Amanda.  Hopefully in another year that'll be way more common!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fine Jade

About a month ago Matt and I  drove out to the desert for the day to climb 'Fine Jade' on 'The Rectory' in Castle Valley.  Good day climbing with a great buddy!