Friday, May 28

Summer: Here and Now

I think when there are 90's in the forecast, I can officially declare summer to be here. Plus Marni finishes up her teaching year today which is great. She's ready to enjoy her last few months of pregnancy without the stress of teaching the little ones every day. I know she loves her job but it's also great to have a bit of time away every year to decompress and get ready for another class full of wonderful kids who need lots of love and attention. Her dad and I picked up another couch last night while she was at her grad class and hopefully this weekend we'll get the paint color picked out for the nursery. Bit by bit I feel like we're getting ready for little JJ's arrival. Know how fast summer always flies by, it won't be long until he's here.
In other news I didn't get the job I interviewed for. It was great to hear back yes or no but a bummer to hear back no. More applications and interviews await and I'll probably find something closer to home anyway but it's always a little depressing not to be chosen. I had a nice time mentoring a new trad climber yesterday on the first flatiron to think about things and hopefully will get away for a little solo adventure to the Indian Peaks Wilderness this weekend to reflect some more. Getting up into the high mountains is such a paradox. The places I love to go have a limited time window when I can safely be there so I move quickly and all too fast I'm back home looking up at the big mountains, longing to return to where I just was. This time I've got a plan to spend a few extra hours up there if everything works out.
Well time to take Turbo for his walk before it gets too hot for the furrysaurus. Golden Retrievers aren't a big fan of 90 degree weather :)

Tuesday, May 25

Wham Couloir

Forecasts predicted a good long freeze so Chad and I rolled the dice again at RMNP's tables. Knowing full well that reality or the new snow wild card might leave us just taking the tools for a walk, we rolled out of Westminster at 4am. Twilight comes early these days and 5:30am trail head departures no long need a headlamp. Good thing too, I hadn't been to Loch Vale in a while and was hoping not to get us lost on the short cut trails that exist in winter. I even spotted Kevin's car in the parking lot though our two groups were the only cars to be seen.We followed Kevin and his partners tracks, at least we thought, until somewhere just beyond the Loch but we never saw them. Hope they were out getting after something good.
The short cut trails are melting fast now. Don't fall into the creeks which most of them follow!
Here, just past the Loch, we broke right towards the South Face of Mt.Otis. The well featured face has at least 10 couloirs running up it. We headed towards the prominent pair in the center/right of the photo.
A short bushwhack without too many mistakes found us following Kevin and Ryan's few day old tracks towards a route called C.O.U.S aka Chockstones of Unusual Size. This hard m6-7 route was put up last year and occasionally features a WI4 pillar bypassing the crux first pitch which Kevin had climbed a couple days ago. I liked the look of the pillar and a chance to snag an awesome line but very shortly I realized it was not our day for C.O.U.S. When sun hit the walls above the couloir ice chunks began raining down. Safely tucked between our two options we watched both gully's shed ice as the sun came up. After gearing up it was obvious that the large chunks were all coming out of C.O.U.S and that today Wham was looking much better.
Not a bad place to sit down and gear up for a climb. Sky pond and company pictured below.
I racked up and got ready to tackle the first pitch. This is the water ice start to the Wham Couloir but there wasn't much good ice today. The climbing wasn't bad but it was hard to protect and thus slow for me. I moved carefully and climbed on the far left as much as possible to be sheltered from any ice fall. Finally I peeked around the corner at the top of the ice, saw a good opening, found some decent tool placements and jumped around the corner. Here I was able to move to the right side of the gully away from the fall line and also finally get in a decent piece of pro. I ran out the easy snow climbing on good neve for almost the full rope length. Debating between forcing Chad to simulclimb a little and setting up an unsheltered belay I went with the former option. I found a great #2 camalot placement, pulled a physical move on snice over a chockstone to the left (after finding the right corner completely filled with rotten ice) and made it up 20 more feet of easy snow to a sheltered crack system. I put Chad on belay as quick as possible and before long he joined me at the ledge. I'm sure he was happy to be climbing as it was a bit of a slow lead on a long pitch one.
Knowing that the crux was likely over based on the route description, Chad set off with all the gear and when it continued to be easy climbing I dismantled the belay and we simulclimbed further.
Somewhere up there is Chad. We placed protection between us so that if either of us fell, we would eventually stop, but not as quickly as with a standard belay. The advantage to this when climbing is easy is that falls are still protected but you can move much more quickly. Moving quickly is key in the alpine environment and it also lets you switch back to a standard belay much faster than when soloing since the rope is already out.
Looking back down from a few pitches up.
A nice short ice and mixed section in the middle of the couloir.
Chad bringing me up. When Chad ran out of gear there was only easy ground to the top so we stowed the rope and rack and finished up unroped.
An over the shoulder view from near the top of the couloir.
Chad finishing up some easy mixed ground.
Sunrise starting to warm the upper couloir.
Looking back down on Zowie and Wham towers. They look like fantastic rock climbs for this summer.
Looking down the route from the top.
Once we topped out we had to find our way down. Luckily the snow was not too soft yet and we down climbed through the obvious notch in the center/left of the photo.
Then we got some wet glissades down back towards the Loch. A little bit of switchbacking to find an easy line, some postholing and a few more glissades and we found ourselves sneaking around a fast melting Loch to the trail.
Looking back at the Loch. If anyone is just looking for a beautiful hike in the summer, it's about ~3 miles to Loch Vale and there is a good trail up Andrews Creek as well (goes past what we climbed). Until the next good weather day...

Monday, May 24


Breaking your ankle apparently has long lasting effects but perhaps this year was well suited for the change after 4 seasons of training and charging hard on the bike. The recovery is coming along, more slowly now that I'm closer to normal but that's a post for another day. I haven't been doing much training this year but I've been plenty active as my ankle increases in strength. With little JJ's due date growing closer and closer, I'm pretty sure the trend will continue through the year.

On Saturday night, Marni and I joined friends and much of Boulder's cycling community at the Boulder Theater for the local premier of Ride the Divide. Mike Dion and the filmmakers did an excellent job capturing the event, something that's none too easy following spread out cyclists over 2800 miles of backroads. After the movie I got up on stage with Kurt and Felix and we got to answer a few questions from the crowd which was a fun experience. Brett and I had to hustle to Boulder just to make the movie, barely getting there on time after riding a couple Left Hand Canyon laps (110 miles/9k vert) earlier in the day. See I do still ride my bike :p
Yesterday Marni and I had a lazy breakfast up in Boulder before contributing to the economy via another new couch purchase. I've been slowly working on the house projects, trying to get the rooms all ready for the little one's arrival and resulting company coming to visit. The living room is being freshened up and finally outfitted with it's own furniture and should look really good soon! In the afternoon we found a shady wall up above Golden and Aaron and I worked on a couple of our rock climbing projects. I sent my 5.10b project (apparently ripping the butt out of my pants in the process, haha) and Aaron was oh soooo close to sending his 5.11- route. The girls came with us and relaxed on the rocks before we all grabbed some dinner. Cookies and The Office awaited Marni and I at home before bed.
Marni is looking beautiful and feeling pretty good at 25 weeks now. Little JJ is kicking regularly and goes wild after she eats sweet things. It's so fun to feel him move and kick and he only has to stay in there a few more months before we get to meet him. We've gotten so many cute little outfits from our friends and family and we're starting to work on the nursery which I'm super psyched about. Marni is done with school at the end of this week and she'll be done with her grad school maymester class on June 4th. It's a tough way to end the school year but I'm really proud of her for getting another grad class finished before the baby comes. She's getting really close to finishing her Master's degree and that's awesome! Of course then I guess it will be my turn to finish up my Master's, haha.
This morning we snuck out for a quick breakfast together before work and have some great after work plans too. It's finally warm and sunny (though still windy) here in the front range and it's wonderful to sleep with the windows open in the house, my favorite time of year. Turbo is sunning himself regularly hence his newest nickname, Solar Powered Puppy.
My cycling has been taking all sorts of different forms these days. MTB rides, big road rides with the century crew and often just random commuting. Riding up to Boulder to go climb and riding home is a great workout and I'm finally feeling reasonably fit for the first time post avalanche.
I had an interview last week for a fall teaching job. It went well and I'm definitely hoping I get an offer. Getting to visit the school and see where I would be working was awesome and I'm excited. I just have to cross my fingers now and hope that they're willing to take a chance on me. I'm definitely up for the challenge and have even figured out some bike and bus commuting options that I'd be able to use some of the days. Until I get a new job lined up I'm going to continue to enjoy my time off and the ability to literally stop and smell the roses. It's been quite an amazing experience to be able to take this time off of work and enjoy a slower pace for a bit. I'm quite thankful for the support of my wife and this opportunity. I like to be able to be there for Marni during her hard days of work and classes and I've really learned a lot about myself being able to participate in all the awesome bike events. Going back to work is going to be great too. I think teaching will be very rewarding and I'm ready to get started.
Turbo certainly likes having me home so that he gets extra walks and his boney belly doesn't get too out of control :) I think he's gained a few pregnancy pounds too.
He sure doesn't seem to mind though. There are few things in life quite as happy as a dog running free.

Friday, May 21


I think it took a long time to hit 80 degrees or more this year in the front range. Today was nice and hot though and I helped Kevin out with a quick run up the first flatiron this morning.
We pitched out the bottom part while he got used to climbing again and then soloed the easier upper part.
Last time I climbed up here it was a strange foggy day and I missed out on the views. Today was awesome with RMNP and the IPW on full display.
I think this makes 10 times up the direct route for me with some other summits by other routes. I have a long way to go to reach 100 like Stefan did last year.
When Marni and I first climbed it we took over 7 hours car to car. My best so far is just over an hour. Today was just under 3 or so at a pretty relaxed pace.
Tomorrow the century crew has a good ride planned and then we're watching the Ride the Divide movie at 7pm at the Boulder Theater. Tickets still available as far as I know if anyone wants to come.

Thursday, May 20

Dawn Patrol

Call it new baby training if you wish. Waking up when everyone else is sleeping sure seems to pay off in the beauty department. I've always enjoyed sunrises.
Luckily Chad must too otherwise I think he'd tell me to go pound sand when I suggest getting up early *again* to squeeze another trip to the park in before *another* spring storm.
Besides the sun is coming up so early these days you can almost leave the headlamp at home.
Longs Peak from the west.
The hike to Emerald Lake is a quick one and quite handy that so many moderate alpine routes are available from there.
Chad and I were headed to the Dragonstooth aka Dead Elk couloir, adjacent to one we'd climbed a couple weeks prior.
Our route is the left most steep snow strip on the right half of the screen where the sun is almost reaching.
On the way in I checked out the Squid, a WI5 climb I've been curious about getting on. It came in recently due to our strange weather but two prior days of sunshine did a number on it. I'll have to wait longer as it's not climbable by me in it's current condition.
Clouds rolled in as we booted up the lower section of the couloir. That was fine with me as it kept temperatures cool and that meant our pace could be relaxed up the climb. Spring and summer the primary danger from avalanches (outside of new storm situations) is from wet slides. Clear nights and/or cloudy days keep the snow from warming and keep it safe. Early starts are also key.
Climbing conditions weren't as nice as our Dragonstail outing where we found more than half the couloir nicely iced up but I kicked steps and did some alpine crawling and up we went anyway.
The route gradually steepens as it climbs and there are a couple fun mixed bands to play in. Mostly however it consists of easy to moderate snow climbing for 1600 feet.
Chad makes his way through an optional mixed section on the right side of the couloir.
Oh so difficult. Just kidding. It is fun though and makes for a nice ropeless outing.
Chad following up the main mixed band. There was a few bits of ice in here to play with.Looking up the couloir.
After the rock step, more steep snow leads to the top with a few different exits possible. I headed more or less straight up to the top. Looking down from near the top.
The snow at the top firmed up a bit and treated us to a nice topout. We chatted with a couple groups of skiers, looking to head the opposite direction and made our way down to the car. Breakfast awaited us in Estes before heading home to free the doggies and do some chores. Now to get my skis mounted while the next storm rolls through and settles out.