De Beque, Colorado: Castle Rock

Looking for a quick Friday afternoon hike, Sprocket and I set off towards Castle Rock (5,200+’). We drove as close as snow covered roads would allow (which was actually pretty close, I guess it’s the one benefit of oil drilling activity around here? It certainly beats in roads!).

Friday adventure.

After traveling cross country for awhile, we ran into a snow-covered road and followed it south to the base of Castle Rock, passing some sweet rock walls that looked much brighter than usual against the white snow.

Castle Rock

Rock formations

Castle Rock

Desert in winter

The closer I got to the rock, the more I started to doubt whether I’d be able to summit it. As much as I tried to pretend that my goal for the day was to be out in the sun and snow (and it was, kind of!), I couldn’t deny that I wanted to get a February summit in the books sooner rather than later.

Castle Rock

As I reached the base of the tower at its southeastern corner, my hopes fell even further. I walked around the rock counter clockwise, looking up at the northwestern side and thought, no way is this happening:

Nope. Not going up here

This rock on the western side looked really promising but with snow, wet boots (and boots at all!), and pretty much nothing to hold on to I wasn’t going to be making any progress here either.

Maybe here?

I got to the southern corner/face and pondered this for awhile because this looks totally reasonable to scramble alone on crumbly wet shit in snowboots, right?

Castle Rock

ADORABLE Castle summit register

Well, I did it (sorry, Mom). I was delighted by this AWESOME castle summit register and the views were incredible. I didn’t stay on top long because Sprocket was having a panic attack about what he perceived was a VERY BAD PLAN and the longer I stayed up there the more I was agreeing with him and worrying a little bit about getting down safely. (The up is always easier than the down…)

But mostly, I’d say I was psyched about the whole thing:

Summit Selfie

So basically, Castle Rock is falling apart. As I descended, I realized that very little is holding the top of the rock on so definitely approach this one at your own risk!

Summit

We were running a little late on getting back to De Beque for a meeting but we hustled back to Ruth and on the way, I think Sprocket forgave me for “abandoning” him for my perhaps ill-advised climb.

Browns Peak: Maricopa County Highpoint

After rejoining Highway 87, we headed down to Payson, got some gas, and I bought a new pair of cheap sunglasses. The next goal was Browns Peak, the Maricopa County Highpoint. The drive from Flagstaff down over the Mogollon and continuing south always makes me happy: the transition from high plateau pines to Sonoran Desert saguaros is the best. The down vest and Omniheat baselayers were quickly too much.

Just north of Roosevelt I turned west up into the Mazaztal Mountains. Oso Road is steep but in pretty good shape all the way to the trail head. I pulled in to the parking lot just before 2pm which seemed a little late to start the 5 mile round trip hike. Just as I started to contemplate what to do with my remaining daylight, I said hello to some guys who were relaxing next to their truck with some beers. They asked if I was going up to the summit and I told them about my conundrum and they assured me that it could be done if I hustled. I’m pretty down to bet my hiking speed counts as hustle so I set a turnaround time and we headed out.

Sprocket and I made it to the saddle below the peak in 45 minutes and started moving up the peak.

Browns Peak hike

Browns Peak

Sprocket made it about two thirds of the way up the scree chute but I couldn’t get him up solo. We made a pretty valiant effort with Sprocket hanging out on a five inch ledge in the middle of a 8′ ledge as I tried to figure out how to get him up; I crawled up and around Sprocket at least twice while he just sat and looked sad. Making the final 3′ jump to the top of the ledge just wasn’t worth the risk. I helped him down and settled him with some water and my pack and I headed up the mountain as fast as I could.

West from Browns Peak

I quickly reached the summit, feeling in a hurry to get back to Sprocket. I knew he was sad about being left but I’d made it to the top of Four Peaks!

 

Summit of Browns Peak

North from Browns Peak

I look a couple of photos and headed back to Sprocket. He was sitting next to my pack and plaintively crying. This is the second time I’ve done this with SP and he seems mostly okay with it. He gets to do 90+% of the hike with me and just has to sit out the final scramble to the summit. This means that he gets to come with me as often as possible which seems like the solution Sprocket most supports.

Final couloir with Sprocket waiting

See, he forgives me.

Browns Peak Beth and Sprocket

I knew we’d make it to the car before dark but we kept up our quick pace since I hadn’t driven the western shore of Roosevelt Lake so I wanted to see that in the last minutes of daylight.

Sprocket on Browns Peak trail

Cool rocks

Selfie

Browns Peak was awesome: a good scramble always makes me happy and this one was pretty fantastic.

Olympic Mountains: Mt. Washington

The weather in Washington has been absolutely beautiful and I really wanted to get outside and take advantage of it so while I was at the Rainiers’ game with my family I sent a message to my cousin, Daniel. After our adventure on Gold Mountain at Christmastime, he’d said he was always up for more adventure so I was hoping that was still the case.

Happily for me, he agreed and I quickly started searching for some hike options. I really love the Olympic Peninsula so it really wasn’t a surprise that of the four choices I sent him, three were on the peninsula. I was totally pumped when he agreed to tackle my first choice, Mt. Washington. At 6,255′ it is the most prominent peak in Mason County with 2,615′ of clean prominence.

Mt. Washington Trail

The Mt. Washington trail is not an official Forest Service trail and starts out really steeply from the parking lot. And when I say steeply, I mean that we gained 1,600′ in the first mile. Fortunately, it was a really beautiful hike. There were lots of wildflowers and the views to the east just kept getting better as Mt. Rainier appeared and then all of Hood Canal and then some of Puget Sound.

Wildflowers

In places (like the slope Daniel is standing on in the photo below) the trail was covered in scree and made for tough climbing in spots. It was always a relief when we switched to climbing up roots and rocks.

Daniel on trail

Beth on Mt. Washington Trail

 

As we climbed up higher and higher I got more and more giddy. I absolutely love climbing in the high alpine during the summer and I haven’t gotten to do that in Colorado yet this year!

Towards Mt. Ellinor

Daniel on Mt. Washington Trail

 

I really love this photo I took of Dan:

Daniel

 

Beth and Lake Cushman

 

Seriously, I’m not joking, I was giddy:

Stream channel selfie; Beth

 

We reached a great stopping point just shy of the half way point (in elevation gain) and had some snacks and enjoyed the view.

Panorama from high meadow

Ridge panorama from high meadow

Climbing it because it's there

 

After refueling, we started the final push for the summit. First, we passed through a small meadow filled with bear grass flowers:

Wildflowers

Ascending from meadow

 

Then we started to work our way up the headwall toward the the ridgeline:

Headwall

Beth on Mt. Washington Trail

Daniel on Mt. Washington trail

Mt. Washington trail

Hood Canal and Lake Cushman

 

The trail to the summit was really pretty and I enjoyed the final easy scramble to the summit. Plus, the views to the west and the interior of the Olympics were absolutely amazing!

Mt. Washington trail

Hood Canal

Panorama from summit of mt. Washingotn

Beth and Daniel Summit Selfie

 

One of the things that I really love about climbing more than one mountain in an area is seeing mountains from more than one angle. The mountain below is Mt. Ellinor that I climbed in 2005:

Mt Ellinor

 

Coming from Colorado I also appreciated the green in the lower reaches of the trail on the way down. I’ve always felt that there is nowhere else you can go and see more shades of green in one place!

image

Beth on Mt. Washington Trail

 

Back at the car, we changed into flip flops, stared up at the mountain and headed back down to Hoodsport.

Mt. Washington from trailhead

 

Hoodsport Coffee Co. serves Olympic Mountain Ice Cream which is seriously fantastically delicious ice cream. I devoured one scoop of vanilla habanero followed by one scoop of lemon lavender. Daniel had vanilla and cappuccino chip.

 

 

 

 

Olympic Mountain Ice Cream

 

Mt. Washington was a great hike that had a lot of elements that I loved: a summit, great high elevation scrambling, amazing views, and it inspired more summits; plus it has one of my favorite ice cream brands at the base. It was all made better by getting to hang out with my cousin who I rarely get to see. As always, I’m excited to get back to the Olympics next visit home!

P.S. Congratulations to Daniel for wrapping up a successful college career and graduated from Central Washington University the Saturday before the hike!

#TryingStuffInJordan, Part 2

In case you missed it, the first part of my #TryingStuffInJordan recap is available here. In Part 2, I pick up the story as I woke up at the Feynan Ecolodge:

Day 4

We started our day with a delicious breakfast at the Ecolodge before starting out on a hike through Wadi Ghwayr in the Dana Biosphere Reserve. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from our canyon hike other than that we were warned we’d be getting wet…

Wadi Ghwayr

Beth in Wadi Ghwayr
Photo Courtesy @Lukasavige

Wadi Ghwayr

The hike was so much fun. The wadi, Arabic for valley, was absolutely gorgeous: the water was crystal clear, the sandstone had beautiful swirl patterns, there were palm trees overhanging the canyon, and there was plenty of fun scrambling and waterfall scaling. I’ve been on lots of wonderful hikes but I really do count this as one of the top 10 most beautiful ones in my life. Bedouin tea breaks and a sand bread snack (literally bread baked in the sand) were only icing on the cake.

Wadi Ghwayr Sandstone

At the end of the hike, we climbed into vans and were off the next destination: Dana’s Rummana Campsite. When we arrived, it was chilly so we immediately layered up and headed for dinner. After the long hike, I was pretty tired so called it an early night—after a couple post-dinner cups of Bedouin tea of course.

Day 5

The morning was brilliant and sunny giving us some beautiful views of our campsite. After breakfast we did a little bit of hiking and scrambling around: my favorite way to explore!

Dana Biosphere Reserve

Dana Biosphere Reserve

Leaving the nature preserve, we drove to the town of Petra. After a nice relaxing afternoon at the hotel, we headed out for dinner. We all had an idea of what might be in store for us that night and were all delighted to hear that our guess was correct: we were going to see Petra at night.

Wandering down the candle lit path through the Siq was a really neat experience. The tall canyon walls were just barely illuminated by the moon giving only hints of the grandeur surrounding us. Suddenly, the Treasury appeared illuminated by the light of hundreds of candles. My photo definitely doesn’t do the beauty of the scene justice.

Petra at night

Day 6

After being given a glimpse of Petra at the Treasury, we were all excited to go see more. Our guide Mohammed took us all over the ancient city telling us the history beginning with the Nabataeans and then the Romans and the Byzantines. The large tombs carved out of the solid sandstone cliffs were absolutely huge (plus there was lots more of the gorgeous swirled sandstone).

Treasury

Petra

Petra

After lunch, we continued on to the Monastery and then to a view point beyond. At the viewpoint, we were told that we’d be meeting at 7:45 back at the hotel but we were on our own before that. Earlier in the day, Mohammed had mentioned hiking behind the Kings Tomb to a high viewpoint to the Treasury. Justin and I soon decided that we would use our free time to head that way, Seth soon caught up to us and away we went. Our added route took us by some additional tombs, up a huge flight of stairs to a really amazing overlook of the Treasury. It was definitely time well spent. As a bonus, we even got a nice quiet walk out the Siq with just enough time to shower before dinner.

Beth and Jordanian girls

Petra

Justin, Beth, and Seth

14ers: El Diente & Mount Wilson

Thursday at 2am, we got up and headed out for another try at El Diente (and Mt. Wilson). This time we headed up via the Kilpacker trail and started our hike at about 3:45am. We arrived in Kilpacker basin just as the sun was coming up and were treated to this view of “The Tooth” catching the first rays of light:

El Diente at sunrise

Kilpacker Basin

Our timing was great. We did the easy trail hiking in the dark and started our scramble up the south slopes of El Diente while watching the sun creep along the ridges and valley floors.

F

Kilpacker Basin3UpAdventures.com. El Diente-Mt. Wilson Traverse.

Reaching the summit of El Diente was awesome. There was just the right amount of difficult third class scrambling to make it fun without being intimidating. Since we still wanted to do the traverse to Mt. Wilson, we didn’t spend too long on the summit, taking just enough time to share a Good2Go bar and drink some water.

F on the summit of El Diente

From El Diente, we finally got a glimpse of Mt. Wilson:

Mt. Wilson from El Diente

From the left: Wilson Peak, Mt. Gladstone, and Mt. Wilson:

Wilson Peak, Gladstone from El Diente

We started across the traverse. While parts of it were lots of fun, there was lots of crumbly, tippy, loose rocks with plenty of exposure. It demanded a lot of attention as we moved slowly towards Mt. Wilson.

El Diente from Wilson Peak Traverse

The last pitch up the summit block of Mt. Wilson was quite the climax to the day. The last few moves are definitely class 4 with plenty of exposure. Finally, though, we were on top. It was almost noon so we didn’t linger very long on the summit and started our decent down into Navajo Basin via the northeastern slopes.

Marmot Navajo Basin

Decent route

When we finally reached the basin floor, it was time to get walking. The clouds were gathering and we knew that it wouldn’t be long before we got wet. Fortunately, we got to see Navajo Lake from above before packing the camera away from the rain that was almost upon us. The six mile hike out was really wet but we’d made it!

Navajo Lake

Mushrooms near Navajo Lake

Trail Stats:

Miles hiked: 16
Feet of elevation gain: ~5,200′
Time: 12 hours 45 minutes
14ers summited: TWO (Mt. Wilson and El Diente plus West Wilson)

Nature 1, Us 0

Wednesday morning, we hit the road at 3:45 am to climb El Diente and Mount Wilson. We arrived at the Navajo Lake trail and began the first few miles of our hike in the dark. As we reached the meadows below the lake, the sky began to lighten and we got our first glimpse of El Diente (and South Wilson).

Sunrise on the Navajo Peak Trail

Finally we climbed the trail over the headwall of Navajo Basin and got to see the slopes of El Diente. We enjoyed a snack on the shores of the lake before starting the long scramble up to the West Ridge.

Navajo Lake

Navajo Lake

Our chosen route was steep. The going up the scree was slow but our views got better and better as we moved up in elevation. Mostly it was just a lot of two steps up, one step back but there were a few places we got to do some scrambling.

F on the slopes of El Diente

Up El Diente

Climbing the chutes

Climbing the chutes

Finally, we popped out on the ridge and we saw El Diente for the first time since leaving the meadows. Wow.

First glimpse of El Diente

Our views out to the west weren’t too bad either:

To the West

Traversing the west ridge was a lot of fun. We weren’t making awesome time because there were plenty of places where we had to cross some sketchy areas like this: (Yes, it’s a long ways down)

Knife's Edge

To the North

Ridge hiking

Ridge Hiking

Just as we started to feel within reach of the summit, the infamous Colorado summer thunderstorms began to develop. We watched as the clouds began to get more and more ominous. As we watched the clouds began to move to our south so we began moving again.

Ominous clouds

Within minutes, things went from sketchy to very bad. As my hair stood straight up and we got a fuzzy sensation, F sternly instructed me to get down and the two of us hit the rocks and rolled down the ridge 20ft. BOOM, lightning struck over head. Luckily it was cloud to cloud that time.

As we regrouped, we realized 1) that we needed to GET OFF THE RIDGE, 2) that we’d put holes in several hundred dollars worth of clothing, that F had 3) bent his thumbnail back ripping some flesh and 4) sliced 3″ of his hand open on the rocks.  We bandaged his hand with my t-shirt and hair tie (my free tshirt from S2V met a bloody death and I doubt my coworker wants her hair tie back…).

Two miles of ridge top traversing did not sound like a good idea but we weren’t sure we had much of a choice. The alternate routes on El Diente were on the other side of the summit and the sides of the ridge were full of cliffs. As we scrambled our way along the ridge F spotted a chute that appeared be decendable to Kilpacker basin and we both agreed it was worth a shot to get ourselves out of a sketchy situation. So we “skied” down 1000ft of scree while trying to avoid going over the cliff.

When we arrived in the basin the imminent threat of severe weather seemed to have been replaced with a slight summer drizzle and we were treated to a side view of How Close We Were.

Hand gash on El Diente's slopes

Instead of following our tracks out to the Navajo trail, we decided to hike out Kilpacker trail to see if trying the South Slopes approach would be a better idea next time. Just shy of the trail head we met a father and son who had made it to the top of El Diente before the storm but had to abandon the traverse to Mount Wilson. They kindly agreed to drive us back to the Navajo trailhead to pick up the Jeep.

Bummed about not making it to the summit, we took Last Dollar Road from Telluride back to Dallas Divide. Along the way, we saw elk herds, some Aspen and pine groves, and lots of trails to explore.

Elk on Last Dollar Road

The Jeep even got to have some muddy fun:

Green Jeep.

Back in Ridgway over pizza and beer, we began to make plans to give the climb another shot. We’re on a mission now!

Hike by the numbers:
Miles hiked: 11.8
Feet of elevation gain: 3800′
High point: 13,600′
Stitches needed: 9
Summits reached: 0
Dollars worth of clothing torn: a lot 😥

 

Mt. Sneffels Climb

Wednesday, F, Ezra and I decided it was time to climb Mt. Sneffels. The climb marked the first 14er for both Ezra and I as well as the first 14er F has climbed (he’s driven up Mt. Evans).

We started our climb in beautiful Yankee Boy Basin. From the last parking area, it’s only about 1 1/2 miles to the summit so we took our time on the way up. We stopped for awhile to photograph this really friendly marmot:

Marmott

As is normal in the San Juans, the views just get better and better (and my list of mountains to climb gets longer and longer).

F on Mt. Sneffels

F and Ezra on Mt. Sneffels

Views of the San Juans from Mt Sneffels

Views of the San Juans from Sneffels

Mt. Sneffels final chute

North from the summit of sneffels

Blue Lakes

DSC_0078

DSC_0080

DSC_0086

Beth & F on Sneffels

We even found a bunch of fulgurites (is it still a fulgurite if it’s not a tube?):

Fulgurite

Arch Canyon

A couple weekends ago, Forrest, Ezra, and I decided we were going to head up Arch Canyon in Organ Pipe National Monument. We were hoping that we’d be able to find a way up the steep canyon walls to reach the summit of Mt. Ajo and return via Bull Pasture.

Arch Canyon trailhead

Natural Arch

One of the things Forrest remarked upon as we hiked through the canyon was how much it reminded him of Utah (and also how incredibly green everything was!). The canyon was very tight in some places as we made our way up the wash—everything was simply stunning!

Arch Canyon

Arch Canyon

We weren’t able to make it onto Mt. Ajo’s summit ridge; we headed to the east as soon as we thought we could traverse the ridge and were foiled by some areas that looked too sketchy to do without ropes. In retrospect, it may be possible to summit if you stay in the wash proper as long as you can and head more directly for the summit. Despite not reaching the summit, we had an excellent day of hiking, scrambling, and even doing some light climbing.

Arch Canyon

Spring, Arch Canyon

Arch Canyon

Arch Canyon

Ezra climbing in Arch Canyon

View from Arch Canyon

Forrest climbing in Arch Canyon

The summit of Mt. Ajo is visible on the left: (SO CLOSE. Yet SO FAR.)

Mt. Ajo

 

Wedding, Part 18: Tuesday—Climbing

Tuesday morning, we headed towards Morning Glory Canyon again to do some climbing. F and I were anxious to do some more free exploring like we’d done briefly in the Cable Arch area. We parked at Morning Glory and walked back east on the road looking for a place to pop out on top.

Climbing up from the road

It took a few minutes but we finally found a crack that looked like it would “go.” The rock was pretty crumbly but we all made it up to the top without incident. We all enjoyed our time scrambling around.

“First one to bite it buys a round.”
Moonflower Canyon

We found ourselves in some difficult spots but still had a great time. After eating lunch on top with views to Behind the Rocks, out to Canyonlands and Arches, and down to the Colorado, we hiked out via the Moab Rim jeep trail. (The big rainstorm rushing in from the west complete with lightning was enough to keep us all moving quickly!)

Blaze climbing.
Looking back to Behind The Rocks.
Hiking in Behind the Rocks WSA

 

Cabinet Mountain Backpacking, Part 1

Cabinet mountains in the backgroun

I’ve been to the Cabinets a few times now and I really love them. They’re probably the closest range to us that features the beautiful rocky peaks above tree-line. In the past, I’ve used the Rock Creek road to access Cliff Lake and it’s surrounding area. That’s an awesome area since the road takes you wayyyy up and it’s an easy hike to the alpine meadows area.

Instead of going that route this time, I decided to head into Snowshoe Lake. It’s been ages since I’ve been backpacking and I was really excited to get out even if it wasn’t anything crazy intense. The trip report I read on getting to Snowshoe Lake was a little vague about where the trailhead was since the road (FS #2722) washed out a few years ago.

Lemme tell you. It’s not vague and you really shouldn’t think about it too hard. There’s a bridge where the Bull River Road used to be with clear parking spots just for you. Instead, I followed the directions I found online and went 3+ miles from the junction with Highway 56 and took a nice little 2 mile (each way) jaunt down a closed road that went…nowhere.

We hopped back in the jeep and went back down the road. When I looked at the sign at the trailhead (that clearly indicated this trail was the replacement for road 2722) I was a bit exasperated with myself that I hadn’t slowed down to look here before continuing up FS Rd #410 (aka South Fork Bull River Rd). There was nothing to be done though, so Sprocket and I shouldered our packs again and headed out.

It’s too bad that the road is washed out since it’s not particularly scenic on the way to the old trailhead. Sprocket and I made pretty decent time, said hello to some horse packers staying at the trailhead and continued on. The trail was narrow and didn’t seem to have many places to camp off of it so I started to get a little nervous. About 3/4 of a mile up the trail, I spotted a little spot on the river with some pretty small gravel so we scrambled down. It actually wound up being a perfect little spot. I was worried Sprocket would want to swim but he seemed pretty tired (Sprocket, you only did about 6 miles!) and just laid down when I told him to.

Cuddling in the tent

We both scarfed down some dinner and retired to the tent. And crashed. Sprocket was super happy to be able to snuggle! (Doggies who are not allowed on the bed <3 sleeping in tents!) In the morning, he didn’t waste one second before wading in the river. I barely started eating my breakfast before he started whining…he was ready for more hiking!!

Happy hiking dog.

The trail climbed steadily but we made pretty great time on our way to Verdun Creek (~3 miles from the old trail head). After the creek crossing, the trail became more of a way trail and was occasionally a bit hard to pick out. I ended up putting Sprocket in front of me…he seemed to be able to sniff it out and see it under the brush more than me. About 2 miles past the creek, we reached the “headwall” of the N. Fork Bull River. Sprocket and I chose to go up an old stream bed rather than going right up the face. I had to help him up onto a couple of boulders but this was definitely the right choice.

(Word to the wise: Sprocket and I made it up and down just fine; there were a couple of places he didn’t like but he’s been on similar stuff before. However, I wouldn’t recommend this as a hike with dogs.)

Headwall, North Fork Bull River

From the top of the headwall it was a pretty short hike to the lake. We were there by about 1:30 and spent the afternoon relaxing. Sprocket did some swimming and I read. The sun was shining but it was a little chilly up there…there were several large patches of snow visible above the lake still! (BRRRR.) Sprocket was less than pleased when I cut off his swimming time at about 3pm so that he could dry before getting in the tent. He’d just sit, look at the lake and whimper. Pathetic dog. We headed to bed early so we could get up and explore above the lake some in the morning.