California Thirteeners List
Summer 2004 Tour
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Here’s Mike Bromberg’s trip report:
I headed out on the Pickl on June 27, right after Adam and Rachel Chandler’s wedding, and spent a rowdy night with hippie biker Don Fenton in Bellefonte PA. With alternating clear and rainy riding days, I arrived in Denver on June 30, in time for the Golden Fleece Run kickoff on July 1 in Denver. The Rocky Mountaineers have made a comeback with many new members, and GFR has returned after a two-year absence, pretty much as good as it ever was. I won the Biker Distance award again, and had a great time with the guys (details on request). I did meet one rowdy bearded hippie dude named Rick Shory and spent much time with him both at GFR and later in the trip.
I picked up Jim Wahl at the airport on Monday July 5, right after I returned from GFR, and we drove the Jeep down to Durango to pack up for the first climbing segment. (In retrospect, I wish I’d left a litle more time between segments, as our packing and preparation were very rushed.) We boarded the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad early the next morning, and backpacked in from the Elk Park whistle stop to Vestal Basin, where we found an excellent above-treeline campsite at 12,200' Vestal Lake right at the base of the Wham Ridge. We had plenty of thirsty goats in camp, and were visited by a skinny silver fox. The next day we climbed the classic Wham Ridge to the summit of 13,864' Vestal Peak in fine weather, an exhilarating climb but one that was easier than billed. Although we had brought 20 pounds of rope and technical climbing gear, we only needed to rope up for one short pitch and only put in two pieces of protection.
On Thursday July 8 we moved camp over the ridge, following a disappearing trail and crossing tedious scree to another 12,200' campsite by a tarn at the base of Storm King Peak. We climbed 13,745' East Trinity enroute by a nasty loose couloir but chose to punt 13,805' Middle Trinity (which I had already climbed once). We spent Friday on an enjoyable excursion to 3,705' Peak Six that required a variety of roundabout routefinding and climbing skills, and returned to the same camp. On Saturday we climbed 13,752' Storm King Peak and moved camp back over the ridge to Vestal Basin; this day marked the worst weather of the segment with frequent showers, and the going was particularly unpleasant on loose gravel and scree. But we did snag a fine if buggy campsite in the valley, and hiked out to the railroad on Sunday.
Jim left Monday morning. Now solo for the rest of the climbing, I headed back on the railroad, this time to hike into popular Chicago Basin. Amazingly enough, I snagged the highest legal campsite in the basin, just as it started to rain heavily. The rain and thunder would dog me for the rest of the segment; I managed to bag 13,704' Glacier Point and cross over Twin Thumbs Pass into upper Ruby Basin (much post-holing enroute in the soft snow), but once there I was chased down by thunderstorms on three attempts to climb 13,700' Peak Fifteen. The weather was extremely unsettled during this segment, with thunderstorms as early as 11 am and recurring throughout the night, and the route was very roundabout and indistinct. On the middle attempt I actually did reach a summit despite having to wait out a thunderstorm, but due to a routefinding mixup it turned out to be 13,835' Turret Peak (which I had already climbed once) rather than Peak Fifteen. On the final attempt I found the correct route, but heavy rains made the surface too slick for safe climbing. So I only got one peak out of the intended five on that segment, and will have to go back to Ruby Basin once more, preferably in a less rainy season. The ever-present clouds did make for some fine sunrises and sunsets.
After spending a couple of days with Rick in Fort Collins (where it wasn’t raining), I took a long backpack on July 22 to climb 13,670' Mt. Jackson. I did bag the summit on the next day after some intricate routefinding and bushwhacking, but I was met with steady hail on the descent and steady rain on the hike out, a very exhausting 14.5 mile 4000-vertical foot day. Undaunted (well, not very daunted), I hiked up to the 13,000' Notch Mountain Shelter on the 24th, where I finally got a stretch of good weather for the lengthy climb to 13,831' Holy Cross Ridge and UN13768 and return to the shelter. I took a photo of 14,005' Mountain of the Holy Cross as seen from the shelter, which was originally built as a chapel. I didn’t have time to squeeze in another day hike, so after a night at the Bunkhouse in Breckenridge I got on the Pickl and headed back east. The bright side of all the rain was that it was enough to end Colorado’s drought for the year!
I had to deal with off-and-on rainy weather all the way back to the Unicorns Run in Ohio. We had plenty of torrential rain during the run, enough to cancel the scheduled group motorcycle ride, so there was little else to do but eat, drink beer, and hang out with the guys (details on request, luckily the campsite has a roofed pavilion). On the way out, we had to ride the bikes across a flooded bridge, kind of scary with the deep water running across the path, but we made it out without spilling. I didn’t win the Distance Award this time, was beaten out by Chaz Antonelli from Boston (just a few miles further than Mason; the route through Denver and back didn’t count for distance). I stayed with Don Fenton again on the trip back, and had a dry finish as I rode home on Monday August 2.
For once, I had no problems with the Jeep, no problems with the Pickl, and no near-death climbing experiences. Next summer’s destination is still undecided; I am planning to attempt 22,800' Aconcagua in Argentina during January and February, so the summer tour may be cut short. I would like to make it to both bike runs again, but I also need to spend some July time in New Hampshire to finish my monthly 4000-footer list. I’ll probably be climbing only in Colorado again since driving out to the West Coast and back takes lots of time, but sooner or later I will need to go back to California for “Southeast Polemonium” and the Kaweahs.
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Last updated 5 December, 2009