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Summer 2009 Tour

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YouTube Videos

The 2009 tour included multiple trips to both Colorado and California. I made two videos containing slideshows and short video clips with annotations (more elaborate trip descriptions can be found below). I’ve thrown together quick slideshows in the past with iPhoto, but it was difficult to distribute them easily, so I had to chase people around with my laptop. This year I finally bit the bullet with both iMovie and YouTube. Many thanks go to Foo’ball, Dan, Jordan and Maddie for providing such excellent photos in high-resolution format!

The first video is shorter and covers the entire VRMC tour:

The second video is longer and covers the final Great Western Divide marathon in greater detail:

Note: I apologize if you don’t care for the music in these videos. Please let me know if you have suggestions for better public domain or cheaply licensable music. Note that it’s illegal to publish videos on the web that contain music without first obtaining specific rights to do so, and you’re liable to have your YouTube video muted (or at least get pop-up ads) if you break this law.

- Chris Schneider


Google Earth “Fly-throughs”

I also developed two Google Earth-based tours covering the California trips. Each makes use of the (free) Google Earth plug-in to display an interactive 3-D tour in your browser that follows our route as the camera wheels and pans around the topography:

Interested in writing your own Google Earth tours? If so, check out this page.

- Chris Schneider


San Juans, CO (2009-06-18 through 2009-06-28)

I got to Colorado with the intent of knocking 13,642' Redcliff and 13,656' Coxcomb Peak off my list. But the snow was too deep to get to the base of Coxcomb and would probably have prevented the difficult climb. I had to be satisfied with a mostly-on-snow climb to Redcliff, and postponed the Coxcomb attempt until after GFR.

I met Jim Patrick of the Colorado Mountain Club in Durango. We took the narrow-gauge railroad to Needleton and hiked into Ruby Lake, in some of the best weather of the segment. The parts of the “trail” that I had cleared last year were still open, but considerable new blowdown further obscured the rest of the route (and continued all the way up to treeline). We did a bit of cleanup to make the route obvious, but anyone planning to go in there should bring a saw and clippers, and allow an extra day.

From Ruby Lake we climbed 13,972' Pigeon Peak (I already had it, but Jim needed it) and moved camp (in the rain) up through the willows to the high meadow. Jim is an early starter, and that proved valuable as we climbed the circuit of 13,695' Monitor Peak, 13,705' Peak Thirteen, and 13,786' Animas Mtn., replete with routefinding challenges. Rain started just as we left the summit of Animas, no time for photos, and became heavy just as we returned to camp.

Next day, we left one tent with supplies in the meadow, packed up a bivy and crossed over the Pigeon-Turret saddle to a camp at the base of the Peak Fifteen access couloir. Jim nabbed 13,835' Turret Peak enroute (I already had climbed it, thrice). As we got to the camp site, a thunderstorm chased us under an overhanging boulder for an hour. The rain stopped just long enough for us to carve a pretty good tent platform out of the dirt and set up camp, then rain returned unabated. I have encountered this peculiar monsoon pattern before in the San Juans, where the rain arrives earlier and stays later each day.

We had planned to climb 13,700' Peak Fifteen next morning, but the rain continued essentially unabated until next afternoon. Well, we had put an extra day into the schedule for just such an eventuality, so we hung around the tent, listened to music on the radio, and watched a pack of mountain goats visiting our campsite.

Bright and early the next morning, we headed up the soft snow of the approach couloir and reached the ridge without difficulty. We were actually able to find the start of the climbing route from here this time; every one of the route descriptions fails to mention that you have to keep traversing left on an up-and-down ramp several hundred feet until the climbing becomes easy. There was just one lower-fifth-class pitch above that; Jim scrambled up it and belayed me up. From there, it was easy scrambling all the way to the summit for the long-awaited celebration.

We rappelled down that tough pitch and descended the now-even-softer snow of the couloir. Unfortunately, as we neared the bottom of the couloir, we hit a patch of hard ice. Unable to self-arrest, both of us slid out of control about 30 yards into the rocks at the bottom. Jim got a bit banged up, but I apparently hit harder and bashed my left hand, nose, and mouth, and bruised both my legs, making hiking painful and slow. I sustained no broken bones, just major cuts and bruises. (Hey, want to listen to Smashmouth and climb Broken Hand Peak? No, thanks.) Jim wrapped up my bloody hand, we returned to bivy camp, and we packed back to the high meadow and our remaining supplies.

Here the bad news continued, as we found that marmots had eaten through my tent and destroyed most of the remaining food, as well as a guidebook, some clothing, and even my stove pump. Luckily, we still had one meal worth of food left, and we packed down to Ruby Lake for the final night. Jim had to help me pack up as I couldn't even grasp a stuff sack with my injured left hand. We took the train out, and I headed back to Denver to switch to the bike for GFR.

- Mike Bromberg (Foo’ball)


Palisades, CA (2009-07-12 through 2009-07-16)

Dan Blodgett and I hiked up the North Fork of Big Pine Creek Trail, but our heavy packs convinced us to spend the first night at Third Lake. Although we’d intended to climb the Starlight Buttress, the initial reports from climbers on their way down suggested that the bergschrund at the bottom of the Clyde Couloir might not be easily passable, especially given a late start the following day (after moving camp up to Sam Mack Meadow).

On Monday, Dan and I decided that with a homosexual approaching, we should certainly attempt to climb gayley. Accordingly, we ascended to Glacier Notch and on up the class 3 Southwest Ridge of Mt. Gayley. Our failure to leave a note at the entrance to Sam Mack Meadow and my drastic underestimation of the mileage distance in (D'Oh!) coupled to prevent Foo’ball from finding our camp that night, so we didn’t happen upon each other until the following morning, which we all agreed to make a rest day.

On Wedensday, the three of us rose early, headed up the trail and then cut through a notch toward the Thunderbolt Glacier. We made it to the foot of Mt. Winchell, where Dan and I continued up the class 3+ East Arête. Atop this fine summit I reached the halfway point in my quest for the California Thirteeners (74 of 147), a milestone we all celebrated thoroughly with some good red wine once Dan and I returned to Sam Mack Meadow. Foo’ball and I hiked out that afternoon/evening while Dan spent one last night in the backcountry. We met a climber at the trailhead who’d fallen into the Clyde Couloir ’schrund on a solo climb a month earlier!

- Chris Schneider


Front Range, CO (2009-07-18 through 2009-07-19)

Schmed accompanied me in the Jeep back to Colorado, where we set up camp near the trailhead to 13,580' Mt. Powell and met Randy “Dusker” Schweickart ’83. But on our attempted backpack into Mt. Powell base camp next day, we had an inordinate amount of trouble finding the right route up into Powell basin. After surveying every herd path in the area, we decided that postponing Powell until next year and doing it last, as originally planned, would be the right choice. Don't worry, we located the correct trail just after we had punted!

We drove to a car camp on the Guanella Pass Road, and had a terrific time climbing 14,060' Mt. Bierstadt on a beautiful day despite the literally hundreds of other climbers. We spent the night at Alan Taylor ’83’s place in Boulder, and I never did meet up with Jim “JC” Campbell ’80.

- Mike Bromberg (Foo’ball)


Great Western Divide, CA (2009-08-31 through 2009-09-08)

After a comedy of errors drive down to Dan Blodgett’s place in Coarsegold (how far is it from Sacramento to Fresno on I-5?), the following morning Jordan Jablonski-Sheffield and I followed him to Road’s End in Kings Canyon National Park. The three of us finally got on the trail early Monday afternoon and made it to an excellent campsite in Junction Meadow just as darkness was falling.

The next day we climbed past gorgeous East Lake to lovely Lake Reflection, dropped most of our weight, and then continued up the drainage to a bivuouac at Lake 3496m. On Wednesday, we climbed South Guard (class 2) and “Sky Pilot Peak” (class 3) from Longley Pass, then returned to our Lake Reflection camp.

On Thursday, Jordan and I climbed up to Lucys Foot Pass (class 3), then continued up the supposedely class 2 West Ridge of Mt. Ericsson. We headed toward what seemed like the highest peaks, which put us into an easy class 3 gulley. However, the summit blocks on the right and left sides of the gulley turned out to be class 3+ and 4+, respectively. Peeking north through a crack near the base of the latter, I noticed easy class 2 slopes, so we found our way around the buttress below and eventually made it to the class 2 summit block containing the register. From here, though, it still seemed like the other two summits were probably higher. Later, as I was excitedly relating all the fascinating minutiae of the teaching profession to Jordan, I managed to walk right past the easy route to the East Lake trail, and so we ended up hiking at least a mile or so directly away from Lake Reflection!

Dan, Jordan and I climbed up to Millys Foot Pass on Friday morning, the last 100 feet of which were class 3+. Arriving there at 10am, we immediately caught sight of Ken Krugler, Dave White and Jordan’s sister Madison approaching the pass from the north. Ken eventually turned on his radio, we had a quick chat, and all six of us were soon together watching ominous clouds approach the pass. Dan and I quickly rigged a belay and got everyone else back down the class 3+ on the north side. We then dashed up to Mt. Genevra, got thrashed by a hailstorm, and then quickly descended Millys without getting bashed. (Unfortunately, I forgot a small bag of clothes at the pass, where they’d been cached.)

On Saturday, we took a well-deserved rest. For the first time on the trip, the weather was perfect all day long, and we enjoyed hours of sun and many wild leaps into Lake Reflection off the cliffs seemingly designed for the purpose. In the afternoon, we reluctantly packed up our camp, dropped a cache at East Lake, and then headed up the Ouzel Creek drainage to a bivuoac at about 3400m, which had lovely views.

We rose early on Sunday morning and all headed up the class 2 East Ridge of Mt. Brewer. Here again we found that the highest point had not been described in the guidebook; it was class 3+ and completely exposed to a fall of at least 25'. Soon afterward, I decided that North Guard was just too close, so I left to solo its class 3 South Face and wildly exposed (though solid) upper West Ridge. After standing atop the summit “diving board”, I retraced my route (reclimbing Mt. Brewer), headed back down to our bivouac, and then eventually made it to our East Lake cache. Here, a group who’d been packed in on horses donated a beer to my cause. I finally caught up with Jordan, Ken, Dave and Maddie in the same Junction Meadow camp soon after Dan had left for Charlotte Creek. Kathmandu Curry and ice-cold Coors by the fire capped one of the very best climbing days I’ve ever had.

Ken and Dave left early the next morning, taking the Bubbs Creek Trail east and the Pacific Crest Trail south to Center Basin, where they climbed Junction Pass and descended to Anvil Camp (hiking out to the Shepherd Pass trailhead on Tuesday). The kids and I took the Bubbs Creek Trail west toward my car, where we all enjoyed beer good enough for even Maddie to drink.

- Chris Schneider