Curt Honcharik, Jozef Sibik and I went up to RMNP for some backcountry skiing on Sunday. I’m certainly eager to go ski the steeps, but have been very cautious lately with the snowpack. Curt and I skied/boarded 25 degree slopes at Jenny Lind Gulch last weekend; our snowpit showed lots of instability. After hearing about the massive accident at Loveland on Sunday, our caution was justified and we decided to keep to moderate slopes.
We had a great day of skiing on the East Bowl of Flattop, also known as The Drift. Creamy snow, plenty of sun, and not too much wind. We dug a pit just above treeline at 11,300′ on an east aspect, in the sastrugi, just out of curiosity. Snowpack was about 6 feet deep to the ground, and comprised of 4′ of bombproof windslab on top of a foot of icy crusts and thin softer slabs, with a foot of facets near the ground. Overall I was surprised by how quickly the snow from earlier this week had consolidated, both up high and in the trees on all aspects…but it’s still a winter snowpack though, so be careful out there folks. We spent an hour practicing with beacons at the end of the day.
My condolences to the families and friends of Saturday’s slide.
Another alpine outing with John Mercke this week. After climbing for a few days last week at Indian Creek we met a French fellow named Francois and make plans to climb ice in Rocky Mountain National Park. I checked ice conditions with a friend who guides for Colorado Mountain School and got word that West Gully and All Mixed Up were in decent shape, each having been climbed over the weekend with no rock gear – just screws.
So on Wednesday, John, Francois, his friend Elad, and I went up to Black Lake to have a look. All Mixed Up looked very climbable, though a bit thin in the middle. I didn’t snap a photo…sorry! The Black Lake slabs are forming, as shown in one of the photos below. Very thin, though, at the moment.
West Gully was great. We climbed side-by-side in two teams of two. I took the right side, and enjoyed a pitch of mellow WI3 to belay in a niche on the right below a pillar. The pillar was short, maybe 25 feet, steep, and stout with poor protection. I equalized my first two screws together after hitting air on both, then found hollow ice above. Fun climbing: stemming, backstep/kneebar using the rock behind, pulling a steep bulge…if slightly nerve-wracking climbing above such questionable screws. I pulled the moves though and built a belay at the base of the long ice slabs above.
We cruised the slabs on a simul-belay with hero ice and good screws. Elad suffered a mini-epic routefinding on the descent, but we arrived back at Black Lake with almost enough sunlight for the hike back to the car.
All in all an excellent romp in the mountains. I am certainly happy to be back in the alpine game with a comfortable lead head.
John Mercke and I went up for a ramble in the Mt. Meeker cirque of Rocky Mountain National Park yesterday (October 30, 2012) to do some climbing and check out ice climbing conditions. Chasm Lake is solidly frozen. Overall, the mountains are surprisingly dry, and we need more snow for better conditions to form up.
We climbed the Flying Dutchman and found overall good conditions: mostly firm snow (kicking 3in deep steps) with a bit of knee-deep wallowing. The crux pitch had plenty of good ice and took two 16cm screws (one just touched rock) and some rock pro. We descended the Loft, easily on mostly firm snow.
The Loft ice is forming, but not quite in.
Dreamweaver is forming, but looks like it would involve a good bit of rock climbing.
Martha isn’t in yet. We need some more snow, sun, and cold nights.
The Peacock Pool ice is forming and mostly climbable, but thin with water flowing behind the ice. Fine for some top-roping but I wouldn’t lead it quite yet! We top-roped the rightmost flow after descending from the Dutchman and it was fun, if still a bit thin.
I’ve heard that Alexander’s Chimney is in, but haven’t climbed it.
A party climbed Fields Chimney yesterday, and we saw them coming across Broadway – so presumably the route is in enough to climb.
We’re having a community seed swap in Estes Park! Saving and sharing seed is a vital way to preserve and grow the biodiversity of our gardens and food. In a difficult climate like Estes Park, gardeners can greatly benefit from using locally adapted seeds. The Estes Park Community Seed Swap is a chance for local gardeners to meet, exchange seeds from plants that have been successful in local or similar high-altitude gardens, and learn from one another.
Attendees should come with seeds, root cuttings, or live plants packaged to share. Vegetables, flowers, herbs, shrubs, and trees are all welcome. There is no cost to attend.
The event will be held at the Estes Valley Library, on Saturday March 3rd from 12pm-4pm. If you interested in attending, please sign up at http://www.evlcalendar.org/events/index.php?com=detail&eID=7600. If you are interested in sponsoring or helping out with the event, please send me an email (philip dot magistro at gmail dot com) and we can talk about details!
We had the good fortune this last week to take part as volunteers in Scott Rashid‘s Northern Saw-whet Owl (NSWO) banding project. There isn’t much known about these little owls, and Scott is the only bander here in Colorado. Exciting to be a part of that….and the owls are simply the most adorable creatures in the world.
Scott is looking for volunteers for the banding project – check out this article if you are interested!
I knew it was coming. We are already a week past our average last frost. Summer simply doesn’t last forever at 7,500′, but the plump acorn squash, bright sunflowers and ripening tomatos kept me over-optimistic. A light frost came through last night, like a betrayal from the summer sun, wilting the basil and squash leaves. Fall is here…