Monday, August 18, 2008

This Is What I Came Here To Do

Interesting weekend... it poured and stormed and huffed and puffed and tried to blow my house down. So I canceled my plans to hike on Saturday. And the group I was going to hike with on Sunday wimped out and decided to cancel our moonlight hike of Antero. But I wasn't ready to give up. We checked the weather and found that the forecast wasn't nearly as bad in the Elk Range. Even though it isn't part of the Sawatch Range that I want to finish this summer, I wanted to get out and hike. So we decided to hike Castle Peak and Conundrum Peak. Waking up at 1:30 a.m. is really not fun if you didn't get to sleep until 10 or 11. It rained for most of the drive to Aspen, but thinned out as we got closer to the trailhead. Once we started hiking, we got some snow flurries. Snow in August?!?!?!?!?! This is a shot down the valley we had just hiked up. We started just below treeline at 6:15 a.m.

The rising sun and clouds above made for some really interesting light conditions.

We still had a ways to go before we reached the basin where we could see the peaks we planned to summit. There was alot of evidence of mining in the area, but I didn't get any pictures of it. Once we reached the basin we had to cross a snow field and then do some lite bouldering on the talus to the left.

After navigating a bunch of loose rock we reached the summit ridge and made our final ascent to the summit. Some of the trail was pretty exposed, but the rock was solid. This picture is pretty deceiving, but it actually looks almost straight down. Hope you don't have vertigo!

You could see Conundrum Peak across the amphitheater. All that snow and the lake are actually on top of a glacier that is slowly melting. It is causing a crevasse that you can see around the lake. A hiker actually fell in the 30-foot-deep crevasse a few weeks ago before some of the snow melted. He was fine, but it was a little freaky.

We pushed on and finally summitted at 9:00 a.m. (the first group of the day) in the windy, cloudy cold.

We stayed for about an hour eating, drinking water, taking pictures, and trying to decide if we should hike over to Conundrum. The clouds were coming in waves and it was hard to see some of the trail. You can see most of the ridge up to the summit of Conundrum in this shot. The peak is actually to the right of the couliour hiding in the clouds. We saw one group climb up the couliour.

The clouds slowly lightened and we decided to make the traverse over to Conundrum. It only took us 45 minutes and we beat the group that was climbing up the couliour. They reached the top just as we were about to leave. You could look across and see part of the ridge that leads to Castle Peak. There were alot of people making their way up it. It looked like a trail of ants.

Here's me on the summit of Conundrum Peak. I'm so punny.

The hike down was by far the best part. We glisaded (slide on your ass in the snow and stop yourself with trekking poles/ice axe) most of the way down to the basin. The first part was the scariest because it led right to the crevasse and the lake below. If you carried too much speed, it would be hard to stop yourself and there wouldn't be a happy ending. I was a bit nervous since it was my first attempt at glisading. I stopped a bit lower than I wanted to, but well above the crevasse. We then traversed over to the left where you can see the biggest part of the crevasse in the picture above. We walked most of the way at the edge of the snow along the rocks. Eventually we had to cross another snowfield that was just above the big crevasse. I started making my way across but lost my footing and started flying towards the crevasse. I used my poles to slow down, but nothing happened. I realized that I QUICKLY needed to try something different and rolled over to my stomach. I got up on my knees and elbows and dug the poles in as hard as I could. I came to an abrupt and much welcomed stop. I carefully kicked footholds in the snow to make my way to the next rock pile. We had about another 700 feet that we got to glisade down from there and it was much easier and less dangerous.

A fun experience for sure. I felt like a little kid. Now I can't wait for the snow to come. I plan to build an igloo this winter and sleep in it for a few nights. AWESOME!

1 comment:

Jane said...

So pretty! And snow! I'm super jealous. I haven't even worn a coat in seven months.