The Piggy Bank – Shelf Road Climbing

It had been less than a week since the accident at Garden of the Gods, and I was still quite sore, but when Tim asked me if I wanted to go climbing I said yes.  I had bruises all over my body, my knees and elbows were scraped up, and my neck was still sore, but I needed to get back in the saddle ASAP, with someone I could trust.

We met in the morning and all drove together (Emily, Tim, and I) to shelf road.  This was my first time there: shocking!  I know, but I’m more of a solo climber, and if it’s a nice day I’m in the mountains. 

There’s a bathroom at the trailhead and lots of loose dogs running around.  This seems to be a popular place to bring your pooch. When we arrived it was cold and windy, so we brought extra gloves and jackets and hiked down the dirt road to The Piggy Bank

There were a lot of people climbing, but still plenty of spots.  We found an empty area, set down our gear, and got ready.  Tim asked me to belay him, but Emily wanted the practice, so she belayed while Tim set up the first route.

Then it was Emily’s turn to climb.  I let her wear my climbing shoes.

Here’s a video of her on her way down (the people next us were noisy)

I was up next.  I put on my helmet and winced:  I had a bruise from wearing it when I fell and every place my helmet touched my forehead was tender.  However,  I’m proud to say I made it to the top, and back down, without incident!

After my fall earlier in the week I was a bit scared to do this again so soon, but also knew it was necessary.  In all, we each got in 3 runs for the day.  Tim belayed Emily and I, and Emily belayed Tim (and I helped anchor her while he came back down).  It was a great day, warming up as the afternoon went on.  I was really glad we made it out!  Here are some more picture highlights (the last run was the hardest, but they were all about 5.8).

I was even able to take my jacket off for the last run, which always makes for a great day.  Thanks Tim for bringing us out today! 

Garden of the Gods Keyhole Route & Kindergarten Rock


I went rock climbing with a group from church recently. This was super fun but a little out of my comfort zone, as I’m not a big ‘people person’ and usually climb alone.  Everyone was super nice and I was able to get in a run on the keyhole route at the Garden of the Gods.  It was a bit chilly out (hence the puffy) but as a bonus someone brought homemade fudge (yum!).

The fun started around 12:30pm with ‘Ralph’s Tree’. You see, Ralph went up first so he could stay up there and take pictures of everyone climbing.  Since he was first it was his job to climb up and then throw the rope back down.   Well, the rope got caught on a scrub bush and knotted up when he threw it down.  It took about 20 minutes for him to sort it all out, but finally he was able to get the rope unstuck and toss it down.  We all joked about it and shouted up at him to be more careful with the next rope.  Well, you guessed it, the second rope got tangled too, and we couldn’t stop laughing!  For a visual, here’s the scrub tree that was the only obstacle that needed to be avoided… and the one that tangled the ropes twice.


We all had a good laugh about that one and teased him in good fun until the end of the event. Eric was on belay (without shoes, of course) for the orange route and due to the slope of the rock (or lack thereof) the rope near the top had more friction than normal and he had his work cut out for him


Since I was a guest I waited for everyone else to climb first. As I was waiting and watching and enjoying homemade fudge I noticed some climbers to our left topping out at a cool gully (Eric says we can try that one next).  Anyway, I thought it was a cool visual so I grabbed Eric’s mirrorless and took a few photos.  Don’t they look cool?



Oh, and while I was there I saw the opportunity to take a shadowselfie I couldn’t pass up.


It was fun watching everyone else climb up, and while they did I took the opportunity to study their routes. Check out Curtis and Connie rappelling down together! Awwww!


A Coopers Hawk decided to perch near us for a while


When it was my turn to climb I was totally ready. I knew which line I wanted to take and just went for it.  It actually felt pretty easy.  Ralph got a picture of me from above


Once at the top I sat for a minute and enjoyed the view. I could hear the conversations of visitors strolling around below


Of course I got a selfie


And then rappelled back down


I was one of the last to climb (a few people went twice after I was done) and even though it was early the sun was fading fast. It tends to do that with Pikes Peak to the west.  I was talking with Eric and decided to get creative with my camera.


All in all a fun time! Afterwards I brought Emily home a pizza and then joined everyone for church.

Oh, and here’s a few photos from Kindergarten Rock Eric and I climbed that one last week but I didn’t post.



And from scoping out Keyhole for this trip




Another cool silhouette sunset shot. That one’s on my list of climbs too.


Vermilion Peak – 13,909, Fuller Peak – 13,777, & Golden Horn – 13,789′


RT Length: 13.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 5117’

The weather all over Colorado has been fantastic all month (meaning sunshine like summertime). In fact, Colorado Springs has had more days over 90* this year than it has in over a century. This is pretty surprising for September, and I’ve been doing my best not to waste every opportunity to get outdoors and hike.

Many of Colorado’s 13ers are in the San Juans, which is a good 7 hour drive from my house. The distance makes it difficult for me to make it there on my Friday hiking days (because I usually need to be home by 3pm to pick up my daughter from school).  So I promised myself whenever I had 2 days free in a row I’d head down to the San Juans for some hiking, and do my best to hit as many peaks as possible in those 2 days by camping at the trailheads.  Earlier this month I hiked Pigeon and Turret in a day, and my plan had been to hike the a few more peaks the next day.  That obviously didn’t happen, but I was going to try my plan again of jumping around and trailhead camping two days in a row when I could make it to the San Juans.

The opportunity came faster than I’d anticipated. I found out on a Thursday my entire office (it’s a small office) would be gone Monday and Tuesday the next week, so I’d be working from home.  Oh, and Tuesday was my birthday!  I looked at the weather forecast (sunny on Monday and 20% chance of rain after noon on Tuesday), and decided right then and there I was making a trip to the San Juans for my birthday.  This didn’t give me long to plan my routes, etc. but I was determined to make it happen.  Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of recent beta on this area, so I did as much research as I could and told myself I’d just have to wing it.

After tucking my kids in for bed I left my house on Sunday night around 8pm and made it to the trailhead earlier than anticipated (3:30am). The dirt road to South Mineral Campground is a 2WD dirt road, well maintained, and at the trailhead has room for about 20-30 vehicles.


Oh, and I’d seen no less than 7 porcupines waddling along the side of the 2WD dirt road in (not all in the same area). Drat:  I’d forgotten my moth balls.  Oh well, I’d have to cross my fingers this time.  The moon was absent but the night sky was filled with millions of stars. I’d arrived early and because I wanted a good look at the basin in the daylight I decided to try and get in an hour nap before starting my hike.  I was surprised at how well this worked.  I closed my eyes and what seemed like a minute later my alarm rang, indicating it was time to get moving.

The trail starts on the west end of the parking lot. There’s a trail register to sign before heading out (one of the nicest and well kept registers I’ve ever seen at a trailhead).  I started at 4:40am.


I took the Ice Lake Basin Approach, which is a very well maintained trail that crosses a small stream and switchbacks west. It looks like there’s been some recent trail overhaul and maintenance in the area, and even a shifting of much of the trail west, with lots of dead trees/branches covering the old trail.  I was unable to find the 4WD parking area that’s been suggested as a possibility for shortening the hike in (I’ve also seen beta indicating this 4WD lot has been destroyed with “no parking” signs in the area now).


There were dozens of signs asking hikers not to cut trails.


The trail was easy to follow all the way to the Ice Lakes Basin, gaining in elevation steadily.


I made it to the Ice Lakes basin while the sun was beginning to rise.

Ice Lakes Basin:

Instead of stopping at Ice Lake I took a quick picture from the trail and turned south and hiked to Fuller Lake. I wanted to see the lake and old cabin.  Had I realized how blue those lakes were when I first passed them I’d have taken the time to explore more, but in the early morning light they weren’t yet impressive.


There was a trail the entire way to Fuller Lake.


What I wasn’t prepared for were the amazing reflections of the mountains on the water as the sun rose. Pictures do not do this area justice!

Unfortunately, the cabin has been destroyed, most likely by weather.


From here there was no trail for the rest of the hike. I could see Fuller Peak to the southeast, and hiked without a trail through the basin towards the saddle of Fuller and Vermilion.


Along the way I saw an old wheelbarrow. Of course this meant a picture was necessary


Here’s the route I took up to the saddle and over to Fuller Peak and a look back down the basin and the way I hiked in as seen from the saddle.


It’s steeper than it looks, and I was glad I was doing this part of the hike before the sun was too high in the sky. The rocks are semi loose talus. Annoying is what they are…


From the saddle turn left (southeast) and follow the ridge to the summit. It’s an easy class 2 hike with several small false summits.


The only downside was I was hiking directly towards the rising sun. It made seeing anything clearly impossible.


I made it to the summit of Fuller Peak at 8am

18 Fuller Peak 13761

Fuller Peak:

The views were amazing! I looked back at Vermilion and the route I needed to take to the summit.   After returning to the Fuller/Vermilion saddle stick to the ridge


Here’s a view of the route from the saddle. Follow the ridge up and to the left


After you go left you’ll encounter a loose dirt gully. Climb the gully to the notch


At the top of the gully you’ll see two towers. Pass them to the left


And climb another gully


The gullies here seem to go down forever! (don’t worry, this isn’t the one I climbed, but one I wouldn’t want to fall down)


From here follow the rocks to the summit


I summited at 8:45am

26 Vermilion Peak 13894


My next task was Golden Horn. I returned to the Fuller/Vermilion saddle and traversed the area on the northeast side of Vermilion between the cliffs and a scree ledge towards the Vermilion/Golden Horn Saddle.  You’ll need to descend lower than you think you will.  Follow this route (as seen from Fuller)


The scree & talus ledge is wider than it looks, with some large boulders thrown in. The rocks aren’t loose.  Here’s a picture looking back from the Vermilion/Golden Horn Saddle


Here’s a look at the route from the saddle.


It’s a pretty straightforward climb, but about halfway up the ridge is when things get spicy. The scree intensifies and it can be difficult to find good footing.  Luckily there’s not much exposure.


There aren’t any cairns but the route is obvious. There are two summits to Golden Horn.  The summit register is on the summit to the west.  Here’s a picture looking back at Vermilion


I summited at 10:15am

32 Golden Horn 13780

Golden Horn:

The views were amazing! I could see Ice Lake for the first time in the daylight and was immediately impressed:  I had to make it down there!


My day had been going pretty good so far. It was still morning and I had the rest of the day ahead of me.  The only thing that was troubling was the clouds creeping in.  It was supposed to be sunny all day.  There were way too many clouds for this forecast to be accurate.  I had to keep an eye on the weather.  I turned and looked northwest:  Pilot Knob.


Hmmmm. It looked tempting.  The only reservation I had (besides the weather) was beta.  I had great information on Fuller, Vermilion, and Golden Horn, but there just wasn’t a lot of data out there on Pilot Knob.  At least not much recent data.  While planning this hike I’d been short on time and only planned on the three peaks I’d already summited.  I mulled it over:  I’d done some preliminary research on Pilot Knob (in fact, I’ve done enough on all the bicentennials to know which questions to ask, when I’d like to summit them, which routes I want to take, etc.).  I knew I was supposed to summit Pilot Knob from the south and west face, looking for a chimney that would lead to a scramble to the ridge, and there was a crux I really wanted to get a first hand look at (a crack traverse/climb near the summit).  Even though you summit from the south the approach is usually to the north (and I was south).

Trip reports last time I checked were few and far between, with the newest being 3 years old. The best beta was years before that.  You were supposed to approach from the north and traverse southwest before summiting from the south/west, and I was on the south.  I figured I could probably summit today, so I decided to descend Golden Horn the way I’d come by heading back to the Vermilion/Golden Horn saddle and look for a route over to Pilot Knob.

From the saddle I traversed west to the Golden Horn/Pilot Knob saddle.


The first part (before getting to the saddle) was a fun, difficult class 2 scramble. It was the most intense scrambling of the day so far.  If you stick to the ridge you’ll do fine.


Here’s a look from the Golden Horn/Pilot Knob saddle, looking up at Pilot Knob


I kept watching those clouds. They were starting to bug me, blowing in and around with what looked like deep blue, rain filled centers.  I made it up the ridge of Pilot Knob, and navigated to the southwest to look for a chimney that would lead me towards the summit.  Instead I quickly encountered a very loose and scary talus filled gully.


It was obvious several large rock slides have occurred in the area since the last trip report. Many previous trip reports indicated a “well cairned route”.  I didn’t see a single cairn, but there had been so many slides in the area they could have been destroyed by one.  OK, back to the loose talus.  This was unlike anything I’ve ever seen:  I’d step on it and a 5 foot wide avalanche of rock would give way, tumbling down below me and gaining speed and larger boulders as it went.  The first time it happened it startled me.  Two steps later when it happened again I was seriously scared I was going to fall with it and braced myself:  unfortunately there was nothing to grab onto.


I knew there was no way I could safely traverse any further west, but I needed to in order to find that rock wall. OK, so this wasn’t going to happen. Maybe I’d accidentally missed the rock wall I was supposed to climb?  I’d just turn back and try again.  It took me quite a while to backtrack to where I’d started on the south side of Pilot Knob:  I was seriously scared I’d fall in an avalanche of talus with every step, but I made it back and decided to try again, thinking to myself traversing the area would be achievable and much safer in winter/spring with consolidated snow and crampons rather than all this talus/scree.

I just needed to gain the ridge. There had to be more than one way?  I spent about an hour and a half trying to climb every area I could, but none of the routes I took went all the way to the top, and these were not class 3 moves as described in previous trip reports.  They were class 4+ on loose and crumbling rock.  Every time I found what looked like a solid route rocks would flake off both above and below me:  Rocks the side of softballs and some the size of microwaves.  I’d make it 20 feet up the side of a “wall” only to have to turn back and head back down.  Rope wouldn’t have helped because none of the towers were stable enough to support a climber that way.  I was glad I was the only one out there today.


I’m stubborn, so I did this fruitless climbing up and down walls for much longer than I should have and took more risks than I’m willing to admit to my mom. I even went over to the east side and tried that way.  Nope, there wasn’t a way to gain the ridge from either side, and I couldn’t descend the slope and try to make my way to the north side to summit that way (it cliffed out).  I was super frustrated. Hmph.  I had to remind myself Pilot Knob wasn’t even on my list of climbs for today so I shouldn’t be too disappointed.  But I was.  I mean, I had hours left of daylight (it was only noon) and I really wanted this summit.

Wait! I know, I’ll just descend into the basin and re-gain the saddle from the north side, traverse southwest and try it that way!  I was positive the right rock wall was on the other side of that talus/avalanche gully I couldn’t traverse.  I made my way back to the saddle and looked at the route I wanted to take.  Here’s a picture of that route from Golden Horn.


I looked up at the clouds, and it was obvious I was going to have to turn back.  There wasn’t enough time to descend into the basin and re-ascend to try and summit.  Oh well, I need US Grant too.  I’d just combine the two the next time I was out here.

I made it back to the saddle and headed down into the basin. Here’s a look back at the route I took


I felt I was getting pretty good at this descending down a scree slope into a basin thing. As I was hiking down I thought to myself how the area looked like it usually held water.  It was made up of tiny flat rocks about the size of a silver dollar but an inch thick.  The kind you’d usually see on the bottom of a lake or pond.  Hmmm.  I guess since it was such a dry year there wasn’t any water.  I was walking on a lake/pond bed.  And it was squishy.  In fact, walking across it felt just like walking over a bog.  No sooner had this thought entered my mind than realization hit and it happened:  I heard a sucking sound as my left foot sunk into the muck up past my ankle (mind you, I was walking on rocks at the time) and was almost impossible to dislodge my foot.

No. No.  No, no, no!  I know how to get myself out of a bog/quicksand if I have to, but I really didn’t want to end up covered head to toe in mud (I was camping tonight after all and wouldn’t see a shower anytime soon).  So I dislodged my left foot and ran as fast as I could, kicking up my heels as I went, trying to escape the mud that was trying to pull me under with each step.  All in all it wasn’t that bad:  with the running I only sunk up to my ankles, but I could tell if my foot had rested in any one place I’d have sunk much further as the mud had great suctioning abilities.  Then I’d really be stuck. I made it to stable ground and let out a sigh.  Crisis averted!  My shoes and pants were caked in mud, but that was the worst of it. Here are my footprints looking back


I turned east and was greeted with a daytime view of Ice Lake. Wow!  This was beautiful!


As I got closer I could see how truly clear the water was.


Ice Lakes:

This was amazing! I stopped for a while, took a bunch of pictures, and then headed on my way back down the basin where I was greeted with aspens changing color.  I’d missed them on the way in when it was dark.


There were tons of people on this trail! I must have passed dozens (and it’s a Monday).  It was a long 4 miles back down.  I made it back to my truck at 2pm.  And it never did rain.  Oh well, this gave me time to find my next trailhead in the daylight.  I took off my muddy pants, socks, and shoes and put on my sandals for the drive.  Near the 550 on the road out I got cell service and stopped by the side of the road for a bit to do some work (emails, etc) and text my kids to let them know I was down the mountain and headed to the next.

Here’s my route with a close-up of my Pilot Knob attempts. Don’t worry, I’ll be back for this one!


My drive took me through Silverton. I’d heard the fall colors weren’t supposed to peak here for another 2 weeks, but right now it looks beautiful.


I had conflicting directions on how to get to the Burns-Gulch trailhead, so I brought both with me. From Silverton I took County Road 2 past Eureka on a 2WD dirt road, and ate the dust from off road vehicles the entire way.  For a Monday afternoon it sure was crowded!  Leaf peeping season is definitely in full swing!


I made it to the base of the trailhead on the Animas River and my directions ended. So I pulled up a GPX file of the route to see where I needed to be:  about 2 miles up a narrow shelf road.


The road was much narrower and steeper than it looks and filled with bowling ball sized rocks. I took it slow:  this road was more difficult than I’d anticipated (but nothing my truck couldn’t handle). I just hoped no one would drive towards me from the top:  There was no way I could turn this truck around on such a narrow road, and passing another vehicle wouldn’t be easy.

There was a campsite at the 4WD trailhead at 11,720’ and no other vehicle was in sight. Sweet!  It looked like I was going to have the site all to myself for the night.


I got to work making dinner: Mountain House Beef Stroganoff.  When it was ready I poured myself a glass of wine in the measuring cup I brought for making dinner, sat back, and enjoyed the view.


Life is good! Sitting in the bed of my truck looking at the mountains was so relaxing.  As I was sitting there I heard a creek to my right and got up to investigate.  This was wonderful!  It was about 10 yards from where I’d parked my truck.  I enthusiastically washed my hands in the running water. They were gross from today’s adventure and it felt good to have clean hands and fingernails again.  I got up to turn around and head back when my left sandal broke.  I mean really broke, like duct tape can’t fix it broke.  Drat!  I was going to have to tiptoe the 10 yards back to my truck without wearing shoes.  The first step I took landed my left foot on a thistle.  Wonderful.  I made it back to my truck,  poured myself another glass of wine and spent the next half hour picking splinters out of my foot (mostly on the heel and arch).  I looked around at the mountains: Life was still good!

I got out my maps and route info for the next day and tried to identify the peaks around me and the best route to take (I had several options). I studied my chosen route until I felt it was time to get some sleep: it was starting to get cold.

I decided to sleep in the cab of my truck because I fit perfectly across the back seat and because I could. Two shots of whiskey later I was ready to go to sleep.  I laid my head on my pillow and a fly landed on my arm.  I thought about how much fun having a fly buzzing around me while I was trying to sleep would be and debated whether or not to open the door to let it out.  In the end I decided I’d rather not let all the warm air out in doing so, so I made a deal with the fly:  “Fred “(I named him Fred)”If you promise not to buzz around me all night I promise not to kill you right now”.  Fred flew away to relax on my steering wheel and I fell asleep thinking this wasn’t a bad way to spend my last day of being 37.

To be continued…


CityRock: Don’t Forget to Clip-in


I was invited a few days ago to go to CityRock tonight with a group and climb. My first instinct was to say ‘no’ because I don’t really like groups, but then I remembered these were really nice people and I needed to make friends.

Then yesterday I got bombshell news concerning my divorce and our next court date (I’ve been divorced for 6 years, yet it seems we’re always going to court). This news was pretty devastating, and I knew I’d be very occupied for the next few weeks, so I might as well have fun tonight.

Another reason I wanted to go: There was a guy I’d met at a 14er Happy Hour who asked if anyone was climbing at CityRock on Friday.  Without thinking I let him know a group of ‘us’ would be there.  He messaged me back to make sure it wasn’t a ‘family’ thing, and said he’d be there too.  That kind of obligated me to go.

It’d been a busy day so I didn’t get there until 5:30pm. Immediately I noticed the bouldering wall didn’t have any climb holds.  I guess they’re re-doing the wall.  I was glad I’d successfully climbed that V3, but I was a little disappointed I couldn’t actually show anyone in person tonight.

Jen and Tim were there, and they introduced me to a bunch of their friends. I’m sorry, but I don’t remember who was who, but I’d recognize you if I saw you!!!  I did a few auto-belays, and Tim belayed me a few times.  I wanted to go over to the lower bouldering wall to get in some practice before my arms got too tired.

As I was heading back down to the climbing area I heard a girl shouting: “Mom!  Mom!  Mom!”  She was about 14 or 15 years old, and at the top of one of the climbing runs.  She was frantic, and realized once she’d made it to the top of the run she’d forgotten to clip into the auto-belay!  She’d free-climbed all the way up to the top, and had no way of safely getting down.

This was a very scary situation, and one I never actually thought I’d see: There are signs all over the place asking you to check to make sure you were ‘clipped in’.  This girl was definitely in danger.  She was at least 50 feet up, and if she fell no one would be able to catch her.  Several people wanted to climb up and help her, but if she fell she’d take them down with her.

She was scared, and having difficulty holding on to the wall. She tried holding on to the rope next to her, but that didn’t really work either.

Luckily CityRock had a solution: They clipped a carabineer to the auto belay and released it up to her.  She was able to clip in and climb back down.  She climbed back down, and didn’t jump (I don’t blame her).  Everyone let out a sigh of relief when she made it back to the ground.  I couldn’t believe how shook up I was, and I wasn’t the one at the top of the wall without security!

The adrenaline rushing though me didn’t let up for a good half an hour, and it wasn’t the good kind of adrenaline, but the kind that wipes you out. I continued to climb, but without the enthusiasm as earlier in the night.

I saw the guy who said he’d meet me there. He climbed a 5.12, and was super proud of himself.  Since I hover around 5.9-5.10 I was proud too!

One thing I learned tonight I really don’t understand is that it’s ok to take breaks while rock climbing. I don’t mean it’s ok to just stop, but you can push yourself away from the wall and dangle for a bit and then resume where you left off.  This seems like cheating to me.  However, I guess it’s how a lot of people successfully ‘work the wall’.  I’d feel better about myself if I did it without ‘falling’.

After climbing we went to a taco place downtown. It was small and there were a lot of us so we had a 30 minute wait.  The tacos were good, but the party was split up so it was kind of like I was coupled with Tim and another couple.  The conversation was good but not really what I’d been looking for.  The tacos weren’t all that great either.  Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t bad, but I’m into this ‘trying new things’ thing and they didn’t have anything that looked good enough to try, so I stuck with the carbonara tacos (pretty vanilla).

Climbing Day 3

Before leaving home I gathered my gear and put it all in one
spot so I wouldn’t forget stuff like last time, and then I quickly made dinner
and got changed out of my work clothes and into something I could climb
I only had 15 minutes before I had
to take Thomas to Boy Scouts, so I had to be quick.
  I looked for my moleskin (my climbing shoes
still need to be worked in and I figured I’d take some preventative measures),
but realized it was in my truck and my truck was still in the shop.
  This whole not having my truck thing is
getting inconvenient!
  So instead of the
moleskin I put a couple of Band-Aids on my heels and figured that would have to

Tonight I actually didn’t do any bouldering.  From the time I arrived until I left an hour
later Tim helped me with climbing.
started with attaching the rope to the harness with a figure 8 follow through, and
discussing different types of carabineers.
Woohoo!  I actually know my knots,
so I was excited to be doing something I considered easy.
  Well, at first it was, but for some reason I
wasn’t able to tie the knot successfully after that.
  Actually, I did tie it successfully a few
times, but not on a consistent basis.
told myself it was because I was holding the rope a different way than I usually
do, and looping it through the harness, but that’s just an excuse, and I hate
  Practice is what I need.

I’m not a good student because I get frustrated easily when
I don’t understand something or when I do something wrong. 
My defense mechanism is to change the subject
and move on as quickly as possible to the next thing.
  I’m not used to failing, so this knot-tying incompetency
hurt on a personal level and became a challenge and a focus for me the rest of
my night. The more I focused, the worse I did.
I’m sure my attitude became
challenging as well.

I’m not sure what was wrong with me, but I kept messing up
the knot, and it’s a really simple one!!! 
When Tim asked me if I had any rope to practice on at home I tried not
to laugh:
  My basement is pretty much a
knots and lashing practice area for the girls, with a large 50 gallon bucket full
of ropes of all thicknesses and sizes.
I’d be practicing (probably as soon as I got home).

Seriously though, I do need some practice.  I want to be able to tie the knot without
thinking, and I suppose that was the problem tonight:
  I was thinking too much about it. 

Tim had hurt his shoulder (or so he says) so he belayed
while I climbed. 
I was able to successfully
complete three runs without falling, although it felt a little weird to just
lean back and have him control my descent.
They gym was crowded (although not as packed as it had been the previous
two weeks) and I didn’t want to hit the climbers below me, so I kept grabbing
at the holds on the wall to push myself away from the other climbers.
  Apparently this is frowned upon.  I’m just supposed to fall backwards, pushing
back from the wall with my feet, but this simple act was difficult for me to
  Another thing to work on!

The climbing shoes weren’t as uncomfortable as I’d thought
they would be, although they were stiff. 
They fit well, but were bulky in the front (once again, similar to a tap
  I think they’re supposed to be
like that, and after a few minutes I got used to them.
  However, I couldn’t help thinking how much
easier it would be to just climb barefoot (traction wise).

Climbing actually gets more difficult the longer you do
Well, to be fair, I wasn’t taking
breaks, which was probably the problem:
I was wearing myself out.  After
the 4
th run my forearms started feeling tight.  I’ve never experienced that before and it was
really a cool feeling.
  I could have done
without the veins showing though :/

On the 5th run Tim gave me some advice:  Stop for a second and rest.  Ha!  Obviously
he doesn’t know me very well.
and resting are two words not in my vocabulary.
I wasn’t able to stop (unless I was stuck), but he also told me to shake
out my arms and angle them down when they got sore, which worked amazingly
  Something so simple gave me extra
  This must have something to do
with blood flow.

I tried a new kind of run today:  He gave me advice on angling my arms to get
leverage that really helped!
  (Manteling?)  I do push-ups, but will need to do more to
work on my upper body strength.
  He also
showed me how to dropknee, but I’m not convinced yet it will give me more
height (but theoretically it should).
was just too tired by that point to try it successfully.

I also need to work on planning out my route.  I just kind of go with it and look for the
right color holds.
  This often means
back-tracking a bit.
  It would do me well
to stop and plan a few holds ahead instead of just clambering towards the top.
should use more chalk too.
  Several times
my hands just kept slipping no matter how many times I tried to reposition them,
and I think more chalk would have helped:
that must be why climbers attach chalk bags to their harnesses and don’t
leave them in their cubby with the rest of their gear…

The last run I did was brutal towards the end.  I just didn’t have the strength left in my
arms to lift myself up that last bit, and I wasn’t patient enough to just sit
and wait for the strength to come back (I wasn’t sure it would tonight
  I ‘fell’ three times, and
finally just yelled down to Tim to let me come back down. I think I’m supposed
to say something like “Lower off” but that made me uncomfortable and sounded
  kind of like failure.  I was only one hold from the top, and it was
the only run I didn’t complete tonight.
I think I can do it though, so if they don’t change the holds I’m going
to try it first next time to see if it was just an ‘I’m exhausted’ thing (and
not an ‘I can’t do this’ thing).

When I made it back down I decided to try and practice that
knot again. 
The hour passed very
quickly, and before I knew it it was past time for me to go:
  But I wasn’t done practicing that figure 8
follow through!
  I wanted to be able to
do it with my eyes closed, and consistently every single time I tried it. But
that wasn’t going to happen tonight.
  I have all week to practice!

Before I left Tim lent me a book to read Mountaineering:  The Freedom of the Hills.  It’s all about climbing, and full of clarifying
  I have no time to read,
so it looks like I’m going to have to make time because there is a lot of really
great information in this book and I’ll feel bad keeping it until I give it
back to him (another area for growth… this list keeps getting longer and longer…lol!).

Oh, and lucky me, no blisters!  I celebrated by putting my logo on the shoes,
branding them as officially mine 🙂

Climbing Gym

I’ve been thinking about joining a climbing gym for a few
months now, but the closest one is about 30 minutes away from my house. 
It’s about $60 a month to join, which didn’t
seem too appealing since I just discontinued my actual gym membership.
  They did offer free yoga classes and one free
massage a month with the membership, which was really appealing, but I didn’t
like the distance.
  Plus if I were paying
$60 a month to climb I’d be there several times a week, which would mean an
added cost in gas as well. Did I mention I’d have to pay to park too? Ugh!
  But I really need to develop my rock climbing
skills for my 14er challenge:
  I need to
feel safer out there while climbing, and that’s only going to come with

So I did some research, and found a much cheaper option:  A ‘punch pass’.  I pay up front, get 10 visits, and can use
them for anyone I choose (I can bring a friend with me, etc.).
  I was trying to justify time for using the
pass when I remembered Thomas has scouts Monday nights directly across the
street from the climbing gym.
  Duh!  I could just go with him to scouts and while
he’s there walk across the street and get in some climbing practice instead of
sitting there at the meeting knitting hats.
Brilliant!  Why did it take me so
long to figure this out?

Anyway, tonight was my first attempt at this whole climbing
I’ve been to this gym several
times, but I’ve never actually climbed here.
I’ve always been a chaperone taking scouts or for birthday parties.  I’ve never climbed in any gym before, but I
have been rock climbing at Red Rock Canyon a few times.

Emily went with me. 
We dropped Thomas off at Boy Scouts and then walked together to the
  I bought the punch pass and we used
two immediately.
 They let us use a
harness and shoes for free (the harness is always free, the shoes were to make
up for the fact we had to fill out liability forms again).

It was Monday night at 7pm, and this gym was packed!  There were tons of climbers there!

I found the last cubby open to store our stuff and we put on
our climbing shoes and harnesses. 
when I’m attempting something new I stand around for a bit and watch everyone
around me to see how it’s done, but there were so many people I figured it was
best to just jump right in and find a place to climb.

I found an open area and attached the carabineer to my
This was actually a lot more
difficult than I’d thought it would be:
It wasn’t a simple push down and turn like I’d expected, and despite
trying my best I never quite got the hang of it.
  I was able to eventually clip in, but I’m
sure I looked like I had no idea what I was doing, even toward the end of the
night after doing it several times.

Climbing was much easier than I’d anticipated!  I made it all the way to the top in no time
at all, and was quite pleased with myself.
However, I wasn’t ready to just jump off and let the pulley carry me
down, so I ended up climbing back down the way I’d climbed up, and told myself
I was practicing because while outside I’d need to climb back down the way I
went up (yes, I was lying to myself, kind of).

OK, this was fun!  I
was actually able to climb to the top without stopping, and on my first
  I went to find Emily (she’d been in
the bathroom taking care of a bloody nose) and challenged her to climb with
  We did a couple of runs together,
and she convinced me to jump backwards and fall all the way down.
  From the top of a climb I took a leap of
faith and jumped backwards, letting the pulley slowly carry me back down to the
  It was actually quite fun!  Just make sure you’re actually secured and
clipped in first…

Now on to bouldering, because this was why I was actually
This scared me more than climbing
because I wouldn’t be clipped in.
again, this was easier than I’d anticipated, and I was able to quickly catch on
and climb up and over the wall(s).
went to take a break and find Emily.
was climbing the same area we’d been climbing before, and it was here I realized
  when climbing the walls you’re
supposed to stick to one color of holds as you progress up.
No wonder everything seemed so easy! 
I’m going to have to spend some time learning about different classes
(etc.) of climbing.

OK, so I felt a bit silly about my climbing optimism (no
wonder it’d been so easy!) and decided to try it for ‘real’. 
I took a few runs, sticking to only one
color, and while it was more challenging I was able to climb them all successfully
except one.
  I kept trying that one over
and over again, but instead of getting easier it was just getting more
  I was getting tired!  I knew what I needed to do, but my arms were
worn out.
  We’d been at the gym for about
an hour, and I’d been climbing almost continuously.
  Now even runs I’d done successfully earlier I
wasn’t able to climb.
  I told myself to
stop now because I was wearing myself out.

I went down the slide one more time (I can’t remember the
last time I went on a slide!) and we changed out of our gear.

All in all I learned a LOT tonight.  Everyone was pretty friendly, and even though the gym was packed it didn’t feel too crowded.  I want to eventually learn how to belay (including putting on the ropes, etc) and I need to get better at bouldering.  I think it will just come with more practice. 

Tuckaway Mountain – 10,825′


RT Length:  12+ miles

Elevation Gain: 3400’

Notes:  Bring your
sense of adventure and a helmet!

This hike was really pretty awesome!  Each time I go out looking for a bit more of
a challenge, and today I found it!
Tuckaway Mountain is listed in the Pikes Peak Atlas, but there is no established
(or even mildly established) trail to the summit.  The hike is long, the summit a class 3 scramble
(at least).  It really is Tucked Away, and takes a long trail through North Cheyenne Canyon to reach.

I started this hike at 7:45am at the 7 Bridges Trail parking
lot.  Around the 2nd bridge I
saw a decorated Christmas Tree that wasn’t there two days ago when I hiked this
part of the trail to summit Mt Garfield and Mt Arthur. The tree immediately
brought a smile to my face, and then my next thought was “I hope whoever put
this here takes it down as well”  LNT and


I followed the 7 Bridges Trail to the junction and turned left
onto 667.  I stayed on this trail until
it ran into trail 377.  This seemed to
take a really long time, probably because of all the switchbacks!  My map didn’t mention those, so I put them in
where they’re missing.  They go on


This trail is newly renovated, and seems to cater to
motorcyclists/mountain bikers.  I didn’t
see one hiker on this trail all day, but saw 1 group of motorcyclists and 2
groups of bicyclists.  They all seemed
surprised to see me.


The wind started picking up around 9500’ and I was glad I’d
chosen to stay below treeline today.  Looking
at the topo map I thought once I was close to Tuckaway Mountain the hike would
be easy, but I was wrong.  First off, the
mountain was extremely difficult to see, even though it’s late in the
fall.  Secondly, it was covered in


Once I made it to the area directly in front of the mountain
I turned right/north.  This is what I


I decided my best course of action was to really study the mountain,
pick my route, and head up.  The entire base
was covered in Aspens, making it difficult to tell where I was going. I didn’t
want to get stuck at a rock outcropping.


I chose to summit to the east to avoid the large
outcroppings, but in reality, you can’t avoid them all.  There is no established trail to the top of
Tuckaway Mountain:  no trail, no cairns,
nothing.  I did some major scrambling,
involving all hands and feet at once, as well as some intuition and luck!  The rocks weren’t stable, and even the big
ones rolled when I touched them.  Where
there weren’t rocks there was scree, and very slippery terrain.  


Since I was basically bushwhacking and I couldn’t see the summit
through the trees, I kept stopping every 20 feet or so to look back behind
me.  I kept this sandy area in my sights
for my return trip back down.


I summited at 10:45am, to a bunch of rocks!  The summit was rather long and irregularly
shaped, full of trees, and lots of rocks to scramble on.


I took a bunch of photos from all around the mountain, just because
I could, and to show where it’s located in relation to the other peaks in the


Next came the fun part:
heading back down.  The trek up
was challenging, and so was the trek back down.
I had to be careful with my footing.
I spent a lot of time lowering my center of gravity and getting stuck
with needles and thorns.  My gloves were ripped
in places and covered in yellow Aspen dust by the end.  Just an FYI:
pine needles are slippery… avoid patches of pine needles.  By the time I’d made it down I was COVERED in
dirt.  I really looked like I’d worked
for that summit!

I made it back down to the Aspen grove and was able to find
trail 377 to lead me back.  The trek back
seemed a lot longer than the trek in (which seemed long to begin with… I’m thinking
it may be more than 12 miles total now that all the switchbacks are there…).  It was mostly downhill, but those switchbacks
went on forever!  When I made it to the 7
falls area it was PACKED with people!  I
was surprised to see so many families lining the trails.  And I mean families!  Most groups had over 10 people, over half of
them under 10 years old, most younger than that.  It was great to see so many young families
out enjoying the trails, but it was frustrating trying to pass the large groups
who were (understandably) going slow.  Gold
Camp Road was full of strollers.  The
parking lot that had 6 cars in it when I arrived was overflowing with at least
100 cars:  people were parking down at
Helen Hunt falls and walking up!  I was
really glad I’d gotten an early start on such a popular hiking day.  


I made it back down to the trailhead at 2pm, making this 12+mile hike with 2400′ elevation gain in 6 hours, 20 min (with a lot of summit time!)

Wetterhorn Peak 14,015 and Matterhorn Peak 13,590

The weather today for just about every 14er in Colorado was
the same:  Windy.  I’m not a fan of wind gusts of 45+ mph (which
usually end up being around 85mph up on the peaks if we’re honest) but they’re
manageable if it’s a warm day.  I ruled
out any peak with snow on it because wind and snow don’t mix (as I learned last
week).  That left me with Wetterhorn Peak
for today’s 14er.  I checked the weather:  20% chance of snow and 100% chance of 25mph+
winds with gusts of 43mph.  Hmmmm.  That didn’t sound too promising.  Not bad, but not great.  I knew there wasn’t any snow on Wetterhorn,
so that was a plus.  I was just worried
it would get snow during the night/day and ruin the trip.  I didn’t want to drive 6 hours out there to
turn around.

I was musing all this to my kids when my youngest said “Mom,
you should just go.  You’ll never really
know the weather or if you can make it or not unless you try.”  She’s a smart 14 year old. (She must have an
amazing mom…).  I told her she was right,
and set my alarm for midnight.  Besides,
this would be my 33rd 14er and my 3rd class 3.  Lots of 3’s mean it’s meant to be, right?

The trailhead is easy to find/follow.  From this sign it’s really a 4WD road.  

I know others have posted it’s manageable in a 2WD, and I’m
sure it is for those amazing 2WD gods out there, but if you value your 2WD
vehicle, do NOT take it on this road.  However,
if you’re looking for a reason to get a new vehicle, by all means proceed.  Here are a few pics:

I made it to the trailhead at 5:30am and was on the trail by
5:45 (I drive fast).  There were 2 other
vehicles in the lot (I parked lower down).
There’s probably room for 15 vehicles total at the upper trailhead,
including parking about 10 yards below the lot.
Here’s what the trailhead looks like in the daytime.  The trail starts to the left of the trail

Note:  Most of these
pictures were taken on the way down because my fingers were too frozen to take
pictures on the way up.

The beginning of the hike was pretty uneventful.  (Another Note:  The summit ledger is full and the pen
provided doesn’t have any ink left.  Maybe
a hiker could bring new supplies with them?) It was just me hiking in the
dark.  The trail was wide, clear of snow,
with just a few muddy spots in areas.  It
was about 37 degrees, and there wasn’t any wind.  Yet.  

As soon as I hit treeline the wind began to blow, but it
wasn’t too powerful and it wasn’t cold outside, so it was bearable.  As the sun began to rise I noticed what
looked suspiciously like snow clouds on the mountains next to where I was
hiking.  Luckily the wind was blowing
them away from me.  It seemed like the
sun took an awful long time to rise this morning.  I passed a boulder field that was easy to
navigate but didn’t have any cairns?
This could be a problem in the winter.

The entire trail was very well maintained, all the way to
the ridge

I looked for the turnoff to Matterhorn Peak but never saw
it?  I did see this sign, which, despite
it’s name, does not go to Matterhorn Peak.

I could see a few hikers in front of me by their
flashlights.  They seemed far away, but I
quickly caught up with them.  They looked
really cold in their hoodies.  I was cold
in my snow clothes.  

At this time the sun began to rise and the temperature began
to drop as I hit the ridge and the wind picked up.  I still think Colorado Flag sunrises are

At the top of the ridge I could see most of the route
left.  This scree hill was insanely
slippery!  I could tell a lot of people
had chosen to just walk on the tundra.  I
put on my microspikes and braved the scree.

At the top of the scree hill I could see the path to the
summit (or part of it).  

It included a LOT of scrambling over a lot of rock walls/large
gullies/insanely tall boulders.  These
pictures just do not do them justice!

This part should have been fun for me (I love scrambling)
but the weather made it really difficult to find my way.  The wind was cold and intense.  I had to find a cave to shelter in to get out
my map, and taking my gloves off made my fingers freeze instantly.  I’d look at my map, put it away, put on my
gloves, head out to hike, and the terrain kept changing on me.  I even brought up the pictures on my
phone.  Nothing up close looked like the
pictures I had?  Well, every once in a
while they did, but not on a consistent basis.
I gave up and just followed the cairns.
Luckily there were a lot of them.

Did I mention the boulders were COLD?  My hands were frozen!  And it was pretty windy, so I didn’t want to
rest too long to appreciate the view.  I
just wanted to summit, and was thrilled when I did!

I could see Matterhorn Peak and Uncompaghre Peak in the

I took a selfie to prove I’d summited

And a quick 360 degree video

And headed back down.
I needed to get warm again.
Soon.  I was seriously worried
about two fingers on my left hand at this point that were solid and starting to
burn.  I kept trying to flex them to keep
the blood pumping but they wouldn’t move.
(No, not frostbite, I have Raynaud’s, so I’m overly susceptible to cold

Climbing down is different than climbing up, as your center
of gravity is off and you can see more of the exposure so it’s more mental.  I took my time, even though my fingers were
frozen.  I didn’t want to slip.

Just as I was finishing the climbing part of this hike I ran
into the three hikers again, getting ready to cross over the first obstacle.  

OK, time to book it back down in elevation to warm up these
fingers!  Luckily the sun was coming out
and the clouds all seemed to gravitate towards other peaks. It was still windy
though.  As I hiked back down I
contemplated Wetterhorn. She was beautiful!

Summiting had been really anti-climactic and I was trying to
figure out why?  I should have LOVED that
climb!  It must have been the
cold/wind.  I mentally tried to decide if
I was even up for hiking Matterhorn Peak today?
I went back and forth in my mind a few times, and told myself the
decision hinged on actually finding the trailhead and my fingers defrosting.  Oh, and warmer weather and less wind wouldn’t

As I descended into the basin and passed through the boulder
field there was a brief period where all wind stopped.  The silence was deafening.  I didn’t hear a bird, marmot, pika, airplane,
wind, etc.  Nothing.  I grew up in Southern California, and
directly before and after earthquakes everything becomes still (for different
reasons).  That’s what this felt
like:  The still before the chaos.  I hoped that wasn’t foreshadowing for the
hike ahead.  

I kept debating the whole Matterhorn Peak thing.  My fingers had finally defrosted, the wind
had died down a bit (but don’t let those photos fool you:  the wind was intense!) and I didn’t really
want to drive all the way back here to hike Matterhorn at a different time.  But I was tired, and I still wasn’t sure
where that trailhead was?  As I was
hiking I had a thought:  Could it be
here?  At the Ridgestock Driveway and
Wetterhorn Peak junction?  

That wasn’t in any of my notes, and didn’t really make sense
(shouldn’t it be at the Matterhorn trail junction where it wasn’t?).  But in the daylight it looked right.  I got out my altimeter.  Ugh!  I
was at 12,500’.  If I was going to do
this hike I was going to have to gain another 2000’ in elevation, after already
doing 3300’ this morning.  I was
tired.  Did I REALLY want to do
this?  I heard my daughter’s voice in my
head again: “Mom, you should just go.
You’ll never really know if you can make it or not unless you try.”

Before making the decision to hike Matterhorn Peak I decided
to see if this was actually the correct junction to take.  Then if it was I could either continue
hiking, or know for next time when I’d most likely be hiking in the dark.  I started up this hill.  It really did seem to go on a lot longer than
it looked like it should, and more than once I thought about stopping this
nonsense and heading back down the trail.
But I’m stubborn, so I continued on.

At the top of the hill the trail kind of split in two.  Left is the correct way to go

This is what I saw:  

I was intrigued.  What
I saw before me truly looked like fun.
Sure, I was tired, but this looked like FUN!  There was no trail, I’d get to make a trail
for the first time, and this looked totally doable!  I just needed to cross the stream and head
up!  I was in a basin, so it would be
difficult to get lost.  

I was in.  Since there
was no established trail I designed a plan:
I’d leave the trail, cross that little creek and hike straight up the
mountain (no sissy switchbacks for me, I wanted that elevation gain).  I looked at the entire mountain and visually
picked cues (rocks) to aim towards.  Here’s
the route I took:

Before heading out I turned around to get a good visual of
where I’d started from so I could return to the same spot.  I snapped a picture with my camera just in
case I forgot, and was off!

I told myself no looking back/down.  The elevation gain was indeed intense because
I just went straight up, but I kept making small goals and taking breaks when I
met them.  I took a lot more breaks than
I normally do.  As I got further up the
mountain I could see the rocky ridge above me, and made out two figures in the
center that looked to me like rabbits (think Easter Bunny Chocolate
Candy).  They were right in the middle of
the ridge, so that’s where I aimed.  

As I got closer they looked more and more like rabbits.  

I reached the rabbits and gave them my trekking pole for
safe keeping.  I trudged on.  I could see the summit in front of me.  

There was no clear path to the top, but I could clearly see
the peak and several routes I could take to summit.  There was a lot of easy scrambling (compared
to Wetterhorn this was a piece of cake!) and a very small summit.  So small I couldn’t get a summit selfie.  I straddled the summit and just sat there,
thinking about what I’d just done.  I’d
rocked that climb!  And check out my

I was surrounded by Uncompaghre, Wetterhorn, and the entire
mountain range.  I was in the middle of
it all, sitting on a peak, completely enjoying the experience.  I the sun and a huge smile on my face.  This was awesome!  This is why I’d come to hike today!  And guess what?  For the 15 minutes I was on Matterhorn Peak
the wind completely stopped.  I was warm,
could take off my gloves, and took a few pictures.  

I was happy.  I was
thrilled.  I felt accomplished and my
self esteem soared.  I love solo
hiking!!!  I spent about 15 minutes on
the summit, which is unheard of from me.
I usually summit, take pictures, and head back down to a lower elevation
to warm up.  However, it was now time to
head back.  I still had a 6 hour drive
home ahead of me.  I revisited the
rabbits, thanked them for watching my pole, looked for my point of reference
and headed back down the mountain.  

I kept looking for and finding my past reference points and
headed towards where I’d initially gone off the trail.  I must have done a really good job, because
about three quarters of the way back I started walking over the tracks I’d
initially made!  How crazy is that?  All those years of practicing orienteering
paid off!

I made it back across the creek, found the trail, and headed
back down the mountain. I was in a much better mood than when I’d started
today!  I was so glad I’d decided to come
hiking.  Matterhorn Peak is my new favorite