My favorite climbing partner and I visit the Ten Mile Range in Colorado.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

My daughter, Mariel, had a business conference in Denver. So she invited her old Dad to come down and play in the mountains for a few days after. I did a little research and got some Colorado advice from my buds Big Dan and boisedoc. We had a plan.

The other issue was that life has been pretty busy, and as a result I hadn't been in the mountains for a while. Not even a local hike. So trying to crank out a bunch of 14ers might be interesting. At least I had been sleeping at 5300'.

With tickets, hotel, and rental car all booked months in advance, we warily watched the weather. Lots and lots of snow. But the weekend was looking good... until it got closer and the prediction was deteriorating. Well, whatcha gonna do?

So I flew into Denver and Mariel picked me up at the airport. We then made our way west on I-70 to Frisco, near Breckenridge. Elevation about 9k.

Day 1

When the alarm went off at 5am, it was raining. And the snow level was just a couple hundred feet above town. I suggested we sleep for an hour, but Mariel said we should just get going. That's my girl! By the time we parked (short of the trailhead, but still over 11,000 feet!), it had stopped.

View from the car

But it still wasn't the mostly sunny predicted by NOAA. They also predicted winds of 25-35 with gusts to 60. We were hoping they had missed that, too.

Here we are a little before timberline, looking up at our route. Even on a weekday, this peak gets tons of climbers- note the little dots on the horizon.

View from the Galena overlook

As the sun started to come up, we could see some color in the clouds. It was already blowing here, but we agreed to keep at it until it got awful.

View from the approach

Although I felt slow, we were moving well on our snowshoes, more than 1000'/hr. It didn't take long and we started catching other climbers. Intermittent sun came out to brighten our hopes.

Bottom of the gully

The gusts were strong, especially on the summit ridge. But nowhere close to 60mph.

Looking up

Just before topping out we added another layer. And we put some hand warmers in Mariel's gloves. The agreement was to tag the top and get down out of the wind before relaxing.

But Mother Nature is funny. We got up there and the wind stopped (or at least dropped). We had a quick nibble of food and started to relax. About then, the hammer came down.

Upper gully
So we scooted down, passing lots of folks laboring up the other way. At least now the wind was helping us. Cornices

And the clouds were lifting. This is looking down Quandary's east ridge, our route, with the trailhead at the toe of the ridge on the right.

Top of the gully

We got back to the car feeling pretty good. Especially now that there was more oxygen. So we drove over Hoosier Pass and down to Alma (the home of Al-Mart and Hoosier Daddy Liquors) to scout out tomorrow's adventure. This picture of Quandary, complete with blue sky, was on our way back over the pass to Frisco.


Day 2

Our scouting trip had shown that the road was blocked by snow at Paris Mill, 3 miles short of the Kite Lake trailhead. So we determined we should get up at 4:30. After the 45 minute drive, this put us on our feet (actually, on our snowshoes) at 6am. Again, the parking spot was just a bit over 11k.

Wallowing in snow

We were off and on our snowshoes multiple times, walking the three miles and ~1000' gain to Kite Lake. That's Democrat left of center.

SE ridge

This is looking back down on Kite Lake. Sun is hiding behind Mount Bross here. But it's warming up fast.

At this point we were really feeling our efforts from yesterday (and the altitude). We were definitely considering only doing Democrat. But we discussed it and decided to eat the elephant.

SE ridge
Although we felt slow, the watch said otherwise. Even with a three mile approach, we were staying at 1000'/hr. Part of this came from the rapid gain once we were on the mountain proper. The upper slopes on Democrat get pretty steep, but we wore snowshoes the entire way. SE ridge
Here's nearing the false summit. That is Mount Cameron in the background. The original plan was to head that way... but we were feeling yesterday's effort and decided to put off deciding until we returned to the saddle below. SE ridge
And here we are on the top of Mount Democrat at 9am. Beautiful day, although NOAA was predicting a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. SE ridge
So here is the rest of "The Decalibron" (Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross). On the left, Lincoln, then Cameron, and finally Bross. SE ridge

On the way off Democrat, the wind again started up.

At least it wasn't as bad as on Quandary.

When we got back down to the saddle, we talked over lunch. We agreed that it was a nice day, and there was lots of time left. So we did the long slog/grind up the ridge. The 800' gain to Cameron seemed to take a really long time. During that time, the wind continued to build. Here we lay on the ground to minimize the wind's effects. SE ridge

And here's looking over at Lincoln. The lone showshoe was flung to this resting spot by the wind.

We talked about our fatigue, the only 500' of climbing to go get this peak, etc.

But the real answer was provided when we polished off the last of our water.....

SE ridge
So we turned the other way and headed over toward Bross. SE ridge
Looking back at Cameron. SE ridge
The route to the summit of Bross is posted as closed. This is Mariel on the trail, which traverses about 300-400' below the summit. SE ridge
The trail winds around the mountain, then crosses this gully just below the photographer. We had downclimbed a steep headwall to get into the gully to take advantage of the escalator. SE ridge

And then we had the long slog back to the car.

This was a great couple of day in the Colorado Rockies with my favorite climbing partner. We had to deal with some weather, but overall I think we lucked out getting such a great adventure in a record-breaking snow year.



SE ridge
This is out the plane window on the way home. Plenty of snow... SE ridge

Home | 2011 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski