Monday, July 20, 2015

Epilogue Colorado 2015

Trip Sampler
Overall, we got a taste of everything on this trip! 

-Staying at a hostel at 10,000 feet
-Hiking 14ers of the Colorado Rockies
-Backpacking and camping up to 11,600 feet
-Class 3 hike to a 14ers
-Camping in ghetto campsite
-Multi-pitch rock climbing up to 9,000 feet

I will never put someone else's need for lower, split-trip costs over my health, ever again! I learned the hard way when I agreed to this trip. We flew out of Boston Logan on a Saturday and was climbing a 14er the very next day. With Asthma it was tough breathing for me....and I wanted so much to summit more peaks on the trip but didn't get to. Next time I will budget to play tourist for a week or so, even if I'm on my own to do so...... and then climb/hike.

Physical Therapy
I had bruised my left knee badly before my trip to Colorado and for 4 weeks leading up this trip, I was in physical therapy twice per week. It paid off as not once did my left knee hurt at all. I did wear my neoprene knee braces but only when backpacking in and out of the South Colony Lake campsite. With a heavy backpack I wanted to make sure my knees wouldn’t give out.

Hygiene & Sanitation
Since we spent 5 days in the wilderness, that meant no showers. So I used baby wipes to keep my lady bits clean so I wouldn’t develop any Urinary infections. And I used Rinse-Free Bath Wipes for sponge bathing. As with hiking and climbing, I brought along a large Ziploc bag packed with sandwich-sized Ziploc bags and packed all my wipes as well as my tissues out in them. The Ziploc bags also come in hand for packing out dirty/wet laundry.

Guidebooks for Hiking & Climbing
In addition to the Colorado’s Fourteeners: From Hikes to Climbs by Gerry Roach, I highly recommend bringing along your Colorado climbing guidebooks if you plan to climb. Don’t have any? No worries! Stop by the REI Flagship store in Denver and you’ll find many local guidebooks there. For the Leadville Climbing guidebook, you can either buy it at Leadville Outdoors store ( or online at:

Backpacking Food
Mountain House, Alpine Aire and Backpacker’s Pantry are the three brands of backpackers foods I brought with me on this trip. Although these brands offered tasty meals, they didn't offer any single-serve dinner meals. I ended up wasting several meals and had to carry them out. There are other companies that make backpacking foods as well. Jeff brought along meals he purchased from And Kevin II brought along Salmon from 

Checked Baggage
One 65L backpack, one 25-35L day pack, and climbing, hiking, camping gear - I fit into a large, ultra-light, wheeled-suitcase keeping the weight for Southwest Airlines under 50lbs. Originally I was going to fill the backpack and use it as "checked bagged" but I didn't think I could adequately protect it. Plus, packing it in a suitcase with wheels was easier for me to tote around. My second piece of luggage contained all my clothing and toiletries under 25lbs. It's also on wheels but since it's small, I just put it atop my larger suitcase. I also had a small carry-on that contained some clothing, reading material, plus food and water bottles.

Friendly State
The Coloradians are super friendly people. While walking through Leadville, I always got a smile and a hello from the folks out walking. Some folks even strike up a conversation like you’re old neighbors. That’s what a small town feels like.  I found it easy to strike up a conversation with the locals.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Day 9 Colorado 2015

Ramada Plaza, Denver Central
Got up and had a really good appetite for breakfast. So it’s a good thing breakfast was at 6am. The place isn’t fancy, but the breakfast spread here is, surprisingly, not too shabby – skimpy continental breakfast, NOT! Yogurt, cottage cheese, smoked sausage links, ham slices (no bacon), home fries, scrambled eggs, mixed fruit, variety of breads, hot/cold cereals, jams/jellies, peanut butter, and make-your-own-waffles were available buffet style.

We left the Ramada at 7:30am and on the way to the airport we returned our car rental. Our flight went on without any glitches and it was early by a few minutes. It was hot in Boston and Jeff, Geoff and I remarked how much we were going to miss the cooler temps of Colorado.  Can’t believe how quickly 9 days went by. Would love to spend more time in the Rockies!

Goodbye Colorado!!!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Day 8 Colorado 2015

multi pitch rock climb

Schooldaze (5.5 ) – Multi pitch rock climbing
Elevation Gain: 450 feet
Turret Dome – 8,620 ft

This morning we rose early to pack up and head out to the Turret Dome of Eleven Mile Canyon. I slept really well in this campsite! Actually, I slept better than any other night on this trip. :)  Which is a good thing since we were climbing this morning. We stopped off at a local convenience store and stocked up on breakfast, coffee and hiking food.

At the canyon, we parked at the picnic parking lot, geared up and crossed the footbridge over the South Platte River. We turned left onto the grassy area and followed a trail upstream. There were already many families out picnicking and fishing in this location. I couldn’t resist smiling and saying good morning to those that were along the banks fishing! 

Turret Dome

There was no one on the Dome!! Well, actually there were 3 other climbers who had come in after us but they jumped ahead of us onto the Schooldaze route by crossing over from the Knup route. They were at the start of the second pitch when Geoff and Jeff started. Kevin and I followed.

Geoff making his way up P1


Kevin and I at the P2 belay station

Geoff had problems with his two ropes, they got caught up under a corner. Jeff and Geoff tried flicking the ropes out from under the corner, but it didn’t work. So Geoff built an anchor short of the roof and they were able to work the ropes out. All that waiting around affected my asthma. But so long as I took in fluids and ate, I was fine. The "Bathtub" section of P2 is fun and easy - I wished I got photos! The climb went faster once we neared the top of the last pitch. The left facing corner/crack on the right side looks harder than it really is but it's super fun! Kevin and I followed Geoff and Jeff up over it and to the right to walk off down into a gully which leads to the bottom of the crag

Turret Dome and the Schooldaze route. Using photo from Mountain Project with the solid lines already on it. 

Solid Lines = route
Dashed Lines = route we took
Pink Dots = our belay stations
Yellow = P1
Green = P2
Red = P3
Blue = P4
Dotted white line = route from Schmitt guidebook

The black arrow is where Geoff got his ropes caught up. We used Kevin's new rope and it got caught up on an edge between his 1st and 2nd pieces of pro. So we flipped his rope over the bulge and that solved the problem. 

After coming up and over on the right, I belayed Kevin a few more feet so that he could set up his last anchor. Left: Kevin lowering me down to the gully.

Below, Jeff and Geoff at the gully which leads to the bottom of the
crag and back out to the grassy picnic area near the footbridge.

It was a great day for climbing and I, for one, was so psyched to have made a multi pitch climb in Colorado! I suppose I would have been just as happy if it were top rope climbing. But really am glad to get in some multi pitch climbing considering Colorado is a long ways to travel just for top rope climbing! ;)

The Schooldaze route is a fun climb and the views of the canyon and the Platte River below were stunning! I couldn’t get over that it was a Saturday, great climbing weather and there were no other climbers on the Dome!

Back to Denver
After climbing we headed to Denver to check into a motel. We tried 3-4 places and all were booked/sold out. Jeff finally found us 3 rooms at the Ramada Plaza, Denver Central.

I didn’t/couldn’t smell myself, but I knew I needed a shower, LOL! It felt great to take a long shower and wash my hair. Afterwards, I called room service to order my dinner. Their Chicken and shrimp Fettuccine is very delicious! It included a large salad and I got a pot of hot water for my green tea bag - (I bring my own green tea bags because I lot of places don't have them). Off course, I couldn’t eat all my dinner, it was way too much food.

After dinner I finished packing up and hit the sack! Boston tomorrow!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Day 7 Colorado 2015

Our last morning of this gorgeous view!

Camping at the South Colony Lake was truly an amazing experience. Every morning I got up and found it to be so peaceful to be surrounded by the mountains. How could you not enjoy the views? The light here at any time of the day was incredible! 

We left our South Colony Lake campsite today to head out to the Eleven Mile Canyon Recreation Area. We were all packed and headed out at 8:30am. Instead of descending the trail we came up on 3 days earlier, we descended the shorter loop back to the junction. 

More gorgeous views on our descent!

There were many backpackers coming up at this time of the morning. It was a smart idea for us to get here on a Tuesday making it such a quiet 4 days and 3 nights. And to be honest, I was glad we were leaving on a Friday. Another day and there would be more folks filling the campsites which meant more noise as well. 

The hike down was long and everyone was eager to get down to the car in the lower parking lot. Kevin II took the car keys since he’s the fastest (youngest) in our group - with Jeff and Geoff close behind. Kevin and I were dead last. Kevin’s heel was bothering him and his heavy pack didn’t help any.

With two packs I got several remarks from other hikers/backpackers. Some thought I was pregnant! LOL!

The grey plastic bag is all my trash that I'm packing out and it attracted a trail of flies on my hike down.

Kevin and his heavy pack filled with camping, hiking as well as his rope and trad gear.

On our way down Kevin and I spoke of how we would do things a bit differently when we go back. Go back, you ask? Why yes of course, there’s still so much to do! There’s the Ellingwood Arete Classic (5.7) multi pitch climb. Not to mention the Crestone Peak to Crestone Needle traverse! And I personally still have Mt. Humboldt yet to bag and would love to do the “The Standard” Class 3 hike to the summit of Crestone Needle!

Also, we’d make sure we had the right vehicle, a 4WD type, to get us and our gear up to the upper parking lot! Having heavy packs didn't seem too bad since we thought we'd originally be hiking from the upper parking lot to the campsite (3.5 miles with an elevation gain of 1700 feet). But since we didn't have the right vehicle to make the rough drive to the upper lot, we had to park the car in the lower lot. It turned our hike to a little over 7 miles with over 3000 feet of elevation gain. It pretty much “hurt” with those heavy packs, LOL!

The upper parking lot was full with more folks in 4WD vehicles making their way up towards the lot. The lower parking lot was full as well. 

Farewell to the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Range. Geoff videotaping

Wallbangers Sports Bar & Grill
Salida, CO – 7,038 ft
We stopped off at Wallbangers in Salida for lunch and watched a bit of the British Open Golf Tournament and NASCAR racing on their flatscreens. I ordered the Chicken Tender & Fries appetizer for lunch. But I couldn’t eat it all so I got a doggie bag so I could finish this for my dinner tonight.

The Trailhead
Buena Vista, CO – 7,965 ft
Stopped by The Trailhead and Kevin bought a new rope!

Eleven Mile Canyon Recreation Area
Lake George, CO – 7,992 ft
At the entrance station the large sign listed all the campsites as “Full”.  But we wanted to check out some potential climbing areas for our day tomorrow, so Jeff paid the $6 entrance fee. We followed the dirt road along the South Platte River to its end, the dam at the Eleven Mile Reservoir, and then turned around to head back out of the park. There were many anglers as well as campers and picnickers enjoying the area. I spotted the huge slab on Turret Dome and started drooling! We checked out the “Arch Rock” where Jeff and Kevin had previously climbed. Then we headed out to go look for a place to stay. 

The Arch Rock

We found our way to the Happy Meadows Campground on CR 112 but it was also full. There are restrooms at this campsite and each site has a parking stall and a picnic table. But the sites were right on top of one another. So we drove along Forest Road and found some free camping! Or as Geoff calls it, “ghetto camping”.

Our campsite at 8,000 feet. You can't see it in this photo but to the right of my tent is Kevin and Kevin's tent. And to the left is the campfire ring and Jeff and Geoff's tent. As soon as the sun set, it cooled off and made for comfy sleeping!

This free campground actually wasn’t that bad. We got a nice spot and the sites here were wider apart from one another. And it’s a good thing we came in when we did. Just soon after setting up our tents more folks drove in. The campsite really isn’t sketchy, just some of the clientele. ;) Like the couple across from us. When a pop-up camper pulled into the site behind them the woman started yelling at them so they quickly moved to another campsite. I didn’t want to bother to watch, but according to the guys, she danced around her campsite to the same song that was playing loudly and repeatedly. We had the misfortune of having to listen to their music until dark, when they shut their music off. Finally, some peace and quiet! 

Free Camping Colorado

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Day 6 Colorado 2015

Today we pretty much had to ourselves. Jeff, Geoff and Kevin got off to an early start. Originally they were going to climb the Ellington Arete (5.7) on Crestone Needle. But they chose to do the Class 3 hike (scramble) to the summit of Crestone Needle instead. Kevin II bagged Humboldt solo. And I hiked solo, attempting Mt. Humboldt. Such a fine day for peakbagging!

So I woke up this morning to some chewed-up trekking poles.
Kevin II let me have some first aid tape to fix 'em up.
Kevin's climbing rope and backpack shoulder straps also got chewed up!

At the Upper Lake 12,000 ft
crestone needle, crestone peak, humboldt, upper colony lakes, colorado, 14ers, rockies

Along the trail


The saddle from 13,000 feet

Mt. Humboldt summit from 13,000 feet.
I got up to 13,000 feet and didn't like
the looks of the clouds that were coming in
from the distance. So I turned back and
headed back down to our campsite.

Upper Colony Lake below Crestone Needle and Crestone Peak
Crestone, upper colony lake, colorado, 14ers, rockies

I took this photo on my way down. There is a herd of mountain goats in the lower left-hand corner of this photo. Didn't think I'd have any problems with this herd of mountain goats. But I was wrong. As I got closer to the the floor, two male Rams started coming after me. I was the only one on the trail and had absolutely no idea what to do! I figured maybe if I made myself look "big" I might scare them off. So I got up onto a rock covered with goat shit and started banging my trekking poles together all the while screaming my head off. They stopped but not because of that. Because there was a couple and their large chocolate lab coming down the trail behind me. Later I passed the herd again but they totally ignored me because they were busy ransacking a campsite!

Kevin II waiting for his dad, Jeff and Geoff to return from Crestone Needle

Stunning photos taken by Kevin Danis II from the summit of Mt. Humboldt (14,064 ft)

Awesome photos of Jeff, Kevin, and Geoff's hike to
Crestone Needle (14,197 ft). Taken by Geoff Nichols.
Yes, there's still snow in July!

Geoff's GoPro on his trekking pole


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Day 5 Colorado 2015

Love the morning light here!

Today was an easy day of exploring. Jeff gave us the tour of the Upper Lake at 12,000 feet. Geoff, Kevin and his son Kevin attempted Mt. Humboldt but ended up turning around before the summit due to impending weather. On my way back to our campsite I spoke with Katie. She and her husband Bob are owners of The Mixing Bowl in downtown Salida. They were on their way to do some fishing in the Upper Lake. The lake is stocked with Cutthroat Trout.

Enjoy some photos taken of our day.

Our views at breakfast every morning

Flowers along the brook

This is the trail you take for the Class 3 hike to Crestone Needle summit!
Crestone Needle
Standard Route

At the Upper Lake 12,000 ft

Sunning Marmot

These guys blend in with the rocks!

Bob on his way to enjoy some fly fishing

Comfy chair worth carrying in!