Monday, June 30, 2008

Mountain Marathon

If you hike 28 miles, does it count as a marathon? No? Bummer. Well we had fun anyway this weekend. I got on board a trip to Culebra, the only privately owned peak in Colorado that you have to pay to access. I know it seems ridiculous to pay $100 to climb a peak, but if you're trying to climb them all, there's no real way around it.

After driving down with Scot, who I learned later is an ex NFL player for the Seahawks and the Steelers among others, we slept in till 6:00am, when the Cielo Vista ranch opened for business. There were only 20 of us on the mountain on Saturday, and it was a big mountain. Unfortunately it wasn't that big, and I was able to cruise to the top in a meager 1:50 from the trail head. I waited for everyone else to get up, and then we had a big party up there. Made it down to the car before noon and we were on our way to the Willow Creek trail head to climb Kit Carson and Challenger.

After a 2 hour drive we were at the trail head, and we started on our way. It took about 2 hours to hike the 4 miles and 3,000 or so vertical feet to the lake, which turned out to be pretty good time. We had planned to climb Adams that night, a high 13er, but unfortunately it started to hail with vigor right as we were about to leave the base camp. We decided to call it a night.

The next morning was show time. Our original plan was to climb the class 4-5 north ridge of Kit Carson, then down climb the normal route while tagging Challenger point on the way down. Unfortunately, the entire time from when we got to the upper basin until we were back down from the upper basin, we were shrouded in a dense and humid fog/cloud that gave us about 50 feet of visibility the entire way up. Fortunately, the route was well cairned, and we met up with 3 other people from the Culebra climb the day before who followed us the rest of the way.

We made it to the top of Challenger after climbing a sketchy snow pitch and some loose scrambling, and then continued to Kit Carson. The interesting thing to not is that Kit Carson is only 200 yards away from the summit of Challenger, yet you have to hike around it to get up to the summit. Unfortunately the fog was so thick that we couldn't see even the slightest glimpse of Kit Carson, so we ominously continued into the fog, travelling in what we thought to be the right direction. It was surreal.

We made it to the top of Kit Carson without incident. And on our way down there were intermittent breaks in the fog to where we could see the ground thousands of feet below us. It wasn't until then that we realized how exposed the mountain we were on was. It was steep! We made it back down, and hiked out to the car, content with the weekend. It was a total of 28 miles and nearly 10,000 vertical feet or so.

On the way back, we ran out of gas right at the top of Poncha Pass, but luckily were able to coast all the way down to the gas station at the bottom of the hill. The rest of the drive was filled with greasy burgers, undercooked fries, and an ICEE from LoafnJug. The weekends just keep getting better and better.

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