Vail skiing/ice climbing – 11.24-27.2011

I spent the long, Thanksgiving weekend with Carla in Vail.  We enjoyed a terrific Thanksgiving meal at La Tour on Thanksgiving night and skied off all of the carbs on Friday.  There wasn’t a lot of terrain open, although last year was an exceptional early season snow year, so it was a bit disappointing.  Regardless, the terrain that was open had nice snow conditions, so we got after it.

We had another Thanksgiving dinner with good friends, Bob & Di, upon their arrival in Vail on Friday evening, which hit the spot after skiing all day.  We all headed out, along with another friend, Hudson, for more turns on Saturday.  Fortunately, Vail continued to open new terrain as it had snowed 3-5″ overnight so we had a really nice ski day on Saturday, followed by a soak in the hot tub and a terrific dinner at Terra Bistro, which was excellent.

On Sunday, we headed to the ice of East Vail and were rewarded with some terrific early season ice conditions.  We climbed the flows of “Firehouse Right” in anticipation of an imminent return to get on the infamous East Vail climbs “Rigid Designator” and “The Fang” once the ice comes in a little more.  All in all, it was another terrific weekend in the mountains!

Mount Bierstadt (14,060′) – 11.20.2011

This past weekend, I headed out with climbing partners, Bob Berger, Ben Focht, and Lyn Williams for a quick jaunt up Mount Bierstadt (14,060′) in some blustery conditions.  We headed out just after dawn on Sunday morning and summited a few hours later in cool weather and sustained winds (with gusts up to 45mph), which dropped the windchill well below zero.  It was a beautiful day overall and we celebrated the quick outing with pizza and banquet beer back in Golden, so it was a pretty ideal training day.  Although, in conditions like this it served as both training as well as conditioning.  We’ll be ramping-up our winter outings like this as we get through the holidays and into 2012 to help get us ready for the big trip!  Pretty soon we hope to increase from a “mountain-a-month” to a “mountain-a-week” as departure for Kathmandu grows increasingly imminent.

Cathedral Peak, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite – 10.23.2011

I took a quick weekend trip to meet my climbing partner, Bob, and his friend, TY, in Yosemite to continue our Everest training.  We did a quick day (short climbing day due to crowds) on the Apron in Yosemite Valley on Saturday, followed by a full day of climbing on the classic Southeast Buttress of Cathedral Peak (10,911′) in Tuolumne Meadows on Sunday.  It was a beautiful day with bluebird skies and mild temperatures, especially for late October.  Cathedral Peak is a fun, sustained 5.6 rated climb over 6-8 pitches (~700 feet of technical climbing) up perfect Yosemite granite.  It’s a beautiful peak, with stunning views, which makes for a really fun day of climbing.  We were a little slow since we were a team of three, but were still car-to-car in 11 hours, including a 2-hour approach and 2-hour descent.  The video below will give you a sense of the experience on the face of the buttress.  Good fun.

Aspen, CO – 10.9.2011

This past weekend was low-key from a training perspective, but I still enjoyed some time in the high country.  My girlfriend, Carla, and I went to Aspen, CO, for the weekend to catch the last of the fall foliage and to celebrate her birthday.  We had a great weekend and did a couple of hikes in the Maroon Bells area where we enjoyed the raw weather and scenic beauty.  The last of the Aspen stands are turning gold and soon the last leaves of autumn will be on the ground, ushering in the start of winter.  With the recent snows and the return of La Niña, it promises to be an early, snowy winter, of which I look forward to taking full advantage.  It should make for some great training and mountain fun in the lead-up to my trips to Patagonia and then, of course, Everest.

Spearhead NE Ridge – 10.2.2011

Fall foliage surrounding Spearhead

Bob and I headed up to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) after waking-up at 3:45am on Sunday morning for an alpine start to climb the NE Ridge of Spearhead in Glacier Gorge near Longs Peak. We were on the trail by 6am and started on the 6-mile hike to the base of the climb. We made good progress in crisp fall temperatures for much of the morning. We finally arrived at the base of the climb a few hours later where we found snow on the north face (essentially where we were planning to climb) and cold temperatures at 11,500′ with significant wind and windchill. After a brief deliberation, especially since the climb is on the north face and therefore completely devoid of sun, we decided to save this one for next summer. We ended up doing 12-miles with our 35-40 lb. climbing packs and gaining over 3,000′ of vertical, so overall it wasn’t a bad training day, we just didn’t get to do the fun part of the climb that we had planned. Such is life in the mountains.

Kelso Ridge on Torrey’s Peak – 9.24.2011

My climbing partner Bob and I climbed Kelso Ridge on Torrey’s Peak (14,267′) and then completed the enchainment to Gray’s Peak (14,270′) on 9.24.2011 to kick-off the Colorado portion of our Everest training.  We fly to Kathmandu in almost exactly six months.  Amazing!  It will be here before we know it.  Anyway, it was a splitter, bluebird, perfect Colorado day in the high country.  The video below was filmed in HD via a GoPro Hero camera, so you can view in the embedded window below and/or blow it up “full screen” if you prefer to see it in 720p (HD).

Grand Teton – 9.2.2011

After getting shut-down by two feet of snow on The Grand Teton last year (9.10.2010) with climbing partners Mark and Craig, I returned over Labor Day weekend of this year with Craig again to give it another shot.  We had a much better go of it this time around, as these pictures demonstrate (click the photo below).

On the trail, we ran into guide extraordinaire and good friend, Todd Passey (who Craig and I both met in Antarctica back in 2008 and Todd was also on my trip to Papua/Carstensz Pyramid as well earlier this year – small world sometimes).  After a quick chat regarding my intentions to head to Patagonia to climb in early 2012, Todd put me in touch with his friend, Willie Benegas (North Face sponsored climber with 9 Everest summits, which is among the most of anyone in the world, and Patagonia native).  So, I’ll be doing that trip with Willie, and his twin brother Damian, as we climb throughout Argentina for 3-weeks in preparation for Everest and with our sights on Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitzroy if the weather cooperates.  It should be incredible.