For most of us living in the Houston/Upper Texas Gulf Coast Area, summer is the most dreadful time of the year. The combination of high heat and humidity makes for a miserable time in the outdoors, putting a damper on the spirits of even the most dedicated athletes and sports enthusiasts.
Most of us are forced to limit or modify our training as we look for ways to stay cool. Running on shaded trails, running before sunrise or late in the evening are a few of the options. My favorite one is climbing the high Colorado Mountains; it's a great way to stay cool, keep my activity level high and have a great time while enjoying the great scenery. People that have run the Leadville 100, Hardrock 100 or the Pikes Peak marathon know what I'm talking about.
My friends know how much I like climbing mountains but few know that this was the reason I took up running 12 years ago. After climbing extensively in the Sierras and high volcanoes of northern and central Mexico I fell in love with the mountains of Colorado.
My family and I enjoy relaxing in the Leadville – Buena Vista corridor and also the Estes Park area where the high temperatures rarely reach above our low temperatures levels in Houston. Typically I use the mornings to climb peaks provided a pre-dawn start, then we all go out during the afternoons.
Thanks to careful planning this year's trip (my 5th one) yielded some of my best adventures yet. I ended up summiting 15 peaks in our 13 day stay in Colorado. It all started as soon as we crossed the Colorado State border, .
Like most 14ers fanatics I aim for the highest peaks, the first stop was 14,042' Mt. Lindsey on day one, 7-15-12. After encountering most of the traffic at the gully coming down while I was heading up I finally got a glimpse of the actual summit.
Fun section ahead.
Good weather allowed me to summit dead last after a very late morning start up the Huerfano River Valley; I had great views of the Sierra Blanca during this 5 hour round trip.
Blanca group from Lindsey's summit
On day 2 we had fun in Salida's swimming pool then finished traveling to our cabin in Leadville.
On day 3, I returned to my very first 14er, 14,433' Mt. Elbert.
Using the lightly traveled and steep Black Cloud trail, after a long steep hike feeling tired I got to the south ridge and saw the target in the distance, 2 miles away, then hiked one mile and went over 14,134' South Elbert en route to the crowded summit on that 7 ˝ hr. hike.
La Plata from South Elbert.
Elbert from South Elbert
Had fantastic views from the summit but never saw anyone else on that trail.
Massive from Elbert.
Day 4 took me to the summit of 14,265' Quandary Peak via the east rige; a few mountain goats were vigilant along the trail of this popular peak. The hike was short and uneventful.
I had great views of the Sawatch and Front Range mountains on that 5 hr. hike.
Summit of Quandary.
On day 5, I traveled south of Aspen to get my first taste of the poor rock that dominates this area's peaks by climbing the King of the Elk Range, 14,265' Castle Peak along with 14,060' Conundrum Peak.
Castle Peak. Once past the end of the long road the scramble to these crumbling summits was very interesting to say the least and the views of the Maroon Bells and surrounding wild 14ers were spectacular.
The other Elks on the left and Conundrum on the right.
The descent was fast down the loose scree filled saddle to the frozen Montezuma Basin where the sounds of rockfall kept me on my toes.
Castle from Conundrum. Hike time was nearly 7 ˝ hr.
...to be continued on part 2/Mt. Hope report.