Forum Index > Trip Reports > A Solo Tour Of Colorado: Seven 14ers In Eight Days
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Gimpilator
infinity/21M



Joined: 12 Oct 2006
Posts: 1682 | TRs | Pics
Location: Edmonds, WA
Gimpilator
infinity/21M
PostFri Sep 25, 2009 2:09 pm 
distance travelled on foot: 62 miles accumulative elevation gain: 26,300 feet distance driven: 3578 miles money spent on gas: 249 hotels stayed in: 0 mountain ranges visited: 4
September 1st I made my departure and drove roughly 650 miles from Edmonds Washington to Twin Falls Idaho. Besides massacring thousands of bugs with my helmet visor, the drive was uneventful. The second day I drove roughly the same distance again to Durango Colorado. On the third day I left early and drove toward the small town of Lake City. Uncompahgre Peak was my first goal, located in the San Juan Range. That evening I hiked up a road which looked more like a riverbed than a passage for vehicles.
September 4th, Leaving in the dark, I walked up alpine grassy slopes to the southeast ridge of Uncompahgre Peak. There was a short Class 2 scramble with a few loose pebbles and then I was on my first Colorado summit! The sight of Wetterhorn Peak and Precipice Peak were especially rewarding. People that came up after me congratulated me on my first summit in their state. I then drove to Yankee Boy Basin and Mount Sneffels. Hiking the gnarly approach road, I reached the lower trail head as it was becoming fully dark and then I made my camp, even though it was illegal to do so.
September 5th, I began my ascent at dawn, excited for what the day had to offer. Judging from my research, the Lavender Col Route should be the best of the trip. Walking on the road, there were times when I made faster progress than the 4 wheel drive vehicles that were now creeping into the basin. Crossing talus near the beginning of the trail, a man asked me if I was familiar with the route and expressed some confusion as to which peak was actually Sneffels. I pulled out my beta and showed him a few photos of the route. We ended up as sort of climbing partners for the day and were the first on the summit.
In the col, I found that staying on the larger more stable rocks was a lot easier than ascending loose scree. From the saddle we entered the southeast couloir and near the end we found the famed v-notch. The exposure going through the notch was extreme but knowing that countless thousands had passed through that way before me, I trusted the holds on rocks that appeared to be loose. Above the notch, more easy class 2 led to the summit. The surrounding views of the eroded San Juan Range peaks, especially Gilpin Peak and the Blue Lakes below, were fantastic.
The next day I drove 240 miles to Leadville and Colorado's highest peak, Mount Elbert in the Sawatch Range. That evening I spent time reading a book, occasionally glancing up at the northeast ridge with thoughts about the following day. Knowing that the standard route on Elbert was likely to become very crowded, I began at 5 am, using a headlamp for the first hour. A layer of frost covered everything. The first half of the trail was entirely engulfed in trees. About half way up, I reached a clearing where there was a refreshing view of alpenglow on Mount Massive. The upper half of the route was more open, with views down toward the valley and Leadville. The summit was super chilly but thankfully I packed my down coat.
On the descent, as I had anticipated, there were many people coming up. I was surprised by the number of people getting a late start and also those who carried no pack or supplies. Next, I went to Stevens Gulch, the standard approach to Grays Peak and Torreys Peak in the Front Range. The forest road was bad but I got lucky hitchhiking to the trailhead. The driver told me his dog was suffering from altitude sickness, appearing wobbly and drunk on its feet. I spent the night in the majestic Stevens Gulch, walled-in by two 13ers; Kelso Mountain on one side and McClellan Mountain on the other. That evening my tent was bombarded by large hailstones causing a dull roar.
September 8th, as I got closer to Grays and Torreys, I was impressed by the sight of the basin. Torreys Peak with its steep east face and snow-filled couloirs certainly looked more impressive than Grays Peak which was just a huge pile of talus. I decided to do Torreys first. A short sprinkle of rain formed a rainbow over Torreys Peak confirming my decision. I followed the trail west to the saddle and then to the summit. Descending back to the saddle and then skipping over talus, I made quick work of Grays Peak, watching the clouds thicken and grow in size. On the summit of Grays I observed a decent sized thunderhead a few miles away. Thinking about the possibility of the wind bringing it over to where I was standing, I decided it was time to descend.
I then drove to Quandary Peak in the Tenmile Range. There were two young men standing next to their car and I could tell by their demeanor that something was out of sorts. I asked them if they were just coming down from the mountain. They lived in Denver and this had been their first attempt of a 14er. They had almost made it to the summit when they were caught in a lightning storm. They said that anywhere they wearing metal, it became hot and was vibrating. Bolts were coming down around them and that they ran back down the trail, afraid for their lives. My next question was "What time did you start?". I tried to hide my reaction when they told me 2pm. All I said was "You'll want to start a lot earlier than that next time".
On the 9th I was feeling the accumulated weariness from several days of exertion, but my excitement was enough to rouse me into action. On the trail I passed group after group, feeling an egotistical pleasure, reaching the false summit at just over 13,000 feet. I encountered a small family of 3 mountain goats. They seemed cautious but unafraid of me and I passed within a few feet of them. Beyond the false summit it became steeper but nothing challenging. It was windy on top and there were several people scattered around, stooped to the ground, finding shelter from the wind behind rocks. The sky had been empty of clouds only moments before but they were building fast. The view on Quandary was more impressive than some of the other 14ers. I saw some small lakes to the north and could also make out Grays and Torreys from the day before. My next objective was Mount of the Holy Cross.
The following day I Hiked over Halfmoon Pass, sadly losing a lot of elevation. I got my first view of the mountain with its long north ridge and prominent summit block. An impressive sight for sure. I descended into the Cross Creek Basin and camped next to a small waterfall. With another headlamp start, I made quick progress in gaining the north ridge top. Plentiful Pikas sounded the alarm as I passed by. The sunrise painted some appealing colors on Mount Jackson. On the summit, several more people appeared and together we discussed the difficulties of climbing Mount Rainer. For the last two peaks I would attempt Castle and Conundrum. On that final approach road, I lost control of my motorcycle. Fortunately, I was unscathed and the bike only sustained minimal damage. I found some hunters to help me lift it.
September 12, constant thundershowers kept me confined to the tent all day. That night the weather would not remit and I had a feeling that I was seeing the end of my luck. I did my best not to stress out. The next day rain was still a constant and not very conducive to the idea of getting out of my sleeping bag. I went back to sleep for a couple hours. Spending twenty-four hours alone in the tent had left me anxious for some kind of action. The second time I opened my eyes the answer was very clear. It was time to go home. I had taken about all the solitude I could stand. There was no way I could handle another day of waiting in the tent watching the weather. The trip which started as small daydream had grown into a major success. Seven Colorado 14ers in eight days. So what if I didn't get the last two peaks. As I rode out of the basin back toward Aspen, I looked over my should at the peaks up above. Twenty-four hours of rain on my tent had been twenty-four hours of snow in the upper regions. There was no way to tell just how much snow had fallen up there. Nature had slammed the door on me, but I was ok with that.

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mntsun
Wunderer



Joined: 08 Jul 2007
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mntsun
Wunderer
PostFri Sep 25, 2009 2:26 pm 
Great report and pictures, especially Sneffels, my pictures didn't come close to capturing it the way yours did! I missed the easy route, too, and ended up class 3+. I did something similar 2 years ago...six summits in a week. I almost (finally) went up Quandary as #7, but left it for later smile.gif Elbert but not Massive? You have to go back for Massive!

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Tazz
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Tazz
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PostFri Sep 25, 2009 2:37 pm 
up.gif you got to do Sneffels!! we drove up from utah and i was friggen sick as a dog from the altitude and we had to turn around. 2 days later i was on Elbert (that will teach me to not acclimatize proper) It was ALLL snow when he hiked in there though. That road is cool huh? good stuff thanks for sharing!

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billisfree
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billisfree
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PostFri Sep 25, 2009 6:06 pm 
Great post! I've wondered if I should do something like that. But how to cram enough stuff on my bike? At least, the bike can be riden higher up than a car. You didn't specifly how much elevation gain was needed for each climb.

Any climb is a good climb, summit or no summit.
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Magellan
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Joined: 26 Jul 2006
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Magellan
Brutally Handsome
PostFri Sep 25, 2009 6:45 pm 
Thanks for sharing the adventure Adam. I am surprised by how dry it looks there. I know the climate is different, but there is a lot of exposure up there. I'm sorry your bike went down, but at least you stopped to document it. biggrin.gif
This may be my favorite as it has peaks, lakes, color, and trees.

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EastKing
Surfing and Hiking



Joined: 28 Mar 2007
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Location: 77 miles from Seattle!
EastKing
Surfing and Hiking
PostFri Sep 25, 2009 10:04 pm 
Awesome post Gimpilator. I think there are others (me) you are going to follow this TR for next year.

YouTube | SummitPost Saw the depths of despair. Now I am salvaging what time I have left on Earth.
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raz2sea
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Joined: 04 Dec 2007
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raz2sea
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PostFri Sep 25, 2009 10:16 pm 
Wow, great trip and congrats on getting in 7 14's!!!

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Andy D.
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Joined: 19 Apr 2004
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Location: Bow, WA
Andy D.
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PostSat Sep 26, 2009 7:01 am 
Nice work! Those are some impressive peaks, way to get it done! up.gif

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Gimpilator
infinity/21M



Joined: 12 Oct 2006
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Location: Edmonds, WA
Gimpilator
infinity/21M
PostSat Sep 26, 2009 7:36 am 
mntsun wrote:
Elbert but not Massive? You have to go back for Massive!
Good question. I thought that the route on Elbert was fairly boring and I only did it because it's number one. Massive looked like a similar hike and not very exciting. I'm more into fun routes and views that tagging the high points.

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Gimpilator
infinity/21M



Joined: 12 Oct 2006
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Location: Edmonds, WA
Gimpilator
infinity/21M
PostSat Sep 26, 2009 7:39 am 
tazz wrote:
up.gif you got to do Sneffels!! we drove up from utah and i was friggen sick as a dog from the altitude and we had to turn around.
What a bummer! Sneffels was the best. I was tempted to go for it first but I was worried about the altitude thing and decided to do it second. I hope you have a chance to go back for it some day.

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Gimpilator
infinity/21M



Joined: 12 Oct 2006
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Location: Edmonds, WA
Gimpilator
infinity/21M
PostSat Sep 26, 2009 7:43 am 
billisfree wrote:
You didn't specifly how much elevation gain was needed for each climb.
The original TR for this trip was twice as long. I know NWH is more of a no frills site when it comes to TR's so I cut out a lot of the lesser details. For more technical information check out 14ers.com They have all the route information you ask for.

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Tom
Admin



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Tom
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PostSat Sep 26, 2009 10:28 am 
Really cool report Gimp, thanks for taking the time to write it up! up.gif

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El Dooder
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El Dooder
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PostSat Sep 26, 2009 11:03 am 
Outstanding work up.gif Colorado peaks are what got me into hiking before I moved out West. Good to see some old familiar terrain! smile.gif

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El Puma
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PostSat Sep 26, 2009 1:28 pm 
Great job, great adventure! Thanks for the TR! We were on a CO road trip last summer and my then 8-yo climbed Uncompaghre with me...
I loved the colors up there as well...
We had spent a week in Pagosa and a couple days in Lake city, so we were pretty acclimatized. I swear though that kids are unaffected by altitude...he must have walked twice as far as my friend and I - with the running ahead, behind, and nonstop talking... :-) Would love to go back and retrace your footsteps in a couple of years...

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Bryan K
Shameless Peakbagger



Joined: 29 Sep 2005
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Location: Alaska
Bryan K
Shameless Peakbagger
PostSat Sep 26, 2009 8:07 pm 
Thanks for sharing your trip with us. Making me really look forward to my road trip in November, I just hope that I get a few nice days like you did!!

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