Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Snowmass Mountain

Psalm 51:7 says, "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow."

If you have ever been on a wide open snowfield on a sunny day...you know how blinding it can be. The snow is so white, it shouldn't even be described as white. The color should be called "bright." The entire area lights up and is so radiant...it hurts to even look at it without shades. There is no place for light to escape and it reflects right back up...Without shade or darkness, light becomes "bright"...

Jesus came to wash us of darkness...to cleanse us of any shadows in our lives...so we can go in front of God brighter than snow. Because of Jesus, we are now more clean and pure than snow. God now sees no blemishes, no darkness, no shadows in us...I can't wrap my brain around this. But I am glad I don't have to...Thank you Jesus for making God have to wear heavenly shades to look at me! Thank you!
Snowmass Mountain 14,092'
Who: Brad Hardin "Brother in Law" and me
When: 9/18-9/20
mileage: 21.5 miles
elevation gain: 5,800'
Brad and I decided to climb Snowmass after coming down from 4 Pass Loop...so after getting rest at a local Snowmass village hotel and eating several hardboiled egg whites for breakfast, we started making our way up Snowmass standard route. The hike was great…the Aspens started to turn, the smell of pine is second to none, and all the waterfalls along the way just kept making this trail super.
The elevation gain from TH to Lake is a little over 2500 ft, but it is gradual for the most part outside of two sections...at first there is a 400' ascent...and along the way (mile 4) you get your first views of Snowmass Mountain (which is the furthest peak in picture below)...from our vantage point, this mountain looked like it was approximately forever miles away.
after the first 400' climb, the trail opened up and we were hiking along Snowmass Creek.
We followed the creek all the way up to the infamous log jam. We had to cross the log jam to get back on the trail...the log jam...that thing is absolutely a blast to cross...when dry. It sucks big time when there's frost on it. It's about 75 yds long...it is really easy if you have decent balance. It's really hard on frost, even if you have great balance.
We stopped here to eat lunch...we knew we still had a second section of steep uphill hiking. As we got going, the colors around the lake were beautiful...however, there was a flower that stunk horribly. We could not really identify the flower...
We also met a porcupine on the way up…I think he liked us, because he made another visit later on…Anyways, after the log jam and the hike around the first lake, the trail went up...it was a section of switchbacks that lead right into pines. About half an hour later, we saw this great waterfall...
…we finally arrived at Snowmass Lake and you are met with absolutely the most gorgeous alpine lake…and right smack in the middle is the masterpiece known as Snowmass Mountain!!! I’m not even going to describe…it’s a waste of time…go see it yourself.
We set up camp and enjoyed the rest of the day…about that friend of ours, Brad woke me up around midnight. He said he heard some munching going on near the foot of our fly…sure enough; it was our friend chewing on some gear…he was harmless and went on his way.
So earlier that day, we hung out and rested...we also decided to hike around to the West side of Snowmass Lake to mess around and check out the route for the next day. Brad also got to get a little fishin in!
Monday 09/19/11
Climb Snowmass Mountain, Eastside
Camp Start on East Side of lake: 6:10 a.m.
Summit time: 12:15 p.m.
Back down to camp: 3:15 p.m.
Difficulty: Strenuous…like your leg twitching when your done Strenuous.
Alf Rating: I don’t recommend it to everyone…only for those that are a glutton for punishment and would do anything to summit a mountain.

We got up early and started making our way towards the base of the scree field via the southern edge of the lake. The trail is awful…the willows will smack you in the face…seriously. The approach to the base is no fun, unless you enjoy bushwacking and getting your boots dunked in mucky water. Once you make your way around, finding the trail can be tricky…I did a poor job of studying this portion of the route. Took it for granted really…I could not find it to save my life. So I continued all the way around the lake edge and found what I thought was the trail up to the gully. On the descent, I found the right trail…it follows the gully on the left side all the way down to the boulder field on the left of the gully (if you are looking at it from the base of the route). If you find the right trail up, you will avoid going up the loose rotten gully…
This is Brad above the scree field, around 11,000'...Right above 11,000 ft, we started to enter the snowfield. From this point on, we just started to make our slow and steady ascent all the way up.
Over the next hour, the snow got deeper…at times we were post holing 18 inches deep…which left my legs bruised all over.
At 11:45 am, we were 800 ft below the summit and studying the sky. The clouds had moved in and this was really the first legit time we questioned are goal for the summit. Brad suggested we scratch the original plan of climbing to the lowest part of the ridge, that would have put us a 1/3 of a mile from the summit, and instead go directly towards the notch (opening) of the mountain. I had my doubts since the snow was still powdery, but it really felt like our only shot at the time. So our plan was to take one step at a time and see if we still had it in us to go up.
Without fail, we made the notch by traversing the base of the 300 ft East Face of Snowmass over to the notch…at this point we were excited and knew we were going to Summit.
Once we reached the backside of the ridge, we scrambled/climbed up the ridge some 300ft and met our goal at 12:15 p.m.
I looked around and was in awe of all the snowcapped mountains…the Bells, Capitol, the lakes…man…God is good. I said a prayer of thanks and joy…stayed up there for about 15 minutes before my toes started to give to the freeze. And then…realization set in… oh crap, I’ve got to get down this!
Tuesday 09/20/11
Left camp: 5:10 a.m.
Time back to TH: 3:15 minutes
Alf Rating: In the dark…kinda scary…especially when you see bear scat, one of them being fresh. Log Jam had frost…
TH: So glad to see it!
Reward: 5 days in the Maroon Bell Wilderness is reward enough…a summit of a 14er…and a really cold bottle of Double Wheat Shiner to greet me hello...and one more look at those trees!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

4 Pass Loop

James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." God can give us the wisdom we need, enabling us to persevere by giving us "eyes to see" and help us face various trials!!

If you have have ventured into the mountains enough, I'm sure you may have heard that the mountains themselves determines your fate...They decide the outcome of your trip. Your chance of summiting or completing your route depends on the mountains grace...well, maybe...

I tend to think the Mountain has no say...as far as I'm concern, the mountain is asking you to come...many times drawing you in with no regard. Like anything else, mountains are temperemental...they can be calm to chaotic...but either way, they are always inviting you in!

So who determines the outcome? No...not the mountain, but the mountaineer...It is up to the person to determine if they want to accept the invitation up the mountain. If you have been on a trip with me, you know that I ask God for His blessings and safety...But, I also pray that He would allow us to use wisdom and discernment as we move forward. I think many times our ambition is bigger than our eyes, and we use poor judgement along the way because of it.

Asking for God's wisdom on a mountain is like asking for "eyes to see" what the mountain is up to! Even though she is beautiful...she is often times a deceiver! What temptation...
(Maroon Bells)
4 Pass Loop
Who: Brad Hardin "Brother in law", Kevin Mullis, and me
When: 9/16-9/17/11
mileage: 8 miles round trip

We left DFW on 9/15/11 and within 14 hours, we went from 705' elevation to 12,000' plus...remarkably,  we did not feel any altitude sickness symptoms. I think popping all those pills the days before may have been putting my liver at risk of failure, but it sure did help with acclimitization!
We left Independence pass and drove down to Aspen to hang out for the afternoon. Aspen is a cool mountain town...if you are ever looking for a place to chow, stop by 529 Burgers. Order the Bison and Bacon burger and sweet potato fries...you will be happy.

After a late lunch, we headed towards the Maroon Bell Wilderness to start the 4 pass loop. The 4 pass loop is a 26.2 mile roundtrip trek that goes over 4 passes over 12,500'. We started at Maroon Lake TH at near elevation 9,500'.

Our goal for day 1 was to hike past both Maroon and Crater lake and see how far we could get towards Maroon Pass. As you start to make our way on the trail, you come up on this friendly reminder:
ah...duly noted.

We continued past Maroon lake and went up 500' feet on the trail...this part of the trail is really pretty. You hike into a dense section of Aspens and really pretty floral.
As you are coming out of this dense section...it opens up and you can see the Aspens below. They were starting to turn. I love this picure below because it reminds me of an impressionist painting.
But it's not a painting, it's for real! I like to paint...so I see it.
(Kevin and Brad before Crater lake)
About two miles in, we finally arrived at Crater Lake. This put us right under the Bells. We hung out here for a while and took several photos. There were several campsites in this area as well. As we were getting ready for this trip, we learned there was a bear attack at these sites. There were warning signs of the recent attacks posted nearby. Nontheless, we weren't too concerned...
So we continued up and over and we could see our first glimpse of West Maroon Valley...From our vantage point, the entire valley looked like it was under heavy fog. And definitely a preclude to the day to come.
We hiked another mile up and found really nice camp sites in a heavily wooded area. The pads were flat and we felt the trees would insulate us some from the winds. Kevin set up camp and Brad and I went looking for water...

That night was cold...but I filled up my nalgene with boling water and threw it in my sleeping bag. If you have never done this before to keep warm...do it! It is great way to stay warm in your bag. Later that night, we all awoke to something loud. We could not determine at first what it was...since we were all either asleep or just out of it. But then we heard it again...it sounded like a locomotive coming at us. We all perked up, butt cheeks clinched, and looking at each other like we were about to spend our last moments together. The sound roared closer and closer and it was coming fast...and then suddenly it died. Few moments later...it happened again...and again... and again. It was massive rockslides above us...It was unnerving and did not stop for a while. It made for a real uncomfortable night...Later the next day we could see the activity and felt better knowing the rocks rolled into a lower area than we were and that we were really in no danger. But in the dark, you didn't know that...
The next morning was colder and drizzly...and we were about to hike into some really bad weather.
As we kept going up the mountain, the rain gave way to snow. The winds started to pick up, and visibility diminished. What was difficult was not being able to see landmarkers. We could not see the mountainside above us...therefore the contour maps were no good to us. We could never really tell where we were on the map. On top of this, everytime we walked through willows...it dumped a good amount of water on us.
Kevin was getting the worst end of this whole deal. Besides battling a bug...his clothes were not doing so well. Especially his pants. He was wearing REI Endeavor pants and they failed miserably. They did not repel water and they quickly absorbed all the moisture. That moisture then leaked into his shoe...then socks. This was a recipe for disaster...but Kevin kept going, and we were right behind him.
The weather got worse...eventually it was a white out...and we could no longer see what was around or above us. We believe we got as high as 12,000', right below the first pass, when Kevin had to make a really big call. Kevin was trying to push...but he was sick, cold, and worst of all, completely soaked. He stopped, turned around, and looked at us...I can tell this was one of the hardest decisions of his life.

But the hardest decision was the right decision. He needed to turn back...Kevin had "eyes to see" that he was putting himself at risk of more sickness, injury, or even worse. We have been dreaming of this hike for half a year...we have been planning for so long...our ambitions were right in front of us. The mountain kept alluring us to climb it...we wanted to oblige...but Kevin understood more. He understood, relied on wisdom, and listened to truth...On this day, Kevin had "eyes to see" and turned the mountain away. Brad and I followed Kevin back down...