Friday, July 27, 2012

Telluride: Bouldering, Via Ferrata, Hiking

"In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid..." Psalm 56:4

Protection...the act of protecting, preserving from injury or harm....to also cover, as in coverage. In Telluride, Sarah and I traversed the "Krogerata", a via ferrata that traverses over hundreds of feet of vertical exposure at any time. To safely traverse the route, you need protection. Your helmet, harness, lanyards, and carabiners. You also need to use the protection that has been permanently fixed on the route. Which are the wire cables that have been installed and safely anchored throughout the route. And then of course the iron holds which are bolted and allow you to traverse across when you are on a complete vertical section of the route. All these pieces of "protection" are there for you...to minimize the risks of danger and to safely complete the route.

But here's the thing...all that protection does not matter...at all...if you do not trust your gear and the fixed protection on the wall. You have to trust that everything is under control with all the gear you have in place...so you can build just enough confidence to make it across. Without this confidence, there is no way we can focus on the route or task at hand. We would not have enough courage to move forward...and immediately recognize the danger and divert. The task would be too big, too dangerous, and quite frankly not smart.

Without God, I see life much the same way as I see this route. Life is big, dangerous, and I often make really really bad choices because I am not very smart on my own. Often times, I make decisions that leave me exposed...confused...and deflate all confidence because I moved forward without God. I feel that I can do things without Him, so I choose to "free solo" decisions...which leave me unprotected and on my own. And when I do (which I do often because I'm a fool), I ultimately find myself stuck...high above...looking around...with nothing but exposure. I'm done. Whatever I set out to do will not be completed...because I am no longer "protected" from the dangers of the route I've chosen...a route I  foolishly chose to leave my Protection behind. I no longer have the confidence that comes with, when I trust in God.

In John 17:11...Jesus says, "I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name..." God is my protection! Jesus is talking about us!  He is talking about me! I need to trust my spiritual gear on every route I take. He is in control of my route...because He is my gear and fixed protection. God is my helmet, my harness, my lanyards, and my carabiners. God is my wiring, my bolts, and my anchor! He is my Iron Holds! God is my everything...and because of this...I have full and complete confidence on any route I take...regardless of the exposure. Amen!
(Town of Telluride from Gondala station on the way to Mountain Village)
Who: Sarah and I
When: 7/16-7/18/12
What: Bouldering, "Krogerata", Hiking, Vacationing (that's an activity right?)

Sarah and I drove the 5 1/2 hour drive from Zion to Telluride on the morning of 7/16. We drove through the 4 corners region and I was tempted to drive to Monument Valley. We didn't...but we should have. We arrived to town and this was my first time in Telluride. This place is beautiful! It is my new favorite town in Colorado. The town is nestled in a tight box canyon...there are several unique shops, restaurants, and a great, great...maybe the greatest town park I've ever been to: Town Park. We camped at Town park the first night...cost $20 something bucks...Town Park is very clean, softball fields that had turf equivalent to major league ballparks, a skate park with ramps and a pool, trails, soccer fields, mountain bike trail, and it had a trail that lead to Bear Creek trail. Then of course, you had the backdrop of Ajax Mountain and the surrounding San Juan Peaks. We walked the town and had dinner at Smuggler's Joe Brewpub. I recommend the Jalapeno artichoke dip with their Rocky Mountain Rye microbrew.

(On of the softball fields at Town Park)
I am going to mention this only because it somehow is one of my more memorable moments of this entire trip. Sarah and I caught a few innings of what appeared to be a very competitive beer league. I loved it! These men were good...ultra competetive...and took the game very serious. But at the same time, they were having a blast, enjoyed each other's company, and were ribbing their opponents in good nature. It felt like these guys were just playing the game they loved...in the moment...and nothing else mattered. Kudos to you men...I really enjoyed watching you guys out there. Especially the team that wore slacks, button down dress shirt, and ties for uniforms. That is hilarious!
7/17/12
We got up, and it was in the mid 40's...it felt wonderful. Especially since we are from Texas and it's over a hundred everyday this time of year. We cooked up some oatmeal, packed up our Prius and made our way towards Ajax mountain and the mines to climb and traverse the via ferrata. I spent about an hour bouldering at the Mine Boulders before we got started on our day up the mountain. I've heard a lot about Telluride's conglomerate blocs...so I had to get a bouldering session or two in before I left. So I did...I really enjoyed the clmbing. The landings are relatively flat and the rock is mostly solid. Between bouldering, sport, trad, and big wall climbing in and around Telluride...you have a lifetime amount of climbing. There are several guidebooks.
The "Krogerata"
Distance: 4.25 miles roundtrip (can be shortened if take other trails down)
TH: start of the switchbacks...near the ponds you see in the google image above
Route: Counter-clockwise
time: 4 hours (however, we spent time taking pictures, visiting the falls, and 20 minutes lookinf for the initial trail)

The Krogerata is Telluride's via ferrata. The via ferrata translates to "Iron Way." Most via ferratas climb vertically with few to several traversing sections. The Krogerata is one long traverse under Ajax Mountain and the end of the box canyon on the East Side of Telluride.
So...Sarah and I started making our way up the loose gravel switchbacks from the valley floor. From the TH, you get to see stunning views of Bridal Veil Falls. The falls are the tallest free standing waterfalls in Colorado standing in at 365 ft tall. As you make your way up the switchbacks...you get better views...especially when you are parallel with the base of the falls. If you are trying to hike up the switchbacks...you will find a few options (new and old roads that go up) to lead you up. It doesn't matter which ones you take. They are both about the same distance and they will lead you to the same place.

After hiking a little over a mile and cutting back 5-6 times on the switchbacks...you finally arrive at the base of the falls. Unfortunately at this time, there are signs telling you to keep out and not enter the base area of the falls. But as you can see, you get to come this close to the falls...and really that's close enough. The falls are spectacular. If you are not hiking up to the via ferrata, this 2 mile roundtrip hike is worth the trip alone.

After you leave the falls, just continue straight up on the same road until the road swithches back up. At the end of this same road, you will see an old wooden bridge that was constructed over the creek. You want to cross this bridge and not continue up the switchbacks. Now, don't be like me...after crossing the bridge I continued moving forward...attempting to locate the TH to the Krogerata. ***There is no posted TH sign*** Don't look for one, you won't find it. I spent 20 minutes trying to find the trail...I couldn't find it. I knew where the route was above me...I could see it. From the bridge, you can see the small shelf (pictured above) and the remaining route. I tried to find different lines up to the shelf...even attempted to go up loose talus to no avail. I was a bit frustrated. Sarah was down below trying to find it as well. Finally, we gave up...and decided must not have been the right turnoff...though every piece of information told me you had to cross the bridge to find the TH. So we made our way back to the bridge, and lo and behold, there it was. The trail is literally just a few feet after crossing the bridge. It's a very faint trail that immediately goes up... and once you see it, you know it. Remember...right after the bridge, look to your right and look right up. After you ascend 40 to 50, you are on the shelf you see above. At this point, the Krogerata is very easy to follow.
***Warning*** I felt a bit convicted traversing this route...probably because I am a climber first, and a hiker second. The Krogerata traverses the mountainside several hundred feet above the ground...and unfortunately parallels the Pipeline wall above. The Pipeline wall is a very popular climbing crag in Telluride. There are multipitch and single pitch routes that are exposed to rock fall because of the traversers above. Unfortunately, a lot of the route on the Krogerata is loose and rotten. Rock fall is inevitable...we sent small rocks hurling down the mountainside on a few occasions. Sarah was great about yelling, "Rock!" And that's all you can do...but that doesn't make it any safer for technical climbers below. Please respect this sign...There are many climbers that suffer injury or death due to rockfall every year.
After getting on trail, it doesn't take long before you come up on the cables. It's pretty straightforward...get your gear on, make sure everything is on correctly, and start clipping. My gear must haves for this route are:
1) Helmet. Not just from imminent rockfall from above...but there are many sections on this route where you crouch down below and have to come back up. You will bump your head...and though it's not a hard hit...we all know that any slight bump on solid stone hurts. The helmet prevented pain more than anything else.
2) Harness.
3) Lanyards or webbing. Of course, there are specific via ferrata lanyards design specifically for this sport. And that's what you are suppose to use. Sarah and I used both dyneema and nylong slings as lanyards. We used a total of 4 120 cm slings each that we thread through our climbing loops on our harness and overhand knotted the clipping end for our carabiners. So we had two slings of the same length for the left side and 2 slings for the right side. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that's the right gear...but we felt that we were redundant with out protection and felt comfortable with our choice. If you choose to make your own Lanyard set like we did...make sure you use appropriate length and the slings are specific to climbing use, in other words UIAA certified. If you don't know what UIAA is, then you should buy the specific via ferrata sets...Also, there are several sections when you need slack, so make sure you have long enough slings to make those those moves.
4) Carabiners. Locking biners if you want to be redundant.
5) Camelbak or water resevoir of some sort. Both your hands will be occupied for the most part. So water bottle may not work...
6) Wits

Somthing else you should know about this route...It's not entirely protected with cables. There are many sections the trail narrows, the rock is loose and rotten, and the trail slopes away from the wall...as you can see above. I felt these sections of the wall were the most dangerous. Not when you are on the vertical exposed wall hundereds of feet off the ground...no. It was in these parts...where I took smaller steps and hugged the wall next to me.
Though the Korgerata mainly traverses the route...there are a few Class 3 moves that go up and are protected. Usually these moves were not sustained and you didn't go up more than 10 to 15 feet. It's not to say the drop off wasn't there...
This is what the first part of the route looks like fom the counter-clockwise start. It's essentially the shelf you see above...as you can tell, the trail slopes down and if you look on the lower right of the picture...the trail is loose...but still very doable.
This is a closeup of the shelf before the Krogerata bench...this is as wide as you will get. From this point on, you are either on a vertical wall or on a narrow shelf. Reality, pictures make things look worse...If you pay attention, stay close to the wall, stay calm, and not rush though...you will be fine. Anyone who does not have a fear of heights and is in ok shape, can do this route.
When you reach Kroger's bench, there is a plaque in memory of him. Chuck Kroger is the architect of this brilliant traverse. I can't imagine how much hard work he put into this love of his...I thank him.
So when you arrive at the Kroger's bench...there is literally a bench. With that plaque right above it. There is also a register to sign in and make your mark on this Via Ferrata's history. At this point, you are standing on rounded shelf that sticks out 10 ft across and it makes for a good place to take a rest, eat a snack, and build up your wits. Because the climbing gets real after this point. After the bench, say goodbye to that nice trail/shelf you were walking on...because it's time to get some air!
As soon as you step off of the Krogerata bench shelf...you step onto the irons. This section is sustained and depending on your pace, will last several minutes. You are anywhere between 400-500 ft off the ground and there is nothing under you but those footholds. It is pure exhilaration...
Don't let this picture fool you...it's posed. My wife hated it. She never felt comfortable and I know she hated me for it. What's funny is that Sarah enjoyed the entire route except for this part. I, on the other hand loved it. And like most of you that will climb this, will find this to be the best part of the route...but the unprotected loose shelf you guys saw above...Sarah did just fine. It was I that didn't particularly care for it. As long as I was clipped in, there was no worry...I felt great.
 I enjoyed this section of the route so much, I had to traverse it back and do it all over again. Excitement, thrill, and adrenaline ran through my veins...I loved it. I can see how big wall climbers love this style of climbing. There's no feeling like it...it's just you, the wall, the wind...and your composure. Greatness. Here's something to know about this section...the iron holds are solid and as far as holds go...you can't get any better. But in the case you do fall on this part, there are no holds to climb back up as you can see. You will hopefully dangle on the cable with your lanyards holding you in place. I imagine if you did fall, you would just need to pull yourself up on your webbing and "throw" for one of those irons. I'm sure there are other ways to get up...I just wouldn't want to be in this position.
Here's my favorite picture. The obligatory pic on the most exposed section with the falls in the background. I'm sure everyone that does this route will have a similar picture...but you just can't get tired of looking at it. I remember just looking down...thinking, "This is sooooo sweeet! This is what I came for."
After completing this last section, you clip off onto this ledge. It's narrow, loose, rotten and not protected. This is where Sarah sighed and was relieved to be off the wall...this is where I get nervous. Go figure...
This is what most of the remainding route looks like. On exposed walls with a small ledge, protected by the cables. If you do this route counter-clockwise, be prepared for more via ferrata after the big exposed wall. Most of the traverse on the wall occurs after the Krogerata Bench. We were on this route for another hour before we were completely off the cables. This route, though is not long in distance...does take some time to complete.
Towards the end of the cables from our direction, you come to what I considered the "crux" of the route. It's not too difficult at all if you have upper body strength, but you do have to know that this section is overhung and traversing requires some bouldery moves on great iron holds. As you can see above, the person in front of us used climbing techniques to get across. The exposure is not great as before...but it still does drop off quite a bit.
Sarah traversing the section mentioned above. She did great here...and traversed it with no problem. After this last section, you get back on trail, the cables end, and you make your way down to Marshal Creek drainage. You are still 1000 ft above the road you have to get down to, but it's class 1 hiking with no exposure all the way down. There are several old mining roads you can take down. There are no signs to help you choose...Looking at google earth images, you can see that all roads will lead down to the same place. As for us...we took the longest way down to the canyon floor. We completed our loop and made it back to the car in one piece! This is a memorable route!

Extra Credit:
We had one more day in Telluride...and Sarah and I took it relatively easy. We chose to hike the very easy Bear Creek Trail, a 4.5 mile round trip trail to the base of Bear Creek Falls. I recommend this short dayhike to anyone who's visiting Telluride. It's easygoing, lush, and very scenic. The picture above is of Sarah at the base of the waterfalls looking down the valley. The East end of Telluride is somewhere down below this valley.
(Columbine flower, Colorado's state flower)
(Bear Creek Falls)
After completing the 4.5 mile roundtrip hike from Bear Creek...Sarah and I hiked a quarter of a mile to the Telluride Gondala...a free gondala...that takes you up to Mountain Village. It's an 8 minute ride that takes you up almost 1800 ft up to the gondola station up above Telluride. We got off of the gondola and started making our way up on the See Forever Trail. We didn't have a destination in mind...but we did hike up 2.2 miles up and gained 1,400 ft in elevation before we called it quits.
On the way up, we could see the Wilson group...a group of 14ers (14,000 ft peaks) off to the Southwest. The three highest points here left to right are: Mount Wilson, El Diente, and Wilson Peak. The outcropping on the far left is not a 14er...it's Lizardhead...and it's known as one of the; if not the hardest climb in Colorado.
Here are some views from the See Forever Trail...
Here is my beautiful Sarah...enjoying the afternoon.
We hiked back down and went back to eat lunch and take a quick nap. Later in the afternoon, I then bouldered at the Ilium Valley boulders. I had to get in a second session of bouldering while in Telluride. The rock here is outstanding. There are guides and forum that say the rock is of granite...but I thought I was climbing on sandstone. I'm no geologist...but I do climb on different types of rock. Either way, who cares...I was climbing.
After a great bouldering session, we stopped by Society Drive and enjoyed a few drinks from Telluride Brewing Company. These guys are friendly and will be more than glad to our you a refreshment. You can even sample their high quality microbrew. Do you see the chalkboard...on the very bottom? That beer there...is the Double. An IPA with 8.5% alcohol by volume. They serve it in a 10 oz pour...I had two of those...and they were great! But I had to hand the keys to Sarah...yikes!
We went back to the Gondola and went up again...this time to catch the sunset over the mountains from 10,000 ft up...and it was brilliant!

Thank you Telluride!

Up next: The Great Sand Dunes!

2 comments:

  1. Hi Alfonso,
    Thank you for sharing your detailed experience at the Via Ferrata. My boyfriend and I are headed there this evening, and I wish I would have found your site earlier. I'm not a mountain climber, but I love hiking. I do have a fear of heights, but I'm ready to tackle this adventure. With that being said I was wondering how tall your wife Sarah is? Thank you for your time in advance.

    ReplyDelete
  2. did you just use a girth hitch to attach the slings to your harness, then overhand for the biner end?

    ReplyDelete