Matt Mahoney's Home Page
2001 Vacation (Hardrock, Nolan's 14)

Matt Mahoney's 2002 Colorado Vacation

I flew to Colorado July 23. Next day I drove to Summit Lake on Mt. Evans at 12,800 ft. and climbed the north face cliffs to the summit. I got stuck on some class 5 rock for awhile, but I eventually managed to traverse a gap in a ledge under a low roof, where I made my way down to some loose rock, which I took to the summit at 14,264 ft. There was a piece of rope jammed in a rock on the ledge (too short to lower myself down), so I was not the first one stuck there.

As usual, there were lots of people who had driven to the top. Then I hiked the ridge over Spalding and back to the car. The whole hike took 5 hours. I was quite pleased to have only a very mild altitude headache.

(Left) Summit Lake seen from the north face of Mt. Evans. (Right) Mt. Evans from Summit Lake. I climbed the loose rock in the center of the picture after getting stuck on the buttress to the right.

Mt Evans summit, 134 feet above the highest paved road in the U.S.

July 25. The next day I drove to Kite Lake at 12,000 ft. in Alma and climbed Democrat (14,148 ft), Lincoln (14,286 ft), and Bross (14,172 ft) in 3 hours, 52 minutes. These are all easy, non technical climbs. The descent from Bross was on loose scree and gravel, which you could run very fast.

Left to right on horizon: Lincoln (sharp peak), Cameron (broad and flat), Quandary (in distance), Bross (broad and flat), as seen from Democrat looking north.

July 26. The next day I took Joseph Duncan and his friend Shawn to climb Torreys (14,267 ft.) and Grays (14,270 ft.). Shawn had climbed only one other 14er years ago, but couldn't remember which one. When we got to the trailhead, he remembered being here before (He climbed Grays by the easy route). Joseph didn't quite make it up Long's Peak, so this was his first 14er. Because they were experienced climbers, I took them up the class 3 Kelso Ridge on Torreys, then over the easy saddle to Grays and back down the easy (class 1) trail. Our total time was just over 4 hours. Fog covered the summits.

Joseph and Shawn climbing Kelso Ridge on Torreys Peak.

(Left) Shawn and Joseph on a class 4 buttress. There is a class 3 route around it, but we were lazy. (Right) Joseph (front) and Shawn on the knife ridge. This is a miniature version of the one on Capitol Peak, only 10 feet long with drops of only 50 feet.

After Torreys and Grays, I took a day off and drove to Horse Ranch Park, 12 miles west of Crested Butte for the Oh be Joyful 25 mile trail run on July 28. It included 2 passes at 12,200 ft. I finished in 6:52, which was tied for 2nd to last out of about 20-25 runners. I think the winning time was about 4 1/2 hours.

Jon McManus (Nolan's 14 race director) and Rickie Redland (Nolan's 14 runner) on the Oh be Joyful trail.

I had arranged to meet Scott Brockmeier at the race (he ran 5:51) to climb the Maroon Bells and Capitol. After the race we drove to Aspen and camped at Maroon Lake. In the morning we went back to our cars and then traversed the Bells south to north. The climb to South Maroon is class 3 but long, about 2 hours on the ridge with loose rock. The traverse is hard class 4. Going south to north we are upclimbing the hardest sections (20-30 ft. of vertical rock) so we did not use ropes. If we had gone north to south, there are rappel slings at the tops of these pitches. The 0.4 mile traverse took us 1:45. The descent from North Maroon is easy class 4, just one 25 ft. chimney with good steps. The rest of the descent is steep class 2 trail with a lot of class 3 downclimbing, but I think it is easier than the South Maroon route because it is shorter. The entire route is very well marked with cairns. The entire climb took 9:42.

These photos show the traverse route very nicely. We took the same route although we went south to north, so we upclimbed the two rappel sections without a rope.

The Maroon Bells at sunrise. The peak in front in North Maroon, 14,014 ft. To the left is South Maroon, which is actually higher, 14,156 ft.

(Left) Scott on the trail to South Maroon (class 3). (Right) Scott climbing one of two crux class 4 pitches on the traverse to North Maroon.

Me on the summit of North Maroon, with South Maroon in the background.

The descent from North Maroon.

After climbing the Bells, we drove to the Capitol Creek trailhead and camped. The next day (July 30), we climbed Capitol Peak, 14,130 ft. in a 16 mile hike. This is regarded as among the hardest 14ers due to its knife ridge, a couple hundred feet long with 1500 ft. drops on both sides. In some places there are narrow ledges to walk on while you hold the edge. In other places, the best way across is to straddle. It took us 2 hours to reach the summit from K2 (the small peak 1/2 mile away and across the ridge) and 2 hours back. Our total time was 10:15. Even past the ridge, there is a lot of exposed class 4 climbing to and from the summit. You have to think about every hand and foot movement. We were fortunate to have good weather, like on the Bells.

Capitol Peak. Unfortunately I ran out of film before I could photograph the knife ridge up close (left of summit). Here are some more photos taken by another climber (click on "my trip").

I took the next day off to drive to Leadville and check out the mountain bike course for the 100 mile race next week. I had brought my full suspension Janus Sport and rode up to the turnaround at Columbine on Aug. 1 (24 miles, 12,600 ft), and over St. Kevins and Sugarloaf (33 miles, 11,300 ft) the next day. Both rides were hard, but I did them in under 4 hours and I figured I would have enough acclimation by the race on Aug. 10 to finish within the 13 hour cutoff (or maybe 12 hours for the buckle). Living in Florida, however, I have no opportunity to train for the technical descents (30% grades over deep ruts and rocks), so I took these very slowly and even walked down a few very rough sections.

The next day (Aug. 3) at the Duncan's house in Golden, I took Joseph's parents David and Cyndie to their first 14er, driving to the summit of Evans, and their second, across the Sawtooth (class 3) to Bierstadt. Although they lived in Colorado for several years, neither had been above 14,000 ft, even by car. To complicate matters, I had forgotten my trail running shoes (Merrills) in Leadville and had only sandals to wear.

We took it slow, but we made it over to Bierstadt in about 5 hours. At this point, it was starting to rain and Cyndie and David were too exhausted to make it back to Evans, so they went down the easy 3 mile trail to Guanilla Pass, while Joseph and I went back across the Sawtooth in about 2 hours, then drove 50 miles in 1:30 to pick them up at the trailhead 1 minute before they got there. David was sore for days afterwards.

The Summit House ruins on Mt. Evans.

Mt. Bierstadt (14,060 ft.) and the Sawtooth Ridge as seen from Mt. Evans.

Joseph descending to the Sawtooth saddle.

I spent another day at the Duncan's, then drove to Leadville on Aug. 5. From there I climbed the highest point in Colorado, Mt. Elbert (14,433 ft) from Halfmoon (10,050 ft). It was almost noon and storm clouds were building, so I climbed fast, in 1:52, then 7 minutes at the summit to eat lunch, and ran down in 58 minutes. Then I met with Mike Bur, who just arrived after a 1700 mile motorcycle ride, to climb Kit Carson and the Crestones the next day. We drove to Crestone and camped at the Willow Creek trailhead, 8880 ft.

Aug. 6. We climbed Challenger (14,081 ft., class 2+), but Mike was getting an altitude headache (no acclimation), so he turned around, while I went to Kit Carson (14,165 ft, class 3) and back, adding 90 minutes. I ran down the trail, but didn't quite catch him. My time was 8:32, about 20 minutes behind Mike.

(Left) Willow Lake. (Right) Mike traversing the class 2+ ledge system on solid conglomerate slopes on the west ridge to Challenger.

Kit Carson (left) and Challenger seen from the west ridge.

Aug. 7. In the morning we drove to the Cottonwood Creek trailhead 6 miles south of Crestone to climb the Crestone Peak to Needle traverse, a hard class 4 route. Usually this climb is done with an overnight camp at South Colony Lakes with an approach from Westcliffe, but we didn't feel like driving all the way around to east side of the Sangre de Christo range to get there. Instead, we got up early and started up the trail at sunrise. Above 11,000 ft. the trail disappeared and we bushwacked up steep rocks and deadfall to reach Cottonwood Lake. From there we took the south couloir to Crestone Peak (class 3), traversed to the Needle (class 4), and descended the south couloir to Broken Hand Pass (class 3) and the lake, and bushwacked back to the trail. The whole climb took 14:15, finishing just after sunset, including 3 hours for the 1/2 mile traverse.

The final climb to Crestone Needle requires several class 4 pitches including a chimney around the Black Gendarme, a short but exposed ridge to the second gendarme, a class 3 traverse below the upper two gendarmes, then a hard class 4 pitch about 100-200 feet up a wall at a maximum angle of 73 degrees on good, knobby conglomerate with about 1500 feet of exposure. I would estimate this wall as class 5.5-5.6 if I didn't know better. The holds are excellent, but you cannot make a mistake. There is a rappel sling at the top, but we did not use ropes, and there wouldn't have been any place to set protection anyway. We got hit by pellet snow within seconds of summitting.

Crestone Peak (left) and Needle (right). This is not a camera trick. The mountains really do lean.

(Left) Mike climbing the south couloir of Crestone Peak. (Right) We met a climber name Roger from Maui. Yes, he is barefoot. He also passed us climbing Challenger yesterday.

Mike and me on Crestone Peak. Behind us is the east summit on the left and Crestone Needle on the right.

(Left) The crux of the traverse is just below Crestone Needle. We pass in front of the four gendarmes below the summit. There is a hard class 4 pitch at a 73 degree angle above the last gendarme and just below the summit, with 1500 foot drops on both sides of the ridge. (Right) Mike climbs over the top of the crux, just below the rappel slings. This photo from Camp 4 shows the route we climbed.

Aug. 8. We were going to climb Little Bear the next day, but we were really tired and decided to spend a relaxing morning at the Great Sand Dunes.

Aug. 10 was the Leadville 100 mile mountain bike race. It starts at 10,000 ft. elevation and has 5 major climbs: St. Kevins (about 11,300 ft.) Sugarloaf (11,300 ft), the turnaound at Columbine Mine (12,600 ft.), and Sugarloaf and St. Kevins on the return. It is all on dirt roads and jeep roads, sometimes rocky and rutted with grades to 30%. At 95 miles I was 30 minutes over the 13 hour cutoff and they pulled me out and drove me to the finish.

(Left) Riders pushing their bikes up a steep climb on the deeply rutted Powerline road on Sugarloaf. (Right) The aid station at Columbine, 50 miles, 12,600 ft.

The Pipeline road (miles 25-40, 60-75) is mostly flat, except for a few small hills, such as the North Face, seen here. The hill actually faces south. That's Yvette Harvieux pushing her bike.

Aug. 11. I ran the Leadville 10K in 53:54, about 12 minutes slower than my sea level time. The race is at 10,000 ft. elevation, and is the first and last 5K of the 100 miler next week.

Aug. 12. Mike and I climb Holy Cross, 14,005 ft. We took Halfmoon Pass to the Halo Ridge over Notch Mountain so we could see the cross, which was visible even without snow in it. There was about an hour of class 3 climbing off of Notch Mountain to gain the south ridge. We returned down the north ridge back over Halfmoon Pass. Total time was 8:40.

(Left) Holy Cross as seen from north of the cabin from Notch Mountain. (Right) Some class 3 downclimbing south of Notch Mountain.

For the next 4 days before the run, I did not do anything strenuous, except for one 7 hour climb up Mt. Massive (14,421 ft.) on Aug. 14.

Aug. 17-18. I ran the Leadville 100 in 29:26. The run is mostly trail, at 9200 to 12,600 ft. elevation, with 16,000 ft. of climb. My goal was to finish healthy, which I did, except for a cough that had been bothering me since the bike race. I did not sleep during the race, 4:00 AM Saturday to 9:26 AM Sunday. Mike finished in 27:18 and Scott in 28:48. (Complete results)

(Left) Descending the Powerline road from Sugarloaf, but this time without a bike. (Right) North side of Hope Pass, 12,600 ft., at miles 45 and 55.

The south side of Hope Pass descends from 12,600 ft. to 10,000 ft. in 2 miles, then climbs it on the return.

The 41% of the runners who made it back to Leadville in 30 hours got the red carpet treatment.

Aug. 19-21. I did not do anything strenuous, as I had another big race coming up.

Aug. 22-24. Nolan's 14. I climbed 11 summits in 59 hours on 4 hours sleep on the first night and none the second night. Race Report and photos.

Aug. 26. I flew back to Florida.