Matt Mahoney's 2003 Colorado Vacation

July 7, 2003 - I flew from Florida (elev. 17 ft) to Colorado Springs.

July 8, stopped at Mt. Evans on the way to Lake City. Met Tim and climbed from Summit Lake up the class 3 NE ridge to Evans (12,800-14,264 ft), then around the ridge over Spalding and back. It took about 4 hours to hike 3.5 miles. I was gasping for air as I was not acclimated to the altitude, but Tim seemed to move easily. It took us 52 minutes to reach the summit. On the drive to Lake City afterwards I drank tons of water to ward off an altitude headache and had to stop by the side of the road every 20 minutes or so as it worked its way through.

July 9, camped at Nellie Creek on Cinnamon Pass road, then climbed Uncompahgre (14,309 ft, class 2) and Wetterhorn (14,015 ft, class 3) from Capitol City (about 10,000 ft), which was 2 miles short of my intended start at the Matterhorn TH, but I didn't realize it until I had already hiked it. The 20 mile hike took 10 hours. I was starting to get a bit of nausea from the altitude on the exposed class 3 steps (2 ft. up and 1 ft in above a cliff) on the last 100 ft. of Wetterhorn but climbed it anyway. Altitude headache was not a problem, but I didn't have much appetite.

Uncompahgre (left) and Wetterhorn (right)

July 11, After a rest day in Silverton (9300 ft), I paced Hans Dieter Weisshaar at Hardrock, his 9'th 100 mile race this year so far. He is 62 so he is allowed to have a pacer for the whole 100 miles. However due to my poor acclimation he dropped me at about 13,000 ft. while climbing 14,048 ft. Handies Peak. I traversed the summit at 9 PM (15 hours after starting) and got a ride back from Grouse Gulch (44 miles) at 11 PM, 20 minutes after Hans.

Hardrock 100 start in Silverton (left), climbing over Dives-Little Giant, the first of 11 passes over 12,000 ft (center), Karl Meltzer winning in 28:02 (right)

July 12, I set out in the evening to meet Hans to pace him for the last 15 miles of Hardrock. I met him at sunset (8:30 PM) in Ice Lake basin, paced him over Putnam-Pole divide (13,000 ft) and to the finish at 5:45 AM Sunday. He was the last finisher in 47:45.

July 14, after 4 hours sleep on Sunday I drove to the Purgatory campground (which was closed, so I had to pack in 100 yards). Monday at 4:52 AM I hiked 15 miles to the Chicago Basin, then climbed Eolus (14,083 ft, class 3) at 12:14 PM, Sunlight (14,059 ft, class 4) at 5:00 PM, and Windom (14,082 ft, class 2+) at 6:30 PM. Normally these are climbed as a 3-4 day backpack either from Purgatory or by taking the Silverton-Durango railroad to the Needleton trailhead to eliminate about half the distance. However, I don't have a backpack or any desire to pack in camping gear. This was also near the end of a long period of dry weather without afternoon monsoons so I needed to get this long hike done (10,000 ft. climb, 36 miles). I got back to my car at 2:55 AM. I probably would have been a bit faster with better acclimation, or if I had not gotten off route on Sunlight (climbed the ridge toward Sunlight Spire) and had not lost the trail down from Twin Lakes and bushwacked down 1000 ft. I met some rock climbers who were making a roped ascent of Sunlight and they offered me a belay, but after 90 minutes they realized they were lost too. We traversed around to the other side of the ridge on class 3-4 rock. There are some hard moves to get to the summit block: a 10 ft. 45 deg. friction climb and a 3 ft. step across an exposed gap. Trip report.

Eolus, showing the route (yellow line) over the narrow Catwalk and up the class 3 face up exposed, broken ledges.

Sunlight, Sunlight Spire and Windom seen from Eolus (left), off-route on Sunlight (right)

July 16, after camping and sleeping 9 hours at Animas Forks at 11,600 ft (acclimation is now kicking in), hiked 10 miles over Cinnamon Pass to climb Redcloud (14,034 ft, class 2) and Sunshine (14,001 ft, class 2), but was stormed off 1 mile from the first summit. Monsoons have returned. Thumbed a ride back. Got about 18 miles of hiking and running in 5 hours.

July 17, tried Redcloud and Sunshine again from Lake City (160 mile drive without 4WD). Started at 9:00 AM, make Redcloud at 11:03, then 45 minutes each was to Sunshine and back, and done at 2:00 PM (11 miles). Driving back in the rental car I hit a rock and ripped off part of the transmission oil pan. I got the car towed to Lake City where it sat for 6 days waiting for new parts. Meanwhile I rented a jeep to get to some of the 4WD trailheads. Drove back to Silverton over Cinnamon Pass, 35 mi.

July 19, ran the Kendall Mt. 1/2 marathon in Silverton in 2:30, middle of the pack, and one hour slower than my sea level time. Winning time was 1:50. The race starts at 9300 ft, climbs to Kendall Mt. at 13,066 ft. on 4WD road and returns. The last 200 ft is a class 2 scramble on loose dirt and rock, crowded with about 1/2 of the 150 runners on it at one time.

The start of the Kendall Mt. half marathon with Silverton in the background

The class 2 scramble for the summit turnaround

July 20, camped at Silver Pick TH (W of Telluride) to climb the Wilsons. Started at 10,600 ft at 6:28 AM (overslept alarm), Rock of Ages saddle (13000 ft) at 7:50, then climbed the N shoulder of Mt. Wilson (14,246 ft) at 10:00. The last 20 ft. is class 4 up 75 deg. rock. Descended talus on the other side and back to the ridge to El Diente (14,159 ft) at noon. The traverse is a lot of class 3. I crossed 3 40 deg. snowfields on the S side of the ridge using pointy rocks as temporary ice axes. The descent from El Diente N into Navajo Basin was slow due to very loose rock. I could have glissaded but I thought the snow was too steep (45-50 deg). Turns out it was soft. I was back to the saddle at 2:30, climbed Wilson Peak (14,017 ft, class 3) at 3:26, then lost the trail returning and ended up on the ridge near Gladstone and had to descend loose rock and back up to the saddle. I was done at 6:22 PM (11 miles), then drove to Lead King Basin to climb Snowmass. I camped at 10,600 ft. at 11:30 PM, unaware I was a mile from the trailhead.

Mt. Wilson looking back from the traverse to El Diente (left), me on El Diente (right)

Mt. Wilson and El Diente seen from Wilson Peak

July 21, found the trailhead at 9700 ft after talking to other campers in the morning. Started at 8:47 AM. Climbed the W slopes of Snowmass (14,092 ft, class 3, 5 miles, some loose rock) to summit at 12:47. Talked to another climber until 1:20 who had come up the E snowfields (40% covered). I did not want to descend the W slopes because of the loose rock, and the S ridge looked too hard (maybe a couple of 200 ft. rappels down 80 deg slopes without ropes) so I travsered S on the ridge to Hagerman, then down horrible loose rock into the boulderfield above Lake Geneva, then bushwacked down below treeline and across swamps back to the trail. The descent took 4 hours, of which only the last 45 minutes were on trail. From there I drove to Montezuma Basin on 4WD to 12,800 ft and camped.

July 22, used my ice axe for the first time on my 48'th 14er. Started at 8:58 AM, climbed 30-40 deg. snowfields to the Castle-Conundrum ridge, then left my axe and climbed Castle (14,265 ft, class 2, 1 mile) at 10:24 AM and Conundrum (14,060 ft, class 2) at 11:00 AM on dry, stable talus. Returned by glissading with my axe in self-arrest position and was back to my jeep at 12:00.

July 23-27, stayed in Golden with friends, helping them move to their new house in Westminster.

July 28, drove to the Huerfano trailhead to climb Lindsey tomorrow. On the way I stopped in Colorado Springs at Garden of the Gods. I watched some rock climbers for a couple of hours. Two pairs of climbers were climbing adjacent 2 pitch bolted routes on red sandstone walls called, Alligator Soup (5.9+) and Diesel and Dust (5.11a). Traffic stopped on the road below to watch.

Garden of the Gods (left), climbers on Alligator Soup (right)

July 29, climbed Lindsey (14,042 ft, class 2+/3, 12 miles) from about 2 miles below the trailhead to avoid the rough road. Started at 6:45 AM, summitted at 10:06, and returned at 12:58. I camped at the Sand Dunes (a real treat, even with light rain).

Mt. Lindsey

July 30, climbed Little Bear (14,037 ft, class 4, 13 mi). I started at the bottom of Lake Como road, the roughest in Colorado, at 8000 ft. below the first pinyon pine, at 6:28 AM, reached Lake Como at about 9, and the summit at 11:34. From the lake the trail is well marked with cairns up a class 2+ scree/rock slope, then class 2 trail to the Hourglass Couloir which has 150 vertical feet of class 4 climbing up the middle of a 2 ft. wide waterfall. There was an old rope in the middle of it, making the route class 3, A1. Above the couloir was a few hundred feet of loose class 3 with patches of frozen hail on every horizontal surface. I descended by looping the rope once around my waist and downclimbing in the middle of the waterfall, which had the best holds. I returned to my car at 3:34 PM. A week later I read that a climber had fallen 500 ft. and died descending the mountain to escape a storm. On the road is a plaque for a man who was killed when he rolled his jeep on a difficult section of the road called "Jaws 2" a year ago. I drove to Creede and camped at the Equity Mine at 11,100 ft. to climb San Luis.

Lake Como road, the roughest in Colorado

The Hourglass Couloir (not) seen from above on class 3 rock covered with frozen hail (left), Ellingwood and Blanca seen from Little Bear (right)

July 31, climbed San Luis (14,014 ft, class 1, 14 mi). My tent was wet from dew in the morning, which was unusual. I started at 7:36 AM and hiked 7 miles of easy trail to the summit at 10:24. While talking to 2 climbers on the summit that had come from Stewart Creek, a large cloud appeared. We left at 10:36 running, and there was thunder within 5 minutes. Dark clouds threatened the whole way and I ran the last 2 miles (all above treeline) in a hailstorm with lightning striking all around me. I ran hard all the way and returned at 12:12. So much for easy 14ers. I drove to Leadville and checked in at the hostel for my first shower in 3 days. I am staying here for the rest of my vacation.

San Luis

Aug 2. This was supposed to be the Crestone marathon but the forest service found out and shut it down. Here was the intended route. I camped at Willow Creek in Crestone 1 mile from the trailhead. I started at 6:00 AM, climbed to Willow Lake (11,564 ft) at 9:00, Challenger (14,081 ft, class 2+, narrow, exposed ledges) at 10:56, Kit Carson (14,165 ft, easy class 3) at 11:36, Columbia Point (13,980 ft, class 3 on a notched, jagged, exposed ridge) at 12:32, and Humboldt (14,064 ft, class 2, broad ridge) at 1:50. I descended to upper S. Colony Lakes (easy trail and across flat terrain) and up Broken Hand Pass (13,573 ft, class 3 gully) at 3:45 as thunder rumbled in the west and it started raining lightly. I bailed on the Crestones and bushwacked down the Cottonwood no-trail to the road at 6:23 PM. I walked/jogged 2 of 7 miles back to my car before getting a ride. Total distance was about 20 miles. The day after this climb a woman was killed by lightning while returning from Kit Carson. A month earlier a climber fell to his death on the Kit Carson north ridge route.

Aug. 4. Climbed Columbia (14,073 ft, class 2) and Harvard (14,420 ft, class 2) with Chuck, Kristina and Brenda from the Colorado Trail 1.5 miles before the N. Cottonwood trailhead starting at 7:00 AM. We climbed the SE ridge of Columbia up steep but open woods and broad tundra to Columbia at 10:36, then dropped to 3 Elk Basin on grassy slopes and back up to Harvard at 2:15, and returned running down the Horn Fork trail back to the cars at 5:15. Weather was partly cloudy all day but no storms. Total distance was about 15 miles.

Aug. 7. Nolan's 14 was cancelled after the forest service found out we were racing through wilderness areas. A few people decided to hike/run part or all of the course on their own, but there was no race. I did not attempt the course but just climbed a few 14ers as day hikes and returned to Leadville each night. On Thursday I climbed Massive (14,433 ft, class 2) with Chuck and Mike and met Kristina on the summit. We started from the Mt. Massive trailhead at Halfmoon (10,050 ft) and climbed the standard route starting at about 8:00 AM and reaching the summit 7 miles later at 10:30. We descended the S slope trail (under construction) to S. Halfmoon at 12:20, where Mike and I continued up the NW ridge of Elbert. At 1:30 at 11,600 ft. there was a storm and I retreated back to my car at 2:30 (about 16 miles) while Mike waited below treeline for 90 minutes before continuing over Elbert and Bull Hill to descend at 8 PM.

Chuck, Mike, Kristina, and me on Massive

Aug. 8. Drove to Missouri Gulch (9640 ft) and climbed Belford (14,197 ft, class 2), Oxford (14,153 ft, class 2), and Missouri (14,067 ft, class 2). Started at 8:00 AM, climbed Elkhead Pass to Belford at 10:30, then 45 minutes each way to Oxford and back. On the radio I heard that Ginny and Eric were on Harvard at 11:00 AM, their 8'th summit in 31 hours. I then attempted to climb the east ridge of Missouri from Elkhead Pass but turned around 200 ft. below the summit in a class 4 nightmare of loose, brittle rock. I then descended to 12,600 ft. in Missouri Gulch and took the trail up Missouri to summit at 2:40 PM under cloudy skies. On the way down the west side of the north ridge I met Hans and Reinhold, then an hour later at treeline I met John and Rollin. I returned via Clohesy Lake and Rockdale at 6:15 PM, followed an hour later by Hans and Reinhold where Hans' wife Suzi gave us dinner at their camper. About 20 miles.

Missouri with the east ridge on the left. I got to a point a little below the yellow band before turning around (left). Looking toward Harvard from Belford (right)

Aug. 9. Attempted to climb Yale (14,196 ft, class 2) by the east ridge from Avalanche Gulch (9300 ft) with Chuck and Kristina starting at 8:10. A dark cloud loomed over us all morning. At 10:30 at 13,000 ft. it started hailing and we quickly ran down loose scree to treeline in the gulch west of the Colorado trail which we hiked up. We got separated but stayed in contact by radio. I traversed SE down through woods to eventually find the trail to reach the start at 12:12, with Chuck and Kristina returning about an hour later. They did not find the trail until they were almost all the way down. About 9 miles.

Mt. Yale east ridge (left), returning after a hailstorm (right)

Aug. 10. I ran the Leadville 10K in 47:57. This is the first and last 5K of the 100 mile course, on packed dirt roads, climbing slightly on the return at 10,000 ft. elevation. I was about 1:00/mile slower than at sea level and was 16'th out of 83. The median finish time was 56 minutes. The winning time was 39:25. I did not have my racing flats, and my trail shoes were too heavy, so I ran in sandals.

Aug. 12. I climbed Pyramid (14,048 ft, class 4, 6 miles) with Lou (age 71) and Hans (age 62). This was fourteener number 53 for me, all the Colorado fourteeners but Culebra, which I will not climb until it is open to the public. Lou and I started from Maroon Lake road at 8:15 AM, 30 minutes after Hans. I got ahead of Lou and summitted at 1:00 to meet Hans, then went back down the NE ridge a bit to meet Lou and summit again at 2:00. We were caught in a hailstorm in the ampitheatre on the way down but returned safely at 6:00 PM.

The classic view of the Maroon Bells, which I climbed last year (left). Start of the climb to Pyramid (right). We climbed through the rightmost notch. We were supposed to climb through the one on the left.

Approaching the Ampitheatre, a broad basin filled with undulating talus and surrounded on 3 sides by high walls (left). Pyramid is not visible until you are in the Ampitheatre (right). The standard route is the NE ridge along the left side. The notch in the ridge is the crux

Hans and Lou on the NE ridge

Hans (left) and me (right) on the summit. Castle Peak is behind Hans. North Maroon, Snowmass, and Capitol are behind me

Aug. 14. I climbed Elbert (14,433 ft, class 1, 9 miles) with another runner from Halfmoon Road (10,050 ft) in beautiful weather. Start 9:55 AM, summit 1:08, return 3:35. Mt. Elbert is Colorado's highest mountain.

Aug. 16. I ran the Leadville 100 in 27:24. This was about a 2 hour improvement over my 3 previous finishes. Maybe all this altitude acclimation helps.

Descending the Powerline road at mile 20 in the Leadville 100 (left). Good thing we don't turn right here (right).

About 35 miles into the Leadville 100 on the Colorado Trail between Half Moon and Twin Lakes

Aug. 19. I flew back to Florida. My legs were really sore after the race but now the soreness is almost gone.

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