Monday, July 29, 2013

Colorado roadtrip 2013- Part 1 (Estes Park)

Last month after starting my summer break with a couple days at home, I packed up and got on the road to Colorado.  Unlike last year's trip by way of Montana and Squamish, I took a more direct route this time around, stopping for just two nights on the way.  I could have made it there sooner, but Coopers was dry, and since it was right off the road I stopped for a few hours to meet up with Dan Brayack as he started his own roadtrip out to Wyoming.  We worked for a bit on Coral, Allusionist, and the sit start to Tomb Raider Roof, not managing to send any of them but at least feeling like they would all go down quickly in a couple months when things have cooled off a bit.

                            Coral            Photo: Dan Brayack
                   Allusionist            Photo: Dan Brayack
After a couple of otherwise uneventful days on the road, I picked up my mom at the Denver airport, and after a quick lunch stop we headed up the canyon for a week in Estes Park.

Being late June, we had some amazing weather for hiking.  With most of the snow melted, and little chance of the afternoon thunderstorms that would be all but guaranteed just a few weeks later, we got to spend more time up above tree line than I ever remember in a single trip.  We started the week with a hike into Loch Vale, intending to stop at The Loch, but reaching it so quickly that we ended up going all the way to Sky Pond instead.  Along the way, I found myself regretting my decision to leave my climbing shoes in the car when I passed by a fun little overhanging boulder next to Lake of Glass.  At least it was still manageable in what I had!

                                                                                                Photo: Pennie Close
The next day we went over to the west side of the park for a hike up Mount Ida.  Despite the constant winds that sapped our energy as we walked along the continental divide, it quickly become one of my favorite hikes, with nearly four miles of open tundra leading to one of the most spectacular summits I've experienced.  The views of the frozen lakes below were especially amazing, and in addition to a token marmot visit, we were treated to the sight of fourteen bighorn sheep on the way down.

                                                                                                Photo: Pennie Close

For a change of pace our next hike took us from Bear Lake down to Cub Lake by way of Odessa Gorge.  It's a walk we've always liked, but one that we were particularly interested in seeing after the fire that had occurred there at the end of last year.  In fact, although the trails were reopened, they didn't actually declare the fire to be officially out until the day after our visit.  It was a bit surreal to walk through the forest in its damaged state, but also impressive to see how quickly life was returning.

We also made two short bouldering stops, one at the top end of Moraine Park, and the other across the road from the Suzuki boulder on an overhang that I'd never noticed before.

                                                                                               Photo: Pennie Close
                                                              Photo: Pennie Close
Somehow doing a mostly downhill hike had left me nearly unable to sleep that night due to knee pain, so we ended up calling off our "rest day" plan of climbing a few routes, and instead went back up Trail Ridge to do one of our favorite tundra walks out to Forest Canyon Pass.

For our final hike of the week we again drove up Trail Ridge, first visiting both summits of Sundance Mountain, then returning to the car and walking a few miles down the Ute Trail.  Sundance was especially nice, having it all to ourselves and often with no roads or trails in sight.

With all of the walking we did that week, we of course fit in plenty of eating to refuel ourselves.  Among the highlights were some of our usual favorite spots like Meadow Mountain Cafe, Ed's Cantina, Village Pizza, and Smokin' Dave's.  We also went to Chelitos, where I had been with Emily years ago but my mom had still never tried.  After the taco platter I had this time, it might have to become part of the regular rotation!

After one last breakfast at Meadow Mountain and a visit to my uncle and aunt in Wild Basin, our week in our favorite mountains had come to an end.  Fortunately, we still had another two weeks in Colorado to go!  To be continued...

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