2022 Project Dreamin’

East Face, Longs Peak in the waning light

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It’s that time of the year! The clean spring air and warm sun makes me start dreaming of what to do this summer. Here’s some of the projects I’d like to get on – some of which would benefit partnering up for. Is that you? (Safety not guaranteed):

Return to the Sangres Traverse: North to South

The Sangres Traverse becomes difficult and complicated in a few places, no more so then when entering into the realm of the Crestones (Needle, and Peak). The ridgeline going north after Marble Mountain becomes serious, with little reprieve - but the views down to South Colony Lakes are some of the best. Milwaukee Peak joins the subsidiary ridgeline that rockets down to the Sand Dunes and features fun scrambling. The extended knife edge to Broken Hand Peak has to be experienced to be believed: both sides of the ridge fall down many hundreds of feet away, leaving you in an incredible position with no bailoff point. Broken Hand Peak is a routefinding puzzle from the south, but once figured out, gives you access to the Needle and the Peak. I decided to bivy on top of the 14,203' Needle overnight, before traversing over to the Peak the next morning. Hard set snow on both sides made it tough work to both ascend and descend. The ridgeline between Obstruction Peak and Mount Adam's features little beta for its 3 highpoints, but I bagged them all - quite spicey. Adam's gives way to Fluted Peak - the last bit of serious scrambling, and the ridgeline tames down, again. Still, it's halfway to the end of the ridge itself.
Crestone Group, Traverse, 2019

I’ve been thinking back fondly on my Sangres Traverse. Other than dealing with an asthma attack for the second part of the trip, it was one of my favorite weeks out in the high country. Repeats are not my usual fare, but a 120 mile route like this in the reverse direction, North to South, would be an almost completely new experience. Not only will the cruxes be done in the reverse direction, I may even see some more of the route that I hadn’t been able to see when I was traveling in the dark last time.

Logistically, it may also make more sense to start from the North, as the initial miles are just a slog up a 4WD road to the first summit on Methodist Mountain. I did this last time in the middle of a hot day, completely parched and dehydrated – a hell of a way to finish such an epic trip. The final leg of the route is the most technical, crowned with a traverse between Blanca Peak and Little Bear. Going south to north, I had to carry 6+ days of food across this low 5th class ridgeline. It would be nice to instead only carry a few hours more of snacks before reaching the finish at the highway. Just need some way to get back to town!

No known traverse north to south has been completed. I’d like to be the first known, as well as the fastest overall. I think I can beat my last unsupported time by at least a day and maybe beat the current supported time.

I’d also like to document the hike in video form. I started last time, but it became too burdensome to do so by even the first day. I may have to ameliorate that problem. The sheer amount of deadfall one must crawl through can only be seen to be believed.

Ellingwood Ledges/Crestone Needle Triathlon

Bivy on Crestone Needle! This was a special thing to do, but also had its purpose: I wanted to be as close as I could to Crestone Peak, as the ascent and descent involved steep snow climbing, and I needed the snow to be as set as possible. Not the greatest opportunities to sleep on the traverse itself- and doing part of the traverse in the dark seemed... iffy, so the summit of the Needle it was! System included a ground cloth made from a two person @adventuremedicalkits SOL emergency blanket, an @ultimatedirectionusa FK Bivy, a @sierradesigns Cloud 35 sleeping bag, a @thermarest Xtherm pad cut down to ~4', and a @seatosummitgear 15D tarp I set up low to burrow underneath. Best sleep of the trip (no mosquitoes!). Having to do the Needle's headwall downclimb first thing in the morning before coffee was a big ask, though: time to wake up, Ranger! One of those nights and mornings I'll never forget: climbed the Needle at night without a headlamp, then watched the full moon rise as I made my bivy. In the morning, everything around me was drenched in an alpine glow. The traverse went well, and thankfully I brought my @camp_usa Corsa axe to help negotiate the lingering steep snowfields (no crampons, though). Out the other side via the loose NW Couloir and onto Bear's Playground, to collect water, and collect myself.
Bivy on Crestone Needle!

I’ve wanted to do the Ellingwood Ledges route on Crestone Needle for forever now. With the town of Westcliff in close enough proximity to make riding in from town early in the morning, grunting up the 4WD track to the upper trailhead, leaving the bikes and running the approach to the multipitch 5.7 climb, then reversing it all back to town, something realistic in scope and exciting for me to set a time for.

I’d love to recon the route with a partner to totally wire the cruxes, then make a decision to go up there with a partner, or make this a solo venture. Any takers?

Sawatch Continental Divide Redux

The SE Ridge to Mt. Harvard is quite loose and dangerous
The SE Ridge to Mt. Harvard is quite loose and dangerous

My Big Project for last year – Traversing the Continental Divide as it runs through the Sawatch Range, finished before it began because of one, mile-long part of the ridge that seemed unclimbable. I want to revisit this range and this ridge, and cash in on all the time I invested in scoping out the difficult parts. Last year, I was too proud to haul along a rope; this year, that may seem to be a more reasonable idea.

Continental Divide Ridge through the Sawatch
Continental Divide Ridge through the Sawatch

Slowlans into Nolans 14

Summit of Mt. Elbert
Summit of Mt. Elbert

Failing at Nolans so many times (2015, 2019, 2020) is an aberration in my credibility as, “guy that does long, hard stuff in the mountains”. More often then not, it’s just that my asthma flares up and I’m forced to bail. But, I could use a little more running fitness, as there’s no getting around how much distance you need to cover, even if the total elevation gain/loss isn’t all that frightening of a number to me.

The plan to finally put Nolans 14 to rest for me is to go out on an early season fastpack with friends and have no real time goals in mind – just go out to see the whole route again and refresh my memory. If that trip serves my need for fun and adventure, I’ll put a late season attempt going as fast as I think I can, working on my running fitness in between trips.

Longs Peak Triathlon (Casual Route)

East Face, Longs Peak in the waning light
East Face, Longs Peak in the waning light

A Longs Peak Triathlon is another trip I’ve wanted to do for years. My climbing strength really peaked in the Spring of 2020, with my eyes firmly focused on getting outside to plug in some gear, to solidly build on my trad skills for a summer attempt at the Casual Route on the Diamond. Unfortunately, the Real World got in the way. It has essentially taken this long to get back to, and surpass my climbing strength I had way back when, and I’m hungry to challenge this course. Who wants to take on this challenge, with me?

Tour 14er

I would do anything to go back out there and better my time on the Tour 14er – or even try to finish under 30 days. A ultra distance bikepacking odyssey seems overdue for me. The problem may simply be finding bike parts to build a bike up! I may need some major help from a bike manufacturer to get this happening.

Longs Peak Project

Wild Basin by bike! Time to get to work.
Wild Basin by bike! Time to get to work.

The Self Powered Longs Peak Project has still eluded me. The problem really is in planning and logistics; actually doing the trips are much easier. To devote a year towards a project is stressful.

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