Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Walk in the Park

Wes enjoying Thatchtop-Powell Ridge

Rainstorms at 9pm are not the usual where we live.  Monday the afternoon rainstorm came, but didn't leave.  Dark clouds lingered and thunder began to roll a second time.  Wes and I had plans to hike up to the Diamond Monday night and bivy for two nights.  We thought about it, and decided to cut it down a night.  We would leave in the morning along with our friends, Andrew and Buster.  They also had plans to climb the Diamond on Tuesday.  After some discussion and listening to the continuous moisture falling on the ground, Wes and I made a late night switch.  

Longs, Pagoda, and part of Chiefshead.  Spearhead in Middle

D7 was moist a few weeks ago and with our two friends vying for it as well, we moved to plan B.  "A Walk in the Park."  This has been on my tick list for a few years.  Justin Dubois did it in 2009 and ever since that eye opening day, I have been inspired and slowly convincing anyone that they should do it with me.  It involves a solo traverse of the Glacier Gorge in its' entirety.  Thatchtop, Powell, McHenry's, Chiefshead, Pagoada, and Longs.  Storm Mountain and Half Mountain can also be included.  Monday night my friend Wes finally agreed! 

I slept in a little longer than usual as my lower back has a pinched something or other.  Just laying in bed I could feel it, so motivating for a big day was a little overwhelming.  Thank goodness for too much ice cream.  I don't have a freezer so was 'forced' to finish almost a whole carton.  Gross.  That was one of the motivating factors at 5 am, burn off the half gallon of snickers ice cream.  :)

Wes--Thatchtop to Powell

The timer started at 6:45 am at the Glacier Gorge parking lot.  We hiked quickly uphill, jogged the flats or the gradual up hills, with Wes in the front.  I was lagging a little.  Thoughts of the ginormous day and a little bit of back twinge kept me from pushing it from the start.  We arrived to Mills lake in 27 minutes.  Not too terrible.  
The Shelf/Solitude cut-off, although slightly strewn with blown down trees and very muddy, proved easy to find.  I hiked first up the hill with Wes breathing down my neck, "I'm psyched!" he exclaimed!!!

One hour and 59 minutes Wes reached the summit of Thatchtop, "34, 35, 36 seconds, come on Quinn," he hollered at me.  Our goal was to reach the top in under 2 hours.  I double timed the last few steps making it just under the wire.
"Lets recover on the downhill," I panted, no time for a summit register--we kept moving.  

Our next goal was 4 hours to McHenry's Peak, I don't know where these time marks came from.  The night before, I think, I just translated some previous landmarks and times.  It takes about 2 hours to get to the base of Spearhead.  Thatchtop is closer but much more steep, so two hours would be mean we were going pretty fast.   

From thereafter I think I just estimated an hour to each summit?  McHenry's is summit number 3.  
Wes Thompson and I in McHenry's Notch

We booked along from Thatchtop, getting some fabulous ridge climbing and exposure along the way.  We summited Powell in 2:45.  Because we were eating along the way (or sucking on cliff bars since I couldn't breathe enough to actually chew), we didn't stop much.  

From the top of Powell through the Keyboard of the Winds, was new terrain for both Wes and I.  We descended Powell with one slight cliff-out error.  We reached the Notch at 3 hours.  Leaving our approach shoes on (North Face running shoes from a thrift store for Wes and Nike running shoes for me) we scrambled up the Notch.  This didn't feel exposed or much of fifth class.  Pretty mellow.  We reached the summit of McHenry's in 3:20, yahoo ahead of our made-up schedule.  We stopped here for a photo, a snack and a brief breather, less than 5 minutes.
 Stoneman Pass--find Quinn!

Chiefshead looked like a long slog in the distance.  No climbing, just a scree pile at 45 degrees.  Yuck.  Stoneman pass, though, is an amazing landmark.  The gradual ascent behind is a granite sidewalk.  Pretty awesome.  The trudge up to to top of Chiefshead was tiring, but I felt like I finally was in cruise mode.  I think we were on top at about 4:30.  

Pagoda ridge was next, the crux of the solo.  A baby Sierra California ridge traverse.  Gorgeous!  I can't remember our time on the summit of Pagoda, but we quickly descended again, picking the straightest line possible to the Southwest Ridge of Long's Peak.  Wes was sipping on water pooled on top of boulders at this point, having only brought one liter.  He drank one before Thatchtop, refilled at shelf/solitude, and had been slowly consuming the refilled liter.  I brought my camelback with 2 liters.

Cool feature on Pagoda Ridge
Arriving at the junction of the Narrow's and the Trough of Long's Peak, the Southwest Ridge plunges skyward.  We stood a top Longs Peak at almost 7 hours exactly from our start time.  With clouds looming and both of us long out of water, we opted for a descent of the North Face instead of Keyhole Ridge.  The North Face often has water running down it and we were hoping to fill up another liter or so for our descent.  Dry year, the North Face was the only place on the entire route that we were able to catch a drip that would actually fill a water bottle in under 30 minutes.  Both of us collected a liter, and pushed on down to the Boulder Field.

Pagoda's glorious Ridge
After a brief discussion, we decided to forgo Storm Mountain (which neither of us could remember if it was "required").  There are a few trip reports of people doing the Walk, or the Arrowhead traverse where they take the Storm Pass trail out.  Which means they avoid both Storm and Half Mountain.  Wes and I wanted to avoid that lengthy switchback trail that doesn't return you at your car.  We opted to stay near the ridge, just skirting the summit of Storm.  We jogged a little of this alpine tundra but with our tiredness and boulder dodging, a sprained ankle was inevitable.  We were tired, there was thunder, the ice cream had worn off, bla bla bla.  


In hindsight we should have nabbed Storm, as we ended up on top of Half Mountain anyway in a hail storm.  Ops.  Wes spotted a descent route down off of Half Mountain that returned us to the shores of Mills Lake.  Turns out this is the same way Rossiter descended, although descending straight north off of Half Mountain would be the straightest line!!  It would probably cut off a little more time. 

From the shores of Mills, Wes readjusted his fashionable fanny pack, and we were off running again the whole way back to the car.

Total time, 10:13!    

1 comment:

Chris & Heather Bechard said...

Holy crap! Thanks for giving me a big dose of inspiration!

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