I am seriously lucky to live in Colorado.
And have a husband who 'encourages' me to get out and explore it.
And great friends and an awesome dog to explore with.
The plan for this weekend evolved out of one simple comment: "Hey, Chris! Let's find somewhere fun to try out our new snowshoes this weekend." So... I was thinking, I don't know, north Boulder or Evergreen or something. Easy walk to see what snowshoes are all about. Somehow that turned into a winter summit attempt at Pikes Peak. My response: "Hmmm?" And then after a week of passive aggressive tiffs on my end, I found myself rising surprisingly easily at 2:45 am on Sunday morning for the drive down to the Springs.
As we drove down to the Springs in the E with four people and two dogs, I surprised myself at my lack of napping (me, wake up at 2:45 and not nap? Blasphemy!). The roads were great and nicely maintained for being the dead of winter. We laced up our snowshoes, put Turbo's shoes and pack on and headed off around 6 am.
Can I just say that Turbo looks ridiculously cute in his new hiking shoes and pack? Hence the three different pictures. One of these days I'll become less internet retarded and find a way to post the video of him prancing around like a puppy with his new shoes on. It's hilarious.
Anyway, we started hiking up through the trees on a well trudged path and the weather was extraordinary. We chose Pikes after seeing that our first choice of mountains, Mt. Elbert, was supposed to have a big winter storm move through during the day. As we marveled at the weather in the trees, I knew we'd made a good choice. We were even getting on the warm side. Amazing for the beginning of February surrounded by feet of fresh powder.
As the path wound around the trees, we broke through to this beautiful view:
This picture doesn't do it justice. I stopped and threw some Cheese-Its in my bag (my fuel for most of the day as it would turn out) and we started heading up a pretty steep slope out past tree-line. Here, we experienced the true winter ascent experience as we could now feel the howling winds that the trees had protected us from. Up here the path disappeared under the wind's force and we blazed our own trails up the crusty snow packed surface.
I guess this was my first taste of "real" snowshoeing and I wasn't exactly thrilled.
Nicholette, being much more experienced on snowshoes, flew up the hillside and disappeared from my sight. Chris followed shortly behind her. Unluckily for Bill, he got stuck behind me and ended up catching me a few times from tumbling backwards down the snowy hill as I was either being wind blown or just clumsy on the snowshoes. I would make one step and slide back two more often than not and it was making me frustrated. At the top of this particular part there was a big rock formation to see and it kept me motivated to reach at least that point.
I was a little frustrated and getting a little tired and nervous about the wind and cold, but still ready to keep going. When hiking up this trail on Pikes, you intersect the road at some point and from there you still have quite a way, but at least you made it to 'the road'. I wanted to make it to the road, but to make it that, we had to keep crossing this saddle-ridge-hill thing. At this point it was so windy and cold that even the inner-photog in me couldn't muster the will to dig out the camera for some amazing photo ops. The wind was blowing the snow across the hillside with the sun low behind the hill in such a way that the vision will forever be embossed in my mind.
At some point my hands started to get cold, and from there I was pretty much in trouble. Chris put his huge belay parka on me and when that failed to warm me up, we made the decision to start heading back down. We made it almost to 13,000 ft and the last 1,000+ feet weren't going to get any less windy or cold. As we found out later, the winds were steady around 30 mph with gusts even higher than that. The wind chill was -20 to -35. Umm yeah, brr. Chris was wonderful and turned around with a smile and Bill and Nicholette gracefully joined us. I felt bad to be the reason to turn the group around before reaching the summit, but as I knew I was moving my fingers but couldn't actually feel it happening, I didn't see much other choice for me.
So we headed down.
Did I mention that at this point my Balaclava had frozen to my face through the breathing holes? Niiiiice.
The way down was much more fun. We did some fun sliding/glissading down the hillside in deep powder. In all of the fun (and extreme wind) we sorta lost the trail that we had taken up the big hill. This provided the most fun of the day in my opinion. We had three GPS's between the four of us, so, in Chris's words "we're not lost, we know exactly where the trail is, we just can't find it." Hehehe. We zigzagged and blazed new trail through the trees. Chris plowed through the knee deep powder, Bill and the dogs following, with Nicholette and I reaping the benefits of a cleared path.
It's hard to tell, but this is Chris pointing us in the direction that we'd both come from and where we were supposed to be headed. Hmmm...
At last! The Trail!
Here we stopped and took some photos before heading back down the trail to the car at a relaxed pace with good conversation. We thawed out in the car and proceeded to have some yummy Red Robin in the Springs.
The best photos of the day? I have a great series of shots of Chris that I want to mess with a bit before posting, but here's a teaser -- the end result of his actions:
We had a great time overall, despite the freezy hands and now incredibly sore knee/hip. This was an adventure never to forget!
The thawing dogcicle:
Haha, and finally Chris's totally unintentional but quite cheesy looking "rugged mountaineer" pose: