The Outdoor Junkie
The Outdoor Junkie is a blog by Ann Driggers, a backcountry bon vivant who lives to hike, run, ride, ski and climb in the great outdoors, and is most often found roaming through the red-rock canyons and mountains of Western Colorado.
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By Ann Driggers
Sunday, August 4, 2013
Anybody who follows me on Twitter knows that at least 30% of the photos I post are of Mount Sopris. (The rest are split half between alcholic beverages and other scenic places I visit on various adventures - exciting stuff!!). My love of Sopris is not unusual as most who set eyes upon this peak can attest - it's a pretty compelling sight here in the Roaring Fork Valley, rising to almost 13,000 feet and with great prominence from the surrounding area. I have climbed it many times but all, bar one, have been in the spring when covered in snow and I skied down which was the real reason for climbing in the first place. That being said there is nothing quite like being on a lofty summit, even if you have to hike down, and I decided it was about high time I got myself up there.
So this Sunday morning I rolled out of bed and headed on up, determined to see how fast I could make it to the summit. The method best employed for me is to alternate between running and speed hiking depending upon the terrain, a technique I like to call the marmot shuffle.
As I set off up the trail the sun rose, casting long shadows through the aspen forests and across the meadows glistening with rain from the previous night's monsoon. It was a gorgeous morning. The sky became an incredible cerulean blue, it's reflection in the millponds of Thomas Lakes almost seemed as though the world had flipped upside down.
The switchbacking trail up the north east ridge remained runnable and so my only chance to draw breath was to stop and take photos. Here Thomas Lakes from tree line:
Despite being slowed on steeper more rugged terrain on the ridge, I was suprised, and pleased, I made it to the summit in one hour and 50 minutes from the trailhead, a distance of 6.5 miles and 4,600 feet of climbing. Not too shabby for a shuffling marmot! In fact this was the fastest I had ever climbed Sopris. A marmot shuffle PR!
Looking north down the Laundry Chutes off the east summit is the rock glacier:
Mount Sopris has one of the best examples of a rock glacier in the US. More info can be found on NASA's website here.
I spent a half hour or so hanging out on the summit all alone, enjoying the 360 degree views before heading back down. I ran into a nice group of lads who took a photo of me running off the summit ridge:
With my orange top I think I look like a yellow bellied marmot. Here's the real deal:
This little guy was hanging out on the saddle overlooking Avalanche Creek drainage and with views of Capitol Peak in the distance. He seemed quite undisturbed by my very close presence as I shuffled on by, which only leads me to believe he recognized a compadre.
In the end it took me almost as long to get down as it did to go up. Which just goes to show I'm much better off with skis on my feet. But also that I can improve on my time. I may well be shuffling on up there again soon to see if I can do just that.
By Ann Driggers
Sunday, July 28, 2013
A great or plentiful amount
Fullness to overflowing
No word better describes the mountains now. Full to the brim of summer glory, their slopes are cloaked with a rich tapestry of color as wildflower season reaches its peak. The bounty is at times almost overwhelming. Words fail me. Pictures will have to suffice.
By Ann Driggers
Monday, July 1, 2013
And a few words.
Hiking up to a pass at 12,100 feet in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness:
Fresh bear tracks
Capitol Peak impressive as always
Columbine, the Colorado state flower
The promise of rain
And rain it does. Finally
After the rain
And a beautiful sunset to top it off
By Ann Driggers
Monday, June 24, 2013
On the weekend of the summer solstice we set out on our first backpack trip in the mountains with no goals other than to get up out and soak in the scenery with good friends. With easy access post work we picked the Beaver Creek area with our first night spent just three miles from the trailhead at Beaver Lake where we arrived shortly before sunset. On the second day we hiked on to Turquoise Lakes at the head of Beaver Creek and set up camp at the lake's edge perfectly situated at the base of a beautiful cirque in meadows carpeted with marsh marigolds.
Here Grouse Mountain towered above to the east and to the south the first of several false summits that eventually lead to Mount Jackson, 13,676 feet high. Being it is the 101st highest peak in Colorado, and relatively remote, it does not see much traffic. Greg, Twyla and I thought however, it would make for a very fine climb and having pitched our tents we set off past Upper Turquoise Lake and scrambled up a cleft in the rocks to exit the cirque.
Upper Turquoise Lake still harbored ice on it's northern edge:
Once we were above the cirque it was a pleasant stroll across the tundra dotted with granite boulders. We scared up ptarmigan and marveled at the little blue Forget-Me-Nots and other alpine flowers already blooming. Can you see the ptarmigan, well camouflaged amongst the boulders?
Flowers at 13,000 feet with the rugged sawtooths of New York Mountain and Gold Dust Peak in the background:
When the north east face of Mount Jackson came into view I was wishing I had my skis! That's neighboring 14er, Mount of the Holy Cross to the left:
On the north ridge we had a couple of Class III moves which kept us entertained:
The final walk along the summit ridge:
We topped out at 5 p.m. and enjoyed spectacular views of Many of Colorado's mountain ranges including the Sawatch, the Gore, and the Elks. I could even see my beloved Sopris off in the distance.
Cause for celebration - beautiful views and our first summit of the summer:
With plenty of daylight on one of the longest days of the year we made it back to camp well before sunset.
Round trip, Mount Jackson is about 20 miles and 5,700 feet from Beaver Creek ski area. Doable in a day but I think it pays to spend a night at least up the lakes but then again I'm always looking for an excuse to go backpacking.
By Ann Driggers
Friday, June 21, 2013
After two great trips in the desert this spring, it's now time to turn our attention to the mountains. As the snow line receeds, the flowers follow, as do we. Over a month ago in the high desert of pinon and sagebrush where we live, the neon green meadows were carpeted with indian paintbrush and yellow balsamroot. Now they are replaced with sego lilies, waving in the breeze on their delicate stems. And this past week lupine has come into its own. Nothing seems to say "Summer is here!" more than the blue lupine. The rivers are running high and the rapids fun so of course we have been trying to get out as much as possible, especially with the long days, to soak it all in. At every opportunity before work, after work and at the weekends I'm out running, riding, and rafting. You could say I'm drunk on summer now.
The evening light especially has been gorgeous. We're lucky to have some nice trails in our neighborhood so I frequently jump on my bike as the sun is about to go down and catch the last of the evenings rays.
I've been so absorbed in the scenery that my runs seem to take twice as long as normal. You can see why:
My head is usually swivelling around doing so much rubbernecking I forget to look under my feet. On a trail run I was suddenly suprised by some very fresh bear tracks underfoot:
Unfortunately it has been very dry and fire season has started in earnest. Here I captured the sunset on a plume of smoke from the Ward Gulch Fire near Rifle.
This particular fire is now contained but yesterday evening another blew up very fast in the same area, the plume of smoke visible from miles away. We're hoping for some decent rains this summer though the monsoon season is a few weeks away.
While we wait for water from the skies there is plenty in the rivers which are running fast and high. We've been out on the Roaring Fork and the Eagle Rivers and will surely hit up the Colorado soon as we pick our runs according to the funnest rapids. In the middle of Toothache, a great section of Class III+ on the Roaring Fork River:
In short it's mountain standard time around here. And that's just fine with me.