Route Name: Mt. Royal trail
Start Elevation: 9,080 ft.
High Elevation: 10,423 ft.
Distance: 3.59 mi.
Elevation Gain: 1,385 ft.
Start Time: 8:47am
End Time: 12:01pm
Duration: 3 hrs 14 mins
The only plan for this morning was to hike Mt. Royal. My mother wanted in on a hike and we also could incorporate the boys on this so it would be a full family hike. Matt and Sarah decided not to go. They would instead get some good shopping done in Frisco. The hiking group hopped in the van and drove over to the trailhead off 2nd Ave. and were on the trail to Royal just before 9am. We ran into a massive biking event going on with the trailhead area as a staging area.
Trail: West Slopes Route
Trailhead Elevation: 11,669 ft.
Mt. Bierstadt Elevation: 14,060 ft.
Hike Elevation Total: 2892 ft. (my GPS)
Hike Mileage Total: 6.75 miles (my GPS)
Start Time: 6:09am.
Summit Time: 10:15am
End Time: 1:03pm
This report should begin with a brief introduction as to how we chose Mt. Bierstadt for summer 2011. Part of this choice was to find an easy, relatively short, 14er that my 6-year old Luke would be able to attempt. Last year we did Mt. Democrat at just over 4 miles round-trip and he handled it well. This year we were looking at the other short options in the Front/Mosquito/Sawatch range and Bierstadt, Quandary and Sherman were the ones that popped up. I was even considering letting my middle son Jonah at age 4 give it a go this year if we did something like Sherman from the Iowa gulch side. Ultimately it appeared as though Jonah was not ready yet so we decided on Bierstadt for Luke.
The other aspect of the Bierstadt decision is that it was about 18 years ago now that my brother, father, and I first did it. And we had quite the experience on it with the willows. Upon leaving the parking lot on that fateful day back in 1993 we got on what we thought was the trail and headed right into the willows full force. We spent the better part of the next 2 hours working through mud and faint trail segments in the mess that is the Bierstadt willows. It was quite the experience and so we were most curious to make a return trip to Bierstadt to revisit these old memories.
Fast forward to 2011...
Today's attempt on Bierstadt is Luke's 2nd 14er attempt in as many years. He is 6 this summer and was excited about the opportunity. Experience over the years has us starting earlier and earlier and so it was a 5am departure from Frisco today to hit Georgetown and Guanella Pass. On this particular hike, there was also some concern of the parking lots already being full and so we did want to arrive plenty early. Our arrival at Guanella Pass was just before 6p and there were at least 10-15 cars in the lower lot already. As we readied our gear at the car more and more cars were pulling in. We were on the trail just after 6am.
It was fairly chilly to start and Luke's fingers were instantly getting cold, even with gloves on. We had him bundled up in a long-sleeve synthetic layer with a goretex jacket over it. He had a ball-cap and gloves on with zip-off pants. Once we were going a few hundred feet most of him was keeping warm pretty well. The fingers, however, well, they wouldn't really warm up for him til we hit the sunlight up on the west slopes.
Within a few hundred feet on the trail we were already being passed up by other hikers. This was a bit unusual for the rest of us as we spent much of our time in Chicago Basin the last few days passing up everyone else. With Luke, we took it as his pace. The hike from the parking lot actually descends a little bit into the marshy willows but there are a handful of boardwalks that keep the trail out of the mess. What a change from 18 years ago! After passing through the bulk of the willows the trail starts larger switchbacks up the west slopes of Bierstadt. As we rose higher the views became pretty fantastic of the other front range peaks nearby.
When we gained the northwest shoulder it was also the moment where the sunlight finally caught up to us and seemingly raised the temperature a few degrees. There were a dozen or so people enjoying a break there so we let Luke have some time as well. Thus far the most enjoyable part of the hike for him was greeting all the little dogs that were making the trek up. He was having fun trying to make friends with them as they jumped around the trail.
The ascent along the northwest shoulder is pretty easy terrain and not too steep at all. The trail was always pretty wide so the mass of people coming up and down could move freely. We were stopping every 5-10 minutes for Luke to get quick breaks. He'd get some water and he'd be ready to go again. He never seemed to really tire out though so we were all encouraged. As you get nearer the southwest ridge of Bierstadt the appearance is that the ridge and the summit just aren't that far away. However, the more you ascend the west slope to the ridge the more it seems the ridge keeps getting further away.
At any rate, we finally gained the ridge and Luke was still doing well. The trail mellows out a bit before the final 200 foot push up the class 2 rock to the summit. I wasn't sure how Luke would handled the rock scrambling as he hasn't done much of it before but as we got moving on the rock he was like a mountain goat. He got the hang of it real quick how and when to use his hands and what sorts of routes to pick betweenst the rocks. I have some good video of him moving through the rocks and he showed it to be no problem for him.
We were able to summit at about 10:15am with probably almost 100 other people. This was by a long-shot the most crowded I had ever seen a 14er. Clearly much has changed in the 20 years we've been doing this because I can only remember a handful of people being on the hike when we did Bierstadt in '93.
We found us a few rocks to drop gear on and snack while on the summit. I talked to a few people heading for the Sawtooth (without helmets?!) and they also recommended hiking the east ridge route on Bierstadt sometime. We were enjoying near perfect weather up there (which is one of several reasons we suspected for the crowds) and enjoy a good half hour on the summit.
Luke made good work of the class 2 rock on the descent as well only needing me to help him on a few spots. He was feeling great and full of energy so we were pleased the altitude wasn't hitting him much at all. I suspect is also helped he'd been at at least 9000 feet for a week now and had done some hiking already above 12000 ft. The biggest challenge for Luke came on the steeper descent of the trail on the west slopes. Though he had on some pretty good hiking shoes they just aren't big enough to get a lot of grip on steep, loose dirt. I held his hand for many of the steep descent sections to help him get used to finding traction on the trail. We were making great time though on the descent and Luke wasn't needing many stops.
On the descent I stopped at a great vantage point to take in all of the Sawtooth-Bierstadt ridge with a snowfield in the foreground. I stitched several shots together into this great panorama:
Pano of the Sawtooth and Bierstadt
Though the crowds can be a bother, it was also interesting meeting some other groups with younger kids and seeing who was the youngest of the day. We were impressed to meet a young 7-year old girl who was no bigger than Luke, but she did not summit that day. It would appear Luke was the youngest of the 500 or so on the trail to summit that day. The descent of the lower west slopes went well and before long we were hitting the boardwalks out to Guanella Pass.
We made it back to the car right around 1pm and were shocked to see how the highway was just lined with vehicles. We had heard that once the lots were full there was supposed to be no more parking but that sure didn't stop anyone from lining Guanella Pass with cars on both sides of the road. We were pretty hungry at any rate, and so left the Pass at 1:15pm hoping to hit the Qdoba in Silverthorne. Much to our dismay there had been a major truck fire just past the Eisenhower Tunnel and we ended up sitting, starving, for about an hour on I-70 until things began to move.
The entire track of the Bierstadt hike is available here as well as waypoints for the TH, the Sawtooth and summit.
Route: Frisco to Breckenridge and Back. Car drop-off at Copper Mtn, then biked Copper Mtn. to Frisco.
Distance: 32 miles
Time on the Bikes: 2 hours, 30 minutes
We spent our Friday morning putzing around the cabin trying to decide what to do with this day. It was technically a rest day after having done 4 straight days of hiking including all of Chicago Basin. We had also bailed on doing Sneffels today so we were left unsure what to do. Talks of hitting Loveland Pass and Grizzly Peak came up, talks of North Star Mountain, talks of going for Peak 1 from Frisco even. Finally, we decided to explore the biking option again as that was a hit last year.
So we walked into Frisco and stopped in at Rebel Sports. They had raised their prices just a bit from last year but still a pretty good deal. We also noticed they had kid options for those who can't ride bikes yet, that seemingly sealed the deal. We got the info and made sure they weren't running out on such a busy day, and we headed back to the condo to get a quick lunch and gear up.
Around 12:30 we were back and did the bike rentals. We grabbed all the gear and then headed back to the condo to load up the boys. Mark started by towing the kid cart with Jonah and Seth in it while Dad had the tag-a-long with Luke on it on his bike. I would learn that the kid cart is about 80 lbs. of dead-weight to tow behind the bike creating quite an amazing workout. Dad would learn that the tag-a-long bike is more of a tactical challenge as it lean and tugs at the main bike in different directions creating havoc for the driver. At least with this one the pedaler on the back can add a little help and isn't so much dead-weight.
We strolled through the back streets and hit the bike path at our usual trailhead where 2nd Ave ends. The first mile of the path is easy strolling behind Frisco and gave us a chance to get used to the "kid gear". After that mile there is a quick switchback and a hill and you ride behind the Medical Center. The next mile and a half take you through a forest that pops you out on the east side next to CO-9. There are some ups and downs in the beginning section of the woods, but near the end is a great section of downhill that gets you coasting out towards Breckenridge. The next mile or so is spent heading towards, around, and past the big High School. The views in here are great as you can see the Tenmile Range and the trail is lined with these purple wildflowers. We took our first break in here to get everyone hydrated.
I was learning quickly that the stretch from here on out was all a gradual uphill into Breckenridge. I was struggling to keep up with the others while towing the two younger ones. There was no coasting, it was a constant hard pedaling to keep speed. After passing the High School and some housing the bike path regains its track next to CO-9. A little over a mile past there you hit the Gold Hill trailhead off the side of the road and we grabbed another rest there to check out the signage boards. At this point we were 5.8 miles with only about 3 to go to hit our Breckenridge stop.
The next 2 miles are pretty basic strolling with great scenery along the Tenmile Range. At one point we passed an intersection where the road to the right had been washed out by the river. We could tell as several points that the river was higher than normal still. I wonder what it must have been like to see that road bridge washed out? The last 2 miles of the trek take you into Breckenridge. There were two underpasses and several easy road crossings along the way. One of the underpasses was nearly closed as the river level was but a few feet away from the bike path. We ended up stopping at the gondola area.
We learned that the gondola was a free ride so all of the group, except for Dad/Denny, hopped on to see where it would go. We didn't think the younger boys had ever been on one before and they did enjoy it. The gondola went uphill just a bit and then over several residential parts to a loading station. We stayed on and it went uphill further to another loading station and we followed it one more time until it ended up at the base of Peak 8. We soon learned this free gondola is basically a people mover and at Peak 8 there is the massive Fun Center. They had the famous alpine slide up there, but they wanted upwards of $15/person, plus Seth wasn't old enough, plus the other two would have to be riders. They also had some sort of an alpine rollercoaster involving tracks running down the side of the mountain. There were several other activities like a climbing wall, a maze and a gemstone panning area. The boys at least talked me into letting them try the gemstone panning ($7) which involved them getting a bag of gems, rock, and dirt and they sifted it in the moving water to get the dirt out of the way.
We spent a good 30 minutes up there and then hopped the gondola back down to the base and the bikes. For the return ride we decided to switch things up a bit. Luke wanted me to tow him on the tag-along this time and we put David and his fresh legs on the kid cart duty. I took a practice ride without Luke on the tag-along to get a feel for it before setting out. While towing the tag-along with Luke on was physically less strenuous it was more of a technical challenge. Every time he leans it tugs on my bike and it is a constant challenge for the front rider to maintain balance, particularly on hills and sharp turns. While David was challenged a bit towing the kid cart he was fortunate to be getting the benefits of the downhill ride back to Frisco.
The return ride was smooth and enjoyable all the way to the hilly forest taking us back into Frisco. We were all anticipating the great uphill trek that begins this section. Luke and I pedaled it hard and we topped out in the woods without having to stop. The others struggled behind, particularly David and the 80 lbs of deadweight he had to tow uphill. We survived the hills and finally arrived back in Frisco. We ended up dropping the kids off at the house and decided we wanted to do more. The thought of descending Vail Pass came to mind so we headed back to Rebel Sports. We dropped off the kid carts, but it was around 4:30pm at this point. We also learned Rebel closed at 6p giving us a small window to hit Vail. We returned to the condo and had to wait for Mom/Marcia to return with the van from grocery shopping.
We opted at this point to go for a drop-off at Copper Mtn. and shorten the ride for time's sake. If we didn't get the bikes in by closing time we'd be charged the full 24-hour rates. We got the bikes ready, that is, front tires off, and when the van arrived we quickly loaded and headed for Copper. We got dropped off at the gas station just off the interstate on the north end of town. We put the bikes back together and got ready to hit the bike path one more time. Something wasn't right with my bike though. Not sure what happened, but when I re-fastened my front brakes the left pad was rubbing real hard. I could hear it going as I pedaled so I stopped. Tried several things to loosen the pad but it just wasn't helping. I rode the first mile downhill from Copper with the pad rubbing but got tired of that. So I undid my front brakes and decided to pray the back brakes held for the rest of the downhill. From Copper the path to Frisco is pretty simple as it winds around the west side of the Tenmile Range. There is truly very little pedaling necessary for almost the entire path down from Copper to Frisco. The trek when shown on Google Earth shows this path as a downhill slope from 9700 to almost 9000. What a ride! When it hits Frisco it curves around behind town and we rode it back to our 2nd Ave stop again. When we hit Rebel Sports we had time to spare, it was about 5:30pm. Another awesome day of riding.
For the Frisco to Breck and back leg of the biking I had run my Nokia GPS for a track. For the Copper to Frisco leg I didn't carry a backpack so I used my Moto Droid and BackCountry Navigator clipped to my belt for a track. I've put these tracks along with several waypoints into the KML file.
Trail: Chicago Basin from Needleton
Needleton Elevation: 8,212 ft.
Camp Elevation: 11,000 ft.
Elevation Total: 2800 ft.
Mileage Total: 6 miles (12 mi. RT)
7/19 Bonus Hiking
Trail: Chicago Basin/Twin Lakes Trail
Camp Elevation: 11,000 ft.
Junction Elevation: 11,204 ft.
Elevation Total: 204 ft.
Mileage Total: 1.9 miles
Durango-Silverton Train to Needleton (7/19)
Start Time: 9:15am
End time: 11:45am
We awoke around 7 curious to see what sort of breakfast the Travelodge would have going. It was pretty standard fair: cereal, danishes, hot waffles. We loaded up on good food and drove down to the train station area. We had read about public parking on the streets nearby and so we put the car on 3rd Ave. and unloaded all our gear for the week. We dragged it down to the station and were checked in with tickets just before 8:30am.
Trail: Chicago Basin/Twin Lakes
Camp Elevation: 11,000 ft.
Mt. Eolus Elevation: 14,083 ft.
North Eolus Peak Elevation: 14,039 ft.
Hike Elevation Total: 3300 ft. (my GPS)
Hike Mileage Total: 6.1 miles (my GPS)
We were up at 3am for round 2 of hiking up to Twin Lakes. The prospect of doing all that hike again wasn't enticing but we were hoping doing most of it in the dark this time would make it go quicker. We were on the trail at 3:26am today, almost an hour earlier than yesterday, and started for the lakes. We would learn that when doing a familiar trail in the dark it doesn't really make it go any quicker, while doing an unfamiliar trail in the dark helps a lot (though route-finding can still be a challenge!). We were to the lakes around 5am with things still relatively dark. It was here that Denny decided that his legs were done. Yesterday had pretty much done it for him and he wasn't going to attempt Eolus' rough terrain without his A-game. Matt also decided to turn around here not feeling his best. After some deliberation David and I decided to continue on. We filtered some water and started trekking upwards from the outlet creek til we found the obvious Eolus trail below the cliffs.
Woke up at 3:50am. Got the stove going and boiled water for a tasty breakfast of oatmeal and chocolate, but only Matt and I partook. We were on the trail by 4:27am for Twin Lakes. We made quick work of the trail to the junction and then headed further upwards towards Twin Lakes. We had heard there were some route-finding issues along the way and we did find this to be a little bit true. As we hit the first rock slab traverse it ended on a big rock slab with no obvious exit until we headed up the rock about ten feet or so and found the trail to have switched back on us. There would be two more rock slab areas to come and with careful attention to the terrain we found the trail exit from the slabs relatively easily. After the slabs the trail goes on to hit two stream crossings as it ascends the headwall below the Twin Lakes.
Trail: Loveland Pass
Trailhead Elevation: 11,990 ft.
"Cupid" Elevation: 13,117 ft.
Mt. Sniktau Elevation: 13,284 ft.
Hike Elevation Total: 1924 ft.
Hike Mileage Total: 5.1 miles (my GPS)
Today was setup to be our family hiking and acclimation day and it worked out very well. Us guys arrived in via plane to Denver last night and arrived in Frisco near midnight. The rest of the group had driven out and arrive early Sunday afternoon. We all had a good breakfast at our condo before setting out for Loveland Pass just after 9am. Things looked beautiful at Loveland Pass. We all hopped out and readied to hike up to Point 12,915. Sarah had a terrible headache this morning so she stayed down near the pass and took pictures while the rest of us hiked up. The boys all three started strong. We were especially impressed with Seth who really took to the trail well. He would sit a minute to rest, and then he was up ready to hike again and he kept saying "come on guys!". It only took about 20 minutes though and the altitude quickly started having its affects on the boys. Matt, David, and I decided to hike on ahead to give us a chance at hitting some 13ers in addition to hiking with the others. We made quick work on the trail up to Point 12,915 to the well-cairned break-off trail towards "Cupid". After 200 feet or so on the traverse to "Cupid" we hit a snow-patch. It wasn't too steep and the snow was quite soft so we walked across it safely. After this the trail continues to traverse around Point 12,915 and eventually makes an ascent upwards to the ridge to gain "Cupid". It was a longer hike than we had anticipated but we still made good work of it. It was about 11:15am when we were on the summit of "Cupid". We debated about going over to Grizzly Peak but realized on the topo that it would be a substantial time project. I gave Denny/Dad a call to check on their progress and they were still not at Point 12,915. He also said Luke got some altitude sickness and was slowing down a bit. We decided to make our way over to Point 12,915 and to hit Sniktau with the others instead.
The ridge walk to Point 12,915 from "Cupid" went quite easily and we beat the others by just a few minutes. Luke, Jonah, Seth, Marcia and Denny all made it to Point 12,915 and only Seth was carried for a few minutes. Just the guys decided to go over and hit Sniktau since the younger ones weren't acclimating all that quickly. We made quick work of the ridge over to Sniktau which involves ascending to a false summit and then down a hundred feet or so and on to the true summit. We were on Sniktau around 12:25pm. As we were making it up there we got a call from Marcia, who had stayed at Point 12,915 with the boys and said Jonah had fallen on some rocks and scratched himself up a bit. She decided to start descending with the boys. I spent only a minute or two atop Sniktau and descended rapidly ahead of the others to help with the boys. While it took around 40 minutes to get over to Sniktau I was down it and below Point 12,915 to join up with the boys in about 25 minutes. The descent was just steep enough I ended up holding Luke and Jonah's hands to help them with the loose terrain. As we made it back to the parking at Loveland Pass it looked as though it were about to rain cats and dogs on us but we were fortunate that it was no more than a minute or so of sprinkling rain.
Great first day of hiking for us and the weather held enough to give us a beautiful day.
My track for this hike was taken with my Nokia N800 tablet using a Nokia bluetooth GPS. For download I'm making available my KML track as well as the waypoints for the peaks we climbed and for Loveland Pass: