After my first year living in Colorado and working full-time for CFI I can’t help but scroll through my photos from this summer and marvel at the amazing landscapes I get to call my office. In hopes of sparking your own memories from climbing I’d like to share a few of my most memorable days in the mountains.
July 28, 2016: CFI’s summer intern Emily and I made a trip to the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range to download data from our infrared trail counter. With aspirations to make it from Lake Como up to the saddle of Blanca/Ellingwood before sunrise, we started our hike at 4:00 a.m. As speedy hikers in great shape from our two months spent hiking 14ers across the state, we were able to download our data and make it to the saddle at 6:30 a.m. just in time to see the sun rising over the Eastern Sangres and painting pastel colors over the valley to the West.
With the wind ripping up the San Luis Valley we watched wispy clouds move across Little Bear and quickly pass overhead. We continued up the ridge towards the summit, occasionally being consumed by the clouds. When we reached the summit 30 minutes later we were treated with the combination of two rare optical phenomenons, a solar glory and brocken spectre. At the time I thought we were viewing a full circle rainbow. However, I later learned a solar glory occurs when the sun’s light interacts with uniformly distributed water droplets in a cloud. When viewed from a mountain top it can often times be seen alongside a brocken spectre, which occurs when an observer’s shadow is magnified and seen cast over clouds below. The photo below remains the most unique summit selfie I’ve taken!
August 16, 2016: Two days before my 28th birthday I made a solo trip to the BLM 14ers outside of Lake City. The five-hour drive from Golden to the Grizzly Gulch parking area leaves plenty of time to listen to music and my favorite podcast Dirtbag Diaries, or cruise in silence enjoying the scenery. As a challenge to myself I wanted to download the data from all three of our counters in the basin in one day, camp in the back of the 91’ Eddie Bauer edition Ford Explorer “Eddie”, and make it back to the office to analyze the data the following afternoon. With a what appeared to be a break in the rain I started up the Silver Creek trail towards Redcloud. Being an easier route with the counter closer to treeline I grabbed the data and jogged back towards the parking area.
Before making it back to trailhead the clouds moved back in and it started raining. I was not phased by the drizzle and decided to push up the Grizzly Gulch route towards Handies Peak. Although the lower portion of the trail cuts through a fairly densely forested gulch I still managed to soak through my hiking pants and thoroughly worn hiking boots. As I approached treeline I questioned whether I should venture into the alpine in poor weather. I decided to make the final push to the traffic counter despite the clouds. Not a few hundred feet past the trees the clouds swiftly vanished revealing the north face of the peak covered in a fresh layer of snow. The contrast between the white peak and the bright yellow, dying Lily Cabbage was a stunning sight!
After making it back down to Eddie I was able to change into fresh socks and attempt to dry my boots out with the heater cranked on the floorboard as I drove up the road towards the American Basin. With a new found energy I pulled up to the trailhead an hour before sunset and made my way up to the final TRAFx device. By the end of the day I had hiked nearly 14 miles and gained more than 5,000-ft of elevation. The hours of hiking alone, listening to the rain hitting the leaves above my head, and hearing my boots squish and splash through muddy puddles offered plenty of time for reflection. I was reminded how extremely fortunate I am to be one of only four full-time employees working for CFI, a dream job for so many people.
I’m proud to call Colorado my new home and thrilled to give back to the state by protecting and preserving the alpine environments which are a truly valuable and threatened resource. As more people like myself move to Colorado to pursue the active outdoor lifestyle we must acknowledge that there is a need to protect the places where we recreate and be stewards of the environment.
As the holiday season rushes by and 2016 draws to a close, I hope you take time to appreciate and reflect on the experiences you shared with friends and family on Colorado’s majestic 14,000-foot peaks. Maybe this year your son or daughter summitted their first 14er, or you met a new climbing partner, or you captured an awe-inspiring sunrise photo. Maybe you pushed yourself harder than ever before or you cruised up the peaks training for your next expedition abroad.
If you find yourself flipping through photos on the 14ers.com facebook page and day dreaming of your favorite climb this summer, I’d like to ask you to consider making a donation this Colorado Gives Day to help maintain the hiking trails. Please know that a gift on Colorado Gives Day plays a critical role in CFI’s successes. Individual donations help match restricted grants and fund expenses that many foundations and corporations will not cover, such as feeding field crews and transporting staff and supplies to remote trailheads. If you’d like to give back, follow the link below and pre-schedule your gift today!