Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Sneffles, Hope Lake, Telluride, Ouray, Ridgeway, some naked hot springs and 6 years strong

In life you have to know when to call it. The universe usually sends you signs that the direction you are heading is not exactly where you are supposed to be and when you try to swim upstream the end result is disastrous. Originally the mister and I had planned to visit Japan for our 6th wedding anniversary but two weeks out we decided it wasn’t in the cards. I had already subbed out all my classes and planned on having my mom come to watch Charlotte so we were left deciding where else could we vacation.

“Why don’t we just go hike a 14er somewhere?” my husband suggested.

If you know my husband you know he’s not the biggest fan of 14ers. Or maybe you don’t know that because you’ve seen all my photos and he’s been there for half of the peaks I’ve bagged. Very few people have ever hiked with Chad though and seen what usually happens when he hikes with me. There’s gregarious finger gestures at the nagging freezing wind, there’s bitching about the cold, the camping conditions, the length of the hike and the distance to the car. He loves the summit but hates the down climb and he practically sprints to the car before I am even off the summit. His goal isn’t to hike all the 14ers so he humors me by joining along when I can’t find other hiking partners and he refuses to do any of the slogs that aren’t challenging. I don’t blame him, if I wasn’t trying to do them all I wouldn’t waste my time either.
(Chad Climbing challenger last year where he complained the whole way off the mountain)

Needless to say for him to suggest we climb a mountain is no small miracle. I suggested we shoot for Sneffles so we could stay in Telluride/Ouray area since it’s our favorite spot in the state. Sneffles is about a 7-8 hour drive from Denver so it’s not exactly close in proximity. We decided to leave Thursday, hike Friday then enjoy our anniversary on Saturday and head back Sunday. I only made one rule- no bitching the whole weekend. My mom arrived Wednesday and both her and Chad came to the yoga class I subbed then we got the last of our packing done before heading out in the afternoon Thursday.

One thing you take for granted when you have a child is your freedom. The freedom to wake up whenever you want, the freedom to eat whenever you please, the freedom to just get up and leave and hike and in general not have a third wheel you must take care of. We arrived in Montrose Thursday evening and hit up the Horsefly Brewery then retired for our early wake up call. This was a glamping trip since we were celebrating so we stayed in hotels the whole weekend rather than camping. There’s a freedom in NOT camping in that you don’t’ have to bring a call full of gear and plan out your meals around a cooler and propane stove.

There’s a dedication involved to hiking 14ers. Besides the willingness to want to hike you find yourself getting up at least three hours before the sun on your weekends. You must be willing to drive long distances, to watch the weather, to brave the elements and study the routes. There’s a lot of prep work involved especially in a peak like Sneffles where we were hiking the non-standard Southwest Ridge route. I read what little trip reports were out there in hopes of snow conditions and route findings. You can learn a lot from others mistakes and successful summits and that’s what I aimed on doing. We arrived at the trailhead around 6am and quickly blew past the few other hikers ahead of us. We pretty much had the mountain to ourselves the whole time. Sneffles is only about 6 miles roundtrip making it for a relatively quick hike if you know what you are doing and have a nice day.

We reached the ridge and met up with a father and son who were also climbing that route but from the Blue Lakes side. While chatting we saw a couple coming down off the ridge and I thought they had already summited. The couple then reached us and said they weren’t sure where to go because they hadn’t hiked many harder routes. They didn’t have helmets either so it seemed they might have been in over their heads. We offered to let them follow us but they sat and waited as we headed up the ridge and it wasn’t until later I caught a glimpse of them from our spot by the Kissing Camel rock formation. I never saw them on the summit or on the way down so I don’t know if they turned around or not. The ridge can be a little confusing so I was happy that Jim, the father, led the way. He hadn’t hiked that route on Sneffles before but he had completed all the 14ers and was just re-climbing them via different routes for his son.

I found the rock to be relatively stable with just a few areas where we really had to use our whole bodies to climb up. The final push to the summit was on solid volcanic rock and there was only one spot that made me pause because of the sheer exposure on either side. It was when we reached this point too we started to hear thunder in the distance and our blue bird day started turning to darker skies. We were too committed to turn around so we pushed to the summit and topped out around 9am. Peak 39 in the books! 19 more to go...

After a few photos we started down and it was then the grapple started to fall and the wind picked up. I heard thunder then there was a huge flash of lightning at the peak directly in front of us which certainly caught my attention. When you are down climbing a mountain like Sneffles you have to go slow and mindful or else you risk hurting yourself more trying to get down than the damage the lightning would cause. Then is certainly not the time to sprain an ankle or break a bone. The scree filled gulley was, in my opinion, not horrible to down climb especially since it was wet but I would have hated to go up it. If you have some experience with exposure, route finding and scrambling I’d suggest doing up the southwest ridge then down the standard any day over up the standard. I personally hate gulleys and scree and I find both are a dangerous combination especially when you have inexperienced hikers ahead of you.

After bidding good-bye to our new friends Jim and Zach, we headed off towards the lake where we hung out until returning to our car about 12:30. The storm had passed once we were back on the main trail so we went into Ouray to the Ouray brewery to have lunch and beers. I highly recommend the wings there they were amazing especially after our hike!

With our hike out of the way we had the rest of the weekend to relax and recover. We stayed in Ridgeway so we could be in-between Ouray and Telluride and we experienced all each town had to offer. We ate at the True Grit cafĂ© one night in Ridgeway, visited the clothing optional Orvis hot springs in Ouray, had drinks at Grumpy Pants in Ouray and drive the infamous Imogene Pass that connects Telluride and Ouray. Imogene has a 4/5 rating for hard roads to drive and is also the second highest unpaved road in the United States. It wouldn’t be a vacation without more hiking so the mister and I did 5 miles roundtrip to Hope Lake outside Telluride.

I was excited to see Hope Lake because it was on my horizon last year for my Telluride Yoga + Hiking Retreat. I declined to have my ladies hike there because of the drive from Telluride town (it isn’t far but I wanted something closer in the end) but it’s an amazing hike. If you ever find yourself down in that area it’s a relatively easy hike and you also pass Trout Lake on the way in where one can SUP and boat.

Before we knew it the weekend had ended and it was time to head home to Denver. Fortunately for me I’ll be heading back there next month for my second Telluride Yoga + Hiking Retreat. Lucky for Chad I also have a few other 14ers left in that part of the state so I have no doubt we will be returning for more hiking.

I’ve never been to Japan but there is something to be said for exploring your own back yard. One of the beauties of hiking 14ers to me, is that it takes me places I never would have thought to explore. Chad was the one who took me up my first climbs Gray’s and Torrey’s and got me hooked so I owe him my addiction to the climb. Marriage really is a lot like hiking and climbing – you need a good partner, someone you can trust, someone who will make the journey better and someone who would do anything to protect and care for you. Like hiking, marriage isn’t always easy, it’s full of obstacles you didn’t plan on and sometimes other people get in the way (or show you the way which is ideal). In the end, the best part of both is enjoying how it changes and challenges you. I’m fortunate to have found a love in both.

(thanks Jim for the photo! So much I love in one picture!)

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