Las Vegas Dreaming: Bouldering at the Kraft Boulders and Windy Peak

When: Sat November 16th thru Tues November 19th, 2013

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Who: Chris, Hannah, Myself, Beans, Sasquatch and Zion

Where: Red Rocks Park just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada staying mainly at the Red Rocks Campground

What: A long weekend exploring and climbing in one incredible desert

Beautiful and Prickly — Barrel Cactus found in the Wilds of Red Rocks:

Barrel Cactus in Red Rocks Nevada

Day #1: The Kraft Boulders:

An early Saturday morning arrival to Las Vegas had us out to the Kraft Boulders before mid-day and right as everyone else decided to show. Pulling into the parking lot we knew that it was going to be a busy day at the boulders which is understandable considering it’s proximity to the city, convenience of parking, and an simple access trail to the huge boulder field surrounding the base of the mountain. After checking out a few key boulders on our hike in we settled in at a isolated boulder in the Gateway Canyon section where we spent several hours exploring the area’s problems.

As the day quickly progress the shade quickly engulfed our location. We moved back around the bend to the main cluster and played around on many more boulders, met lots of people who were visiting like we were, and had Sasquatch occasionally bark at the roaming packs of pad-people. Additionally we encountered an large amount of an unique flower bush that I was lucky enough to document the many different species observed (link to picture).

Kraft Boulders Red Rocks

Being in the desert this time of the year is a sensory overload. Direct sun with no breeze and it was 100 degrees, 10 mins later as the sun dips behind the peak you have to put on pants and a heavy jacket.

 Kraft Boulders at Sunset

Day #2: Windy Peak Boulders: 

Bumping down a dirt road for 20 mins is apparently all we needed to separate ourselves from the hustle and bustle of the previous day. After being around 50-70 climbers the day prior it was a relief to be the lone car parked at the trailhead for the Windy Peak boulders. A simple hike through amazing terrain found us at the Fish Head boulder. This 30 min hike was only slowed-down by the youngest dog in the group, Zion, as not having any idea what was causing all of that prickly pain.

Hiking into Windy Peak Bouldering Area

Only a dog with the name of Beans would still be smiling during the process of ripping cactus thorns from his pads:

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The Fish Head boulder is one of the most beautiful massive chunks of rock I have seen. Perched high on the hillside, it is easy to see from the parking lot and features a corridor of perfect climbs, perfect landings, and a great spot to hang-out in the sun.

Fish Head Boulder Red Rocks Nevada

Step inside the Fish Head boulder and one begins to see the true beauty. The climbing is a long wall of  progressively taller problems ranging in the moderate grade. Overhanging these climbs is the upper mouth of the Fish head making for an  impressive backdrop like none I have ever seen before.

The Starting Hold of Bait and Tackle, a perfect V1 with an incredible backdrop:

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Hannah Sending

Chris sending Mas Mu (v6), a striking problem right in the middle of the corridor:

Mas Mu v6 Red Rocks Sequence

The winter days are short and we climbed as long and as late as our hunger allowed attempting to spend every possible minute absorbing this boulder-strewn valley.

Fish Head Boulder

Moving our way back to the car we stopped at the Sting boulder, moving again as the sun began to fade. We scoped the Le Cheval area for future missions and finished out the session in the moonless dark on the Warm-up boulder.

Hiking out the moon rose and lit the path through the thick and wild lands of the desert:

Windy Peak Bouldering Hiking in the Dark

Day #3: Rest Day + Evening Session at Kraft + the Strip: 

Monday morning we woke up pretty sore from the previous 2 full days of climbing, packed-up camp, and headed to a local Disc Golf course for some fun. Great little course that was perfect for stretching the muscles but not overly exerting yourself.

Las Vegas Disc Golf at Mountain Crest Park

Just as the evening began to come upon us we headed back to the Kraft boulders, passing the crowds as they departed. A brief sunset singled as the last climbers left the area and we began our session. We climbed for 3 hours past sunset in solitude spending time on the Potato Chips boulder, the Warm-up Boulders, and the Barndoor boulder.

Sunset at the Kraft Boulders

The Glow of Las Vegas as Chris sends the dynamic Dusty Coffee (v4) on the Barndoor boulder: 

Kraft Boulders at Nighttime

High-Fiving an awesome trip:

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Three day’s climbing in the Red Rocks desert has really inspired me to make sure I come back and continue to explore.

Palisade Wine Tour by Bike and Fruita MTB

When: October 12th-14th, 2014

Where: Palisade, Colorado and Fruita, Colorado

Who: Giant Crew: Paige, Bobby, Andrew, Whitney, Ben, Beth, Dan, Cassie, Stephen, Sarah, Caitlin, and Myself

Trip Synopsis: 

  • Free Camping thanks to Government Shut-down — CHECK
  • Free Wine thanks to numerous awesome wineries — CHECK
  • Free workout courtesy of ~25 miles of biking on roads for free wine — CHECK
  • Free hang-over cure by Mountain Biking the beautiful trails of Fruita — CHECK

Whitney organized a weekend where we spent Saturday cruising through the wineries of Palisade and Sunday mountain-biking. Both were fantastic and we had perfect weather all weekend. A giant crew of us assembled in the desert just outside of Fruita which apparently was a popular thing to do that weekend (campground was over-flowing).

Palisade Wine Tour:

Wineries Visited:

Details:

The Whole Crew (less me the photographer) right after visiting Canyon Wind Cellars (and while still sober):

Palisade Wine Tour on Bikes

Enjoying the Front Yard of Canyon Wind Cellars:

Canyon Wind Cellars

Canyon Wind Cellars

Our crew taking up the whole road (it was mostly empty with no problems with the local vehicle traffic):

Palisade Wine Tour on Bike

Fruit Boxes along the road:

Wine Boxes in Palisade

The Beautiful Grounds of the Colterris Winery:

Colterris Winery Bike Tour

Bikes in front of the Outhouse at the very laid-back vineyard of Hermosa Vineyards:

Hermosa Vineyards Bike Parking

After visiting Hermosa vineyards we were pretty deep into our tastings and all a bit tipsy. The finally slog back down the valley to the cars (and Peach Pit Distillery) took us quite some time (at least an hour). Here is the river when we crossed it going back down to the cars.

Mountain Biking Fruita:

We all hit the sack early that night after our full-day touring the vineyards and the next morning woke-up to cool-temps and perfect weather for MTB. A crew that knew what they were doing took off and Caitlin and I decided to do Kesler’s run and circle back to camp. Well we deviated off of that plan and ended up doing Western Zippity (an additional 5-6 miles) before looping back to camp.

Caitlin bombing down the awesome Kessel Run (named after a Star War’s reference):

Kessel Run

Way-out in the middle of nowhere on the cross-country trail “Western Zippity”:

Western Zippity

Cassie on the upper-part of Kessel Run:

Kessel Run

Beautiful weekend on the western slope!

 

Backpacking the Cirque of Towers in the Wind River Range

Dates: July 4th-7th, 2013 (extended 4th of July weekend!)

Who: Caitlin and Andy

Where: Wind River Range Wyoming: Sandy Opening Trailhead

Trip Synopsis:

  • Day 1: Drive to Trailhead, arrive at 6pm, furiously backpack 6 miles into Big Sandy Lake before sunset
  • Day 2: Backpack over Jackass pass (~3.5 miles) into the Cirque of the Towers, explore the area
  • Day 3: Backpack over Texas Pass (no official trails), down into the next valley (~6 miles)
  • Day 4: Backpack back to the trailhead completing the loop (only 1/2 mile of duplicate trail!), ~9 miles of rolling alpine meadows. Drive home, stop at Farson for ice-cream, get back to Denver at 10pm.

Google Map Link

 

Cirque of the Towers Panoramic as viewed from Texas Pass:

Cirque of the Towers

 

DAY #1:

Six hours of driving through the desolate Wyoming plains and you begin to wonder if these mountains are just some sort of myth, or potentially a trap to lure unsuspecting tourists into the abandoned sections of Wyoming.  But, alas…eventually this dirt road turns into rolling hills and glimpses of large granite peaks begin to surface.

The Big Sandy Trail head was full of cars and we had an late arrival and an ambitious goal ahead. Our late arrival at the trail head was partially due to 4th of July celebrations the night before resulting in us not being fully packed until the morning of departure. Once we finally arrived, we threw our packs on, and furiously hiked the gradual steeping trail arriving at Big Sandy Lake just as sunset provided us a colorful evening.

Caitlin typically spends the 4th of July at Big Sandy lake in Minnesota, so she was glad that we made it to this Big Sandy Lake before this year’s 4th of July ended.

Big Sandy Lake with a Purple Sunset on our 1st Night:

Big Sandy Lake in the Wind River Range

DAY #2:

The next morning we had a very specific objective of climbing over Jackass Pass and camping within the actual Cirque. Jackass pass was beautiful and when one hikes it you understand the reasoning behind the name. The many ups and downs of the pass make sure that over the short distance you are getting a serious work-out. But all of that fades away once you catch a glimpse of the cirque. It was like I had never seen granite form such amazing shapes before.

Along the Trail up JackAss Pass:

Jackass Pass Wind River Range

The 1st Real Overlook of the Cirque with Wolf’s Head formation right behind us (it felt like you were at the top of the pass but there was still one major downhill then uphill before you were on the edge of the Cirque):

Cirque of the Towers from Jackass Pass

It took us about an hour per mile with breaks to get into the cirque (where the night before we did 1 mile per 20-25 mins). But once we were there it was as if we stepped into an isolated world. We weren’t the only ones there that weekend and it took some time to find a camping spot but where we set-up had some of the best views you could ask for.

Lunch Spot once we crossed over the pass and entered the Cirque:

Lunch Spot in the Cirque

Talking to a few other backpackers our age we found that there was a route over Texas Pass which was not marked on our map. After spending some time scoping it the night before we decided that we would change our route and go over this pass and make a circle back down to the trail head. We both went to bed excited for the unknown.

Day #3:

The next morning we awoke to a beautiful view and got ready to hit the trail early:

Pingora Peak Cirque of the Towers

The hike-up Texas Pass was one of the most beautiful sections of the trip. After rock-hopping through a massive boulder-field we criss-crossed a Swiss-like hillside full of flowers, lush grass, marmots, and dozens of little streams. We had joked that if we took a shot of whiskey every-time we crossed a stream we would have only made it 1/4 of the way up!

Caitlin leading the way on one of the many stream-crossings:

Texas Pass Cirque of the Towers

At the top of Texas Pass (picture of Texas Pass Continental Divide Sign) we had to cross a large snowfield but the views before that were the most rewarding of the trip. The actual pass is maybe a 100ft wide with steep walls causing quite a bit of wind to blow through there. At the top we saw relatively fresh Bear Scat, which is cool to see humans/animals on the same paths. On the other side it was a steep but relatively straight-forward walk down a massive glacial valley.

Billy’s Lake on the North side of the Cirque. The elevation change as we continued to head down the valley was subtle but impressive:

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A delicious lunch was had at the foot of Shadow Lake and we continued on the gentle trail for many miles only encountering two different NOLs groups. We set-up camp at the base on the valley in the middle of a number of beautiful little ponds along the river.

Campsite in the Wind River Range

A storm started brewing and we were prepping for dinner when we ran into a guy named Norm who was a good way into his Continental Divide Trail hike (read about his adventure here) (his specific trail-journal entry where he met-us).  A few minutes of talking and he was back on the trail trying to outrun the storm. Next thing we knew we were eating dinner under a thick spruce tree as the rain came down hard. The evening ended abruptly and it rained most of the night.

In a Lull in the Storm I caught this Reflection on on of the Small Ponds:

Reflections in Wind River Range

Day 4:

After the persistent rains all night we woke to a beautiful morning that warmed up quickly. We packed up quickly and were grateful for the smart food planning as 4 days of trash fit inside one small zip-lock bag. The hike back caught us off guard. Over 4 hrs to get back to the trail head (roughly 9 miles), however  3hrs were in this high alpine plain and then 1 hr of straight downhill. The high-alpine plain was intense with huge rolling hills and every time you approached a lake you dropped several hundred feet in elevation (hiking out of Dad’s Lake), only to climb back out of it on the other side of the lake. Repeat that 3 or 4 times and what we thought would be a simple down-valley hike turned out to be quite a bit more challenging. Regardless each valley provided amazing views and unique terrain that made the last day well worth the effort.

Myself in one of the large, rolling, never-ending Valleys on our last day:

Valley

Finally back to the vehicle we enjoyed a home brew that was mostly cold! Drove to Farson for an ice-cream break and made our way back to Denver.

As a Boy Scout many years ago I had spent a week north of here in another basin. We had a mantra of trying to avoid crowds and people when we were in Scouts and sometimes that left out the incredible places that tend to be popular. While this was 4th of July weekend, outside of Big Sandy Lake and the Cirque we barely saw any other backpackers, adding quite a bit to our experience. This is an incredible piece of the planet and well worth the effort to backpack!

Costa Rica: Six Nights of Sunsets Along the Pacific

Following-up to the mega-post on a trip to the Guancaste Peninsula, we were lucky to witness 6 distinct and beautiful sunsets. As we were located along the Pacific Coast, each night was a treat to watch the sunset.  In Nosara, the sunset created a gathering of nearly the entire village with all types of people gathering each night to enjoy the last rays of light as the cool air whipped over the sand. It was a treat to see every one of these sunsets.

 This is a follow-up to my detailed trip report here (which has a lot more then just pretty sunsets!): http://andylibrande.com/news/2013/07/costa-rica-tamarindo-nosara-barra-honda/

Night 1: On an Airplane somewhere between Mexico and Costa Rica:

Flying over Mexico

Night 2: 1st Night in Tamarindo, Costa Rica:

Sunset over Playa Langosta Tamarindo

Night 3: Wedding over Playa Langosta, Tamarindo

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Night 4: Nosara, Costa Rica, land of long sunsets with ever-changing colors

Tweak Broken Thumb

Waves Crashing over Sunset

Playa Guiones at Sunset

Night 5: Nosara: Night of the Pink, Purples, and Deep Blue

Sunset Surf Session

Sunset Playa Guiones

Night 6: Yoga on the Beach

Yoga in Nosara Costa Rica

Please check-out the full Trip Report here: http://andylibrande.com/news/2013/07/costa-rica-tamarindo-nosara-barra-honda/

Costa Rica: Tamarindo – Nosara – Barra Honda

When: April 4th thru April 10th, 2013

Who: Bret, Matt, Gabe, Dani, Liz, Jake, Annie, and Myself with guest appearances by Justin, Laura, and Ashlee.

Where: The city of Tamarindo, the city of Nosara and the Barra Honda National Park. Guanacaste peninsula, Costa Rica (Map Link)

What: A bunch of friends meeting up to celebrate Jake and Annie’s wedding while exploring a new country

R

he distinct smell of burning wood cuts through the jungle heat as we rumble towards another village perched deep in the countryside. This lone jungle road has us weaving through the hilly, thick-forested landscape of the Guanacaste Peninsula in Costa Rica as we head south from the city of Tamarindo to Nosara.

The previous 50 miles of road were devoid of vehicles but a highway for cow herds, iguanas, basking vultures, soccer matches, howler monkeys, and motorcycles with whole families on them. After several hours of travel, a couple points of confusion, in-accurate maps, and the occasional glance of the ocean, We turned the corner to face a pristine black sand beach just outside the city of Nosara:

Playa Negra, Ostional Costa Rica

This was our 3rd full day in Costa Rica with the prior few being spent in the somewhat touristy town of Tamarindo celebrating our good friends marriage. After the wedding a group of us headed south on a bit of an adventure to the vibrant, yet sleepy community of Nosara via a back-road route deep in the countryside.  With 3 nights in Tamarindo and 3 nights in Nosara we just got a little taste of the good life (also know as the opt-spoken “Pura Vida”).

1st Stop  – Tamarindo: Wedding, Surfing, Coconut Drinking

The first full-day of vacation and we quickly found ourselves some shade, a couple surf-boards, and cold-coconut water served in it’s shell.  Gabe enjoying the easier and consistent waves of Tamarindo:

Gabe surfing in Tamarindo Costa Rica

The first real evening ended with a perfect sunset, fresh seared ahi-tuna tacos, and meeting some new friends at the wedding recital party. Next day repeated with nearly the same routine: eat some pastries, make a fruit shake with tequila, go to the beach, surf, leave my debit card in the atm at the bank, burn our feet on the hot sand, enjoy life. Strolling through the town of Tamarindo:

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Tamarindo is a town of transition as it becomes a world-wide destination for tourism. Less then an hour from the airport and with it’s beautiful beaches, it is easy to see why this place has become a favorite. First found by surfers in The Endless Summer, Gabe had the pleasure of meeting one of his life-long idols, Robert August, who runs a restaurant and surf-school there.

Jake and Annie’s Wedding at the Cala Luna Hotel:

A simple ceremony on the isolated beach on our second full-day  finished up just as the sunset began to show it’s true colors. I set-up my gear and snapped a few shots of everyone as the sunset lit-up the ocean. Under this perfect sunset I took a lot of photos: Annie+Ashlee+Laura, Tom+Nancy, Annie+Ashlee+Laura (2nd shot), Liz+Matt+Bret, Below is a group shot (L to R: Justin/Liz/Matt/Jake/Annie/Gabe/Dani/Bret/Andy):

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Gabe and Danni:

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Jake and Annie:

Jake and Annie Fell

2nd Stop – Nosara: Land of many Sunsets

It’s sunday evening and we stroll to the main beach for our first taste of Nosara, after spending the day driving there via back-roads. It appears the entire community has gathered to enjoy the cooling afternoon air highlighted by an incredible sunset. Golden hues dominated the beach as we worked our way to the rocky point to watch the sunset fall behind waves crashing. Just Another Sunset, This Time Pink, over Playa Guiones at Nosara: 

Pink Sunset Playa Guiones, Nosara

Every evening the sunset lasted for-hours changing from brilliant orange, to pinks to deep blues; this is a shot overlooking the beach of Nosara: 

Sunset over Nosara Costa Rica

Nosara is beautiful as all of the development is set back off of the beach. The town is stretched over a handful of roads with villas, local hotels, and restaurants tucked into the jungle. The waves were bigger and much more fierce, which everyone struggled with except for Gabe and Matt. We spent a whole day baking under the sun surfing as the high-tide rushed in. Liz Winding Down with a bit of Beach-Yoga: 

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While Tamarindo was a nice place to visit, Nosara is a place you come to and forget to leave.

Side-trip – The Caves of Barra Honda:

At the entrance to the park we picked up our guide, an weathered gentleman whose name translates to Saturn (Saturno). Our first objective was to hike to the cave. It was just three of us this day (Bret/Matt/Andy) and through our guide’s partial english and our partial spanish we had a very enjoyable and informative hike. Along the way Saturno pointed out trees with spikes on them, plants that smell like anise, howler monkeys, bee hives, hollow ground above other caves, and numerous other items in this unique forest.

After crawling down a 50ft overhanging-ladder (somehow Matt did this with a cast over his thumb), the massive main chamber of the cave surrounds you. The main cave called “Terciopelo” (name of the fer-de-lance snake) with the small entrance and the barely visible 40ft ladder (Cave Map photo): 

Barre Honda Cave Costa Rica

 Looking Deep into the Abyss of the Cave: 

Terciopelo Cave in Barre Honda National Park

Luckily there was one other group of two that we did the tour with as one of them was fluent in spanish and we were able to learn specifics about the history of the caves. These limestone caves were split into a few sections that we crawled through each offering different formations ranging from large fins on the walls to typical stalagmites/stalactites.

Limestone Caves of Barre Honda

The end of the trip we were brought to an overlook of the valley which provided us views all the way to the other-side of the peninsula to the Nicoya Gulf.

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On the way home we stopped at a restaurant along the road that overlooked a valley below. Easily the most beautiful location we ate at it also had some of the best casado’s (traditional Costa Rican dish) of the trip.

Conclusion:

“Pura Vida”, yes it is a well-overused term but after spending our evenings watching sunsets melt into the ocean, spending the days playing in the surf or exploring the various wonders of the landscape, eating delicious food, and meeting great people, you begin to understand why that phrase is so deeply rooted into this country. Overall a really easy place to travel to and to explore and a special place one should not miss!

Click below to see the Interactive Trip Map along with photos in the map:

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