Dates: October 5th thru 8th, 2012 (Friday thru Monday)
Who: Caitlin and I
Roadtrip (Link to Map of Route):
- Stop 1: Penitente Canyon, San Luis Valley, Colorado = Climbing and Camping
- Stop 2: CHACO CANYON, New Mexico = exploring ancient cultures, hiking, camping, mind-exploding
- Stop 3: San Juan Mountains, Durango, Colorado = camping, Aspen leaf watching, ass-freezing
Friday October 5th, Denver saw it’s first snowstorm of the 2012-2013 year as we woke-up to a solid 2 inches of fresh on our lawns and cars. While refreshing to see some of the white-stuff it was a clear sign of a quickly changing season and forced Caitlin and I to head-up to the mountains to experience the last of the Fall season.
Based on some really quick planning and weather watching we ended-up heading south towards the border (and into New Mexico) with several different stops with some unique experiences:
Stop #1: Penitente Canyon in the San Luis Valley, Colorado
Friday afternoon we rolled into a nearly deserted campground at Penitente allowing us to be able to camp in one of the best spots. The drive in was pretty weird with Denver being ~35 degrees when we left, thick fog on HWY 285, and then clear-blue beautiful skies (plus~20 degrees warmer) once we hit Bailey; classic Colorado. Four hours later we find ourselves preparing to do some sport climbing in one of the most beautiful canyon’s in Colorado:
The weather was perfect (~70 degrees cooling down quickly), but we were able to get a couple routes in before the sun completely left the sky.
The next morning we had an incredible hike through the canyon along a trail I have never hiked. Starting off very cold, it warmed up nicely and the aspen’s back-dropped against the canyon was incredible.
We also stumbled upon an old wagon-rut in the rock from when the early Mexican settlers would use an ox and a small wagon to haul wood out of the area to their homesteads and the size of the erosion was impressive (click for pic here).
On-wards to the next stop we happened to cross over Wolf Creek Pass which had perfect Aspen colors and is a pass that everyone must see at least once during the fall leaf-viewing season:
Stop #2: Chaco Culture National Historic Park, New Mexico
The ever-present shaking of the car, mixed with the dust and grit from driving down 21 miles of wash-boarded road was not helping lift our solemn spirits. At the turn-off to the canyon was an apparent “CAMPGROUND FULL” sign and we found ourselves in the middle of no-man’s-land, bumping down a dirt-road, trying to figure out what to do. After driving 4 hours already that day we decided that we were just going to push-on and confirm if the campground was actually full. Pulling-up to the campground host at 4:45pm on a Saturday (yes our timing wasn’t the best), our suspicions were confirmed that yes, those signs were correct, however, there was a group campsite that was open and as long as no-one reserved it in the next 15 mins we could share it with the other late-comers. The Chacoan gods presented some luck to us and we had a place to camp!!!
After claiming our tent-pad we rushed over to Pueblo Bonito to experience the sunset that was about to happen. Most people had already left the area leaving Caitlin and I to run-around and experience a powerful place under a powerful sunset. Caitlin summoning the gods over the massive 5 story building with 700+ rooms and 35 kivas, built over 1,000 years ago:
The Great Kiva at Pueblo Bonito:
Caitlin and I:
Timing was again on our side and that night we went to a incredible outdoor presentation provided by park ranger G.B. Cornucopia on the Chaco culture’s obsession with the sun, tracking time, and many of the numerous questions around the park. The complexity of this culture was beginning to be revealed to us and our jaw’s were on the floor the entire time.
6:45am and the sunrise was just starting to push color into the clear skies and the entire campground was starting to rumble to life. We rushed-up to the nearest butte to experience the morning much like the Chacoan’s would have done everyday in their lives. Caitlin got really excited! Fajada Butte (a major ceremonial spot) under the morning glow:
Our major adventure of the day was hiking to the overlook’s of Pueblo Bonito and Chetro Ketl. Viewing the sites from above provides a much needed perspective on the layout and the differences between the different sites and was by far the best views of the sites. Caitlin over Pueblo Bonito:
While on top we also visited the Pueblo Alto and New Alto sites:
Nothing is more hip then wearing Chaco’s while hiking in Chaco Canyon.
It was nearing 2pm and we rushed back over to Pueblo Bonito to have a walking tour lead by Park Ranger G.B. Cornucopia, who after 2 hours taught us more about the site and the different opinions on what it all meant then we could have ever hoped!!! Exploring the famous dark hallways of Pueblo Bonito:
We showed-up to this park with minimal knowledge of this culture and left being inspired to understand more about this unique place.
Stop #3: Lime Creek Road, Durango Colorado
It was now 5 PM on Sunday as we pulled ourselves away from Chaco canyon. With barely more then an hour of sunlight left we headed north as fast as we could to Durango. Having minimal notes on where to car-camp, we bumped up a rocky-forest service road in the pitch-black until we came to an incredible site that had 360-degree’s of star viewing right next to a pond. We quickly built a campfire, cooked dinner, and enjoyed our last night of the trip.
It got extremely cold overnight, enough to start freezing water in certain spots, but the morning sun was a nice relief as we awoke to incredible views:
Driving home over Molas Pass to Silverton, over Red Mountain Pass to Ouray (with a quick stop at Mouse’s chocolates), back through Gunnison and over Monarch and Kenosha passes, we landed back in Denver satisfied with our last-minute, but incredible trip!
Over the course of the year we did a lot of trips that were awesome but not big enough (or unique enough) to warrant a normal in-depth Trip Report. Instead here are those trips where cool photos were taken with a brief write-up. (Most of the links below go to more photos, so click around!)
Annie with Caitlin Spotting:
The next morning was beautiful. Caitlin playing in the Aspen forest:
Nov 21st: Turkey Rocks trad Climbing the Day before Thanksgiving with Rambo (link):
Just a sampling of many fine smaller trips!
Dates: June 9th – 11th, 2012
Where: Outside of Grand Junction on the Ruby/Horsethief section of the Colorado River ending in West-Water, Utah
Who: Justin, Aaron, Adrienne, Caitlin, Whitney, Hawk, Justin’s parents, Hawk’s Parents, some friends of theirs, a canine, and Myself. So a good sized rafting crew.
Caitlin’s “best friend from high school” Justin, was about to leave the country for a year and he organized a final raft trip with friends before leaving the soil of the USA. Caitlin and I were excited to join this adventure as rafting is one of the activities that we don’t get to very often. The put in for the river is just outside of Fruita (at Loma) and after a pretty quick car swap we were off in the early afternoon!
The whole crew at the Black Rocks Campground:
The river is really calm in this section, which is a problem when the wind picks-up and pushes your Shredder Raft up-river. Let’s just say me and Caitlin had some “bonding” time trying to fight the wind the first day and luckily we prevailed. Photo of Justin and Aaron showing us how to use a shredder properly:
Caitlin and Pat hanging-out on Al’s boat:
The water was a little low is spots:
We camped the first night at the Cottonwood campgrounds on the river, amply named due to the massive Cottonwood tree’s that are in this nice campground. Turkey’s were flying through the area and we played with the many toad’s that were jumping all over the place.
Floating the river the next day (we also did some hiking):
Sunday night we arrived at the Black Rocks camping area which is quite unique and full of some spectacular geologic features. The rock is Precambrian schist which would be the oldest exposed rock in that entire area and this area is the only spot along the River outside of Grand Canyon where this old of rock is exposed. Worn smooth from time, it almost looks like a giant water-slide created by maniacs:
Justin hiking around the rocks:
Sunset over the Black Rocks Campground (also picture link to what 3:30AM looks like when the Milky Way makes an appearance):
An incredibly rare sight happened on Caitlin’s and I last day on the river. A Cinnamon Black Bear was on the river’s edge and ran up the steep embankment when we floated past. I was able to snag a couple pictures of it before dropping a paddle into the river and causing chaos for our little shredder boat. We were literally on the boarder of Colorado and Utah and that bear disappeared incredibly fast for such a large animal.
More floating (now we are in Utah):
Caitlin and I got out at the Westwater BLM Ranger station while the rest of the crew continued on to do some rapids the next day. Since we had a few hours before needing to head home (and a convenient NPS parks pass) we checked out the Colorado National Monument which is a beautiful piece of nature tucked right off of I-70.
On the way home we were treated to a PINK SUNSET!
Great trip with old friends and new ones!
What: S.O.B. Gully of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Why: It was the rare weekend where it was rainy and cold in Denver but extremely nice in parts of the mountains.
Time: 2 hrs down the gully and 2 hrs up. The downhill is a lot harder then what you would anticipate and in some instances it was easier coming-up then going down.
Painted Wall (2,250 ft of cliff !) at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison from the North Rim, 6:15am, Pink Sunrise:
It’s called the Son of a Bitch Gully for a reason: steep loose rock, man-eating poison ivy, constant ledge climbs, and 1,800 ft of vertical in just over 1.5 miles. Awesome hike down into the heart of one of the most wild canyon’s out there. Rambo navigating the poison ivy and loose rock of the SOB Draw (still a long way to go!):
Having visited the Black Canyon before (trip report here) and watching numerous rock climbing videos of the canyon, I was really excited to do something more then just peek over the rim. Caitlin and I decided to meet up with a group that was down there to climb and we were just going to do the hike. Rambo joined us for the descent and Vinny, Andrew M., and another one of their friends was climbing the Casual route that day as Rambo did Comic Relief the day before.
Hiking into the gut of the S.O.B. gully was hard and slow as the trail consists of loose rock and man-eating poison Ivy bushes. Caitlin more interested in route-finding and not slipping then taking photos (Painted wall in the background):
We arrived to the river just before the sun did and it was beautiful down there. Some really nice campsites sit along the river and that may have to be a future trip:
The three of us stoked about making it to the bottom of the SOB Gully, now just for the hike out:
Hiking out took as long as hiking down but was much easier as you were able to use your hands for balance:
Vinny, Andrew, and their friend several pitches up on the climb they were doing(upper left-hand corner) (close-up pic here):
As we hiked up further it kept getting hotter and we were glad that we started so early and experience the sunrise in such a massive and incredible canyon!
Dates: Wednesday March 28th thru Sunday April 1st, 2012
Details of Travel: 1,500 driving miles!
- March 28th-March 30th: Zion National Park (highlights = Angel’s Landing at sunrise, Narrows hike in 44degree water, Hidden Canyon hike, our campsite outside of Zion)
- Night of March 30th: Camping outside Bryce Canyon at the mouth of Casto Canyon in Red Canyon BLM
- March 31st: Sunrise at Bryce Canyon National Park, drive thru highcountry of Southwest Utah
- April 1st: Rock climbing in Ouray with Rambo
Interactive Map of our Quick Journey:
View Zion Trip in a larger map
Mid-afternoon we finally pulled off of I-15 which was bustling and crazy compared to the almost relaxing I-70 section of the trip. Our first stop was to stretch our legs at the North Entrance of Zion National Park known as the Kolob Terrace. It was chilly, dark and dreary due to the storm that was still holding on overhead. The quick hike did not reveal much in the way of photos, however it was great to finally be at our destination.
Insider information always helps and we were pointed to a BLM camping area by my buddy before we left. Timing was on our side and we pulled into one of the best spots in the canyon. Darkness was settling in quickly and right before the sun disappeared it fell below the thick clouds and lit the area up in beautiful light. Here Caitlin takes in the views from our campsite at Smithsonian Butte BLM outside of Zion NP:
Luckily we ran into another couple around our age that had been in the park for the last few days and told us to get up early to get on Angel’s Landing before the normal tourist shit-show happens. An early next-day was planned.
Angel’s Landing: 1,500 vertical ft, ~5 miles RT, ~1:40 to the top
Our first foray into the main canyon was well before the first sunlight and before the park rangers had taken their posts. Quick glimpses of turkey’s and deer were had as we pulled into the trailhead. We were the first to the trailhead that day as we pulled in just before 7:00am, however two other small groups pulled up right behind us and started off before we could get our packs ready. Luckily we did not see them or anyone else for quite some time.
We quickly gained Scout’s Landing where we were greeted with our first sunlight of the day. At this point we passed one of the groups and started-up one of the best hikes I have ever done. The exposure was great and made the relativity simple hiking that much more exciting. Caitlin with the sun just starting to illuminate Angel’s Landing in front of us, 8:30am almost to the top:
We reached the top where we ran into the only person that was in front of us. She was already on her way down and we were left in complete solitary to enjoy a true wonder. Looking back on the hike from the top of Angel’s Landing (the trail runs along the illuminated ridge on the left w/ huge exposure on both sides):
45 mins of complete solitude on top of the world! One can understand where the name Angel’s Landing comes from as we sat watching the sun creep further down the enormous sandstone walls while listening to the sounds of the river and the occasional sound from the wild-turkeys below nearly 1,500 feet below. Once other people showed-up the vibe changed quickly and we headed down. Hiking down was just as exciting as going up:
Back at Scout’s landing we took our time and explored around. We spotted one of the massive California Condor’s that was hanging out watching the crowds on the route (when hiking Angel’s landing in the morning he scared us when he buzzed us once coming around a cliff feature):
Back down to the trailhead we cooked some lunch in the park and planned our next excursion.
Hidden Canyon and Weeping Canyon
We were in the hiking mood and an additional 700 vertical foot climb to the mouth of Hidden Canyon took us into another magical place. Hiking the nice sandy trail we scrambled around this incredible canyon for a couple hours until we finally reached a logical turning point. The hike back down was much quicker since we had already figured out the route around the tough sections.
At the entrance to the canyon were some awesome overhangs. Here Caitlin is getting a feel for ~650 ft of sheer cliff (trail below is the switchbacks for the East Rim/Hidden Canyon and Weeping Rock is in the upper LH side):
Narrow’s Canyon Hike: 110 CFS, 44 degree water, 75 degree air temp highs, random old-friend encounters
The water was cold and we rented drysuits from the http://www.zionadventures.com/ which had a nice set-up and totally worth every penny that we spent with them. Started the hike late (somewhat intentional due to the cool morning temps). Caitlin hiking through the golden glow of the afternoon light:
We fought our way up the river as the flow was high and strong. This turned out to be the hardest hike of the trip and the rewards were well worth it. Myself and Caitlin enjoying the river:
The world is truly a small place! After hiking for a short-bit another couple was gaining on us and eventually they caught-up and it turned out being my friend Drew and his wife Carrie, whom I originally met in the DU Alpine Club and had not seen in a number of years. Awesome to hike with them for a while and catch-up. Drew, Carrie, Caitlin and Andy photo deep in the canyon:
The river was flowing very heavy at 110 CFS that day and they closed down the canyon the next day as the flows got above 120 CFS. Timing was on our side and we got to experience quite the hike.
Bryce Canyon, Red Canyon BLM and Southwest Utah:
We ate Dinner with Drew and Carrie and did not hit the road to Bryce canyon until dusk. With some very loose ideas of places to camp just outside of Red Canyon we drove up some BLM road and found a place to lay our heads for the night. Night-time photos over Castro Canyon (and a ghost self-portrait):
Another early morning and we arrived to Bryce Canyon where our jaws promptly dropped:
Again there was very few people around which was surprising considering it was a Saturday morning in a park famous for sunrises. Caitlin dancing with the trees of Bryce Canyon:
We did a short hike in chacos and wool socks which was nice to stretch out after the previous two grueling days.
You don’t need to spend much time here as it is relatively small so it was perfect for a nice morning excursion before grabbing lunch at the lodge and then taking the long journey all the way to Ouray, Colorado.
The route through the desert between Bryce Canyon and Hanksville, UT was really quite cool. Some amazing vistas in a place that I had no prior knowledge on (not to mention you drive thru MTN passes at ~10,000 ft, Escalante, Capitol Reef NP, Lake Powell, Cone Mtn, Henry Mountains, etc).
A late arrival in Ouray and we crashed at RAMBO‘s house. The next day we hit up some climbing just outside of town at a place called Colby’s Corner which had some nice routes and expansive views of Sneffel’s and Cimarron peaks. A nice dip in the hot springs plus a Mouse’s Chocolate shake and we were recovered from the hikes and ready to head home!
Looking back in the rear-view mirror of the awesomeness of this part of the world:
Perma-Link here: http://andylibrande.com/news/2012/07/zion-bryce-ouray-spring-break/
Photos of the Trout Creek Fire:
We were climbing on the cliffs around the base of the formation of Devil’s Head below the Fire Tower overlook in the Pike National Forest off of the South Rampart Range Road (approx location). Photos were taken south/southwest.
We first noticed smoke plumes just after 2:30 (it was officially reported at 2:23). By 2:40-2:45 you could tell it was a fire.
at 3:00pm it was the biggest and worst phase:
Please click below to read about the rest of the Fire:Read More»
Who: Vinny E., Andrew M., and Myself meeting up with RAMBO
Where: Ouray Colorado
When: Jan 6th-8th, 2012
Last minute Vinny rounded me up and we headed down to Ouray to ice-climb and stay at Rambo’s house who has been living there for the past year doing AmeriCorps for the Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership. We left Denver after work and had a nice night drive all the way to Rambo’s awesome house.
The next morning we geared-up, checked out the Ice Festival and then headed to the New Funtier area. The Ice Festival was way cooler then we were expecting as they have a bunch of free gear demos and clinics; I demo’d a new harness since mine is getting old. Andrew leading the first route of the day:
Lots of people were out that day and with the Ice in the river not being very solid we saw a lot of people punch through. At one point Rambo had to pull some foreigner out of the river (nipples deep) and convince him that he needed to go back down the valley. Vinny leading another one:
The snow picked up quite a bit towards the end of the day. Here is just one of the many climbers in the area that day:
That night we cooked dinner, hit up the hot springs and were hanging out when a huge snowstorm blew through town dumping 6-8 inches in less then two hours. So naturally we decided to tie a rope to a car and pull each other through the side-roads of Ouray at midnight. Rambo’s shit-eating grin just gives an idea of how awesome this was:
Next morning was glorious!
We climbed right at the main competition area the next day right below the main (upper) bridge. Lots of people from all over the place.
Mt Sherman on the drive out:
Always a good time in Ouray!
Just like that we went from blazing hot to the cool temps of fall. I experienced this during a little landscape project that started in late August and went up to mid-Sept (essentially going from dripping sweat to just normal sweat). That little landscape project turned into a much bigger project somehow miraculously finishing moments before the start of the Backyard Bouldering Competition.
The cool temps lead to an active fall of many short-outings experiencing the intense fall colors. Below is just a photographic taste from the short adventures that took place during the extended fall season
Kenosha Pass (and all surrounding areas) were absolutely breath-taking on Oct 1st-2nd, 2011:
Once finished with the climbing comp I was able to get out again (had no real adventures since Independence Pass in early August). Here we are at Mt Sanitas in Boulder doing some bouldering, September 17th, 2011:
Andrew relaxing on the top-out:
Aspen’s just starting to get really colorful on Squaw Pass Road near Evergreen on September 25th, 2011:
A trip to Crested Butte with RAMBO happened on Oct 1st-2nd. Potentially the most colorful weekend in my life. More will be posted on this adventure, however here is a teaser:
My sister flew in from Austin, TX and we checked out Rocky Mountain National Park on a snowy day in the park. October 9th, 2011:
There were also a lot of elk out that day and we had fun watching them in their rut:
Friday afterwork session in Castlewood Canyon with Caitlin at the 9 Lives Boulder, October 14th, 2011:
Fall more or less wrapped-up in Colorado for me on a beautiful, brisk day in Castlewood Canyon doing some bouldering with Jake and Ben. November 11th, 2012:
Full Post here: http://andylibrande.com/news/2012/02/quick-moments-of-fall/
Thank you everyone for attending the 2nd Annual Backyard Bouldering Comp!!!
It was a huge success and I am really glad we had such an awesome group of people out ready to climb hard and have a lot of fun. The event was at least twice as big as last year and it was one of the most fun gatherings that we have ever had!!!
Below is a quick recap of the results and the event. There was 10 problems featured this year and a brand-new feature on the wall (literally finished the day of the comp!!!). Of the 10 problems 9 were completed which means I need to make it a little harder next year. Also glad to see such a diverse group of climbers out there and really glad to see all of the costumes.
- Men’s 1st: Jake Fell (2nd year in a row!!!)
- Men’s 2nd: Gabe Craveiro (after just barely missing it in the climb-off for 1st place!)
- Men’s 3rd: Vinny English (a late entry that come-in strong)
- Women’s 1st: Annie Bacci (Huge improvement over the past year!!!)
- Women’s 2nd: Brea Galvin (the Chilean Hooker outfit really helped the climbing)
- Women’s 3rd: Caitlin Shay (On the podium both years)
Prizes (these are the fun awards and glad everyone put a lot of effort into it):
- Best Costume: RAMBO (making a guest appearance as some sort of sexy chilean prostitute and climbing in extremely tight jeans)
- Best Determination: Bubbha (the hipster tried hard all not but realized it just wasn’t that cool to win)
- Midget’s Unite: Katie for not ever really rock climbing before and coming out and doing amazing
- Best Beer: Gabe/Marcio (for bringing a delicious belgian beer)(lots of hard competition)
- Most Bonus Holds: Andrew Giamberardino (somehow winning this prize both years for hitting the most amount of bonus holds but not completing the problems)
- Drunken Monkey: Andy Librande (flashing two separate problems after chugging a beer each time)
Thanks again for the awesome comp/party/BBQ!!!
More Info including the Competition Poster: http://andylibrande.com/news/2011/09/backyard-bouldering-comp-2011/
Details on the Scoring Format here: http://andylibrande.com/news/2010/08/backyard-bouldering-competition-sept-4th-2010/
Enjoy some pics from the night:
When: August 5th-7th, 2011
Where: Independence Pass, Colorado
Caitlin and I took off after work on a Friday to head-up to Independence Pass between Aspen and Leadville. The idea was to check out the bouldering that is all over the area, enjoy the sights, and escape the heat of Denver. We rolled in after dark and after taking Caitlin’s volvo for a little 4-wheelin’ action , somehow found free camping up Lincoln Creek road.
After sleeping like logs in the crisp night air (the denver heat was not making sleep easy), we awoke to a beautiful day. Amazingly our friend Terra happened to drive by our campsite as we were getting ready to leave for the day…small world.
Saturday we hit up the James Brown Boulders which we had a little difficulty locating as we were one pull-off too soon. Once we found these great boulders in the shade it was a nice day of trying a number of problems and enjoying the crisp air.
Caitlin working one of the tricky easier problems near the James Brown Boulder (notice the grassy top-out):
Me on the James Brown Boulder (awesome block):
We headed-up to the pass for some sunset viewage. Here is Caitlin showing-off:
Beautiful last chunks of light:
Small pond right next to the road right as the sun disappeared:
The craziest thing happened when we were back at camp and done cooking dinner. We were just sitting there pondering the night sky when a huge tree came crashing down in the forest behind us…scared the living crap out of us and it was pitch black and impossible to investigate. No idea why or how it fell but it was a crazy event that was a little unnerving.
Sunday morning cooking some breakfast:
Playing in the Grottoes:
Cool waterfall formation:
It was 100 degrees when we rolled back in Denver…nice to enjoy some cool weather and experience an awesome place!
Link to blog posting: http://andylibrande.com/news/2011/09/independence-pass-bouldering-and-camping/