Winter Camping

Being a member of the Colorado Mountain Club, I had heard about the Winter Camping School that was offered and thought, why not test my camping and backcountry skills on the snow?  The class lasted about a month with three evening lectures at the American Alpine Center and then three weekend overnight trips.  Our instructors had some pretty impressive resumes with some having climbs of Aconcagua, Denali and Mt Rainier.  Knowledge and experience was not an issue.

During the lectures we covered topics such as: planning (goals, weather), equipment (boots, shovels), cold weather ailments (frostbite, hypothermia) and site selection (avalanche risk, snow conditions).  We had two training days in the field before our overnight trips which is where we applied what we had learned and of course the obligatory stop at Tommyknockers Brewery in Idaho Springs after every session.

We went to St Mary’s Glacier and camped below tree line for our first over night trip.  When we arrived, we began digging out areas for our tents.  The St Mary’s Glacier weather is notorious for wind and blowing snow and this weekend was no exception.  It is important to create some type of barrier from the wind, so we stacked snow blocks that we cut and built walls.  After our tent compound was complete, we began carving blocks to build our kitchen area.  This is where we all cooked and melted snow for drinking water and where we all froze together before we crawled into our sleeping bags.  One member of our team learned an invaluable lesson – always keep the sheath on your snow saw when not in use.  It was a freak accident, but a gust of wind blew something out of their pack and when they went to grab it, they hit the saw that was stuck in the snow with their hand.  It left a pretty nice gash that required stitches.  Needless to say, the instructors worked quickly to get him off the mountain and to an emergency room.  Unfortunately, this cut their trip short, but they rejoined us on the last outing.

This weekend was our last trip as a class.  Winter storm “Triton” was bearing down on the Front Range, but we still headed to the high country.  With snow-packed roads and lots of accidents, we slowly made our way west.  Finally we arrived at the Second Creek trailhead between Berthoud Pass and Winter Park with a fresh layer of powder to greet us.  We all grabbed our gear and headed up the trail to about 11,000 feet, where we set up camp.  One of the instructors and I attempted to build a snow cave.  After 2 hours of work, we found a crack in our ceiling that made it unfit to stay in.  He used his back-up tent and I attempted another, much smaller snow cave.  Temperatures were supposed to dip to -8 F and a snow shelter is warmer than a tent, as the ambient air is a constant 32 F inside.  Snow is an excellent insulator and sound barrier.  After setting up camp, we went snowshoeing, ate some dinner, hung around and again, froze together before going to sleep.  I woke up around 6am and fired up the stove for some scrambled eggs, potatoes and bacon and some hot coffee.  Everyone else started slowly crawling out of their tents and we all hung around in the kitchen until we were thawed out enough to start packing.  It snowed almost the entire time, until just before we broke camp.  With blue skies trying to pierce the clouds, we finally saw the beautiful landscape that had surrounded us all night.  Denver only saw half of the snow that was predicted, but we had a fun hike down in about 12 inches of fresh powder.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Snack Responsibly with Rocky Mountain Popcorn

Rocky Mountain Popcorn

Denver, CO

            Some Like it Spicy,

                                           Some Like It Salty,

                                                                          Some Like it Sweet,

                                                                                                           And Some Can’t Decide.

That’s why Rocky Mountain Popcorn has a variety of flavors to satisfy everyone’s snack craving.

Just say NO to movie theatre butter popcorn – which could have over 1,000 calories. Say YES to Rocky Mountain Popcorn Butter.

The Jalapeno and Southwest Cheddar are delightfully spicy….a little cheese with a little kick.  For the traditional popcorn lovers, Naked has just the right amount of salt and flavor.  The time-tested flavors of Butter and White Cheddar are two of our favorites. For our readers with a sweet tooth, you must try Caramel and Cinnamon Sugar…just call them dessert.  And Kettle is the perfect combination of salty and sweet.

If deliciousness isn’t enough to convince you, then how about All Natural and Gluten Free?!  Skip the chips, crackers and processed snacks.  We love being outdoors and taking along healthy snacks. When hiking, popcorn is a great option for on the go and the Grip ‘n Pour size fits nicely in a backpack. So, take a hike and take some Popcorn!


Who loves Rocky Mountain Popcorn?

Furry B does…And You Will Too!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Check out Rocky Mountain Popcorn on Facebook and Twitter.  They keep the conversation going with fun, games, discounts and giveaways.

Even if you don’t live in the great state of Colorado, you can still enjoy the flavors of Rocky Mountain Popcorn.  This delicious snack is sold nationwide; or check out their website and shop from home — Order your Christmas gifts and a little something for yourself. 😉

**Calling all Colorado Mountain Club members**

**25% discount at Rocky Mountain Popcorn.**

Popcorn Break

Naked @ 14,000 ft

Colorado Mountain Club 14er Challenge

The Colorado Mountain Club is celebrating it’s centennial anniversary this year (1912-2012) and Kristy and I took part in it by joining the 14er Challenge.  Climbing teams were attempting to ascend all fifty-four 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado on the same day.  Team ascent, descent times and progress on the mountains were monitored back at a makeshift climbing headquarters and the teams brought CMC signs and flags for the summit celebrations.  Kristy and I signed up to climb a moderately rated Grays Peak at 14,270 feet to join in the fun and be a part of CMC history.

Our group started at the Grays Peak trailhead around 8am with temps around 32 degrees.  With the help of the outstanding weather, we made pretty good time and a small ambitious team of 4 of us were able to peel off and tackle nearby Torreys Peak at 14,267 feet.  We were still able to meet the rest of the group, who stuck to the original route, up on Grays for lunch.  This made two 14’er summits in one day completing the Grays-Torreys combo!!

Generalized view of the route for the day. Where the arrow cuts right towards the saddle is where the 4 of us split off to summit Torreys. The other group continued up Grays at this same spot and then we met them for lunch on the Grays summit.

We had perfect temperatures, crystal clear skies and saw some of the best views of the front range all summer.  After pictures at the top were taken with the CMC sign, everyone finished up lunch and started the descent.  Big thanks to our trip leader, Lorna and the Colorado Mountain Club!!

Summit of Grays Peak with the CMC. A great day, with friendly people and amazing views.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Backpacking Rocky Mountain National Park

A friend from the Colorado Mountain Club and I planned a backpacking trip in Rocky Mountain National Park last weekend.  We took Friday off and stopped by the backcountry permit office inside the park and picked up our permit.  Permits are required for camping at backcountry sites, which are campsites with no facilities where you pack everything in and pack everything out.  We headed down to the Glacier Gorge area and headed up the trail.  My GPS didn’t want to cooperate, but we estimated that we covered about 14 miles over the weekend.  Not a marathon backpacking trip, but we saw some great scenery and it was good practice carrying our 60 pound packs to gear up for an even further trip next time.  The first night we camped under Longs Peak at the Boulder Brook site around 10,500 ft.  We could not have asked for better weather the entire weekend.  Temperatures were in the upper 30’s-40’s at night and 80’s during the day with crystal clear blue skies.  We did have a little wind in the evenings (ha, about 40 mph).  The second night we camped at the Old Forest Inn site near the Big Thompson River.  Here is some eye candy for you to enjoy:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The 7 P’s

Wilderness Trekking School has come to an end with the completion of Survival Field Day.  Survival Day was an opportunity to learn and practice basic survival skills.  During the entire course, we have learned that day hikes usually go as planned, however, stressful situations can happen when we least expect it and one should always be prepared for the unexpected.

When hiking for more than a couple of miles, you should always pack the 10 essentials to be prepared for any emergency situation.  These items will be invaluable if someone becomes injured, you become lost, or you have to spend the night in the wilderness.

  1. Navigation (map and compass). FYI – The alcohol in the compass can also be used as a fire accelerant.
  2. Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  3. Insulation (extra clothing)
  4. Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
  5. First-aid supplies.  You need more than just a couple of band-aids.
  6. Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles).  Vaseline saturated cotton balls and greasy potato chips can also be used as fire starters.
  7. Repair kit and tools
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
  9. Hydration (extra water)
  10. Emergency shelter.  Many lightweight tents only weigh between 1-2 pounds. 

Remember the 7 P’s:  Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance

If interested in learning more, click here for the WTS Survival Guide by Nick Weighton.  

Ready to hike?  Then read Mountaineering: Freedom Of Hills – Considered THE GUIDE for outdoor/mountaineering enthusiasts.

Mountaineering: Freedom Of Hills - 8th Edition by The Mountaineers Books

Colorado Mountain Club: Snow Day

On Saturday, we had our dreaded “Snow Day” with our CMC, Wilderness Trekking School class.  It is the class that the instructors had been warning us about since we started because the weather is so strange in April.  It could be 50 degrees with snow, or -20 with snow because we would be at over 10,000 feet.  One instructor even e-mailed us a video from his Snow Day in 2009, which looked brutal:

We arrived at St Mary’s Glacier trailhead early and geared up.  The school provided everyone with helmets and ice axes, as these were required for the days’ exercises and to traverse the glacier.  We checked the temperature when we arrived and it was a chilly 23 degrees and windy.  There was a fresh dusting of snow on the road and the trail.  As we neared tree line, we could see the wind blowing snow off the glacier and the adjacent peaks.  We estimated 30-40 mph winds.  Our instructors made the call to stop in the trees and conduct a few classes before heading up to the glacier, as we wouldn’t be able to hear them (they were right).  These lectures echoed our homework and the previous class we had on avalanche awareness and snow travel.  We learned to read slope angles to predict avalanche prone areas and learned about snow shelters.  We also tested the snow by cutting about 3-4 feet down with a snow saw and dissecting the different layers to determine how stable the snow layers were.  After the lectures, we geared back up and headed towards the glacier.  The wind was furious and we couldn’t tell if it was actually snowing, or just blowing snow.  The glacier is located between two peaks, which created a wind tunnel at over 11,000 feet.  We zig zagged up the glacier, using the different travel methods we had learned with the ice ax.  The instructors guided us over to the side, where we had lunch.  Thankfully, the winds started to subside.  After a brief lunch, we moved up one of the slopes and dug out a few snow benches, so we could learn the last portion of our class: ice ax self-arrest.  We were instructed on how to stop yourself from sliding if you fell on a steep slope.  The ice ax is your lifeline!!  The weather after lunch couldn’t have been better.  The winds slowed, the sun came out and we had temperatures in the 40’s.  It was a great day, aside from a little wind burn.  We headed to Tommy Knocker Brewery in Idaho Springs after we packed up.  What better way to thaw out than with some great brew and food???

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Colorado Mountain Club

K and I joined the Colorado Mountain Club a few months ago and quickly signed up for our first school – Wilderness Trekking School.  WTS is designed to teach the student the basics of navigating the backcountry off marked trails.  The CMC is:  “An organization devoted to connecting those who love the Colorado Rockies or who study or seek recreation in them.”

“The primary purposes of the club are to gather and disseminate information regarding the Colorado mountains in the areas of art, science, literature and recreation; to furnish facilities for the enjoyment and study of the mountains by the Club members and the public; and to advocate for the preservation of the alpine regions.”

We meet at the American Mountaineering Center which is the old Golden High School.  They have converted it into the rich mountain learning center that it is today.  We have been nothing but impressed with the facility and the professionalism of the instructors.  There are about 80 students in our class, which we meet for a lecture once a week for 2.5 hours.  We then have a “field day” where we apply the principles discussed in class on the trail.  This course is about a month and a half, so we decided to post our first two hiking trips and then we will do our last 2-3 in another post.  We went to Eldorado Canyon State Park, outside of Boulder, for our first trip and then we went to the Beaver Brook Trail near Evergreen for our second trip.  The hikes are gradually getting longer and more difficult.  Next trip is snow travel, shelter building and avalanche awareness.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.