Friday, June 24, 2016

"And then I realized, adventures are the best way to learn." ~ Anonymous

Around this time a year ago, I was doing last minute plans for a road trip to Wyoming.  We hit the Tetons, Yellowstone, and Wild Iris in one week, with one last stop to try for Dallas Peak outside Telluride.  True to form, I am back at planning.

A team of four leaves Saturday for Pinedale, WY.  We'll make a few last minutes stops to places like the Great Outdoor Gear Shop, and then we'll begin a summit attempt of Gannett Peak.  Gannett is considered the 4th hardest peak in the lower 48.  Our trip will entail 42+ miles, 9,000 feet of elevation gain, glacier travel, and what is rumored to be the worst mosquitos in North America.

Gannett Peak
We'll be in the Wind River for 5-6 days depending on weather (Our route description), without contact with the real world.  We will be carrying a delorme inReach, and my Spot device for tracking and emergency signals.  Regular updates from my spot can be seen on my shared page: Link

Our current summit days are either Tuesday (6/28) or Wednesday (6/29).  This will depend on weather.  We are using mountain forecast to see what it's looking like at 13,000 feet. Link  We'll take two days to hike out, but the fun doesn't stop there.  Erin and I will be hopping into Jinxy Jeep, and forging through the wild west for the following week.

Summit of Humboldt after a CMC overnight at South Colony Upper Lakes (Courtesy of Erin)

Our itinerary includes: Salt Lake City (optional), Boundary Peak, Mt. Thompson (optional), Keough Hot Springs, Mt. Whitney, Mojave or Joshua Tree, the San Francisco Ridge/Mt. Humphrey, Wheeler Peak, and Taos (optional).

You can follow along with us on this adventure from my public SPOT page: Schaetzie's SPOT

Now, I just have to figure out how to keep shedding weight from all my gear.  Packing 3.0 starts tonight. Departure tomorrow morning.

Marty is less than excited about my departure. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity” - John Muir, Our National Parks

When hiking 10 more miles seems better than driving 2 more hours...

It was the evening in Bailey, Colorado on June 3rd when Erin and Greg met up with me at the Rustic Station for dinner.  In the days leading up to this moment, the three of us planned to spend a weekend in the Lost Creek Wilderness (LCW) weight training for Gannett.  The plan started with a 20+ mile loop option in the LCW.  Erin brought maps in to the Rustic, and we started route planning.

It was Greg that discovered with his handy gadget, commonly known as a smart phone with google maps, that our planned trail head would take two hours to get to from the Rustic Station. Did I mention the LCW is a big place?  It was already well after 7pm, and the idea of driving two hours then packing down trail at all seemed exhausting.  After checking other trail heads, we picked the Rolling Creek TH only 20-30 minutes down the dirt road.  It also changed our route in the LCW to approximately 30 miles.

We still only packed in four tenths of a mile Friday night.  Before bed, we sat out and watched the open skies - fairly certain we spotted Mars.  It was off to bed with fluffikins, Jessie, watching over the camp.  She only alerted us to potential interlopers once or twice in the night.  Could have been a squirrel for all we know.  We had an idea the morning would bring a great view of the wilderness, and we were right.

My mobile home

Views from Camp 1

It was a leisurely morning for a back country breakfast. The plan was 14-15 miles to the far side of East Lost Park for our Saturday night camp.  After a morning off trail, navigating snow bands, we spent our lunch resting on the pass before heading down.  Grateful to be at the later end of the afternoon heat as we ventured across the open basin along the creek, we eventually made it to our second campsite.  We spent time getting settled in, and headed for the creek to resupply water and ice our swollen feet in the chill of the creek.

Jessie asleep at the later half of day 1 (Courtesy of Erin)

Up and Over and Across to this view from Camp 2

Erin and Greg sheltered their camp under the tree.
Sunset dining, alfresca (Courtesy of Erin)

It's not often that you get dinner by sunset without the sounds of a city - cars honking, alarms sounding, people talking, laughing, etc.  The boggy basin made for humid air that added a little extra chill than the night before.  As exhausted as we all were, somehow bedtime held off until after sunset. We tucked into or tents happy for rest, but also curious about our physical state in the morning.

Our bodies truly are resilient.  Sleeping in 'till sunrise, we rose surprisingly less worse for wear than expected, including the pup, Jessie, who pretty much fell asleep while standing the day before.  Well, here goes.  Somewhere around another 15 miles.  With minimal elevation gain we moved faster than the day before.  We also passed more people than the day before - telling us this area of the LCW was particularly popular.  We took our first break at the Lost Park campgrounds - recommended as a great car camping location with access to trails, fishing, etc.  It was off to another 8 miles on the Colorado Trail before we would meet back up with the Rolling Creek trail.

Looking back across Lost Park

Spirits managed to stay high until the last 2-3 miles.  The monotony of the task began to take it's toll, and we pleaded with the greater powers that be to put the cars just around the corner.  One foot in front of the other, in front of the other, in front of the other, in front of the other, and finally...the cars.  Too exhausted to even be excited, all we wanted was a good meal and brew to wash it down.

This is pretty much how we felt.

One last creek crossing

We hopped in our vehicles and reconvened at "The Tap Room," Riverbend Market and Eatery next to the river.  There is an idea about food in mountain towns.  It's always good enough to eat with you get out of the mountains or the back country, but what isn't, right?  The Tap Room far exceeded our expectation of both quality service and food.  It will be on the "must stop" places for future adventures.

Travel companions, pun intended (Courtesy of Erin)

We said goodbye to Greg, and Erin jumped in Jinxy Jeep with me for one more day of adventure.  We drove up to Guanella Pass with a plan to summit Squaretop the next morning, but not putting to much into our expectations.  The second day of mileage had been equally exhausting, and again we weren't sure how we'd feel in the morning.

Sunset views from the Guanella Pass upper parking lot.

Pano of Erin and Squaretop from the second alpine lake.

Again, our bodies are truly resilient.  We breakfasted in the parking lot, and made decisions about gear - no snowshoes, no gaiters, etc.  Off we went, up, up, and up.  Eventually, we reached the summit of Squaretop Mountain with beautiful views of the Front Range.  Clouds were already building as we ascended, so our time on summit was brief, but ever so rewarded.  It was good to be on top of a mountain again - to see the world from the views of the sky.

Most of this crap was in pack for the LCW loop - Weight Training
(Courtesy of Erin)

Up, up, and more up.

Views from the summit - Evans and Beirstadt
Summit shot - Views of Grays, Torreys, Edwards, more (Courtesy of Erin)

We descended, making stops to have a discussion with a friendly couple from Conifer, and then to watch a group of reckless misfits in a precarious situation.  Luckily, they managed to descend their questionable route unscathed.  So, back to the car for us, and on to more food and beer.  We made a quick stop in Georgetown for coffee, the headed to Westbound and Down in Idaho Springs.

We had a conversation about rarely seeing bighorns - After this I started a
conversation about how rare it is to win the lottery.

W&D matched suit with The Tap Room.  Great service from Johan - ask for him if you ever stop by.  Erin went with the beet hummus dip, and I went with the fatty rewarding green chili cheese fries.  So good, that I want another serving right now, and I'm not even hungry.  All in all, the three day training trip was a success.

What are we training for?  I did mention it, right?  On June 25th, a group of us are leaving for Pinedale, Wy.  We will hit the trails for a 42+ mile round trip adventure in the Wind River Range, hopefully, including a summit of Gannett Peak.  From Wyoming, Erin and I will be heading across the West to California, hitting up national parks, forest, peaks and more along the way and back.  It's sure to be an adventure for us all.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Kilimanjaro: Preparing for a Trek to the Heavens and Back

Wow! Looking at a calendar makes me a little nervous right now. In two weeks, I'll be at Zara Properties in Tanzania preparing for my first day on the Machame Route up Mt. Kilimanjaro. Did I say, "Wow" already? Oh I did. I guess all that's left is the nitty gritty details to reassure the family that I have not in fact gone to the heavens and back...just to 19,400 feet and back.

First things first, get a travel journal. Check. The wonderful and thoughtful Marianne Marco sent me this beautiful, customized writing journal to document my journey. It's pretty big, so it will likely document several journeys.

So, the journal wasn't actually first, it was just something fun to lead with. First things first, find a trek company, get flights, buy insurance, get a visa, update vaccinations, gather gear, buy gear, test gear, test gear some more, and somewhere along the way try to do some training. Check.

To be honest, I'm feeling a bit of anxiety for having spent a majority of weekends from the past two months out of the mountains - most at sea level. This fall has been filled with a lot of family events, and I was happy to sacrifice those weekends in the mountains to make memories with my family. Hopefully, all of my family time this fall will hold everyone over for the rest of the holidays. No worry, loves, I'll see you again in April.

My nephew, Noah.

My cousin's little boy, Branson.

My nephews, Noah and Levi, with my grandparents: Grandpa 91,
Aunt Nina 90, and Grandaddy 90

My family has beautiful children. My niece Hannah (middle)
with Sophia and Angelina.

My cousin's little girl, Harper.

International travel isn't a strong suit for many of my family members, so it raises the level of anxiety about a loved one leaving the country to climb a mountain in a third world country. As promised, I am posting my flight itinerary and emergency contact details on my blog for immediate reference if needed. (Links provided)


Dec 20 - Depart Denver (DEN-IAD-ADD-JRO)
Dec 22 - Arrive at JRO and transfer to Zara Properties in Moshi
Dec 23 - Rest Day

Dec 24 - Day 1 (6 miles)
Dec 25 - Day 2 to Shira Camp (4.4 miles)
Dec 26 - Day 3 to Barranco Camp (5.6 miles)
Dec 27 - Day 4 to Karanga Camp (2.5 miles)
Dec 28 - Day 5 to Barafu Camp (2.5 miles)
Dec 29 - Day 6 to SUMMIT to Mweka Camp (5 miles)
Dec 30 - Day 7 to Mweka Gate (6.8 miles)


Dec 31 - Drive to Lake Manyara Natl Park


Jan 4 - Safari Blue
Jan 6 - Stone Town


Jan 6 - Last night in Tanzania
Jan 7 - Depart Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO-DOH-MIA-DEN)
Jan 8 - Arrive in Denver


Jan 10 - Ice climbing (Why not? It sounds like fun. Now I just have to find someone to take me)

Emergency Contact Information: Zara Properties 866-550-4447
Mr. Yosia

US Embassy in Tanzania: Link to Page

I bet you're wondering how I can be gone for so long when I have a pet at home. No worries, Marty McFly won't go hungry, or lonely. I'm hiring a pet sitter. Plus, my landlord loves Marty, and will probably check on him randomly while I'm away to make sure the pet sitter is taking good care of him. 

Craphead will probably just sleep most of the time anyways.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." ~MLK

It is not my intention to undermine the greater meaning of MLK's quote, but the irony of his metaphor to this literal blog subject was too good not to pass. It all started on the bouldering mats Halloween week. My friend Laura and I were working on a few projects. After a few hours of success and failure tallies adding up, our energy levels subsided. Our boulder session turned more into a chat/watch session. (Sidenote: my child nemisis, Anika, is bouldering at a V5 level, while I'm still at a V3)

At some point, Chris sat down, and joined us. We thought he was in the gym for climbing, but turns out he was there to use up time before yoga, a newer addition to his training - it's good for the shoulders, especially in mixed climbing. What's mixed climbing, you ask? Oh, it's a very interesting version of ice climbing that incorporates dry rock. Chris happens to be pretty good at it - pretty good being an understatement.

Here's where it gets interesting, if you're mixed climbing on ice and get to rock, you don't put away your tools and crampons, you keep using them.

Still trying to understand what I mean? See below: Crampons, Ice Axes, Rock

If only the still-shots above captured the difficulty of the day. It's an easy concept, like ice climbing: feet up, stand up, place the ax, repeat. If only the execution were just as simple.

Even the pictures make the concept look easy.

I remember getting into rock climbing last year, and feeling the frustration as my muscles, brain, hands, and feet struggled to work together in one coordinated, successful move. Adding the crampons and ice axes took me right back to square one. The challenge was real, folks.

Yes, even for a tall person like me.

So, how did I get in myself into this position? Well, Chris invited Laura and I along to join our climbing partner Nicole, and some more of his friends in Vail to practice dry tooling. Dry tooling is the rock only version of mixed climbing. By the end of the day I managed to top rope two routes, and let me tell you that route named "Cupcake" was no piece of cake.

Both Nicole and I have been ice climbing before, but this was our first introduction to dry-tooling. Lucky, so very lucky, for us, the Halloween Vail Team had some very positive attitudes. Experienced climbers at different levels gave us pointers and beta while on the routes. Sometimes I understood exactly what they were saying, and other times I did not. For instance, Chris said "Engage the core," and Sam responded with, "Use that six pack."

What six pack? I'm not even sure I have a two pack.
Sure enough, there was always a hold where they told us one would be - getting to that hold though, not always easy. I definitely spent most of the day on the struggle bus, and a lot of time suspended in air from my axes fumbling around for footholds. I was taking a particularly long break, when my belayer, Greg, asked, "Are you ok?" My response was, "Yes. I'm very frustrated right now, but I'm ok...I'm not stopping." Hearing others from the ground calling up with reassurance definitely added to the motivation.

Watching others climb was also pretty inspiring. Moving in and out of figure 4s and 9s. Hanging upside down for extended periods of time. Clearing overhangs. Engaging the core - which must have been at least a 12 pack for some of those moves. All of it was very impressive. I reminded myself that project levels are relative, and it's important to understand that one's level of success is measured on their own experience, not necessarily the experience of the climber next them. (This concept obviously does not apply in a competition setting. In that case, you want to be the best)

Everyone was challenged that day, even the best of climbers. That's what made each of us better between the time we left our cars, and when we returned.

Nicole looking all Lisa Franky...Sam is wearing her wings.
Sam looking all Creepy Lisa Franky in his crash test dummy spandex with wings.

Climb on...Winter's Coming!
Special thanks Chris for inviting us along, and to Sam and Greg for providing loaner axes, mono points, and more importantly a significant amount of your own time on Saturday.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

"A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference." ~ Eeyore

Ten years ago, a hurricane ravaged the gulf coast during high tides. Towns were submerged from bay to beach. Homes were swept from foundations and torn apart in storm swells. Communities were destroyed in a matter of hours. 8 days later over 300 18-24 year olds reported to Charleston, SC for a year of service with Americorps National Civilian Community Corps. I was a member of Charleston NCCC Class XII Gold 6. We called ourselves the Booty Pirates. 

Back: Elaine, Holly, Kyla, Fancy, Cory, Michelle. Front: Kris, Angie, Me

The next 10 months of our lives were filled with adventure, heartache, distress, anger, love, more adventure, and more love. We bounced around in our 12 passenger van from Louisville, to Biloxi, to Atlanta, and New Orleans - driving forklifts, sorting donations, building homes, fighting over road trip music, challenging each other to eating contests, and sleeping just about anywhere a sponsor would put us. That's the life of an Americorps member.

The destruction: Strangi Street - Biloxi, MS

The Sorting: The Salvation Army Warehouse - Lourisville, KY
The Adventure: Shady's Bar/Grill and Thai Food - Biloxi, MS
I wouldn't trade a minute of it, not even a second. Nor would I trade a minute of my last adventure in the mountains. Months ago, Nicole and I signed up to volunteer with the Colorado 14ers Initiative on the North Maroon Peak trail. We met at the Woolly Mammoth lots around 7:30, and headed for Aspen on Thursday. After a short discussion with the Park Rangers in the overnight lot, we finally found the Boneyard parking.

16 of us rounded up supplies and gear, and set up the Maroon Bells Wilderness - North Maroon trail around 1pm. It was hot, and our packs were loaded down with more food than we could consume over the next couple of days...not to mention tents, bags, clothes, water, helmets, etc. By the time we reach camped, I took the first tent site I saw - no way was I walking any further with the pack.

CFI Round-up at the Boneyard Parking lot
The first night was rough, but mostly due to the porcupine family hanging out in the area. I had to shake my tent while two of them fought about leaves or god knows what right next to my head. One sat on a tree crying for about 15 minutes, while another one hummed. One volunteer,Tom, swears one of them of singing. Who knows, but at some point it all became white noise, and I was lulled off to sleep.

Two full days of trail work, well really maybe 1.5 days. Day one was restoration, but our team of 16 moved along faster than expected. The next day our crew came up with a number of projects for us to armor rock trails, rebuild walls, and close off corners. A full day of moving, throwing, tossing, and rolling rocks. By the end of that day, I was layed out on a rock, sun bathing like a marmot. All in all, the 16 of us managed to get a good amount of work done that will hopefully hold up through the seasons.

Then came day 4 off-grid. By this time, my skin had a solid layer of sunscreen, bug spray, dirt, and many other particles of the wild. CFI does not allow for summit attempts during work projects, so we waited for day 4. The alarm went off at 4:40am. Six us from our CFI project hit the trail at 5:30am with only the views of our headlamps in site.

When I told my Mom I was making an attempt on North Maroon,
I also told her not to google it. This is why.
Campsite at 10,800 (Last Creek Crossing)
3.5 Hours Up
2.5 Hours Down
Climbers: Myself, Nicole, Laura, Henry, Steve, and Dave
Sunrise coming over the Maroon Bells Wilderness.
The trail is well defined up the rock glacier. CFI put in a lot of hard work in previous years to make this great trail. The rock glacier is big, and it does move like a glacier, but I felt it was not as scary as everyone made it out to be. Yes, check your steps and watch for loaded rocks, but all in all it was more solid than expected. As for the trail, there really isn't one, but there are a number of cairns that are pretty accurate to the actual trail on the opposite side of the glacier. We picked a line of cairns that wound up bringing us maybe 10 feet above the actual trail. It's a very clear trail on both sides, so you can aim for it w/o cairns - it's up to you.
Heading for the gullies. (Photo by Dave Wruck)
The gullies are filled with thistles, lots and lots of thistles. Watch where you put your hands as much as where you put your feet. Both gullies have braided trails going through them. Practice mental mapping - take note of specific features, and this will help on the descent.
The first gully is the easier of the two. Not sure about you're preferred route. If you are following Bill's .com standard then be sure to stick with the first gully trails that continue left. The other's will take you all the way up the first gully for the alternative route (marked by a cairn at the top). On the standard, you'll eventually, traverse around the corner where the second gully comes into view. It's a rather impressive view.

The second gully has a lot of loaded rocks in it, but there is a lot of solid rock to work with too. You'll be traversing mostly over to the left of this gully, and you'll stay mostly left all the way to the ridge/notch - the right looks to get a bit sketchy. If you get to the 2nd gully, and some one else is already in it, I recommend watching them climb for awhile. The break will be completely worth it, especially if that person turns out to be oblivious to lose rock and/or other climbers. Take your time, watch your hands/feet.
Find the notch on the ridge line above the 2nd gully, and head left. The rock is more solid, but you'll see that there is still a good amount of loaded rocks. The loaded rocks on the trail are mostly avoidable. If you've looked at the photos in the route description there is pretty much no way to miss the chimney when you get to it (color photos are the best). We did almost pass it thinking it was too early to reach the chimney, but there is no denying the chimney when you see it. This is when we realized we had been climbing for three hours already.
Top of the Second Gully just under the notch - Head left.
A look back.
Nicole and I waiting for to enter the chimney. 

Before going up the Chimney, memorize the holds at the bottom. It will help when you go back down, and you're trying to find footholds. If you get to the top, and you're feeling a little uncomfortable with the last move up start feeling around on the flat service. At the very top there is a great handhold, but you wouldn't see it unless you were above it. Just feel around for it on the service - it's a crack on top of the ledge about 8-9 inches long.

Steve in the chimney. The handhold is circled in green - great hold for
the last move out of the chimney if you need, and back down. That said
always test a hold before putting your full weight on it.
In our opinion the chimney seemed further from the summit than the route description made it out to be - you have about another 20-30 minutes at an average pace. Spend some time mental mapping right out of the chimney. On the way back down there are some cairns that will take you too far over to the right on the ridge, when you really want to be just below and left of the ridge on the way back to the chimney. The story from the Chimney to the summit is the same as the gullies, both lose and solid rock only no thistles.

One more break before the summit. Steve, Nicole, and Dave.

Summit #21 with the next week's objective in the background - Capitol for #22.

Climbing Partner Shot with Nicole. Sometimes we accidentally color coordinate.
Same rule applies for the descent of the 2nd gully - be observant of other climbers. If you meet a climber on the ridge above the gully that you don't feel comfortable with their experience/respect level, wait it out for awhile until they are well passed sending any rocks into the gully. When you are descending the second gully, stay to the right as long as you can until the traverse over to the trees (remember the first cairn/ridge goes into the 1st gully high - Bill's standard route takes you lower). In the event of rockfall, there is more protection on the right side during the descent.

Fields of wildflowers after the descent on the rock glacier. We came through
before sunrise, so this was our first time to see them for the day.

Ah, this dirt trail is so nice under our feet. 
The descent is a lot better than South Maroon, but you know the drill. Don't rush it - Be safe - Have fun! Honestly, I would do this mountain again tomorrow I enjoyed it that much.
"When it comes to idiots, America's got more than its fair share. If idiots were energy, it would be a source that would never run out." ~Lewis Black
Back to my comments about waiting it out if you see other climbers in the 2nd gully. We passed a group of young guys at the ridge line by the notch on our descent. They seemed "ill-prepared" to say the least. We were hesitant to go into the gully with them above us at all, but decided to proceed. We asked them to be sure and call out "ROCK" if anything let loose under them.
We were about 500-600 feet down the gully when we heard a boulder, when a group of people started yelling rock. Large boulders came rushing down the gully opposite us slowly making their way more towards the middle. After what seemed an eternity the rock fall stopped short of us, and then entirely, and the skies were quiet. A bit shaken, we took a breather to pull it back together.
We were told it was in fact the group of young, ill-prepared, idiots that dropped the rocks on us. Their response was to look at each other and say things like, "Dude, that was awesome." and "Cool!" If it had not been for the group of 3 other climbers immediately below them yelling "Rock", we would have had no warning or place to shelter from the storm.
If you cannot respect the mountains AND other climbers, DO NOT, and I repeat, DO NOT go onto technical routes.