Friday, November 18, 2016

Quandry Peak

Atop Quandary Peak
After having Andrew around and taking him out on some walks, it really struck us that soon it will be very much winter and having the option to jump out for a nice walk and explore will not so much be an option. So a day after he left, we thought if we were going to go, we might as well go big and go high. Quandry Peak at 14,265ft or 4,347m was the target and our first "14er". So we trotted off with the dogs in tow and they were our guides as they are seasoned 14er climbers. Annoyingly, Keona decide to get lost early on in the climb through the forest, as were we puffing and panting and just staring at the ground in front of us with each step, so we didn't notice for a bit. So I then ran back down the trail 15 mins or so to locate the missing mutt.

Once back above the tree line, we were faced with the straight ridge line rising and rising above everything else around. At this point the wind was really starting to whip around, but it didn't seem to bother the dogs too much. Tinkerbell would walk right by my side and Keona would sprint up, turn around and run back down, only then to repeat it. Getting to the final steps ascent, the last few hundred meters to the top, it was slow going. The legs had begun to feel like lead and navigating the boulder field was tiresome. One last burst of energy was required once we peered over the summit to see a beautiful mountain goat, and then that mutt Keona took off after it, and I took off after them.

The highest place we've ever been on Earth
At this point we were alone on the summit, with panorama views in all directions getting battered with ice cold wind. With frozen fingers, we clumsily ate our sandwiches while crouched between rocks for shelter, encouraging the dogs to cuddle us for extra warmth. We had a quick appreciative scan of our surroundings and then pointed our noses downhill. With wobbly legs we descended, while along the ridge we spotted a pair of mountain goats coming across our course. We stopped, while I held the dogs back because I'm sure there was nothing more that they would love to do than chase the pair off into the distance, or a off a cliff. They walked right across the trail in front of us, completely in their element, they stood as tall as a bull, jacked shoulders with huge snow white coats flowing in the wind so majestically, not even bothered by our presence. From there it was just trudging on down and trying not to be blown away as the wind was only getting more ferocious. Our timing was right on for taking the opportunity to make the trip, as the following day winter truly arrived.

A Rocky Mountain Goat

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Andrew's Visit

Andrew atop Mt Elizabeth with Lake Dillon below.
Our good friend and old flatmate Andrew from New Zealand came out to visit us for a long weekend in early November. That weekend being the intended opening weekend for the mountain, but due to the unseasonably mild autumn we were having, the weather was fine and there was little snow, even on the high mountain tops. That worked out well for us, as Andrew wasn't here to ski and instead climbing on foot was what we wanted to do. We collected him from the shuttle right in town and headed to one of our favorite spots, Downstairs at Eric's for a pizza and a pitcher of fine IPA. Hanging out and catching up was mad, especially with all the stories to tell and hear. Andrew has been living in Sweden for the last year completing his masters in mathematics and currently is doing an internship in Silicon Valley in California.  

Looking South along the Ten Mile Range to Peak Two.

Not messing round, the next morning Andrew and I headed up to the summit of Mt Elizabeth, also known as Peak one because its the first peak of ten in the Ten Mile Range. Located further down the Ten Mile Range is Breckenridge Ski Resort spread over from Peak Six to Peak Ten. The walk starts just down the road in the town of Frisco, where you quickly take on an almost vertical path that just keeps going and going. We weren't sure if we would make it right to the top, but the snow was very thin up high and we traversed on the windward side of the ridge to avoid any wind drift. We went slow and steady over a small craggy section with some icy patches and consequences, but happily made it to the top for some egg sandwiches and fantastic views. We were joined by two of the house dogs, Keona and Tinkerbell, who just hustled up and down and all over the show like a bunch of spastics. The hike, climbing from just under 3,000m (9843ft) up to just under 4,000m (13123 ft) was a good first day test for Andrew coming straight from sea level. 

Not to slow down, the next day, with Amy in tow, three of us headed for the Mohawk Lakes Trail to the south of town. Having been given the advice that with our mad 4x4 we should continue past the main car park area and take the 4x4 track a few miles further avoiding the long walk in and getting right to the good stuff. Having never tackled any real off roading and being a tad nervous about the capabilities of our new/very old vehicle, we progressed cautiously. As the Bronco happily covered the terrain we happily mobbed up the track passing walkers and other parked vehicles that must have decided the rough trail was too much for their new and shiny trucks, which I imagine are most commonly used for running the kids to school. We made it over a few decent obstacles but came upon a large downward hill and decided to call it there, considering getting down would be no problem, but the uphill test was not something I was looking to experiment with just that day. That the final car parked was only a few hundred meters further, and being only one very equipped looking Jeep Wrangler, I'll take second place. Considering those Jeeps go for $45,000+, I felt like the winner.

Andrew climbing above Lower Mohawk Lake
The walk and the lakes themselves were absolutely stunning. Less of a vertical climb, it was pleasant walking over upward undulating terrain, coming over each hummock to a new lake that was just clinging to the mountain floor wedged between the very steep walls to the north and south climbing thousands of feet above us. At the second lake of the day, the first of the Mohawks Amy and I stopped for some scenic acroyoga, and tortured the dog by putting it in a old mining rail cart. Round that lake we sort of lost the trail and forged our own path up a cool slope in the sun, popping out high on a large open flat and eventually bumping back into the trail. We walked a bit further to what we though was the second of the lakes, now very much in an environment transitioning into winter, frozen lake water now, snow accumulation and bitterly cold wind. We hid for protection in some rocks and had lunch and headed back, when the trail dropped us down to another large lake, actually the second lake. Turns out, we had previously hit a third bonus lake. Here we sat down, and Keona terrified some other hikers by running right out to the middle of the lake to retrieve a rock we had thrown, testing Andrew's theory that a rock strike will produce a cool echo reverberation upon impact. It did, and Keona slid around like the clown she is and surprisingly her feather like frame didn't rupture the ice surface and the rock did make a cool sound. Descending down the trail now, a far more icy and dangerous route than our journey up, we slowly moved down taking much care as a slip would not have been funny.

Climbing to the third Mohawk Lake
Taking Andrew for a bit of a tour of the county, on our last day together, we headed over to Keystone. Walking through the village, it was barren and empty other than a few unfortunate people who had booked an early season ski trip to be unlucky now not being able to ski. No problems for us, the resort still had a large checkers and chess set in the plaza. Surprisingly, I conquered over the visiting mathematician in a well fought game of oversized checkers, claiming oxygen depravation for his lack of performance. 

Serious Checkers
Further on we headed up Loveland Pass, making it one switch back short of the pass, at which point the Bronco lost all its torque, seeming to have hit a vertical wall. Topping out at 3,655m (11992 ft) its not surprising the car would go no further, bit of a bummer though because it sort of means we are currently trapped in the county. We took in the view from the pull off and made our way back to the Dillon Disc Golf course. An uber scenic course, throwing across a scrubby landscape with the lake and mountains as the backdrop. We were only halted by a long search for a disc from a super elevated tee and called it a day at 9 holes once finding the missing disc. Back in town we stopped by the Distillery for a tour and a cocktail and then jumped over to Broken Compass Brewery just around the corner for a last pint and a round of Cards Against Humanity with some strangers. Early the next morning, borrowing Phil's car, we headed down to Denver Airport to send Andrew back of to California after a mad long weekend visit. We were so happy to have Andrew to visit, and will be happy to host and show you all the stops for anyone who makes the effort to make it out. 

Tinkerbell loving the company and the view

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Bronco

At her new home
I jumped on my phone for a moment while production stopped late in the evening one night at the distillery. I browsed on the local community Facebook page, 'One Man's Junk', always on the look out for a bargain of any kind. Then I stumbled upon, only posted minutes earlier, a 1989 Ford Bronco II. What followed was a quick message to pop over and take a look the following morning and once I got home, a quick mention of my intentions to a sleeping Amy. 

The key to scoring the bargains are get in quick. Thats it, and thats what I did. I was the first person to message and right there first thing in the morning. The deal was easy to make as the truck was a little old gem and the price was beyond right. There I was, the proud owner of a piece of 1980's American motoring. Beige-on-brown exterior, with only a touch of surface rust with an all over beige interior, in good condition, with that perfect old musty car smell, five speed manuel, with rear wheel drive/4x4 and 4x4 low modes and coming with a spare set of snow tires too! All of this coming for a very, very reasonable three digit price tag, supplemented with a bottle of bourbon. 

Learning the ins and outs of an older vehicle is critical to appreciating an old cheap car. So over the first few weeks, there were moments of frustration wondering what the hell was going on, but all these quirks now just add to the character. However, it was frustrating trying to work out why the heater and indicators would only sporadically work and driving down the highway while the car felt as though it was going to shake itself apart. No dramas, its all about how you turn the key and what mode the 4x4 is in. One day, while the weather was mild, I also did a bit of rust cutting on the rust on the passenger door. A wire wheel brush on the drill, a bit of bog filler and a sand back and now we have a nice grey primer patch rather than rust. Just need some more warm weather to do the color match paint and she'll be golden, well beige I guess.

Most of the way up Loveland Pass.