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

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