Friday, September 28, 2007

REI opens new green store in Boulder

REI’s new Boulder store is the first retail location that is part of the co-op’s prototype initiative to use recycled "green" materials and energy efficient lighting .It's also twice as big, which pretty much cancels out any savings there might have been.

Incline seems safe

Live web cam gives look at area burning.
Cog railway cam seems calm:

Google moon

A new Website, Google Moon, at, gives you the chance to explore significant sections of the lunar surface through your Web browser.The landing zones for the Apollo missions are highlighted on the photographic images, which suggests you’re in near-lunar orbit above the moon.Each of the six successful Apollo missions has its own section on the lunar site, where you can view the area where the modules landed. The areas around the Apollo landing sites are among the highest resolution images on the Google site.

Fire next to the incline

A fire is burning in the shrubby, dry hills just north of the Manitou Incline.
Here's the latest from

MANITOU SPRINGS — Wildfire crews are battling a growing blaze along the old Incline Railway scar on the mountainside near the Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway. A column of smoke was visible above Manitou Springs at midday, and firefighters reported “isolated torching” as the blaze burned at midslope above the railway station on Ruxton Avenue at the west end of the tourist town. A command post was set up in the upper parking lot above the tourist train station, near the base of Barr Trail. Firefighters said the fire was gaining height as it burned through scrub oak along the incline — a popular running path up the steep mountainside. The fire was reported to Manitou Springs Police by a hiker.

The snow race

Both A. Basin and Loveland are blowing snow in a race to be the first ski area in the country to open. Above is a picture from this morning of Loveland. Apparently the last few days have been a bit too warm to really get things cranking. But the weather report is calling for chances of rain and snow this weekend on the Divide, so maybe Mother Nature will lend a hand.

The middle of nowhere

Today the Out There section has a story about the most remote spots in the county and the state. The one in the state is pretty much exactly where I would have thought: smack dab in the middle of the largerst wilderness area. The one in the county, though, is a bit of a surprise. It's in the sandy, rolling sage prairie of Chico Basin Ranch down in the southeast corner of the county. I don't feel like that's the most remote point, especially since while there are no roads, you can pretty much drive everywhere. But every other place I think of, even up in the mountains, is criss-crossed by roads, so maybe it does make sense.
I'll take votes on the most "remote feeling" place in the county below.

Camping in Wet Mountain Valley

Hey, all.
I'm in Savannah at a conference, but got this note from biz editor Joanna Bean who took her girls on a weekend trip. Here's the scoop on Wet Mountain Valley:

We headed to the Wet Mountain Valley this past weekend to bid farewell to summer. Stands of green aspen still outnumber gold, so the fall colors look like they'll hold for a few weeks at least. As expected, the warm day gave way to a chilly night - great for s'mores and Uno card games by firelight!

One of our favorite National Forest Service campgrounds, Alvarado, remains open until Oct. 9 (the water is turned off, and there's no campground host). Alvarado reopened this year after renovations - though we were delighted to see that about half of the campground still has old-school sites with well-worn wood tables and lower-profile fire pits. The renovated sites have tent sites, new fire pits and some new-fangled camp poles, which my kids promptly used to hang their books bags from.

Alvarado campground serves as a trailhead for the Rainbow Trail, which traverses the valley (and heads north and south from there). To get to Alvarado, head south from Westcliffe on state highway 69 for about 3 miles, where there's a sign for the campground, which is about 7 miles west on county road 140.

Dena again - will try to post a photo or two between workshops. No gators - yet.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Where is Cheyenne Mountain's Summit?

I got this comment from a reader today: We tried to hike to the Cheyenne Mountain Summit on Sunday and it just seemed to be going downhill forever. Did we miss a turn? We had the Pikes Peak Atlas with us and still felt like we were never climbing "up" to the summit.After an hour, we turned back and climbed up and out. It was a beautiful trail even tho we weren't sure if we missed a turn.
Not sure if you missed a turn or not, but Cheyenne Mountain doesn't have a very clear summit. There is, of course, a highpoint toward the southwestern end of the rolling top, but there are also other points that could count, including The Horns in the north (on private property) and Robber's Roost in the Southeast (on soon to be public, but currently private property. You can reach the highest point by going to the gentle ridge just north of the aspen meadows and following it southwest. The real goal, for me, though, are those wonderful aspen meadows hidden on the top. Above is a map that helps explain things. Click it for a larger image.

Still plenty of adventure

Those who say Colorado's fourteeners unexciting highways, need to look at this awesome trip report on about a 5th Class scurry in questionalby weather along the Snowmass/Hagerman traverse. There is great scrambling to be done on many mountains as soon as you get off the standard route. Often, those untracked ridges have phenominal views, super exposure, and no guide book to tell you what to expect. This is real adventure. I love seeing it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Better LEDs From Salmon Sperm

The DNA in Salmon sperm can slow down electrons in an LED, giving you more light in your headlamp without using more power. Read more Here. But how do you get your hands on salmon sperm (and once it's on your hands, how do you get it off?)

Let the snow making begin

Last night at 10 p.m. Arapahoe Basin fired up it's snow guns. This pic is from early this morning. All guns are running from the top of the Exhibition chairlift at midway to the base area. Theey will continue to run as long as conditions are optimal. A-Basin was the first ski area to open in the nation last season on October 13, 2007. Ski area officials plan to open the ski area sometime between mid to late October this season.

Hiking and collaborating in Woodland

Regular Out There blogarian and Woodland Park resident Zen has this request:
Anyof you guys live in / around Woodland Park? I'd love to get a community hiking /green group formed. Have tried in the past with limited success. Thought this time I might throw it out here too. Email me at with your thoughts or ideas.

Snow in the mountains

This pic was sent to us by the folks at Beaver Creek Monday evening. Winter is definitely on its way. By the way, big news at Beaver Creek, especially for those who love to ski there, but can't afford to stay slopeside. A new gondola between Avon and the base of the mountain is anticipated to open this winter. A three-minute gondola ride will deliver guests to Beaver Creek Landing, where two high-speed quad chairlifts deliver skiers and snowboarders to the main mountain.
It sure beats the alternatives: $20 underground parking or a long wait for the free shuttle from town.

How to sell a billion tents

This summer giant tent-maker Eureka! partnered with Chinese conglomerate Cheng-Du Zhixin Cooperation Ltd. Co. (say that fast three times) to build the first American-style family campground in China. It's called FloraLand.
A press release from Eureka! says the Chinese are not familiar with camping. (Or maybe they got their fill during the cultural revolution.)
“Supplying equipment to Floraland gives Eureka! the opportunity to introduce the outdoor lifestyle to a population that has never before had the tools to fully experience it. We are honored to play a pivotal role in China’s efforts to develop a new culture of camping,” said one of Eureka!'s spokesmen.
Visitors to FloraLand Camping can rent Eureka tents, sleeping bags and pads. Due to the early success of FloraLand, both partners are initiating plans to open additional campgrounds throughout the country.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Helicopter season

This is a shot from Beaver Creek last week. With Forest Service regulations demanding minimal impact to public land, many ski lift towers are put in by helicopter. Also going in this year is a new lift at Arapahoe Basin to open up Montezuma Bowl.

Burglars rob Pikes Peak Summit House

The Gazette reported today that a group of folks broke into the Pikes Peak summit house Saturday night by breaking a window, then busted open the managers office, perhaps because it had the words "cash room" painted on them, and cleaned the place out. They apparently stole a highway truck to reach the summit on the closed road. Workers discovered the break-in Sunday morning.

Sounds like an inside job to me. Who would ever consider robbing the summit house but someone who had spend a lot of time there?

Update from mega-hiker Andrew Skurka

Salida, Sept 18. Andrew e-mailed this update to his mom, who has just sent it out to his e-mail group:
Silverthorne to Monarch Pass
The highlight of this section was the Sawatch Range south of Twin Lakes.The trail from Silverthorne had some fine walking (notable in Eagles Nest Wilderness and around Searle and Kokomo Passes) but it lacked the colors, grandeur, and novelty of the southern 70 miles. The aspens right now are glowing gold, resulting in swatches of colors across the mountainsides. The Sawatch Range is home to Behemoth Peaks --- many 14-ers and 13-ers and 12,000-foot passes -- that have huge scree fields and huge elevation range profiles (up to ~5,500 feet from base to summit ). And I've never been back into the Sawatch Range. -- the Colorado trial contours the east side on a non-motorized viewless route where as the Continental Divide trail penetrates the interior, unfortunately often having to follow dirt bike and jeep roads to do it. (I still prefer the scenery. )
Late-night excitement continued with a 9-mile headlamp-lit trek from Bald Mountain to Monarch Crest/US 50. The tread was poorly defined across the alpine tundra; there were "lightening strikes" approaching from the west; and the chilly and damp wind had me wearing nearly every piece of gear in my pack. I should have thought to bottle up some of that daylight from Oregon and Washington back in June and July --- these 13 hour days sure make it tough to keep rolling out the 35 and 40 mile days.
More great stuff ahead.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Fourteener round-up

There's a nice story about climbing one of my favorite mountains, Pyramid Peak, in the Aspen Times today.
And another, in the Boulder Camera, about taking the back way up Torrey's Peak.
Seems like everyone is getting their last climb in.
Speaking of last chances, the venerable Old Dillon Inn, better known as the O.D.I., is closing after 35 years. This Silverthorne bar is one of few Summit County originals left, and great place for cheap drinks and Mexican food. According to the Summit Daily News, The building that houses the O.D.I .started its life in the Old Town of Dillon in the 1800sago. In 1961, when the old town was flooded to create Dillon Reservoir, then-owner of the Dillon Inn Virgil Cox moved the building to Silverthorne. It will close it's doors Sept. 29.

Aspen season has arrived

You can see it from town: high on the flanks of Mt Rosa and Almagre Mountain there are spots of yellow. This seen doesn't last long -- perhaps a week. So you have to seize the day!

Here are some of the best places in the Pikes Peak region. If you have other favorites, post them below.

Colorado Springs and Colorado State Parks plan to buy the top of Cheyenne Mountain over the next three years and add it to Cheyenne Mountain State Park.This oft-seen but rarely visited mountaintop is a real gem. The steep sides guard a gentle top with long, lush meadows flanked by arcades of mature aspen. Much of the top is public land. It can be visited by combining two almost forgotten historic trails, the McNeil Trail and the Swisher Trail. Click here for details.

ANOTHER FAVORITE: DOME ROCK LOOP -- This is a sneak peak at next week's Happy Trails
Few places are as gorgeous, or as little visited as the Dome Rock, Spring Creek Loop. The hike strings together a saunter down a willow choked creek with views of soaring granite ramparts and quiet aspen groves. But few people ever see it, because, to protect the resident big horn sheep herd during lambing season, the area is closed most of the year.
Right now, with the aspen colors at their peak, is the best time to visit.Rating:
Three boots, 9.6 miles, 1,300 elevation gain.
To get there: Drive U.S. Highway 24 west to Divide. Turn left on Colorado Highway 67. Drive 5.8 miles to Four Mile Road. Turn right onto County Road 61 and drive 2 miles to sign for Dome Rock State Wildlife Area. Turn right at the sign and park in the lower of two parking areas.
The hike: Your feet will get wet on this hike. Choose a quick-drying shoe. Start by heading west from the trail head past a large display about bighorn sheep. A wide, gravely trail follows a broad canyon with a meadowy bottom and granite towers on either side. It relentlessly crosses the creek a total of 10 times. In just over two miles, reach the ruins of an old cabin chimney and a trail junction. Stay left on Dome Rock trail. A few steps after the junction, glimpse the first view of dome rock in the east. The trail circles around Dome rock 3.75 miles from the trailhead. The broad meadows here are a good rest spot. Just south of the Dome, turn right onto Spring Creek Trail at a signed junction and begin to climb. The trail is gradual, gorgeous, and thankfully has no more creek crossings. This is where the best aspen viewing is. About 2.5 miles later, the trail reaches the top of the climb at a stunning meadow with a long view to the south. The trail then heads east along a rolling ridge for just over a mile to a saddle where it makes a clear turn left down a dirt road.This is the home stretch. The trail drops steadily, loosing 800 feet as it heads north to the parking lot.Details: Closed Dec. 1 — July 15

Rampart Reservoir: possibly the most gorgeous ride in the region follows the many-fingered shore of this mountain reservoir. THis is a ride that is fun for any skill level.
To get there: Take U.S. Highway 24 west to Woodland Park. Turn right on Baldwin Street (at McDonald's); turn right on Loy Creek Road. When pavement ends, turn right on Rampart Range Road and drive to Rainbow Gulch trailhead parking on your left.
Trip log: Two boots, 3 to 14 miles
The Ride: This trail, a classic bike ride in the summer, transforms into a great cross-country ski trail in the winter. The back-to-back storms of the last two weeks dumped a huge amount of snow that's perfect for skiing. The Rainbow Gulch Trail is a great beginner cross-country route. It's level, and because the trail is actually a forest road, it's wide as well. It heads gradually downhill to the reservoir, but the return trip uphill isn't steep enough to require climbing skins. After about 1.5 miles, you'll reach the reservoir. From there the trail turns to a smooth gravel singletrack with a few nearly impossible boulder problems. The trail follows the reservoir around. When you get to the dam, you're more than half-way done. Make sure to bring food and water. After crossing the dam, pick up the trail just after a small gate house and wind back to the road.

This is a nice 2.5 hour drive that makes a circle around Pikes Peak. Drive west on Highway 24 to Divide. Turn left onto Colorado Highway 67. Drive south for just under 6 miles to County Road 61 on the right. Veer onto it. Let the aspen show begin. This is the low road to Cripple Creek, and passes through some amazing country. When the road rejoins Highway 67, turn right and wind down into Cripple Creek. On Bennett Ave, take a left on 2nd Street, which is also highway 67. From here the road winds over to Victor. Go through the historic mining town. Highway 67 ends, becoming Count Road 81 (also called the Lazy S Ranch Road). Take this paved road east through town, up over a hill and around until you see a sign for Gold Camp Road. Turn right onto the dirt road. Follow this former railroad bed as it winds through spectacular hills, coming down to Colorado Springs, some 27 mile later, near the Broadmoor Resort.

Skiers get elbow room

If you're looking for more room on the slopes this winter, check out the Rocky's story about expansion under way at A-Basin HERE.

Then again, expansion plans are still delayed at Wolf Creek:

What's your all-around favorite ski area?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ambitious plan for more wilderness

A coalition of Colorado conservations groups, including the Wilderness Workshop, the Colorado Environmental Coalition and the Colorado Mountain Club are advocating a multi-year campaign to add approximately 670,000 acres of designated wilderness on the White River National Forest. (Click the map above for a larger picture.) This is eight times as much land as U.S. Forest Service officials have identified in long term plans for wilderness. In a 2002 study, according to this story in the Aspen Times, the forest identified 80,000 acres of land as suitable for wilderness designation. No new wilderness has been designated in Colorado since James Peak Wilderness in 2002. Such a big chunk of land seems like a tall order, but maybe it's a haggling strategy. Start with way more than you think you can get and meet in the middle.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Mountain Lion spotted in downtown Colorado Springs

I was just passed this note from the CC campus. Apparently a mountain lion is prowling nearby:

Just want to inform everyone on campus that there has been a mountain lion sighting in Monument Valley Park. There have been signs posted throughout the park stating this. Please be sure to monitor your children and pets in or near the park. Safety tips while in the park. 1. Travel in groups and stay close together. 2. If a mountain lion is spotted, bunch up and do whatever you can to appear as large as possible. 3. If attacked by a lion, fight back as fiercely as possible. 4. Call CSPD or the Wildlife Division to report the sighting.

Ron Smith
Chief of Security

This is the time of year when juvenile lions strike out for new territory, and they don't always end up in the best places. They also don't have as much sense, so be careful.

Night at the movies

Just a reminder

The GreenScreen: Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival, hosted by Colorado Environmental Coalition, is 5:30-9 tonight at the Oriental Theater in Denver.
The films span the issues of renewable energy, water and public lands. Special guest speaker is Colorado outdoor adventurer and author Aron Ralston.
Tickets are $15 and include membership ni the CEC.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

protype helmet warns riders of speed bumps

An MIT professor has designed a "smart helmet" with a built-in computer controlled by movements of the head. It has blinkers, a phone jack, headphones, and a recording function hooked to a gps. Riders can shake their head to start the recorder, then record a message ("pothole" and "angry doberman" or "Taco Bell.") that will play at that spot next time they pass. What happens when you take it on a rough singletrack trail where your head is bouncing around everywhere? Maybe this.

Loveland starting snowmaking Thursday

The race is on. Loveland will start making snow Thursday night. I imagine Arapahoe Basin won't be far behind.
Both places usually open in mid-October. By the way, mid-October skiing looks nothing like the picture above. It looks like this.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Snow on Pikes Peak

Or maybe it's graupel . But the summit definitely has a hint of white after today's storms rolled through.

Countdown to ski opening

We just got an email from Vail Resorts (With this picture from this morning!) reminding us that opening day at Breckenridge and Keystone is just 53 days away with the lifts firing up Friday, Nov. 9. At Vail, the season gets underway Friday, Nov. 16 and Beaver Creek opens Wednesday, Nov. 21
Loveland and Arapahoe Basin are usually the first to open in mid-October. Though I try to keep the skis in the closet and keep mountain biking until after Thanksgiving, at least.

Snow in the mountains

Just got a call from friends in Summit County. The snow line is down below 10,000 feet there after a front pushed through. Also, in the high country, the Aspen are near peak. This weekend should be the best time to get out and see the leaf show. I was on Long's Peak yesterday, and the aspen are definitely all changing there.

Guns but no quads

I often joke, when I tell people that I write the Gazette's outdoor section, that the section encompasses anything you can do outside that doesn't use a gun or a motor. Firearms and vehicles are often assumed to be on the same side of the recreation coin, while the other side isfull of flower-sniffing, wilderness protecting hikers and bikers. But the Backcountry Hikers Association is increasingly making it hard to make generalizations.
The vocal group, based primarily in Southern Colorado, has been pushing hard of late for creation of the Brown's Canyon Wilderness. And it's put them at odds with normal allies, such as the NRA and the Republican Party.
Here's an interesting story that touches on the schism from the Rocky Mountain News.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Early rock climbing in Cheyenne Canyon

I just got a great bit of history from local Don Ellis. These fliers are from the mountaineering school Fort Carson used to hold in Cheyenne Canon in the 1940s and 1950s. (click images for a larger version) They were using early alpine techniques with pitons and hemp ropes.
It would be interesting to trace the influence of this early government program on the nascent sport of Rock Climbing. Certainly Colorado Springs was one of the first regular technical rock climbing spots in the country, thanks to Robert Ormes. Boulder was another early hotspot.
The question is, how did the young G.I.s who learned ropework in Cheyenne Canon go on to influence the sport as they spread out over the country in civilian life? No idea. Anyone?

Outside magazine turns 30. So does Dave Philipps!

Is there a connection? Probably only in the fact that I was lucky enough to have people from the generation interested enough in the outdoors to spawn a magazine like Outside also spawn a love of wide-open spaces in me. The magazine and I are both products of the "On the Loose" cadre of dirt bag Baby Boomers.

Outside, surprisingly, started as a free insert in Rolling Stone. Like Rolling Stone, and almost all things counter-culture Baby Boom, Out Side has become less raw and more commercial, to the point where it almost seems like it's meant to be picked up in dentist's offices by people who like to read about the outdoors, more than people who are in the outdoors. And who couldn't be annoyed by the formulaic headlines borrowed from Cosmo? ("37 Dream Jobs ," "20 Dream Towns," "48 Trips of a Lifetime," "50 Ways to Change Your Life.")

No word on whether Dave Philipps has traded the budding "On the Loose" style of 10 years ago for an increasingly Bourgeois life-style, but he does tent to slip phrases like "137 ways to wash a chiweenie" and "14 Ways to Skip Work to Mountain Bike" into conversation.

So, anyway, yes, I'm turning 30. I started with the Gazette when I was 26. I was hoping to have finished all 53 fourteeners (no Culebra Peak) by this milestone, but I still have three to go. Things got hectic.

Also turning 30 this year: Burton Snowboards, Bode Miller and Bruce Chatwin's classic travelogue, "In Patagonia."

Save the drama, rent a llama

In Out There today, I wrote a fun trail yarn about what happens when you mix two pack llamas with someone (me) who knows nothing about livestock? Read it here.

And don't miss fabulous pictures by Mark Reis of our 60-mile jaunt through the Weminuche Wilderness. You can see an audio slide show here.

Renting a llama turns out to be easy and enjoyable, and I can't wait to do it again. My wife and I are already making plans for a trip through Wyoming's Wind River Mountains.

If you haven't been out to Bear Creek park recently - or stopped by the Medicine Wheel site - it's worth noting that 2,000 feet of the new singletrack trail is complete. Eventually, it'll be about 2 miles long and connect with Section 16, Palmer Trail and the trails in Cheyenne Canon.

The biking group is working with El Paso County Parks on the project. More than a dozen people have volunteered to work on the trail so far, and a handful of companies and organizations are donating money to complete it. If your company donates to community projects, maybe you can sweet talk 'em into donating.

Bear Creek is on the city's southwest side, south of Highway 24. The trail is west of 21st Street and south of the dog park.

You can see a zoom view of the finished trail design here. There's a copy you can print out and a map that shows the sections of trail that are done and those that still need work.

Dave Dessel of TrailArts here in the Springs is credited with the design and layout. A slew of people from Medicine Wheel and El Paso County Parks actually plotted the trail on site.

Speaking of work: You can help complete the track by volunteering a few hours. Check the Medicine Wheel Web site for notices (we'll post 'em here, too, when possible), and sign up to get updates.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Warren Miller's "Playground" tix on sale

Tickets are on sale today for Warren Miller's latest ski/board flick, "Playground," which hits the Pikes Peak Center Nov. 2 and 3. (That photo by Mattias Fredriksson shows skier: Jon Olsson at Mt. Hood.)

The film includes footage from Sweden, Japan, Alaska, and our fav ski hot spot: Dubai.

To get tickets today, head to the Pikes Peak Center page and sign up for the Backstage Pass. Otherwise, you can buy tickets after 5 p.m. tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Back in the days of micro brews

This one was made in Pueblo.

Get your Acord Fix

Out There reporter Deb Acord is now writing occasional columns for the Rocky Mountain News.
This week it's a treatice on the "Flip Flop People" -- those out of state throngs in thongs that pay a lot of the state's salaries. Read it here.

Last gasp for alpine flowers

I was up on Pikes Peak the other day and took a few photos of the remaining alpine flowers. Fall is a very short season up there, and the plants are quickly turning brown. Below is a spring beauty. The low-growing, leathery plant has a huge tap root. Like many alpine plants, it turns red toward the end of the season, possibly to absorb more heat from infrared light. Another favorite, which I didn't see last year, but spotted in droves this year, is Arctic Gentian. When this little white, speckled flower blooms at the end of August, it means frost and snow are near. Most flowers are dead and brown by the time its petals open.
Makes me wonder when we'll see the first real snow on the peak. Maybe very soon.

Monday, September 10, 2007

New Colorado Coin

Daniel Carr, a metal designer who did some of the offical state quarters, has come up with an alternative to the stately Colorado Quarter with it's un-named (Long's Peak) 14er on one side. This one is just as common a scene in the Colorado Mountains. See his whole list of parody state quaters here.

Help look for Steve Fossett

From the AP: The search for missing aviator Steve Fossett has gone public, at least for people with access to a computer. It's been a week and still no sign of famed millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett.
Rescue crews stumbled upon more false leads Sunday. They found the wreckage of a plane, but it wasn't Fossett's. So far they've discovered two old wreckage sites southeast of the private ranch where Fossett was staying before he disappeared. He took off last Monday for what was supposed to be
a three hour tour.
The search in Nevada covers about 17,000 square miles, an area twice the size of New Jersey. Now you can get in on the search for the missing aviator. Satellite images of the search area in western Nevada are now available on line, courtesy of Longmont, Colorado-based DigitalGlobe.
An aviation Web site provides links to review fresh satellite images and instructions on how to look for Fossett's plane or any image that might resemble a small aircraft.
Viewers can then check off a box indicating whether there is anything of interest in the satellite images they view.
Tips deemed reliable by a team of specialists will be passed on to authorities.
Join the search here.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

SKI mag says Vail #2

SKI Mag says Vail is the No. 2 ski resort in North America - to Deer Valley, Utah - in its annual list, available in its October issue (for sale Dept. 25).

(No, that's not Vail. It's a shot from Steamboat.)

Five other Colorado resorts made the Top 10 list: Aspen (4), Snowmass (5), Breckenridge (7), Beaver Creek (8), and Steamboat (9).

Deer Valley was second in last year’s survey. It was noted for top-notch service, grooming and dining, and was also voted tops for Luxury Ski Trip.

Top 10
Deer Valley, Utah
Whistler Blackcomb, B.C.
Park City, Utah
Beaver Creek
Sun Valley, Idaho

Resorts are ranked in 18 categories: Overall Satisfaction, Access, Apr├Ęs Ski, Dining, Family Programs, Grooming, Lifts, Lodging, Off-HillActivities, On-Mountain Food, Scenery, Service, Snow, Terrain/Challenge, Terrain/Variety, Terrain Parks, Value and Weather/

Friday, September 07, 2007

More rescue tales

As you've probably heard, the backpackers lost in Rocky Mountain National Park were found, safe and sound - although probably a tad hungry after a day or more eating wild berries and mushrooms.

Adventurer Steve Fossett is still missing, and rescue crews are searching more ground than earlier in the week.

And The Gazette willl have a tale in Saturday's paper about a Manitou Springs man, Robert Campbell, 65, who was lifted off a ledge in Grand Tetons last weekend. He spent the night on the ledge after he was injured.

“Everybody tells me this is supposed to be a wake-up call, that I’m too old," Campbell told Gaz reporter Scott Rappold. But Campbell says he'll be back in the mountains in spring.

Darn straight, Mr. Campbell.

Join me, wherever you are tonight, in lifting a cold one to all rescue crews - for many jobs well done.

Big cats in Garden of the Gods

A recent visitor to the Springs sent this awesome candid photo of two cougars just off the Scotsman Trail in Garden of the Gods.

Steffani GreenLeaf of Detroit had only been in town a few days when she took a hike in Garden of the Gods on Aug. 27. She was walking alone at 7:30 a.m. along the Scotsman Trail, heading toward the center of the park, when she glanced up and saw the mountain lions staring at her from about 8 or 9 yards away.

Steffani: "It was my first direct encounter with dangerous wild animals without a fence or the safety of my car to reassure me. Their look expressed curiosity, but I also had the distinct sense that they were contemplating whether or not I'd be ready prey. Even though I had a fear of dying at that moment, I had a belief that God would protect me and I thought, 'This is my opportunity of a lifetime to take a photo of a rarely seen animal.'"

She raised her camera, focused, and took a couple of shots, the cougars still staring at her.

Fortunately, Steffani wrote, she had read a few months prior that she should never turn her back on a mountain lion nor run away.

She didn't have rocks to throw, nor a jacket to raise over her head, so she raised her arms, hands bared like claws, and "started growling softly to see their reaction."

When the cats didn't flinch, Steffani growled louder. After about a minute, the cougar on the left started to crouch down as if intimidated and slowly crept away toward the mountains and the other one followed closely behind.

Folks at the Visitor Center said the mountain lions likely are siblings, about 2 years old.

Steffani: "They looked well fed. I believe that had I met an older starving cougar I would have been in much more danger."

"My hope is that I never see another cougar except from my car, in a zoo or perhaps off in the distance chasing a deer. But I would like to see a fox or a wolf sometime.

"The next time I'm in Colorado I think I'll hike with a large stick and some rocks in my pockets. Oh, and I should bring my husband along."

This is Steffani's zoom shot of the mountain lions:

This is Steffani's husband standing at the spot where the mountain lions emerged from the brush. If you're a regular hiker in the area, you'll recognize it.

This is a photo of Steffani re-enacting her attempt to scare the mountain lions away. She writes: It could "help dramatize the story (or give a laugh)."

The newest Colorado ski area -- almost

Just got an e-mail update from Eclipse Snow Park, a new small ski area proposed near St. Mary's Glacier west of Denver. It's part of a continuing Colorado trend of offering cheaper, more convenient ski spots in niche markets. The other part of the trend is Echo Mountain, which opened in 2005.
The place is small, about 330 acres, but it talks big. This is from the Website:
Eclipse Snow Park plans to redefine the meaning of “ski season.” When the St. Mary’s Ski Area was open in the 1970’s and 80’s it stayed open later than any other resort in Colorado. With a little help from Mother Nature, modern technology, and snow farming techniques whispers of year round operations are being uttered around the Front Range.
But first they have to open. Here's the latest news on that from an email this week:
This summer we were busy collecting all the necessary data to include in our submittal packet to the county for Development Review. This is the final step in the county process to getting Eclipse Snow Park up and running. It is a public comment period so once our Submittal is complete it will be sent out to all the necessary agencies and will be available to the public for viewing.

Llama or serious case of bedhead?

Just got a note from Dave. He says he'll try to post something soon.

He survived the llama trek, and is hanging out in Ouray.

Sounds like some serious trekking - 60 miles in 3 days. We'll see if any photographers sign up to hike with Dave again.

Tomorrow is the Imogene Pass run and then, if he hasn't exhausted his reserves, he plans to climb the Wilsons on Sunday. What's left on his "things to do before I'm 30" list?

Summit challenge

(photo from
If you're new to the 14er lineup, here's what Dave calls an "extra credit" credit climb:

Oh, and beware if you're planning to head out this weekend. Some folks are predicting snow above treeline. Take appropriate gear, and let someone know where you're hiking and when you should return.

Extra Credit: Challenger and Kit Carson peaks

A personal favorite, two great peaks with that offer an astounding amount of exposure. This hike requires airy scrambling and route finding. Additional route information and photos are available at

TO GET THERE: From the town of Crestone in the San Luis Valley, turn right onto Galena Street. Road climbs into dry, shrubby hills for just over 2 miles. There is a parking area at the National Forest boundary. After that, the road requires an SUV.

THE HIKE: From the trailhead, go a few yards up and take a right across 2 small streams on the Willow Creek Trail. Follow the clear trail 1.25 miles through a series of switchbacks. The trail climbs into the stunning Willow Creek basin and gradually climbs east 2.5 miles to Willow Lakes.

There are many social trails near the lake. From the west end of the lake, the main trail skirts the north side, then climbs up through a talus slope to the top of a prominent waterfall.

Follow Challenger Point - Route #1 to the summit of Challenger.
From Challenger, you can't miss Kit Carson. Hike east down to the saddle (more of a notch) between Challenger and Kit Carson (13,790'). When you reach the saddle, climb up onto a large ledge that runs south along the side of the peak. This Class 2 ledge system that traverses around Kit Carson is often called "Kit Carson Avenue."

Continue up the ledge to reach a small saddle between Kit Carson and a large fin called The Prow. The elevation here is about 13,950'.

From here you can see the next part of the hike - a longer section of KC Avenue that descends east. This ledge is much longer than the one that came up from the Challenger side. Follow this easy ledge down to about 13,700' near its end.

Look left for a large, shallow gully up to the left (northwest). From the ledge, you may see cairns up on the rocks that show the way into the gully before you reach the lower portion of the ledge. From here, it's about 450' to the summit.

Climb onto the rocks to enter the gully. If the terrain seems steep, you may have left the ledge too early. The gully is not difficult or technical if you stay on the standard route near the middle. It requires occasional easy Class 3 scrambling and a bit of route-finding, but mostly it’s just difficult Class 2 hiking.

Look for brief trail sections and small cairns as you take the easiest path up through the center. Near 14,000', the gully opens up and the summit is up to the left. Continue up the gully to reach the north end of the summit ridge (near 14,090') or angle left to hit the ridge closer to the summit.

Once you reach the summit ridge, turn left and hike south to the summit.

Among the notes: You'll need a couple of hours to climb to the Kit Carson summit and return to Challenger. Plan accordingly. Some recommend camping below Willow Lake.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Movies and Aron Ralston

The Colorado Environmental Coalition is hosting a night of enviro movies and a talk with Colorado adventurer Aron Ralston from 5:30 to 9 pm Wednesday, Sept. 19, at the Oriental Theater in Denver.

The event, "GreenScreen: Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival," is sponsored by Patagonia.

Films will cover renewable energy and water and public lands issues.

Tickets are $12 online or $15 at the door, and include a membership to CEC. Get more info and tickets here.

Backpackers found?

We haven't been following this to closely, but you've probably heard about the couple reported missing in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Now this:

(AP) — Air crews searching for a pair of missing backpackers have spotted two people waving in a rugged area north of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Searchers said ground crews are on their way to the area, but the terrain was difficult.

A Civil Air Patrol crew reported seeing smoke coming from a cliff and the two people nearby Thursday morning.

Searchers have been hunting for Terry and Marion Jones since they didn’t return to their Fort Collins home Sunday as planned.

Their son had dropped them off in the northern part of the park Saturday. The couple are considered experienced backpackers. Terry Jones is 56 and Marion Jones is 49.

-- I hope it's them and they're OK.

Trails closing on Roan Plateau

According to the Post Independent in Glenwood Springs, federal land managers are closing 96 miles of roads and trails to motorized vehicles on and around the Roan Plateau.

The closures are part of a management plan announced in June, but they have been overshadowed by a heated debate over how much drilling to allow on the sprawling,
gas-rich plateau.

The Bureau of Land Management said closing the trails to motorbikes, all-terrain vehicles and other motor vehicles will reduce erosion and improve wildlife habitat. Many of the closed routes parallel other roads or are short spurs to canyons or other

Steve Gunderson of the Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition disputed the assertion that closing some routes would improve habitat.

"There’s a lot of sanctuary up there. That’s the reason people talk about wildlife up there, is because there’s a lot of places for wildlife up there,” he said.

To read the full story, click here.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

What's that smell?

I was just out in the spitting rain, imagining Dave camping with wet llamas. I know what wet dog smells like. I wonder about wet llama...