Thursday, 14 August 2014

Colorado Springs

Mount Evans acclimatisation stop. Echo Lake at 10,100 ft (3000m)

Having spent the evening with Roger and Jane which was great fun, we went back to Jim’s airbnb and talked to two guys who had obviously been indulging in the legal cannabis, but it was interesting, I got as far as sniffing, and may have tried if there had been a ‘smoke free’ option, but the smoking put me off, so still don’t know what it’s all about! They were just as talkative the following morning, so we had an interesting breakfast with them and the guy from the third room. Turns out though that only Aaron had booked in, his two friends had gatecrashed the house, the guy from the third room must have mentioned it to Jim who has been very apologetic and very upset by the whole thing – far more than we were, but for him he feels really let down by someone who has stayed with him a number of times

Mount Evans top car park. 14,100 ft (4300m). That double pile of loose rocks is the summit
Jackie looking cool
We headed off to Mount Evans a 14000’ er you can drive to the top of (all bar the last 5 mins walk) which was interesting, everytime we stopped we had to put more clothes on as we got higher and higher, starting in shorts and t-shirt finishing in long trousers and a jumper, as it turns out the snow that was on the ground at the summit fell the previous day, about 3” worth! We were also very aware that ascending quickly to this sort of height is almost a recipe for altitude sickness so made sure we drank lots of water and stopped for a while to acclimatise at Echo Lake. Mount Evans is actually 14240’ or 4340m (Mont Blanc is 4810m just for comparison!) so pretty high compared to anything we are used to and B has suffered from altitude problems below 3000m. 
In fact, both of us looking cool!
We could both feel a slight pressure on our heads and felt slightly dizzy if we moved too fast, but on the whole we were fine. We were amused to see chubby bumbling Marmottes scurrying over the rocks, but they were almost too fast to photograph which was a shame as they were very cute. Not so the goats (who were also cute) but decided the road was theirs and we could all just wait for them, so we have lots of pictures of them. Lunch was left over biryani from the night before, just so you know some things never change!

Panorama from the top
The best photo I could get of a marmotte scurrying away into a rock crevice
The nasty rail clouds cometh!!
We’d just got back to the car when a ranger with a large loudspeaker announced that lightening had been spotted locally so if everyone would like to return to their cars for the next half hour it might be good! Looking at the big black cloud we thought perhaps it was time to go down, we never saw any weather, but what happened up there, who knows! 

These guys definitely own the road
And they're going to take their time...
That's Red Rocks Amphitheatre in that gap
Came down the scenic way rather than the motorway which meant we passed Red Rocks Amphitheatre where it appears anyone who is anyone in the music business has performed U2 (from my youth) recorded their ‘Under a Blood Red Sky’ video there, apparently building their own reputation and that of Red Rocks. We did smile as we were walking up the stairs and a baby deer trotted across the stairs and through the barrier into the undergrowth on the other side while mummy deer just leapt both barriers – you’d never see that at Wembley!

Panorama photo of the amphitheatre from the top. The acoustics of this natural rock formation is apparently amazing, 'the best opera house in the world' they brag
The stage
A couple of deer scurry by as we ascend the staircase
Steve and Laura's lovely house
Finally headed off to Colorado Springs and our next airbnb with Steve, Laura and Robert, it is a beautiful house, very interesting architecturally, and they are lovely people, though we haven’t quite bonded in the same way we did with Beth and Jim. We went out for a quick bite and had our favourite meal to date (though the curry was very good) at a Thai restaurant. All those who said I wouldn’t like American food may be being proved right, I do like a good burger (and we had a very pleasant one on our beer night, though it was from a NZ influenced food wagon, shame B was talked into having the egg on it, and didn’t ask for it to be cut in half as it was VERY messy) and we’ve had some ok Mexican food, but in our opinion, not as good as the Mexican food I cook! At times in NZ I was craving pizza, but perhaps you can have too much of a good thing! So I was thrilled when Laura said they were going to be out last night so I could cook if I’d like! Sadly after a very busy day, the last thing I felt like (or we had time for) was cooking, so popped into Walmart and bought….. a pizza and some salad. It may be as well that was all though as the space age oven was a bit scary!

Panorama of the Garden of the Gods sandstone outcrops from the visitor centre
The small hole (top left of centre) is supposed to represent two kissing camels
Quite amazing rock formations
Having lain in bed yesterday morning and watched many gliders being towed up from the USAF Academy which is just over the road, we were treated to parachutists and gliders doing loop the loops, not bad ‘entertainment’ for first thing in the morning we went to the ‘Garden of the Gods’ a public open space with some amazing rock formations in, some with some ‘imaginative’ names, but very impressive none the less. We filled in a climbing permit as it was free though having got to the rocks, they were all trad (so involving putting gear in rather than just clipping bolts) quite hard, very weird sandstone rock, which was crumbly but had a lot of friction and you really had to be an exhibitionist! 

An original, but repositioned Old Colorado City building
We walked, watched and left to go to Old Colorado City which was the original territorial capital of Colorado, though it only lasted 5 days before it was decided it really was too small! There were some groovy shops though and some very nice eateries, our pulled pork sandwich was yummy. We then headed off to Red Rocks Canyon (not the same Red Rocks as the amphitheatre) as the climbing there was meant to be mostly bolted and therefore a better place to start on this very strange soft rock. As we had no guide book we thought we’d have a look around see what we thought before coming home to quiz the internet. As it turned out there was a guy with two novices heading off so we asked if we could follow them. 
The climbing team
We grabbed the gear and off we went. He may not have been as good as he thought he was, but he did know his way round, and did on the whole know the approximate grades of many of the routes, so we did three climbs while he dragged his novices (in trainers and with one harness between the two of them and one belay device between the three of them) up a couple of climbs. His third one freaked him slightly (there did appear to be a bolt missing, I will agree but he was claiming to be going to attempt a 5.14 or UK E11 and this was probably a 5.9 or UK 5) so having nipped up our route we threw him down a top rope and all was well! We were delighted to meet them though as we had a great time, doing our own thing but being pointed at some routes well within our grade. He seemed almost more thrilled to have been able to take us out and ‘show us the ropes as it were’!

A little bunny that visited us in Steve and Laura's garden whilst we ate our pizza
A glider doing air acrobatics
Today we decided we’d better go to the USAFA (US Air Force Academy) as it is right by where we are staying and has provided us with such good entertainment with our breakfast. It was very interesting and very inspirational, they all come out after 4 years with a BSc and can study the arts as well as having to do lots of sports, oh yes, and learn to kill people! Did look like the opportunity for a really good education though. The Chapel had been recommended to us by the Tourist Info in Denver and it is quite spectacular, also lovely to see in one space, the Anglican space upstairs the Catholic space downstairs at the front and then the Buddhist space and the Jewish space at the back.

The USAFA. This is a mere part of a vast complex
The architecturally amazing chapel at the USAFA
We’ve taken the afternoon to chill and catch up, though we still haven’t replied to the emails we should (sorry Robyn, we will) and tomorrow off to Roger and Jane.

At the front entrance of the chapel
And inside. We think it's fabulous
Cadets going to lunch (we think). The newbies are only allowed to walk on the white lines, so if you look carefully you can pick out the fresh recruits and those who've been around for a bit
Notices on the trash cans to stop bears getting stuck inside
Jackie sheltering from the heat of the day in the shadow of the wing of a B-52 bomber
The B-52 up close. Apparently it's payload was 60,000lbs of bombs (about 27 tons)


  1. brilliant rocks - kissing camels and tottering stone. And the chapel is amazing. It looks like you are having a lot of fun. xx Its raining here!

  2. Although I've never been there I remember Colorado Springs as where the world's greatest inventor, Nikola Tesla, conducted some of his experiments there in 1899.
    Tesla lived in Criple Creek, where the astrologer Linda Goodman lived (many people read her book Star Signs), while he worked at Pikes Peak.
    We could have had free lighting worldwide if Tesla hadn't been stopped from doing his experiments.