Monday, 18 August 2014

Estes Park, Colorado with Jane and Roger Truesdale

Jane, Roger, Brian and Jackie

We said goodbye to Steve and Laura in Colorado Springs and drove for 2½ hours north, back through Denver and then NW to Estes Park, nestled at the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park at an altitude of 7900ft (2401m), surrounded by towering mountains and, although still hot (around 77-80⁰F or 25-27⁰C), the air is clearer and slightly cooler.

On top of Lily Mountain
We had a great welcome from Jane and Roger and Jane’s 93 year old father, Bill, who lives with them, a good lunch, a good chat and then the walking gear was out and the four of us were off in their car to walk up Lily Mountain, a 9800ft (2987m) peak, in the shape of a volcano (but isn’t), that we look directly at from the lounge window.

Acclimatisation to the higher altitudes seems pretty good and, other than a noticeable increase in breathing due to the lower oxygen level and a slight ‘pressure’ in our heads due to the lower air pressure, we were OK as long as we didn’t forget to drink plenty of water. Roger’s steady pace up through pine trees, past crags with trad and bolted climbs, little chipmunks scampering at high speed through the undergrowth, lots of conversation and plenty of breaks made it enjoyable, and at the summit we were rewarded with fabulous views back down to Estes Park and the surrounding high peaks, particularly the spectacular Longs Peak beyond.

Estes Park Micro-Brewery with Jane, Roger and Bill
Our evening was a visit to the nearby Estes Park micro-brewery for a meal in the restaurant set amongst the tanks of brewing beer and a tasting session of five of their eight different beers, even though Jane and Roger don’t drink beer (but Bill enjoyed it!). We had a great time, great food, the beer was excellent and we had 93 year old Bill to thank as he pulled out his credit card and paid for the whole thing! We’re starting to feel embarrassed about all this hospitality!

The view from Jane and Rogers deck. Lily Mountain is second from the left, Longs Peak just visible to it's right
Elk freely wandering round the gardens in Estes Park
A short hike off Trail Ridge Road
The next day, Friday, Jane and Roger had arranged a relatively easy day of driving, interspersed with short walks over the Trail Ridge Road. It’s a high level road, up at 12300ft (3749m) so the views are quite expansive and spectacular and the several short walks took us to rocky summits with fantastic views.

Jackie on top of the balanced rock
Jane, Jackie and Roger atop another stack of rocks
The first walk turned out to be particularly notorious for Jane as, three weeks before, when out for a long hike with her walking group they were struck by lightning, killing a woman walking just in front of Jane, despite her and others giving CPR for the 45 minutes it took the paramedics to arrive. About eight people in front of her were thrown to the ground, Jane and a couple of others behind being the only people left standing, Jane receiving a huge jolt of electricity through her feet and ankles, leaving them numb for a while but otherwise unharmed. The storm came literally out of the blue sky, within minutes and, although afternoon thunderstorms are relatively common in mountainous warm areas and the dangers are well-known, this one arrived so fast could not have been foreseen. We walked past the spot on the trail as far as Jane could remember and it was quite thought provoking, beautiful as the mountains are, there is no place for complacency, anything can happen at any time!

A bit windy, but the scenery was amazing
A marmot enjoying the sunshine
We took another short walk to a summit with strange mushroom shaped rocks of dark coloured layered schist on top of columns of granite showing that, at one time, this was below sea level, but on our next walk up to a summit by the visitors centre, built at the head of a huge glaciated valley giving expansive views from the café within, we came upon a Marmot (or as we spell in Europe: Marmotte – another source of endless amusing discussion of ‘you say tomato and we say tomato’, do you know, they haven’t heard of the word ‘faff’!). Fat, cute furry animals that we had seen atop Mount Evans, but this one was happy to pose for photos.

The curious rock outcrops
Our photogenic marmot
We didn’t see any afternoon storms, but cumulous cloud bubbled up occasionally giving us cause for alarm, but we were back in plenty of time to enjoy a home cooked meal by Jane for the five of us in their fabulous open plan house.

he thinks those yellow flowers are quite tasty!
Five elk put on a show
A ptarmigan at the crag
It’s Saturday and Estes Park is going to be busy, but we decided rock climbing was the days activity and Jurassic Park was the place. Lily Lake was our start point, a very scenic area at the foot of Thursdays mountain hike and, on a sunny, hot day there were plenty of people about. With our heavy packs full of climbing gear we hiked along the lakeside path, past the crowds and headed up into the hills along vague paths through the trees, to emerge at splendid granite crags with bolted climbs of all standards, giving even better views back down to the lake and of the surrounding peaks. 

Brian on a 5.5
We did five climbs, ranging from 5.4 to 5.8 (UK grades around HV Diff to about HVS 4c/5a), the 5.8 having a crux on steep rock of a vague half finger hold and a couple of bumps for the feet which, although good friction, felt ‘on the edge’. I backed off on my lead and went round it, but Jackie was delighted to make the move on her lead (but only after I’d told her the next hold above was good and the rest of the climb was a bit easier!). We put up a top rope on another 5.8 later and while Roger and I felt we would not have wanted to lead it, Jackie thought it was OK and would have been happy to lead it – she’s doing so well!

Jackie leading a 5.7
Brian belaying Roger up a 5.8

Jane getting ready to have a go
On the trail to Chasm Lake
Sunday was another 6:00am early start as the plan was to hike up to Chasm Lake at 11900ft (3672m) at the foot of the spectacular Longs Peak and subject of Rogers ambition to climb ‘Casual Route’ up The Diamond, an awesome vertical face of 8 pitches of climbing up to 5.10a to the top of Longs Peak. The walk was long and hot, up through pine trees and, above the tree line, rough and exposed with fabulous views. Being Sunday it was crowded, but mountains have that tendency to absorb huge numbers of people without it appearing busy, so other than the few people we saw on the ascent, we only came into groups of people as we approached the lake. 
What a setting it was in, the stark, jagged glacier etched bowl that contains The Diamond wall was both massive and stunning. The Diamond looms up as a vertical, intimidating wall that, on first inspection appears deserted, but after getting used to the size and distance we could start to pick out the tiny blobs of red and green jackets of climbers – mere ants on a massive wall. Rogers 20x zoom lens on his camera magnified the climbers to discernible people, allowing us to see the rock terrain they were climbing on, how far they had come, but also how far they had to go. Would my nerves stand up to that constant exposure? I’m not sure.

At Chasm Lake
A cute little chipmunk wants some lunch
We could have stayed longer, but it was time to start the descent, which always seems longer than the ascent, but it remained relatively cloudless all day, making this the perfect weekend for all those people who had made the journey up there, including ourselves. Still warm in the evening we ate outside on the deck at Roger and Jane’s, each of us with our allocated jobs, mine being to lay the table outside – the vase of flowers as the table centre decoration seemed natural to me, Jane liked the way I laid a table, so we were all happy as the sun set, even the black faced deer who wandered into the garden chomping at the grass, eventually settling down facing and watching us. Bed was not far away as we were all pretty tired following the walk and by 9:30pm we were all in bed, reading and fighting sleep.

Longs Peak containing the face of The Diamond
A close up of The Diamond, there are ten climbers on that face
Another day today, it’s Monday, morning chilling and blog writing while Jane and Roger get on with jobs, but pm we’re going scrambling somewhere and there’s climbing on the menu on Wednesday at the Flatirons in Boulder, as well as an evening with two other English couples. It’ll be English six, American’s three, I’ve already suggested we should get some English flags!

We’re having a fabulous time with Jane and Roger, perfect hosts, perfect location, perfect activities, what could be better!

Here's an even closer view showing two climbers at the top waiting to climb, while their leader is a couple of hundred feet above them. Below are two other climbers waiting to move into their belay spot. these people have at least 1000ft of exposure below them and have at least 1000ft to go
Roger, Jane and Jackie agree dinner preparation jobs

The Elk roam freely in Estes Park

1 comment:

  1. Wow it all looks fantastic to me! Spectacular views, climbing and animals too!