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Settle in folks. I made this thread in notepad but the copy/paste festival will take some time. Yup, yet another epic mountain picture thread...


July 3, 2009

These pre-four-o'-clock mornings are getting easier with each passing weekend. My, and my mother's habitual tardiness has finally taken a back seat to getting on the trail at more opportune times. This being the fourth weekend of mountain adventures, the dogs have learned that the equipment loading and early wake up calls mean there's a long journey ahead...


Just a splash of gas later, we were on the road and on track to reach the Herman Gulch trailhead by 7:00am. It was nice being on the road before the holiday mountain tourists flood I-70 for the 48 hour traffic jam (more on that later). The only flaw in my plan was the State Patrol reunion taking place along the corridor. What should have been a 20 minute drive up the highway took 35 minutes. Pfft, speed limits are the bane of my existence. Either way, we reached exit 218 and the parking lot at 6:20am. Only four other cars were there and they all had dogs. So I took my time gearing up to let the others get a head start. Fifteen minutes later we were ready to roll...






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The trail itself was surprisingly steep in the first segment. Wide and clear, it was no big challenge for this super conditioned group...






If anyone has ever wondered why in the world I have the dogs in pull harnesses while hiking, there are two reasons. First, the backpacks stay on and balanced better when sitting over the harness. Second, and arguably the most important reason, they haul me up the hill...


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That little valley up there is one of the most active areas I've seen in a long time. Runoff streams abound, and while we never saw any large wildlife the signs and trails were there...




After the initial phase is over with, you begin to cross many open meadows as the trees begin to thin with altitude...


The gathering clouds did nothing to deter us, only drove us to push for the end...


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From what I have read of the region, I believe this is what all the serious rock climbers call "The Citadel"...


After something like two miles the end goal showed itself for the first time, Pettingell Peak. It's the point just left of the visual high point on the right...


Looking back east. Coco and her doggy-grandma...


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We finally hit the fork in the trail, a sign we were nearing the end of the tourist segment. The entire Rocky Mountain portion of the state is covered in probably thousands of miles of intertwining trails that take you everywhere from Fort Collins to Cortez...






Finally, Herman Lake. Here is where for-the-reals hikers and tourists are defined. The remaining snow made finding a safe line a bit more difficult. I had not planned on training the dogs or exercising my own limits that day. Yet, there we were. The lake lies at almost 12k exactly and the summit we wanted was 13, 500'. We took five, gave the dogs a snack, studied the weather and decided to move forward. Time was definitely on our side and doggies ended up getting a valuable lesson in class 2 hiking.


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The first bout of snow crossing was complicated by icy wet runoff and slippery moss covered rock formations. This would mark the first of many short breaks as we leap frogged each other scouting the next line. The incline was something fierce and the view got better with every step...






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Okay, this was not just an incline. That mountain is steep as hell, and 90% of the climb after the lake is all up to you. The other 10% looks like goat trails through the scree. We stuck to the grassy areas as best we could...






Coco was the weak link in our journey. The other three have done hikes similar in terrain but for much MUCH shorter distance. This was her first tough hike where she had to make decisions for herself. She often chose "sit and wait for dad to come back and show me"...


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For the first bit after the lake I had them all leashed due to their tendency to play in snow. Needless to say this WAS NOT the place to slide any distance downhill. It may have been the angle of climb or maybe even my own apprehensive thoughts as we went along, but they did excellent and followed their own trail in formation...




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This is the last picture taken (by me) on the ascent. Things got very technical after that. Training dogs to scramble took a bit of time but it was shockingly easy. The wind on that south face picked up and required bracing to fight against. The sled dogs gave up just under the false summit and gathered in a rare sheltered rock wall. Meanwhile Bubba made a mockery of our abilities. I thought I did pretty good, but he was constantly bounding from rock to rock. He had to of tripled his distance covered. Running his way up to my mom at the top and coming back to see what I was doing. Amazing dog on the mountain, I've said it before; this guy's element is alpine climbing...


I waited with sled dogs about 150' below the false summit, which is hardly 100 yards from the true summit. When my mom and Bubba returned, I headed for the top while they all started the descent through beach ball sized talus. The view from false summit...


The line to the right of the summit gives you an idea of what our climb from the lake looked like...


Success!!! We finally got one!


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Felt good to get my hands on a registry again. I'm sure that a few more people have made it up there, but we were the second entry for this year. Not a soul around at the top of Grand County...


The view...






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Zoom back on the trailhead...




On the way back down I was feeling a bit more comfortable after 40MPH gusts at the summit. So I took a couple of pictures through the top portion...




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Ahhh. There they are...


Three weeks until we bag that mountain on the right there...




Being that the trail signs allowed for off leash dogs beyond treeline, I actually let them do it. Now I'm glad I did. We had such a wonderful time and the pack never ventured more than 10 yards away. Except when Coco screwed up a line and needed rescue...


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From 13,000' we could zoom in and see that allowing for off leash dogs meant there would be off leash dogs ahead. So we took a break there and had lunch. Of course, my mom fed them whatever she was eating...


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Almost back to the van. Pine beetle destruction...





...¿Remember those clouds towards the beginning? Well, they all got together and conspired to do this...


Fin. That wasn't so hard I guess.
 

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Wow, fantastic pictures! That looks like a great adventure!

So what happened with the 48hr traffic jam?
 
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