“Scree Hell”. We’ve all heard it. This mountain sets the bar so high, it’s how we measure every other scree descent in Colorado. It couldn’t be that bad, right? Yeah it is. I learned that back in 2012 on a 2 year blitzkrieg to finish the 14ers. It was a solo Sawatch slammer of a weekend that included the standard routes on Shav, Tab, Harvard and that infamous descent of Columbia. Four whole 14ers in one weekend. A feat only a noob could appreciate.
These days my main criteria seems to revolve around the path less traveled. And so three days into 2016, one day removed from the coldest New Year’s Day ascent of Massive ever recorded, and just 24 hours before tax season semi-hibernation, I found myself at the Harvard Lakes TH. I’ll be honest, until I did some homework, I didn’t even know Columbia had a southeast ridge. This probably has something to do with the fact that the ridge itself is almost 5 miles long and wraps around the entire Collegiate Peak Wilderness before reaching Columbia.
Peak: Mount Columbia (14,073′) Date: January 3, 2016 Trailhead: Harvard Lakes Distance: 12.5 miles (1/4 mile below TH) Elevation Gain: ~ 5,000 ft. Participants: K Bessler, Dillon Sarnelli Time: 12 hours
In January I summited California Peak with Zambo. While descending the summit ridge I became dizzy and disoriented. “Zambo, is this what altitude sickness feels like?!?” An extra strength ibuprofen got me back to the car.
Fast forward to March, I attempted Shavano and Tab with Danny. At about 12,500′ in the Angel my head began to pound and my legs stopped functioning on all cylinders. “Is this really happening again?” After some egging, I was able to convince Danny to go ahead and get the summits. I took a nap on a rib of grass as Danny bulldozed upward. 45 minutes later I painfully dragged my sorry self to the summit of Shavano. On the 7 mile descent back to the car I was a zombie and an ibuprofen had no effect. Danny’s good company and sense of humor are the only reason I’m not still crawling back to the jeep.
Mountains: All of the tall ones Distance: A lot Date: June 11, 2011 thru August 4, 2013 Route: Dillygoat Traverse
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Dillon. I grew up in New Jersey and moved to Colorado at the end of 2010. I like chicken, diet soda, beer, and greek yogurt. I’m an accountant, but still think taxes are evil. I didn’t find my mountain wife on top of one of these 14er’s, but am still holding out hope. AND I really hate my snowshoes. That’s probably all of the pertinent information you need on me.
I figured the best way to give you my perspective into this 14er journey would be to take you all along for the ride. Enjoy!
Peaks: Point 12,915, “Cupid” (13,117′), Grizzly Peak D (13,427′), Torreys Peak (14,267′), Grays Peak (14,270′) Date Climbed: December 29, 2012 Trailhead: Loveland Pass Distance: 12 miles Elevation Gain: 6,300 ft. Participants: Ben Shulman, Dillon Sarnelli Time: 11 hours
On Friday night Shulman sent me a texter that said “KC and Challenger?”, to which I responded, “Grays and Torreys, it’s closer?”. Nine hours later he was shivering on my doorstep and we were moseying on over to Loveland Pass. At about 6:30 AM we exited the warm comforts of the jeep and headed for Point 12,915. This point is about a mile and 1,000 feet vertical from the pass and the remainder of the trek is along the Continental Divide.
Peaks of the Park: Chiefs Head Peak (13,579′), Mount Alice (13,310′), Longs Peak (14,255′) Dates: June 21-24, 2012 Distance: 30+ miles Elevation Gain: ~12,000 ft. In attendance: Dana Sanford, Kevin Sanford, Miguel Gonzalez, Nathan Watts, Ray Priebe, Dillon Sarnelli
About 6 months ago Dana called me up from the other side of the continent with this idea of a trip to Half Dome in the works. He wanted to know if I would be interested in coming along and I said, “For sure”. A month later, plans had changed and the crew was now considering the Wind River Range in Wyoming. Another great spot and I again said, “Count me in”. A few weeks later plans were changing again and I said, “Dana, I live in Colorado! Come here dude and I’ll be your tour guide”. And so the story goes. The following is how it unfolded.
Day 1: 4 PM arrive @ Wild Basin TH, Bluebird Lake Day 2: Lion Lake #1 & #2, Snowbank Lake, Chiefs Head Peak, Mount Alice, Thunder Lake, Denver Day 3: Red Rocks, REI, Wahoos, Longs Peak TH Day 4: Longs Peak (Keyhole Route), Highland Tap & Burger, Denver Beer Company
Thursday, June 21, 2012 – Kevin, Miguel, Nate and Ray flew in from Massachusetts and Dana from DC. Dana arrived a few hours early, the rest of the gang around noon. We hit up REI for some last minute supplies and the bear canisters and we were off. The Destination: Wild Basin Trailhead (8,500′) – Rocky Mountain National Park.
After we dropped our packs at camp we headed for Bluebird Lake, arriving just before dark. The lake is 3.3 miles from the North St. Vrain campsite. We took a breather, enjoyed the lake, ate some trail mix (and some ibuprofen), and then headed back to camp using our headlamps and called it a night.
Friday, June 22, 2012 – Today’s mission: A loop consisting of Lion Lake #1, Lion Lake #2, Snowbank Lake, Chiefs Head Peak, Mount Alice, Thunder Lake, back to basecamp and then back to the Wild Basin TH.
We woke up a little after 7 and hit the trail around 8. Bivvies make for a pretty quick setup/take down. Destination #1 on the day: Lion Lake #1, 2.2 miles from camp.
Next stop: Lion Lake #2 and Snowbank Lake, perched a few hundred feet and short distance above Lion Lake #1.
Below is a shot of the saddle between Mount Alice and Chiefs Head Peak. The defined trail ends at Lion Lake #1. There are some cairns which will get you to Lion Lake #2, but from there you’re on your own. We headed right, towards the eastern edge of Snowbank Lake and around to the middle of the saddle.
We began working our way across the Divide after descending Chiefs Head. Mount Alice was next on the day at an elevation of 13,310′ (approx. 1.5 miles from summit of Chiefs Head).
After Thunder Lake we headed back to camp, grabbed our overnight gear and then trekked back to the Wild Basin TH to our cars (6.8 miles from Thunder Lake to the cars). We then drove back to Denver. It was a long and ambitious trek and we were beat.
Saturday, June 23, 2012 – We hit up a great breakfast joint on Tennyson in the Highlands, ate way too many pancakes, drove out to Red Rocks, grabbed some gear at REI, ate way too many tacos at Wahoos, and once again we were off to the Park. This time headed for the Longs Peak Trailhead.
We unpacked the bivvies and were fast asleep before dark.
Sunday, June 24, 2012 – Longs Peak – Keyhole route – 2 AM start. The mountain was all ours. I’ll let the pictures tell the story from here. It was one hell of a weekend to say the least. Great having you guys in Colorado and I’ll see you next year in the White Mountains. Come back soon!