Sunday, September 16, 2018

September 15: Hiking Club on peaks in the San Gabriels

Group photo on the summit
Downtown LA, the ocean beyond, Mt Wilson observatory at far right

Monday, September 10, 2018

September 3-9: CO-NM Trip

 Labor Day Weekend I visited my brother in Denver, then spent the next week driving down thru central Colorado to Taos and Albuquerque.  My idea was to climb one of the Collegiate Peaks in the Sawatch Range on the Continental Divide.  Plan was to stay two nights in Buena Vista, climb Mt Harvard, then climb the highest peaks in New Mexic, which are clustered above Taos.  I dropped off the car and flew home from Albuquerque.

The 1880's county courthouse in Buena Vista
Early on summit day, Mt Harvard has a new mantle of snow
Route to Mt Harvard summit
But upon waking up the peaks displayed a dusting of snow. This didn’t make 14421’ Mt Harvard impossible, but summit conditions would be a frozen whiteout with wind and no view.
At the edge of the clouds at Bear Lake
I stopped for lunch at the cloud ceiling at 12400’ Bear Lake - my turnaround point. It was a dramatic day for photos and instead of feeling cheated, I enjoyed the opportunity to hike again over Colorado tundra.
The clouds cleared for a view south to Mt Yale
On the return I met a young hiker with a PCT patch on his pack.  I inquired, he said he hiked the trail in 2017, and in short time we were discussing common friends.  

South of Buena Vista a low divide separates the Arkansas drainage (which ends up in the Mississippi) from the Rio Grande headwaters, which drains straight south thru New Mexico. So I’d forgotten about Zebulon Pike, but while Lewis & Clark were yet on their way home from the NW in 1806, Thomas Jefferson sent Army Lt Zebulon Pike to explore the southern Louisiana Purchase by following the Arkansas River to its origin in the Rockies.   
Roadside display near Alamosa

They followed the drainage beyond his 14000’ namesake peak,  then ended up wasting time traveling in a big circle, then not far from this roadside display, on land that had been New Spain for a hundred years already, they found themselves under foreign jurisdiction, earning them a forced escort to the Chihuahuan capital city by Spanish troops.  There the governor released them, as Mexico was not at war with the US, but Zeb and the boys then got escorted all the way back to Nachitoches Louisiana, and didn't even get overtime pay.  Kind of a bummer trip, not as inspirational as the Lewis and Clark story, which is why you didn't learn about it in history class.  Anyway, Pike's expedition stumbled into Spanish territory thru that low notch in the Sangre de Cristo range:
Medano Pass, with Great Sand Dunes below
 Yeah, and they remarked about the Great Sand Dunes in their journal.

Dunes with the Sangre de Cristo range behind
I wanted to hike to the 750' high summit dune today, but didn't have time.

Looks like a big climb
I drove another two hours south to Taos, where I met my friend Nina for some hikes.
On a hike in the  Rio Grande Gorge
Old petroglyphs
The Sangre de Cristos form the tailbone of the Rocky Mountains, where the range finally peters out around Santa Fe -  but not before presenting several 12,000 - 13,000' peaks. We climbed 13,161' Wheeler Peak, the highest in the state, and four attendant peaks.  It was a five peak day!
At the register on Wheeler Peak's summit
A herd of bighorns inhabits these heights
Scenery on the descent
Sunset from Taos