Colorado March 2010
Dates: March 21 - March 27, 2010
People: Mark, Luke, Jonah, Seth, Denny, Marcia, David, Matt H.
- 3-21 (Travel Day)
- 3-22 (Snowshoeing)
- 3-23 (Monarch Skiing)
- 3-24 (Snowshoeing)
- 3-25 (Quandary Peak)
- 3-26 (Free Day)
- 3-27 (Driving Day)
SUNDAY MARCH 21
This is day 1, for Mark at least. The others had left early, early Saturday morning and drove it all the way through to Colorado arriving around supper time in Monument. They even survived the scary cold and icy roads of Iowa which had a passing snow storm. Word has it the younger three Witte boys did incredibly well with this long car trip, mostly surviving by having DVD’s to watch on the van’s TV screen.
Mark went to (and led) church in the morning at Grace and was quickly off to the airport after church (and a little bit of a quick lunch). Sarah dropped him off at the airport and then rushed on back to Grace for youth volleyball. Mark made his flight on time out of Detroit and even arrived in Chicago Midway five minutes early. At Midway it was about an hour and a half lay-over which turned into almost 2 hours when the flight left 25 minutes late. Much to Mark’s surprise though, the flight arrived in Denver 5 minutes early. Its always interesting how that works out, leaving late, arriving early, who schedules these things? Mark spent the bulk of his time on his flights between a mix of reading book and watching movies on his Nokia tablet.
Upon arrival in Denver Mark was quickly greeted by David and Matt who had spent the afternoon in Denver (mostly at REI). This group stopped at a Denver Taco Bell for some 5-layer (read: 3-layer) burritos and then hit US285 to head to the cabin. The others were on a grocery-shopping mission before they too reached the cabin. Upon the Denver group’s arrival at the cabin they were greeted by Dad and the mini-van stuck in the snow on the driveway. He was making a valiantly effort to get it un-stuck, and in the process farther up the driveway, but it wasn’t happening.
In fact, the front end kept sliding downhill to eventually the vehicle was sideways on the driveway. We finally eased the front-end further downhill till we drove it head first back onto the road. No more attempts up the driveway this week. We had our first workout already of the week marching carload after carload of gear and toys and clothing up the long driveway to the cabin.
MONDAY MARCH 22
Our first full day in the beautiful snowy mountains of Colorado. We took a nice leisurely morning while still acclimating to the higher altitudes. We had contemplations of a nice restful, peaceful week in the mountains but then quickly realized as Witte’s, we’re supposed to be doing stuff on vacation. So about 10:30am we headed off to Buena Vista and on to Tennessee Pass for some snowshoeing. Along the way we also picked up Aunt Joyce who joined us for the adventure.
We had great temps for snowshoeing, almost too warm in fact. We would get in almost 2 miles running the loop to the southwest of Tennessee Pass. Various boys would be carried along the way but we all made it. The adventure of plowing through several foot deep snow in some parts was new to most of us and quite the joy. We also found other parts which were starting to melt out along the trail with the nice temps and warm sun.
We had a picnic lunch at Tennessee pass sitting on an old shower curtain atop the snow in the parking lot. It was beautiful. We let David go early for some business he had to take care of in Leadville. The rest of us drove on back to the cabin while also bidding good-bye to Aunt Joyce.
The evening was a joy as we began it with some fresh grilling outside. Mark was the grill foreman and manage to get some fresh salmon cooked. This was the first attempt at cooking salmon right on the grill bars (at home we have a large tray we do our fish on) and in the process realized that this soft, relatively thin salmon, has a way of falling through the grill bars. Luckily only one piece was lost during the cooking process (which I later had to fish out [no pun intended]).
TUESDAY MARCH 23
We were up early this morning to hit the road to Monarch for some skiing. We left the cabin around 7:30am and headed first for Poncha Springs. We stopped at Wilderness Ski Shop. We used some web coupons and got rentals for each of us at great deals. Luke enjoyed trying on his first set of ski boots and got a nice kids helmet.
We made it Monarch a few minutes after lifts started at 9am. Morning weather was fantastic. We went up the main lift halfway to the top of the "bunny" hill. Luke made his first ski run with Papa. Papa ended up holding him most of the way down. Luke wasn't putting much weight on his legs and so we were mostly holding him up between our legs on the way down. He was improving however, with every run. Mark and Papa spent time taking turns with Luke for the first 2 hours of the day. Mark then took off on his own for awhile as David had been doing all morning. Before lunch Mark made a run to the very top of Monarch. The views were still great and Mark could see mountain peaks in all directions.
For lunch we had some tasty, but grossly over-priced ($8.00) burgers. After lunch Dad took Luke avain to practice more. Mark went off with David and Matt and made a bunch of runs down the green routes on the mountain. By about 2:30 we got word from Papa that Luke was much improved. We got a video of one of his runs where he was heading down the beginner slope on his own. He wasn't controlling speed yet but he was heading down on his own. We decided to challenge Luke a bit and so we took him to the top of the mountain and he got to run several green slopes down. He had a little trouble but Papa helped him all the way down.
Luke slept the last hour of the day after being worn down. We left Monarch after the lifts closed at 4pm and headed for Poncha Springs to return our rental gear. We spent the evening resting up and watched the snow storm hit.
WEDNESDAY MARCH 24
As we awoke this morning we were treated to the sight of nearly a new foot of snow. We had heard the winds and seen the beginnings of it last night as the snow fell on the deck, but we were still surprised at the amount we found. Our first realization of the day is that we might be genuinely snowed in to the cabin. The road in front the cabin wouldn't be plowed of snow till Friday. We went out on snowshoes and checked out the road. We found out that the neighbor to the northwest had pulled her pickup truck out and left a track in the snow down the road to the south. We snowshoed further up the road to the south towards Oahu and found that those roads had been plowed.
We decided to gear up for the day and try some more lengthy snowshoeing. Mark, David, and Matt headed off for the national forest land to the south of the cabin. Dad would join us later on after snowshoeing near the cabin with the boys and Mom. We snowshoed to the intersection of Windmill and Oahu and headed down the dead end road to the gate and started off into the fresh powder of the field. We were shocked how much snow we found. We were no more than our first few steps in and we were sinking in 6-8 inches, in our snowshoes! Without our snowshoes we may have postholed a foot or two. We snowshoed about a quarter mile into the field starting to veer to the south until we realized some fencing would cut us off. We beelined to the northeast to make it around the edge of the fencing and then headed for the top of a hill ahead of us. We made it up there and were treated to a nice view to the southeast looking into South Park. Dad was on our trail now but was still a good mile behind. We turned around and met him on the side of the hill to share of our escapades. We returned to the cabin having done nearly 4.5 miles in the deep snow.
David made a trip to Leadville in the afternoon to get more research in while the rest of us enjoyed the snow views from within the cabin. The evening was spent getting our gear in place for the Quandary climb tomorrow. It was enjoyable getting all the new winter gear we had prepped with in place. The weather reports for Thursday looked fantastic.
THURSDAY MARCH 25
Satellite and Terrain maps of the hike up Quandary Peak.
We were up just before 6am this morning to get ready for Quandary. We hit the road about 7:15am and had already beautiful skies for the drive. The roads were all looking good despite the snow storm on Tuesday night. We were impressed as we neared Quandary at the amount of snow we could see sitting on its East ridge (made for great pics too!).
We found only one other car at the winter trailhead when we arrived. It was a joy getting all our gear together in the freezing cold to ready for the hike. This would be the coldest we would find ourselves all day long. As we hit the trail about 7:25am we were again pleased to find that there had been a hiker ahead of us paving a snowshoe path in the snow for us. We would later find out that this hiker had been Bill Middlebrook, the owner of 14ers.com. During the early hiking in the trees we were finding fingers and toes getting cold pretty quickly. If it were not for the trail already cut before us it would have been more difficult in navigation for us as well. The snow was very deep and the snowshoes were definitely a necessity for us.
As we got nearer to treeline we were warming up and beginning to enjoy amazing views. The skies were almost crystal clear for us with plenty of sun as well to provide just incredible pictures for us. Lower on the mountain we also weren't getting hit with much for wind yet. As we began to climb our way onto the east ridge we finally met our first bunch of hikers. They were a group of four who passed us up as we were gaining the ridge crest.
The hike was a smooth and easy go until we hit around 13000 ft. where the ridge gets steeper heading up to the summit. Here the winds picked up and the terrain became steeper, harder, and icier. It was never pure ice we were on but the hardened snow was slick at times. We had to really use the teeth on our snowshoes to dig in for traction on each climbing step. With the heavy wind blowing snow in our faces and the steep terrain we made slow progress high on the ridge. But with plenty of spot breaks we summited around 11:45am. The winds were not as fierce on the top as expected but it was pretty cold. We took our handful of pictures, made a phone call or two, finished off some drinks and were on our way back down. As usual, while on the summit we were quickly taking care of business getting ready to head down in a hurry, but upon leaving the summit one always has that wish they'd stayed longer to enjoy the views.
The hike down went smoothly. We navigated the steep terrain above 13000 with little trouble. The rest of the East ridge was covered with thick snow which we the trek down a fun one. We also ran into a handful of skiers who had climbed up, some just skiing the lower east slope, some looking to climb near the summit to ski the whole mountain. With every hour or so we climbed down we were shedding layers of clothing. I had started the day with a polypro underlayer, a capilene layer, and my gore-tex jacket. By the end I had shed the polypro, had unzipped every zip on the gore-tex and had shed my winter gloves for some lighter ones. We also found the trail down in the trees had nearly melted out in parts. (of course there were still other parts with 2 feet of snow). We returned to the car around 2:30pm and were feeling great. A beautiful day on Quandary in almost every way.
We were treated to a luxury dinner back at the cabin. Mark grilled burgers while Mom made queso dip and so we enjoyed queso burgers as a rewarding treat after the hike.
FRIDAY MARCH 26
This was our last day and our relax day. We were up early as usual. Between going to bed at decent hours and never sleeping perfectly at high altitude, we were early-risers this week. We did some basic snowshoeing around the cabin in the morning. We were exploring the massive snow drifts on the road-side of the cabin.
In the afternoon David and Dad made one more trip to Leadville for David's research. The rest of us stayed back at the cabin for naps and packing. We also enjoyed playing the Wii with Luke all afternoon. This was a great idea bringing the Wii along for lazy afternoon and evening entertainment. We had many-a-good Mario Kart race going on this week.
We spent the evening packing everything up and cleaning the cabin to perfection. It was near midnight when the last of us were about to hit the sheets. And it was would a very early morning tomorrow for the driving group.
SATURDAY MARCH 27
Most of us were up at 5:45am to start packing the vehicle. It was several more hauls walking up and down the driveway in the snow as we'd done so many times this week. The boys were all carried out to the car in the cold mostly still in their sleep. The Chicago car hit the road about 6:30am on their way to Denver and beyond. Mark and David settled back in trying for another hour of sleep or so but I don't know that either of us actually slept. much. We started closing up the cabin around 7:30am getting the water shut off and running down the checklist. We were on the road by 8:00am.
There were small snow storms through South Park this morning and we hit blowing snow across US285 at points. Once out of South Park and into the Front Range we hit some more fresh snow hitting the roads which slowed down driving. Nonetheless David and Mark still hit Denver around 10am. We visited the REI Flagship store for an hour or so exploring and having fun. We did a quick lunch in Denver near the airport, and then headed into DIA. It was a long afternoon of waiting in Denver, especially for Mark who had the later flight, and it left late.