Sunday, October 4, 2009

Waxing Gibbous, Rising Sun / Cam'ron's Snowy Tundra Fun

While I was having a self-induced rough day at work on Friday, my friend Ben had just texted about a solid run he had just finished in his Raramuri sandals. I looked outside: it was a perfectly cloudless Fall day, near sunset, and I still hadn't gotten outside to run. Jess was recovering from a tough week at work herself (which culminated in fantastic presentations from Dr. Ratey on the exercise/brain link), and I was still at work, so it was clear we were going to be in town for the weekend.

When I did get home, I did a quick run on the trail across the street under the (nearly) full moon. This made me feel a bit better, and gave me an idea...

I called up Ben with a half-baked plan to see if he had any plans for sometime before dawn. He was already planning a full-moon hike on Sunday night at Horsetooth, and already meeting friends in Denver on Saturday afternoon, but that didn't answer the immediate question: was he up for some sort of full moon/sunrise hike above treeline, somewhere? As the answer was "Yes," we discussed alternatives, eventually settling on Cameron Pass. Initially, we planned on Mt. Mahler, but after thinking about scrambling up a north-facing aspect that neither of us had been on before, with a possible dusting of snow in the dark, we decided against it, and opted instead for some exploration of Montgomery Pass/Diamond Peaks area.

So I picked Ben up around 4AM, and we headed out. We had a bit of a snafu with finding a gas station that accepted credit cards at that hour -- who knew? -- but then we were off, driving west through the silent canyon with the moon still above us. Just before 6, we were at the trailhead, with a very faint dawn and 28 degrees.

Oh yeah, and there was snow at road level. This was a bit of a surprise, as the Joe Wright Snotel showed no remaining snow. But, it was only a dusting, so we headed up in the dark:

Actually, the snow was surprisingly fresh and still in the trees. One more decent snowfall, and a fun October tour in the trees could be had.

Soon, it was light enough to see without headlamps, and then we passed treeline, just as the sun was rising, but not yet quite high enough to overtake orange llama hats:

We made our way up between the North Diamond and Montgomery Pass, cautiously traversing the steeper angles, until reaching a drier pile of summit rocks.

As we suspect, the west-facing aspects were windblown and easier to walk on.
And run on, so we did a bit of trail running on the ridge, past Montgomery Pass and over the next few summits.

Overall, the entire ridge line in this area never ceases to amaze me with it's fantastic above-treeline views and fun, easy running or hiking.

Some day in the summer, I'd like to start from the South Diamond and continue north towards Clark Peak. I'm not sure how gnarly it gets in that direction, but it's intoxicating having such a long stretch above treeline.

We headed back down from the pass and back to town, another good day at Cameron Pass! Fall is truly almost over here, as the snow will be coming soon...

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