Monday, July 6, 2009


Well, it was time for a little break from the training and racing schedule. Counting all triathlon, running, and cycling events, I was up to 12 after Buffalo Springs. The solution? Climbing mountains!

I am fortunate to live close the largest and possibly least traveled wilderness area in Colorado: The Weminuche Wilderness. I have spent a good deal of time here in the past, but never in the Chicago Basin area. This is where the major peaks of the San Juans are located, so a lot of people set up a basecamp in the valley and then climb the fourteeners. Sarah and I had planned to get in Friday afternoon, climb a mountain or two on Saturday, and then pack it out on Sunday. After using some vouchers I had for the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, we boarded the train Friday morning and set out for the drop-off at Needleton (Needle Creek trailhead). The train winds its way along the Animas river, along steep granite cliffs before arriving in Silverton.

We made good time, covering the uphill seven miles into our camp at treeline in about 4 hours (including a bushwhacking section through thick willows, skunk cabbage, and about 6 stream crossings). Even though the weather forecast for the area included a 40% chance of rain for each of the 3 days, we had mostly clear skies the whole time. There was a surprising amount of snow left on the peaks, so the water was still pouring down the cliff faces and feeding the creeks.
Saturday morning was a nice easy wake-up, oatmeal with walnuts and cranberries, and then some serious uphill. We decided to climb Windom first, wanting to get a nice view of the Vallecito creek drainage, so we powered up past Twin Lakes and several snowfields, summitting around noon.

On the descent from Windom, we even got a little 4th of July snow, but not enough to make things too treacherous. When we got back to the Twin Lakes basin, we decided that the weather looked good enough to try one more, so we headed towards the ridge between Eolus and North Eolus. Once we had gained the ridge line, things still looked good, so we climbed North Eolus, and then I came back down and did Eolus alone. All the mountains had considerable exposure, but it felt great to be back up high, even being able to see into New Mexico from atop the highest peaks.

With 3 big mountains climbed in a day, we headed back to camp, watched some local wildlife cruise by, ate dinner, and promptly passed out. Back down and out the same way Sunday, and now the batteries are recharged and ready for some quality training before Ironman Calgary 70.3 on August 2nd.