December 25th 2012
Mount Morrison - Jefferson County, CO - 7,138 ft (2,176 m)
Upslope Christmas Ale - Belgian Strong Dark - 8.2% ABV
Christmas time. Always busy with family and friends. Of course that is not a bad thing, but it can limit time for outdoor fun. We thought it would be great if we could get up to Mount Morrison to watch the sun rise on xmas morning before having to be at our families house that morning. Well - we didn’t quite make it to the top before running out of time, but that didn’t make it any less awesome.
It snowed all night and was bitter cold, about 5 F when we started and not above 10 the whole time. But that just made it that much more beautiful. Honestly one of the more majestic feeling hikes I have ever been on. At one point a deer came hopping over the ridge maybe 50 feet from us - just bounding through fresh, untouched snow. It was like something out of a movie.
What a perfect beer to drink for our Christmas hike - Christmas Ale! A spicy winter warmer, but in a dubbel style beer. It plays well together, but still a very spiced beer.
December 16th 2012
Hells Hole - Clear Creek County, CO - 11,416 ft (3,480 m)
Sun King/Oskar Blues Chaka - Belgian Strong Pale - 8% ABV
Hells Hole is a great little hike near Mt Evans. This was the first real hike I went on while trying to get back into shape a few years ago. For that it will always be special for me. There really is no end point to the trail as it just tappers off into a meadow surrounded by peaks.
With winter here and neither the wife or myself having any avy training we decided to not go big and pick this simple trail. It was a wonderful hike with anywhere from 6 to 12 inches of snow along the whole route. The wind was mostly blocked the whole way, which we realized was nice one we got to the open meadow at the top. It was gusting up there like crazy. I am liking this idea of staying below tree line in the cold months…
Aluminum bottles are for mass made light beers, right? Not any more. Go figure it would be Oskar Blues to be the first to put a craft brew in one. Solid brew and I really enjoyed it.
November 23rd 2012
Rosalie Trail - Park County, CO - 10,472 ft (3,192 m)
Heady Topper - Double IPA - 8% ABV
Black Tuesday. On a day that is famous for crowds and malls I just wanted to get away. From everything. No summit today, didn’t want to share it with anyone. Knowing that this trail intersected with Tanglewood I figured I would check it out. After a little bit of elevation gain it flattens out and is just a nice walk through the woods.
Eventually I came upon a nice clearing and it seemed like the perfect place to stop. I found a comfy rock, cracked my beer, and just listened to nothing. The sun was directly on me which was warming enough to be very peaceful. I probably sat there for an hour. It was one of the more relaxing things I have ever done.
It was time to head back at some point and the dog and I started on the trail. Before long I heard a rustling in the brush not 20 yards ahead. It sounded bigger than a typical bird or squirrel. Of course my dog ran ahead to it, and just then I saw it - it was a skunk. I could only watch as it sprayed my dog RIGHT in the face. Instant burning rubber smell. Poor girl couldn’t even open her eye for a few minutes as it must of got some spray in it. And of course we are 3 miles from the car - and then an hour+ ride home. That was a smelly car for a while.
The beer: Heady Topper. One of the best rated beers in the world. And one of the very few that I find live up to the hype. This is bar none the best IPA I have ever had. So well balanced with wonderful hop and malt profiles. I just wish it was easier to get. If you ever get a chance to pick some up, do it!
November 11th 2012
Mount Morrison - Jefferson County, CO - 7,884 ft (2,403 m)
Dad & Dude’s Dank IPA - IPA - 7% ABV
Been looking for a training spot near town. We can’t always take a whole day to go run around on our adventures. And at the same time I don’t want to go on a ‘hike’ that has a lot of flat ground.
Enter Mount Morrison. This peak is just behind Red Rocks and we can get there in under 30 minutes from our house. It’s a short hike - but with steady elevation gain throughout. And just a little bit of scrambling at the top. It really is the perfect mini hike. I have a feeling we will be doing this a lot this winter.
Dad & Dude’s is a little breweria in Aurora, CO. This is currently their only canned offering so we figured we would give it a go. It was a perfectly fine IPA - but with so many on the market it really didn’t stand out.
November 4th 2012
Quandary Peak - Summit County, CO - 14,265 ft (4,348 m)
Oskar Blues G’Knight - Imperial Red - 8.7% ABV
With our cold weather gear getting better and better we have no reason yet to stop hiking. Might have to remind my wife of that after this trip :)
We wanted to do a 14er, but didn’t feel like making the longer drive to one we hadn’t done yet, so we settled on Quandary. I have heard it is a good beginner one for winter. The first half of the trip was just fine, a little snow here and there but nothing bad. But once you got up on that ridge the wind was just howling. I was leaning into it pretty hard, and there were a couple of times it literally knocked my wife over. She busted out the poles to help her keep her balance and we made it to the top.
Problem up there was that there was nowhere to escape from the wind. We tried going down each side of the summit a little, but it just kept hitting us from all angles. We quickly ate our snacks and downed the beer and were on our way.
This is when the real trouble started. There was just enough snow to cover the trail, and enough tracks to make it pretty iced over. I was able to pick my spots easy enough and only needed microspikes for a few short periods. Overall not bad. But the wife just couldn’t get her feet under her. She kept slipping and falling, even with the poles. At one point a pole got stuck as she fell and twisted her arm back. The way she looked at me I thought for sure it broke her arm. Luckily it didn’t, just strained the shoulder. But for most of the first pitch down she was miserable and spent a lot of it on her butt.
But like always, we made it. She hates this mountain even more than before, but it doesn’t matter. It was still a good day because we got up into the thin air. TAKE THAT SEASONS.
Figuring as this was the second time we had been up this peak, I thought it would be a fun throw back to grab the same beer. Fortunately I had been up to Oskar Blues brewery recently and snagged a pack of G’Knight in tallboys. Figured this was about perfect since I have been trying to get as many tallboys in as possible this year. G’Knight is always a great beer, and just about the best example of the style we can get in CO (step it up Tröegs).
October 7th 2012
Mt Sniktau - Clear Creek County, CO - 13,234 ft (4,034 m)
Upslope Pumpkin Ale - Pumpkin Beer - 7.7% ABV
Time to test the winter gear. Our plan was to try to get up and do both Sniktau and Grizzly. That didn’t happen, but it was still a good day. Getting to the trail head at 7 and reading a balmy 12 F on the thermometer was a good way to start the day.
Once we got to the divide and were trekking along it there were crazy winds. My guess would be right around 0 to 5 F with the wind chill for the first hour or two. I realized pretty quickly that I was going to need a new pair of mitts if I want to keep hiking through the winter. Once we started coming down off Sniktau over to Grizzly I had to stop every 15 or 20 minutes and put my hands down my pants (HOT) to warm them up.
We got to the point where we had to be back into town for a birthday party before we could finish Grizzly. It probably didn’t help that I had to stop so much to warm my hands :(. Oh well, that just leaves Grizzly as another trip this winter. For the actually beer shot we just had to go down below the ridge at one point because it was just too windy to take an actual summit shot.
Upslope. They brew awesome special beers and pretty bland normal beers. Pumpkin beers. They are usually too spicy and not pumpkin-y enough for me. But this being a special Upslope brew AND it winning gold at the 2011 GABF I figured it was worth a go. And I was right. This is a great pumpkin beer. MUCH more pumpkin and less spice that most. Big at the same time. Probably my favorite pumpkin beer.
September 16th 2012
Mt. Yale - Chaffee County, CO - 14,196 ft (4,327 m)
New Belgium Shift - American Lager - 5% ABV
Fall is coming on hard and the nights are getting crisp, even in Denver. Perfect time to get out and see some trees. The wife and I finally had a day off together and decided to get back up into the Sawatch range to see some of the colors. And I am glad we did.
This hike started off much like La Plata Peak - through nice bits of forests and crossing some streams. A bit of this and the trail throws you out into the open and you can see the rest of the route straight (well, switchbacks) up the mountain. With just a little bit of talus hoping and trail finding/making at the end we were up to the summit by mid morning. The hike down was the best since it was light enough to actually see everything now:)
The beer was New Belgium Shift. Wonderful, light, easy drinking beer. I am liking the lighter beers that have been coming out, and this one is a perfect example. Crisp and not overpowering.
September 15th 2012
Torreys Peak - Clear Creek and Summit counties, CO - 14,275 ft (4,351 m)
Steamworks Colorado Kolsch - Kolsch - 5.5% ABV
GPS TRACK NOT FOUND!
Another Saturday and another day by myself. This time I wanted to get a good scramble in before too much ice, so I decided to try the Kelso Ridge route up Torreys. Knowing it was a little scrambly I even left the dog at home. :(
Hit the trail by 5:15ish to try and avoid the massive crowds at Grays and Torreys. Even then I barely got a spot in the lot, and there were a few people around. But I quickly lost them when I got to the point to divert from the main trail and up to the ridge. It was about perfect timing as I was getting to the ridge right when there was enough light to turn off the headlamp.
The route was a blast! There were 4 or 5 really scrambly parts, but nothing that lasted too long or had too much exposure. Really the worst (best) exposure was the knife edge (see video above). The video is a tad misleading and makes it look worse, but it was still pretty much straight down for a while.
There was just the littlest bit of snow on one side, but nothing bad. Most of it was avoidable, and there was only one spot I actually had to get my feet wet. Perfect timing on the year. Didn’t see another person on the whole route, and when I got to the summit of Torreys, everyone started asking where the hell I came from. It was nice.
BUT, as you can see I have no GPS track. I lost my eTrex somewhere along the trail, and never found it. Oh well, live and learn. And spends lots of money on replacements :(
The beer this morning was Steamworks Colorado Kolsch. I see this beer all the time and never pick it up. Even when we went to Steamworks I didn’t try it. But I figured I would give it a shot since it was canned. My gut was right, there is really no reason to buy this beer. It doesn’t have the crispness I like about Kolsches. Oh well, it is still beer that was drank on a summit, can’t complain.
September 9th 2012
Square Top Mountain - Clear Creek County, CO - 13,794 ft (4,204 m)
Argentine Peak - Clear Creek and Summit Counties, CO - 13,743 ft (4,189 m)
Mount Wilcox - Clear Creek County, CO - 13,408 ft (4,087 m)
Twisted Pine Hoppy Boy - IPA - 6.2% ABV
Another weekend that I had to go hiking without the wife. Oh well - that means I can pick more off trail stuff and not worry about getting lost or stuck. *NOTE: This is foreshadowing*
I thought I would try to make a nice ridge loop and hit these three peaks. Starting off dark and early I was surprised when I got to the spot in the trail that I thought I was supposed to cut up the ridge and it was still pitch black out. My head lamp showed the way… for the next 100 feet or so. Everytime I thought I was getting to the top of the ridge, it just kept going. After a little bit of bush whacking around willows I made the ridge.
Well up the way to Square Top I was able to sit and watch the sun rise over Evans and Bierstadt. One of the better sunrises I have got to see in my life. Afterwards I continued up to the first summit, Square Top. It was, and you might imagine, very flat. Still early morning I didn’t stop too long because it was a little chilly still.
Over the pass to Argentine Peak. This was interested because at one point you pass by active power lines. It’s hard to imagine how they were able to build such a large structure up so high. Anyway, I stopped here at this peak for a quick beer and headed to Wilcox.
Another short pass and stop later I was on my way down Wilcox. Now - I knew the big lake in the middle was private property and I did not want to trespass. And I knew there would be about a half to full mile of making my way through some trees. No big deal.
WRONG! Turns out that there was a storm at some point recently in that area that blew over TONS of the trees. Everywhere you turned any kind of path was blocked. I tried SO many different ways to get through. At one point I just even gave up and was walking down a stream. Like, IN the stream. I knew I was close and didn’t care about wet feet at that point. But even that lead to more trees.
Finally I had to say screw it and just climb over/under all sorts of nasty trees. Ripped my clothes and skin up pretty good. And my poor dog got stuck a few times and I had to throw her over my shoulder to help out. I only had to do this for maybe 150 feet, but easily too 15 minutes or so. Awful.
But, in the end, I made it back to the car, didn’t see a soul on the hike, got three peaks in, and was happy.
The beer: Hoppy Boy. I have never been big on Twisted Pine, and remembered not enjoying Hoppy Boy too much. But, it being in a tall boy and all I thought I would give it another shot. I remembered correctly. It’s just an average to just below average IPA. And living in Colorado with SO many amazing breweries, an average beer in a over used style just isn’t going to cut it. But hey, it still hit the spot up there! I just wouldn’t buy it again to drink in town.
September 1st 2012
Gray Wolf Mountain - Clear Creek County, CO - 13,602 ft (4,146 m)
Renegade Brewing Ryeteous- Rye IPA - 7% ABV
I have really been bitten hard by the urge to keep getting outdoors. But this is Labor Day weekend. Ug. Crowds, not just on the trail, but on the roads too usually keep me away from the mountains. Plus all the grilling and general hanging out with friends. But this year is different. I may not have time, but I will sure damn MAKE time. Only thing that sucks is that my wife couldn’t make time. So I was solo (+dog).
Got up to the Echo Lake trail head around 5 am. It was the same trail head we used for Chicago Lakes, and I would be following the same trail for the first bit. But then, it was time to go where the trails don’t. Straight up one of the ridges to get on top of everything. It was a little bit of work, but once I got up there it was a beautiful meadow without a soul around. Choke on a fat one, Labor Day, I beat your crowds! I continued up this for a way slowly gaining elevation without too many more steep pitches. We got to the summit around 8:15, cracked my beer, and relaxed for the better part of an hour. Packed up and headed back. It wasn’t until we got back on trail that we started seeing people. And boy, were there tons. But at that point I didn’t care, I was happy and so was the dog.
Renegade Brewing is an awesome little brewery here in Denver that opened just last year. When we went into their tap room to try a flight we were very impressed. So I got super excited when I heard that they had signed up to do mobile canning! Their Ryeteous wouldn’t have been my first pick of their beers, but it is solid. I just don’t think I am a big fan of Rye beers. But I couldn’t wait to do this one either way.