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August 23rd 2013

Kit Carson Peak - Saguache County, CO - 14,171 ft (4,319 m)

Dry Dock Hefeweizen - Hefeweizen - 4.3% ABV

GPS Track

After the short rest on Challenger, it was time to set my sights on Kit Carson. I had read all about ‘the avenue’, a walkway that circles the steep face of Kit Carson and allows easy access to it’s summit. But as I looked at it from Challenger it really did worry me.

I descended down to the saddle between the two peaks on stable rock. I was greeted with a sign that read ‘DANGER: Loose rocks cliff. Many have died’. Got it, no short cuts, thanks sign. I looked up the avenue that I was to be walking across and my fears eased. It was easily 5 foot wide, and even then a fall would not be fatal.

Following the trail first up a bit, then down a bit, finally I reached the point to leave the avenue and attack the summit. Unfortunately that attack meant going through more scree. Fortunately it was only a few hundred vertical feet of it though.

After the scree was behind me I was at the summit, which again I had to myself. Here I was able to enjoy another brew not often seen in cans. Dry Dock’s award winning Hefe. This as long been a favorite of mine. Loads of banana up front, it really does represent a solid Bavarian Hefeweizen. No wonder it has won multiple golds at GABF in that category. 

After taking in everything the summit had to offer, it was best time I started down. Back over the avenue, the sign of death, and back up the Challenger. Easy.

Then came the scree field again. By this point in the day it was around 11 o’clock and the crowds were just making their way to the top of the scree. At first it was small, 2/3 person groups who looked prepared and ready. They stepped lightly on rocks and when they did make the mistake and send some flying, they made sure to call out ROCK.

But eventually I began passing larger and larger groups. Five, seven, TEN?! Yikes. And it seemed that each was less prepared than the one before. And the ones that were moving slowly in tennis shoes, shorts, and a single water bottle in hand with nothing else also seemed to be the ones just digging their feet into the loose dirt and rock with every step sending all sorts of crap down the mountain. But they didn’t care. Oh well, I had my helmet on and was on my down, so I was ok.

At one point I stopped and waited for a group of ten-ish to pass as I was in a rough spot and knew I didn’t want to send anything tumbling their way. Most of the group had no gear other than the summer clothing they wore. The second to last to pass asked if I was a guide. Apparently having a helmet and trekking poles makes me look like I know what I am doing? I chuckled and hold her no, I just have done a few hikes before and had an idea what to expect.

After they passed I continued on my way down. Mostly on my feet, sometimes on my ass, but luckily never on my face. At one point I slipped, tried to jam my pole into the mountain to save balance, and SNAP. I tumbled a few feet and stopped. I looked around and found three poles. Turns out I snapped one of my carbon fiber poles right in half. Yikes. Well, better it than my arm or leg.

Eventually I was back in the willows and at camp. I was sore, but knew I still had to pack out that day. And that I did. Shoulders still sore from the day before, and all around aches setting in, I figured might as well just get it over with. Before I knew it was I looking at the lot and ready to be home.

It’s strange how an exhausting and tiring trip really can recharge you. While I am sore, I feel so much a better person now. I wish I could get on trips like this more often.

August 23rd 2013

Challenger Point - Saguache County, CO - 14,087 ft (4,294 m)

Santa Fe Brewing Saison ‘88 - Saison - 5.5% ABV

Approach GPS Track - Summit GPS Track

I seem to always have the ‘benefit’ of leaving jobs during summer. This time is a little different, and I only got two extra days between jobs. But I still needed something to clear my head and recharge the batteries. I decided to pack up all by my lonesome and make my first trek down to the Sangre de Cristo range.

The plan was to hike into Willow Lake and stay the night there and climb Challenger and Kit Carson in the morning. As I approached the trailhead near Crestone, CO I looked up at the mountain wall in front of me in awe. I began to wonder what I had been thinking. This range seems to come out of no where and shoot straight into the sky. After spending most the summer in the gentle Sawatch Range, the ruggedness appearance of the peaks here were worrisome yet welcome.

I started off on the trail with a very heavy load. It had been a while since I carried overnight gear, and I figured I was in much better shape now than before. You could say I overpacked a tad and probably had enough gear and food for 3, pushing 4, nights. And also a few cans of beer :). But no big deal, right?

Well, turns out I do have limits. Only about 2 miles into the trek, my legs burned and shoulders ached. Not the good aching after a hard days climb, but the sore, grumpy, ‘screw this’ kind of aches that I hadn’t felt in a while. As I pushed forward I found myself having to stop every 20 to 30 minutes for a breather. I just kept telling myself that no matter how tempting it may be, DO NOT TAKE OFF THAT PACK UNTIL YOU FIND CAMP.

Of course eventually I peeked over a hill and saw the lake. Finding a good spot to pitch tent I was able to finally rest. I was exhausted. But no rest for the wicked. Put the tent up, unpacked want I needed, and began to cook dinner. After sitting and eating I felt much better. I poked around the lake awhile, checked out the waterfall, and eventually settled on a ledge above the lake where I sat for a good two hours. Overlooking the lake as the sky grew dark I had a few beers and just lost myself in thought. It was what I needed.

The next morning I awoke at 4:30 and started off to Challenger Point. A short hike through willows quickly lead to easily one of my least favorite hikes ever. About 2000 vertical feet of scree, the first half of which has fairly well defined ‘trail’. Only about 300 vertical feet into it my legs and lungs hurt again from the day before. I had burnt them up, and the nights rest had barely recharged them. I looked up and the remaining route and just wanted to turn back. I hate scree. I hate being this exhausted. But I know more than that I hate quitting. I powered through it until eventually I gained the ridge. From there is was a great walk over to the summit, which I was lucky enough to have to myself. 

And as my reward - a style of beer I rarely see in cans. Saison ‘88 is the 25th Anniversary brew from Santa Fe Brewing. It is an average saison, but nothing really special or worth seeking out. But that morning as I drank it I couldn’t imagine anything tasting sweeter. Soon it was time to move onto Kit Carson

August 17th 2013

Tabeguache Peak - Chaffee County, CO - 14,162 ft (4,317 m)

Renegade Brewing 5:00 Ale - Blonde Ale - 5% ABV

GPS Track

No time to rest on the summit of Shavano. Quick beer and picture and it was over the summit on the way to Tabeguache. Little bit of route finding down to the saddle between the two, but everything was solid rock or grass.

From the saddle it’s about 450 ft up to the summit. There is a decent trail, but just very loose and cruddy scree. Oh well, it’s short at least. The views north from this peak were incredible. Antero is sitting right in front of you, and you can see a long stretch of other Sawatch peaks in the distance. A lot less people here too.

Grabbed another light beer for this peak too. 5:00 Ale from Renegade may be 5%, but drinks much more like a session ale. Light on the body, hops, and malt, I feel like it had just enough of each to be drinkable. Not great, but not bad either.