Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Upper Blue Lake Unhike

Member Marilyn Raff joined by several other CMC friends recalls a brilliant hike filled with native plants, high-mountain wildlife and impressive mountain peaks. Raff is the author of 4 books, her most recent is a poetry collection called: In the Palm of the Land, all available through Amazon.

On August 11, a sizzling hot day in Denver, I, along with five club members, Lori Giesecke, Joan Schwarz, Gesa Robeson, Sally Boyson, and Dawn Mitchell, headed up to cooler terrain, several miles past Breckenridge. We met early at the Stegosaurus parking lot, off I-70, to carpool to the mountains and catch gentians and other wildflowers in bloom. Dawn created these unhikes several years back for hikers wishing less vigorous treks, with minimal walking. But still, we all wished to see lush flowers and impressive scenery.

As one of two drivers, in a rather old 1999 Toyota, I followed Dawn up to 11,100 feet, as she weaved up several rocky dirt roads. My heart melted as I viewed fireweed, in blazing reddish purple, along the roadside; it brought back fond memories of when I gardened day and night on my small plot of land.

Several miles out of town, Dawn found wide-open flat space for parking, as well as good rocks for leaning on with the puffy cushions she brought along. She hauled lawn chairs up here, too, for those of us who wanted near-total comfort. As our bodies begged for food and a chilled drink, some people started eating their sack lunches, while others roamed hungrily for wildflowers—a peachy time for all! I wandered along and soon chatted with a man from New Mexico, a former Coloradan, who called the area we stood on, “Upper Blue Lake.”

Mountain peaks, lakes, trickling waterfalls and hordes of verdant trees and plants surrounded us, in spite of the destruction caused by the Mountain Pine Beetle.

On our wanderings, we saw dozens of high mountain plants, as we called to each other to name these eye-catching gems. We viewed monkshood, darling blue chiming bells, as well as wild roses. Various gentians welcomed us, such as Gentiana algida, G. cruciata, G.parryi, and Gentianella amarella var. acuta. Silvery pussytoes clung to rocks, while I smiled when bunches of campanulas stood at my feet. In my home garden I always loved to grow various forms of silenes, and among the rocks, at 11,000 feet, I encountered what I think was Silene alba. Naturally many sedums and king’s crown caught my eye; anemones, too, looked breathtaking under the warm sun.

However, aside from the beautiful hillsides and native plants in their natural habitats, all of us joyfully cheered when we saw wildlife! In particular, a family of seven mountain goats and a yellow-bellied marmot, also known as a ground squirrel, came across our paths. The mountain goats, three nannies and four kids, slowly walked the pebbled land, ignorant of us and other hikers who carefully observed them at a safe distance. Although, once, one hiker slowly approached the goats and a nanny, momentarily, stomped and scratched her hoof on the ground, as a warning, she’s out to protect her kids, so stay back! After a short stop at Georgetown for ice cream, we soon arrived at the parking lot, said our fond good-byes, and looked forward to more plant (and animal) excursions, along with a good dose of friendly visiting, next year!

Monday, October 4, 2010

The ’67 Colorado McKinley Team Leader to Speak at the Boulder Group Dinner

Howard Snyder, author of The Hall of the Mountain King

An important figure in Colorado mountaineering history, Howard Snyder, will speak this year at the annual Boulder Group dinner November 6th.  The former CMC member and trip leader led the 1967 Colorado McKinley Expedition (as Denali was called then). They were forced by the U.S. National Park Service to combine with a group from Seattle for the climb, with fatal consequences. The disastrous expedition, one of the most controversial in North American mountaineering history, was chronicled in the 2007 book Forever on the Mountain by James Tabor, and in Howard’s own 1973 book, The Hall of the Mountain King.
James Tabor's book exposes the controversy that delayed the rescue of the 1967 Wilcox Denali Expedition and cost seven men their lives. Tabor reconstructs the stranded mountaineers’ last days from meager evidence of a camp found near the summit.

Paul Schlichter, another member of the ’67 Colorado McKinley team, also will be in attendance as commentator and honored guest.  Although Howard Snyder has given many presentations on the ’67 McKinley climb in the years since then, this will be the first time both Howard and Schlichter have returned to Boulder, where the expedition began, since 1967.  It’s also the first time the two of them have ever discussed the expedition together in public.  Howard, Paul and a third member of the Colorado team, Jerry Lewis, all reached the summit successfully and survived, as did Joe Wilcox, leader of the Seattle team which the Coloradans were forced to join.  But seven out of nine members of the Wilcox team died on McKinley when they were stranded in high camp by a ferocious storm – making this the most costly mountaineering expedition in North American history in terms of loss of human life. Of the twelve men who ascended McKinley, only five came down alive – including the three Coloradans, fortunately. Howard also will touch on his experiences as a CMC trip leader and the Boulder climbing scene in the 1960’s.
"Paul on summit with flare.  We spent 1½ hours on top in nearly ideal weather.  Temperature on top was 6 degrees F., the second warmest ever recorded up to that time on the summit of McKinley.  Paul had carried two double-ended (day/night) flares all the way to the summit."
The CMC Boulder Group’s annual dinner is a great opportunity to meet and socialize with friends who share a love of the mountains – and to be inspired by powerful guest speakers. The dinner is open to members from any CMC group and also to non-members.

Tickets for the dinner are $11 per person in advance when purchased online, and $15 at the door. Everyone is asked to bring a dish serving at least five.

Howard with eldest daughter Mira, and then 7-month old granddaughter Aria at the trailhead at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, September of 2009.  The picture was taken by Howard's son-in-law Saska. 
"We were re-enacting a hike of 28 years earlier wherein I had crossed the Canyon rim-to-rim with my wife, our eldest daughter (then 15 months), and my wife’s 62 year-old mother."