Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Climbing Longs Peak

It dominates the horizon in northern Colorado. It's been photographed by Ansel Adams, has been featured on the Colorado state quarter, and is the most-climbed fourteener in Colorado. At 14,259 feet Longs Peak is also the highest point in Rocky Mountain National Park, and is the only mountain in the park to exceed 14,000 feet.

I once "attempted" to summit Longs Peak. I got about two hundred yards or so above The Keyhole and discovered that I really wasn't a mountaineer. I thought the sheer drop-offs from the trail along that narrow stretch were downright frightening. Although many people summit the mountain each summer, many others are satisfied just to reach The Keyhole. Although a very tough day hike, the views are quite spectacular along the way, as well as from The Keyhole itself. Moreover, hikers don't have to worry about falling off the mountain to get there!

In the video below the editors of Backpacker Magazine take viewers on a vicarious climb to the top of Longs Peak. You be the judge - would you do this?





Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

Monday, May 25, 2015

Gear Review: The New Dare 2B Stalwart Jacket

This morning I finally had the opportunity to test the Stalwart Jacket, a new line of outdoor apparel from Dare 2B, an outdoor clothing company out of the United Kingdom. In addition to cycling, running and snow sports, the clothing company also focuses on apparel for hikers.

And, just in time for the spring and summer season, Dare 2B has launched a new line of active wear which now includes its new Body Seamless technology, which is designed to reduce friction in critical areas during active sports, while ensuring that you'll have maximum comfort at all times and at all levels of activity. As part of this new line is the brand new Stalwart Jacket.

Dare 2B touts the jacket as "the ultimate fast and light defense from the elements". This 4-way stretch shell is waterproof, breathable and is super lightweight. The jacket features taped seams, has a full front zip and underarm zips for ventilation, an adjustable shockcord hem system, multiple pockets, adjustable cuffs, a shaped hood with a technical wired peak to keep the rain out, and has a roll away hood function.

So after hanging in my closet for a couple of weeks, I finally had the opportunity to give the jacket a real live field test this morning. I was waiting for the opportunity to take a walk in the rain to see if the jacket lived up to its billing. Overall I was very pleased.

During my somewhat brisk half-hour walk around the neighborhood in a steady rain, the jacket kept me completely dry. Moreover, at 65 degrees, I worried that I was going to overheat inside the jacket. To my surprise this didn't happen. In fact, I felt completely comfortable during the entire circuit. This surprised me because the jacket is thicker than a standard shell, and even has a light lining. Now, if I had to climb some substantial elevation in these same conditions, the result might be a little different. That, however, remains to be seen.

I also thought that the wired peak feature on the hood was a plus, acting similarly to that of a baseball cap.

My only real complaint with the Stalwart Jacket is with the design of the hood. When turning my head from side to side, the hood wouldn't move. To remedy this I had to pull the hood with my hand in order to see on either side of me.

Americans will also have to get used to the zipper being switched to the opposite side. Maybe its because I'm left-handed, but it takes a little practice to get used to the English/European version. Potential customers should also note that the Stalwart Jacket is cut a little more slimmer than their American cousins.

All in all I thought this was a great jacket, and look forward to using it in the mountains when the weather turns sour.



Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
Grand Teton Hiking
HikinginGlacier.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

Friday, May 22, 2015

Visitors Should Expect Wet, Snowy Conditions and Closed Roads on National Forests This Weekend

Memorial Day weekend brings many visitors to the Roosevelt and Arapaho National Forests west of Boulder and Denver. While this holiday weekend is traditionally the kick-off to the camping season, please be aware that snow lingers and continues to accumulate at the higher elevations. Spring rains and snowmelt have made some roads too snowy, wet and muddy for driving. Even lower elevation hiking trails may have mud and snow patches. Many higher elevation trails will remain snow packed until later in June.

Four campgrounds near Boulder are open: Kelly Dahl, Camp Dick, Peaceful Valley and Olive Ridge. Although many campsites are already booked, first come, first served spots are available at these campgrounds. Meeker Park Campground is scheduled to open June 12. Rainbow Lakes and Pawnee Campgrounds will not open until later in June. For a full list of campgrounds and opening dates please click here.

Three campgrounds off Highway 119 (Peak to Peak) are open: Cold Springs, Columbine and Pickle Gulch Group Campground. Although many campsites are already booked, Cold Springs and Columbine have some first come, first served spots. Water is not yet available at any of these campgrounds. West Chicago Creek Campground will not open this weekend due to snow and is tentatively scheduled to open May 28. The higher elevation campgrounds of Clear Lake, Guanella Pass and Echo Lake open in June. For a full list of campgrounds and opening dates please click here.

Eight National Forest campgrounds in Grand County will be open for Memorial Day weekend, including all five campgrounds in the Arapaho National Recreation Area. In the Winter Park/Fraser area, St. Louis Creek and Idlewild campgrounds will open Friday. Denver Creek Campground on Colo. Highway 125 will also be open. Water may not be available in all campgrounds, so be sure to call ahead or check here.

Most National Forest System roads west of Boulder remain closed due to mud or snow. This includes motorized access into the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. This road is not scheduled to open until June 12. This also includes the road to Mount Evans. For more information on the status of Mount Evans, visit the Colorado Department of Transportation website. Forest visitors should note that the Boulder area still has road and trail closures due to flood damage. Detailed information can be found online here. According to the Sulphur Ranger District's Motor Vehicle Use Map, which can be found online, the majority of National Forest roads become available for use around June 15, if conditions allow.

Be cautious when driving down forest roads. Turn around if the road becomes muddy or snow packed. This spring, visitors should check the latest road information before heading out.

Lower elevation hiking, including trails located along and east of the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway (Highways 119, 72 and 7), have mud and snow patches. Most trails west of these routes will remain snow packed until later in June

The trails around Monarch Lake make a very popular loop hike in the early season. Portions of those trails, as well as many others on the district, are still snowy or muddy, so if you plan to hike the entire loop, be sure to wear appropriate footwear.

The Idaho Springs visitor center is open seven days a week with summer hours starting Memorial Day Weekend from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Call the Visitor Center at 303-567-4382 for more information.



Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
Grand Teton Hiking
HikinginGlacier.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Throwback Thursday

At one time (and may continue today) there was an old Swiss custom of placing bells on mountain tops and passes in order to allow hikers and horseback riders to ring loud bells in the mountains. During the early years of the park, Glacier National Park was promoted as the answer to Americans leaving the country to vacation in the Swiss Alps. In addition to building several Swiss style chalets around the park, the Great Northern Railway and the Glacier Park Hotel Company requested permission to place locomotive bells on the summits of several passes in Glacier. In September of 1926 the request was finally granted to place bells at Swiftcurrent Pass, Piegan Pass and Siyeh Pass. Three years later a fourth bell was added at Scenic Point. The bells remained in place until the fall of 1943, at which point they were removed by the hotel company and donated to a World War II scrap metal drive. Today, each of those four passes remain as some of the best hiking destinations in the park.



Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Trail Ridge Road Opening Delayed Due To Wet Spring Snow

Due to continuing winter conditions at high elevations in Rocky Mountain National Park, Trail Ridge Road's opening will be delayed. Trail Ridge Road historically opens on Memorial Day weekend; last year the road opened on May 24.

According to Park Superintendent, Vaughn Baker, "This May's snowy and wet weather patterns have certainly hampered this year's efforts. As is typical, park plow operators have dealt with days of low to no visibility, wind, drifting snow and icy road conditions. This May, freezing temperatures above 10,000 feet, the lack of sunshine and the fact that Memorial Day is earlier this year have added to the challenges."

Park snowplow operators will continue to plow the road; the road will open as soon as it is safe to do so. Due to the extended forecast for winter conditions at higher elevations, it is too soon to predict when that might be.

Every year, Rocky Mountain National Park snowplow operators begin plowing Trail Ridge Road in mid-April. Crews from the west side of the park and crews from the east side of the park move along the road and eventually meet near the Alpine Visitor Center. This occurred last Thursday, May 14, near the Gore Range overlook. Plow operators normally encounter drifts from 18 to 22 feet and are accustomed to plowing the same section of road over and over. Trail Ridge Road was completed in 1932. The earliest the road has opened was on May 7, 2002; the latest June 26, 1943. In 2011, the road opened on June 6.

Park staff expect a busy Memorial Day Weekend throughout Rocky Mountain National Park. The three reservation campgrounds in the park are full for the weekend. Visitors planning to recreate in the park's backcountry, depending on their destination, should be prepared for a variety of conditions including snow, ice, slush and mud.

For further information about Rocky Mountain National Park please contact the park Information Office at (970) 586-1206, the Trail Ridge Road status recorded phone line at (970) 586-1222 or check the park's website.

With the summer hiking season just around the corner, now's the time to make your plans to visit Rocky Mountain during its Centennial Anniversary this year. Don't forget, in addition to comprehensive hiking information, we also provide accommodation listings, as well as other things to do during your visit to the area. Please support our partners by visiting their websites!



Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
Grand Teton Hiking
HikinginGlacier.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

North Fork Trail Closed this Summer; Volunteer Workdays Scheduled

The flood-damaged North Fork Trail, located near Glen Haven, will be closed June 1 through Aug. 24, 2015. Poudre Wilderness Volunteers are hosting workdays throughout the summer to help restore this very popular trail.

Although North Fork Trail is closed, the Dunraven Trailhead will remain open providing access to the Bulwark Ridge Trail. Note that work continues to take place on County Road 43 and there may be travel delays in this area.

Last year Poudre Wilderness Volunteers started work on the North Fork Trail, dedicating more than 4,000 volunteer hours of work. Major work, such as bridge replacements and rebuilding trail, has been started but more work is still needed. This great volunteer organization has planned seven public trail restoration volunteer weekends, with the first one this Memorial Day weekend. You can register here.

Volunteers of all skill levels can participate, but must be at least 18 years old or 16 years old if accompanied by a parent. No dogs are allowed. Work includes moving rocks and downed trees, reestablishing the trail and helping with drainage issues. Volunteers need to wear long sleeved shirts and pants (no shorts) and work boots. Be sure to bring water and rain gear. Hard hats, gloves and tools will be provided. Volunteers will also receive breakfast, snacks and lunch.

PWV is the key contact for the Canyon Lakes Ranger District for public work days. PWV works closely with the Forest Service for 20 years and are trained by the forest in trail restoration. The outpouring of support for recovery work has been greatly appreciated; however, this work has to be carefully coordinated.



Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
Grand Teton Hiking
HikinginGlacier.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

Monday, May 18, 2015

Rocky Mountain Makes Progress With Snow Removal on Trail Ridge Road

Every year Rocky Mountain National Park snowplow operators begin plowing Trail Ridge Road in mid April. Crews from the west side of the park and crews from the east side move along the road to eventually meet near the Alpine Visitor Center. This just happened this past Thursday.

This year, snowplow operators have encountered less snow on the west side of the Continental Divide, and average snow pack on the east side. Park plow operators have dealt with days of low to no visibility, wind, drifting snow and icy road conditions

Weather permitting, park officials are continuing to work towards opening the road on Friday, May 22nd.

Below is a video recently published by the park showing some of the progress being made atop Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved highway in the United States, which reaches an elevation of 12,183 feet:



With summer hiking season just around the corner, now's the time to make your plans to visit Rocky Mountain during its Centennial this year. Don't forget, in addition to the comprehensive hiking information we provide, we also provide accommodation listings, as well as other things to do during your visit to the area. Please support our partners by visiting their websites!



Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
Grand Teton Hiking
HikinginGlacier.com
HikingintheSmokys.com