hacker emblem
jaegerfesting
Search | Tags | Photos | Flights | Gas Mileage | Log in

Tenmile

Started: 2014-10-11 12:02:24

Submitted: 2014-10-11 21:56:17

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator spends Labor Day weekend in Breckenridge and traverses the Tenmile Range

For Labor Day, I wanted to find a nice place to stay somewhere in the mountains of Colorado a few hours from Boulder. I looked specifically at Summit County, on the hypothesis that Summit County is well-supplied with lodging for the winter ski season, and demand would be lighter in the summer, even during the last holiday weekend of the summer. This proved to be correct; I was able to find a one-bedroom condo in Breckenridge at the end of Main Street, at the base of Peak 9, for three nights for a reasonable price. (In the winter the condo is within walking distance of the Peak 9 ski lifts; in summer one can walk to all of Breckenridge.)

I expected to encounter heavy west-bound traffic on I-70 leaving Denver, and I was not disappointed. (I was happy that we'd eaten supper first, before leaving Boulder.) When at length we reached Breckenridge, we ended up upgraded into a two-bedroom condo in the "Antero" building, which was bigger than my first apartment, had a full kitchen, and was more than big enough to fit us. (I couldn't help but notice that most of the buildings in the complex were named after obscure Sawatch fourteeners.) All of the units in the building we stayed were privately owned by individual people, leading to some unevenness in the quality of the units, and rented out on a nightly basis by the condo association. I wondered about the economics of individual people putting up the capital to purchase rental housing on this scale, in contrast to most other cities where there are more permanent residents and less hotel housing. (In some ways the Breckenridge model struck me as a mature, professionalized version of the Air B&B rental-housing model. I also considered the economics of buying my own vacation condo in Summit County but decided my money would be better spent on hotels in different places.)

Main living area in Breckenridge condo
Main living area in Breckenridge condo

Tenmile Range

On Saturday morning, I got up early to undertake the "Tenmile Range Traverse" route from Dave Cooper's book Colorado Scrambles. I drove down the Blue River valley to Frisco, with the Tenmile Range to my left in the morning light, and parked at a trailhead the end of the paved road where the road was downgraded to a four-wheel-drive road. I was driving my all-wheel-drive Rav4, but I'm never quite sure how far I ought to go on a road not rated for passenger vehicles. This road proved to be fairly gentle; it was a mile before I spotted any features that would give me trouble in my Civic, and another mile before I spotted anything I'd think twice about before driving my Rav4 over. Had I driven further I could have cut off at least five miles from my hike, and parked just short of the official end of the road. As I hiked up the road I saw a number of dispersed camp sites, populated by a variety of vehicles including Subaru Outbacks and at least one Civic.

My route took me up a creek that drained the basin to the east of Tenmile Peak, first on a four-wheel-drive road and then on a trail. I left the trail and climbed up toward the east ridge of Tenmile Peak, then began my scrambling in earnest by scrambled up the ridge to the summit. The Tenmile Range separates Breckenridge from Copper Mountain; to the west I could see I-70 snaking westward past Copper Mountain towards Vail, and to the east I could see the Blue River valley and Breckenridge in the distance. At its northern edge the range was only twelve thousand feet high, starting at Peak One and working its way one numbered peak at a time to Peak Ten at Breckenridge, then climbing into a handful of thirteeners and a fourteener, many of which I've climbed. Tenmile Peak is the one exception to the numbered peaks; it's immediately between Peak One and Peak Three.

Looking south at the Tenmile Range from the east ridge of Tenmile Peak
Looking south at the Tenmile Range from the east ridge of Tenmile Peak

At Tenmile Peak I turned south, following the rocky ridge toward Peak Three. This involved weaving around rock towers and picking my way down and back up the path of least resistance, which meandered across both sides of the ridge. It was after 11:00 but still early enough in the morning that the east side of the ridge was bathed in bright end-of-summer sunlight but the west side of the ridge was often dark and shadowed. I reached the route's crux around noon, a rock feature called "The Dragon", which seemed auspicious because I was at that moment listening to the audiobook of Guards! Guards!

Approaching The Dragon
Approaching The Dragon
Head of The Dragon
Head of The Dragon

I bypassed The Dragon to the west, skipping the chance to climb up its neck, across its back, and down its tail (as suggested by my guidebook), and scrambled up the rocks to the summit of Peak Three. Here I was amused to observe that I could hear music being played at Copper Mountain, a few miles away and three thousand feet below me.

Jaeger on top of Peak Three
Jaeger on top of Peak Three
Copper Mountain from Peak Three
Copper Mountain from Peak Three

I scrambled down the sharp ridge south of Peak Three, then up a sustained scrambling pitch toward Peak Four. By the time I reached the summit of Peak Four the wind started up in earnest. I could see rain clouds blowing in from the west, but it looked like the heaviest clouds were south of me. The terrain changed abruptly as well; it went from a rocky class 3 scramble to gently-rolling class 2 tundra. I pulled on my jacket and hurried across the tundra to the minor, unranked summit of Peak Five, then down the grassy slope to the saddle where I met the trail I had left hours earlier and turned to follow it down the mountain. To the south the ridge continued through Peak Six, and the northern edge of Breckenridge Ski Area; I could see a ski lift all but abandoned in the summer, waiting patiently for winter to return.

Looking north at Tenmile Peak and Peak Three from Peak Four
Looking north at Tenmile Peak and Peak Three from Peak Four
Peak Five
Peak Five

The trail hugged the eastern edge of the ridge, dropping low enough to give me shelter from the wind. It eventually dropped below treeline, past the point where I left the trail in the morning, and continued to the four-wheel-drive road and, eventually, my car at the trailhead. I managed to avoid any rain until the last mile of my hike, at which point I was well below treeline, rendering the thunderstorm a minor inconvenience rather than a serious threat.

The best part of the climb, I thought, was only having to drive back to Breckenridge rather than all the way back to Boulder.

Sunday

Master bedroom in Breckenridge condo
Master bedroom in Breckenridge condo

In sharp contrast to Saturday, Sunday morning dawned cold and rainy, as Colorado's summer weather patterns (clear in the morning with an afternoon thunderstorm) considered giving way to fall weather. This threw our plan into some turmoil; we'd considered visiting one of the local ski areas' summer fun parks to see if Calvin would find anything amusing, but we didn't really want to spend the day outside in the rain. The condo complex had a pool, but we had neglected to bring our swim suits, so we drove to Dillon in search of a big-box retail store to outfit us.

We stopped first at the Columbia outlet, where I found a black cardigan to buy (in size small, which I took as a perverse sign of size inflation, and possibly my interest in wearing closer-fitting clothing, rather than any significant change in my own size), but they'd already cleaned out their summer stock in favor of winter stock. (It was the last day in August, but apparently Labor Day Weekend marks the official end of summer.) We had more luck at Target, which had a the dregs of their summer stock on the clearance racks, though nothing in my size (everything was either small or extra-large), so I settled for shorts that I could pretend were swim trunks.

By that time it was almost noon, so I tried to find somewhere to eat lunch. My phone suggested a cafe in Dillon, which had a forty-five minute wait to be seated, so we visited a bakery serving lunch in the same strip mall, where we ate well enough despite the dearth of vegetarian sandwiches on their menu.

We returned to Breckenridge just as the sun was beginning to peek through the clouds, but having already devoted all day to acquiring swimwear, we headed for the pool. (I'd dismiss this as a sunk-cost fallacy except for the fact that it actually seemed like the best option at the time.) The pool was part indoors and part outdoors, with a garage door that looked like it might close to keep the air inside, but there was no obvious way to enclose the pool itself in the winter. I found the pool a bit too cold for comfort, but Calvin liked it better than the hot tubs.

We left the pool and headed out to walk around Breckenridge. We walked down the Blue River riverwalk, past crowds of people enjoying the afternoon sunshine at the end of summer, poked through the historic museum at the Breckenridge Welcome Center, then looped back to eat supper at Ollie's Pub & Grub, which had a selection of veggie burgers and seemed like our best bet if we wanted more than one choice for supper. Calvin enjoyed his macaroni and cheese but was even more interested in the wide variety of sports playing on televisions on every corner of the room.

Monday

On Labor Day I had planned to find some Calvin-compatible hike but nothing seemed especially interesting (at least after my fourteen-mile epic on Saturday), so we left Breckenridge and headed home, with a stop by Copper Mountain to pick up a four-pack ski ticket for the coming ski season. This is the best deal for local skiers who want to ski occasionally, which probably fits me. (I would have been more interested in a season pass if Kiesa were not pregnant, which will keep me closer to home this winter and absorb all of my attention starting in March.)

As I expected we ended up stuck in eastbound traffic on I-70, with everyone else returning to the Denver Metro Area after their three-day holiday weekend, which was unfortunate but unavoidable. Calvin amused himself with the iPad, and I had Kiesa and podcasts to keep me company.

"Now near I am, yes.....and now, far I am, mmmmm."
- Frank Oz, confusing Yoda and Grover
Social graces are the packet headers of everyday life.
- eriko