I'll let you in on a little secret. I've yet to summit a 14er.  Or even a 13er...  A trip to Mt. Sneffels a couple years ago was scrubbed by a thunderstorm, and Cloud Peak in 2012 due to getting too late of a start and general slowness.  I didn't make it to the Grand Teton this summer as I'd hoped, or to Colorado, and while I still haven't summited, I had a great time and learned some valuable lessons on Mt. Bierstadt this November.

It started with a last-minute request by work for me to attend an event in Boulder over the weekend.  I jumped at the chance to get a free trip to Colorado, and was able to get the better part of Thursday there before I had to work Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and was able to book a late flight out Monday, giving me most of two days to enjoy myself!  Right away I put out some feelers to friends in the area to see what sort of adventure we could get up to.  Immediately after landing in Denver I hit up Mt. Sanitas tops 6,800 feet, and is right on the edge of Boulder.  There's a nice 3-mile trail that loops up to the summit, and I figured it would make a good warm-up hike and be a great way to kill my afternoon.  It was, and I got the bonus of meeting plenty of friendly dogs along the way, which was nice for me considering I'd left Dozer and Itty with my parents in MN.  The views from the top were stunning to a guy from Minnesota, and most importantly I confirmed that I wouldn't immediately pass out upon exerting myself at altitude...  It's a great little hike, and one that I could see myself doing regularly if I lived in the area (Strava log here).

Work was work, although Satuday and Sunday I was able to meet up with my friend Kieth and check out The Spot, a well-known bouldering gym in the area.  I was pretty blown away by their facility!  For Minnesotan's, it's as if the Minnesota Climbing Coop was about ten times larger.  At least.  There was a ton of variety in grade and style, and I had a great time exhausting myself.  They even had one of those nifty treadwalls, basically the climbing version of endless pools, although I didn't try it out.

I spent Sunday night at my friend's Jeremy and Amy's apartment.  Jeremy and I have climbed together quite a bit, and they recently moved to Boulder from MN.  We woke up around 4am and made the drive up into the mountains, arriving at Guanella Pass a little before sunrise.  As we pulled in, snow was falling and the wind was howling, rocking Jeremy's Ford Explorer on it's suspension.  The mountain itself was invisible at this point, so we had no real option but to wait for sunrise and hope that we'd get some visibility.  Happily, as the light came, the wind died, along with most of the snow, and we set off down the well marked trail for Mt. Bierstadt.  I'd read a lot about how much this part of the hike was supposed to suck, thanks to the thick willows that blanket the area, but whether it was due to the various trail improvements over the years or the well-packed snow, they didn't seem to be a problem at all.  We ended up not bringing the snowshoes, and I never had to put on micro spikes, making good time to where the willows end and the steeper climbing starts.

At some point it got cold enough for me to switch from my thinner leather gloves to some thicker insulated ones, and eventually we broke out the chemical hand warmers as well.  As we passed 13,000 feet, the wind picked up steadily, and we added layers, taking short breaks to warm our hands inside our jackets.  This worked for a while, but the wind continued to worsen, and around 13,500, approximately 3 miles, and 90 minutes into the climb, we realized that it was to the point where we weren't going to be able to keep our hands warm, and even our legs were now getting cold (up to this point we'd both been fine in 2 pairs of thermal underwear and softshell pants).  We decided discretion is the better part of valor, and turned around.  It was at this point that I learned important lesson #2 (lesson #1 was bring mittens.  Big, well-insulated ones).  I'd had my goggles up on my head the entire hike, after realizing a couple of minutes in that I didn't actually need them.  As we turned around, the wind was now in our faces, blowing snow and ice, and boy did I need them!  Taking them off my head, I found that the water vapor from my breath or sweat had condensed on the inside of the lens, and frozen there.  Not "thin film of ice" frozen, but 2-3 millimeters of solid ice!  I ended up having to twist the lenses to break some of the ice, and chip it out with a trekking pole, just to clear a tiny window to see through.  Next time they'll stay in a pocket.  Perhaps because of this, and our growing desire to get the hell out of the wind, we lost the actual trail on the descent, although we made good time, and found that the wind quickly dropped off as we went.
At our high-point, just under 13,500ft
It was at this point that I could once again remove the goggles, and it was just in time.  As we scanned for the wooden poles that marked the trail (knowing it's general direction thanks to our maps and GPS), Jeremy spotted something moving across the snow in the distance.  As we approached, my first thought was a coyote, but it soon became clear that it was a fox!  Wrapped in an incredibly thick coat of fur, it didn't seemed bothered by the wind, and it was clearly hunting something under the snow.  We closed to within about 50 feet of it on our way to the trail, and I was able to sit there and photograph it at work.  It was pretty incredible to see such a beautiful animal in it's natural habitat.  It didn't seem perturbed by us at all, focused entirely on it's task.

As we left the fox behind us, we regained the trail, and from there on it was an easy walk back to the car.  The storm had deposited three or four inches of fresh snow, but even with that the trail was clear.  By the time we'd made it back down the pass to Georgetown, it was almost 40 degrees!  What a change.  According to weather reports in the area, Bierstadt had been hit by 50mph winds, producing a windchill of -29!  While we were slightly bummed to have not made the summit, we both agreed that we'd made the right decision.  Where we turned around I didn't feel that we were in any real danger of frostbite, or getting lost, but I know it could have easily become an issue if we'd continued.  In the end we took just over 5hrs car-to-car, covering more than six miles (Strava here).
Keep in mind this is after we got back to the car.  It was way worse up high!
At our high point, we were each wearing six layers up top, and three on bottom.  I wore the Asolo mountaineering boots that I usually use for ice climbing, and they were perfect.  Up top my new Columbia Turbodown jacket did most of the heavy lifting, and was augmented with a down vest when things got really nasty.  Bierstadt was a great experience for me, and I'd love to go back in better conditions, and maybe even do the traverse to Evans to hit both in one shot.  I'll definitely be back to Colorado soon, especially now that I have a bunch of climbing partners living out there!

You learned about it in school right?  The pilgrims landed at Plymouth rock and met with the Native Americans for the first Thanksgiving dinner, right?  Well, Thanksgiving in Minnesota is COLD, and we weren't quite ready to give up on outdoor rock climbing and break out the ice axes and crampons...

Somehow about a dozen local climbers secured permission from their families to head south for Thanksgiving weekend to climb at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, in northern Arkansas.  With a forecast of between 45-70 degrees during the day, it looked like sending weather!  HCR is a great destination because of the concentration of high quality routes at almost any grade.  There's not a lot of places where a 5.8, 5.10, and 5.12 climber can all spend a week climbing 3 and 4 star routes, all within 10 minutes of their tent.  My car left the Twin Cities around 7PM on Wednesday, and arrived at the ranch 12hrs later, just in time to see the sun peek over the ridge and illuminate the cliffs of the North 40.  I linked up with my friends Aaron and Rhod, who'd driven down a little earlier than us, and we warmed up on a handful of 5.7s before tackling some harder 5.9 and 5.10a sport routes.  All too soon the sun started to dip behind the mountains again, so we cursed the short days and headed back to camp for the Climbsgiving potluck.

Dinner was delicious, if not at all traditional.  While there were turkey steaks and gravy available, there were also bratwursts, dried mango, beef jerky, bean salad, cheeseburgers, summer sausage, various pies, and burritos.  The Native Southerners (a friend's mom and brother that joined us from Louisiana) also brought gumbo, jambalaya, and birthday cake to round things out.  Everyone dug in around a roaring fire, but as the temps plummeted people drifted away to their tents and sleeping bags, full of food and ready for another day of climbing.

Friday we hit the East side of the ranch, starting on the classic Orange Crush, a 14-bolt 5.10a that commands the best view of the ranch from it's anchors.  My friend Emily joined us today, hobbling along in her plastic boot from a healing ankle sprain.  After Orange Crush we checked out a route that was new to me, Montezuma's Toe, a 5.8+ up a huge detached pillar leaning against the main wall.  It made for fun, if a little spicy, climbing, with a couple spots you definitely didn't want to fall, but I clipped the chains cleanly, nailing the onsight.  Even Emily in her boot was able to make it up this one, albeit on toprope.  We closed out our day on the Roman Wall, with a bunch of 10s, and watched stronger climbers conquer the 11s and 12s that run up the imposing roof in the middle of the wall.

Saturday was expected to be the best weather of the entire trip, and it certainly didn't disappoint.  My agenda was all about climbing some stuff I'd toproped the previous trip to HCR, and now wanted to lead.  First up was Lion Tamer, a 5.9- with a great bouldery start that I'd toproped at night this spring.  It went down no problem and we moved on to some other climbs.  I ended my day with Private Property, a 5.10a.  While I had to take to rest, I did clip the anchors, and I'm confident that next visit it will go down clean.

Sunday was even more beautiful than Saturday, but with almost 12hrs of driving ahead of us we packed up and were on the road by 730.  As dictated by tradition, breakfast was at the excellent Ozark Cafe in Jasper, and we were able to get some killer BBQ at Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City, which fueled me on the drive home.  We pulled in to the parking lot at home to find it was 7 degrees, a 63 degree swing from when we'd left Arkansas.  Sandals were a poor choice...
Our view as we left
This HCR adventure is my last rock climbing trip of the year.  From here on out it's all ice!  The main wall at the Sandstone Ice Park is already in, and from what I've heard some of the Twin Cities ice is close as well, so it's time to sharpen my crampons and tools!
Myself, Aaron, Emily, Brenda, Rhod

Here's a couple more photos from the trip:

I got sent on a last minute business trip to Boulder this past weekend, to work a photography expo at a camera shop in town.  Somehow I convinced work to fly me in early and out late, so I got most of two days to play around in Boulder and visit with some friends.

There will be more to come soon but I thought I'd leave you with this as a little teaser!  I had a great time in Colorado, and now less than 48hrs after landing back in Minneapolis I'll be loading the car and driving south to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch with more than a dozen other Minnesota climbers to spend Thanksgiving crushing sport routes in the Ozarks!

Any serious cyclist can answer this question, judging from what I've been reading online and hearing in person.  The answer of course is n+1, where n is the number of bikes you own right now.  I love my Kona Sutra, and have put several hundred miles on it over the last couple months.  My latest upgrade had been a set of clipless pedals and shoes, courtesy of REI scratch and dent.  Then my buddy Aaron took me to Lebanon Hills on a recent weekend, and let me ride his brothers mountain bike...

We did the beginner and intermediate loop (and a couple sections of the black stuff, holy crap!) and it was exhilarating, terrifying, exhausting, and addictive.  My hands ached afterward from the death grip I'd had on the handlebars, and although I didn't crash (except for once on the skills course trying to get fancy), I was sore all over when we finished.  I was also craving more!

It didn't take me long, looking online, discovering Mtbproject.com, realizing how many trails were right here in the Twin Cities, and right near various areas I already visit regularly for work.  I got the itch to get a mountain bike, and I got it bad.  Craigslist, a local bike selling group on Facebook, and checking out various closeouts and sales at local bike shops.  I knew my budget was going to be limited, but figured I didn't need the top-of-the-line, since it was pretty clear my skills would have a long ways to go before I caught up to any half-decent bike.  I ended up finding a great deal on a Novara Matador, a 29" mountain bike at REI.  I tried it out on the little trail there at the store, swiped the credit card, and headed straight down to the Minnesota River, to try it out on some trails in the River Bottoms area.

The River Bottoms border the Minnesota River, and it's an area that floods frequently, so it could be more than a little sandy in places.  The fall colors were in full swing though, and between the trees and river it was just a beautiful place.  I managed about 4.5 miles before getting fed up with the deep deep sand, and returned to the car to go find another trail (Strava here).

The handy MTBproject app informed me there was another trail only about 10 minutes away, so I headed to Terrace Oaks East Park, to try out some more man-made singletrack.  Terrace Oaks seemed quite a bit tighter than most of Lebanon Hills, but I managed pretty well, at least until I decided to try out the smaller "advanced" loop.  I figured I could just go around anything that looked TOO gnarly, and I'd just take it slow and at least get a look at what sort of features made up the harder stuff.  That plan went just fine until the last 30 feet or so, where there was a large staircase like thing made of railroad ties and rock fill.  I approached nice and slow, and dropped down the first step, applying the brakes as I did (don't want to get going too fast now!).  As my front wheel took the next drop, I don't know if I accidentally mashed the brakes or what, but I took a header over the handlebars, flying over the steps and into a bush and small tree!  All told it took me less than an hour to crash after buying the bike.  Luckily, I was only scratched up, and the bike was fine, so I finished my ride and headed home (Strava here).

So far I've also checked out the trails at Theodore Wirth Park, and plan to check out Elm Creek and Battle Creek in the next couple of weeks.  I also need to revisit Lebanon Hills on my own bike now!  There's plenty of options for next year too, with the downhill runs at Spirit Mountain in Duluth, and the scuba diving AND mountain biking mecca at Cuyuna Lakes about 2 hours north of the cities.  I'm psyched about adding yet another hobby to my quiver.  It definitely feels like something I should have been doing for ages now, even more so than road biking/touring.  Do you mountain bike?  Where are your favorite trails?  If you're in the Twin Cities, any hidden gems I should check out?

I think I'm done buying bikes for a while now.  As much as I'd love a fat bike for winter, they are WAY out of my price range for now.  Maybe next year!  Winter will hopefully see me getting on cross country skis for the first time, and trying out skijoring with Dozer!
Not every adventure has to involve tons of planning, ropes, gear, and people.  It's fall here in MN, and while it's definitely been cooling off quick, the weather is still what I'd consider ideal camping weather, especially now that a couple really cold days have killed off most of the mosquitos.  With several weekend in a row coming up where I'd be busy in the cities, I knew I was running out of time to take advantage of the season.
I normally like to get away for a whole weekend, but this time it just didn't work out.  Too many things going on during the week, but all the rushing about meant I was even more in need of an opportunity to unwind than usual, so Saturday afternoon I drove north with Dozer, some camping gear, and my bike.  No plan, no agenda, just a guy, his dog, and the outdoors.
We ended up at Jay Cooke State Park, which I'd stayed at before our bike tour earlier this summer.  I'd never been before then, and was struck by it's beauty in the short time we were there.  I'd been wanting to explore it a little more ever since, and this seemed like the perfect time.  With the fall colors peak well past, and the overnight temps dropping into the low 40s, the campground was next to deserted this time.
Dozer and I spent the rest of the day hiking in the park, seeing some of the flood damage that still has a good portion of the trails and visitors areas closed off.  Well, hiking and napping in my hammock...  I could nap soundly knowing that Dozer was keeping watch for any squirrels or other pests.  Car camping isn't what I'd call adventurous, but it has it's perks, and dinner was a couple italian sausages grilled over the fire, and most of a loaf of garlic bread I heated up in the coals.  No freeze-dried meals for me!  Sadly the small-town grocery store I hit up didn't have Tang, my usual camp drink, so orange Kool-aid had to suffice.  It really isn't the same though!  Hot Tang is even better, especially as I'm not a coffee drinker but sometimes still need a nice warm drink in the morning.
Dozer got half a sausage himself, for good behavior, not barking or trying to steal any of my food.  As the coals burned low, I finished off Sailors to the End, a great book about the catastrophic fire on the USS Forrestal during the Vietnam War.  When it's just me and the pup camping, we usually use an REI Quarter Dome T2 tent.  There's plenty of space for me, him, and some gear, and he sleeps on a Thermarest Z-Lite under an Ollydog dog bed.  If it's chilly I have a blanket for him as well (when we camped up near the ice caves in February it was more like 3 blankets and some serious spooning).  Dozer is an experienced camper and usually goes right to sleep, but this evening was so nice I left the fly off, and I suspect he was up late into the night staring out into the darkness trying to discern the source of every snapped twig or crunched leaf.
Sunday brought the leftover sausages reheated over the last of my firewood, a much needed burst of warmth in the chilly morning.  I tried to introduce Dozer to rock climbing on a large formation near the campground, scrambling up and down the steepish face, chasing the squirrels that had taunted him all weekend.  I accidentally tried bikejoring when I attempted to get Dozer to run alongside my bike.  He preferred to get out in front and pull (even though he wasn't wearing his skijoring harness), and I was quickly reduced to riding the brakes and trying to keep us out of any bushes as he sprinted through the deserted campground (video to come I think).
In one of the huge drainage culverts placed to keep future floods from obliterating the road again
We also explored along the St. Louis River, finding plenty of evidence of the floods that trashed the park the past spring.  Before long though it was time to head home.  Mission accomplished.  Some peace and quiet, and plenty of time spent staring into the flames of a campfire thinking about life.  I also knew that if we hurried we'd get back to my parent's house (had to pick up the non-adventure dog there) in time for dinner, and there's really no better way to end an a trip than my mom's cooking!

Here's a couple more pictures from the trip, short though it was.  Enjoy, and don't be afraid to take a little mini trip like this now and then.  Sometimes it's just what you need.