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Bones, Better Trip – Rocky Mountain National Park Broken Bones, Better Trip – Rocky Mountain National Park  by Stu Brandel

Two weeks before a long planned Rocky Mountain trip this last summer, a bike crash on the way to work resulted in my acquisition of a broken left elbow and wrist. Gone was my lovingly prepared itinerary for a week of scrambling with my 12 year old son Evan, longtime hiking partner Dennis and his 18 year old nephew Anthony. In truth, my original itinerary overlooked several important aspects of the trip (like the fact that our wives Deb and Mona would be accompanying us, as well as my disabled daughter Hannah). So my trip plans needed to be reset as much as my bones did. I thought it would be interesting to compare the itinerary I had first developed versus the one I re-fashioned in light of my injuries.

3 x 4'000:
a good week in the Alps. 3 x 4'000: a good week in the Alps.  by andre hangaard

During a week in August (15-21 August) 2009 I was blessed with fantastic weather and was given the opportunity to experience three beautiful 4'000'er in Valais-region of the Swiss Alps.

Snowbound Sequoia National
Park Oct. 2009 Snowbound Sequoia National Park Oct. 2009  by peninsula

The Mountaineer’s Route is well known among peak baggers and my choice for this year’s entry into Sequoia National Park. The initial objective of photographing Mt. Whitney from the small lake below Thor Peak (Thor Lake) was to be followed on day two of this nine-day excursion with a climb over the Whitney-Russell Pass.

This year’s trip began with blue skies after parking near the trailhead at Whitney Portal, Oct. 8, 2009. I had hardly gotten underway when I came upon a party of several climbers, one of whom I was acquainted previously from the SummitPost website, a fellow poster who goes by the alias, Chief. It was Chief who first suggested Thor Lake as the ideal location from which to photograph Mt. Whitney. It is a small world indeed. We exchanged introductions, had a few good laughs, and I continued on my way.

Sass Pordoi, the
Sass Pordoi, the "Fedele/Dibona"  by mvs

"26 pitches! Really?" Danno couldn't believe it, though it was equally hard to believe that the upper part of the wall, which was all we could see from the Sella Pass was a mere 8 pitches. "The scale of these mountains is insane."
We'd just finished climbing a Sella Tower, and the Pordoispitze Wall glowed in the last sun.
"Damn, I have to go back to school next week," moaned Garon. And thusly, his part in the tale to follow came to a premature end.

But Danno called me a few days later, we were both having trouble getting our work done in the sudden heat wave that struck Munich.
"Do you think we could climb the Pordoispitze together?" he said.

Smoke Signals Smoke Signals  by Gangolf Haub

For most of us there are mountains which don't fit, mountains which seem to have a will of their own and which won't let you get to their top, no matter what you do. For me the worst foe of that type is Peitlerkofel / Sas da Pütia, which has thwarted me twice and which afterwards had the nerve to smile mockingly down on me as I returned to my car and took off. But this account is not yet closed and in the end I will be the one to be mocking! Similarly there are other mountains which I had given up climbing in my early days and on which recently I have been able to get my own back, one of which is Dürrenstein / Picco di Vallandro, the second highest standalone mountain in the Prags Dolomites / Dolomiti di Braies.

It is a beautiful mountain with an easy ascent route which on a fine day can lure hundreds of people to its summit. It is famous for its panoramas towards the Sexten / Sesto Dolomites as well as the Prags / Braies Dolomites and thus a must-go for anyone who visits the region. Ten years ago, in September 1999 we tried twice to climb it, both times being defeated by rainy weather. During the second attempt we were willing to go to the top no matter how much rain would pour down. But then rain turned into storm – storm turned into thunderstorm – thunderstorm turned into flood. And we fled the inhospitable mountain blotting it out of our minds for a whole decade.

Epic, fail:
the southern California 14er link-up Epic, fail: the southern California 14er link-up  by seano

The efficient peak-bagger typically climbs the Sierra 14ers in six outings (listed from north to south): Thunderbolt through Sill, Middle Palisade, Split, Williamson and Tyndall (usually separately or as an overnight), Russell through Muir, and Langley. However, the peaks naturally divide into two groups, Thunderbolt through Split and Tyndall through Langley, and speed climbers have climbed each group as a single, mostrous outing. Since the trailheads for Split and Tyndall (Red Lake and Shepherd Pass, respectively) are much lower than those for Thunderbolt and Langley (South Lake and Horseshoe Meadows), the groups are climbed north-to-south and south-to-north.

I was feeling a bit cocky after my last (successful) epic, and had managed to repress memories of the worst parts, so I thought it was time to try something similar in the Sierra. Thunderbolt to Split would be treacherous this time of year, but Langley to Tyndall fit the bill. My plan was to summit Langley near first light and Tyndall at dusk, making the most of the short day to navigate unfamiliar and/or difficult parts of the route. If I could summit Langley around 6:00 and Tyndall around 7:00 or 7:30, the whole thing would be roughly 20 hours.

Mt Blanc Traverse Mt Blanc Traverse  by phlipdascrip

As I carefully put one foot in front of the other I realize that all my concerns are going overboard and this is well within my comfort zone. I take in the scenery on this beautiful morning in late September and feel a calming serenity rising inside me.

I am descending the east ridge of the Aiguille du Midi. A friend who stayed with me in Chamonix for a while has left again a few days ago, and today is my first outing just by myself. We had wanted to climb Mt Blanc while he was here, but in the end he decided he wasn't fit enough for it and so Mt Blanc du Tacul, his first 4,000m peak, was our "big" climb instead. In fact, aside from an easy and short scramble up to a walkable ridge in the Colorado Rockies, it has been my first real 4,000m peak in the Alps as well.

Index of happiness in
Valais Index of happiness in Valais  by reinhard2

The comment of my profile image reads "Loving relationship with mountains ...". As everybody knows, love is often costly. On what was my biggest mountain trip since long, a 9 day trip to Switzerland's Valais at the end of July 2009, I could experience and assess these costs, and I want to frame this assessment at the end of the TR in an "index of happiness".

What is happiness in the mountains? The meaning of this kind of happiness has, for me, changed considerably over the years. Over more than 2 decades I have identified myself as a climber, with happiness meaning dancing up, ideally, a sunny funny rock climb (mostly in the low mountain climber paradise of Frankenjura). More recently this has quite suddenly and decisively changed to high alpine promenades, with the emphasis on skywalking as high as possible, not on conquering difficulties.

Giro dei Cadini di Misurina Giro dei Cadini di Misurina  by Gangolf Haub

10 years ago I first set my eyes upon the fantastic Dolomite mountain group of the Cadini di Misurina while I was doing the overcrowded hiking loop, which circles the famous Drei Zinnen / Tre Cime di Lavaredo. I was immediately attracted to this dense assortment of pinnacles and towers and in my mind a vague determination formed to inspect it up close some time. Five years later the same thing happened when – during a bad weather period – we visited the Sexten Dolomites / Dolomiti di Sesto for a day trip around the rather unimportant Morgenkofel. From one of the saddles suddenly the view stretched towards the Cadini and my vague determination received a boost.

Again five years went by and when I started to prepare for the recent vacation, which took us to Sexten / Sesto itself, I consulted my guidebooks with the Cadini somewhere in the back of my mind. I found several suggestions, which in the end boiled down to two day-trips: the Via Ferrata Bonacossa which runs right through the group and Sentiero Durissini, which circles it in the east. Both trips can be done as loops starting from the southern end of Misurina Lake.

For warm-up, day one of our vacation took us to the Carnic Alps Main Ridge (easy, panoramic walking terrain) but a forecast for wonderful weather for day two decided me to prove Gabriele wrong, who writes on his SP page about the weather in the Cadini: “I've spent here, in different years, 3 climbing days and 3 hiking days (with my family) and, maybe I've been unlucky but ... they were all raining days :( “. To my surprise, Judith immediately agreed not only to one of the trips but both, suggesting the apparently more difficult Sentiero Bonacossa for a later date. With sunshine on my mind and red wine in my stomach I happily sank down sleep that night …

Tijeras & Music: The Spirit
of the Sangres Tijeras & Music: The Spirit of the Sangres  by shknbke

We were looking for a relatively snow free scramble involving 13ers that we needed, so the Sangres were calling. It's becoming increasingly difficult to find 13er day hikes that none of this crew has climbed outside the San Juans! Tijeras is now in Dave Cooper's CO scrambles book and has probably seen a few more ascents as a result. Music was also in the Denver Post, but we noticed in the trailhead register that only one person had listed these peaks as a destination!

We all arrived at the Music Pass trailhead at different times, with me electing to make the quick drive down from C. Springs in the wee hours of the morning. The road to the Music Pass 4WD trailhead was pretty mellow, easily passable in any stock 4WD vehicle. You can even get by without 4WD as long as you have decent clearance.

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