Inspired Stone

July 12, 2012, 3:02 am
Filed under: Mountain | Tags: , , ,


The weekend before the 4th of July, Nicole and I hiked over the Continental Divide and spent two nights at Columbine Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

The trails on the east side of the Divide tend to be busy, so we started out early, and make it to the lake in the early afternoon. Spent the afternoon lazing around.

Day 2, our objective was to climb up Mt. Neva, which towered over the east side of the lake.

Day 3, wake up slow and head back over the Divide.


Indian Peaks, Without a Car
June 18, 2012, 2:04 am
Filed under: Mountain | Tags: , ,

As the weather has become more summer like, I’ve been heading to the Indian Peaks Wilderness to climb peaks, again without driving to the trailhead.  My first endeavor of this kind, and still probably the most difficult, was Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak last summer.  This time I wanted to do something a little closer, so that I could do the whole affair in one day.  So I started this summer with a ride and hike of Mt. Audubon.  


Mt. Audubon is not a particularly difficult mountain, there is a trail all the way to the top, but starting it with a bike ride from Boulder made it much more interesting.  I was also drawn to Mt. Audubon because you can see it from many places in town, even from where I work.


I started at around 6:30 AM and found that the ride up Lefthand Canyon was really nice, with wide shoulders and a moderate grade.  Still, it was about 5000′ of elevation gain between my house and the trailhead and it took me about 6 hours to finally reach the trailhead at Brainard Lake.  I switched from shoes to books and started up through the still snowy forest looking for the trail.  I ran into a guy that had trouble finding the trail, so he decided to follow along and ended up doing the entire hike with me.  It was a beautiful time of year to do it, with the road to the trailhead still closed to cars (another advantage of riding a bike) and bit of snow around, there were very few other hikers.  Eventually we made it to the top (13223′) and got our selves back to the trailhead.  It was a little hard to believe that I still had to bike all the way home (~30 miles), but amazingly I got a second wind (the cinnamon roll, espresso and gatorade from the Ward general store certainly helped).  Man oh man, I think the ride home on these trips is the most fun.  What took me 6 hours on the way up, took about 1.5 hours on the way down.  I rolled into the driveway at about 8 PM, making it a solid 14 hour day.

The most recent outing (yesterday) was to attempt two peaks that you can see from most parts of Boulder, South and North Arapahoe Peaks.  


These lie almost directly west of Boulder, with Boulder Canyon providing the most direct access.  I’m afraid to ride up Boulder Canyon, so I decided on a modified strategy where I would take a bus from Boulder to Nederland and then ride the remaining 10 miles to Fourth of July Trailhead.  I still can’t believe how quick and easy it is to access the mountains around here.  Only 45 minutes after leaving my house, I was riding along on a beautiful mountain rode through the historic mining town of Eldora.  The last 6 miles were on a dirt road, which made things a little bumpy, but not too bad.  By 9 AM, the trailhead parking lot was full, but again thanks to having rode a bike, I parked wherever I wanted.  There was much less snow and many more people on this hike, but the setting was superb.  As I neared the top of South Arapahoe, the clouds really started to coalesce, obscuring North Arapahoe.  Given my three previous experiences of buzzing and crackling hair, I decided to forgo North Arapahoe and make a hasty retreat back down.  The environment reminded me of how I imagine Scotland with mist and clouds blowing through the rock studded tundra.  Since I was a bit ahead of schedule, I took a leisurely pace down.  Descending the dirt road was exciting in a bone rattling kind of way, making me feel like a mountain biker, dodging around rocks and dipping through low spots.  However, I mostly use my bike for commuting around town, so I kept thinking it might disintegrate below me.  My metal basket certainly got worked.  But there were no catastrophes and I made it back to Nederland by 3 PM and eventually my driveway by 5.


More Adventure Without a Car
February 27, 2012, 3:33 am
Filed under: Climbing, Mountain | Tags: , , ,

Here are a few more local adventures I’ve come up with that don’t require a vehicle. The first is climbing in Eldorado Canyon, which happens to be one of America’s premiere rock climbing destinations and is only a relatively flat 6 miles away from my front door. An obviously bikeable trip, but finding a climbing partner with the same opinion was not easy.

And now that we live in a place with a real winter, I’ve had to broaden my pursuits to activities that take advantage of the snow. Like skiing! I skied off-and-on while living in Davis, but now that we are in Boulder I decided to actually buy a pair of skis. Thanks to the awesome Boulder Sports Recycler, I got a light pair of telemark skis for $55. The boots, well they were a bit more expensive, but with $100 of gift credit at REI, it only took another $200 to get a new pair of Scarpa T4s. With the convenience of the Boulder-Eldora bus, I was able to get out and ski up Jenny Creek to the Arestua Hut without ever getting the car out of the garage.


As I continue to think and learn about terrain analysis and geomorphology (see these posts), I find that the issues are complicated. My first project was to develop an algorithm to extract ridge lines from a digital elevation model (DEM). The first ingredient for such an algorithm is a clear definition of what a ridge is and I came to realize that the way I identify a ridge is rather ambiguous. At first I thought that a ridge would be any place with a certain convexity, but as you can see in the image below, two terrain features with the same convexity might be classified as different things.

The iconographic ridge is long, straight and sharp at its apex, like many ridges of the High Sierra. As the ridge becomes more broad and rounded, at some point the landform will be identified as a hill rather than a ridge. But what is that point? This issue has been considered by others. I recently found a book, “Geographic Information Science and Mountain Germorphology”, in which a chapter was co-authored by a philosopher and dealt with the ontology of topography and how we as humans identify objects such as mountains or canyons that don’t have a clear boundary.

Despite all that, I still did my best to write some code that would isolate what I would identify as a ridge in some mountain terrain. Here’s the best I’ve come up with so far with the “ridges” being the white lines or points:

On the left is the raw elevation data. On the right is roughly how I would identify the ridges by hand and in the middle is the result from the computer identification. You can see that the main features are there, but there seem to be many extraneous points and some of the main ridges are fragmented.

One landform that is not ambiguous is peak. Mathematically, a peak is a local maximum, it’s the point with the highest elevation within some neighboring area. Below is an image of all the local maxima from the elevation data shown above. Now you can start to ask questions about why the peaks are organized the way they are, why are there as many as there are and so on. I found that this type of analysis is done in the field of geomorphometry and a new book, “Geomorphometry: Concepts, Software, Applications”, has been my introduction. There is much more to learn.

Indian Creek
November 5, 2011, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Climbing | Tags: , ,

Two days after the first snow here in Boulder, I escaped to the Utah desert for an amazing weekend of climbing in Indian Creek. Indian Creek, which is about 50 miles south of Moab, is a crack-climbers dream come true. Miles of canyon and mesa, whose sandstone walls are splintered with vertical cracks of every size.

(The three walls, from left to right, are Beef Wall, The Fin and Cat Wall)

Most climbing guidebooks include photos with lines overlayed to illustrate the location and path of climbing routes. For the Indian Creek guidebook author, the task is easy. Here is my rendition of route overlays for Indian Creek,

The quality of the lines made it difficult to decide where to climb during our short stay. Everything look equally amazing. Most of the guidebook read like this:

4. Unnamed 5.10 splitter hands to fists.
5. Unnamed 5.10 splitter hands
6. Unnamed 5.11 splitter fingers
7. Unnamed 5.10 slitterer hands
8. etc.

I exaggerate slightly, but I’ve never seen or climbed such amazing cracks. For example, my first route of the weekend was called “Incredible Hand Crack”. It was. Most of the routes at Indian Creek have bolted rappel anchors at 100-150 feet, minimizing the adventure component, but elevating the fun factor. Beyond the anchors and interspersed between the established routes there appeared to be equally slitter cracks, so we did two other routes not in the book and found the rock a bit sandier in its unclimbed state. Not surprising given that it’s sandstone.

Beyond just the climbing, the setting of southeastern Utah is beautiful, with its red, orange and white sandstone walls and cottonwood creeks. I’m looking forward to many more trips to the canyon-lands.

First Snow
November 5, 2011, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Photo | Tags: , ,

The first snows of the year have fallen. During the first storm, the snow only pushed down as far as the Flatirons, so I hopped my bike and ran up the hill just in time stand under a new layer falling.

The real snow came last week and left a 10 inch carpet of white over town. Tree limbs fell under the weight. I crashed my bike on the way to work. I saw someone out on cross-country skis in the open space across the street. It looks and feels and smells like the mountains! Now I need to think about getting some skis to take advantage of the frozen element. And figure out which rocks dry out the fastest so I can get back to climbing.

Bike to Climb :: Rocky Mountain National Park
November 2, 2011, 2:38 am
Filed under: Mountain | Tags: , , , , , ,

I continued with the theme of using a bike to get into the mountains, but I took it to the next level. While living in Davis, I had contemplated biking to and hiking Pyramid Peak, near Lake Tahoe, but the whole experience would have been a massive bike ride with a little hiking tossed in. Now in Boulder, there are far more options for an excursion where the biking and climbing are more evenly split. The nearest high mountains are in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, but it seemed that there were better biking conditions a little north on highway 7 and I had still not been into Rocky Mountain National Park. So I settled on biking up to the Peak-to-Peak highway, ascending Meeker Ridge on Mt. Meeker, traversing over to Longs Peak and then reversing the route back home. It was incredibly satisfying to leave our driveway on a bike, touch the top of Longs Peak and then roll back home about 36 hours later. Here is a photo sequence that captures the experience.