Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Don's Blog Memorable Chock Stone

Among the images from my friend Jim Mytton was this photo of the Notchtop Chock Stone. It brought an immediate
tightness in my throat as I remembered this epic adventure. When I was at Cheley Colorado Camp in Estes Park in the late 40's and early 50's I loved hiking and was developing an interest in technical rock climbing. After several years I became proficient enough to earn the 4TH Degree Mountaineering Award at the camp. There were certain climbs that were named the hardest and required the most experience and Notchtop Mountain (elevation 12,129 feet) was in the most difficult group. As this photo shows we climbed in Levis, T-shirts, and hiking boots. After taking off from Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park we hiked over to Lake Helene. I remember that we hung a left and climbed some gullies and turned right up to this long narrow traverse which was fully exposed. We had been indoctrinated in preparation for the famous chock stone where we had been told that some un-named camper in the past had "frozen" being unwilling to move right or left. 
It never occurred to us that we should be using ropes - just that it was not going to be us that 'froze'. What was unsaid was that we were fully aware that if we slipped it would be fatal and someone else would have to explain it to my mother. This fear was made worse if you had short legs. I can remember this as if it were happening right now. I took my time and concentrated on climbing past the stone. I have little recollection of the glory of the summit. I do remember that on the way up after this I was concerned about coming back down the same way. It was much easier coming back than the going up.

As I recall this adventure I see it from a different perspective. There have been some fatal climbing accidents on the mountain and I am glad that no one in our party was among them. That certainly was not due to our mountaineering expertise. There has been a healthy improvement in climbing techniques and equipment since 1951.
Below this photo of Notchtop  that I took several years ago I present a report of a recent ascent of the mountain from


With Notchtop's south ridge soaring above, work across the bottom of the lake and uphill to the left, through mild talus and grassy slopes. After entering the gully, look for a ramp going up to the right that would lead back to the south ridge. It should look very easy and is in a small cirque with large boulders at its base. An easy scramble leads to a nice perch on the ridge crest. This makes a nice place to rope up and/or put on climbing shoes.

With a two hundred foot rope, two pitches can be made of a series of rock steps in the ridge. These steps are separated by low angle spots that can be used as alternate belays with a shorter rope. Many different paths are obvious on the initial pitches. Look for a cool line and enjoy. Eventually find a belay beneath the south ridge as it increasingly steepens above. A grassy ledge leads right around a spectacular corner. It is never very difficult and is nicely protected for both the leader and the second. Stretch the rope out to a belay beneath the east meadow.

The "notch" should be visible above you. Follow the path of least resistance for a rambling pitch up the east meadow. Find a belay beneath a steep headwall that blocks access to the notch. Look for the easiest path path through the headwall. It should be a crack on the left that is well protected. It goes up to a small roof, where a step to the left leads to easy terrain. This is one of the best pitches on the route.

From the notch, scramble south along a ledge until it is possible to scramble to the summit of the Notch Spire. Keep in mind that this ledge is on the opposite side of the mountain that the climb was on. It is very obvious. Enjoy the summit of the spire. It is very small and very cool.

After descending the spire, work uphill to the north. The goal is to find the West Gully, a third class gully, full of yucky talus, that descends to the lake at the base of the route. Look for some cairns and and a well worn path. Several rap stations appear, but the cliffs below are long, and the trail goes right beneath them anyway. The scramble from the notch to the West Gully is longer and more intricate than would be expected. Don't worry, just look carefully for the path everybody else has used before. Some snow may be in the upper part of the West Gully until mid-summer. This traverse is not a good place to be caught in a big electrical storm. Maybe that's why there are several rap stations encountered along the traverse.

Descend the West Gully down to the start of the route. This is the traverse from the gully to the ridge line. Pick-up any stashed gear or head directly down to the Lake. Reverse the approach to Lake Helene and Bear Lake via the Fern Lake trail.

This is a wonderful route and not too sustained for its grade. It is a good first time route for someone looking to do a moderate tour in the mountains. It is a wonderful route to cruise 3rd class. With a two hundred foot rope, it can easily be done in 5 pitches. Enjoy.

Yes it kind of sounds like the Notchtop that we climbed in jeans and hiking boots and T-shirts with two leaders and a bunch of fit teen-agers with no ropes and no metal and no belays and no raps. I can see why my throat constricts when I see that chock stone picture.

Monday, December 28, 2015

My Brother Bob at Cheley Camp in 1948

My friend Jim Mytton sent me some slides that he had transferred to digital several years ago. He and my deceased brother Bob had been friends for many years at Cheley Camps in Estes Park Colorado and these images are from 1948. Bob is getting off the bus at camp. The previous day he had been put on the Denver Zephyr in Chicago by my parents. Traveling west on the Burlington Route the train passed through our home town, La Grange, and within two blocks of our home.The trip to Denver with the other campers from the Chicago area included eating dinner and breakfast in the dining car and sleeping in "births" made up at bed time by the Pullman Porter. In the morning before breakfast he woke up in the flat prairies of eastern Colorado before being met at the Station in Denver by camp representatives. This red bus took the excited party from Denver into the mountains stopping in Lyons for a snack before arriving at Cheley Camp near Estes Park.

Notice that Bob is wearing a coat and tie and carrying an overcoat on his arm.


This photo was taken that summer on a backpack from the Arapahoe Peaks area to
Brainard Lake via Crater Lake.These intrepid campers include (from the left) Walt Sweet,
Tom Weill, Bob, Nick Clinch, and George Karch in the white shirt.


Here is a great shot of Bob serving dinner that summer with Sonny Toughy in front.
I went to Cheley Camp from 1949-1951 and went through many of the experiences that
Bob talked about including the same backpack trip. Bob is gone but the camp is still going strong and my 
grandchildren are going there now.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Don's Blog Our Christmas Tree is Trimmed 12-10-15

Our Christmas Tree has changed through the years. Initially we got the tallest tree available and filled it with lights and ornaments much like my parents before me. I actually had to tie it to one of the ceiling beams to make sure it wasn't pulled down in the excitement. We loved the smell of the tree. More recently we became allergic to the smell of the white pine. We got a tabletop artificial tree but it was never the same - the romance was missing. Last year we trimmed the ficus with purple lights and a few ornaments and it was slightly "better than nothing." This year we have enlisted an 'old friend' to re-inject the romance into the process. I first met him in 1969 when he was 'harvested' near Blue Lake in the Wrangle Mountains in the panhandle of Southeast Alaska. He was of the White River Herd. When I got him the rack was blood red as he had come out of the velvet only a few days before. There is a layer of blood vessels between the velvet cover and the bone and when the velvet is lost there is a spectacular bright red coloring. The rack was mounted in Anchorage and has been with us ever since. This barren ground caribou rack is our Christmas Tree. Who knows what will be next?


Monday, December 7, 2015

Final Flower for the Day European Beautyberry 12-7-15

This is the final post on the Flower for the Day Blog. This is another beautyberry, Callicarpa bodinieri, rather than Callicarpa americana (American Beautyberry). The berries come off the branches on opposing sides and the clusters are purple and much smaller.

Like the post this berry bush is in its final stage. The berries have been present for several months and
are ready to fall off the branch. 
I am using this beautiful berry to show off the new extension tubes  that I am using on my 100mm macro lens.
The extension tubes allow for more magnification of the target.


Macro lens alone.


Macro lens plus a 12mm extension tube.


Macro lens plus both 12mm and 20mm extension tubes.


Macro lens plus 12mm, 20mm, and 36mm extension tubes. I will definitely have fun with this for next years flowers.
I have enjoyed sending you this years flowers. See you next year.
TFG (The Flower Guy)


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Flower for the Day Greenland Final flower again Arctic Eyebright 11-2-15

As soon as I sent the "other" final Greenland flower, Mystery Flower #2 was identified by Elizabeth at info@Greenland.com. It is Euphrasia frigida (Pugsley) and translates from the Danish to arctic eye comfort. The common name, arctic eyebright, refers to its use in treating eye inflammations. An eye compress is made using the leaves, stem, and small pieces of the flowers.

It is common in alpine meadows where snow is found. The white petals are notched and form a lower lip.
The sepals are lavender. From first view I was interested to see how these tiny flowers
emerge from the different whorls on the stem. This plant was found near the ice melt from the Russell Glacier
near Kangerlussuaq on the western shore of Greenland.
Who wouldn't love a country that has an information website that can identify flowers overnight.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Flower for the Day Alpine Gentian Greenland

The rare alpine gentian (Gentians nivalis) presents as a distinct ultramarine blue in a narrow tube culminating in a wheel shaped 5 lobed corolla. This image shows all stages. The flowers open up only in full sun and close even with overcast conditions. These are annuals that return by re-seeding only.
Studies of alpine (snow) gentian seeds in a community seed bank showed that the half life of experimentally buried seeds 
was 15-32 years depending on the depth of burial and soil type. This suggests why alpine gentian numbers can recover
quickly after a population crash and bodes well for their continued long term survival despite their scarcity.
It is certainly an unforgettable color and my favorite of this polar series.

This is the last of the Greenland flowers. I enjoyed identifying them.