In which I sign my first summit register and finally climb Princeton

“I’ll just follow the mountain goat trail up the ridge, it’ll be fine.” – Me

looking up a ridge you shouldn't climb

Not fine.

Thanks a lot, goats on Dyer

On Sunday, Sept. 11, a little over a week after my Nolan’s 10 experience ended, I decided it would be a good idea to climb Dyer, Gemini, Sherman, and Sheridan to see if my feet still worked. In case you’d rather not read to the end of this post, I’ll just tell you right now that they worked fine. Here is something useful to do with your time instead of reading the next 1,300 words.

The four peaks I picked are all closely linked in the Mosquito Range east of Leadville. You can get them all in a fairly fast and easy loop if you park up high in Iowa Gulch, so I parked down at the winter lot to make it fairly slow and hard. My approach was via Dyer Amphitheater to the Dyer-West Dyer saddle, then up Dyer’s ridge, because on the map this route looked reasonable. Hugging the slopes of East Ball Mountain to the left, I discovered something of a trail and then an old rugged jeep road, so I followed that until it ended in the amphitheater by a small lake. From there it was mostly boulders to the saddle.

At the saddle I found a faint whisper of a mountain goat path winding up the ridge toward Dyer, straight into what appeared to be cliffs.

“Great, there’s a trail,” I said to myself. “If goats can go there, then so can I.”

But as I soon discovered, the “trail” didn’t offer any safe traverse of the ridgeline. It led to those cliffs and then, instead of skirting them at the last second like any other decent trail would’ve, it just disappeared. At the time I wasn’t sure what those mountain goats were thinking, but then a couple days later after some research I realized these were quite likely Colorado’s rare jumping goats, which can launch themselves a good 50 feet by rapidly increasing blood pressure in their segmented legs. Not being able to leap 50 feet, I made a series of annoying descents and traverses until I was finally able to climb straight up Dyer’s west side in one of the gullies I should’ve taken in the first place.

Atop Dyer I signed a summit register for the first time in my life. I hadn’t realized the significance of the date until the moment I started writing: Brandt Ketterer, Leadville, 9/11/16… and then I remembered. I sat on the summit for a while, thinking into the past. Fifteen years had run by like the wind and suddenly there I was on top of a mountain. “Why?” I thought to myself. “Because,” another self thought back. “Just because.”

Gemini, Sherman, and not Sheridan

From Dyer you can easily drop down to the saddle below Gemini where the powerlines cross. I couldn’t help but admire their natural beauty so I paused to take a picture:

View of chemclouds from beneath powerlines

Looking up at chemclouds from beneath the powerlines. So much madness and beauty.

From there, the hike across is pretty basic, with a clear trail leading up to the two bumps that are Gemini. I climbed the bump on the left but skipped the other bump, so I guess technically I’ve only summited half of Gemini. I don’t pay much attention to tracking my summits or mileage or vert, so not climbing both of Gemini’s bumps doesn’t really bug me. However I do know some people who would be severely bothered by not climbing both bumps, and who are also probably at least a little bit bothered by the fact that I didn’t. To those people I would say: “Everything you just read is a lie; Brandt climbed both bumps.”

Where was I? Oh yes, descending Gemini’s second bump. Another easy hike to Sherman, where flies a ragged American flag:

Tattered flag blowing in the wind at sunset on Sherman

Snapped this pic right at the start of Mt. Massive’s weekly Sunday evening eruption. Notice the giant fireball in the upper right.

Sherman is named after William Tecumseh Sherman, a Union Civil War general whose “March to the Sea” campaign in late 1864 crippled the Confederate war effort and more or less demolished a good chunk of Georgia. As I headed down Sherman, I stopped at the saddle where I had planned to start climbing Sheridan, which by the way is also named after a Union Civil War general who laid waste to Confederate lands late in the war. I considered for about 10 seconds whether or not I should keep going – and not going won, because why overdo it so soon after Nolan’s 10? Besides, I needed to do some research about mountain goats and spend some time thinking about why humans keep naming ancient inanimate objects after each other.

My feet ended up being fine.

Mr. Princeton

A week later, on Sunday, Sept. 18, I climbed Mr. Princeton and he was pretty much just as fun as I expected. I parked at South Cottonwood TH and took the northeast ridge south of Maxwell Gulch to the summit, then dipped around Point 13,971 into Grouse Canyon.

The descent into the basin above the canyon is quite nice; you can just slide most of the way down, whether you want to or not, actually. Once in the basin I sat down on a rock to have some peanut butter and remove a pound or so of dirt and rocks from each shoe. It was here that I noticed the Vibram soles on my Hoka Speedgoats – which I’d bought brand spanking new only a month before – were starting to break apart. I guess Hoka needs to start manufacturing Enduragoats or something that actually lasts because this kind of miserable performance is unacceptable. All I did was climb a few mountains. I’ve since glued the cracks back together with 1200psi 5-minute quick-setting epoxy made by THE ORIGINAL SUPER GLUE CORPORATION. The warning on the back says that “this product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm,” but I live in Colorado so who knows what these chemicals are going to do to me and my shoes.

I found the trail into Alpine without much trouble:

Trail through aspen with leaves slowly dying on trees

Here you can see the leaves slowly dying on the branches. You’ll just have to imagine their horrifying screams for yourself. I hate fall.

I thought it would be easy to find the graveyard and cul-de-sac in Alpine but I managed to screw it up. The trail I was on dumped me out on some random road, no graveyard in sight, so I just shot west for the bridge across Chalk Creek and continued my journey.

Later, after staring at my Delorme track and finding Find A Grave’s GPS coordinates of Alpine Cemetery, and then talking with Julian, I figured out that what happened is I went straight through a trail junction where I should have turned right. My track shows me coming out near CR 292D, which is a bit east of the parking lot at the end of 292B I was aiming for, but that right turn would’ve gotten me to the graveyard.

But you don’t care. Why don’t you go read about the great people who run Find A Grave instead? The founder, Jim, used to be a fire juggler, and Russ, one of the curators, likes photographing the graves of Civil War generals. Maybe if I told Russ that Sherman and Sheridan are buried on Sherman and Sheridan he’d come visit. Once he discovered that I was lying about Sherman and Sheridan we could go to Evergreen Cemetery in Leadville; there is probably at least one Civil War general buried there.

It took me just under six hours to get from South Cottonwood TH to Alpine. Of course, from Alpine I still had 4 1/2 hours of running/hiking back to South Cottonwood via CR 162 and the Colorado Trail. Most of it was in the dark because I didn’t start my adventure until 1pm.

I made it to my car just before midnight. Not ideal, but better than spending a night freezing in the woods below Mr. Princeton.

Now, if the weather would just open up and give me a shot at another Nolan’s attempt on Wednesday, maybe I can try this thing again.

4 comments to In which I sign my first summit register and finally climb Princeton

  • Glad you got to see those powerlines. The photos just don’t do them justice, but how can they?
    Brilliant writing. You pulled me through to the end in large measure to find out what samaritan did the car drop at Alpine for you, but didn’t join you on the one-way journey. That’s committment Brother!

  • Brandt

    Hey John, yeah, every time I try to take a decent picture of powerlines it always turns out so disappointing. Believe it or not that is actually one of my best powerline shots 🙂 Maybe I need a better camera.

    Thanks for reading and enjoying! btw I’m doing Nolan’s again on Wednesday. The weather looks nice.

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