Horsetooth Rock

Love going hiking, and within 20 minutes of my house I have many great places. One of them is Horsetooth (Rock).

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This quick 5-mile hike starts at about 5,800 feet and peaks at roughly 7,200. I can never remember if the name of the peak is from history or looks, so I had to do some research. Protrails says, in addition to climbing info, that “According to Native American legend, Horsetooth Rock is the remains of the heart of an evil giant, slain and cut in two by Chief Maununmoku. European settlers believed the rock bore a greater resemblance to a horse tooth, hence the modern name.”

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When you go to hike the trail you park at a Larimer County site. A smart thing to do is invest in an annual pass. The money goes to the Parks; it doesn’t hurt. Otherwise you pay nine bucks a day. It’s worth it, even if you don’t end up visiting the entire amount of times you need it.

You start out with a bit of an incline on a winding trail. Then after 1/2 mile you’re on a wide multi-use trail. After 0.9 miles (yes, I’m a Garmin user) you can get on the foot-traffic only trail. That’s when it gets fun. You are in the trees, you get good switchbacks (nothing crazy), some stairs here and there. Occasionally, you get a lookout a the city.

After about 2 miles, you hit most difficult park. Less stable surfaces. But that is the true fun! There is one ‘staircase’. I usually avoid it because it’s not that easy. If I do use it, it’s on the way up, not down.

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After 2.4 miles you get to the base of the true summit where you get to decide exactly which line you want to take to get to the top. There are several. I’ve hiked this trail many times now and can’t figure out which place is the best at which to start. It’s literally about 50 feet. But, you sort of scramble/use upper body to get there. Then you’re there. You look one way you see Ft. Collins. Another way — Mt Evans, and various other snow-capped peaks, another and another, just miles and miles of gorgeous scenery. You could stay up there for hours.

You might also examine that you are on one side of the horse’s tooth. There is a trench. Unless you had Spiderman abilities you’re not getting over to the other side. I know you can (rock)climb to get there. I still have to figure out if/how you can get to the far side of the tooth/the third one.

Getting off the top of the peak can be a bit tricky. Not hard, just takes maneuvering. Then you return on the part you summited. There are some paths that go off, here and there.

The last time I was at Horsetooth, I saw wildlife, likely because of COVID-19. There were actually deer out there! I also saw a turkey (too far away to take a picture) and then ahh…a snake. Wasn’t a rattler (I say that like it’s a bad thing). Apparently it was a bull snake. That thing was pretty cool, big and long. Was fun to look at. I kept my distance, was glad I did not see a rattle on it.

In the end, a good trail to take if looking for a fun adventure. You can take in the city, feel like you’re miles away, and soak in much of what Larimer County has to offer.

 

 

Winter 14er

Now that I’m in Colorado I (of course, right?) have to climb 14ers. I have done a handful during the summer, but wanted to conquer one in the ‘winter’. I was very fortunate to see a post last fall from a group I follow (either 14ers.com or Always Choose Adventures) that there was going to be a Winter 14ers Kickoff (or something to that effect) in early November. It also happened to be on on my birthday, so what a great way to kick things off.

A friend of mine also happened to see the information and we decided to go conquer this thing together; it was Quandary. I had summitted Quandary before (sort of bummed because I wanted to check another off my list) but he hadn’t so it was all good. Neither of us had hiked up a 14er in the snow.

A sort of good thing about winter hiking is that you don’t have to leave as early in the morning, maybe we only left about 3:30 or 4am, vs 2 or 2:30am?

We had been in touch about what to pack, what to wear, and all else. Our bags were more than ready. When we arrived at the parking lot, we were some of the only ones there (we were heading out a little ahead of the group because we wanted to get a bit of a head start), it was still pitch black and 7 degrees. And yes, Fahrenheit. Yikes! We put on layers, then another layer, some gators, and microspikes and why not another layer. Oh, headlamp, too!

Off we went. Within 15 minutes the sun came up and I peeled off two layers (we were barely into this hike, and not above tree line). How? It’s now maybe double digits, at the lowest possible end. Well we just kept going. We were really lucky with light wind at the start.

As we continued to climb, about mid-way the wind slowly started picking up but with the sun out, it was good. It wasn’t until about 2/3 of the way up, on this really flat part of the mountain that I needed to put my jacket on, my tuque (yes, I’m a Canuck, that’s what I call it) and my gloves, in various stops. We would stop occasionally to snap pics and determine if we were good.

It was only at about 3/4 of the way up that we needed to make a decision on if we really wanted to continue. The wind start to really pick up and we had to sit for a couple minutes. Hey, snack time! Since it wasn’t insanely bad wind like we’d had before and we were both pretty comfortable, we decided to keep pushing. We were so close. And, Quandary is a pretty easy climb. And all things considered, the snow was fun! No snowshoes required. The microspikes were perfect. We could find paths from where people had been the past few days.

As with most climbs it’s the last part that’s the hardest. At towards the steep summit the wind was worse and I got down on my hands and knees at the peek to crawl toward a place we could sit for literally a minute or two to take in what we’d just done. Summitted our first winter 14er! Clear blue sky in November in Colorado, views for miles. That’s why we live here. We barely snapped pictures because of the wind and decided to get food further down. Wish we could have stayed there for hours.

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As usual, the descent is easier. I totally wish I had my skis with me on this one! Once we got out of the windy area, it was great! Layers were coming off. The snow was also getting slushy. We had started before the big group did because we were afraid we’d be slow. We bumped into them, said hi and had a great social day. There was a BBQ in the parking lot at the end for celebration, too.

Would like to do some more of these, my one issue is that I also like using the snow for skiing.