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Emerald Pk (13,904'), Iowa Pk (13,831') and Missouri Mt (14,067',) Colorado
A Centennial Celebration, and official LAM climbing trip

Author: Gina Pasquale

Trip Participants: Gina Pasquale, Steve Doorn, Jim and Leona Dennis, Debbie Figg, Martin Staley, David Rogers, Steve Naivar, Norman Hunter, James Hunter, David Hunter, and Tasha, the climbing wolf dog.

For my last Centennial (the 100 highest mountains in Colorado), I thought I would lead a club trip in order to share my celebration. Wow, did I underestimate the magnitude of a Los Alamos Mountaineers' summit bash!!

I wanted this trip to have a leisurely feel to it, so I chose a 9am departure on Saturday morning. After a mandatory stop at the Buena Vista ice cream stand, we were at the Rockdale turnoff around 3pm. As usual, I missed the turnoff the first time around. There is no sign to Cloyses Lake, but watch out for a couple cabins in a state of renovation and turn there. The most difficult part of the 4WD road to Cloyses Lake is right after crossing Clear Creek. You need a high clearance vehicle for this trailhead.

After parking the trucks at the official trailhead, we backpacked in about a mile to a nice campsite at 11,000' which easily accommodated our gang's 8 tents and 1 bivy sack. We all agreed that this was definitely the shortest backpack anyone had done before. Happy Hour started around 5:30pm, with everyone joining in the camaraderie. Some of us stayed up to watch the full moon rise over Iowa Pk's ridge, and we were treated to Steve N.'s spotting scope to check out moon craters.

Continuing with the leisure theme, I suggested a 7am departure for Sunday morning. Some people thought I was delirious, since I was deviating from my usual alpine start. Others accused me of getting soft. (That should have been obvious by the pillow I brought to sleep on!)

My chosen route for Emerald was going to take us south along the Lake Fork of Clear Cr. to the Continental Divide, then up the SW flank of the peak. Since this route isn't written up in any guidebook, I wasn't sure what we would find. Luckily, the route would go. It was a bit steep with loose talus in spots, but everyone was able to make it up to the gentle south ridge, which then leads to the summit.

When I finally reached the summit, I couldn't believe my eyes: I was greeted by people in party hats and party favors! Then the fun began! Champagne started flowing, the cake was brought out, and the most surprising of all: James Hunter pulled out 3 cartons of ice cream (a gallon in all) which he had backpacked in using 10 pounds of dry ice!! Needless to say, I was overwhelmed and considered myself quite lucky to be surrounded by such incredible people. And to top it off, we spent an hour on the summit in warm sunshine and no wind. Life just doesn't get any better than this!!

Feeling a great sense of accomplishment (after all, it took me 9 years to climb the Centennials), we headed on over to Iowa Pk. Having been born in Iowa (Jim D. was born there too), I felt obligated to climb this peak. (No, there is no corn growing on top!) The weather continued to be perfect, so there was a consensus to go ahead and climb one more mountain: Missouri Mt.

Being a gorgeous Labor Day weekend, I assumed a mob would greet us at the summit of Missouri. However, there was only 1 other couple up there at this time of day. I hope they weren't expecting a wilderness experience, since 11 people and a dog came up to join them! After spending some time on the summit, we all started heading back towards Cloyses Lake, down the W. ridge of Missouri. This ridge turned out to be a straightforward descent, with just a short exposed part at the start. I was pleased that we were able to do a loop trip for our 3-mountain adventure.

With all of us down to camp by 5:30pm, Happy Hour was about to begin. But one in our group decided that 3 mountains in one day just wasn't enough. Norm took off solo for an evening ascent of Huron! (Guess my trip was just a tad too leisurely for him!) The rest of us settled in for an evening of passing around hors d'oeuvres, drinking more of the bubbly (thanks Slug!), telling jokes, and watching David Hunter do experiments with dry ice and water. Definitely one of the happiest Happy Hours I've ever seen!

The next morning, we all slept in and then socialized over individual breakfasts and shared coffee. We were all packed up and heading out by 10am. On the way home, we decided to take the Hunter boys' suggestion and hit Buena Vista's Bongo Billy's for an espresso shake (they are huge--best to share one). I've had several memorable climbs in the past, but this was definitely a special trip which will always bring a smile to my face when reminiscing about the "last one".


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