Hike to the Summit of Ptarmigan Mountain

The Trail Heading up to the Bench

On Monday, Shea and I went on an adventure to Ptarmigan Mountain in Silverthorne. To get to the summit is 12 miles round trip. There is a bench 3 miles in that looks out over the town. I decided when I left the house that I was going to take a leisurely stroll up to the bench with Shea, taking some photos of wildflowers along the way.

I packed my camelbak with about 1.5 liters of water, enough for both of us, 2 clif bars and some trail mix, my camera and a warm layer. So there we went walking up the trail, me taking photos, Shea chasing chipmunks.

We got to the bench and there were 4 or 5 ladies hanging out there with a bunch of dogs, so I thought I’d keep going for awhile and then turn around and come back to the bench. Well, then I looked up on my phone how far the summit was, only another 3 miles but it was going to be steep.

Selfie on the Summit
Selfie on the Summit

I decided to go for it. I put my camera away, checked the clouds and starting picking up my pace a bit. The summit ended up being about 4 miles away but it was totally worth it! Shea and I had the summit to ourselves since it was so late in the day. We took some selfies and I took some cool panoramic shots. It was chilly up there and I was glad I had an extra layer.

Finally I put my camera away and we decided to head down. There was one cloud over the Gore Range that didn’t look so nice, so I decided to run at least to treeline. We got to treeline and I was enjoying the run so, I kept running. Shea and I ran all the way until the last mile. We both got a great workout and a great adventure out of the day!

Snow Patch with Grays and Torrey’s in the Background

The Mental Fitness of Rock Climbing

North Table Mountain, Golden, CO at Sunset.

Rock climbing is not only tough on your body, but its tough on your mind as well. One of the most challenging aspects of climbing is your mental game. I have days when I climb slightly above my grade and I rock it. Then I have other days when I climb something perfectly at my grade and my head just isn’t in it, fear kicks in and all of the sudden I freeze and I can’t go up or down and I don’t know what to do.

In a recent interview with Crux Crush Hazel Findlay says,

“There is no where near enough attention paid to the mental side of climbing than the physical. Everywhere you see ways to be stronger and fitter, training programs, diets, but climbing performance is mostly to do with your mental state and strength. So my advice to any climber, sport, bouldering, trad, alpine is to train your mind as well as your body.”

So how can we train our minds? The biggest part of any physical challenge requires a sort of mental mastery. We must learn to stay calm and in control of the situation. We need to accept the risk, recognize it and climb with it. if we cling to the thought of falling, then our attention will waver and falling will probably happen. But instead we should focus on getting to the top, knowing there is a risk but moving fluidly and with precision.

Bouldering at Swan Mountain in Dillon, CO.

When I am climbing something tough, I will try to completely focus on my footwork, and I will carefully search out my holds and feet before making a move. I climb slow and controlled. If I rush the moves, that is when I end up getting stuck somewhere because I didn’t think before I made moves, and am not where I want to be mentally or physically.

Developing awareness is a big part of climbing. Being aware of what is around you, what you can use, what you can’t use and what your risks are. One of the biggest hinders in developing a better mind for climbing arises from sticking with what is comfortable. For me, I am challenged by crack climbing and I will avoid it at all costs. But what I really should do is step out of my comfort zone and practice climbing cracks.

Remembering to breathe while climbing something hard is important too. Taking deep breaths brings more oxygen to your muscles, giving them more power to do what you want them to, whether its holding on to something tough while you figure out your next move, or making a big move to the next hold. You need to keep breathing to help your body sustain the climb.

At the Top of Royal Flush (5.9) on Mt. Royal, Frisco, CO.

This mental exercise is a big part of why I love climbing, it is the physical and mental aspects that really help to develop who I am, and how I react in certain situations, even outside of climbing. Fear has been a big part of my life, and will continue to be, but how I handle that fear, is what’s important. Climbing helps me to learn to accept fear and move with it onto the next hold, the next route, and the next adventure.


To read more check out this great book The Rock Warrior’s Way by Arno Ilgner.

An Adventure to Native Lake Trail in Leadville, CO

flowerstreamThere’s something to be said about changing plans at the last minute. I planned to hike Grays and Torreys this morning. I went to bed at 11pm and even woke up and got out of bed at 4am. But then I heard the rain on the skylight in my bathroom. Back to bed. Woke up at 5:30, same thing.

Finally woke up at 8am and needed a quick change of plans. No time for a 14er, clouds were not looking so nice. What happened to 0% chance of rain? Matt and I packed up the Subaru anyways, threw Shea in and took off for Leadville and hiked an easy trail with a great view of Mt. Massive. If we couldn’t hike a 14er, at least we could look at one. We had an easy climb up to the top of the ridge before the rain started but we did get a great view of Massive before coming down to a beer at the car when the sun came back out.


Mt. Massive Just Before it Rained

Sometimes life (and the weather?) doesn’t happen the way you plan it. Being an outdoor enthusiast, you have to be ready to just accept it and either stick to the plan anyway, or change the plan on a moments notice. We did the latter today. With an impending possible thunderstorm coming our way, a 14er was out. But that didn’t mean we couldn’t hike somewhere else.

I am a firm believer in adventures. Especially the type where nothing is planned and you just go by the seat of your pants. Those are always the most fun. That is when the adventure actually begins. Then it becomes more then just a hike. It’s somewhere new you get to explore, a new perspective on the mountains, your life, the rain etc. Everything is always fun when you’re on an adventure.


Matt and Shea Enjoying the Day

The last paragraph of this article on semi-rad.com is what this is all about, I always think back to this whenever an adventure like today arises:

“People who have The Stoke do not hit the snooze button on their alarm clock and fail to get out of bed to go climbing/biking/hiking/skiing on their days off. They do not complain about food. They do not bail on a day in the outdoors when there’s only a 30 to 70 percent chance of rain. In the face of immediate danger, peril, or running out of chocolate, they crack jokes. Statistically, your chances of summiting any climb are increased by 50 percent if you are climbing with someone who has The Stoke. As are your chances of receiving high fives and exploding fist bumps, and in general having an awesome life.”

Music is… Good For Your Brain.

Night 2. The crowd at Red Rocks.

This weekend Matt and I went to see two Railroad Earth shows. (If you haven’t heard them, listen to them here). They are one of our favorite bands and seeing two nights while staying with good friends was a lot of fun.

Seeing live music is always such an amazing experience. While I was in the crowd last night dancing, and singing all my favorite tunes I couldn’t help but think about this presentation I did in college about how music affects your brain and for a lot of people is almost like a happy pill.

Music raises levels of dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine and epinephrine naturally. These are happy molecules in the brain. This is most prominent when you hear your favorite jam or song and you get that instant burst of energy and big smile on your face. At a concert music has the power to bring strangers together in that moment. It creates a sense of unity because in essence you are sharing the same physical experience at the same moment in your brain.

Night 1. Boulder Theatre.
Night 1. Boulder Theatre.

Live music is so magical, and I am glad to say that I have spent a lot of my youth going to see my favorite bands with my friends. It brings people together in the best way. Last night I saw two very good friends of mine that I haven’t seen for awhile and being able to share the experience with them brought back a lot of good memories.

After coming home from a two day event, I feel relaxed and happy to have spent quality time with my friends and with the band that I wait to see at Red Rocks all winter long. I’m already excited for next year.



To read more about how your brain is affected by music, check these two books out;

Music and the Mind by Anthony Storr (Amazon)

This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin (Website)