2003 Hahn's Peak Hike Report Page 1

E-mail Adam

Updated Site Updated: 12/20/04

Sunday, January 26th, 2003

It was a whirlwind trip of only 3 days and 2 nights. With my only full day there I asked Sarah if we could do a challenging snowshoe hike. Last time I was in Steamboat we snow shoed up several small hills and peaks over 2 or 3 days. It was a wonderful time and I thoroughly enjoyed the peaceful beauty of laboring up the silent and desolate slopes in the woods. After those couple of days of hiking I remember driving back into town and seeing this massive peak to our left. I looked at it with envy wishing I could climb it. Sarah said it was Hahn’s Peak, and I thought it would be great fun to hike to the top.

For this trip’s challenging hike Sarah made plans for us to climb Hahn’s Peak. I cold not have been happier. My sister is the coolest.

Hahn’s Peak is one of, if not the highest peak in the area at just under 11,000 ft. But the way its slopes ascend radically to a peak it makes it look higher and more imposing. It juts up with nothing around to challenge its presence.

Sarah got a friend named Pam to join us along with Sarah’s new boyfriend Tommy. Tommy had just returned back into town after several months working on a Navy boat as a recreation coordinator in San Diego. At last I was going to met the guy Sarah had said so much about.

We got up early Sunday morning to be picked up by Pam at 8:15 to eat a leisurely breakfast at a hip in-town breakfast joint on the outskirts of town. It was the type of place only veterans of the area frequented. In a way I thought I should be privileged to be with a seasoned veteran of the area as my sister was. The way Sarah walks around town saying hello to just about every other person you’d think she was the mayor of this small but growing ski town. As in every ski village, the atmosphere in Steamboat was thick with skiing. In January, the town has this singular focus. You can feel the sleepy urgency in the effort’s of people devoted to getting skiers out onto the slopes to take advantage of the limited winter daylight. I was glad to feel out of the ordinary with our focus on the lonely Hahn’s Peak. Hahn’s Peak rises in the distance in full view from the ski slopes but well out of the thoughts of the town and its transient skiers. I am sure many an observant skier has wondered its name, but since it does not have a ski lift, the name would likely disappear from thought. It is all part of the arrogance of skiing.

After breakfast, Pam had to drive us up the road several miles to the closest we could legally get to Hahn’s Peak in a car. It had been quite warm in Steamboat for the last week and the snow was melting and slushy. In a winter wonderland it is easy to hear the cold weather thaw. It comes in the sounds of dripping water down aluminum rain gutters… drip drip drip. Instead of the crunch of brittle snow under car tires, one can hear slush being pushed aside as the tires ply the roads. These sounds were eventually replaced by the colder sounds at higher elevations as we ascended the hill towards Hahn’s Peak and our parking spot. The temperature was dropping rapidly as we drove. The black road was traded for a slick white one. The 4 wheel drive on Pam’s Subaru was helpful I am sure.

We parked by the side of the road in the quite wilderness with snow piled high on the sides of the road. If the car were left in its parking spot until spring, I am sure it would have been out in the middle of the road. Disappointingly, the silence was smashed by a collection of snowmobilers revving their engines to warm them on this cold morning. The engines protested the cold as they clanked and sputtered spewing blue smoke, ruining the unmistakable smell of fresh snow. It appears others were getting ready for a silence shattering adventure. It seems their adventure in the peaceful wilderness is like going to a classical symphony to listen to Led Zeppelin your Walkman. Led Zeppelin is great but only in the right context. We each made snide comments to one another about our wilderness-seeking friends as we prepared our clothes, packs and equipment.

Being less used to the preparations involved for a cold weather trek, I was last to be ready. The four of us with two dogs started off snowshoeing up a firm snow-packed road covered by dense pine trees draped in thick blankets of snow. Sarah and Pam went ahead giving Tommy and I time to get acquainted. I had just met him last night for the first time.

Tommy is Sarah’s boyfriend and is really a terrific guy. It was easy to see that quickly. He has a great dry sense of humor and strikes a good balance between seriousness and humor. My impressions that day were that he is well read, intelligent and curious about the world around him. Tommy is very down to earth and his attitude towards life fits in well with the atmosphere in the Colorado Mountains. As we walked and talked I felt like I had known him for years and this was another conversation with him and not just the first. I hope I made him feel as comfortable.

We started out bundled up as the temperatures were down below 20 degrees. The still air of the tree-covered road coupled with walking in the snowshoes up the gradually inclining road warmed us. My frequent stops to take pictures were not that annoying to the others as it was an opportunity to take off and pack another article of clothing. At the start, our backpacks seemed a bit oversized for our trek, but after a few stops to strip and stow clothes they seemed too small for the job.

The road was beautifully peaceful. The silence of the deep snow covering the thick green pine trees all around made it feel like we were in a cave. Every sound was immediately absorbed by the insulating snow and forest. The road led to a sign indicating the path to Hahn’s Peak. The gradual slope of the road gave way to a narrow trail on a steeper hill. We followed day old telemark ski tracks up the hill only briefly before the dense trees began to thin out making the snowy hills more visible.

My ski poles alternated between a help and a hindrance as I hiked and took pictures. The climbing we did was slow and steady because of the images I felt I had to capture. Despite the pace, there was still enough sweat to make us cold as it evaporated in the cooler drier air we started to meet. With the protection of the trees gone we had to remove the lumps in our backpacks and put the clothing back on. The wind picked up in the open spaces. The occasional clumps of trees had a collective strategy of protection against this harsh winter environment. For a brief moment in evolutionary time, we were lucky enough to benefit from their strategy of the eons as we passed them by in barely a blink. You could see the wind had been perennially coming from one direction this winter as one side of these trees were painted a dense white by the snow. Early layers of snow and ice acted as protection to the trees to the incessant pelting of the wind with its frozen ammunition.