Monthly Archives: February 2017

climbing otto's staircase in gold star canyon

Gold Star Canyon up to Otto’s Staircase

“Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.”
Ed Viesturs, No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World’s 14 Highest Peaks

“Climbing is as close as we can come to flying.”
Margaret Young

Kids were complaining pretty loudly this morning.

I blame it on the birthday party we had yesterday.

You see, following my ‘I’m a mean mom’ mantra, I only throw ‘friend parties’ for my kids every four years. Connor was only turning 9 so he just had his friend party last year. This year: family.

Mean, right?

Anyhoo- so we did lots of fun stuff yesterday: ate waffles, went to the park, had Wendy’s for lunch, got him a flute, opened presents, make/frosted/ate cake, went bowling, played Wii, went to Olive Garden for dinner…You get the idea.

So I’m going to blame bad attitudes today on the comparable bliss of yesterday.

Climbing to the rescue!

You see, if I say, ‘Let’s go for a hike!’ then there will be noisy protests. But “You kids wanna go climbing?” then it’s packs-on-get-in-the-car-let’s-go-asap!

I figured Gold Star Canyon would be just the ticket. It’s an area I’m very familiar with that I knew I could coach them up, and it would give us a chance to check out [read that as: find and explore for future exploiting] Otto’s Staircase.

I also figured it would be ice/snow-free.

I was wrong.

There were still several ice flows…from a few inches to a few feet…ice sheets coating the cliffs. I was amazed! This is notoriously one of the drier canyons. I’ve even intentionally tried to catch a flash-flood there when it’s been raining. To no avail.

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The kids had a marvelous time climbing up and up and up. Each one had their own ‘skill line’.

Eventually we reached the bench trail and soon after found the fork that leads up up up up up up to the cliff face, where we found, hidden behind an old leafless juniper tree, a rudimentary staircase carved into the rock.

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Trinity and Tim climbed quickly up it. I made an attempt but was concerned that I would be a little too uncomfortable on the return descent. Matt came to the same conclusion.

We decided it would be better to wait for an opportunity when we could climb all the way up to the top, then hike out on the upper Liberty Cap trail [with a pit-stop at Otto’s Bathtub, of course].

BTW- the views were immense!

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We went back the way we came…slowly and carefully… and hiked out the Bench Trail and the more traditional Gold Star Canyon route.

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It felt, at times, as though we were flying.

Now check out the ever impressive images Matt captured:

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And this is my favorite:

otto's staircase

matt janson amazing light photo

A Pretty Legit Exploration and a Quadruple Arch to Boot

“A chasm reminds us that there is a fine line between bravery and idiocy.”
Veronica Roth, Divergent

“There are four lights.”
Patrick Stewart

So there are a couple of things that have popped up in our Monument research.

The problem with this is that I HAVE TO FIGURE THEM OUT. It’s like a little puzzle to me and I need to solve it.

Suction Point is one.

For example, on the official map it is here:

Suction Point as it lies on the official colorado national monument map

Right? It is clearly in an upper hanging canyon that drains into Ute.

But now check this out:

suction point as it lies on google maps and satelite view

So which is it? What is it? Why is it called that? Who named it? Why is it significant?

This led me to do a little Google Searching.

And what I found was…well…exciting.  Check it out:

Yeah. A [insert expletive here] QUADRUPLE arch! Whaaaaat?!?!

My adventure senses started tingling.

I did more research. I zoomed way way way in on Google Earth. I made some good guesses and plotted how to get there. This process took me a couple of weeks. And of course we had to wait for weather to be right for backcountry hiking…

But I couldn’t wait anymore. I insisted we find the cluster of arches and, heck, while we’re at it let’s see what the CNM official map calls ‘Suction Point’.

Kids, as per their typical MO were unenthusiastic for the venture. But, also per their typical MO, perked up when we got on the trail.

Trinity took the lead and Tim remained interested in the map on my phone. Connor is just a happy friendly kid 98% of the time, so he hiked along happily.

I’m not going to give an exact description of the route we took, but this I will tell you: if there is something of interest at the ‘Suction Point’ as listed on the CNM map then we missed it because it just looked like this:


A beautiful view to be sure, but little otherwise of significance.

As we approached where I suspected our second quarry lie, we began to spot little hole through rocks everywhere!

Matt got this one:

small arch on the rim of upper ute canyon near suction point colorado national monument matt janson photography

As per my typical MO, I led us directly to where I thought the Quadruple Arch would be and sure enough, there it was!

quadruple arch in upper ute canyon near suction point by matt janson photography

The arches are not large, but to see a clustering of 4 was as fantastic as you think it is.

This one is my favorite. Matt took it, of course:

Quadruple arch in upper ute canyon colorado national monument grand junction, colorado near suction point


• Matt found a set of cat tracks, one very large and one very tiny. Mother and child? Oh we hope so!

• Tim got angry I wouldn’t let him out on top of the largest arch with the biggest risk of a non-refundable fall. Guess I’m a mean mom. I’m perfectly okay with that.

• Connor is seriously so much fun.

• The hike back was uneventful, other than the storytelling from the endless imagination of Connor. We ended up hiking only about 4 miles but it felt far more significant.

• Connor also said, “Mom, this was totally worth it.”

See. Mom really is always right.


Connor’s sand drawing:

connor's sand drawing

And this incredible shot from Matt. You know you want this on your wall. 

Get it. Get it for your wall. 

matt janson amazing light photo

Rain and Echoes

“So much of language is unspoken. So much of language is compromised of looks and gestures and sounds that are not words. People are ignorant of the vast complexity of their own communication.”
Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain

“So much of language is unspoken. So much of language is compromised of looks and gestures and sounds that are not words. People are ignorant of the vast complexity of their own communication.” ― Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain

Some days we just want to be alone together. We are so comfortable, so content. Sometimes we go hours in comfortable silence. A single look saying enough. A single touch expressing what we can’t say.

It was raining. We hiked Echo Canyon…this time exploring the places we haven’t been before.