Elisa Jones hike mount garfield winter palisade colorado panorama view

Mount Up

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” 
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Lord of the Rings

I was so very unwell this morning. My legs ached and I hadn’t slept well. My body needs a rest. I keep forgetting I’m still healing and my body is working hard and hasn’t adjusted to the increased activity I’ve been forcing it through.

So what do you do? I considered an abbreviated trail experience today, but had one major internal conflict: there are only two days a month when all my kids are in school for the entire day. That means I get about 5 hours to myself and I tend to plan epic excursions for these precious few days. I had missed my earlier date in December due to my business trip to Salt Lake, so this was my only chance for the month.

I still had my life, my freedom. I decided to embrace it.

Mt. Garfield is no easy hike. Dennis did it as part of his “weeding out” SAR training- had to climb it with a 40 lb pack on- so you know it’s tough. It’s soul purpose is to get you to the top and fast. That’s nearly 2200 ft elevation over about 2.5 miles. That’s a little steeper than the Liberty Cap trail I did the other day.

I’ve looked forward to this hike for ages- ever since Tristan had claimed this to be one of the best short hikes he’d ever done. That’s HUGE coming from him. I recommend you read his blog post about Mt. Garfield here, and be sure to check out his other many adventures here.

I think for this post I will let the pictures tell the story. This is one that I hope anyone reading this will want to do themselves. I’ve also done my share of excellent summit hikes, and this one is second-only to Mt. Timpanogos, in my book.

At the TH there was this cute little horsey. He's a wild horsey. We left him alone to be wild.
At the TH there was this cute little horsey. He’s a wild horsey. We left him alone to be wild.
So you climb straight up one of the Mancos Shale fins. Look to either side and you see these hoo-doos: the boulders heavily compact the earth beneath which then avoids erosion. It's so cool.
So you climb straight up one of the Mancos Shale fins. Look to either side and you see these hoo-doos: the boulders heavily compact the earth beneath which then avoids erosion. It’s so cool.
Here I am headed up the fin. I got a little vertigo when the trail narrowed and I could see the steep drop on either side.
Here I am headed up the fin. I got a little vertigo when the trail narrowed and I could see the steep drop on either side.
Here's Dave climbing up the fin behind me. You can see the fog/smog in the valley below us already. This was not even a 1/4 mile in.
Here’s Dave climbing up the fin behind me. You can see the fog/smog in the valley below us already. This was not even a 1/4 mile in.
Once you're up the fin you scramble up the boulder field. Many of these are going to be hoo-doos in the future.
Once you’re up the fin you scramble up the boulder field. Many of these are going to be hoo-doos in the future.
Dave almost at the top of the first scrambly section.
Dave almost at the top of the first scrambly section.
The first climb kind of tops-out at this hanging meadow. I found me a nice little rock cave just my size.
The first climb kind of tops-out at this hanging meadow. I found me a nice little rock cave just my size.
Here I am in the meadow. You can see the rock walls on either side that shelter this little oasis.
Here I am in the meadow. You can see the rock walls on either side that shelter this little oasis.
The trail leaves the meadow via this steep off-camber climb. This section was a little squishy.
The trail leaves the meadow via this steep off-camber climb. This section was a little squishy.
Dave coming up that same section. Cliffs above and a steep grade slope below.
Dave coming up that same section. Cliffs above and a steep grade slope below.
Okay, you have to click on this one to get the proper perspective. The trail is on the far right and I'm in almost the center of the scene.
Okay, you have to click on this one to get the proper perspective. The trail is on the far right and I’m in almost the center of the scene.
Once you hit the saddle the trail goes around the back and becomes very scrambly again. Only today it was covered in snow. But not sticky-snowman-snow- slippery bits of ice snow.
Once you hit the saddle the trail goes around the back and becomes very scrambly again. Only today it was covered in snow. But not sticky-snowman-snow- slippery bits of ice snow.
Made it to the top, somehow, and we commenced taking photos.
Made it to the top, somehow, and we commenced taking photos.
Dave was harassing me about only taking profile shots, so here I am in full-frontal aspect.
Dave was harassing me about only taking profile shots, so here I am in full-frontal aspect.
I can't stand next to the edge, but I want to see over it. So I lay down. It was incredible- the entire Grand Valley laid out before me- the land features reaching up out of the fog...like a hundred islands. It was immense.
I can’t stand next to the edge, but I want to see over it. So I lay down. It was incredible- the entire Grand Valley laid out before me- the land features reaching up out of the fog…like a hundred islands. It was immense.
I had a snack here, too. Dave got a little vertigo, but I felt surprisingly comfortable.
I had a snack here, too. Dave got a little vertigo, but I felt surprisingly comfortable.
Hiking back down.
Hiking back down.
A wider view of that little valley. The dark mass on the right is the Grand Mesa.
A wider view of that little valley. The dark mass on the right is the Grand Mesa.
Me looking through the valley.
Me looking through the valley.
Headed down into the bouldery section.
Headed down into the bouldery section.
I just loved this picture. Had to share.
I just loved this picture. Had to share.
So Dave says, "Just run down that knife-edge there...." So I did. It was scary for me. Totally mental.
So Dave says, “Just run down that knife-edge there….” So I did. It was scary for me. Totally mental.
Dave kept trying to get a good perspective shot of this "knife edge". You can see his foot, and the ultra-steep slope dropping off to the left.
Dave kept trying to get a good perspective shot of this “knife edge”. You can see his foot, and the ultra-steep slope dropping off to the left.
We made it down and called it a success!
We made it down and called it a success!