When in Crested Butte, don’t miss this high-elevation hike

Someone hung a tie-dyed T-shirt on a post at the top of Scarp’s Ridge.

 

I warmed up for tomorrow’s big hike from Crested Butte to Aspen by climbing to the top of Scarp Ridge today.

The trailhead lies just above Irwin Lake, about 20 minutes outside of Crested Butte. Park your vehicle on the side of the road near the green-roofed Irwin Lodge, which serves as a ski chalet in the winter, and head uphill.

Beautiful scenery looking up at Scarp Ridge.

The trail forks almost immediately. It’s a loop, but we took the left side fork first to cover the steepest stuff first. The trail meanders through clusters of pines and a few aspen. Look down and you can see the lake in the distance.

Hike the loop trail counter clockwise. That way you’ll cover the steepest terrain on the way up.

The round-trip hike only covers about 4.6 miles, but you gain a lot of elevation. We started hiking at about 10,700 feet and climbed to just higher than 12,000 feet. Along the way we got great views of mountain bowls, vistas and trees, and flushed plenty of chipmonks out of the underbrush.

We missed the summer wildflower show, but got a sneak peak of fall. The trees are just starting to turn here this week. Some of the aspens wore yellow leaves this morning, a nice change after their summer greens.

Hiking up Scarp Ridge.

Plan on a couple of leisurely hours to make the hike, and bring plenty of water. For more information go to https://travelcrestedbutte.com/crested-butte-hikes-scarp-ridge-middle-loop/.

An armadillo and a reporter meet in the desert. Here’s what happens next…

A nine-banded armadillo sniffs the air after a rare July rainstorm in West Texas this week. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

This crusty fellow wandered by after a wild rainstorm swept through the desert Monday near Sheffield, Texas.

He was rooting around for bugs. I happened to be walking across Independence Creek Preserve, a Nature Conservancy property near the confluence of Independence Creek and the Pecos River, when our paths crossed.

The nine-banded armadillo appeared completely unfazed. ‘Dillos have terrible eyesight; they rely on their sense of smell to find food. This one didn’t seem to notice – or care about – my natural odor, either.

He strolled closer and closer, and at one point dug his nose in the dirt just a foot from my camera lens. Then he reared up on his back legs, his wriggly, pink-tipped nose wagging. And look at those ears! Nubbly and tough, but at the same time delicate like rose petals.

Our eyes met – his tiny and squinty, mine wide and curious – and then we continued down our respective paths. I think we both appreciated the magic of a rare July rainstorm in West Texas.

After sniffing the air for a minute or so, the armadillo went back to rooting through the wet soil for grubs, beetles and worms. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

Austin girl aims to become youngest to climb Kilimanjaro

Montannah Kenney of Austin hopes to become the youngest girl to climb Mount Kilimanjaro this month. Photo by Georges Schemagin

 

An Austin 7-year-old is angling to become the youngest girl to summit Mount Kilimanjaro.

Montannah Kenney, a second-grader at River Ridge Elementary School, has been hiking up and down hills around Austin in preparation for her trek, which is set to begin March 10. If all goes as planned, she’ll reach the top of the tallest free-standing mountain in the world on March 17 or 18.

The two are heading to Tanzania in memory of Montannah’s dad, who died a week after Montannah’s third birthday in 2013.

Montannah will begin her trek on March 10 and hopes to summit on March 17 or 18. Photo by Georges Schemagin

“The higher I go, the closer I am to him in heaven,” Montannah says.

Don’t worry, she’s pretty tough. A triathlete, swimmer and runner who plays basketball and soccer, she’s always followed the lead of her mother, Hollie Kenney, 45, a former professional triathlete who now runs a swim coaching business and leads the volunteer program for Team Beef. Together, they have been hiking the Hill of Life and Riverplace to strengthen their legs for their adventure.

Montannah describes her training as “really long.”

“Sometimes my friends come with us and sometimes my mom makes me do math problems when we see signs of how far we have gone, and how far we have to go,” Montannah says.

Montannah Kenney

An estimated 25,000 people set out to climb the 19,341-foot mountain each year; about two-thirds make it to the top. Park rules require that climbers be 10 years old, but officials also issue special permits for younger climbers, which Montannah has obtained.

Currently, Roxy Getter of Florida, who was 8 when she made the climb, holds the record for the youngest female; Keats Boyd of Los Angeles was 7 when he climbed. The oldest climber to date was 88 when he slogged his way up. (You can check all the records, including records for the fastest ascent and descent, here.)

Conditions vary along the route, but the Kenneys will probably face temperature extremes from 90 degrees down to well below freezing – and winds like freight trains. They say they are prepared for very non-Texas conditions of snow or sleet.

“I want to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro because it would be a fun adventure with my mom, and because it would be really cool to try to break the world record, but I would want to climb it anyway because I don’t care if I break it,” Montannah says.

If she is successful, it will mark her first world record.

It will also mark the first time she’s ever camped.