Back in July, my friend asked me, mid-concert in the park, drinks in hand, if I would like to climb Golden Horn that weekend. I’m never one to turn down mountain adventure so I agreed, although I was slightly concerned about how slow I might be headed up the mountain.
After what felt like an early start (but not to shabby since we live close enough to wake up in our own beds), we found ourselves at the trail head cruising rapidly up towards Upper Ice Lake. Above the lake, I finally got to solve the approach question from Fuller Lake towards the ring of 13ers above the basin (I had a storm come in when I first attempted Vermilion from Ice Lakes).
I’d climbed Fuller Peak (on the left) and Vermilion (center) in 2015 and was very excited to head up Golden Horn (on the right)!
I’d almost forgotten how much I actually enjoy(?) relish(?) feel alive(?) when making my way up loose San Juan rock. The weather was perfect as we worked our way up the gully to the Vermilion-Golden Horn saddle.
Once we were on the summit, we were treated to a fantastic view of the Wilsons:
A gorgeous view of upper Ice Lake and all of the San Juans:
As we headed down, the sky got really moody and we felt an urgency as we headed down the mountain. The rain started just as we started descending the headwall into the lower basin.
I’m always so glad to hike with Nadia because she is totally willing to gush about these mountains with me the whole time.
I’ve seen Golden Horn now from several angles and every time, I think of this fantastic day and smile.
Despite working until 11pm the night before, I agreed to a 5:15 hiking meet up with my friend Dave. We had a bit of a miscommunication about where to meet up so we didn’t quite start hiking until a little bit later.
We headed up toward Richmond Pass gaining elevation rapidly in the trees.
Being above treeline never hurts so despite being rather tired and undertrained I had zero complaints.
Saturday morning, after lesurely enjoying some coffee, I headed up Brown Mountain jeep road once again. (I kinda love that road: it’s not too difficult to drive and gets you up to the high country pretty quickly!) This time, I had my sights set on the highpoint of the long Brown Mountain Ridge. Located at the southern end of the ridge (Mt. Abrams is at the north end), it tops out at 13,339′. Since I was going up the western side of the ridge, I spent most of my drive and then the climb up to the ridge in shadow watching the sun make its way ever so slowly down the eastern slopes across the valley from me.
The steep climb up the gully from the end of the jeep road always kicks my butt. It’s only a half mile but it is steep. I also knew that once I hit the ridge the sun would help warm my chilly bones (I was greeted with ice coating puddles and ponds along the way up… fall is in full swing in the mountains!)
Once I got to the ridge, I started ambling along not worrying much about making good time. Looking north, I could see the route I took back in July to the summit of Mt. Abrams:
Looking south, I realized that the ridge was a lot longer than I was picturing it being. The highpoint is visible on the far right of this photo. I decided to traverse below some of the subpeaks in between to minimize elevation gain and loss–that turned out to be a mistake, going over the summits on the return was a lot easier than traversing the steep and slippery scree on the eastern slopes!
I further realized that ascending this peak from the Alaska Basin spur road off of Hurricane Pass would be way shorter. I didn’t particularly mind the extra length but the Brown Mountain road is not the shortest or least elevation gain route by far!
At the highpoint I found the summit log next to the Duco benchmark and just soaked in the sights for a bit. Somehow, I’d forgotten how absolutely magical fall is in the mountains. #Summtsummer is a beautiful thing but honestly, fall summits are even better. They’re lonelier, the weather is better (until that moment the snow falls and it’s terrible), the colors are beautiful, and the air has a crisp fresh smell that is totally indescribable.
I am so glad that I had a chance to ramble in the high mountain air alone and drink it all in.
The main goal of our roadtrip was to start checking off some peaks on the County Highpoint list again. I hadn’t gotten one since summiting Bushnell back in March so it was high time to make progress on the goal. Since this time of year is a little tough in terms of access, I had limited peaks to choose from and decided to go ahead and drive up Pikes Peak since I would not only grab the El Paso County Highpoint on the summit but also the Teller County Highpoint, Devils Playground along the way.
We arrived at the toll booth quite awhile before they opened but happily passed the time chatting with some other people in line. I even made some coffee on the stove in the back of the XJ for the drive. I snapped a couple of shots of the mountain going down the road but most of them turned out really well framed just like this one:
When we left the toll booth, they’d said that because of high winds on the summit, the road was closed at mile 16 although they were fairly confident that wind speeds would drop and we could continue up at some point. I wasn’t too upset since mile 16 is where Devils Playground was located. We arrived and immediately started up the small slope. Sprocket was delighted to be playing in the snow. He ran right up to the summit and stood on the rocks and waited for me. Clearly, my dog knows what’s up. Teller County marked my 46th Colorado County Highpoint!
With perfect timing, the road opened all the way to the Pikes summit when we were just below the Devils Playground summit. I had so many good laughs watching SP frolic his way back down to the Jeep. He definitely knows how to have fun.
Just a couple minutes up the road, we reached the summit, my 47th county highpoint in Colorado! It was pretty windy so we didn’t stick around too long before heading back down the mountain.
Back in July, I started off my county high pointing adventure inauspiciously by being driven off of Vermilion Peak (13,894′) at 9:30 in the morning by thunder and lightning. I shouldn’t have taken it for granted that I only had 1,000′ vertical feet to go and should have started earlier but I was disappointed all the same.
It’s been bugging me ever since so when I had to go down to Ouray last weekend for some teacher training, I decided to give Vermilion another try, this time from the Hope Lake trailhead.
I’d spent the night at a friend’s place in Telluride. I set my alarm for 5am and made it to the trailhead right at 6. Sprocket was anxious to start hiking and he let me know! He happily hit the trail and we moved right along the Hope Lake Trail. I was really pleased to find that this trail had a really great grade; it’s definitely someplace I’ll keep in mind when I have friends come to visit!
As we reached treeline, the world was getting light around us. I particularly enjoyed seeing the Wilson group—I’ve climbed its three 14ers and really am looking forward to come back and climb centennial Gladstone Peak.
When we reached treeline, Vermilion Peak also came into view. I always love when you get to see your final destination along the way.
As always, Sprocket just wanted to charge up the mountain. He’s not appreciative of breaks. While I took a breather on the first talus slope, he whined and did his best to motivate me to keep moving up the hill. He’s such a pal, that Sprocket.
As we climbed upwards, Hope Lake came into view. I was on the western side of the mountain so it took awhile for the sun to come to meet me.
I really enjoyed this hike. The two talus benches gave me the opportunity to gain elevation and then to get a little bit of a breather as I walked along the top of the benches. It was so nice to reach the sunshine at the top of the Fuller-Beattie saddle.
There is a fairly decent boot track up to the Fuller-Vermilion saddle but I got off track fairly early on and made it really difficult on myself. It was a little bit scary at times because Sprocket isn’t very aware of rockfall either that he causes or that I cause so we have to carefully figure out how to stick together. I was really worried about descending this slope and was very relieved to discover that the boot track had just taken a much more gradual pace than my very vertical then horizontal path.
There are only 400′ to climb from the Fuller-Vermilion saddle to the summit and it went really quickly. There is an excellent climbers trail and Sprocket and I breezed right up.
I was pretty excited to finally make it to the summit:
The Wilson group from the summit:
I love the San Juans so much. This view looking north towards the Sneffels range in the distance:
Sprocket spent most of our summit time hanging out right next to the summit cairn. His summit excitement was a lot more stoic than mine. 😉
We looked down into Ice Lakes basin during our traverse over to Fuller Peak (13,761′):
On the top of Fuller we continued to take in the views before heading down the mountain.
Vermilion from Fuller:
I thought about heading up Beattie Peak but I was a little worried about Sprocket’s paws on the talus. We needed to make it out over a lot of talus terrain and I didn’t want to risk having to limp/carry/coax him with sore paws. In retrospect, he could have totally handled the 300′ of gain but although I’m good at reading Sprocket, ultimately, I’m dealing with an animal that can’t speak and certainly can’t predict how he’ll feel an hour and 1,500′ later.
Since Sprocket and I both had gas left in the tank so we ran up to Hope Lake for the puppers to take a swim before we made the drive over Ophir Pass and back to Ridgway. My 24th Colorado County Highpoint was probably one of my most favorite. The weather was great, the views around the San Juans were gorgeous, and the hike was a really fun one.
My first day back in Ridgway, I set out to climb Corbett Peak just south of Ridgway and promptly got my jeep stuck in a creek. Almost a week later, I had another opportunity to make a bid for the peak. I was sort of skeptical about actually being able to summit because the Sneffles range was fairly cloaked in dark purple clouds but I’d passed on an opportunity to climb it a couple of days earlier and the clouds lifted mid-morning so I figured worst case scenario it’d be a chance to get in a good hike below treeline.
The rain didn’t really seem to start until I hit the trees and stopped before I got to about 11,000’—what perfect timing! As I emerged from the trees, the skies had cleared and I realized I was actually going to be able to go for the summit!
I always love hitting treeline; the climb always seems to become easier when I have views of all the mountains around me. This was my view out to the east:
And then to the north:
Corbett’s false summit from the ridge line (about 12,000′ feet):
I noticed some deer (maybe bighorn sheep? I didn’t have binoculars with me…) hanging out in this snowfield to the north of the mountain. They were clearly happy to have a cool place to be:
This is the view from the false summit where I dropped my pack and made a mad dash for the true summit (on the left). It was a way sketchier scramble than I’d expected and while the clouds still looked pretty benign I didn’t want to wait around for them to become more menacing. Whitehouse looked pretty impressive from the summit though, and I really want to make it up there soon!
After the summit, I headed downhill as quickly as was safe and hit tree line about 12:15. I probably should have started an hour earlier but the weather totally held out for me!
I’m not a fan of grazing practices on our public lands but these cows looked so happy that I couldn’t help but smile.
Almost back to the car I got a great view of Corbett (including the true summit) and had a chance to smile at my 3,700′ of elevation gain!
After spending so much of October immersed in my #damselNOTindistress project, I decided that it was finally time for me to get out and enjoy the last of the gorgeous fall weather that we’d been experiencing in the San Juans. Since I still wanted to have time to get back and keep working on the house, I chose Precipice Peak. It was highly appealing as a 13er that I can see from town and it’s a pretty short hike from the 4WD trailhead in the West Fork valley.
It felt so astoundingly good to be out with Sprocket after spending so much time going from work at school to work on the house.
The views from the top were some of the best that I’ve seen. I could see out into Utah spotting the La Sals and the Abajos. I could see a long ways south into the San Juans, enjoying views of mountains I’d climbed: Mt. Sneffels, Uncompahghre Peak, and Courthouse.
We made great time heading back down the slopes. Sprocket entertained me by frolicking in the alpine meadows. ♥
Shortly after returning from our adventures in Utah, I wanted to get some adventuring happening in Colorado’s high country without asking too much of Sprocket. Hiking with my pup is one of my favorite things to do so we drove up Engineer Pass bound for Houghton Mountain, a 13er that requires relatively little hiking if you use a jeep to get to your trailhead.
Sprocket was ecstatic to be up in the high country. He was running all over sniffing, rolling in the snow drifts he found and heading exactly the way he knows his mommy likes to go: UP.
Our short hike lead us to the summit of Houghton surrounded by other 13ers to be climbed in the coming years. It as hard not to feel lucky that I was calling this home.
Hike stats: 1.8 miles; 597 feet gain
I just got off work and am perusing trip reports on 13ers.com. Think we chose a pretty awesome place to live?