Colorado 13er: Brown Mountain

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.

Ouray Hiking: Abrams Mountain

Abrams Mountain is visible from Ridgway, perched right above the town of Ouray. At 12,801′, it is disproportionately prominent in the skyline to its size when compared with other peaks in the Sneffels range. I’ve been up to the Brown Mountain ridge a couple of times but I’ve never hiked it all the way out to the summit of Abrams. (Abrams’s summit it hidden by the tree in the left third of the photo below.)

After work yesterday, Sprocket and I went to the river so that he could frolic and swim. I threw the stick for him and laughed as my retriever would get the stick out of the water but would not bring it back to me. He, on the other hand, would come dripping wet and look at me expectantly. Eventually, I noticed there were hardly any clouds in the sky and it only took me a second of deliberation before we were headed back to the house to get Ruth.

The climb from the Brown Mountain jeep road up to the saddle between 13er Brown Mountain and the ridge to Abrams is steep. It took me 25 minutes to attain the ridge in just a half mile (maybe I can improve on it another day when I head to Brown?). Our light was fading rapidly but there was still enough light to make our way along the sometimes rocky and sometimes grassy ridge.

The ridge was more complex than it had looked on a map and I made a mental note to stay on the absolute crown of the ridge on the way back to the Jeep. Heading downslope too early would be a huge mistake since only one drainage would take me back where I needed to go, any others would either cliff me out or drop me far from my car.

As we made our way out to the summit, I chuckled a bit at myself. I was functioning on four hours of sleep and by all logical measures, where I should have been was in bed. Instead, it was 9:30 and I was still hiking away from the car. I’d already decided, however, that addressing my mountain deficit was way more important than my sleep deficit.

Sadly, my iPhone was no help in capturing the beauty that was hiking the last bit to the summit in the almost total dark. We summited without headlamp and without a moon as the last streaks of sunset faded over the Sneffels Range and Log Hill Mesa. The wind was blowing but it was warm and I briefly regretted not having a sleeping bag to stay and wait for sunrise. Sprocket and I just sat together as the darkness became complete. I finally felt like I was breathing easy. We could see the lights of Ouray, Ridgway, and all the way up to Montrose. The Milky Way was coming out.

Knowing that I had plenty to do in the coming days and a long hike back down the ridge plus the drive down the mountain, we didn’t linger too long.

I regret nothing.

Brown Mountain Jeep Road

I’ve been just dying to get up into the high country. Just after I left for my trip with Amanda, I found out that the Brown Mountain road was open. I remembered Brown Mountain having a pretty good rock base to the road so once I was back in Ridgway, I decided it would be a great first outing in the San Juans for the spring and a great first San Juan outting for Francis.

Just as I’d hoped, the road wasn’t really muddy at all until just below the small lake near the top of the road. With such a short distance to walk, it wasn’t worth tearing up the road so I parked the jeep and started walking.

The hike up Brown Mountain from the end of the road is steep but it’s short and always worth it. As it was, there were still some pretty big snow cornices at the top of the ridge and the snow definitely did some settling as I walked on it so we called it quits up there pretty quickly (having already gotten our 1,000′ of elevation gain already!) and headed back down to the jeep.

I kind of always get a kick out of driving the FSJ. As we were coming down the mountain, Rage Against The Machine’s “Renegades” came on shuffle and I just couldn’t help but smile. What a life?, right?!

Even Sprocket had to agree although he wasn’t happy with his seat choice in the passenger footwell (he chose it, I swear!):

Wildflowers of Brown Mountain

Summer in the mountains features waves of wildflowers. On our hike on Brown Mountain we saw so many beautifully colored ones that it (almost) distracted me from the big views in the distance!

Even the pine cones got in on being colorful!

Brown Mountain

Last week we started our “weekend” (Wednesday and Thursday) with a drive up Brown Mountain. The road had some awesome views of the north side of Red Mountain #1 (we had views of the south side from Corkscrew Pass a few weeks ago). I am always astounded with the contrasts between the Red Mountains, the green trees, the blue sky, and the gray peaks beyond!

Although no van was pictured on the list of transportation for Brown Mountain Road, it seemed to do just fine:

At the top of the road, we headed up the gully to the ridge of Brown Mountain. The hill side is really steep but the views just get better and better as you get higher. It felt so good to be out exploring with F and Sprocket.

The ridge of Brown Mountain leads to Mt. Abrams which stands out prominently from the Million Dollar Highway. We decided not to venture that far down the ridge on this trip (although we’ll be back!) and instead relaxed on the first small peak we came to and enjoyed the view.