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.

Looking west from Brown Mountain

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!)

Selfie on Brown Mountain

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:

North towards 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!

 

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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!

Alaska Basin

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.

Benchmark and register

Panorama

I am so glad that I had a chance to ramble in the high mountain air alone and drink it all in.

Summit Selfie

Brown Mountain views

Pikes Peak & Devils Playground: El Paso & Teller County Highpoints

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.

Pikes Peak Toll Booth

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:

Pikes Peak

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!

Devils Playground from the road

Devils Playground Summit

View from Devils Playground

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.

Sprocket on Devils Playground

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.

Pikes Peak Summit

 

 

Vermilion Peak: San Juan County Highpoint

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.

Vermilion Peak

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.

Wilson Group at sunrise

When we reached treeline, Vermilion Peak also came into view. I always love when you get to see your final destination along the way.

Vermilion Peak

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.

Sprocket on the way to Vermilion Peak

Vermilion Peak

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.

Views on the way to Vermilion PEak

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.

Sprocket and Beth, Beattie-Fuller 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.

Beattie-Fuller Saddle from Fuller slopes

Looking SW from upper Vermillion slopes

Vermilion Upper Slopes

Summit of Vermilion Peak

I was pretty excited to finally make it to the summit:

Vermilion Summit Selfie, Beth and Sprocket

The Wilson group from the summit:

Wilson Group from Vermilion

I love the San Juans so much. This view looking north towards the Sneffels range in the distance:

Sneffels Group from Vermilion

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. 😉

Sprocket on the summit of Vermilion

We looked down into Ice Lakes basin during our traverse over to Fuller Peak (13,761′):

Ice lakes basin from Vermilion Saddle

On the top of Fuller we continued to take in the views before heading down the mountain.

Descent to Fuller Peak

Sprocket on Fuller Peak

Vermilion from Fuller:

Vermilion Peak and Golden Knob from Fuller Peak

Looking SE from Fuller Peak

Looking east from Fuller Peak

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.

Vermilion Peak

Vermilion-Fuller-Beattie Basin with Wilson Group in the distance

Sprocket in the meadow

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.

Hope Lake

Hope Lake Trail

Colorado 13er: Corbett Peak

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.

County Road 5

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!

Beth just below treeline on Corbett Peak

 

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:

San Juan Mountains

 

And then to the north:

Ridgway, Colorado

 

Corbett’s false summit from the ridge line (about 12,000′ feet):

Corbett Peak

 

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:

Basin below Corbett

Just below the false summit

 

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!

True summit and Whitehouse Mountain

 

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!

East side of Corbett Peak

San Juan Mountains

Clouds rolling in as I got back to treeline

 

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.

Cows in the aspens

 

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!

 

Corbett Peak

FSJ in the aspens

Colorado 13er: Precipice Peak

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.

Precipice Peak

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.

Sprocket and Beth on the slopes of Precipice Peak

Cimarrons

I was reminded how small I feel in the outdoors and how alive that makes me feel:

Feeling small on Precipice

Sprocket on Precipice Peak

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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.

Uncompahgre, Wetterhorn, Matterhorn

View NW to Courthouse

We made great time heading back down the slopes. Sprocket entertained me by frolicking in the alpine meadows. ♥

Sprocket on Precipice

 

Colorado 13er: Houghton Mountain

Houghton Mountain

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.

Houghton Mountain

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.

Sprocket

Colorado high country

Sprocket

San Juan Mountains

Sprocket

Houghton Mountain

Sprocket

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.

San Juan MountainsSprocket concurs:

Sprocket on the summit

Hike stats: 1.8 miles; 597 feet gain