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

Hiking Ouray: Old Horsethief Trail

Last weekend, the weather in the San Juans was too good to not go out and enjoy it. Sprocket and I had never hiked the Old Horsethief trail that climbed steeply from near the hot springs pool so we headed out (and up!). Sprocket took off like a shot; he clearly hadn’t forgotten that up is the right direction to go.

Old Horsethief trail

While there was a little bit of snow on the ground it had been packed down enough to make the going easy. Just after we reached this gully, however, there was a really new looking gate constructed over the trail. I’m still not sure what the status here but I’m doing some digging since I found evidence that it was used for last year’s Ouray 100.

Ouray hiking

The views weren’t too shabby though so no one was disappointed.

Ridge to Bridge of Heaven

On the way down we explored some little tracks off the main trail that lead us to some old mine adits, as is normal in the area.

Mining history

The water flowing out of this adit reminded me of riding Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean:

Mining History

Mostly it was glorious to be outside enjoying the early spring sunshine.

Waterfalls

Didn’t Corbett Peak look pretty across the valley?

Corbett Peak

Snowshoeing: West Fork of the Cimarron

From Ridgway, the Cimarrons look like a single ridge but what is visible from town is really the two ridges that surround the West Fork of the Cimarron. This basin is astoundingly beautiful and isn’t that hard to get to, provided that in the winter you have access to a snowmobile. The basin is accessed from Owl Creek Pass which is groomed from the Forest Service boundary on the west side (Ridgway) down to Silver Jack Reservoir and parking on the east side.

When a plan was hatched to go snowshoeing in the basin a small problem was presented: there were three people and one snowmobile. Turns out, that if one person is willing to brave some bruises and an awkward ride (ahem, that person was…me), crazier things have happened.

As silly as the ride to the basin was, just being in the basin was the highlight of the day. Initially, we’d hoped to head up Courthouse Mountain but with an unsettled snowpack, we decided to spend our time in the shadow of Dunsinane, Precipice Peak, Redcliff, Coxcomb, and an unnamed 12er.

Snowshoeing, West Fork Basin

Not only were our views of the peaks immediately surrounding us awesome, but so were the views north towards the Elks and Mount Lamborn.

Views to the Elks and Lamborn

As we climbed higher into the basin the views just got better and better. The sky was an amazing amazing blue and the temperatures were perfect for ambling around the snow.

West Fork Basin

Cimarron Basin

Carefully, we made our way through the trees to the western rim of the basin between Courthouse and UN 12725. I always love getting up above Ridgway; while the Sneffels Range and the Cimarrons are very visible it’s really easy to forget that Utah’s La Sal and Abajo Mountains aren’t very far away. Even the Henry Mountains are visible south of Hanksville, Utah.

Beth

Ridgway

Ridgway

After enjoying the view, we descended back into the basin and headed back to the snowmobile. It’s been a long time since I’ve done almost five miles on snowshoes and my legs were feeling it! It didn’t help that my snowshoes are designed for snowshoe running and are a bit small for the task of tromping around in powdery stuff but the day was so glorious I didn’t care one bit.

Cimarrons

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

Local Exploration: Baldy Peak Summit

A couple of weeks ago, Sprocket and I went for a hike on the slopes of Baldy Peak. We didn’t reach the summit as a result of a late start and insufficient calorie consumption by the biped of the duo…

Baldy Peak from Ridgway:

Baldy Peak from Ridgway

As is usual for me, not reaching the summit only fueled my desire to get there especially since it is visible from town. Valentine’s Day morning, I asked a friend to drop me off at the end of County Road 14 and started the hike. Looking north, I could see dawn on Horsefly Peak and still twilight shrouded valley south of Ridgway.

Ridgway Valley in shadow

A lot of snow had melted between our attempt two weeks earlier and this one. There was no bare ground visible here last time:

Near Baldy Peak trailhead

Instead of sticking to the snowcovered trail, Sprocket and I forged a path upwards to the ridge through the scrub oak. I kept heading up and to the northeast and ended up with a route that was fairly direct.

Selfie on the slopes of Baldy Peak

Selfie with Sprocket

We paused for me to take off a layer and to watch the sunrise over the hill across the small drainage:

Sunrise over Corbett Creek

Once we attained the ridge we began working our way north towards Baldy. The ridge was snow covered in places and bare in others. I did a lot of taking my snowshoes off and putting them back on as we headed for the summit.

Sprocket looking at Baldy Peak

Sprocket on Baldy Peak

It was another beautiful bluebird day. I sat on the top and contemplated the mountains surrounding me and was pretty content.

Views from Baldy Peak

Sprocket and I headed off Baldy’s west ridge and began traversing north towards an abandoned road. There was a lot of bushwacking through deep snow—Sprocket was one tired puppy when we got done.

Snowshoes

Muddy equipment

The snow was really wet and as I walked down the escarpment towards Highway 550, I was soaked, muddy, and quite pleased with my hike.

Panorama from Baldy Peak

Courthouse Mountain

My friend Kristin came to town a couple of weeks ago for a visit (Krisin featured me in a Writer Wednesday post last year and did a guest post here about cross country skiing). I had hoped to drive her over one of our high mountain passes but the snow arrived just three days before she did. Ridgway, however, has a lot to offer so I started her out Friday evening with pizza and a beer at Colorado Boy and later we walked over to Trail Town Still (aka “The Still”) for a drink.

In the morning, we relaxed around the house with coffee looking out at the morning chill (I cannot wait to have my house cozy enough that this isn’t taking place in camp chairs!). Mid-morning, we headed up Owl Creek Pass to hike Courthouse Mountain. Courthouse has been on my list for a long time! It sits right above Ridgway and I look at it everyday. (Yes, it’s going to take me awhile but I do intend to climb all of them that I can see from town.)

Sprocket on Courthouse Trail

I was a little bit concerned with how snowy it might be on the trail but decided to forge ahead with the plan anyway. It was such a lovely day with the snow dusting all of the mountains around us. Sprocket was loving the snowy trail and urged us to keep moving upwards.

Kristin and Sprocket in sunglassesThe views just kept getting better as we looked out over the West Fork basin.

West Fork Cimarron River

Courthouse trail

Sometimes, I think Kristin was less than pleased at what passes for a “trail” in Colorado but she kept with it.

Kristin on Courthouse
And the views were worth every bit of the mud, snow, and elevation gain. I can see myself coming back to this mountain frequently. I don’t think Sprocket will mind:

Summit of Courthouse Mountain

Sneffels range from Courthouse Mountain

Courthouse Summit

Courthouse summit selfie

Sprocket on the summit of Courthouse

Slopes of Courthouse Mountain

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

Ouray County Fair: Labor Day Parade

Sprocket

Monday was Ridgway’s Labor Day Parade so the fuzzy child and I stepped outside to go enjoy the spectacle. As part of the Ouray County Fair and Rodeo, there were plenty of horses to go with the awesome assortment of random small town parade entries. (Including a semi-truck advertising ice cream?)

Rodeo Queen

Rodeo queen attendants

Rodeo

Parade

Ranching

Sprocket at parade

Local businesses

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Semi truck in parade

Ridgway Fire Department kids train

Ridgway Fire Department

Ridgway Fire Department

Ouray County Fair: 4-H Animals

Saturday, we had a chance to head over to the 4-H center to see the animals. Ouray County has a rich ranching and farming history and it was fun to see all the 4-H kids animals on display. There were pigs, cows, chickens, rabbits, and sheep in the barn. I had a lot of fun taking pictures!

Ouray County Fiar

Ouray County Fair

Chickens, Ouray County Fair

4-H, Ouray County Fair

Ouray County Fair

Ouray County Fair

Cow, Ouray County Fair

Market Steer, Ouray County Fair

Market Steer, Ouray County Fair

Ouray County Fair

Ouray County Fair

Ouray County Fair

 

Mt. Sneffels Climb

Wednesday, F, Ezra and I decided it was time to climb Mt. Sneffels. The climb marked the first 14er for both Ezra and I as well as the first 14er F has climbed (he’s driven up Mt. Evans).

We started our climb in beautiful Yankee Boy Basin. From the last parking area, it’s only about 1 1/2 miles to the summit so we took our time on the way up. We stopped for awhile to photograph this really friendly marmot:

Marmott

As is normal in the San Juans, the views just get better and better (and my list of mountains to climb gets longer and longer).

F on Mt. Sneffels

F and Ezra on Mt. Sneffels

Views of the San Juans from Mt Sneffels

Views of the San Juans from Sneffels

Mt. Sneffels final chute

North from the summit of sneffels

Blue Lakes

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Beth & F on Sneffels

We even found a bunch of fulgurites (is it still a fulgurite if it’s not a tube?):

Fulgurite