The first day out dawned with leaden grey skies and what would seem to be poor weather for climbing. The usual pattern here in Colorado is that the sky is freakishly blue and clear in the mornings and as the temperatures rise so do the thunderclouds which reach their peak between 2 and 4 pm. Finishing a climb with grey skies is pretty standard, but starting the day that way was a little odd. Nevertheless once my belly was full of oatmeal we set off to climb Mt. Gilpin which had eluded us the day before.
Flanking ridge of Mt. Gilpin
This route starts out heading towards Blue Lakes Pass before veering off and up a wide gully on flanking edge of Mt. Gilpin.
Jon and Jamie at Blue Lakes pass with Mt. Sneffels in the background.
Mike and Prakash took off like a pair of sure-footed goats while Jamie and I were considerably slower working up the chossy, nasty, playing-card rock. We elected to strap on the crampons and take our luck with the snow while Mike and Prakash kept to the rock. The snow felt amazingly stable and made for solid, if slower, travel.
Mike contemplating… or pointing, it’s hard to tell which
Here is the route, Jamie and I took the lower route, and Mike and Prakash took the upper route
The last 20 vertical feet where the gully meets the ridge was incredibly sketchy. The handholds were playing-card rock with a loose covering of ice on top of it and mushy snow for footing. I took my time going up the slope making sure I had bomber hand placements, checking each one by pounding and pulling on it before I would move my feet. I can definitely say that this saved my bacon on at least on occasion. About halfway up the sketchy part the mushy snow beneath my feet gave way and they blew out leaving me hanging on with only my hands! The exposure up there was pretty significant and this definitely rattled my nerves affecting me for the rest of the day.
Once the scary rock/snow/ice slope was done though it was an easy ridgewalk up to the summit of Mt. Gilpin and once I got my breathing back under control the views really were enjoyable.
Mt. Stony, the previous day’s objective, as seen from Mt. Gilpin
It’s a little known fact that Prakash is indeed the King of the World, Mike is skeptical though
Proof that we made it
We down climbed the scary parts and opted to take a glissade ride down the packed snow. All the loose rock that fell on the snow slope meant each of us got a buttscratcher! of a ride too!
Again, our plan was to do a lot of suffering and we figured we’d go do Mt. Sneffels next to round out a nice solid day. Unfortunately the weather was looking nasty, big grey clouds were forming and the whole system looked really unstable so we threw in the proverbial towel and went back to camp. Camp meant we could enjoy some beer and some lunch in a leisurely fashion, while behind us the clouds were disappearing and the sky was turning an amazing shade of blue. A little bit of goading, some peer pressure, and we were off again just after 12:30.
Jamie and Prakash unloading gear for a run up Sneffels
We leapt out of the truck and dashed up to Blue Lakes Pass where we stopped to gather our breath. The plan was to do the SW Ridge of Sneffels rather than the “standard route” up the Lavender Col. At the Pass though my eyes started to water and felt massively irritated as if it were some allergic reaction. Mike and Prakash elected to keep going and eventually summited ~3hrs later while Jamie and I decided not to take the risk and just to save it for the next day.
One of the best things about Ouray is the hot springs! The nicest sounding one was the Orvis Hotsprings which was just 9mi N of Ouray and was nearly empty when we rolled in. There is a municipal hot springs as well, but it’s the concrete-pool variety and it’s hard to compare that to natural rock pools and landscaped gardens. The pools were not the only, ahem, natural, things at Orvis; it’s also a clothing optional sort of place. An option, I assure you, we did not exercise! It really was very relaxing, the water was a great temperature and there were plenty of areas to soak up the sun or stretch out our weary muscles. Before long we were too relaxed to move, but we moved the party to one of the pubs in town with a patio where we met up with Prakash and Mike.
We all bolted down some generous portions of dinner and a few pints of beer and generally took it easy. Mike was set on climbing Cirque the next day and Prakash had no interest so he was starting the 7hr drive back to Boulder that night!
Before he could get out of town though, the strangest parade that I have ever seen fired up.
Exihibit A: Jeeps with Flares attached
Exihibit B: Many Jeeps with Flares attached
A whole assortment of 4×4 vehicles came through town at a stately pace, all with flares attached and some with flags, or lights, or other decorations. Once that was done all sorts of people flowed off the sidewalks and into the streets for the fireworks show!
It was quite a good show for a town of that size, lots of good explosions lighting up the cliffs surrounding the town and an element of back-lighting provided by stray bolts of lightening too boot.
We made the drive back to camp in the dark and it was mighty late to bed considering the plans for the next day. It was definitely worth it though, soaking in the the hot springs, and catching a show were both fantastic.